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July 08, 2007

Khanya College Winter School

Khanya College is a non-profit organization focused on "Education for Liberation"-- addressing the needs of historically oppressed communities. They offer a variety of support mechanisms, including workshops, advocacy, research and publications, for community based organizations, trade unions, NGOs and social movements. I met them first at the World Social Forum, and then again here at their annual Winter School.

Winter School is a week-long training for activists engaged in social movements and mass organizations. This year's theme was "Popular Education," so it was a particularly lively week. I wasn't able to attend the School since I am not an Southern African activist, but I did get to join the group for a few events. I went there first with my Zimbabwean friends and then reunited with others whom I had met across South Africa and at the World Social Forum, so I was able to jump in and out of some activities...

I was there for the first morning when each person stood up and shared about their work. It was very, very exciting to have a room of 130 seemingly interesting people transform into a community of 130 changemakers united in their solidarity, fueled by each person's piece of the story. You could tell it would be a very vibrant week.

At the end of the week, I attended their open mic night, where groups shared their artistic talents... or just got everyone up dancing and chanting! It was great.

A few days later, I visited the Khanya College building. They actually own a whole building in downtown Joburg, and provide office, meeting and event space for other NGOs and social movements. I love it! It was also nice to sit down with some of the Khanya staff to hear their perspective on social movements today, and what effective solidarity could look like globally. We came to the conclusion that one invaluable tool is simple to visit each other--community exchanges to directly learn and connect.

As to social movements in South Africa today, they confirmed what I had observed: since the apartheid ended, social movements have lost their point of focus... and now since the issues are more insidiously intertwined and the "enemy" is neither obvious nor straightforward, people's energies are scattered or worn down. Momentum is low right now. And the younger generation who wants to get out and change the world is still looking to their elders' tactics and strategies, which may not be applicable anymore. It's not just about getting out on the streets and "toyi toying" (marching/chanting). So Khanya College is actively exploring new methods for engaging effective mass mobilizations today. It's a neat place. ;-)

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