The Louisville Cardinal

Peace and diversity celebrated through South African poetry

“I am an African.”

These words were repeated by Diana Ferrus again and again as she beat the African drum in front of a crowd of students and faculty on U of L Peace Day.

The famed poet spoke to the audience about her native country of South Africa and its struggle to stay strong as it tried to move into a new era of diversity and fellowship after a sordid past. It has been 20 years since apartheid was ended. Ferrus described it as a “hard walk to dignity,” but her belief in her nation is unquestioned. The pride that Ferrus expressed throughout her poetry reading stemmed from the long history of diversity within herself and her country.

Ferrus was joined by Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kentucky Steve Davis, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Louisville Tyler Fleming and current Louisville student Amina Ahmed. The four discussed what led to the success of former president Nelson Mandela in abolishing apartheid as well as the problems that may face the country in the coming decades with the help of the moderator, Russell Vandenbroucke.

This event was made possible through several different departments work to bring attention the school’s celebration of Peace Day. International Day of Peace was established in 1981 and officially occurs every September 21st. The holiday was created in hopes of promoting peaceful actions and diversity. Professor Vandenbroucke was quick to point out though that there is a difference between negative peace and positive peace.

While negative peace opposes non-peaceful acts like war, positive peace “is the assertion of human rights and taking action”. In promoting peace, this event was also used to exemplify ways of expressing positive peace. On many seats in the Studio/HPES building theater room, Post-It notes could be found sticking to the cushion. On these notes were written positive messages ranging from simple compliments to the person sitting in them to challenges to “wage compassion”. Ferrus proved to be a strong symbol of positive peace herself, speaking of the strengths of her and South Africa’s diversity.

In regards to her own diversity, Ferrus made it quite simple: “I am rich and I am very happy about that.”

Photos by Laurel Slaughter