Iyanla Vanzant has given us many things. My favourite? That phrase: “call a thing a thing, beloved.”
In the past three months, some people have been trying to educate themselves about the social issues facing the world at large and their communities on a more intimate level. But, education doesn’t mean big words or concepts that only make sense to the elite. Even when you (and me) are the “elite”.
Go with me here.
A few years ago, I was on assignment with a famous artist. One of the stops that day was at a shoot for a TV channel. One of the social media managers lit up when the artist walked in. You know, the kind of lighting up that you see in cartoons when a character is hungry and they look at someone and the character’s eyes glaze over and their pupils are replaced by chicken? Or a sandwich? Just something to eat. Yeah, like that.
The manager came over to ask for a “soundbite” for the channel and they asked the artist to tell the masses what they thought about several concepts. Feminism, misogynoir, patriarchy, those kids of concepts. The artist, always self-assured and never too cool to say when they don’t know, asked for one of the concepts to be explained. The manager was at a loss for words. She was asking a question and assuming everyone was in on the conversation. So much so she didn’t know how to actually unpack it.
I don’t usually chime in when I’m observing an artist for a profile. That leaves too much room for me to insert myself (even unintentionally) into the story. But, I broke my rule that one time. I explained the concept – to the best of my understanding. The artist was like: ohhhh. Then gave the manager a thoughtful answer.
I went home thinking: the artist understood the meaning but not the word. And they have platforms that speak to millions of people. So, imagine, if we, in our respective communities, made “each one teach one” a real thing. And not to prescribe but to bring each person into the conversation.
It’s like how one of the older men in The People vs Patriarchy documentary said there is no (I forgot which South African language he cited) word for patriarchy. So how can we call a thing a thing, beloved?
And before you come for me, I know, I know: if grownups can somehow find demon time, they can find the time to familiarise themselves and make their voices heard. A place they can visit is @prejudic_tionary on Instagram. The account unpacks harmful stereotypes like “girls can’t fight” and “all lives matter” and more. The dictionary’s founder, Mbali, hopes it “will become an effective tool to help us dismantle the stereotypes and ideas that continue to destroy our humanity”.
And if that doesn’t speak to you, please, by all means, don’t stop looking for something that does. And if it absolutely doesn’t exist, please start it.
Oh, and this post has nothing to do with Justin Bieber or his song. I needed to illustrate my point and it was just the most okay-looking image that comes up when I type in “what do you mean?”