For The People

We Are The Ones We Need

“I cannot stand the status quo,” said Bolani boldly to a full audience at the launch of her book, “We are the ones we need” at the Sol Plaatje Retail Space on 1 March. Sihle Bolani’s book, “We are the ones we love” is a memoir that follows the narrative of the struggles young black South Africans face in the corporate world. She unpacks contemporary issues such as institutional racism, feminism and identity.

“We, as black women, are often afraid to trust our power as black women because we are afraid of being labelled as an ‘angry black woman’. Well, we are angry. We have a lot to be angry about” says Bolani about her experience in the corporate world.

“You have written this book because you owe it to the future,” commented Sabatha Mokae, lecturer in Setswana and Creative Writing at SPU. ”If we don’t talk about this, if we don’t sort out these problems, history will judge us harshly,” he said.

The introduction to the discussion between Ayanda Simelane, lecturer in Psychology, and Bolani, was done by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Yunis Ballim. “It really is about the conversation around marginalization. Under what conditions do we ask people to come into our institutions and then apologize for their identity? What rights do we have to ask anyone for that? And that is a serious question. It seems to me that Sihle is asking some of these questions. How do we engage with each other in a humanist way? Humanist in the sense that one is sensitive to the reality that everybody arrives at having been exposed to a very different life. She had the courage to write it down. The most intimidating thing to an intellectual is a blank sheet of paper,” illustrated Ballim in his introductory remarks.

Bolani related that in the workplace she is often asked if there is anything easier they could call her, to which she replies, “No, girl. If I can learn to say Marietjie, you can learn to say Sihle”.

Her book, “We are the ones we need: The war on black professionals in corporate South Africa” unpacks the layers of race-related discrimination in the workplace, lending her voice to a territory many are afraid to enter.

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