Andrews Alumnus and Obama Foundation Leader Wandile Mthiyane Raises Funds for Anti-Racist Conversation Cards
25 January 2023 |
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA. Architecture student and Andrews alumnus Wandile Mthiyane walked into a water sport club on Durban’s new public promenade to buy some food. As Mthiyane entered, the manager shouted, “Hey, you can’t eat here!”
Confused, Mthiyane asked, “Why can’t I eat here?”
The manager responded, “Um, well, are you a member?”
Mthiyane responded that he was not a member. “Yeah, sorry, members only,” responded the manager.
After asking a few more questions, Mthiyane was told by the manager that if he didn’t like the rules, he could start his own club.
Mthiyane then gathered the resources to start a pop-up restaurant located on top of that water sport club, and he named his restaurant “The Anti-Racist Hot Dog” (ARHD). In a video released by a South African news organization, he states that one of the reasons he started ARHD was “to create options for our people to have access to food in their own city.” With remnants of the apartheid era still lingering in South Africa, he shares that experiences like this are still very prevalent in everyday life when interacting with people of other races, especially white.
The Anti-Racist Hot Dog restaurant became very popular, expanding to host “pop-ups” in different locations with menu items such as “The Black Vegetarian,” “The Privilege Dog,” “The Anti-Racist Burger,” “The Black Friends Hot Dog,” and of course their classic, “The Anti-Racist Hot Dog.”
This is not the first initiative that Mthiyane has spearheaded to promote inclusion and equality. His architecture project, “Ubuntu Design Group,” exists to provide dignified, affordable, sustainable, and accessible homes for formal and informal communities (shanty towns) around the world. The design group was motivated by UN Habitat statistics which stated that “828 million people live in slums and inadequate housing around the world and this is projected to grow to 3 billion people by 2030. In South Africa, 2.2 of 16.9 million households live in informal settlements” (StatsSA, 2016).
His initiatives have garnered support from a number of organizations, including the Obama Foundation, which has equipped him to be an “Obama Foundation Leader.” Says Mthiyane, “It’s a tremendous honor to have access to Obama staffers and speech writers. It helps take my public speaking to another level. I am honored to bask in his historical significance and play my small part in bringing hope to the world.”
After moving to New York City in the fall of 2021, Mthiyane drew together a group of young professionals to help put on Anti-Racist Hot Dog parties in spaces such as the American Institute of Architects-New York Chapter and Yale University. As he and his co-leaders engaged in conversations at these parties, they realized just how many patterns of discrimination existed in workplace cultures, and how existing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives struggled to address those patterns. That’s how the idea of the Anti-Racist Hot Dog Conversation Cards was born.
“When education about equity is more engaging, it’s also more effective,” says Mthiyane. “Conversations about race are challenging in any situation. Counterintuitively, the fear of sounding racist or ‘saying the wrong thing’ is actually a barrier to building a more inclusive workforce. These cards are designed to create safe and fun spaces where it is easier for participants to actively engage with the ideas being presented to them.”
A Kickstarter campaign is currently underway to fund the project, aiming to raise $3,000 for the production of the deck of cards by February 15, 2023. The project includes a carefully crafted deck of cards that is packed with open-ended and thought-provoking questions designed to spark introspection, ignite difficult conversations, build understanding, and, ultimately, create a stronger workplace community. The cards are divided into three themes: “the story of self, us, and others.”
Within his use of humor and creativity is a very serious conviction. “I was able to hone my values of faith and justice at Andrews, learning about how these two things are not mutually exclusive and how part of our call as Christians is to fight for justice,” he says. “If everyone is built in God’s image and has intrinsic value, we ought to fight to preserve that inherent value in all of God’s vessels, not just those that look like ours.”