In April, Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, honours Neil Aggett’s memory and legacy with the launch of its Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) in the Institute of Social and Economic Research, along with the first Annual Neil Aggett Lecture and a Colloquium. The three days bring together labour and social justice activists who knew Neil and today’s younger generation of activists who strive for a society that offers equality and justice for all.
As Neil’s biographer, I am delighted to have been invited to give the first lecture on 2 April.
The all-day Neil Aggett Colloquium on Thursday 3 April focuses on The labour movement and social transformation in democratic South Africa. NALSU draws attention to Neil’s “deep humanism” that “made it impossible for him to to accept the treatment of labour as a commodity”. Neil grew up in a society in which he heard workers referred to as ’the labour’… ’my labour’, ’your labour’. He began by transforming himself and his own ways of seeing. He learned the profound meaning behind ’ubuntu’: we are who we are through other people.
Grahamstown has added resonance as this was where Neil, aged ten, came from Kenya to Kingswood College. Kingswood runs an annual Neil Aggett Memorial Lecture under the title ’Standing Up Against Injustice’. It’s wonderful that different, interweaving strands of Neil’s life continue to offer inspiration to younger generations.
In South Africa, I also greatly look forward to working with teachers in Port Elizabeth on a ’Reading for Enjoyment’ workshop and to a ’Meet the Author’ session at Exclusive Books in Walmer, 1 April.