Have you ever met someone and instantly felt like the person was your friend? Like someone you once had great conversations and great laughs with during a lazy afternoon? It has been such a blessing to cross paths with a lady here in South Africa. My new friend, Faith is this special person to me.
I met Faith one day while volunteering at Beam- a center in one of the underprivileged townships here in South Africa. It all began when I walked past her office my first day at the center. “Hello, what is your name, dear?” she asked from around her office door. I poked my head in, “Hi my name is Tammi.” “Your name is, Tammi? Did you say your name is Tammi?” she asked in half amazement while quietly searching my face for something I did not know.
“Yes…” I hesitantly responded. That’s when all the women in her office happily exclaimed and looked at each other with smiles and wide eyes. It was one of those pauses when I knew the reason for the moment of excitement went totally over my head. I knew something was happening, so I waited for someone to fill me in.
“So you are Black American, with a South African name! My goodness, which one of your parents are Zulu?” she further inquired. Slightly confused, I told her I did not know my lineage of ancestry since the Slave Trade that arrived in the North America so I did not know whether I specifically have Zulu ancestry or not.
“But dear, Tammi is a Zulu name.” That’s when I heard a slight difference in how she pronounced my name. I said, “No, my name is Tam-mi,” emphasizing the two ‘m’s in my name.
“Ohhh, child I thought you said, Thembi. It’s a very popular Zulu name which means “Hope” but yours is different. I love your name!” she said with a smile.
That’s how we hit it off! The rest of the afternoon she asked how I liked South Africa, if I tried any South Africa food, and why I came to her country. She asked of the percentage of individuals affected with AIDS and HIV in America. In SA 5.3 million are have HIV. She asked if the government helps the individuals by offering free pills as their government does. She asked a lot of questions about the black community and my childhood.
We talked about how she grew up during the apartheid. “So much violence, hey. You couldn’t walk anywhere by yourself because there were so many gangs and you could easily get rapped.” She told me about her mother who was a domestic worker who worked in the White Afrikaaner’s home cooking, cleaning, and raising children hardly making an earning. She told me about how God provided for her and her siblings because they never went to bed hungry while others in her community fell deeper and deeper into poverty under the apartheid system.
I felt a tickling in my stomach. Her story seemed tied with my history- my history of African Americans who lived and worked under a familiar but not exact segregated system. How could we be worlds apart but share a history that has so many parallelisms?
Under the apartheid, she witnessed an all White political party called the National Party take office to separate, create unequal education, job discrimination, and even residential segregation. The National Party’s agenda was to implement the apartheid system in creating legalized white economic exploitation, securing political domination, and to construct social privilege for their race.
I am sure you are just as curious to learn about the apartheid as I was. In America, undoubtedly the news media can be very centralized covering mainly America and/or celebrity news. Next week I will share the impact of the aparheid and even its many surprising parallelisms between African American history and Black South African history.