Birthday is a moment for reflection about the gift of God upon our life; about all that we have been through in the last 365 days and 366 days of a leap year and where we are now and with a hope for a better future ahead of us. Life itself is the grace of God.
I was born on the 31st day of July the seventh month of the Gregorian calendar, this give me a birth certificate amongst the July’s People. I am one of July’s People.
July is the seventh month of the year. It is a month of perfection. July’s People are living personifications of love, care, creativity, inspiration and commitment to a better society and they are extraordinary people who are agents of social change.
July’s People as humans are all fallible and not perfect but they are the ideal people you can depend on. When you run the number of months in a year, July means perfection. Great July’s People are not remembered by how much money they have- but by what they have done for their beloved communities and the world.
Whenever I remember my teenage years, I literally get goose pimples all over with the word “Apartheid”. I remember an inscription which I copied from a piece of paper about Apartheid then but I don’t know its meaning as a thirteen years old boy. The inscription is: “Apartheid is a crime against humanity; please join the Anti-apartheid movement”. What is Apartheid? I asked my late father, teacher and walking encyclopaedic old man and he told me than that: Apartheid is a policy of racial segregation in South Africa, a system where black people and white people in a country cannot live together or separate from others”.
I was in Junior Secondary Class Two at Doherty Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) Ijero-Ekiti. It was 1986.
My father gave me a pre-owned book as a Birthday gift from his private library, the book Tell Freedom by Peter Abrahams is a biographical memoir and autobiography that tells about the author’s life as one of the coloured people in apartheid South Africa.
“It is on the point that the theme of racism in Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom portrays how the evil of racism affects the blacks and South Africans. They were humiliated, oppressed, discriminated and disillusioned in the hands of the whites.”
It was from Tell Freedom that I read literally about an Apartheid society where life was nasty, brutish and separated or isolated from others amongst God’s creatures. The scenario of Apartheid later caught my attention very well when Nelson Mandela was freed from jail in February 1990. Before then, the song “Free Mandela” by Nigerian reggae musician Majek Fashek released ‘The People want Mandela’ was performed and hit the airwaves across Nigeria and indeed Africa.
Apart from Peter Abrahams’ Tell Freedom, Nelsons Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom and Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People are perhaps the best-known books on my bookshelf today about Apartheid; a former social policy of racial segregation in South Africa before they had their multi-racial election that produced in 1994 the first democratic black president, Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013). 1994 South Africa is a Year of Amandla -Power to the People!
In 2009, Nelson Mandela’s birthday (July 18) was officially declared by the United Nations as Nelson Mandela International Day an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela. It is celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The first UN Mandela Day was held on 18 July 2010 to celebrate this global icon and African greatest personality of the millennium.
Of importance, July’s People is a 1981 novel by the South African writer, political activist and Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Nadine Gordimer.” It is set in a near-future version of South Africa where apartheid is ended through a civil war. Gordimer wrote the book before the end of apartheid as her prediction of how it would end.”
Nadine Gordimer (20 November 1923 – 13 July 2014) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, recognized as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has … been of very great benefit to humanity”. Gordimer who died on 13 July 2014 also belongs to the great July’s People.
Our own Dear WS (Wole Soyinka) was born on 13 July 1934. Professor Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka, known as Wole Soyinka, is a Nigerian playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist in the English language. He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first sub-Saharan African to be honoured in that category. Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in Abeokuta, Ogun State of Nigeria, on 13 July 1934 (age 88 years). Long live our Kongi, long live our own dear WS in his service to humanity. He is one of my great heroes and favourite July’s People.
One day, when it is no longer business as usual here. I would like to be remembered the way you would remember the great July’s People. Great People who are born in July have made our lives sublime as a society. The way I celebrate my heroes and heroines, benefactors and mentors, leaders and role models who are July’s People. Nelson Mandela, Wole Soyinka, J. K. Rowling (my birthday mate), Pastor (Mrs) Folu Adeboye, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB), Honourable Omowumi Olubunmi Ogunlola (WOO), Honourable Sunmi Olanrewaju Odesanya and others who live their life as beatitude to others. They have done so much for the betterment of the people and their beloved communities for the sake of humanity.
Meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen, let us celebrate July’s People amongst us in our neighbourhood. Let us pray that God will grant them the grace of many years, robust health, and renewed strength like an eagle to continue to serve humanity in their peregrinations of life.
We celebrate posthumously the July’s People who have joined the pantheon of the ancestors and may their ebullient souls rest in peace.
John Drinkwater in his play on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln said: “When the high hearts are magnifying; and the sure vision celebrate; and worship greatness passing by, ourselves are great”.
Happy Birthday to my dear July’s People. Many happy returns of your natal day. Happy Birthday to me on the 31st day of July.