My father was born in South Africa. My mother was born in Zambia. I am 100% African.
I have spent the last six years working as a model and creating a life built on my hopes and dreams. In these years I have spent a great deal of time travelling abroad and meeting with people from many countries and from all walks of life. The last three months I have been fortunate enough to spend time in New York and as I prepare to come home to South Africa to write exams for university, I have been thinking a lot about my beloved country and the future that it holds.
When I was six years old, I was one of the many children who started grade one in the new South Africa, where white kids and black kids went to school together for the first time. I did not find this unusual, or bad, it was just the way it was. There were a lot of kids that I remember, but of course there was Johnny, who I knew from my pre-school days, who I considered to be my first black friend. I remember Johnny, who was adopted by a white family, sitting at my birthday party when I turned six, dressed up in a brown striped shirt with a tie, looking like a businessman, as the theme of the party was come dressed as your mother or father. I didn’t really understand why Johnny had a white mother, but I definitely knew by the way he was dressed the color of his skin didn’t matter, he was going to be a successful businessman. I think a lot about what happened to Johnny, as I haven’t seen him in years. But, he left a lasting impression on me that race is the least important component of any friendship.
Although my birthday party and my first day of school was joyous, my country was in a very fragile state. I remember when Chris Hani died, a youth leader of the ANC, there was a tremendous amount of fear that our country would break into a civil war. I sat in my living room with my father, I was watching with confusion his funeral on television. I remember asking my dad if everything was going to be ok. And my father said that if you see someone coming down the road with guns, you need to lock yourself in the laundry room and don’t come out. My mother had stocked these green painted trunks full of canned food just in case. Later we realized we didn’t have a can opener in the trunks. The country thankfully never erupted into civil war, so we ate canned food for over a year.
Looking back I can remember the historic elections of 1994 very clearly when Nelson Mandela became our President. In school and at home, we were taught how to draw the new flag and sing the new national anthem, but to me this was the only flag and the only anthem that I had ever learned. People were excited to vote and excited about what the new country was going to bring. My parents went to a braai (barbeque) and all the adults went together to vote. They had a sort of party. I was 8.
As my country prepares to vote again in the coming weeks, I think about those tumultuous times my country went through. Now that my generation is old enough to vote and make choices, I really believe that it is important for us to do so, as the legacy of freedom and co-inhabitance is too important to let go of now. It is still difficult in South Africa, as reconciliation has not entirely completed its course, but my generation is committed to it now more than ever.
United, regardless of our skin color, we all stand against corruption and short-term corporate profiteering. United, regardless of skin color, we all stand up for access to high quality education. United, regardless of skin color, we all believe in uplifting those who are still suffering in poverty without a real chance to reach the South African dream. United, regardless of skin color, we all join together and fight for a new South Africa where my children and Johnny’s children can attend grade one as brothers or sisters. This is why I come home. This is why I love my country. This is why I will vote. I am an African and proud of it.
-Genevieve | Follow Genevieve on Twitter @GenevieveMorton
Genevieve Morton is a South African-born model who has posed for Sports Illustrated, Full Circle, FHM and many more.
After the jump check out more pics of Genevieve in Esquire Magazine.
Model Genevieve Mortonin Esquire Magazine.
Model Genevieve Mortonin Esquire Magazine.