Thando Mahlangu

Black History Month Student Q&A Feature

Thando Mahlangu is an integrating marketing and communications major from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Why did you choose to attend Harding?

I had applied to many universities in South Africa, and I just wasn’t hearing back from many of them, so I was deciding to take a gap year. One of the ministers at my church recommended Harding. My dad’s best friend also went to Harding and recommended it. We had a conversation about it. I dwelled on it, and I decided to apply. Now I’m here. It’s been even better than I expected. 

Who are your black heroes, and what traits do they have in common?

I would say my big four are Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Martin Luther King Jr. and Tabo Mbeki, a former South African president. I would say they had bravery and intelligence in common. I love the way they think, see things and are able to put a plan together. They also incorporate God. If people get used to being oppressed for a very long time, they kind of just get used to being okay with the environment they’re put in. If someone is in poverty for a few years, that person will struggle, but over time will just become okay with being in poverty. For me, bravery plays a role when the brain changes, and you’re able to say this isn’t the way we should be living and that a situation or circumstance  should be better. Better doesn’t mean separation but bringing people together. To do that, individuals have to educate themselves during tough times. 

As we celebrate Black History Month, what are steps we can all take to further cultivate change and progress toward equality?

I think so many people are focused on taking steps forward. I feel like we need to take steps back. Steps way, way, way back to see where people were coming from. I believe if I can understand what your reasoning was for what you are doing to me, I would feel better. It doesn’t mean it would be easier to forgive, but I would have an understanding of why and have an opportunity to have a conversation to fix it so that the same problem doesn’t happen to another person in the future. I believe we get stuck saying, “this person did this, so we hate people of this kind.” But we need to ask, “why did they do it?” If we don’t take steps back to understand, how can we avoid similar actions in the future? We are all saying we want to reach a common goal, but our goals are different because we see the image differently. We’ve all been educated differently. 

How would you like to see the efforts and attention of Black History Month carried throughout the year?

I think we could start by honestly recognizing each other. Can we see the struggle from both sides, both perspectives? Can we just try to make it better for each other all year round?

What traits that Jesus embodied do you think are crucial to achieving the goal of equality? Why?

I think first and foremost that answer would be love. There is nothing more powerful than love and respect. Jesus had a lot of respect for others. Honesty is key. Jesus also had a way to make sure everyone felt like they belonged. You were never excluded if you were with Jesus. 

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Categories: Students.