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AFDA Cape Town undergraduate valedictory speech – Silas Miami

March 17, 2017 1:15 pm

WE CELEBRATE

 

The Dean, Faculty, Invited Guests, fellow Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen tonight, we

celebrate. We celebrate victories, tears, losses, wins and what is now the outcome of three

hard and fulfilling years sacrificed in the pursuit of better futures for us all.

 

At the age of 17, fresh out of high school and having landed my first leading role in a

musical, I walked out of my mother’s house. I should have run out, but I had too much pride

just like she did. She was opposed to a lot of the things I was doing: most of which involved

musicals and my addiction to television shows with sassy black women on them. I walked up

the dusty streets of my small town, Rongai, armed with a small bag, whatever clothes I could

grab (most of which had ended up on the neighbor’s side of the fence), a hundred and fifty

Kenyan shillings: equivalent to fifteen rand: and an old phone held together by a flimsy

piece of string. A bloody gash above my eye (a result of my face making contact with a

flying broom) had began to dry at the same pace as my resolve to be the greatest: at

everything. Tonight, like most of you, my past meets my future. And all of us in this room

have a future that is blindingly bright.

 

So in light of this: we celebrate.

 

I was never drawn to academia. As a child, my mother had to incentivize education for me to

be remotely interested. She’d promise me a bike provided I was in the ‘top three’ in class. I

ranked that very term. Number 2. Suffices to say, I never got the bike, so I lost interest.

Instead, I focused on extra curriculum activates: Music, Drama, Debate, Journalism: where I

thrived. So when I was finally able to go to UNI I knew that I had to pick a space where my

strengths would shine. So I turned to the only person who could help me decide: my good sis google.

AFDA popped up.

Dammit, didn’t it look good.

In fact, a running joke suggests that of all the things we know to be true about our school, we

can all agree that their marketing is remarkable! So I packed up my little efficiency in

Nairobi, and without knowing anyone here except out beloved Bonita, I booked a flight to

Cape Town.

Here’s the truth AFDA is brutal. Sure, any tertiary institution would be. But this was

particularly hard because of the nature of the kind of learning that we had to peruse. On the

virtue of us being artists, studying to hone a craft that requires, ney, demands introspection,

we walked around for three years baring our souls to each other and holding them out to the

world. AFDA is brutal. But I walked into orientation week hoping to dance around and cry in

some plays and left holding a piece of paper that certifies me as a filmmaker. I left feeling

like one to. And for that, I have to give credit where it is due: the people seated behind me

right now. Each and every one of you have dedicated yourselves to making us who we are

now.

And I’m going to say something now that bares no repeating because if tell anyone I said it I

will deny it and they will believe me.

We love you guys.

I can appreciate that It is not easy dealing with us. We think we know things we don’t. We

demand things we argue we deserve without being cognizant of our own privileged. And

sometimes we don’t see that you’re just having a bad day too. And despite all that: you stick

around. And I know it has to do with a lot more than being really passionate about paying

being able to buy food. Thank you for taking these minds and molding them into sheer forces

of nature: and for doing this year after year. I’m here to tell you to drop the act. We already

know:

You guys love us too.

You have turned this young rural boy, with big city dreams into the man I can be proud of

today. I think back to that day when I left home, and the conviction I had in my spirit: to find

a new home where I would be loved and accepted: and I found it here.

Thank you for that.

We celebrate our parents. We share this night with you: the parents, guardians and loved

one who have surrounded us with love, kindness, and understanding in such immeasurable ways.

I speak to you with the conviction of a son who had to leave home first to prove that this path

was worthy: you are exceptional parents. You have put your time, effort and resources

towards ensuring that your child’s future isn’t just secure, but that it is fulfilling. Your

support has been their greatest gift – whether they see it or not. I can appreciate that

parenthood doesn’t come with a manual but by god and all that we know for sure: you have

done right by your children. And I dare say, your duty to them is nearly done. As is tradition,

it is now our turn, to prove to the world, but especially to you, that we are products of

households that believe in us.

I imagine it couldn’t have been easy to watch your child waltz into the house at 4am looking

like they’ve gone through a paper shredder. Or having to learn our lingo because, lets be

honest, all we talk about is shop: Emotional relevance this and CMS that and binary codes

this that and the third. When we brought home rental costa for five minute films that made

your eyes water. When we swear that we’ve eaten but you know, as well as we, do that man

cannot live on Big Macs and Nick Knacks alone.

So, in lights of this, I’d like to ask that the graduating class of 2016 please stand up in

appreciation of our parents, our guardians and our loved ones.

Thank you.

We celebrate the road ahead. Many of you have already been absorbed into the

entertainment industry in various capacities. Many of you have chosen to pursue academia a little further.

Many of you aren’t sure what they want to do but here’s what I’m sure of: whatever it is –

you will be ready for it. And if you aren’t, you have learnt how to prepare. These three years

have not been wasted on you. That piece of paper that you’re holding right now is a

declaration of your ability to think critically, creatively and practically. It’s easy to take your

skills for granted: particularly when the climb to the peak has been hard. But you we all know

how exceptional this class was.

But when in doubt, turn to the one thing that we have that other people don’t: AFDA lingo.

Dammit that stuff makes you look and sound like the smartest person in the room.

When you’re at an interview and they ask you what you intent on bringing to the team, your

response should sound a little like this:

“I believe that I have a particularly singular ability to distill ideas and complex cinematic

treatments into lexicon concepts, thus making it easier for the team to explore important

emotional and conceptual themes so that the content really resonates with your target

market.”

And that’s how you get your job a runner on a film set.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge and celebrate the life of the woman, without

whom, I would not be where I am now: Bonita. I would like to pay tribute to the only woman

in this school who knew each of us both by name and by heart. A woman who took care of

other people’s children like she had birthed them herself. A woman who had so much to give

and expected nothing in return. She was, and always will be, magic.

I’d like to celebrate the people of color who’s shoulders I stand on today. Many of them

never got a chance like the one I got. To the ones here, the ones without whom, I would not

have this degree or a family away from home: Luvuyo, Wako, Bo …Balindile: ten times as

hard to get half. Never forget. In the words of Mama Knowles’s baby, Solange: this one is for

us.

I owe this degree to Price, Yates, Peter, Ivy, Stephanie, JP, anyone who was crazy enough to work with me these past three years and the man seated in the back row who I will now wave at.

Finally, to my mother back in Nairobi: I forgive you. I know it was tough. But I did it. This

one’s for us mama.

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