I still cannot believe that I am flying across the world tomorrow, that this week I have dinner plans on Tuesday in Johannesburg and on Thursday in Boston. But I feel complete about this six-month journey; I am writing to share how my last week here has brought me full circle, solidified what I have learned and reconnected me with some of my new/old African friends.
On my last day in Zimbabwe, I facilitated a permaculture workshop/cross-pollinating day between the two organizations that I became part of. I think the day planted seeds among all participants and brought new possibilities for exchanges between Kufunda Village and the Uhuru Network. You can see some photos on my blog—stories to be added soon (http://journeydejenny.blogspot.com). It was a little bit crazy to organize this exchange and then run to catch the evening bus to Joburg—it left me with rushed good byes and unfinished conversations, but at the same time it felt like a great way to say “til next time” and know that our relationships will continue.
In Johannesburg for the past week and a half, I unexpectedly got to reconnect with many of the comrades who I met at the World Social Forum in my first week in Africa. An organization called Khanya College (very similar to the Western States Center from Portland) organizes an annual “Winter School,” bringing together activists from social movements across Southern Africa, about 10 countries. While I was too late to officially join the school, I did get to attend a few activities with them.
At Winter School, I reunited with at least five people whom I had previously connected with in various parts of South Africa. And since many of the Winter School participants had also attended the World Social Forum, I got to share, compare and process our experiences in Nairobi. Winter School actually felt a little like a smaller World Social Forum, with 130 people representing different organizations, coming together to learn from each other… and sing! This week I got to relearn many of the songs that I first heard at the World Social Forum… another nice way to tie together my six months here.
The theme of the Winter School this year was “Popular Education,” and I deeply enjoyed learning about popular education in the context of world wide as well as South African social movements. It affirmed for me how much of my work back at home is popular education, and how we in Portland fit into the larger context of movements today. We discussed how because today’s political/economic/social systems are different than those of recently passed generations, our strategies and tactics for social change must also evolve, thus opening up possibilities for less formal and more subversive forms of education, including community media, posters, music, theater, etc. And I must say that to have these conversations in South Africa, with the very people who just 15 years ago lived and organized themselves under the oppressive apartheid government, was deeply humbling.
The other part of this past week in Joburg has been visiting a few more interesting projects. The GreenHouse Project (which is a sister community to Kufunda Village) is an environmental education site in the most dense and crime-ridden neighborhood in inner city Johannesburg. I was deeply impressed with their demonstration center, which included natural building projects like cob and strawbale, permaculture gardens (many in vertical plastic tubes for urban gardening), a recycling center (the city does not recycle), green roofs, a biodiesel facility, and meeting areas for local organizations. All of their projects are managed by cooperatives of people from the surrounding neighborhood, and many projects are geared to be income generating as well. The GreenHouse Project also works with 25 community-based organizations (CBOs) in townships across the city, so that they bring information about sustainable living right into communities. And a key aspect of their strategy is that the CBOs that they work with are groups that were already in existence and had proven their interest and commitment to the environment and to their local communities. It’s another interesting model for me as I consider ideas for TLC Farm and City Repair.
Another nice “full circle on my journey” experience was that I realized that my Zimbabwean friends (who I came to Winter School with) are friends with my Soweto friends (remember the squatter camp community/organic garden that I visited in March?), who I had met through a Portland friend. The small world feels good, and confirms for me that just because tomorrow I’m flying away, I am really not leaving… we are all part of the same struggle, doing the same work. Again, this is why I came to Africa: to meet the larger network of my community of social changemakers!
And with that, I will close this note, and once again give thanks for this incredible journey. The six months flew by, but when I revisit in my mind all of the people and places I have connected with, I am humbled. I am already thinking about the continued relationships and projects that have been sparked in me… more on that later.
Til next time!
p.s. For those wondering about my immediate future plans, here’s what I know: I plan to be in the Boston and New York area until the end of August, since my sister is having a baby (any day now) and I want to be with her for her first month as a mama. I plan to return to Portland in September, move back to TLC Farm, and dive deeply into my work, whatever that may be. I have some ideas, which I will share as they get formed, but of course, I am always open to suggestions!
…blessings on the flow of the movement of movements…
~~Portland Cross-Pollination Project!~~
January 22, 1978