(Editor’s Note: Ashley Michelle Williams, a news associate at NBC, is penning a series of blog posts about a recent trip to South Africa. Previous posts: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI)
As a young girl, I loved readings stories about different parts of the world, and about different cultures. I also loved reading famous people’s biographies and learning about their life journeys. Now, as an adult, I can say that I am no different to how I was as a young girl. I still love learning and engaging in different cultures with a diversity of people.
Out of all of the 12 countries that I have had the opportunity to travel to, South Africa is definitely the best one. I just can’t explain all of my thoughts to you on how the Motherland has changed my life. Being a journalist in South Africa at this moment in my life, I am glad to share with you how interacting with so many people and hearing their stories has positively changed my life. It’s amazing how each person has a story. In fact, I am realizing that just as each person has a story, those stories connect with mine.
Additionally, as I have continued to talk with people about different South African historical events that have changed their lives, I have am constantly hit with this realization: that history, whether good or bad, always impacts the lives of people. It’s often inevitable the pain, the hardship, the happiness, and other emotions it can bring to people. It’s also inevitable to how these events continue to impact the world even years from now. As a result, each story has forced me to analyze and reflect on the many experiences that I have had in my life, those in which I may have felt take advantage of or situations I wished to change.
Still, out of everything that I have experienced here, I think the beautiful notion that truly hits with me tremendously is how we, as human beings are all connected, how we as human beings each impact one another. We are all in this circle of life together. Indeed, the moments that this country takes to reflect on its triumphs and its battles encourages me to never allow certain points in my life to leave me weak. Instead, I should use these moments to make me a stronger and more empathetic person.
As I end my thoughts to you, I want you to understand that we each must use our stories, our happiness, our tears, and our words to positively change the mindsets of generations today and generations tomorrow. This is what the people of South Africa have done for me.
I have loved the story of each South African person I have met, because of the positive impact it has made on my life. Each story leaves me craving to hear another story, another instance when I realize how powerful each word we say and each of action we take inevitably impacts another person’s life.
The drive that the people have here to live a wonderful life, the drive that the people have to gain knowledge in order to go up against the negative atrocities within their communities, and the drive they have treat each other with respect makes me want to be more compassionate and understanding. It makes me want to be a voice for the voiceless through my work as a journalist.
South Africa, I want to thank you for connecting me to my identity, whether it be my past, present, or future. You have allowed me to realize that regardless of what may happen to me, regardless of the negative situations I have endured, I can still overcome my history and lead a path that inspires generations to come.
South Africa has shown me how everyone’s past and story is not solely their own. Instead one person’s story connects to another person’s story. I believe that we are all truly connected. Therefore, we must all embrace each other and help each other with every flaw and obstacle we face.
South Africa has awakened me to my past, not only in the historical sense of my self identity, but to the lessons I must learn from and take to improve the world for the generations of today and for generations to come.