#BlackoutClifton took place on Saturday 28 January, and there seem to be mixed feelings about how successful it was.
Much of this seems to have been in relation to how the event was coordinated by those who planned it – in that the “planners” did not want the event to be coordinated by them at all.
“Perhaps it could have been better planned and coordinated so that more people knew what was happening,” said Portia Mbotho, a sales manager from Cape Town, who attended the event. But, she said, it’s also important for black people to claim space and organise themselves without anyone having to direct them – and I think that was what made the event special.
— Sbusiso (@Sbu__Ngwenya) January 27, 2017
Organisers did not identify themselves, and besides the original posters that went up on social media, everything else was left for those attending to imagine and determine themselves. While a very creative idea, this had both positive and negative outcomes.
One of the biggest complaints was that not everyone knew what was going on – especially regarding the time people were meeting. This meant some arrived around the stipulated time, 11am, and found that no one was there. This left many confused as to what was potting and they had no one to refer to to find out.
— Mpiletso Motumi (@mane_mpi) January 28, 2017
Mpiletso Motumi, a journalist who attended the event told The Daily Vox that she was somewhat disappointed by the event. She was there in the early afternoon and says there were about 11 people present.
“It wasn’t anything special; people were just chilling. Doing their own thing. They didn’t have a specific marking to be like ‘This is #BlackOutClifton,’ so people were just hanging out. We were expecting a lot more – we were just hoping more people would show up later,” Motumi said.
Towards the late afternoon, however, things picked up and things started to get lit.
— Mampho (@Zyfololo) January 28, 2017
There was even a quick twerk tutorial.
— Kelly Price (@DearestOnie) January 28, 2017
Mbotho described the event as exactly what many needed – a space where black people could celebrate themselves.
“There are no laws preventing us from going to these spaces, but that’s not really the point. It’s that when we’re in these spaces we’re somewhat like aliens in our own land. Just being here in masses is a disruption to white sensibilities,” said Mbotho.
There are obviously problems that arise when there’s lack of clarity and direction at an event. But there’s also a sense of empowerment from being given a space and, collectively, making the best of it as some managed to do. In many ways, it’s analogous to the situation many will find themselves in when land reformation is finally realised.
Perhaps the disorganised organisers of #BlackoutClifton already had all this in mind?
Irrespective of this, we live in a time where, constitutionally, people can move freely in public spaces. Yet most of South Africa’s most valued spaces are still inaccessible, exclusionary, owned by foreigners, and steeped in whiteness that sees itself as the norm, and blackness as the intruding “other”.