The summer of 2009 was an amazing time. I was home, in South Africa, sharing the country of my birth and land of my inspiration with friends. I can still smell the singed taste of winter grassland that lit us on fire in the highveld. I came back to New York charged with life and a renewed zeal for the work I’d only just begun. Earlier in the summer, I co-Founded Zenzele Circle, a placement agent linking job-creating African start-ups with global angel capital. Since then, Zenzele Circle has added a stable of high-potential entrepreneurs and secured pro-bono legal representation from Weil Gotshal. We are semi-finalists for the Echoing Green Fellowship, along with 2008 Reynolds NYU Fellows Martha Diaz and Ben Cockelet. Go Team! We are all blazing forward and I remain intrigued with where the road will lead.
Circling back to the summer of 2009, you may be curious what I first dived into following such a whirlwind summit? Another summit–the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative Meeting. I attended the gathering as a blogger for Skoll Foundation’s Social Edge. Two highlights standout. First, I was invited to a private news conference for a handful bloggers with President Bill Clinton. The irony of this is still not lost on me–I had not launched my blog yet! My first Africa’s Moment blog post chronicles that meeting with the former President. The next day, when CGI2009 officially opened, I started a conversation with a pleasant woman sitting next to me. Turns out, she is also a Reynolds Fellow–Diane Geng, who is a Harvard KSG alum. Of everyone in a room of 300+ people who I could have randomly sat next to, how telling that I sit beside another Reynolds Fellow who has made it into this chair all the way from rural Shanxi China?
Attending CGI was enlightening, but I remember zooming between sessions to make class with Professor Bill Easterly and then (joy of joys) work some last minute magic for the Africa Social Enterprise Forum)–the first gathering of its scale in the US focusing exclusively on African social entrepreneurship. ASEF launched the day after CGI closed. We opened the conference to a standing room-only morning keynote by Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark, who humored us with jokes peppered by tech-savvy ideas for African development. Celebrated Pop!Tech Curator and Executive Director Andrew Zolli delivered the afternoon keynote, highlighting an innovative and successful HIV/AIDS outreach and education program launched in South Africa. Pop!Tech’s Project M reminds patients which anti-retroviral drug to take when and blasts educational messages and useful information–such as where to get tested–for free and in African languages, all through mobile SMS. Talk about a cell phone service worth celebrating.
There have been many moments filled with celebration in the New Year already. A fantastic friend and 2008 Reynolds NYU Scholar, Cesar Francia, began an internship this spring in the office of Justice Sotomayor. Last week Friday, I reconnected with a living South African legend whom I first met during that amazing Academy summit of 2009–Justice Albie Sachs. Justice Sachs spoke beautifully at NYU Law about how he often came to an epiphany on a landmark case while meditating in the bathtub, rushing with drips of water raining down as he committed a thought to paper. I am most moved by his humanistic approach to the law, acknowledging that most matters of the court are decisions between right and right. Reminds me of an eloquent Talmudic quote a friend passed onto me, “These and these are the truths”.
This year will surely unfold many layers of truth about who we are and what we ought be. I hope to celebrate the best of both in myself and others with unwavering compassion and a throw-away ease and humor about it all.