Sat Oct 22 20:12:32 SAST 2016

Youth is a season to plant the seeds of greatness

By unknown | Nov 10, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Crowded out by Barack Obama's election victory last week, was the small matter of one Lewis Hamilton becoming the youngest and the first black person to win the Formula One championship.

As part of a generation randomly called the lost ones, Obama and Hamilton's victories are about the vitality of youth. It must have been written in the stars that the two would, in a matter of two days, send such a strong message to the world about young black males.

I hope that the Obama and Lewis victories will send a message to young people that they must not believe anyone who tells them that their youth is an albatross, in much the same way that their forebears had been told about their blackness.

Blackness and youth have often been the barriers to progress for many talented individuals. It is often worse when you have to add being a woman to this equation.

Hopefully, in our lifetime, we shall witness the rise of young black women to positions that we hitherto could only script in a most fanciful work of fiction.

For our daughters' sakes, I hope the next big seismic event will not only be about being Young, Gifted and Black, but also about being a Woman too.

I hope that the myth which is sometimes accepted as if it were an obvious truism, that youth is wasted on the young, will be outed for what it is - an impatience by those too willing to forget that youth is the season in which the seeds of what we will become are planted, and not the time to reap.

Hopefully it will remind those who have never extended a hand to help a young person find their way in a turbulent and unforgiving world that they are disqualified from calling anyone "lost".

I hope too that those who are relatively young but are already in positions of influence in their various spheres of life, will stop second-guessing themselves and know that ability and drive could not care about age.

That said, it is important for such young people to remember that there is always a place for institutional knowledge and no matter how bright you might be, you can only stand taller if you stand on the shoulders of giants that came before you.

Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, all in various ways contributed to Obama believing he could.

South Africa could do well to get its own Hamilton and an Obama. Like the British racing driver, we must recognise that we need to be in a hurry if we are to get things done. Sometimes we forget that it has been 18 years since Nelson Mandela walked out of prison. Time flies.

There is a lot that we have failed to do and many more where we have regressed instead of wanting to forge ahead. We have come to internalise coming second or not at all as acceptable - as illustrated by the fortunes of our national football team.

Fortunately we already have a template to work off. Long before Obama and Hamilton came around, we had the likes of AP Mda, Anton Lembede and Tsietsi Mashinini who refused to believe that youth was merely about living as recklessly as they could.

They sought to change their world to one that made sense to them.

Like Hamilton, we need to recognise that it is okay to win and to win now. Success and excellence is not the province of "others".

Like Obama we need to believe that all the myths about South African youth notwithstanding, yes we too can.


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