Today marked the final day of activities for the 2018 Journeys South Africa trip. Our trip concluded with a powerful visit to the vibrant township of Khayelitsha. This township represents the often-forgotten side of Cape Town, located miles away from the pristine coasts and high-rise buildings displayed on post cards and plastered on television advertisements. Although the government seems to have given up on this community, the people have certainty not.
We experienced the resiliency of the people firsthand through our visit to the newly developed Siki’s Kofee Kafe. Located in an informal settlement on a side road in the township, the cafe appears unmistakably different than the cafes that dot Cape Town’s waterfront, but its significance cannot be compared. From the moment we entered the cafe, the amount of creativity displayed in such a small setting was truly amazing. Aside from the delicious coffee, the best part of this cafe was the message of hope and ambition it sent into this undeserved community by sheer nature of its existence. Bustling with black young adults working on laptops, black children reading books on the couches, and black adolescent baristas brewing coffee, this small cafe directly contradicted the popular stereotypical sentiments that label such communities as hopeless. In fact, to see a black-owned business succeeding despite the lack of available resources, represented the potential that residents of townships all over the country possess.
It truly feels that the experience in Khayelitsha was the perfect way to cap off our Journeys trip. In a trip that centered around the legacies of the dark era of Apartheid, viewing firsthand the innovation and inspiration displayed amongst the younger people in the townships has been most memorable for me. As with most countries with histories of conflict, South Africa has a long way to go before it can appropriately heal from the scars of injustice and inhumanity. What remains crystal clear, though, is that there are still too many communities like Khayeltisha in the country that are undervalued and ignored. One need not but to spend just a day in any one of these townships to see the ingenuity and resilience of the communities that could serve as a lesson for the whole country.
As we prepare to depart this beautiful land, it is my hope that one day I will return and find a country that has grown and learned from itself. A country where black youth feel important, empowered and included in the makeup of the fabric of the country. A country where not only the political power, but also the economic power accurately reflects the makeup of the country. Finally, a country where the citizens are not made to feel that they have to forgive and forget the White structural racism and oppression that held them hostage in their own land – but still are able to move forward to create a just society where no such systems can ever exist again.
Micah Lewis is a rising sophomore at Emory University interested in issues of public health, politics, and social justice.