Browse Category: Africans for Africa

[VIDEO] Africans for Africa Update: A Day at The Ibhabhathane Community Centre

This post is part of my Africans for Africa project updates: I’m traveling through Southern Africa for 6-months offering free social media, online fundraising, and organizational development strategy workshops to African women, LGBTI, and youth grassroots groups. I publish stories, reflections, lessons learned, and interviews from along the way.

Never Doubt a Small Group of Dedicated Women…

I recently visited the Ibhabhathane Community Centre, the only pre-school available in Rieebeck East, a small farm village with a population of about 700 people. Needless to say, providing good quality education (much less early childhood development) is a challenge. But a small group of dedicated women are making a difference.

An elderly black South African woman (she’s serving food in an apron in the video) reached out to Yolande, a white afrikaans woman, then a new resident to the small town, asking for her assistance in setting up a small center to care for toddlers; many of the young children were left idle / unattended, without sufficient social stimulation, and were growing up with developmental challenges, further impeding their success at the local primary school.

Yolande, a teacher by training, worked with the local community to open the first creche (pre-school) in an abandoned wooden shack. A few local women volunteer to teach and play with the children every day in their native language, Xhosa. And, over time, they remodeled the shack into a warmer, more colorful space. The roof needs to be fixed, and the floor needs to be re-tiled, so fundraising is top priority for them as they hope to grow and implement higher quality programming (in a more conducive environment) for their children.

A few of their goals include building a comprehensive library of children’s books, acquiring funding for more teachers, and a bigger space so they can take in more children, who, without the centre, would remain idle in the village, as the unemployment (and alcoholism) rate is very high.

Rieebeck East, My New Favorite Getaway

During my visit, I stayed with Yolande, the project leader, and her husband, Marc (a talented visual artist and photographer) in their charming Bohemian style mud house, located just outside the township. The interior was painted aqua blue, and they had beautiful art they’d collected from over the years hanging on the walls. Yolande, who comes from a family of mosaicists, has tiled the counter tops, floors, and walls in a simple, yet accentuating masonry of pastel yellow, silver, grey, and black tiles and pebble stones.

On the night I arrived, they happened to be entertaining friends from  out of town, so we all built a fire for a brai (South African barbequeue), and spent the rest of the evening drinking wine and conversing passionately about the arts, apartheid, and the media’s spin on the murder of 36 protesting mine workers. Nothing like spending an evening outdoors, by a fire among fellow artivists; it was the most fun I’d had in several weeks.

My remaining two days there were a lot quieter, a much-needed oasis of nature, peace, and serenity, especially after spending nearly three weeks in the cold city of Cape Town. I woke up each morning to the sound of their fives dogs, three cats, and a whole lot of chickens, then watched the sun ascend from the horizon (which one can see for miles and miles around), as I sipped Rooibos tea. The landscape was breathtaking, and the warmth with which I was tended to, moving. It reminded me that as a traveler, there’s only one way to find home away from home; don’t search for it whole; find snippets, bits & pieces wrapped in small acts of kindness.

When I left, I felt refreshed, rejuvenated, and with two new friends whom I can’t wait to visit again. Maybe next year.

A Bit of Kindness, Returned

Ibhabhathane Community Centre is currently trying to raise about R8000 (~$1000) to get high speed internet installed. Currently, there is no connection in the very small town, and Yolande needs to drive about 45K up a dirt road to the nearest university to use the internet (her mobile data modem is much too slow for anything more than checking email). Getting the infrastructure installed will make it easier for her to improve communications with potential donors (and the outside world in general), and also, increase Ibhabhathane’s social media engagement, which they’d like to use for fundraising.

I made this video for them because I was moved by how much they’ve accomplished with so little, and also, how kind everyone was to me, a total stranger, just passing through. I’ve visited about 20 NGOs since I arrived in South Africa in July, and this is the one with the idea — and the people — that have touched me the most.

So, here’s the short video I made — a snapshot of “A Day at the Ibhabhathane Community Centre”. I hope you enjoy it, and consider supporting them as well. You can donate to their project here.


Spectra Speaks on “The Power of Storytelling: LGBT History, The Media, and the African/Black Diaspora”

Dear Readers,

Here’s a brief synopsis of one of my talks, “The Power of Storytelling: LGBT Rights, The Media, and the African/Black Diaspora” in case you (or someone else you can refer me to) would like to bring me to your high school, college or university campus, or conference. It’s the very first talk based on my Africans for Africa project traveling through southern Africa and supporting African women and LGBTI women in their use of social media. Please share, forward, disseminate!

Due to your continued support of my work, I’ve been able to maintain my status as a frequently requested speaker at schools, universities, and conferences around the world. I couldn’t be any more grateful to you, and have recently committed to consolidating/packaging information about my work to make it easier for you to advocate for my presence in your spaces. So, sign up for my mailing list to receive information about more talks, presentations, and workshops, and of course, my appearances near you!

As nearly 100% of my speakers fees gets re-invested back into community projects, such as my latest, Africans for Africa, by booking me, you’ll not only be bringing smart, insightful, thought-provoking, and engaging conversations to your space, but supporting my work overall which aims to amplify the voices of marginalized communities.

