It was fine to see Bisola Marignay again where she teaches at California Institute for Integral Studies after she had prompted me to come and hear South African Poet Laureate, Keorapetse Kgositsile, read his poetry. He was to give a lecture, "Hard Words of Struggle: The Role of Literature and Art in the Quest for Justice and Democracy," but, at first, chose to read some gentle and loving verses, memorial or meditative, as young students were present....
"To wander, the ancients say,
is to see. And, in seeing,
perhaps wonder about the road
that shapes who we are
who we might have been."
He hinted at angry, political poems too raw to be read there.
He has lived through Apartheid and post-Apartheid, endured difficulty going to and from his own country while teaching in the U.S. Now when he is in his own country he says that he is able to sleep through the night without fear that someone will break in and kill him. I am afraid I cannot report adequately his description of that history in South Africa where the gentle man intensely described, as in fast clips, the total stranglehold on every aspect of native, non-European citizens. Considering the political adversaries his people had faced, I asked what a poet should do living in a murderous military empire, and should not have been surprised, given his wise nature, that he said that while poems may contain political anger sometimes, poems are poems, not more than that, and their purpose is human dialogue, reminders of our humanity. One question supposed that poets are suppressed in his culture, but he said there is a more ancient tradition where poets are equal to kings, or more powerful in a sense, as their work is an expression of the genius of a people. When a young student asked how to find the inspiration for action, bemused and gentle Kgositsile urged that it ought to come from having a plan and a purpose worthy of your dedication.
I talked with Sundrasagren Govender, publisher of South African Beacon, and we realized that we have met once or twice before. Their offices used to be near me in Oakland, but they have moved to Bayview in San Francisco. Keorapetse Kgositsile, after his presentation, posed for a picture with Mr. Govender, and encouraged support of the Beacon's ongoing efforts to help progress in South Africa. This issue of the Beacon celebrates the centenary of the African National Congress, and includes a history of its struggles.
It includes the Freedom Charter: