E.E. Likhaya Lam: What Happens When You Build a Home and Safe Space for Black Youth
E.E. Likhaya Lam means equal education is our home in Xhosa. This is now the title of a the CD I was able to record with 15 high school youth about how they came to join a movement, and sing to tell about it. Every time I hear the voices of these 15 young people I am inspired and encouraged for what it symbolically means for them to use to sing about their struggle for equality in the education system. But more important than the movement itself, is the process of bringing youth together for a common good. If equal education never actually achieves the title of its own name, what they have built would have been worth the time, money, sweat and effort. E.E. Likhaya Lam is more than a titled of a CD, it is testament to what it means to build of safe space for youth to learn, grow, and act collectively for a universal purpose.
The title of Equal Education Choir’s first CD is both figurative and symbolic. E.E. Likhaya Lam is for those young people who didn’t have a cause, purpose, or mission that honed their interests, talents, and skills. E.E. Likhaya Lam is for the transgender youth who find it difficult to locate a community of acceptance in townships where transphobia runs rampant. E.E. Likhaya Lam is for the parents who for the past two generations spoke out because they knew that their children were being cheated out of a high quality education. E.E. Likhaya Lam is for those gay and lesbian youth and marginalized women, who regardless of how much they encounter the “ism” never back down from declaring their place and strength in society. E.E. Likhaya Lam is for the original songs that are stirred up out of the depths of a young persons soul right at the very moment where they commit civil disobedience and decide that being arrested means nothing, because a poor education will keep them jailed for a lifetime.
Equal Education is a movement, and has made substantive progress over the last five years, however, campaigns won is only the second largest accomplishment of this social movement. The first is the people they have managed to bring together into one safe, honest, and tolerant space to work together on movements that impact the lives of youth across a nation and the world.
So when I hear the voices of these 15 high-school-aged E.E. choir members singing out with all of their might, I am only led to think about what an “equal education home” offers them. What does it means to have an equal education family and an equal education dinner table? What does it mean to sit around that dinner table and talk about your fears, your vulnerabilities, your weaknesses, and your struggles?
When you hear their voices, then you will know. You will know what it means to build a home and bridge families across communities. When you hear their voices you will hear a history of young people who have been ignored, silenced, and pushed into the margins. But through their voices you will also hear them rising out of that history, like a phoenix from ashes which were once oppressed. You will hear them rising to reclaim a peaceful and honest activism, to reclaim equality in education, because that is where their home is. And it might be a cliché, but home is definitely where the heart is. Amandla.