Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

15Jun/150

From South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement to Ferguson-Everywhere’s ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’: A Monday Evening Meditation

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Tomorrow, June 16, marks the 39th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, a day when many thousands of students walked out of their classrooms to protest the unjust racist policies and practices that comprised the apartheid system in  South Africa. The protests, beginning in Soweto, and spreading throughout South Africa, marked a turning point in the level and spirit of youth activism. Youth were unwilling to accept the status quo, and were willing to fight and sacrifice so that they, and future generations, could live in a country free of white racism and oppression.

This anniversary provides a great reminder for all of us that young people have often experienced the most brutal forms of racism, certainly in South Africa and also in the United States.  Similarly, youth have always been in the forefront of all of our significant movements toward justice.

Hector-Pieterson

The excerpt below is pulled from a book describing the presence and role of children during the anti-apartheid struggle.  You can easily substitute the location and context of this excerpt, and it will be just as applicable to the experiences and conditions now shaping the rapidly evolving and intensifying youth protest movements in this country, today, especially the increasing numbers of state-sanctioned extra-judicial killings of African American women, girls, men and boys at the hands of law enforcement. Not to mention the disproportionate targeting of Black youth in schools and communities by people in positions of authority, and who frequently interpret the very presence of Black young people as a form of disruption and/or as a more general threat.

My simple message today is that we have to see and understand what's happening today in the United States within the broader and long historical, social and political context of Black resistance to white racism and oppression. Our youth are well grounded within a tradition of organizing and demonstration, in response to their immediate lived experience of racial targeting and harassment, and also because of their witness and recognition of the broader forces that shape the brutal and violent life conditions of way too many other Black folks all around.

Let's not be so dismissive of our young people. They, and all of us, stand on solid ground. And our struggle remains one struggle.

From Children of Resistance: Statements from the Harare Conference on Children, Repression and the Law in Apartheid South Africa, p. 31-32...

What emerges clearly from these reports, though, is that the main target of this terror has been the youth and the children. This is not surprising because since 16 June, 1976, the most militant, energetic and courageous fighters against apartheid have been the youth and children. Many are driven by sheer hatred of apartheid to engage daily in a battle with the security forces and all those they regard as enforcing apartheid.

The state therefore concluded that to break the spirit of the community they had to break the spirit of the youth. Not only those formally involved in the organizations of the democratic movement, but all the youth.

Hundreds of reports reached us of apparently random assault, harassment and the shooting of youths in the streets, at school, on the way to shops, at funerals and vigils and so on. A pattern emerged which repeated itself in every part of the country. The attacks weren't simply the actions of overzealous security forces, but were actually part of a deliberate policy of terrorising the youth. Anyone who thinks that it is an exaggeration to talk of a policy of terror, should consider the testimony of young people.

To intimidate and demoralise the youth, particularly school kids, they introduced curfews, door-to-door raids, shows of force at funerals and meetings. Our children came under heavy attack in schools. At one stage in the emergency schools were occupied by the security forces. Soldiers and police interfered in the classes, attacked and shot children in the school grounds, whipped them into classes, etc.

While the year and the detail in the above excerpt might be different, the overarching theme is way too familiar.

If there is a bright side, it's that people throughout the country are more frequently able to see the abuse of way too many Black communities and young people, and people of many backgrounds are at least somewhat less willing to stand by and watch this sort of overt racism and race-influenced violence.

The story is unfolding before our eyes, and is being written every single day in cities across this country.

A very brief clip from: The World Witnesses the Soweto Uprising:

On June 16, 1976, what began as a non-violent demonstration by students in Soweto quickly escalated into a violent uprising once the authorities fired on the unarmed protestors, killing 12-year-old Hector Pieterson.

16Jun/140

Voices of Sarafina – Remembering the Students in the Struggle Against Racism and Apartheid

Remembering...

soweto uprising

SOWETO UPRISING

June 16, 1976
Soweto, South Africa

TODAY IS YOUTH DAY IN SOUTH AFRICA!

*  Understanding and celebrating the role of students in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa  *

The following video is a documentary about the South African musical stage play SARAFINA! which toured the United States during 1988 and 1989, before Nelson Mandela's formal release from prison.  I saw this musical with my family at the Fox Theater in Detroit during my senior year of high school.  Of course, this South African musical would later be adapted for the big screen in 1992, and starring Whoopi Goldberg.

This musical was really transformative for me, on an emotional and personal level, because these were students, no older than I was at the time, demonstrating the power and the critical importance of youth organizing and activism in our collective struggles against racism and oppression.  And the South African youth role in the struggle, as depicted in the musical, was a struggle with life and death implications - this was no easy struggle.

I will always be indebted to all of those souls who have gone on before us, old and young alike, who have demonstrated the importance and the transformative power of youth voice, and the active role youth must play in the continuing struggle for the well-being and development of African people the world over.

Happy Youth Day to all of our brothers and sisters in South Africa!

Also check out a previous post from two years ago, with additional information and resources.

12Jan/140

Our Story in Song: “Soweto” – Hieroglyphics ft. Goapele (Music Video)

9Dec/130

A Couple of Quick Listen’s from NPR: Honoring Nelson Mandela

I must admit, I tend to dislike the tone, style and substance of the radio pieces posted at NPR, although I still sometimes listen to and read some of what gets covered.  I thought these were worth sharing, specifically because they help get at more of the fullness of Nelson Mandela's legacy and example, and help tell some of the story that isn't being covered as much.


In Soweto, Remembering Mandela As A Figure Of Resistance, on NPR's Morning Edition   (4 min, 31 sec)

While the world remembers Nelson Mandela as the great reconciler, some ordinary South Africans are remembering him in their own way — as a powerful figure of resistance. And they're looking toward the country's future with both hope and uncertainty.

 

As We Memorialize Mandela, Remember Those Who Stood With Him, by Scott Simon   (3 min, 7 sec)

...But the man who was prisoner 466/64 on Robben Island was a giant among heroes who offered their lives for freedom as valiantly as he did. In a way, the acclaim the world now heaps so justly on Nelson Mandela commemorates them, too.