Charlene Smith

Giving thanks for places and people: South African-American bobotie in New England

As I get older I become more emotional. My children scoff, “Pah! You’re kidding, you’ve always been emotional.” Okay, maybe they’re right. Thank God they’re now older than 16 when they were always right. It always amazes me that in the few weeks before Thanksgiving the turkeys appear in the streets, in groups or gangs…

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Boston’s loss of innocence

“Tonight I write the saddest lines”, so begins a poem by Pablo Neruda, in it he talks of a love lost, but for me, I mourn the lost innocence of the city I love. Boston gave me back my life. When I arrived here in late 2010 I was sick, physically and emotionally. I was…

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Makana, Mandela, Marikana — endings and beginnings

Marikana is a name like Soweto, June 16. Like Sharpeville. It is a turning point. History will record it. Future generations will shudder. There are few South Africans whose hearts are not broken by those eight letters. Here where I live in the United States, Americans have bought into the South African Dream, the Rainbow…

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What do parents of rape victims think of crime stats?

Last year a close friend and neighbour who lived two houses away was murdered. As he lay bleeding to death on the floor of his bedroom after being hit on the back of his neck by a laptop — so hard that the laptop bent — I am sure my friend would have been pleased…

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A great American dies

To hear a South African you’d swear that we won liberation from apartheid oppression all by ourselves. It was us who suffered. We who conquered. And when it comes to today’s failures, then there are a host of ‘them’ and ‘they’ and ‘others’ we can blame. Triumph is a cloak we all wear; failure is…

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My country, my tormentor

Love’s constant companion is heartbreak. And in every enterprise that is spurred by hope, we know that disappointment is shadowing us. Cynicism is an exercise in futility, it is fundamentally anti-human; it is in the nature of every person to believe that obstacles can be overcome, that healing follows pain and challenges are, as the…

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Harm of a special kind

The worst evil in the world is not committed by the tyrant, the bigot or the thief; the gravest evil is that performed by those we should be able to trust, a person whose very title demands respect: daddy, mommy, priest, lover, teacher, boss, political leader, spouse. Hospital wards and institutions are filled with far…

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Me and Nelson Mandela

I love to cook and so there came a point during the struggle, where I gave up full-time journalism, became a full-time activist, part of the underground, and after long, endless meetings, would cook for strugglistas. Murphy Morobe loved my veal Marengo, Cyril Ramaphosa would call at 11pm after going to mines and speaking to…

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Living in the US: Snow, illusion and snow

Outside lies snow almost two metres deep. Snowfalls across the United States have hit record levels this month, with New York receiving an all-time record of 37 inches so far. That is a lot of shovelling off sidewalks — you get fined if you don’t shovel your sidewalk — and digging out cars, garages are…

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Forget Osama, America, the threat is in Congress and the media

US President Barack Obama delivered his most important State of the Nation address this week. The man who seemed to respond to so many dreams is, as president, as emotionally stiff as the way he carries his body. And to be in the US is to realise that one is in a nation that has…

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