So, I have been feeling a bit nostalgic. It was about this time, last year, when I applied to be the photographer for the Media Team that the CRWRC was sending to East Africa. I still cannot believe that I was chosen and with only two short weeks notice was on my way to Kenya. (I won’t get into all the details since I have been sharing my day-to-day journey on this blog already, but feel free to check out all previous posts HERE). It was such a wonderful adventure, made all the better by the many amazing people that I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know.
I would really like to introduce you to one of these people. His name is Rufus. I would say it was our mutual love of photography that initially sparked the friendship, which was then followed up with heart-to-hearts on the truck and chats in a nearby coffee shop while we both recovered from random illnesses in Durban. Rufus is one of those people that just lights up the room with constant smiles, jokes and kindness. He is a person with more knowledge then he knows, more kindness then he thinks and more impact then he could possibly realize.
I have asked Rufus to share a few words about himself. So without further ado, here he is:
The Pursuit of Self Awareness
This has been the one of the most intense processes I have been through in a while. Do I write about my past? Do I write about my present? Or, how about I write about Global Warming since this was how I came to have my photo taken by my dearest friend who has chosen to give me no guidelines as to what I should write, only that I should write what I wanted people to know. So here it goes……
I was born Rufus Brevin Laverlott in 1981/07/28 at approximately 10pm, Summerset West Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, to Peter and Viona Laverlott. I was raised in Uitsig, which at the time was a “previously disadvantaged community” in Cape Town, South Africa. As a typical boy I took apart every toy and tried my hand at playing with matches and almost burned down our garage (I remember trying to bury myself in the sand next to our house because I knew what was coming when my dad got home, the beat-down). Growing up I did not understand apartheid because I thought it was normal, it is only later that I would realize that this was unfair and for the rest of my life I would have to deal with feelings of entitlement, inferiority and, most of all, hatred. I soon realized that I was not the only one experiencing these emotions and that people all have these feelings and they manifest themselves in different ways. Mine manifested itself through the abuse of people’s trust and drugs, squandering what opportunities were given me; after all, they said I would never amount to anything. (The community of people I come from were and are still to this day stereotyped as Gangsters, Drug Dealers and Thieves)
Where is this all heading? So I accumulated ridiculous amounts of debt and ended up in prison, I sold drugs and chose to be an addict for much of my life, I was infatuated with Heroin. I have been shot, stabbed, beat up and left for dead. These were my life choices, I had no one to blame but me. Even though I blamed my dad and mom, I have come to realize that they wanted the best for me and did what they could with the information they had to be the best parents they could be for their children. Today, I look up to my father who with no education managed to put each of his children through school and tertiary education, as well as put away money so that should anything happen to him his wife would want for nothing. I know what it is to see how your mom compensates for your dads lack of emotional involvement in your life, that you abuse her and take advantage of her. I know what it is to be so addicted to drugs that you say to God, “Is this all you had created me to be, a disappointment, a stereo type, I never asked to be here?”. I know the joy of overcoming addiction and then making the same unwise decision and indulging again because this time it would be different. I know love, I know what it is to abuse love and I know what it is to be abused physically, emotionally and sexually. I know vanity, I know what racism is and what it is to be a racist; and lastly, I know freedom, not only understanding that I have the ability to choose but choosing despite how I feel or how many times I do not succeed.
I celebrated my 31st birthday this year in New York City; last year, I celebrated it with the prisoners I work with, in the very same facility I served out my own sentence; and the year before that, I was being released from prison on my birthday. I wake up and fight every day to be me, navigating through life and all it has to offer with passion and love, choosing to be responsible and grateful. My parents are my greatest supporters after God. We are not perfect, and so we pursue balance, love that is reflected through our actions toward one another no matter how awkward or difficult, because feelings come and go and are essentially emotional evidence of our choices. Two years ago, I came out of prison and have by God’s grace been living as a contributor to society and this planet I call home. Not just living to breath but to live the most extraordinary life I am able to, becoming self-aware and taking ownership of every choice I make. One of these choices was to travel from Kenya to Durban to raise awareness of Global Warming, to rally support from others as youth to stand up and be counted against all odds and say that this is our world, we have a voice. Being ignorant is a choice, we choose who we are and how we show up in this world.
I love that I was born in Cape Town, South Africa. I love that I have seen a lot of this world and my own Country and Continent. I love that I know my history, however, it is not all I am. I am universal, sharing a space with billions of people who are as I am. We are confronted by our fears and insecurities daily, being challenged each in our own unique way.
I met the loving, intensely passionate, soft and humble Karmen Jillayne Meyer in Kenya and we traveled alongside with almost 190 other young people to Durban, South Africa. You need only look at her pictures to see the reflection of her heart-beat and how she sees the world, the beauty that can be found in each moment. Don’t allow anything to take away from you your greatest human experience, which is this life you are living now! Do not be conformed by society as if you need it to validate that you matter. You have a responsibility to contribute to this planet we call earth so that those generations that come after us may to see as we have seen, the awesomeness of this life we get to experience daily. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE!
Capture life like you are a photographer…… find the beauty in each moment.