A Wake-up Call
The New Eersterus (Hammanskraal) community got a wake-up call several years ago in the form of community organizer and public achievement coach, Nomthandazo Skohosana. Nomthi, a small woman with a large vision, founded Vukani Community Development Organization in the Gauteng Providence of South Africa in 2001. Vukani, another word for "wake up" in a local language, was a call for citizens to actively work on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in the new South African democracy.
Currently a Millenium Fellowship recipient at the Center for Tolerance Education in New York, Nomthi is focused on learning new approaches for promoting tolerance towards people living with HIV and AIDS and AIDS orphans. Nomthi visited Minnesota last week and the staff at the CDC was happy to host part of her visit.
While here, she visited with University of Minnesota undergraduate students taking the class "Organizing for the Public Good" with Harry Boyte and Dennis Donovan. Nomthi shared her own experience of learning to organize and learned from the students' perspectives on organizing, power, and politics. Harry talked about Nomthi as a powerful model: "Nomthi epitomizes the idea that when young people are given tools and support that they become powerful and can make a difference."
Nomthi also visited with younger students at the Inter-district Downtown School in Minneapolis and St. Bernard's Catholic School in St. Paul doing Public Achievement. Nomthi was engaging to many different students because she could relate well to what a lot of youth are going through in their personal lives as she talked about her work with youth in South Africa. Danielle Peterson, an organizer for the CDC referred to Nomthi's school visits, when she said "both groups were pretty impressed with her- her stories illustrate that she is pretty tenacious! She has found ways to do amazing things."
Finally, Nomthi sat down with young organizers in the SPEAC program at Hope Community. They traded organizing stories and connected over some commonalities around their organizing practices. Nomthi talked about always following her gut and what she believes is the golden rule for organizing: "Do not do for others what they can do for themselves."
Nomthi will take her experiences with students and further organizing perspectives back with her to South Africa in March. She intends to focus on organizing children to take action against problems within their own communities.