If you have any questions at all, click the Contact Me button on the right! Or, send me a message.


The Power of Storytelling: LGBT Rights, The Media, and the African/Black Diaspora
an informal talk/presentation on the Africans for Africa project, by LBGT and media activist, Spectra Speaks  

There is an African proverb that goes, “Until lions write their own history, tales of the hunt will continue to glorify the hunter.”

If one were to go by the media’s portrayal of LGBT rights in Africa, the queer history of an entire continent would most likely be reduced to a series of atrocities, with a speckle of sensationalized triumphs as determined by the west. This phenomenon is far from trivial, as the relationship between what the media says and what policy does is entrenched in government. Hence, it is important to ask not only, “Which stories are being told?”, but also, “Who are the storytellers?”

As a counterpoint, in the US, queer people of color, who have historically been erased from LGBTQ narratives, are steadily, yet aggressively reclaiming their chapters in history, producing media that more authentically portrays their complex lives, and weighing in more loudly than ever during national discourse about LGBT rights.

The growing popularity of new media has contributed to the leveling the playing field; from independent indie films that have been funded via crowdsourcing platforms, to YouTube web series offering eager audiences alternative narratives, new platforms are emerging through which the LGBTQ Diaspora can tell their own stories.

As a queer Nigerian writer, and new media consultant, I have made it my responsibility to cover the progress of LGBTI Africa at the grassroots level; to document our history as told by us (vs. through the eyes of western imperialists or saviorists); and to amplify the voices of changemakers in our communities who are leading the way.

As a juxtaposition to white-/western narratives about the LGBTQ Diaspora, this interactive presentation will take a look at a few of those stories, with a special focus on emergent narratives challenging western depictions of LGBTI Africa.

The talk will also share some findings from my Africans for Africa project, a crowd-funded initiative to train and support LGBT African activists and nonprofits to harness the power of social media in telling their stories, and in so doing, amplify their work, and thought leadership.

Format: Talk/Presentation featuring highly interactive slides w/ media (i.e. photos, videos, quotes).

Duration: Ideally, 1.5 Hrs (w/ Q&A), but can be reduced to a 45-60 min talk without slides.

Audience: General / All Levels, High School or College Students, Student Identity Groups (GSAs, African Students Association, Women’s Groups etc), Activists, esp. for “Allies”

Possible Venues: Keynotes, Conference Presentations, Sessions, Classroom Visits

Departments: Women’s and Gender Studies, Media and Communications, Black/African Studies, History Departments


Spectra Speaks, Bio:

Spectra is an award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s and LGBT activist, and thought leader behind the afrofeminist media blog, Spectra Speaks (, which publishes global news, opinions, and stories about gender, culture, media, and the Diaspora.

She founded Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston), a grassroots organization that creates safe spaces for LGBTQ women of color, including immigrants and the African diaspora. Six years later, she launched the QWOC Media Wire, a national media hub run for and by LGBTQ women of color, in order to strategically address the dearth of voices represented in mainstream media.

Spectra speaks widely on diversity, movement building, and a media as a tool for social change. She’s currently travelling through southern Africa collecting untold stories from women and LGBT communities for an upcoming anthology. Follow her blog at, or her daily musings on Tumblr ( and Twitter @spectraspeaks.

Note: Downloadable press kit coming soon. 


It Takes a Village: Fikelela Shelter for Orphans with HIV/AIDS Fosters Community Advocacy

“It takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind when I reflect on my visit to the Children’s Center of the Fikelela Aids Project, a program of the Anglican church that fosters orphaned children living with HIV/AIDS.

Villas of Hope

On the morning of my visit, Rachel, the founder and project leader, picked me up from my residence and drove me to Khayelitsha, where the centre is based. On our way to the site (about a 20 min drive from town), we both chatted about our passion for philanthropy. Rachel shared that a friend of hers, Villa, had been the inspiration behind Fikelela; Villa had always dreamed about opening a home for children who were HIV+, called “Villas of Hope”. Villa passed away from AIDS, and Rachel has since kept that dream alive.

Rachel may be the visionary behind Fikelela, but the centre’s operations are heavily driven and overseen by Kate, a social worker by training. Over some very delicious tea, she outlined the program’s vast operations, of which there are many moving parts: child developmental activities led by Kate, play and care by the staff carers, medical services (TB and HIV/AIDS testsing, general health check ups for which they partner with local clinics), and a variety of art activities and fun outings for the children. What struck me about Kate was her unwavering love and commitment to the children; every bottom line she described, whether fundraising, reporting, hiring new staff, working with other non-profits, social works, and government agencies, were all articulated via impact on the children.

Love Fills These Playgrounds

After speaking with Rachel and Kate for a bit, I received a tour of the facilitites. The girls and boys each have their own separate quarters, rooms with individual bunk beds and cribs with their names on them. I arrived during nap time for the younger ones (2-4 yrs), and the older kids were still away in school. I didn’t want to snap photos of the children as they were sleeping, but I did capture one little girl, Nikkie, who had woken up early and wanted everyone passing by to pick her up! Her smile won me over.

