There was something different about Rosieda from the beginning. Perhaps it was the lilting voice, a bit of an accent, a contagious laugh, the humor. To be honest it wasn’t until we heard her stories that we learned her history and little by little embarked upon a journey of friendship and camaraderie. We knew that she was from South Africa and ever so slowly, we learned that her husband was the South African Ambassador to the U.S., that she was Muslim, segregated as a coloured in Apartheid South Africa, and that she was a force to be reckoned with.
Rosieda is a born storyteller; often self-deprecating, witty, almost always funny. She can be hard on herself but often harder on institutions and individuals who don’t measure up to her high standards. Perhaps without knowing it she is also a teacher. For the me, and I believe many in the $6 Therapy Group, she taught us what it is like to be a Muslim and a woman. I remember an early story describing how other passengers on the train to New York City were reluctant to sit next to a woman wearing a headscarf. Shocking to me, but it was a part of her everyday life. We also learned of the battle she waged along with other Muslim woman to break free of the “golden cage”. Somewhere along the journey, we also found out that she had been the Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa, that she was the Director of A World for All Foundation, and a women’s leadership coach and consultant.
Rosieda gave us a personal account of Apartheid, the fight for freedom and its aftermath. Her Watermelon story was a tale of a family outing to the beach and a child’s punishment for not tending the melon. But, it was also, perhaps primarily, the story of a family’s forced relocation and the disenfranchisement of a people. Her stories of the struggle, of the men and women who fought the battles were a firsthand recounting of pain, suffering and ultimately freedom. Long fascinated by Nelson Mandela and the fight against Apartheid, Rosieda’s stories were the final motivation for me to take a trip of a lifetime trip to South Africa. I am forever grateful.
Whether set in South Africa or the U.S., Rosieda’s writing is memorable and emotive, full of detail and context. One can’t go to Starbucks and give your name without thinking of our very own Beyonce. Her character studies of fellow Starbuck patrons based on eavesdropped conversations were in–depth and insightful. Her renditions of her battles with weight, decisions to exercise (or not), proper photo posing, and shopping are universal…we laughed and we cried with her because what she wrote was ours…she put into words what we experienced.
We laughed until we cried to hear her descriptions of what she fears (among them amusement park rides and beer and alcohol trucks). She can keep an audience totally engaged as she describes her fascination with divorce, its causes and its impact, the love between soul mates and the “mother bear” love and protection of her children (not to mention the many frustrations that go with both marriage and parenting).
Finally, Rosieda not only loves to write but she encourages and emboldens all of us to write. It’s not that she doesn’t have her own doubts, she does, but she keeps at it. “Butt in seat” will stay with me and inspire me to do the “right thing”…to just write. She gives me hope that what I write is worth reading. She is a kind, but thoughtful and perceptive editor and commentator. Our group will miss her, her perspective and her energy. It will not be the same, but I will hold on to what I’ve learned and hope that this is just another temporary separation for us. Thank goodness for Facebook!
With much love, appreciation and friendship,
December 11, 2016—Farewell