Thursday, August 8, 2013

Occupying the Space in Between...Being an Insider and an Outsider


Since we have been in Durban, the UKZN and VCU students were charged with asking ourselves the following questions: How do you see yourself in Kenneth Gardens (the community we work in), as an insider or an outsider? Why? We were asked to think about these questions and to answer them using photos. In short, we conducted a photo voice project amongst ourselves. My responses to the previously mentioned questions are below - some with captions and descriptions below the photo and others without. Use your imagination for the photos without captions or narratives :)

"Proving Nature’s Laws Wrong…Growth Through Concrete"
As a young girl, I was raised in low income/resource communities. Working in Kenneth Gardens has reminded me of my youth and has thus helped me to identify with this community as an insider. I remember the daily struggles my family faced to simply obtain the bare necessities. Sometimes it seemed like no matter how hard my mother worked, she couldn’t work hard enough. It had nothing to do with her abilities but the system into which she was born, the system in which she raised her children. This system of oppression is often particularly salient in the lives of historically marginalized populations – particularly those who are racial minorities and those who are poor. The system functions as concrete, stifling growth and nearly preventing advancement all together. But just as Mother Nature finds ways to grow in the midst of concrete so too can those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The possibility of growth is there, hard to find and even harder to navigate but the fact remains – the opportunity exists. I see the possibilities and evidence of growth despite the odds so clearly in the Brettenwood youth. Capturing my sentiments, Tupac Shakur writes “Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature's laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet…by keeping it's dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared… we wouldn't ask why… we would all celebrate its tenacity, we would all love its will to reach the sun, well, we are the roses, this is the concrete and these are my damaged petals, don’t ask me why, thank god, and ask me how.”
 "Right of Admission Reserved”
Since I have been in Durban, I have consistently seen a sign that states: “Right of Admission Reserved.” This statement simply means the owners reserve the right to choose who they let in. As an American I often feel this way about conducting research in Durban, an outsider in a world in which participants reserve the right to choose who they let in. Most Durbanites are South African born, most are at least bilingual, and many people that we work with engage in/are familiar with traditional practices associated with their ethnicity. I am none of these and consequently I often feel like an outsider who is trying to get into a door that is locked by shared experiences, experiences that I will never have. However, I do not believe all is lost. Although the picture displays the words “Keep Locked” there is a hole for a key. I believe being open to experiences, respecting cultural norms, actively and genuinely seeking knowledge about people and their unique backgrounds, and acknowledging my space as an outsider is the key to unlock opportunities for growth through others that I may not have otherwise been afforded.
Hope you all enjoyed the short journey through some of my emotions as an individual occupying the space in between being an insider and an outside in Kenneth Gardens. Until next time...

Peace and Love,

Jasmine aka Mbalnhle (Beautiful flower in Zulu)

PS - I recently got my Zulu name, Mbalnhle. A quick google search told me that each letter stands for the following (not sure how accurate it is but I like it - haha):

M is for mystery, the part of you that cannot be explained.
Bis for bygone, never forgetting golden memories.
Ais for advantage, for you are blessed with many.
Lis for love, your love of life!
Eis for endear, all those you touch.
Nis for noble, your regal bearing.
His for humble, a saintly quality.
Lis for loyalty, that you show.
Eis for exotic, no lack of spirit here!

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