It’s very apt that today is being observed as Black Out Tuesday, a day to pause and reflect off the back of the murder of George Floyd which has reignited the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. The official #BlackLivesMatter movement was founded on 13 July 2013 by three female black activists, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi after George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
7 years later, the culture hashtag has been brought to the forefront under similar conditions and the world is enraged, rightfully so.
As the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag trends globally, at home here in South Africa, we’ve seen massive engagement and participation around the voicing of the injustice of George Floyd’s murder and support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement – largely towards what is happening in the US.
South Africa’s support for the global movement has embarrassingly revealed our lack of support once again for injustices happening at home. In our short lockdown alone, four people (that we are aware of) have died by direct harm from SAPS/SANDF namely: Collins Khosa, Sibusiso Amos, Petrus Miggels and Adane Emmanuel.
These recent local deaths have received and are still receiving media coverage (limited) but very little to no public engagement and public support for the cry of these injustices. It’s likely that the average South African has heard the name George Floyd by now and will never hear of Collins Khosa, Sibusiso Amos, Petrus Miggels and Adane Emmanuel.
We’ve seen what the country is capable of when rallying behind an injustice such as was the case of the rape and murder of 19-year-old UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, however, our support for #BlackLivesMatter locally has been a selective or otherwise watered-down attempt, and in most cases simply non-existent.
We can play the blame game and cry that media hasn’t done enough with the coverage of local injustices: I’m tempted to bring up South Africa’s 2008 xenophobia “burning man”, Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamauve, whose burning image made front page newspapers nationwide and received global coverage, but couldn’t move our nation… or we cry that our celebrities and politicians haven’t said enough, but when they do, they are highly criticised for not being the right type of “public figure” or person of influence to speak on the matter.
Are we completely immune to the injustices happening around us? Do we need “western” voices, organisations and celebrities to tell us that our silence is violence and feel coerced into joining the #BlackLivesMatter movement?
This past week has been extremely heavy and today, as I pause and reflect, I take ownership as a South African citizen, an African, a black woman, a media owner and a storyteller, that there’s no longer room to have a bystander effect, that what I do today, or more importantly, what I don’t do, will have a grave effect on the next generation.
In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
At Moziak Magazine, our interest lies in the storytelling of African people, but we stand by All Black Lives Matter – and we’ll speak up against any injustice of Black lives globally. Our Livestyle 6 covers are in observance of #BlackLivesMatter highlighting injustices both here in South Africa and in the US.
Written by: Sheila Afari – Executive Editor, Moziak Magazine