A Letter To My Younger Self: Reflecting on African Queer Activism for International Youth Day

12 August 2023 by Dumi Gatsha

This blog was first published in The Washington Blade.

Dumi Gatsha is a GFAN Speaker, UHC 2030 steering committee alternate member and founder of Success Capital Organisation, a sub-sub recipient of the Global Fund providing community health and justice referral services, while working in the nexus of human rights and sustainable development at grassroots, regional and global levels.

Dear Dumi,

I write to you as a testament to endurance and resilience.

I know you are reeling with confusion and grief with little understanding of what happened to you during adolescence. Living in a world that defines you as a victim with much 'need' and little to dream for, because who is allowed to dream when criminalized and denied consent to their bodily autonomy and dignity?

You are one of many whose resilience will be celebrated with little regard of what truly defines you because you have 'survived'. Survived socioeconomic complexity, sexual assault, stigma and the silence that comes with normalized violence. 

Although the journey through your teenage years may be lonely, you are not alone.

Activists that came before you endured to bridge science and community, governance and humanity. As you grow into activism, your peers, colleagues and movements will revitalize the Pan African dream. Young feminists alike, dreaming and carving out a more queer, green and just future.

Whether in social media, on the streets, through community health, or in spaces where people convene - you will find community among those who organize, protest and create.

They will nourish your own journey, strengthening the healing that activism has afforded you despite the complexities of shrinking civic space and health insecurity. 

You are a light of many others, that redefine what it means to be African and in solidarity. The constellation of light that brightens the room in the glory of African Queer excellence, hope and joy.

You will carve out new beginnings for those who, just as you, might have not had the words or language when starting out. You will shape conversations and weave in the love, aspirations of those most left behind in regional and global agendas. As we start to create our own tables, where we are not the subjects but where we shape the trajectory of what and how our humanity can be restored without condition or ableism. 

You will find joy in resistance and asserting the universality and indivisibility of your rights. You will navigate public participation in community and solidarity, as the garden of joy blooms amidst geopolitical chaos and anti-rights movements.

International Youth Day will be one of the many commemorations when you look back at the gains made in human rights-based approach to HIV, whilst advancing the gaps in sexual and reproductive health rights, mental health and universal health care.

You will recognize that these cannot be fulfilled without ensuring our planet is also healthy enough to accommodate all of us in our diversity. These are the skills of our future; where we can dream and be creative, where intersectionality in thought leadership and advocacy can carve out alternatives for participatory movements.

You are an African child, born of the African soil. This sheer acknowledgement, is an intergenerational legacy continuously redefined in song, joy and healing. You will look back with glee as one of many who've defined their potential and created the pockets of solidarity and creativity that nourish us in Ubuntu.

I wish you, your peers and community, a generously sustained and enabling liberation that ensures our individual and collective wellbeing.

Yours in activism and joy,