Only at Emory: Flashback to a Soul-Shaping Moment

By Charles Wesolowski 83C

“Have you ever bought Krugerrands?”

“Huh?”

I turn to answer a young colleague, nice guy, thirty or so, when—

The blue flash blew through me, as she glanced up from some book, I saw nothing but energy in her eyes—high-frequency, pure.

“They complain about simple things, like being called by their names!” Val was agitated, a beautiful, dark haired, fair skinned girl from Alabama with blue eyes that glowed, at this moment, with indignation.

“Huh?”

She stabbed a finger at the book, and spun it around for me to see. “I›m doing this course. I’ve got to write a paper, on South Africa? So I wrote to the embassy, and they sent me this.” She motioned to a box of books, plopped down next to her on the big table in Cox Hall.

“Look at this. They›re trying to justify Apartheid!”

“What›s Apartheid?” I looked down at the caption she was indicating in the glossy hardcover book. It looked expensive. The photograph showed a couple of black guys and a white guy. I›d seen pictures like these before—Jersey, Georgia. What, ten, fifteen years ago?

“They use racial slurs! This is propaganda.”

“They sent you all this? That’s wasted, man.”

“Yeah. Don›t you think people have a right to be called by name?”

Her eyes flashed.

“This is Patrick,” she said.

I am standing in White Hall, a pretty new building on campus. Not as new as that Cannon Chapel, though.

“Hi Patrick, I’m Chuck. Wher’ya from?”

“South Africa.”

“Jersey. Tell me about South Africa. Val showed me some books she got from the embassy. They were pretty wasted, man.”

“Indeed.” He explained. Apartheid was system of laws that served to segregate South Africa’s people legally and geographically based on the color of their skin. I recalled the photo in the book from the embassy.

There was an antiterrorism law. Dangerous times. Some guy, Biko, was detained under that law. No judge, no trial, no mercy—no idea what happened to him; he just died in police custody, beaten to death actually. His views had differed significantly from those of the authorities, and apparently he had spoken his mind. Dangerous times, indeed. Even a bishop, Tutu, had been arrested. To keep order, of course.

“Wow,” I thought. “Thank God, that doesn›t happen here.”

“Even here, the embassy keeps an eye on students.”

“The embassy keeps an eye on students here? That›s wasted, man.”

I was dumbfounded when he said that after he completed his studies, he intended to return to South Africa and hopefully, participate in its government. I looked at Patrick, and thought to myself, “One day, things would change.”

I forget how he said he got to Emory, but I don’t forget why. I remember him speaking of freedom, and as he did, this beautiful, dark-haired, dark-skinned guy, with brown eyes glowed, at that moment, with peace and justice. Energy—low-frequency, patient.

Wise hearts seeking knowledge. The New South?

I wonder what ever happened to ol’—

I complete my turn, and answer my young colleague.

“No, man, I never bought Krugerrands.”

“Hmm, they cost less than other gold, I wonder why that is?”

“Val and Patrick. They made South African gold worth less. Things changed in the nineties, but it’s funny how you can still see that.”

“Huh?”

Email the editor