On the 15th of June UNITE in partnership with Africa Unite and YMCA Cape Town hosted a youth day event focused on xenophobic bullying. All day dances, skits, speeches and debates could be seen at the indoor sport centre in Gugulethu which was full of youth. MC Mtheza came to the stage and the event was called to a start with dancing by United We Stand. They jumped, clapped and rolled across the stage as different groups and individuals showcased their skills. While the dancing covered many different styles the groups sense of rhythm and footwork left everyone in awe. Afterwards the Gugulethu Arts and Leadership Progress group dressed in patterned, bright costumes with drums took the stage. Moving fast, at times the dancers simply turned into colorful blurs and their energy was nothing short of infectious.
UNITE is Scalabrini’s youth program that explores ideas of identity, integration and diversity with youth living in South Africa. Working collaboratively from within the South African High School Education System, UNITE provides a unique extra-curricular curriculum which provokes a deep exploration of the themes of identity, integration and diversity to promote activism and critical thought in youth living in South Africa. For this years youth day, UNITE used this opportunity to open discussion on Xenophobia, and how youth can play an instrumental role in breaking down barriers to work towards a united country.
Youth from UNITE came up on stage and put their best dramatic expressions on. For the past week they could be heard rehearsing at Scalabrini so it was exciting to see their work pay off. The skit depicted the way that xenophobic bullying manifests in the school system, the examples they used was a youth being left out from a party and another being made fun of for being Somalian.
It ended on a positive note with everyone clasping their hands together and singing the UNITE song ‘Humanity’, emphasizing that “we may be small but together we are strong.” The lesson learned was the importance of accepting others.
It was time for one of the main events of the day: The Debate. The statement being discussed was ‘Xenophobia is a form of Bullying’ and each team had the opportunity to put their case for and against. One point of contention was over the difference between an action and an emotion as it pertains to the word xenophobia. They brought up their own personal experiences to make their argument more compelling. Everyone spoke with emotion and conviction that bypassed their seemingly young age.
The outcome was close and contested, with the affirmative side winning by a small margin.
The day was rounded off by performances from PS Quint and King Labash who called for audience participation and got everyone to join them and dance together. PS Quint also donated R5000 to the participating partners which will be used to host another event together. There was one more dance performance at the end and suddenly the day was over.
While the event had ended there was a newly emphasized awareness of the difficulties outsiders face within South Africa. One couldn’t help but consider that among these youth would be a great environment for refugees to integrate and be welcomed in. It left a positive sense of where the country is headed and the possibility of a South Africa without xenophobia.