Clothes for a cause

[PHOTO SERIES: Pop-up Street Store]

A pop-up store that provides for street people instead of hipsters starved for vintage hand-me-downs

This concept was created by Max Pazak and Kayli Levithan, two Cape Townians who came up with the idea of ‘the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free pop-up clothing store for the poor’ when observing street people on their way to and from work. This video explains more behind the two philanthropists and their intentions with the open-source project.

The Grahamstown rendition of the Street Store was an altogether less friendly space than that described in Cape Town. A small group of concerned Rhodes University students ran the Street Store and although eager to help, their efforts seemed to aggravate some Grahamstown residents, especially those whom the store was targeted at. These photo’s illustrate some of the highs and lows from the day.

All pictures taken by Youlendree Appasamy (yes, that’s me).

The Street Store took place on the 11 October on High Street, Grahamstown.

The Street Store took place on the 11 October on High Street, Grahamstown.

A view from above the bustling Street Store. Turn-out to the store was deemed "better than expected" by one volunteer.

A view from above the bustling Street Store. Turn-out to the store was deemed “better than expected” by one volunteer.

Many residents disliked the fact that a queue was necessary. The queue to receive clothing peaked at around midday.

Many residents disliked the fact that a queue was necessary. The queue to receive clothing peaked at around midday.

Although not without it's problems, the Street Store managed to partially deliver on its promise of "uniting the 'haves' with the 'have-nots'" in Grahamstown.

Although not without it’s problems, the Street Store managed to partially deliver on its promise of “uniting the ‘haves’ with the ‘have-nots'” in Grahamstown.

Two children excitedly scramble to find a warm item of clothing in the Kid's Clothing section.

Two children excitedly scramble to find a warm item of clothing in the Kid’s Clothing section.

Winter seems a warmer prospect to this young child.

Winter seems a warmer prospect to this young child.

Review of “Where We Stand: Class Matters” by bell hooks

At the end of the day the threat of class struggle is just too dangerous to handle. The neat binary categories of white and black or male and female are not there when it comes to class. – bell hooks

bell hooks is an author I’ve recently (read: this year) started reading in more depth. Her approach to intersectional feminism is thoroughly analytically and simultaneously lyrical. Her book Where We Stand: Class Mattersis a slight departure from what she’s usually known for – exposing uncomfortable truths and ingrained lies about race and gender.

In the Chapter entitled “Money Hungry” hooks explains her childhood household situation with child-like simplicity. Big ideas and concepts are whittled down to their essence by hooks’ writing.

This is an excerpt from the above-mentioned chapter.

This is an excerpt from the above-mentioned chapter.

This is not the style of writing you’d expect from someone with a doctorate. It’s incisive and marries psychology, gender relations and power hierarchies in a subtle and nuanced way. You are invited by hooks to enter into dialogue in a language that is easily understood by many – in a language that is your own. That is why her work is revolutionary. She not only writes about an inclusive and non-oppressive world, but she creates one by her accessible writing style.

Here is a pdf of Where We Stand: Class Matters to devour!

Why I write

It’s hard for me to speak, whether in English or Afrikaans. The reason I write is because I cannot speak. I feel blunt. – Antjie Krog

My history with writing is borne from a peculiar context. At the age of 8 my mother gave me a journal, with a lock and key – for all thoughts I wasn’t telling her. For the waves of emotions that only a child feels as keenly. So began a habit I’ve carried with me my entire life. I think I’ve filled more than 36 notebooks with my words and doodles. Writing was always presented to me as a pressure release valve and reading as a form of escape and nothing about that has changed. There is a comfort from a familiar book that no-one else can give to me.

These two actions – writing and reading – have sustained me. Even though Virginia Woolf may not think of journaling as writing, per say, I do. Diaries, are by nature, very personal. No-one reads mine, unless I decide to share an excerpt with someone else. This has been the longest I’ve ever persisted with an action – besides basic biological ones. My relationship with writing is coloured blue because of it. I still childishly believe that the best writing presents itself when the writer is an observant, yet terribly sorrowful person.

Much love this book.

Much love to this book.

