Middle Class/Professional Women Activists Must Be Authentic About ‘Activism’ By Cheryl Roberts

16 Feb

Middle class/professional women ‘activists’ and feminists are irritating, and annoying; at least for me, and in my opinion. And they irk me, especially when they decide, on their terms and timing, that social justice campaigns must be undertaken and spearheaded.

I’m referring to that bloc of women whom seemingly have all the theory and knowledge about activism, yet fail to present themselves in the activism trenches.

I’m using a reference of LGBTI/queer activism. What more does a significant, pivotal and meaningful community organization like Freegender, which is rooted in working class Khayalitsha, have to do to be supported, acknowledged, heard and respected?

I’m asking this because, in the five years of their existence, this non-funded civil society structure has really walked their queer activist journey mostly on their own, with a few committed allies, partners and friends.

Freegender always makes public their social justice/protest/planning events, yet it’s always a handful of people from outside Khayalitsha and black communities that attend or give support or collaborate with Freegender. Where are you when Freegender protests rapists, sexual assault and abuse of black lesbians? Why don’t you attend the memorial services and funerals of fallen black lesbian? Freegender has protested outside parliament, held LGBTI conferences and marches, delivered memorandums but you were not with Freegender in struggle. Freegender has also celebrated life, yet you chose not to celebrate with them.

Why are working class black women and social justice activists, the women based in and still living in the hood/township/ekasi, not considered powerful and significant or given respect?

And I know the answer is going to be ‘I didn’t know about the Freegender meetings and events’. Yeah, I’m sure you didn’t. Yet, you make sure you are informed about events hosted by white people, rich NGO’s and those in the city centre and suburbs.

Freegender has initiated, not this year in 2015, but back in 2012, discussion around the significance and relevance of ‘Pride’ in Cape Town. This was undertaken because Freegender had the vision to know that ‘Pride’ had moved away from being honest and true to its birthing, that ‘Pride’ committees were dominated by white men, most of whom had started pushing a DA political agenda within ‘Pride’, that ‘Pride’ was more centred on partying and good times, than on social relevance and existence.

At least two Khumbananie prides have been held in the hood, away from the business district of white owners. Both events were not supported by those not living in the black townships. Freegender took a decision to suspend participation in ‘Pride 2014’ until they could resolve the significance of ‘Pride’ in its present context.

Late last year, Freegender hosted discussion around the significance, inclusivity and relevance of ‘Pride’ in Cape Town. I wasn’t at the meetings but kept myself informed about deliberations. The meetings have been held in the city centre, outside of Khayalitsha.

Now, there is what I call hysteria, criticism, writing, social media outrage and protest about the white male domination and control of ‘Pride’. What irks me is that those now speaking out, are saying stuff as if there has been no activism, as if Freegender doesn’t exist or is unknown.

Get this! Freegender has initiated advocacy, perhaps not activism, at changing and re-shaping and steering ‘Pride’ onto its relevant path.

Why have you (whomever you are) not supported, backed and gotten involved in the meetings? Manje (Now), you want to scream about the whiteness of ‘Pride’, about how ‘Pride’ is socially prejudiced and discriminates.

I’m not sure if I’m getting my ideas across in this blog, or whether I’m ranting about too much. What I’m going on about is how people, most of them middle class, NGO-employed, professional, academic, types (those who have on paper and on social media, answers for and when activism should be initiated) decide ‘Now Is The Time’, without acknowledging that the ‘Time Was Decided’ some time ago.

Why have you not supported campaigns and protests undertaken by Freegender? Why must your support and acknowledgment be allocated to city/suburban/richNGO-based organisations?

I’m talking to you, that bloc of middle class, professional NGO employed, academic, feminist women. Question yourselves, be honest in your self-appraisal. I assure you that you will be found wanting!IMG_0213

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