Black Lives Matter is a movement that has swept its way through the world following the unjust death of George Floyd due to police brutality by the Minneapolis police in America and it swiftly made its way to South Africa and to St Michael’s.
Black Lives Matter aims to highlight the systemic racism people of colour face everyday. The movement drew public attention to how South African systems historically failed and are currently failing black people: from the criminal justice system and its perceived aggression towards black people, to the school system and its inability to include black writers and teach black achievements.
The St Michael’s matrics decided to start a silent protest against the racism that people of colour experience at school. When teachers greeted the learners, they did not respond. The protest also included writing the letters ‘BLM’ on their masks to express the unhappiness among learners. The movement led by the matrics caused unrest within the St Michael’s community and the principal decided to address it.
A mediator, Mr Joe Serokoane was appointed and numerous meetings were held. Mr Serokoane gave the hostel matrics, staff members, the Board of Governors, as well as day learners opportunities to air their views in separate, confidential meetings. A meeting was also conveyed to give the matric learners an opportunity to address the staff. Many issues were raised and discussed in these meetings. Fourteen main concerns were identified and seven committees were created to deliberate and find solutions.
Each committee comprises a Board member, a staff member, a matric learner and a Grade 11 learner. All these committees have already met and resolutions have been formulated and action lists compiled.
Some issues could be addressed immediately, while others will take much longer to resolve. Having the conversations was the first step in the process..
As the rainbow nation we owe it to ourselves to understand, respect and acknowledge different races and cultures and unlearn racist tendencies people and structures have conditioned our minds to accept. We owe it to ourselves to stand up against what is wrong, to admit and acknowledge when we have done wrong and make an active effort to do and be better. We need to acknowledge social structures that exist that still allow some privilege and oppress others. We need to make an active effort to do and be better.
This movement has taught us a lot: to be careful of our actions; to dismantle racism but moreover, to be responsible to create an environment of love, equity, and peace for all.