“Rintiho rin’we a ri nusi hove” [A single finger cannot grasp].
– Xitsonga proverb
Every society has its margins; even a Möbius strip has its edges. Most often the political and social margins discussed are drawn along economic lines, with the wealthy at the center and the poor falling off the rim. There are margins drawn along ethnic lines. There are the margins drawn along racial lines, an ever-raw nerve here in South Africa.
The most literal margin is among the least discussed. And yet the spatial, the geographic rural/urban divide is hugely significant.
It is also hugely visceral. About a week ago, I was taking a public taxi back to my village. One of the van’s windows was out; in its place flapped a half-taped cardboard square. As we rattled down the unpaved dirt road, dust blasted its way through the hole. Dirt caked on sweaty skin, and formed a fuzzy orange skin on shoes, clothes, and belongings. One man twisted about in his seat, trying to shield his open can of beer, with little success. With the acrid taste of dirt in your mouth, you can’t forget you’re far from city center.
Living in the margins means limited or no access to all kinds of resources. There is no semblance of a public library in my village, nor in any of the surrounding villages. The closest is in the nearest township, about 50 kilometers and a sixteen-Rand taxi ride away.
I’ve worked for the past couple of months to gather a committee to plan and create a community library, to serve residents of all ages. The committee is comprised of representatives from the local schools, the local churches, the village clinics, the tribal authorities, the municipal authorities, and other organizations.
As a first step, we are participating in Books for Peace. The program is a partnership between United States Peace Corps Volunteers serving in South Africa and the US-based nonprofit Books For Africa. This project will distribute 22,000 books to 30 schools throughout South Africa.
In order to receive books for our library, people in the village are raising 1,500 Rand, to partially cover shipping costs. In addition, I must raise another $300 before the end of June.
About fifty years ago, sitting in a Birmingham city jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:
I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
When King wrote this, he was putting a physical pen to physical paper, decades before global markets would dive-bomb and buoy in time units observable only by a machine’s unblinking eye. Decades before a blog post could leap from a dusty rural village to any major metropolis, with nothing but a tricked-up telephone.
“Rintiho ri’new a ri nusi hove,” goes one Xitsonga proverb – a single finger cannot grasp. We in the village are working to raise money to bring a much-needed resource. We need your help, however, to reach our goal.
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