Feisty Freedom Fighters

DSC_0231 (2)Glimpses of Apartheid-history inspire Jen:

Wind ruffles the peach flower petals in Jenny’s Sunday Best bonnet while elderly Mrs. Matthews sniffles at the breeze. Buttered hot dog rolls and immaculately sliced watermelon are passed across the picnic table with polite offers of soft drinks. The three older women swap recipes for egg salad as the shade tree’s leaves rustle softly overhead. It’s a perfect 28°C on a lazy Thursday afternoon and somehow I’ve found myself in the midst of retired, feisty freedom fighters. It’d been months since the initial invitation and plans had finally fallen together to spend an afternoon together. Vivian rolled up in her white sedan that had seen better days and cheerfully told me that some of her friends would be joining us as well. By the time Jenny and Mrs. Matthews had squeezed into the car in all their flowery-bonnet-hatted glory, I had quite resigned myself to the idea of a quiet afternoon out with the Golden Girls. But somewhere between the hard-boiled eggs and puff pastries stories slowly slipped into conversation… “We hid several of them at the Youth Center, right in plain sight! Disguised as visiting volunteers, they were.” “I only went to prison for a little while because they kept confusing me with another lady, sent her to prison instead. Poor girl. They didn’t need proof, just wanted to scare people into being quiet.” “The police knew me by then but thankfully we got away without any raids, they’d have for sure done us in.” Jenny slyly drops me a wink across and for a moment the strong willed and zealous younger woman shines through. She’s no longer past sixty, but young and passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to fight for what is right. Yet the ordinariness of the three women around me feels like a piece of hope. If they could change their world, why not us? Apartheid was ended when everyday people got involved and started standing up against injustice. They had families, careers, homes to lose yet still they did what they knew was right for themselves and their nation. They were inspired by injustice, stood their ground, fought, won, and still managed to make it to glorious retirements full of picnics and friendships and flowery bonnets. It makes me wonder, how much could our world be changed if each of us found something worth standing up for—and actually did something about it? Speeding down side streets on the way home, Vivian looks sidelong at me and laughs deeply. Getting caught is no worry. “They can’t scare me with prison, I’ve already been there!”

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