Saturday, March 31, 2007

Eph-ective Leadership

Sometime last year, I touched based with my homegirl Laurie-Ann Jackson '05 and she put me on to an article she had written for Jamaica Gleaner. It was a very strong piece that addressed misconceptions about the spread of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and offered solutions that seemed to tackle prevention in an all-encompassing way. I wanted to revisit this during Aids Awareness Month on our blog, but couldn't seem to find it.

As I was cleaning my desk this afternoon, I found a printed copy of Laurie's article. I tried to find the article on-line but was again unsuccessful. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I found another article reflecting on Laurie's time in Cape Town.

It's deep y'all. And I won't try to preface it with a description that doesn't do it justice. Just take the time to read this article in its entirety...

South Africa's new reality - Reflections from Cape Town
published: Sunday | January 21, 2007

Laurie-Ann Jackson, Contributor

I have always resented the reference to Africa as the 'dark continent', particularly the pun on the word 'dark'.

'Darkness' across the world seems to represent mystery, the absence of light and knowledge, magic, demonic spirits, superstition (with all the 'scary' things that go along with it), death and most importantly, its contrast - white.

I used to be very caught up with fighting these connotations in whatever forms they manifested themselves, whether it was the ignorance in my all-white high school U.S. history class, or in my political science senior seminar on culture and political stability in college. I fought, while living in Madrid in the house of the wife of a white high-ranking official who had served in General Franco's army. I was constantly defending my 'darkness'.

Three years ago, I came to see this 'dark' place for myself. It was an exciting time. It was the celebration of 10 years of democracy, the survival of arguably the most liberal constitution in the world and the general upliftment of millions of people out of one of the most socially, economically and psychologically oppressive regimes in the history of mankind. Talk of the 'Rainbow Nation' in which black, white and coloured people were reconciling and working towards a "brighter and better South Africa every day" overwhelmed the media, politics, the Church, school - it was everywhere. That year, the African National Congress (ANC) was voted into power yet again and there was hope.

Two and a half years later, things are not quite as bright. Since being here, former Deputy President of the country, Jacob Zuma, has been acquitted of rape charges of an HIV-positive young woman. One of the more disturbing facts of the case is that the former Deputy President, who once headed the National AIDS Council, was aware that she had HIV and publicly announced that he took the "precaution" of showering after his encounter with her. He was acquitted of rape on the grounds that they had had previous consensual sexual encounters and that it is a Zulu custom for a man not to be denied sexual access to a woman if she is dressed in a particular way - one of those bright sarong things we use as skirts - the girl wore one of those that night with nothing under it.

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