July was a special month for me, highlighted with week of inspiration and connection which I was grateful for. The key event was the inaugural Africa Impact Summit, here in Cape Town, with me as a delegate sharing perspectives with leaders from across the continent; the changemakers who are making a substantial difference in the lives of the communities and nations they serve.
Whilst there, I was reminded of the meaningful collaborations we make at Jack Hammer Global, in the world of corporate and social impact – including being in the great company of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Sanlam, our very notable and valuable clients. It was also an opportunity to forge new alliances, in an effort to partner with, and synthesise efforts across the African continent, and the globe.
Later in that month, on the 18th of July, my patriotism ran particularly high (as it does every year), in celebration of Nelson Mandela Day – embracing what it means to be a South African – a FREE South African.
I was born in 1987 on the cusp of democracy, and although I didn’t encounter the socio-political barriers of the generations before me, I’ve remained cognizant of my individual liberty and freedoms which I fully utilise, in ways that others couldn’t realize before. If you weren’t white in Apartheid South Africa, ‘Oppression’ was your middle name. It was once a privilege (or even illegal) to study at university, to pursue interracial relationships, to live or to be seen in certain neighbourhoods, due to racial segregation.
I clearly remember the stories of my elders, and how they fought tremendously hard for their basic human rights. And I recall a few candid tales from my father of how he’d bend the rules and ride the ‘whites-only bus’, or bathe at the ‘whites-only beaches’ – he had a ‘Eurasian look’, which helped him cross over to the European sides from time to time. He was one of the lucky ones! Back then, the way you looked determined your access level. It was the unfortunate reality of Apartheid. Thankfully, times have changed, and the outlook has broadened beyond harsh racial classifications, segregation, and exclusion.
Now in my 21st Century, democratic life, I reflect on my mission, ‘how am I making the world a brighter and fairer place’? ‘How am I helping my African brothers and sisters to emancipate themselves from the shackles of their constraints’? And it’s these questions that fill my day with purpose. We’re not saints, we’re just compassionate human beings who strive to be better than those who came before us. It’s a long walk to freedom and we know that. We’ve journeyed incredibly far already – let’s strive to continue moving together.
In the words of our late and great Nelson Mandela, ‘’A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination’’.
Author Info: Natashya Pillay