Blackboard Africa is changing the views of African youth

Two young women from Gauteng were prompted to create Blackboard Africa by the negative portrayal of young Africans. Their goals include inspiring youth through different forms of art and sharing the experiences of Africans.

amonge sinxoto blackboard africa
Zingisa Socikwa and Amonge Sinxoto of Blackboard Africa host events such as history talks, artists’ evenings, young art exhibitions, book club meet-ups and youth workshops. These events are a platform for African youth to speak to their peers and get guidance from mentors. (Images supplied)

Melissa Javan
Two young women from Gauteng created the social movement Blackboard Africa to changes the perceptions of black youth to a positive narrative.

Through live events and its social media platforms, this initiative is a platform for African youth to find and freely express their voices about the past, present and future, say its founders.

They are 15-year-old Amonge Sinxoto, a Grade 11 learner, and her cousin, Zingisa Socikwa (21), a film student. The two explain that they were not happy with the conversations their peers were having regarding the image of the black girl.

“We want to redefine and model how people in the world view our African identity and move away from negative, preconceived, colonial settings,” says Amonge. “Blackboard seeks to paint a beautiful picture on a clean blackboard through the eyes of the vibrant youth.”

Their vision of Blackboard is a place to share ideas, she adds. “[We want to] intrigue our creative appetites through literature, music, drama, spoken word, art and sharing of beautiful stories.”

The meaning behind Blackboard Africa

“We called our movement Blackboard because it carries a timeless metaphor that we want all young Africans to remember,” says Amonge.

“We are black and made of hardened material but at the same time we are smooth and soft. We have been written onto by society ‘the white chalk’ since the beginning of time.

“Blackboard is about us erasing all of that and being the ones to portray ourselves in the way in which we feel we need to be portrayed.”

How it started

The cousins saw the need for this movement on hearing a disturbing conversation by teenage boys about black girls, she said.

Such conversations were doing the rounds and gaining popularity in schools across Johannesburg. “It led to some heated exchanges of differing perspectives from young people as they shared hair-raising arguments with interactive text and voice notes in their group chats.”

She and Socikwa were surprised at how beauty, intellect, strength and esteem were perceived in these conversations. “It was rather appalling to see how black girls are increasingly being viewed in a strange and distasteful manner in our society.”

“Similarly, we see that popular culture and media has played a critical influence in defining what the ideals and model characteristics of a perfect girl should be,” Amonge said.

amonge sinxoto blackboard
The founders of Blackboard Africa, Amonge Sinxoto (left) and Zingisa Socikwa. Amonge says they hope to inspire youth with ideas from a fresh perspective while maintaining a clear view of the mixed memories of our past.

The events

Blackboard was a collaborative project, Amonge said. “[This is] so we can try to get people in our immediate access to share their experiences and stories.”

For example, the Blackboard Africa team organises events where youth can engage with each other on various topics and share their experiences. Already this year, the group has held the Big Sister Little Sister x Big Brother Little Brother conversation.

It was hosted in collaboration with another initiative, Bloom.org. The theme was about “the things we wish our mothers had told us about love and relationships”.

Six panellists discussed a variety of relationships such as individuals in a romantic relationship, friendship between males and friendship between females. “[It] really opened the floor to a discussion that everyone could relate to,” said Amonge.

The second event hosted this year was the launch of Blackboard Books, an interactive book club for the youth. “The novel we discussed was Coconut by Kopano Matlwa and the topic of conversation was identity.

“We had the three panellists, including author Niq Mhlongo and television and radio host Penny Lebeyane.”

Blackboard is planning more events, including something special for June, which is Youth Month in South Africa.

Featured stories

On the Blackboard Africa website, stories of people such as Zoe Modiga are told. Modiga talks about her musical journey. She is also asked what she would tell her 15-year-old self.

Cuma Pantshwa, an HDI Youth Marketeer, is also profiled. She talks about working with youth. Besides learning about her background, you also hear what excites her about being a woman of colour. HDI Youth Marketeers helps brands and organisations connect with youth and families, through schools, malls, communities and digital playgrounds of urban, peri-urban and rural South Africa. HDI is part of global marketing and advertising group TBWA.

Amonge said they profiled several people on their site, each of whom was seen as inspiring. These people were not necessarily celebrated in the mainstream media. “[They are] women and men we can look up to and would like to celebrate.

“We also feature amazing young talent from the continent that are history-makers who are changing the narrative in their respective industries,” she explained.

“We try to get a thorough understanding of the individuals we feature to make sure that they affiliate with what we are trying to do with the youth.”

Blackboard has a variety of contributors who send in content from opinion pieces to poetry. “We also have a monthly feature called Phenomenal Black Woman in which we interview women in different industries.

“[This is] to give some insight to our readers about the various industries and the black woman within them.”

Highlights

It had been encouraging that people wanted to join Blackboard and contribute in any way possible, Amonge said. “The team and movement are growing.

“We have different committees from community projects, to book clubs, to art and culture committees, to the actual writing.”

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