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Zenzele - age 18, South Africa

THE TOWN MEETING

The windows of the town hall were opened wide to allow the nippy autumn breeze into the grand town hall. Looking out you could see the old buildings in the historic district of our quaint town with little difference in appearance since the mid-late 20th century when they were constructed. The floors were a hard dark wood where each footstep echoed through the vastly empty room as the community members came in slowly and filled each seat till the rows were full. Whispers caught the ears of a bat so everyone remained quiet for fear their thoughts should be heard across the room.

At six o’clock promptly, our town councillor Mr Lance R Trausties took to the podium.

I sat in the corner of the hall where the sunset cast a shadow on my presence and I could bask in the comfort of the now cold breeze and gaze out on the partly empty streets outside, where the lights in a battle flickered on to reveal that all the shop doors were closed.

Mr X: Onto the next item, the wall needs repairing on our side and we plan to add a few more bricks in height and width to further fortify it and ensure the protection of our town. We ask that those who wish to, donate to the fund, but we’ve rearranged our town budget so that it is a priority. I need not remind you how important it is to keep the outsiders, inside.

I observed nods of assent throughout the crowds with a proudly relieved expression on many faces.

As he rattled on about announcements and changes and all else that was as unimportant as the reason why the wall was built, I couldn’t help but think about the door which stood boldly in the centre of the wall.

For over a hundred years, that door of death has stood mockingly over the community. We’ve heard stories which have been weathered and changed over time by broken telephone which has conveyed them, so that children who were born after it was built will never know the truth behind it.

I walk on the grey path along that wall on my way to school everyday except for during the summer when schools are out, and everyday my mind leaps over the barbed wired wall to think maybe there’s someone like me walking on the other side wondering the same thing… why was the wall built and why would there be a door if we were never meant to see what lies on the other side?

From the filtered bits of information I’ve learned through our history books, there’s a town on the other side, I’ve concluded with people just like us, but because they have different beliefs and traditions, their culture became different and we could no longer be lead by the same people so our society was divided in two by a wall with a door that was guarded by a tall man in army boots and was always holding a gun.

All my life I’ve been encouraged to protect our town and our way of life, build the wall high and everything else will all be fine. Amidst my growing anger the division it causes and the pain it brings, I can’t see how it was ever a good thing.

The politicians have agreed and the people support the decree. The wall will grow taller, the barbed wire spikier and more wrought so that the children of our town will be protected. All agreed. Except the faces in the sea who murmur in their hearts with dissent. How would this labour enhance our right to be free? We all ask ourselves, but until we can open that door and see what truly lies on the other side, we will continue to fight this defeat.

So that the children who grow in this community will grow to embrace what sets us apart as different and learn that our cultures and beliefs should not be barricaded against, if we want to protect the community and see smiles in their eyes, we would need break down that door and find a way to live with those on the other side.

Remembering that I was seated in the shadows of this great big hall, I looked around the crowd, and up to the podium and decided that the only way we could open up that door was for me to move from the corner of this room and mix in with crowd, be unafraid of letting my whisper reach the podium, against all circumstances, maybe that way, we would open the door and through our discovery, change the story as we all live as the outsiders, inside.

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