My story: “I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve been here since 1975. I’ve been in the country since ’72. I was kicked out of South Africa during the peak of apartheid. I disagreed with the apartheid regime, and for that, they would throw you in jail for a very long time–like Mandela–or you would simply disappear, or you would be banned from fraternization, like Winnie Mandela. You weren’t allowed to be in the company of more than three people at a time. So you couldn’t go to church or the store, or anywhere where they were more than three people, and you also had to report to the police station twice a day.
Sometimes you’d be killed in jail, or they’d give you an ‘exit permit,’ which sent you away but never allowed you to come back. I believe my creator and my ancestors were looking out for me and had a mission for me, because being kicked out like that was a blessing. It allowed me to travel all over the world and speak out even louder than in the country where I’d been oppressed.”
On public school: “I believe in public school. We need to support our children’s education, and public school should be a community effort. As an African, I come from the concept of ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and I see public school as the village that should be helping us raise and educate our children. It’s not for profit. School for profit–not all the time, but sometimes–the profit comes first and the children suffer.”
On Sinclair Community College: “I love Sinclair because it allows, from the youngest person to the oldest person, education for everyone. I think that’s great because everybody from every walk of life can go to Sinclair, and they will find a microcosm of the whole community. I still take classes. I take a class every quarter, because no matter how old I become, I always hunger to learn more. You could live to be a hundred and never take all of the classes they offer, and they have a lot of community events. Sometimes colleges tend to be isolated from the community, and Sinclair is very much involved, and I like that. It is indeed a community college–not just by name. ”
Why Dayton? “Having lived here a long time, I’ve always found Dayton to be receptive to people from elsewhere. I think Dayton understands that everyone here in the United States, except the Native Americans, is from somewhere else. When I came here, I was the only one really from South Africa and active about the situation there. Dayton welcomed me, Mayor McGee came to all the fundraisers I had regarding South Africa, the commissioners would come to support.
It seems like any time an immigrant comes here, the city listens and pays attention and learns in any way they can. It’s no wonder the Peace Accord was done here in Dayton, because Dayton has always been that kind of city–friendly towards other people. A lot of the immigrants who come here already have skills. I already had two degrees. Immigrants have a lot to offer. And those who don’t have the education come hungry for it, because developing countries very much stress education.
Whenever you say ‘immigrant,’ people think of Mexicans jumping over a fence, and that’s not fair, to Mexicans or anyone else. Immigrants come from Europe, Asia, all over, and we are people who come with papers, legally, and contribute to society. I’d like to see the word immigrant demystified. I see immigrants being an asset to Dayton instead of a liability.”