In Memory of Black Sash Stalwarts

Tribute to Priscilla Hall

Priscilla Hall,  27 March 1939 -- 11 July 2017

It is a sad coincidence that two prominent Eastern Cape Black Sashers should have died of Motor Neuron disease within two years of each other. Sue Power a former leader from East London Sash died in January 2015. And now Priscilla Hall in July 2017

Priscilla died on her own terms, putting in place everything that needed to be done including handing over valuable archival material and then declining any further life prolonging drugs or equipment. She died with her beloved family at her bedside.

It is impossible to encapsulate Priscilla's life into a few words. Activist, meticulous researcher and recorder, egalitarian in her approach to all people, editor and a fine wordsmith describe many of her attributes. She worked hard for the dispossessed and the destitute.

From 1966 onwards she worked tirelessly with the Sash and other organisations organising a school Bursary Fund, fighting forced removals,helping found the Grahamstown Rural Committee and the establishment of the Dependants Conference, and working with detainees and their  families. She also worked in the early stages of SACHED in Grahamstown. The Apartheid authorities harassed and intimidated her and then finally she was detained under the state of Emergency in 1985.

Post detention she turned her organisational skills to the Grahamstown National Youth Music Competition, worked with Fossils at the Albany Museum, arranged classical tours to the Middle East and helped to establish the Community Outreach  project at Rhodes University. Priscilla was a wordsmith of note with an original turn of phrase both in conversation and writing. Latterly she became an editor and there are many South African authors and authors further afield who are grateful for her fine work.

She pushed the boundaries and expected others to do the same. She was both ideosyncratic and eccentric never pandering to anyone's expectations of what she should be. Nomkhita Gysman, who worked with her, described her as courageous and said "she sacrificed her whiteness and privilege to stand with the voiceless" while fellow anti apartheid activist Phila Nkayi described her as an inspiration, mentor and mother figure.

We, in the former Grahamstown Sash mourn her loss deeply but feel fortunate to have shared some of her life. And the Eastern Cape has been all the richer for her presence in it.

Courageous life in service of others

By Adrienne Carlisle - Daily Dispatch, July 14, 2017

Human rights warrior, writer, editor and renowned lifelong champion of the oppressed, Priscilla Hall, died aged 78 at her Grahamstown home this week.

As news of her death spread through Grahamstown, there was an outpouring of grief as well as camaraderie and joy with people who knew her telling stories of an unconventional woman who lived life bravely, to the full, and usually in service to others.

Fellow anti-apartheid activist and former ANC MPL Phila Nkayi, who had known Hall her since the 1970s, described her as his inspiration, mentor and mother figure.

“She felt deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere.”

He said she had balanced her life as an activist with caring for her family, whom she had loved dearly.

Fellow Black Sash stalwart and a friend for more than half a century Rosemary Smith said Hall had been an activist, meticulous researcher, egalitarian in her approach to people, an editor and a fine wordsmith.

“She worked hard for the dispossessed and the destitute in the 1970s in the so-called homelands and then in the 1980s for the detainees and their families. Idiosyncratic and eccentric, she was a delight to be with.”

Louise Vale and Nomkhita Gysman, who both worked with Hall at the South African Committee for Higher Education Trust (Sached) in the 1980s, described her as remarkably courageous.

“She sacrificed her ‘whiteness’ and privilege to stand with the voiceless – a hero indeed,” said Gysman.

Just days before she died Vale wrote to her thanking her for her “compassion, sharp wit and brilliance”.

In 1966 Hall did her honours in English at Rhodes University under the then head of the English department Professor Guy Butler.

It was there that the mature student met a young lecturer, Ron Hall. They were married in 1968 and she lived in Grahamstown for the rest of her life.


Tribute to Anne Schuster

It is with great sadness that we record the death of Anne Schuster on 12 June 2017.

Anne was a long-time member of the Black Sash and also a member of staff for some time.  She is remembered as a lovely woman, full of grace.

When the Sash transformed from a membership based organization to a fully professional NGO after the end of apartheid, Anne  joined Thisbe Clegg and Hillary Morris as part of the management team in the new national office.

Anne’s role was that of Human Resources Manager. She developed human resource policies and salary structures where there were none.   The groundwork for the policies  which exist today was laid thanks to Anne’s hard work and dedication.

Thisbe and Hillary describe Anne as a gentle and approachable person. She ran her department with patience, diligence and a much needed sense of humour.  She provided tremendous support to the management team and was sorely missed when she left Sash to pursue her own dreams.

These dreams were to focus on her own creative writing and to develop and run writing workshops.  This she achieved with great success assisting many in achieving their own dreams.

Her colleagues say “We feel fortunate to have known and worked with Anne and to have taken part in her workshops.  She was a loving friend. Hamba kahle dear Anne you are sorely missed by all who knew you”.

Anne did indeed go on to write and publish her novel “Foolish Delusions” (2005) and a body of poetry, as well as and developing and conducting a series of writing workshops over many years.  She had a remarkable talent for drawing out the skills and talents of many writers and for training others to do the same, which will ensure that her work lives on. 

In memory of Julia Seeger

It was with great sadness that the Grahamstown former Sashers learned of the death of Julia Seegar of cancer in Manchester England. 

Julia was an active Sash member in a time when the Eastern Cape was beset with detentions and multiple problems stemming from Apartheid. She was an able leader and had a very fine mind. Grahamstown was fortunate in that the Sash had as members, several Academics from Rhodes University who brought new and challenging ideas.

Julia, who taught in the Anthropology Department, was one such Academic and she introduced new thinking on Women's issues to the Grahamstown Sash members. She was the prime mover in a piece of research conducted about women who were left behind while so many men were being detained. Apart from presenting a paper on this at a woman's conference Sashers were able to incorporate some of the findings in their work with detainees and their families.

We remember her as diminutive in stature, courageous and articulate and we all mourn her passing at a relatively young age. We send love and strength to her family.

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