On Thursday 16 April, the Rhodes University Student Representative Council (SRC) in conjunction with the East African Society (EASOC) and the Zimbabwean Society Zim Unlimited, hosted a Black Thursday Vigil in commemoration of a number of tragedies that have occurred on African soil. Namely: the Garissa attack that occurred in Kenya on 2 April 2015; the one year anniversary of the Boko Haram kidnapping incident that occurred in Nigeria on 15 April 2014; the 21 year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide; as well as the xenophobic attacks that are happening in Durban, and other parts of South Africa as we speak. The event included a meeting at the Union and a march to the Drostdy Lawns where the concerned students gathered to discuss these horrific events.
A scheduled power cut, which took place at 6pm, together with the drizzle and cold breeze set a sombre tone for the night. None the less, participants marched to the Drostdy Lawns together in complete silence. This allowed one to reflect not only the tragedies being commemorated, but on the necessity of an event such as this. The attendance of people, despite the bad weather and load shedding, shows that a significant amount of the student body is not only dedicated to the cause, but it also contributes to dispelling the myth that Rhodes University students are apathetic.
Events such as the vigils, where this kind of conversation takes place, are incredibly important. The way in which the students were able to organize themselves, as well the fact that they felt a need to do so, is indicative of the types of leaders this university is producing; leaders who empathize with others and who are vocal about injustices, even if they are not directly affected.
The event was also important in the sense that it was one of the few times that the different African societies on campus came together in solidarity to ‘do good’. It is indeed quite a pity that societies don’t often come together for other reasons. Surely now is as good a time as any, to promote the idea of African unity among Rhodents. Instead of only being brought together by tragedy, perhaps this is an opportunity for the leading African societies such as : EASOC, ZimUnlimited, Malsoc, Lesotho Society, Namibian Society the Xhosa society, and Zulu Soc, to have events celebrating African identity, and promoting a spirit of unity.
What is the point of being at an institution as diverse as Rhodes, if we never take the time to learn about each other? This suggestion is in no way meant to detract from the beautiful event that was organized by these societies, but merely a proposal to take it a step further.