These Dam Blacks!

25 Feb


As Black communities from across the globe, we need to take ownership of our talents, acknowledgements​ and celebrate our excellence and achievements. My three passions in life are Womxn, Africa and the arts, so I needed to share a great initiative called ‘These Dam Blacks’.
After my exhilarating experience of being part of Abantu Book festival in December 2018, where my autobiography, Reclaiming The Soil was featured and Lebo Mashile moderated a panel, where I shared the stage with Mme Thuli Nhlapo. The three-day event included meeting with some of Africa’s most prolific writers, authors, publishers, speakers, and book lovers. The event created space for phenomenal discussions on and off the stage. One of the great conversations that I had was with Sabelo Mcinziba on his involvement​ and projection​ of creating safe Balck spaces. I recently caught up with him to chat about another powerfully​ Black initiative.

This is what he shared:
‘These Dam Blacks’ came about as a result of a need to create spaces of affirmation for each other as black people particularly but not limited to the cities. There is a great sense of alienation that we go through as black people in this world and in the urban spaces especially so this space is an intervention to our sociability. We wanted a space that would affirm us in all of our 50 Shades of Blacks as we come from various experiences and have different ways to black but we black nonetheless in a white world – so out of necessity, the space had to be openly black and inviting to different experiences of blackness and thus it is a safe space and must be.

The emphasis on Dam!
We made a call out to people to gather at Emmarentia Dam which is also where we derived our name which is also a play on the word Damn as we believe that our position in the world as black people is the position of the Damned as Frantz Fanon coined it in Les Damnes de la terre, literally translating to the damned of the earth or as popularly known in English, The Wretched of the Earth. However, we have decided to use our agency to do something about our damnation hence the creation of These Dam Blacks as an affirming, collaborative and networking space characterized by a free-spirited and easy going approach that is different to the usual suit and tie networking events. The location itself on a park by a dam, on a Sunday afternoon with blankets and picnic baskets and games for adults and children, is something we think is a rare or unique contribution of These Dam Blacks.

What can we expect?
We pride ourselves in that we are a family friendly space (we have a Kiddies’ Corner) and believe that your development as a person can and must be in community with others. For people who do not have family in the cities as is often the case as a result of the migrant labour system or even upward mobility, These Dam Blacks becomes a family to attendees and this comes from their own testimonies.

How the Dam Blacks started.

At the first gathering of These Dam Blacks, five individuals were endorsed by the gathering to form the organising committee for subsequent events and this group is still intact doing exactly that, with this being the 6th Edition in Johannesburg starting from 2017 and one edition in Cape Town which has its own committee and other places are welcome to expand the network by connecting with us and set up a chapter wherever they may be and we have had interest in Limpopo, North West, the Eastern Cape, and KZN quite prominently and we are sure this number will increase as the brand grows.

Please share a beautiful moment that you experienced at one of the previous events?

A beautiful moment will differ for every Dam Black but for me, it was the overall success of the gathering and the explosive spirit that is the manifestation of black love. It is something that is hard to describe but when it is felt, it is unmistakable. That spirit has endured that on two occasions when we have been rained on, other Dam Blacks have opened their homes to us to host the event there and in both instances, it was absolutely beautiful as that opening of the homes comes as a result of opened hearts and a love for oneself and each other. So that ‘beautiful moment’ continues for me as space exists because it is the space that gives us the power to carry on and the magic that we are as black people given all of what we have been through. 

Which Dam Black should attend?
As mentioned, These Dam Place is an open space with a very relaxed atmosphere. So the invitation goes to all black people and it is a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs as they get to meet a potential client base. Given the open nature of the invitation, any entrepreneur who is an owner or seller of black-owned products is welcome to space. We collaborate strongly with BrownSense and they advertise These Dam Blacks on their platform. We also collaborate with Buy Black Mzansi and they equally share on their platform and other online based African markets are part of the broader network of These Dam Blacks. We invite entrepreneurs to set up an hour before start time. We are not exactly a market but are open to marketers so we do not charge for space as other platforms would if they are having a market.
Because it is an open and easy going space, we often deal with entrepreneurs as they arrive if they did not ask prior questions or confirm attendance themselves. As things stand, we will have the Abantu Bookstore so all the people who could not buy books at the Abantu Book Festival will get an opportunity to buy at These Dam Blacks and we will have some free books on promo.

Food and drink are provided. In the past, we have hired a catering company but we have also catered by cooking at a Dam Black kitchen offered by any of the patrons. We also encourage people to bring and share but principally we cater as we understand that some people do not have the means to bring and share and we do not want people to stay away from the space because they cannot afford this. The basis of this comes from our traditional systems as African people. If you host an event, have the entire means to host and as and when people contribute, it is to add to make it better but if one cannot afford, they must still attend because “Nongenankomo uyayidl’inyama.” – ‘Even the one without a cow eat the meat”.

This weeks program:

The set times are 12pm-5pm but the practice is that people will start arriving and mingling around 12 and we start typically an hour later once the majority of the people have arrived. We have never ended at 5 pm as people want to stay on till it’s quite dark around 8 pm and very often people organise drinks for themselves afterward with their new friends and old friends.

This week we can expect a wine education session by a black womxn winemaker. The day will include a circle where we introduce ourselves to each other before the organic networking session later. There will also be entertainment by two amazing local poets.

There will also be a break for eating and drinking all black produced everything and have a conversation about how we move supporting black business beyond end-user/consumers status but also investors. Other areas of discussion will be on the Black Panther movie in all its complexities and meanings to us a people.

If the heavens open up, what is plan B?
If it rains, we will move to one of the houses nearby as we have done in the past and this has not affected the quality of our events.

A closing note from Sabelo:
After all the black love, we hug (don’t wear sweet perfumes please) goodbyes and wake up on Monday to make use of the strategic contacts you made at These Dam Blacks.

One Response to “These Dam Blacks!”

  1. Khalifah Makgotlho March 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm #

    Thank you for the initiative. I am interested and residing in Cape Town. I am originally from Soweto.

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