EDITORIAL: Enough is enough!

South Africa is in crisis. In a very short space of time, a dense fog of violence has engulfed the country, unleashing countless acts of gender-based violence and xenophobia that have unravelled the rainbow in our nation. At Wits Vuvuzela we have been moved to dedicate this issue to confronting these two ills.

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SLICE : Joining the 5am club

With winter slowly but surely creeping up on us in Johannesburg, I find myself rather reluctant to get out of bed and start my day. This has often led to my morning routine being crammed into just fifteen minutes of hastily getting dressed and running out the front door five minutes late. As a result, I would arrive at my morning commitments feeling grimy and unprepared.

This led me to question whether or not my slack morning attitude was foreshadowing the rest of my day.  The author Johnnie Dent Junior once said, “Early is a priceless timepiece owned by the successful.” This notion has been echoed by various other successful people, which is why I have decided to join the 5am club this winter. I have been a member of this very prestigious club for three weeks now and so far, I am loving it. In fact, while I am writing this, I am watching the sun rise and nibbling on a piece of chocolate.

What a great way to start the day!

When I first adjusted my sleep routine, I really struggled to fall asleep at night. The truth is that, in order to get up two hours earlier, I had to get used to going to bed much earlier than before. On a brighter note, it took just three days of perseverance (and a lack of sleep) before I was able to drift into a peaceful slumber as soon as my head hit the pillow at 8:30pm.

I have been sleeping like a baby every night since and usually wake up feeling energised and motivated in the morning.

I did a lot of research before undertaking this challenge and one of the questions that came up was why I should wake up two hours earlier than necessary. The truthful answer is that the first few hours of each day usually sets the tone for the rest of the day. Each individual has a choice between waking up just in time to get ready and leave, or take two hours each morning to choose how they wish to start the day. When opting for the first alternative, one is essentially giving external factors, such as traffic and bad hair days, the power to determine the tone of one’s entire day.  In my opinion, waking up earlier is the way to go!

My current morning routine consists of me waking up at 4:45am and then hitting the snooze button on my alarm until those last fifteen precious minutes are up. Once I’m awake I like to have a sip of water and catch up on any admin. This way I get to enjoy the warmth of my bed for just a little longer, while also being able to organise my day without the distraction of people immediately replying to my emails and messages. Once I have completed these tasks, I usually take a brisk 3km walk on the treadmill at home before heading to a yoga class or completing my gym workout for the day. This leaves me feeling accomplished before the day has even started. Once my exercise routine has been completed, I take some time to get dressed and prepare myself for whatever the day has in store for me.

Since adopting this morning routine, my life has felt more manageable and organised. I no longer feel like I am constantly being bombarded with tasks and demands because each morning I am able to deal with these under peaceful circumstances and with a fresh mind. This may not be the solution for everybody, but if you are up to the challenge, I would highly recommend at least giving it a try. Joining the 5am club has changed my life and I do not intend on terminating my membership anytime soon.

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SLICE: The business of monetising black outrage

Advertising has come a long way since jingles about cereal and housewives wrestling with Verimark vacuum cleaners. The standard, cookie-cutter formula of selling brands, perception or products with the ubiquity of white picket fences and nuclear families with pearly-toothed smiles gushing over washing powder just doesn’t quite cut it.

With limited airtime and competition over space, advertising doesn’t manipulate the unattainable anymore, it weaponises black rage to cause a stir.

Take the now infamous 2017 Dove advert: the Unilever giant distributed an advert of a black woman seemingly transformed as her cleaner, whiter self after using a Dove body-wash.

The racist undertones of the advert became a source of outrage and debate on social media. The recycled PR apology from the brand made its rounds and Dove still remains as prevalent as ever with the backlash barely making a dent in sales.

Another beauty brand, Nivea, was found guilty of the same pattern of symbolising whiteness as the aspiration through their Natural Fairness lotion advert in 2017.

In 2018, H&M made the only black child in their catalogue wear a ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ sweater, alluding to the racist tropes of othering black people as wild animals.

Gucci’s recent 2019 advert featuring a white woman wearing a Jim Crow-type black jumper with exaggerated red lips seen in the blackface minstrel performances of the 1950s also utilised black outrage to stay relevant.

Each of these brands have released content perpetuating colourism, racism and a strong undercurrent of anti-blackness in a social climate that makes it difficult to believe the intention was anything but deliberate.

Brands feed on the black response to racist representations and with each validly outraged Tweet comes an increase in their chances of staying in the 24-hour news cycle without bearing the brunt of any real lasting ramifications.

Technology enables us to have conversations across borders instead of a one-dimensional, one-stream flow of information with zero participation at the end. Decades ago, adverts were simply funnelled down your throat with little to no input, critique or comment on how they were received other than if the product sold or not.

Decades ago, people of colour were subjected to racist misrepresentation in the media, depicted as voiceless, identity-less tropes without much say in how we wanted to see ourselves.

Now, we have platforms to shut down the careless narratives people who don’t look like us construct but that we need to realise that the freedom of expression has become a weapon in the arsenal of conglomerates.

Retweets, shares and likes are the currency of the digitised world. If your ideas aren’t going viral, they’re lost in a virtual sea of over-saturated content. Advertisers know this better than most.

The pattern in modern age advertising is to bet on riding the clout of trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons.

As the old adage goes, “bad publicity is still publicity” and advertising seems to manipulate valid outrage at being marginalised as a way to stay in the limelight.

The problem with exploiting black rage for profit is that, even after centuries of colonialism and oppression, our rage isn’t an infinite resource. Monetising black rage is essentially free advertising but what it costs to the psyche of black people is a lot more.

There are tangible consequences to this: black rage has been a tool for our survival in a world that expects silence or submission from the historically and perpetually oppressed. Exhausting black rage by having to constantly fight for your humanity every time H&M wants their name in headlines is causing distraction and fatigue from what we should be really focused on.

Black rage is critically important, it is valid and it is the very thing that ensured the liberation of this country and the emancipated black identity from the constraints and skewed narratives of white hegemony.

The burden shouldn’t be on the marginalised to have to expend our rage to make neoliberal corporations recognise our humanity apart from what we spend or don’t spend. Black people don’t have to expend emotional labour doing free sensitivity training for brands that should know better.

Maybe originality is dead (and there is absolutely nothing about original about racism), but it’s time for a new stage of advertising where humanity is worth a bit more than a click-through rate. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Busang Senne, student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: File. 

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