I have told the following story many times. Hopefully, with this writing it will be a bit more comprehensive in the re-telling. I was introduced to Naz on the first night she was in San Francisco because my good friend, Nancy, hosted her for an event that Nancy organized in 1988. I met both of them for a delicious fish dinner at Ghiradelli Square. Throughout the meal Naz discussed her Aunt Cissie as though we knew who she was. We didn't. Nothing unusual. At the time, few of us in America had the full story concerning South African political figures and the country itself. After the National Party gained power in 1948, South Africa became increasingly isolated from the world. Nevertheless, in an effort to provide some understanding of her stories about Cissie, Naz said, "read my book." We didn't know what she was talking about so I stated, "I'll read your book." I discovered it was not published and asked Naz if she wanted me to provide criticism of her work. When Naz left us in San Francisco she provided me with a blue binder filled, in part, with histories of progressive (and not so progressive) South African men (before and during her lifetime) as well as some mention of a few South African women -- not many; perhaps three or four, if that. What I didn't read was shattering. There was next-to-nothing about her Aunt Cissie and, worse, there was nothing about Naz in all of her stories. In other words, not one story included Naz. From her San Francisco visit and writings, I knew she had formed the District Six Rents, Residents' and Ratepayers' Association to struggle against forcible removals in District Six, but that alone did not encapsulate her powerful and authentic voice. I told her as much and that's where the story began again in 1988, ten years after Naz started to research and write -- a fact which I discovered in 2010.
Naz returned to San Francisco, staying with me for a few weeks while I completed an oral history on her in addition to recording her stories about Cissie Gool. Remembering that it was apartheid South Africa in 1988, Naz definitely shouldered paranoia; her fears were well founded as I quickly discovered when Naz returned to South Africa. Without doubt, my phone was tapped after Naz left the states, and I could fill up a page with those recollections. We were also telephonically disconnected a few times, but the craziest phone call occurred when an unknown person clicked into the line when we were talking. From her end, Naz inquired, "Is anybody there?" A voice told us "yes;" he was "...checking the line for the post office" and then he too disconnected us. I promptly returned my own call. The point here is that Naz was reluctant to discuss Cissie on paper as Cissie was obviously associated with the Communist Party. She lived with the Communist, Sam Kahn (an amazing human being), for fifteen years. This wasn't anything new for the people who lived in the Cape Province, but outside of her own frame of reference Naz reverted to whisper mode, showing concern that my Nob Hill apartment might be bugged. She definitely felt like the walls had ears. Indeed, she may have been correct. No one was more anti-Communist than the U.S. government -- something apartheid supporters understood quite well. Nonetheless, ears or not I got the oral story without watering down their lives with distractions. This is not a story about Cissie's well-known father who was larger than life or about the historical figures who played a meaningful part in her political and personal journey; nor is it a story that includes so many of the infamous and committed District Six personalities. This is the story about two courageous women who unwittingly moved to center stage of the political arena before fully understanding the wide support they would receive -- like a singer who rises simply to sing, without staging the grand effects of an event. Both Naz and Cissie were lost to history at one point though Cissie regained some recognition when the apartheid regime was visibly dismantled. Naz, on the other hand, was completely lost to history; vanished, without a thought that her life mattered after all of her efforts in the community to include her courageous and isolated position within the educational system -- for many years. The latter facts are a good reason not to water down their personal histories with any distractions. There are so many wonderful stories out there -- write them down so others have a choice. Petty criticisms don't really stand the test of time, because actions speak to ideas and I have not noticed that ideas can be killed with any kind of weapon.