Friday, 12 June 2009 10:50

The BBI Identity Conference - review Featured

Written by Boure
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Roving reporter, serial blogger and possibly one of Cape Town's finest female exports, member 'Boure' was at the BBI Identity Conference in Riverlea held on 6 June 2009. For those that were unable to make it, she gives us a blow-by-blow, unbiased account of what she experienced at the conference. I'm confident that these meetings will improve in not only attendance, but will culminate in real, workable plans to help improve the state of our communities. - Ed.

I arrived a couple of minutes late, little lady Lela (my daughter) was particularly testy and I wanted to blow dry my hair...because I am worth it! And because mens se hare is mos belangrik, after all I was going to the Bruin Belange Initiatief meeting and chances are there would be a lot of bruin mense there.
I thought it was more a meeting than a conference.  Let me tell you why.

Mr Thu (significant other) gave me a ride to the venue and was convinced that we'd end up in Soweto (if we continue down this road - he smirked) but when I asked him if en route to Soweto there was possibly a "bruin" community and before he could answer the familiar shape and color, type of cars and pedestrians greeted us, the spattering of houses was made visible by a gracious bend in the road.  I needed something from the shop and we proceeded to the corner garage and just like that the Hall appeared. 
I was excited; I saw some cars in the car park.  Did a quick scan, none too snazzy, nice middle class spread.   I smiled at one of the bumper stickers, something about the sticker struck me as particularly me.

I registered with Raylene (on BBI board) and took my seat - somewhere in the middle but on the end of the row. Easy access for 15 month old date. 
I had hoped to miss the opening with prayer bit, but I did not and heads bowed in reverent silence allowed me to openly stare at my fellow bruin ous.  I tingled with excitement thinking that maybe I could recognize some of them  from their pictures on BO or through telepathy but somewhere in the middle of the proceedings I realized that I would never know who was on the site and who wasn't.  The few people I asked seemed a little confused and had heard of BO but was not on it, or have been on it but sometime ago.  Then I spotted Charles.  He is big, like a bear, generous bear hugger alert- i thought to myself. His wife is lovely, really warm smile, (no I am not on BO - she said I almost detected a slight glimmer of pleasure being able to openly make such a statement).  What she did not say was, although I am not on this site I am in full support of Pookie's (my made up pet name for Charles) crazy venture, she beamed encouragement.  I took a liking to her, almost instantly.

The first speaker Dr Danny Titus, spent some time talking about the challenges of starting up structures without the proper support (financial and otherwise).  He mentioned that although a lot of things were said from the last conference (i think it was in Cape Town) people were excited and motivated but then mostly it fell flat again shortly after.  (interesting line: Cape Town left us with a lot of bills...ah the mother city - typical!) BBI is not a political movement, he said, but we engage politicians actively.  What do you discuss with them or are they just checking if you have balls?  If you going to be a threat, are you going to rouse the natives?

He kept referring to a meeting with Mr Zuma.  I would have loved to hear more about how the BBI plans to address the needs in our community.  I was hoping to get perhaps a document, one that outlines the strategy of the BBI.  But none were presented to us.  Another little bell, me thinks.
The second speaker had a super title.  Simboliek en die bruin gemeenskap.  In a nutshell the man with the glorious voice, the kinda voice that what ever he said would sound like a sermon.  Man of authority.  He simply asked that we commemorate December 1st and went into some detail as to why.  The hall burst in applause, he ended his speech with a prayer and for the first time in a while I felt a sense of cohesion amongst audience.  Then Titus open the floor and questions came pouring forth.  Most people preceded their questions with a long preamble, one could only describe as a position.  I felt it was important that all who spoke was heard, they obviously had something to say and my heart ached a little at the thought that this was probably one of the few places where this sort of opinion could be expressed.  For that I quietly thanked the BBI and resolved not to say a word myself.  I have enough places where I express my sentiments.  So I listened.  Pastor Seekoei spoke about dancing, praying, coming together, teenage pregnancy, nagte van gebede, poverty and how unless we address the lack of moral amongst our people, we are never going to affect real change.  We need to be reminded of who we are.  He was very popular, obviously.  Nearly made an alter call, he joked.  I wretched at the thought!

The open discussion floated on for a while and pushed the programme out by about an hour but none were complaining, I beelined for the tea and biscuit stand and still tried to guess who were the BO website but none jumped at me. I dropped my BO members hunt and focused on the programme.  I really wanted to hear Dr Martin, Leonard Martin. I consider him one of our treasured intellectuals and I was gagging to hear him.

