I Write Who I Am (Edited by Harry Owen)
“In mid-2008 a group of enthusiastic post-graduate journalism students at Rhodes University helped me to start a school newspaper, Upstart, in seven previously disadvantaged high schools in Grahamstown. Working with Grade 8 and 9 learners, the project aimed to expand the abilities of schoolchildren in a variety of areas, including promoting a culture of literacy; developing reading and writing abilities; encouraging inter-school communication in order to break down racial, cultural and language barriers; and developing leadership skills ...
The title of this collection of poems is derived from the title of Black Consciousness leader Stephen Bantu Biko’s seminal book, I write what I like. When the poetry group met in a seminar room at Rhodes University to finalise this collection and decide on the title, the irony was not lost on us. We recalled that many years ago Biko was not welcomed at Rhodes and the authorities would not permit him to live in the residence. Fortunately these young poets live in a different world from the brutal racism and segregation of the apartheid period, though they continue daily to confront and battle to overcome the bitter legacies of apartheid. They are young people who are determinedly trying to carve out a future for themselves, drawing on their pride in themselves, and on their values, education, culture and community. Moreover, it is Biko’s inspirational values and example that animate these young people from Grahamstown.”
– Shireen Badat (Founder of Upstart)
If anyone ever thought that the youth of South Africa had nothing to say, or that they were unable to express themselves creatively and movingly, this vibrant new anthology of poetry is sure to change their minds.
In I Write Who I Am you will find love, joy, hardship, despair, loss, ambition, celebration, hope, fun and great deal more – all expressed in the clear and honest voices of young people who have a real sense of who they are and what they have to offer.
Most of us never thought that we would or could write poetry, but Harry Owen revealed the potential that was obscured within ourselves. It’s all about us – he just facilitates.
– Sanele Ntshingana
Every week when I meet with Upstart [to write poetry], I forget to think about all my troubles.
– Lulama Fatyela