June 17, 2008

Man-Making in South Africa - A Man-Making Poem

Usiko is both an organization and a program in South Africa which deals with youth at risk and young people in conflict with the law. Started in 2000, they state that they are in the business of . . . healing youths by taking them through our rites of passage programs, giving them both the confidence and skills to become leaders in their communities.

Usiko was established in response to the legacy of apartheid. The painful socio-economic disparity that still exists between rich and poor, typically following racial lines, as many of the disadvantaged communities continue to suffer from high alcoholism, unemployment, low income, low educational levels, domestic violence, child abuse, and the prevalence of gang cultures.

On their website, they quote an old Zulu saying: You are the stories you make about yourself. They believe that young people in disadvantaged areas… join gangs because they need to build both real and magical contexts for themselves in the absence of strong family bonds. They need to make stories about themselves.

At Usiko camps, by using . . . ancient and modern rituals, powerful real-life experiences, mentor support, and the balm of affirmation, we help young people create new stories about their lives. Stories with different outcomes. Our programs are the most powerful buttresses we know against the lure of gang life. They work - spectacularly.

On the Child justice link on their site you'll find this poem. It's a tragically eloquent description of what happens in young males when Man-Making comes from the dark side.

I have been sent to
Sea Point Police Station,
Where I was beaten by civil servants,
I have been to Polsmoor Prison,
Where I was sodomized
And left bleeding
On the damp floor.
I have been to
Places of Safety and Reformatories
Where I was hardened by
Warders and fellow inmates,
Where I learned to hold on
To what was mine and take
From those who could not fight.
I am now the perpetrator of violence
And not the victim.
On the streets
I am a law unto myself.

1 comment:

  1. Warren10:20 AM

    A man-making project and strong men that make it so. Rather than pouring funds into high security prisons, we need a Usiko in every urban 'wilderness'; and the men and will and resources to sustain them.

    Thanks for the 'window of hope.


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