Simon Bruinders sketch was ok.  People laughed when they were supposed to.  Errol Felix (kind a cute in person!) did the camera work.  He walked funny so I asked him about it, sports injury he replied...mmm sports injury - seemed suspicious.  He is the editor of Izzit magazine, I could not get my grubby paws on a copy, granted the copy is long shelved by now. But I asked him to try to get one to me nonetheless, maybe gives me a chance to fish about the real reason for his pained walk.  Rainbow FM, a community radio station, I think her name was Delores, went to the stage and challenged groups in the audience to buy some airtime and sponsor it to the BBI, but when asked how much this airtime costs, she could not reply (and she is the station manager - blind) and her friendly challenge fell flat on its face. 
I mention this because this is kind of how I felt at first about the entire day, BBI, great idea but the leadership has not really got an idea of how to take things forward.  Yes there is a problem, yes we need to do something about it, but we have no idea how to go about tackling the issue.  If we can even name the issue without getting embroiled in the Khoi - San, racism, multi racialism debates.

The media is not going to give us the answer, neither is our local celebrities. Zane (he spent about 30 minutes), Errol (from sewende laan)(was gone by lunch time), Vinette, Eloise (sang two or three songs - stretching here), Simon (was the MC)...we are grateful that they have come to the party and taken up the cause but they portray colored stereotypes on a daily basis.  Seems slightly hypocritical but I am not complaining, the more PR the better, or is it?
Is it a good idea to take a half baked idea forward, I fear we all might come across as half baked by association.  Vinette's speech, I am my brothers keeper, jolted us into the hall again.  (Ek is nie jou colored nie and - so dronk soos n kleurling onderwyser - to which she replied - voertsek!) She is very talented, she moved us with her gevleulde woorde (courtesy oom oubaas), but after both Danny and Seekoei, Vinette (the only female speaker - with the exception of the Women of Pearl - and actually - hulle kan maar gelos it - they waltzed in almost at the end of the programme and kinda just big upped themselves).  Vinette brought us closer to an emotional connect with the problem, but the problem still has no name and therefore a solution was not close.  Perhaps Dr Martin can bring some guidance.  Lunch was served.  Chicken curry and spicy carrot sambal, tee and koekies. 

Now you know after lunch aint nobody got energy cept for sleeping but we forged on.   Think there was another speaker before Dr Martin (sounds like a boot brand!) he spoke about the ex service men and what a raw deal they got in the bad old days gone good, Lela was very prickly so I listened with half a ear, but the little I heard gave me a slither of understanding for the plight of these men and their tireless work they have done till now.  Now for Dr Martin.
He is very passionate, articulate and informed.  I had the distinct impression that he had to change the tone of his presentation and words like discourse were replaced by discussion.  He gave a very intellectual speech and it felt like I was listening to a paper that did not want to be a paper, a paper pretending to be a speech (Busted!) it is hard to sum up what he said because I think just as he was about to say it he was told that he ran out of time.  He gave a compelling argument for the retrieving identity, his preamble, definitions; contextualization took up most of hi airtime.  One thing I am convinced of though is that to retrieve one's identity, we have to understand the reasons why.  Through this process we might even begin to shape the very identity we seek to retrieve.  I think this is where the BBI can play the biggest role and I think Dr Martin holds one of the keys.  His paper not his speech.

The rest of the afternoon petered out but not before the BBI was given a mandate by the audience - show of hands.  The entire BBI board got up on the stage and apart from knowing their names not much else is known about them by me so I can't say who I gave this mandate - a mandate to do what? - to.  I am going to make it my personal agenda to find out more about these people.  I will share what I find with you.  I am going to start at the top.
Charles spoke near the end.  His presentation was witty and light but it had some real heavy stats - hard for us to swallow after the chicken curry. Charles - please post your presentation for the rest of the BO's who could not make it? I am sure that he has a place in the retrieval process.  His position needs no further corroboration; I pray that BBI does not loose sight of their position.  Let's not use the media for this debate, SAME has that battle.  BBI should be doing something different. I hope that soon they will communicate to us what they mean to do. In simple English...

What is being said, by whom on whose behalf? I really think we should all know.   
I would like to thank the BBI for creating the space for such dialogue, it is needed.  We need structure.  We need strong reliable leadership - we need to be consulted.
We are a collections of I's - I am different, I am unique and I am brown. Deal with me.

Boure - your reporter at large - or until further notice (plagiarised from Charles's cheeky line - "Coloured until further notice" which nearly brought the house down)