Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says he has been silent about the Black Lives Matter movement up to now because he was reflecting on the times he faced inequality.
Kolisi on Sunday added his voice to the conversation around the movement with a heartfelt video post.
In the video, Kolisi opened up about how struggling to make ends meet as a kid in a township and how he almost lost himself when he tried to adapt to the culture at Grey High School, who offered him a scholarship.
‘A lot of people have asked me why I’ve been quiet about the Black Lives Movement,’ he said. ‘I’ve been observing and listening to what people have been saying. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about it in sport. I had to think about it because for me it was about more than just sport. It’s about everyday life.
‘I’ve felt like my life didn’t matter growing up in the townships, my mentality was all about survival from the moment I was born. I think I was eight or nine and I was selling fruit and veg, so I could get food in my belly. I made bricks so I could buy food for my family. When I was 16, I was a bartender. Those were the things I was doing to keep myself alive.
‘It was a struggle going to school. We didn’t have the right equipment, we didn’t have fields; so with my opportunity to go to Grey, I saw life was different, even though it was only 15 minutes away from my township. I was an A student at my old school, but at Grey I had to adapt to a new culture, a culture that wasn’t mine. I had to learn how to speak English. I felt so stupid because I was failing because I didn’t understand the language. It made me feel that maybe I wasn’t smart enough.’
Kolisi added that he had to change to fit in and be accepted and that very few at the prestigious school bothered to learn more about his culture. But he explained he understood why his peers were oblivious to the struggles of others.
‘I had to adapt and conform to this culture to feel welcomed and accepted. And only one or two people wanted to know more about and understand my culture. That’s how I met my friend Nicholas, who had to teach me English and help me with my homework every day. He came to my township, one of the only people [from Grey] that went there with me.
‘Living at Grey [the hostel], I understood why the boys didn’t know or thought what it was like to live in a township. They have six meals a day, where in the township I might not even have one meal. You live in a bubble in this world and that’s why I want to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone so that they could see more and understand why people are struggling and why people are saying their lives don’t matter.’
Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix