Soweto Uprising 1976
June 16th marked the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. This event was one of several that inspired me, during my youth, to become more aware of what was going on around the world. Eventually, I became active in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and other social justice issues.
I listened to accounts of the uprising broadcast over my local radio station in Philadelphia, WDAS-FM. “Amandla! Music of South Africa” broadcast weekly from 1990 to 1998. Hosts, James Eoppolo and South African based journalist Sipho Jacobs Ka-Khumalo, explored the role of culture in the mass democratic movement within South Africa. Recently, I had the opportunity to converse with Eoppolo and Khumalo, and express my gratitude to them for broadcasting the voices and the music of the struggle against the apartheid regime, and inspiring a generation to join in the struggle.
Godfrey Sithole, a South African in exile whom I met in 1992, shared his personal account of life under apartheid. Inspired by these stories, and the selfless determination of Nelson Mandela, I attended the National Conference in Support of a Democratic South Africa, on the 80th Anniversary of the ANC. In 1993, I was on the Welcome Mandela Committee, and attended a reception for Mandela when he came to Philadelphia to accept the Liberty Medal. All of these events inspired me to become an activist, and then, a storyteller for social change.
I traveled to South Africa in 2004, as a “storytelling ambassador,” with the National Storytelling Network, under the auspices of People to People Ambassador Programs. With an award from The Leeway Foundation of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Window of Opportunity Grant (WOO’ 2004), I studied the preservation of folktale traditions and the affect of politics on contemporary folklore. An essay about this experience, A Voice for the Voiceless, is published in the July/August 2005 issue of Storytelling Magazine, by the National Storytelling Network.
I have precious, unforgettable memories of my visit to South Africa. I held a benefit concert, sold taffy, raffle tickets, and my junkie car to be able to make this trip. After visiting black townships, I gained a deeper appreciation for my life, and for the struggles of others. I was most inspired by the indelible spirit of South Africa’s youth, living in severe poverty and wretched conditions, yet they were full of joy and hope for future. Sweetness Ndaba, for example, who told me of how, under apartheid, she had to take down her tent and bury it before she went to work each day to keep police from destroying it. Then, she’d dig it up and reconstruct it every night. I met her selling original tea bag designs, along with other women in Haut Bay, which eventually afforded her a home and the land to construct it on.
Photo album of my visit to South Africa (2004)
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Century of Africa
SGI International Honorary President, Daisaku Ikeda declared in 2005: The 21st Century will be the Century of Africa.
By ‘the Century of Africa’ I meant the century in which those who have suffered the most will be the happiest, the century in which those who have suffered the greatest humiliation and indignity will walk proud and tall, with their heads held high. There will be new leading actors in the drama of human history. Those whom the world has oppressed the most will become those who carry the world into the future.
So-called developed nations have long reaped the benefits of Africa’s abundant natural resources. But her wealth of cultural and spiritual resources is largely ignored.
Africa’s great cultural and spiritual wealth is an invaluable resource from which humanity should benefit. The values and attitudes of tolerance, mutual help and positive thinking which I believe to be rooted in Africa’s oral- and community-based culture, are the values that the world needs today. –
While attending a social gathering, one delegate asked our host, “What kinds of stories are passed on from generation to generation? What stories will you tell your child at night?” The woman, classified as colored in South Africa’s apartheid system, replied, “I will tell her the story of our freedom, the story of our spirit. I’ll tell her it was in her grandmother, it was in my mother, it is in me, and it in you.” — An excerpt from my essay in Storytelling Magazine July/August 2005.
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The 1976 uprising in Soweto grew out of student protests of the banning of African dialects and the mandate that all instruction in South African township schools be in Afrikaans. Apartheid-era historical and cultural records, and cheesy recreations of African villages, deny or distort Africa’s rich legacy.
According to legend, the opulent Palace of the Lost City, popular with tourist, is a recreation of the royal residence of an ancient [visiting] civilization, but was supposedly destroyed by an earthquake. I had the opportunity to perform for the Youth of Sibikwa Storytelling Festival in Benoni, just outside Johannesburg. The story I shared is a fictional account of the origins of the Great Ruins of Zimbabwe; one that acknowledges and honors African civilizations, and, I hope, empowers future generations who are building the Africa of the 21st Century.
***Re-examine the history of humankind on a larger scale, a vaster span of time. Develop a broader view, a deep understanding of the undercurrents flowing through human history, from past to present to future. Probe the deepest levels of history and develop a far-reaching vision of the future. *** (The Human Revolution)
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Other Young and Youthful people doing great things for the future of Africa!
“Human Affect” Ad Hoc Unit: Human Rights Learning Through Art, Athletics and Science
SRDC International | Organizing The Diaspora
Rio+20: UN Conference on Sustainable Development
- The youth march from Naledi Township, at the south western end of Soweto, collecting others on their route to Orlando East, the north eastern end of the vast complex. (Bailey’s African History Archives).
- People march in Soweto, South Africa Saturday, June 16, 2001, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Soweto uprising. (AP Photo)
- Amandla! Music of South Africa 1992 A weekly broadcast on WDAS-FM in Philadelphia 1990 to 1998 exploring the role of culture in the mass democratic movement within South Africa. Hosted by James Eoppolo and South African based journalist, Sipho Jacobs Ka-Khumalo. Podcast and companion book included with the “Amandla!” broadcast collection in the South African National Archives.
- James Eoppollo: White Boy from the Townships. This is the personal journal of James Eoppolo creator and host of “Amandla! Music of South Africa”. This ebook describes his long involvement with South African music and its role in the anti-apartheid movement.
- Have You Heard From Johannesburg (PBS Video)
- June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising timeline 1976-1986 (South Africa History Online)
- Helena Pohlandt-McCormick. “I Saw a Nightmare…”: Doing Violence to Memory: …
- Soweto, June 16, 1976 (The Anatomy Lesson)
- Soweto Student Uprising (Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy)
- The Man Who Released Nelson Mandela – Interview With 1993 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, F.W. de Klerk
- Youth Day (jillgoldberg19.wordpress.com)
- 16 June – National Youth Day in South Africa (swafrica.wordpress.com)
- Soweto Uprising Draws World’s Attention (June 16-17, 1976) (thestarryeye.typepad.com)
- New South African Playhouse Uses Theater For Change (huffingtonpost.com)
- Original T-Bag Designs – Hout Bay, SA
- Under fire, South Africa’s former president repudiates apartheid (edition.cnn.com)