Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Injury to One is an Injury to All

What is that they say about best laid plans?  Perhaps the author of that was familiar with Walter Sisulu University and its healthy student activism and political leanings.

Karin and I, with the Centre for HIV/AIDS, Eastern Cape AIDS Council, and the Eastern Cape LGBTI Coalition had carefully planned a workshop for our research study exploring sexual orientation within the student population and its connection to HIV/AIDS.  All of our Peer Educators and field workers had arrived, the programs were passed out, and we had just finished discussion definitions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

All of a sudden, our discussion was interrupted by far-off singing and chanting which came closer and closer until the boardroom doors were opened by a large group of marching WSU students.  They came into the room and the atmosphere immediately changed.  I didn’t know what the lyrics were, but I could sense that it was time for us to quietly pack up and leave and I followed everyone else’s lead.  My uneasiness with large groups of people was not helped by the fact that there was only one way out of the room and they were standing defiantly within the doorframe.

They let us by (and I actually knew quite a few of the students!) and we quietly walked out of the room and congregated in the hallway.  I have to admit that as fascinated as I was to see a proper toyi toyi with the distinctive singing and dancing, I was also very frustrated and disappointed and wondered what exactly they were fighting for or if they even knew.  When we passed by them, most looked down to the ground and softly apologized.    

They usually go from office to office and lock staff out and Sis Ghana and others have always warned us to just leave our offices because the atmosphere can get tense.  This morning they just made a lot of noise and then got on a bus to take them to the main WSU campus.  Aside from the threat to kidnap me and take me with them to the main campus (which I think was a joke although one of the Peer Educators pulled me closer to him right after) and having a student tell me that I was bringing over “Canadian feminism”, it ended calmly and we resigned ourselves to reschedule.

“An injury to one is an injury to all” – I’m curious about their injuries and I’m sure the majority of the students, faculty, and staff are wondering as well.

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