Name changing - name calling?

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
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Trip End Oct 25, 2010


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Where I stayed
the Sugar Shack

Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back in East London, where the Sugar Shack is beginning to feel like home.
My travelpod friend John (McConnachie) will pick me up round about 6 o'clock. He is here for a debate on 'name changing,' to be held at the East London theatre tonight. He'll be one of the 6 forum members, all advocates or legal people. John thought I might like to come and listen before heading for Grahamstown, and he is interested in a European's view on this South African matter.
Well, I haven't a clue what it is all about, changing names, of what or who? But, as always, I am curious and it seems like an amusing way of getting to know John.

Just as I leave the Spar, munching a pie, he calls me, telling me he is near, in fact, he almost runs me over. I jump in the car and meet John, who looks alarmingly like my ex-brother-in-law, and two black friends of his. They are coming along to support his case, still not sure what it is, never mind, first a quick drink. Not for John, he has to keep a clear head, and not for the other two, I forget why, so it must have been just me.

We enter the theatre by the stage door and John has memories of himself as a boy, singing for the school play, at this very place. Oklahoma, was it?
The stage is being prepared, almost done, and some faces shimmer in the house. My two new friends, Sigidla and, ah, forgot (forgive), and I, find a seat and soon enough, the show begins.
It doesn't take long to cotton on - a simple educational video is shown, explaining the question of changing the names of places, streets, parks etcetera. Names that stem from the colonial era. It ends with a referral to St. Petersburg. Each lawyer, 4 black, 2 white, gets time to speak - most are in favour.
I won't go into detail, too complicated, but safe to say it was a lively discussion. Speakers from the audience fervently argue their views, often aiming directly, or indirectly, at John, who has the unpopular opinion that Grahamstown should keep her name. Neither he, nor anyone else, is denying the injustice the black people have suffered, but John makes his point saying the name is no longer associated with the British colonel Graham, who 'cleared' the amaXhosa in 1811, but very much with things to be proud of, like the Rhodes university and the annual National Arts Festival. I give it in a nutshell and won't go into politics here, but if you are interested you can check: www.keepgrahamstown.co.za.

Time's up, and the heated discussions are brought to an end.To my amusement, while the chairperson is in the middle of thanking the forum and visitors for their presence, people stand up and leave - and make a bee-line for the drinks in the foyer.
The onset of a jolly get-together, black and white, not a hint of discord -
ah, if only it could always be that simple.


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Comments

jonmcconn on

We're still fighting the good name fight! You got thrown in at the deep end but grasped the gist of the debate very quickly. Thanks for sporting the "Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown" sticker. It's a definite, sooner or later a South African is going to come up to you and ask you about it. Let me know when it happens and thanks for directing people to the KGG website. They should feel free to comment.

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