Win­nie’s legacy must be about love

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

THE snow-scat­tered peaks of the North Shore Moun­tains above Van­cou­ver in Bri­tish Columbia, Canada, was my ref­er­ence on my early morn­ing walk about that city this week.

I was a speaker at the an­nual gath­er­ing of the Ur­ban and Sub­ur­ban Clergy Con­fer­ence (USCC), a meet­ing of mainly Epis­co­palian priests from the

United States and our lone Cana­dian Angli­can Pe­ter El­liot, our gra­cious host and Dean of Christ Church Cathe­dral. My three-part talk was en­ti­tled “Mem­oir, mem­ory and faith: A se­ries of shared re­flec­tions on how our life ex­pe­ri­ences in­form our faith per­spec­tive”.

We ex­plored the re­demp­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties of our past, per­sonal and col­lec­tive, viewed through the lens of­fered by the Twi word, ‘ Sankofa’ (‘Go back and get it’.)

This bird of Ghana­ian mythol­ogy is de­picted as a crea­ture in flight, its head turned back­wards, hold­ing an egg in its beak. The im­age is well de­fined by the Asante Adingo proverb: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have for­got­ten”.

Some­times when you knock on the door of the past, be aware that the pain-filled, re­mem­bered open­ing of it, is nec­es­sary.

Sam Can­dler, Dean of At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, preach­ing at the Eucharist of the USCC’s last day of con­fer­ence, cited Leonard Co­hen:

“Show me the place, help me roll away the stone … I can’t move this thing alone … show me the place where the suf­fer­ing be­gan.”

The gift to a preacher – when lis­ten­ing to a ser­mon borne from a heart at­tuned to the dark com­plex­i­ties of grace – is the re­frain sound­ing from the back­roads of your own un­re­mem­bered life. 1981, my first year at St Paul’s Sem­i­nary, Gra­ham­stown, brought me into close, con­flict­ual con­tact with white men who shared with me a calling to the priest­hood. Our Fri­day evening Eucharist cel­e­bra­tions were joy­ous, yet un­locked in me both envy and anger that I shared with our chap­lain, Carl Garner. There would be a mo­ment of si­lence dur­ing the ser­vice. Then an al­most mur­mured cho­rus of the voices of my fel­lows would rise to the rafters of the small chapel. It was beau­ti­ful and it con­founded me.

“I long for the gift of the Holy Spirit,” I told Fa­ther Carl. I wanted to sing like those who had the gift of glos­so­lalia, the ec­static singing in an un­known lan­guage.

But all th­ese an­gelic voices came from the hearts of hard-core racists. If God loves ev­ery­one, why does it seem that th­ese big­ots are his favourites? Was

God white and had we black Chris­tians been con­scripted into the ul­ti­mate para­ble of con­quest un­der­scored by that dis­tant act of land ap­pro­pri­a­tion re­ferred to by Archbishop Des­mond Tutu?

The Arch had said: “When the white man came to Africa, they had the Bi­ble and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray’. We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bi­ble and they had the land.”

“You have the gift of the Holy Spirit”, was Fa­ther Carl’s gen­tle re­ply. He then de­tailed the gifts that God had given me.

For white men to step for­ward, he ob­served, to serve in a ma­jor­ity black church in a sea­son of in­tense politi­ci­sa­tion took courage. But fear was the hard in­signia of en­ti­tle­ment and priv­i­lege and God only leads us where we are will­ing to go.

The gift of glos­so­lalia was the first, bud­ding fruit of be­ing born again into the full­ness of be­ing hu­man.

The doc­u­men­tary, Win­nie, casts Mam’ Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela in the role of a trou­ble­some thorn in the flesh of the body-politic of pa­tri­archy.

And that ac­count is “gonna hurt, now,” said Amy, a char­ac­ter in Toni Mor­ri­son’s novel, Beloved. Be­cause, “any­thing dead com­ing back to life hurts.”

But in lov­ing Ma Win­nie in the in­sur­gent ways of re­cent days, can we re­ally do so at the cost of damn­ing our Arch and his fel­low sentinel of jus­tice, Madiba?

The ac­cu­sa­tions are the bit­ter fruits of guilt; of not hav­ing done enough. Let the legacy of the Mother of our Na­tion be in the ways that we love our­selves, each other and in all the ways that she was de­nied the full­ness of love and life.

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