I write to understand the world around me, too. The only means to understand a world as chaotic, upsetting and occasionally wonderful is to jot down thoughts and feelings on something tactile (never a computer!). As Joan Didion says in her piece entitled Why I write, when life presents her with questions, she looks to writing to understand these questions and find answers. Sometimes, aspects of life are only understood in the process of writing.

And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally. – George Orwell

Writing will always be an outlet for me. It will be a way to resolve my own emotions, as it has been in the past. As self-reflexive as my writing is, I seek it to speak out to other people. Things I write on this blog, for instance, may be rooted in my own singular experiences, but it does deal with issues that affect a multitude of people – issues of class, gender and race. The personal is definitely the political.

 

Labels, and why I’m tired of them.

All you have to do is put a label on somebody. And then you don’t have to deal with the physical fact. You don’t have to wonder if they are waiting for the Easter bunny or love Christmas, or, you know, love their parents and hate small kids and are fearful of dogs. If you say, oh, that’s a junkie, that’s a nigger, that’s a kike, that’s a Jew, that’s a honkie, that’s a — you just — that’s the end of it. – Maya Angelou. Find the entire conversation here on my most favouritest website: BrainPickings.

I like this quote a lot. When the wonderful/amazing/awe-inspiring Maya Angelou died earlier this year, there was a plethora of Maya wisdom floating around on the internet. This is one of the many important and well-articulated points Angelou raised about being a social activist type.

Labels are helpful in making sense of our often chaotic world (remember scientific names for plants?) but aren’t the be-all and end-all of a person or situation. Life is not neatly packaged into boxes and nor are human beings. So why the emphasis on this – from the LGBTQI community to electoral politics? As Angelou succinctly puts it – labels become the end of meaningful interactions and discussions between people. The allure of accepting the person as is, in their neat, allocated space, is too strong. We become closed off from each other. We are ignorant of another’s position in society, their struggles and as a result, we see some people as more ‘human’ and some others less so.

Immersion in the pointless

So. Being the reflective person I am (also, I’m scrounging around for pieces to upload to this blog so it looks less sad), I found this gem. First piece I wrote this year and in Classic Len style, it’s dry, critical and full of big words I’m not entirely sure the meaning of. 

The Human Chain Event happened in February, in Grahamstown. The basic premise of this event, as outlined by the lovely Archbishop Desmond Tutu is to foster unity in Mandela’s name by making a literal human chain by holding hands. Here is my immersion piece, which resulted from finding my place in the chain. 

“M Street was the destination – we had all decided on that. However, plans changed in the space of a few minutes and our end-point was Joza Youth Hub. School-children in drimacs stood expectantly under the bus stop shelter and waved South African flags. The bus stop shelter seemed to be the central hub of activity, with green-shirted marshals dotting the periphery. Slowly, the shelter’s crowd diversified. St. Andrew’s boys in immaculate uniforms joined the ranks of Archie Mbulekwa and Nombulelo students. Other journalism students, with cameras and notepads and umbrellas, joined the growing number of participants.

“The rotting dog carcass and soggy rubbish dump nearby visibly raised the visitor’s eyebrows and nostrils. Many looked as if they rued this small show of solidarity. Many looked genuinely excited and wide-eyed at their surrounds”

Once the marshals had spread out the knotted crowd, dished out all the flags, singing began. The younger school-children started and soon, everyone who knew the lyrics was singing along. I flitted around the growing snake of people, finding stories and getting wet. At the head of the snake I found Joza’s ward councillor, Councillor Meti. As our conversation of pleasantries ended, I moved closer to the centre. I slotted myself in, as unobtrusively as possible and asked the girl next to me why she was singing so happily on this dreary day. “Because of Tata Mandela”, she replied. I was perplexed. She could not have been more than 13 years old, not old enough (in my mind) to have been cognisant of Mandela’s public, political and humanitarian efforts in this world, or even in our country. As the allocated hand-holding time period passed, another thought hazily came to mind. Mandela’s legacy does not need an age-appropriate rating.”

Here is a map of the locations the chained snaked its way through. Joza Youth Hub is in the township - commonly reffered to as "the wider community", "disadvantaged area" and an assortment of other derogatory euphemisms.

Here is a map of the locations the chain snaked its way through. Joza Youth Hub is in the township – commonly reffered to as “the wider community”, “disadvantaged area” and an assortment of other derogatory euphemisms.