Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) at the Dance Factory in Newtown, image from myjoburg.com

Eighty hours spent with six youth in Johannesburg left me both fulfilled and burning for more. Last week I supervised a trip with students, from my school’s service club, to attend a summit with like-minded youth from the continent. Dr. Adam Habib discussed the notable and timely tertiary education issue “Fees Must Fall”; representatives from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation spoke on behalf of the famed Apartheid activist “Uncle Kathy” (who would have been there in person, except he passed away unexpectedly a few days before our summit); contemporary, professional dancers from MID rolled across the floor and hatched out of bags on stage as they conjured wrenching, emotive images of sex trafficking; Alex Crawford brought in shrapnel and told of the three car bombs that exploded in the course of one hour, while reporting from Mosul just days ago; two young refugees bravely spoke of their suffering and road to forgiveness; and activist-author Grizelda Grootboom evocatively walked us through her story of sexual exploitation, slavery and drug addiction that ended a mere five years ago. 

Grizelda’s words hung heavy in the cool evening air on Saturday night as our school group clustered around a table to debrief, the girls’ lids dripping with tears, their virgin hearts exposed to a rare, primary account of this nature. Knowledge of our worlds’ ills costs our young ones their innocence. Yet, it is through guided interactions like these that I hope they will be motivated to create change and meaning in this world. My own bent towards social justice began with a glimpse into South Africa’s battered and resilient slums at the impressionable age of nineteen. How the knowledge of injustice may lead us to act, or slumber, is a question I encourage my students to ask as they grow in this world.

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