A Poem for Mandela Day

The Sharnbrook team from the UK was able to be a part of Mandela Day (Madiba’s birthday and a day of community service here).They partnered with a local school in Sweetwaters, and together with the gogos (grandmothers) and mamas of the children in the school, we repainted almost the entire school. In the media in SA and the US right now it seems everyone is cynical about race relations. Current events have shown both of our countries have a long way to go in terms of really reconciling, listening, learning and altering unjust systems. But I also think that because these problems are so huge and overwhelming, that doesn’t give us a right to sit around being cynical and assume it’s someone else’s job (like the government) to fix things. In little ways we each need to take responsibility and do something towards listening, reconciling and working for justice every day. Here is a poem I wrote about it (warning: it contains a word that some cultures find offensive). I have linked in articles on the current events mentioned within the poem. I’m not much of a poet, but maybe you’ll like it. 🙂


so they say there’s yelling about some kid named Trayvon

that the system beat up on

in the US of A

so they say there’s people throwing crap on

the airport in Cape Town

because of the DA

so they say the family can’t agree on

the land he should be buried on

in the R of SA

and all the blacks will just kill the whites anyway.


Mandela’s just a face on paper money,

we can use to buy bread, cigarettes and votes with

and the rainbow nation is just good political rhetoric.



So they say.


But we were there

there with all those mamas and gogos

getting our brown and cream hands sticky

with brown and cream paint

and making the chipped, cracked school walls new again.

I was there in my paint-splattered work jeans

they were there in their rainbow colored aprons

and we were there with paint freckling our faces.


And when you can sing Nkosisikeleli with someone

whose voice drowns out your own

and you both want God to bless Africa

and they can laugh at the way you dance

but you can dance together anyway

and then sit because all the laughing muscles inside are tired

and you can share food

and wash dishes

and scrub floors


then I say

maybe it doesn’t matter what they say.


Because we did have a great party that birthday.

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