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Monday, January 21, 2013

Seeking Home

Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent

Immigrants. Refugees. Job Hunters. Asylum Seekers. These terms are a few that describe those who seek a new place to call home. A number of very divergent groups of people of African descent have chosen to emigrate to Israel from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, and have received support from a variety of groups in the United States of America.  As with all stories of dislocation and relocation, there is poignancy, sadness, hope, unrealized expectations. The video below tells some of those stories.

It is important to understand the difference between those people of African descent who consider themselves Jews either by birth or conversion (Ethiopians and Black Jews from the US) and are accepted (more or less) as such in Israel, and those who have left various parts of Africa seeking asylum or jobs (Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea). While many in the latter group may wish covert, that was not their initial reason coming to Israel, and the obstacles to doing so are many. The number of non-Jewish people of African descent moving to Israel in the last few years has escalated with the increase of trouble in North and East Africa. This has resulted in a backlash movement in Israel to send them back.

Sudanese refugees being sent out of Israel
Addisu Messele

Israel's Black Hebrews
There are several interesting articles and blogs to explore written around the topic of Blacks in Israel, written from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Exploring any of the links in this blog post will take you into the worlds of many interesting people. One such interesting person is Addisu Messele, the first person of sub-Saharan African ancestry elected to the Israeli Parliament.

And finally, from the serious at the top of this page, to the joyous at the bottom, people seek meaning in their lives down many different roads: all leading to home.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Black Sash

February 1968

The history of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), African National Congress (ANC), South African Students' Organization (SASO), and the fight for liberation in South Africa is well known. Less well known is the organization called The Black Sash. This organization of volunteers began in May 1955, when six white women met to try to figure out what they could do to protest against the Nationalist Party, the architects of Apartheid, which was making a mockery of the Constitution which had been created in 1909.

On the 25th May 1955, 2,500 women marched in Pretoria to protest. So infuriated were these women, they drew up two petitions to be sent to Parliament, to be signed by women only. Against all odds, delays, and other obstacles, they gathered 100,000 signatures. In vain. Thus was born a movement that would work assiduously, bearing Gandhi's principles of non-violence in mind, to defeat Apartheid, to bear witness to atrocities, to mourn the removal of rights and dignities, to provide moral support and courage to those treated unjustly, to stand vigil against the moral turpitude of the supporters of Apartheid. More often than not, these women were pelted with eggs, tomatoes, and verbal abuse as they stood silent, the least they could do in the face of the violence being done to Non-White people and the trampling of democratic principles.
Standing vigil against the Group Areas Act 1956 (Shirley Singer, far right)

The Black Sash protested against every move made by the Nationalist Party to control the lives of all people in South Africa, but especially Coloureds, Indians, Africans. The Nationalists used propaganda, disinformation, brain washing, and violence in the attempt to create a society in the image of Nazi Germany: the superiority of the Aryan "race". They tried divide and conquer amongst different white constituencies. They legislated relationships, they created fear of the "other", they distorted and contorted geography.

 After the first free elections in South Africa in 1994, the Black Sash met to ascertain what transformation they needed to go through to serve the challenges and encourage the success of the new South Africa.  Two videos recently produced explain where they came from (first) and where they are going (second).

 

The Black Sash Trustees produced a Position Statement September 2012 that sets forth their vision. Their website is well worth perusing to see examples of their work, to marvel at how an organization adapts to changing times and needs, to get inspiration for what is possible.


In memory of Shirley Gersohn Singer, 24 July 1929-2 January 2009