|Black Thought members each shared their understanding|
The emergence of the Rhodes Must Fall Movement at the University of Cape Town in 2015, seems to have raised an ancient, convoluted and contentious issue of decolonizing the public spaces, university systems and the goods- knowledge that the academy disseminates. Since the students-led protests, ‘decolonizing’ as a concept has once again become popular in the country as it was in the 1960’s and 1970s. “Various commentators (students, staff as well as academics from other institutions) have since used a number of platforms to grapple with questions such as what decolonisation means for a university in Africa, and where the process must begin” (Monday Monthly, UCT newspaper, 2015). With the debates now becoming even more heated, SOTL@UJ hosted the movement, Black Thought UJ on the 11th February 2016 under the theme ‘An encounter with black thought’ to have both academic staff and students share their thoughts on the matter.
Black Thought UJ describes itself “as movement geared towards championing the needs of blacks through the process of decolonizing the academic institution in its many facets”- ‘to disrupt the space’ as charged by Mr. Tsepo Moloi, the founding member of the group. The movement is inspired by the activities and the movements of the late 1960’s to1970’s who initially called for the overall decolonizing of the education system and public spaces.
In this presentation different members of Black Thought UJ shared their own views and understanding of decolonization in the context of higher education South Africa and specifically for UJ. For Black Thought UJ decolonization entails a full recognition of black people from the language they speak, the cultures they practice, consideration of African content in the curriculum and being seen or regarded as equals to other races.
While the institution was under heavy scrutiny, black academics were also not spared. There is a feeling from the group that having to deal with the institution and its unfavorable policies the other challenge they facing are black academics who seem to have forgotten about the struggle of a black child. A black student not from Black Thought that some white academics are more sympathetic towards black students while the same cannot be said about ‘those who supposed to understand them better’.
Given these institutionalized inequalities and refusal or failure from the university to lead the agenda of decolonizing the academy, Black Though UJ sought to concientize black students to understand themselves as the ‘black subjects’ by critically engaging with self and celebrate Africanism from language, culture to black thinkers while also advocating for a non-racial UJ.
While the views posited by the group were largely welcomed by the students present, few academic staff felt that the tone was too harsh and dismissive especially to white people as the impression given was that decolonizing was a fight against white people, to replace existing western cannons with African cannons without being critical. Some academics cautioned about the over generalization in the group’s view and argued that as much as their argument is sound but there is a need to theorise arguments than speaking from thin air.
|Brenda from SOTL @ UJ and Tshepo from Black Thought -who led the session|