I ran out of the room after the screening of My Dear Children, a documentary that delvs into the decision and repercussions made by a Jewish mother to save her children from the pogroms in Russia.( https://youtu.be/owFZ-hgPzc8). It was harrowing and I needed to catch my breath and cry a bit. I looked at my reflection in the building across the way and thought for the first time in ages ‘Just who are you really?’
The screening of the documentary forms part of Cornerstone Institute’s Reclaiming Agency intiative where issues of displacement and cultural heritage are shared and discussed in various communities. The idea is to create safe spaces were such issues can be openly debated. I just did not expect to feel so confronted. Angry, challenged, disturbed yes….but not confronted.
I started asking myself just what I am doing with my music, as it is how I can best affect those around me. Of course my career path is greatly influenced by Ben Harper and how his music highlights certain social justice issues. Yet, the closest I have come to doing anything meaningful was penning Come Home to Me, for the Arctic 30 who protested drilling in the Arctic, and Call it Murder recently. The song is modelled on Mr Harper’s composition by the same name. Except I was dealing with issues that are pertinent to South Africa. Yes, I have been involved in certain social justice campaigns…but it never felt…enough.
The documentary also made me recall an incident when my daughter was very small and I visited a psychic. I was informed grandparents and some ancestors surround me as they loved music but never had the opportunity to do anything or even pick up an instrument. I was deeply comforted knowing I am surrounded but never gave any real thought to what kind of life they were exposed to. What did they face that caused them to hide all that music so deep within them? Where did all the joy that music allows go to?
Much of our history is lost and so few elders in my family can provide answers, so I am always left to my imagination. I focus instead on penning tales of love, betrayal, anger and loss. All of which are couched in the personal and universal.
After viewing the documentary, the weight of my unknown past become overwhelming. I have no choice but to re-think how I want to engage with my audience and how I can honor a painful past without getting stuck. That is what ‘reclaiming agency’ means after all. Reclaiming the parts of ourselves, our personal histories, our voices and our power…
‘You have to do what you must to survive,’ I was once told. No, I silently thought. That’s what all our people have done before. That is not the answer. It simply can’t be! Rudi Buys, the Dean of Cornerstone Institute once opined that hope is a ‘who with…’ Those words never left me and each day I remind myself who I stand with, who I call family, who I love and how well or not I opened my being to others.
There might be a great deal about my past I do not know, many injustices that cause me great distress, but my Mother and Grandmother echoed the words Dr Buys said…we are never as alone as we fear we are….and hope is indeed all around us. Just open your eyes, your being, your home, your heart.
There is a path, a somewhere else, a hopeful place…and perhaps all I need to do is allow the silence to overwhelm me, to remove whatever personal angst I face and not only reclaim but re-imagine the world I want to step into everyday.