Gerald Gomani was interviewed by Andrea Parra as part of the Sustaining the Movement panel at Global Power Shift, Istanbul, June 2013.
Gerald Gomani is a facilitator, entrepreneur and visionary leader who has been involved in social change since 1993. In the past thirteen years he has been a member of the staff of The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in Zimbabwe. The ICA is a worldwide non-profit network organisation whose mission is to promote social innovation through participation and community building.
Gerald, you’ve been working in a range of causes and in strengthening resilience in your country for a long time, so we might consider you an elder. Can you tell us some of the things you have done at different moments in your life to sustain yourself?
Thank you so much. One of things I do is that I don’t speak negative about myself. I always stay positive. That has helped. So each time I lose my way or I’m faced with adversity I always stay positive. I also turn hardship into humour and that has been very helpful. Because there are moments when you feel that you can’t continue, but I find turning a challenge into humour is one way I’ve found to carry on.
I always listen to my heart. There are times that something just tells you that this is wrong. You are moving out of your senses, what you hear, see, smell, touch and feel, and applying the sixth sense which is your heart. That has been helpful for me.
There are times that seem so difficult, that I’ve been involved in the struggle for a long time, but I continually hold on to the dream. Having a dream, the hope keeps me moving. I’ve kept the fire going and it has helped me in my self-care.
Last but not least I’ve learnt the ability to say no, and the ability to say yes. There are times when there is too much going on, I’ve pushed myself too far and I’m tired, and I need to say no.
I really resonate with your use of humour, that is a place that I go to also to sustain myself… but there are times when my humour becomes really cynical or sarcastic. You also talk about staying positive and listening to your heart. I’d like to learn more about what that means, and how do you make it authentic rather than superficial-cheery?
It’s always tapping in to options that are better. One example is when we were preparing for this conference we had a phone call for our team from the Global North and Global South. In Africa the internet is a luxury, in that you have to pay a lot to get good access. One call we had as a team the phone kept on falling. It becomes so frustrating, you want to be part of the conversation. Staying positive and saying ‘this can work’, and throwing in to the conversation ‘you thought you lost me but you can never lose me, I’m back!’
It’s the strength of saying ‘I’m not going to give up’ because I’m connected with people, my voice has to be there. That keeps me strong, and the warmth and accountability of teamwork.
It’s true that connectedness brings a lot of richness to our ability to tap into our own inner resources. You have been doing social justice work for twenty years. If you think of yourself ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, what were things you were doing that helped you sustain yourself?
When I would feel my energy level going down I would find someone to talk to, someone who is able to listen. That has been an effective tool I’ve used.
I’ve asked myself ‘What is it that gives me joy? What is it that lifts my energy?’ One of the answers has been listening to music. Some times when I’ve felt really down I’ve found myself connecting to music and that has been an effective tool.
Another thing that has helped has just been taking a walk by myself and being surrounded by nature, hearing the birds singing, that has been an inspiration. Just sitting and knowing that the sun is about to set, just to be at that moment seeing a beautiful sunset. That has always kept me moving forward, sustaining that momentum.
When I feel that I’m lost and I’m not sure what I want I check in with the resource that surrounds me. Creating networks where I feel I can connect with someone I trust and get feedback.
Is there anything else you would like to pass on to the group?
The last thing I would like to say to this group is don’t be someone who just wants to please people. Don’t do something just because someone wants you to. Be real, be yourself.
Andrea Parra is a professor and the Director of the Program for Equality and Social Inclusion (PAIIS), a human rights law clinic at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, which focuses on the advancement of the rights of people with disabilities, the elderly and gay, lesbian and transgender persons. She is also a facilitator using direct education, an experiential methodology developed by Training for Change.