Address by Mr Craig Hatches
It’s a privilege and honour to reflection on Black History Month – A Call to Action!
I would like to start my call to action with a short story named Slave Ship Mutiny.
Buried off the waters of Africa’s southernmost coast is the slave ship Meermin, whose fatal voyage tells a lost chapter in the history of the slave trade and one of South Africa’s first freedom fighters: Massavana. The story began nearly 250 years ago in late January 1766, when the Meermin set sail from Madagascar carrying slaves to South Africa. Chained and crammed so tightly below deck they could hardly move was a human cargo bound for the Cape Town colony of Dutch East India Company (VOC). But in a dramatic twist of fate, the ship never made it to its destination.
Instead, one man, who refused to become a slave, led his fellow prisoners in a mutiny and took over the ship. They then ordered the Dutch crew to sail them back home to freedom. But the experienced Dutch sailors deceived the slaves and steered the boat towards Cape Town anyway.
When the slaves realized what had happened, a bloody battle with militia on shore left the surviving slaves captives again and the Meermin a sinking wreck. The final chapter of this affair took place in the Dutch court in Cape Town, and it is the record of that trial that allows us to tell this story today. The extraordinary outcome saw 26-year-old mutiny leader Massavana spared execution for lack of evidence although he was effectively imprisoned for life. The two top officers were dismissed for incompetence.
As we come together to celebrate Black History Month, it is not merely a time for reflection but a call to action. This month serves as a beautiful reminder that history is not a distant echo within an echo chamber, but a living force that shapes our present and indeed our future, together.
The legacy of Africans is one of triumph over adversity, of resilience in the face of oppression, and of determination to forge a path towards justice. From the struggles against slavery to the battles for civil rights, the narrative of Black History is marked by a relentless pursuit of equality.
Yet, as we celebrate the achievements and milestones, it is crucial to acknowledge that the fight for justice is far from over. Systemic and institutional inequalities persist, and we must confront them head-on. Black History Month should not be confined to a retrospective examination; it should serve as a catalyst for change. Change within our personal lives and change within our Andrean Community. A community who believes that difficulties do not dismay us.
Let us recommit ourselves to challenging prejudice and discrimination wherever we encounter it. Let us strive to build a society where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of their race or background. This means actively engaging in conversations about race, understanding our own biases, and advocating for policies and procedures that promotes equity and equality.
Black History dwells in the Spirit of Ubuntu, a philosophy that celebrates collaborative accomplishment. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. Oneness.
Furthermore, Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the rich tapestry of African culture that has significantly contributed to the vibrancy of our nation. Let us embrace diversity and appreciate the myriad contributions made by Africans in fields such as music, literature, science, politics, and sport.
Let us be brave and bold like Bafana Bafana, led by their inspiring captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams who with his team of players have defied the odds and refused a narrative of improbability that was assumed by many of us. Let’s build a South Africa that is truly stronger together.
In conclusion, Black History Month is not just a month to look back; it is a call to action for the present and the future. Black history is hopeful and colourful.
Despite any adversity that you might be going through. I encourage you to immerse yourself in the literature, folktales, poems, songs and struggles of black people. I’m confident that all of you will find healing, inspiration, and hope in the colourfulness of black history.