Seeing Graca Machel reminded me of our shared suffering and unity

Dawnique Shury at the event with film star Danny Glover

Seldom do I have such moments. Seldom do I stand in a place where everything in the universe aligns and where my feet dance with joy and my heart weeps.

I experienced all of the above when I saw Madame Graça Machel. The widow of both former South African President Nelson Mandela and Mozambican president Samora Machel, she is an internationally renowned advocate for women’s and children’s rights, founder of the Graça Machel Trust, a humanitarian and key contributor on social issues who speaks on the role of youth, women and girls’ education.

I got to see her speak on May 15 at a Shared Interest panel on South African Women and Youth in New York. The event was moderated by award-winning journalist Michaela Angela Davis and was also joined by actor and human rights activist Danny Glover, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jo Menell and Donna Katzin. 

At #BETShares, Madame Graça remind us of the shared suffering and unity we all endured during and post-apartheid. In this moment I knew our borders transcend nationality.

I’ve always known our borders transcend race, economic and social injustice, dictators and corrupt systems. I’ve witnessed the power of young people demanding change, from those in South Africa to my own Guyana.

Graca Machel at the New York event Picture: Facebook/Shared Interest – Investing in South Africa’s Future

Leading up to the May 11 elections in Guyana, many of my peers went beyond their phone screens – text, twitter and Facebook – to speak of change and to demonstrate the role they play collectively in transforming Guyana.

Here’s where her story and mine collide. The courageous young men and women who walked from Berbice to the capital of Guyana, as part of what they called their long walk for freedom, showed that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The discussion on global issues primarily in South Africa and Southern Africa placed a dent in my soul, as the very issues young people face in those communities are the very issues my friends are tackling in Guyana and New York.

Danny Glover told us of the young people he walked with from New York to Washington, DC, demanding the voices of young people be heard.

We often speak on the role of young people as agent changers – it is time we acknowledged them. To the young men who lift the elder up and down polling stations on elections day, you are an active agent of change.

Legendary Journalist,Michaela Angela Davis steering today’s potent conversation on “Women & Youth as Drivers of…
Posted by Shared Interest-Investing in South Africa’s Future on Friday, 15 May 2015

To those who went from village to village and use their vehicle to transport people, you are an agent for change. To the young journalist who wrote tirelessly on issues in Guyana, you are a part of the change.

To the pregnant mother who stood in line for over two hours, you unconsciously whispered to your unborn: you are a part of change. To the blind youth who stood on the forefront and spoke of the change he wished to see, you sign your name as part of process.

After the event, I spoke with the moderator, a woman I admired for years and shared the Guyanese story with her and our transition for a new and better Guyana. Someone said, “Yes, we are following that story, it is time.”

I can spend days reflecting on the event – so many amazing key moments,. But I’ll end with the words of Madame Graça as she shared the final moments she spent with her husband Nelson Mandela, saying: “ It is now in your hands.”

To the young people in South Africa, Guyana, Sri Lanka, USA, Columbia, Kenya and Mexico, it is now in our hands to continue to create change. To #BETsharedinterest, thanks for extending and inviting us all into a bigger circle.