I’m not okay

I’m not okay

I act like I’m okay but I’m grieving the resignation of the University of Cape Town Black female Vice Chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng @fabacademic. I’m grieving because her tenure in that organisation is text book example of what happens to among the ‘first’ Black women leaders in a predominantly , historically white and male organisation.

First there’s the Honeymoon phase where she is celebrated and lauded not just for her excellence – Excellent she has to be, only a superstar will do – but her Blackness. A token of a transformed institution. Then comes the rumble when she proves to be those ‘uppity’ Black woman who does not know ‘her place’ who doesn’t quite fit into the mode of the politics of respectability.

We’ve watched her shine. We watched as the university receive accolade after accolade. Girl was even congratulated by the chief aunty Oprah Winfrey. We also saw her living out loud. Taking selfies with the students, visiting them in libraries, cafeterias and residences. We saw the glow in those Black student faces as they saw a walking, talking representation of what they could one day be. We saw her exercise videos, dancing, playing, motivating being an authentic complex human being.

We were not surprised as much as we are grieving to witness the first signs of her demise. It’s started by reports in the media because of course as a Black woman she is supposed to be without blemish. We knew that once the establishment starts with her it will not stop until she was out.

I’m grieving the young Black girls who saw a breathing, talking, living out loud, example of Black girl magic being snuffed out right in front of their eyes. I’m sad because this memory is going to make them hesitate even more when they are called to dare greatly.

I’m sad that 30 years after the dawn of democracy in South Africa, this is the country that we live in. I know that she will rise even stronger, that what Black women do well – not because they are stronger but because they have harder battles. I only hope that her tenure will pave a smoother path for those who come after her.

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Published by Hlatswayobusisiwe

MBA (Henley), Career Coach and Founder Black Women in the workplace www.blackwomenintheworkplace.com

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