Peace is being able to have food everyday that settles aching stomachs. Peace is having access to healthcare. Peace is making sure income inequality levels is not as drastic as the lack of sanitation facilities available in Khayelitsha, Guguletu, Nyanga, and many other townships that still struggle for basic services that impact the quality of life. Peace is having access to fair and equal education, and not having to watch how the history of apartheid, segregation, colonization, and hate still impacts their lives today. A popular phrase in Khayelitsha, a township in South Africa, is “Amandla Uxolo.” This phrase means power comes from peace. Thus, peace in this context is predicated on the necessity of shifting a tradition of power structures. Unfortunately the most common way of reaching shifts in power (a means to peace) is often through immediate acts of violence. While I was working in Khayelitsha there were riots in this township. These were riots where rocks were thrown; glass shattered and fires that broke out in the streets. These were riots where cars were capsized and lives disturbed. And these were riots where fatality impacted innocent community members. All this violence for the achievement of peace seemed like a contradiction to me, until I understood peace in the context of marginalized groups struggling to better the lives of generations to come.
My project for peace could not have taken place without the grassroots movement of Equal Education organizing youth in Khayelitsha for the last five years. This is a movement of parents, teachers, community members, principals, and most important students who are fighting for quality and equality in their education system, through activism and analysis. It is through Equal Education that marginalized communities across the country of South Africa have found a anti-violent, peace and activism focused movement that seeks that shifts power structures in South Africa.
“UXOLO”: Peace via Educational Equality and Performing Arts was designed to augment a movement that has gained substantive momentum in their efforts. My reasoning is that adding an artistic aspect to a peaceful movement of young people will empower them to articulate their movement through various forms of communication. Specifically through my background and understanding of spoken word poetry, music, and video making, I have come to understand the impact these instruments can have through empowering young people to cultivate and utilize their voices.
In the short-term, this project is working with youth who grow up in hostile environments. These are environments where these high school students could be pressured into participating in violent riots that often occur in their communities. Being able to work with this youth directly to offer peaceful alternatives is one way to promote peace immediately. In the long term, this project is furthering a peaceful education movement that is rapidly spreading throughout South Africa, but also providing peaceful mechanisms to struggle for higher quality of life.