I noticed that the bathrooms have towels and toothbrushes labeled with the children’s names. Kate explained that children naturally want to feel special, and thus, in a group as large as theirs (up to 40 children at a time), Fikelela tries to affirm them as individuals in as many ways as possible. The children have a wonderful playground at the back of the centre. They’re even getting a pool very soon, donated by a supporter of Fikelela. They have bikes to ride around on, and indoors, an assortment of toys and games.

I spoke with a few “carers” (women who tend to the children — bathe them, feed them, play with them etc), too, and was moved by how much love they expressed for their work. One of them, Pindiwe, has four children of her own; she works at the centre three days a week, and on the days when she isnt, tends to her children. I accompanied her as she prepared a daily booster (immune system strengthening drink) for a few of the children. When I asked her how she could love so many children at once, she replied, “I just really love children. I can’t help it. They make me so happy.”

More Than a Shelter, A Dedicated Community

A good number of the kids that come to the centre are HIV+. Yet, the centre is literally bubbling over with love, laughter, and joy. The few children that I saw awake were smiling and happy. The staff were themselves upbeat and positive. And, in fact, Kate explained that they hardly ever disclose which of the children are HIV+. “Everyone is treated the same. If I wear gloves for one, I wear gloves for all. If I kiss one, I kiss them all. Visitors who come in to start mourning are asked to leave. I don’t need them bringing in negative energy. My children are happy.”

“It takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind when I reflect on my visit. From the driver who shuffles the children back and forth from school, picks and drops off ARV meds etc, the carers that tend to the children (change their diapers, feed them, lead playtime activities), the social workers that visit to facilitate developmental activities (so that the children can eventually become better and be reunited with their families, not just physically, but emotionally), and the volunteers who stop by to help (cleaning, painting, projects for the children etc), Fikelela is more than just a centre for orphans; it’s the hub of a truly extraordinary ecosystem of childcare.

Everyone working there spoke frankly about the love and passion they have for the work they do, but were also realistic and forthcoming about challenges; despite having a stellar reputation with the department of social services — who are constantly recommending them — it’s clear that Fikelela is an organization that is constantly pushing themselves to accomplish even more than they have, for the sake of the children fortunate enough to be in their care.

In the words of their founder, Rachel, “… thinking about the millions impacted by HIV/AIDS, it’s easy to get discouraged. Making the differences in the lives of the one or two is what keeps me going.”

Villa would be so proud.

If you’d like to learn more about Fikelela, visit their website, or donate to them via their profile on GlobalGiving.

Africans for Africa Project Update: Outreach Means Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Today, I am off to visit my first non-profit — Fikelela’s Children’s Centre, a rural township short-term shelter which places young orphans (of mothers who have died from AIDS) in foster homes. I was lucky to secure a ride from the project leader, as Khayelitsha, where it’s based, is far from the city.

I’m realizing that many of the non-profits I’m visiting are in some very remote areas and it’s going to take more $$ than I imagined to get to them. For instance, it will cost me $75-100 to get to the MOSAIC Training, Service, and Healing Centre for Women (an NGO with a specific focus on preventing and reducing abuse and domestic violence, particularly for women and youth living in disadvantaged communities) from the city centre by Taxi; I’ve been advised not to take the bus (only a taxi that will wait).

It’s funny, no matter how much you plan and budget, you can never anticipate the true cost of living (or traveling) anywhere until you arrive. Now that I’ve been here for a few days, and have gotten on the phone with folks I’ve been emailing back and forth for the past month, it’s clear that they’re either farther away (or getting to them will be less straight forward) than I’d imagined. Mind you, this isn’t the case for everyone. But it is for enough that I am now being forced to be extra conservative with the funds I do have.

My fundraising campaign has done so well — raised over $9K — but before the campaign is over (by July 30, 6 days from now), I am going to need to reach $10K to be on the safe side. Remember, this trip is costing me well over $15K to plan. I’ll be gone for 6 months; that’s 6 months worth of living expenses outside of your home. I’ll need all the help I can get.

You all are the reason I made it here in the first place. I have my savings, so I’m sure I can manage quite nicely till the funds raised from my campaign are disbursed in mid-August. But given that transportation to rural areas (in which many of the non-profits I’m visiting are based) is more expensive than I imagined, I’ll definitely need more relief funds than I’d originally anticipated.

Most importantly, I do NOT want to have to tell anyone that I can’t make it to visit them based on lack of funds. They are already used to hearing the white people that are based in Cape Town constantly talk about how “dangerous and unsafe” their communities are; I won’t be another voice that echoes that. I’m going where I’ve been invited, even if it costs a little extra to get there.

Would you be able to donate $10-50 more to make sure I can reach all the non-profits I promised I’d visit? With 140 Love Warriors who have contributed already, reaching the $10K mark is definitely a possibility; if everyone donated $20 more dollars, we’d surpass that goal. So let’s make it happen. We’re only $855 away!

Contribute one more time to help finish what we started:

Let’s do this :)

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