The Edmond Sun


July 8, 2014

AGAINST THE GRAIN: Author’s account of Johannesburg features growing pains

OKLA. CITY — American journalist Douglas Foster wrote in “After Mandela, The Struggle For Equality in Post- Apartheid South Africa” of the City of Johannesburg in South Africa that “It does not have a humble bone in its body.” And Johannesburg native Mark Gevisser recently has authored a memoir titled, “Lost And Found In Johannesburg” in which he gives some insight into the civic pride of that city.

He reminds us that it is a fairly young metropolis, having been founded in 1886, after gold was discovered on the South African plain, and that it “has none of the allegiances to the past (that) constrain ancient cities” as a result.

His description of the original inhabitants of what is often called “Joburg” may also be applicable to the first residents of Oklahoma City. “Everybody came from somewhere else and they all come for one reason, to make money.” The author’s review of pictures from Johannesburg’s early years prompted him to conclude that “The city was a distinctly modern venture: It imposed itself so quickly on the landscape that it appears almost an optical illusion in early photographs.”

Gevisser, who was born in a Johannesburg suburb in 1964, also tells the story of his Jewish forefathers who made their way from Europe to South Africa in the early years of the last century, and eventually became successful business people and leaders in the influential Jewish community of that nation. His paternal great-grandfather worked with his two brothers to sell food to black and Indian workers on the docks of the Indian Ocean port of Durban in the   South African province of Natal. Their descendants in turn became entrepreneurs in Johannesburg where people from across the world had come to seek their fortune .

Gevisser takes us the Jewish Cemetery in Johannesburg where many of his ancestors are interred and writes of how the density of that final resting place is reflective of the density of the Jewish experience in Johannesburg.

And many Africans also came to the Johannesburg area, we are told, including a young Nelson Mandela, who arrived there in 1941, and were required to live in black townships such as Soweto. Gevisser documents how that experience has been chronicled in novels and songs by black author and artists about coming “to the City of Gold.” With the end of Apartheid in 1990, many more black South Africans have come to Johannesburg itself and its leafy suburbs.  

Africans from other states have also come to that city and are now operating stores and restaurants that offer insights into their culture. But violent crime is a problem there, and Gevisser tells us how he and two friends were subject to a home invasion that left them all deeply traumatized. His account of the police investigation of the incident and subsequent trial of one of the suspects  suggests that the Republic of South Africa could use the victim assistance services that are afforded crime victims in the state of Oklahoma.

In recent years, the City of Oklahoma City has become home for many immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and the Middle East, and many of them are involved in retail trades including convenience stores, small restaurants and auto repair shops. And maybe one of their descendants will write a book that detail their experience of growing up in Oklahoma City.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.

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  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
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