It started as a peaceful protest march by youths against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in Black Schools in Soweto, and escalated into a nation-wide revolt, irreversibly revitalizing the struggle for liberation in South Africa.
The Day Our Kids Lost Faith – Marching kids, in a mood common to school kids the world over happy that they were not in class, good naturedly protesting against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at their schools. They 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. If the police had not tried to wrest the posters from the children, if they had not tried to arrest any of them, if they had not tried to set dogs on to them, if they had not fired shots, June 16 would not have been as black a day as it turned out to be.
the above images and description come from a site about south african history. check it out for gut-wrenching photographs capturing this pivotal moment in our history. in the picture mbuyisa makhubu is carrying the fatally wounded hector peterson while his sister antoinette runs beside him. antoinette sithole today works at the hector pieterson museum, whereas nobody knows what happened to mbuyisa. he left the country the year after this picture was taken and eventually wound up in nigeria studying medicine. somewhere in the 80’s his family lost contact with him and to this day members of his family are anxious for any news of him.
i was 12 in 1976. in standard 5 (grade 7?), a prefect at my primary school and just old enough to be aware that something was happening, but not old enough to be politically active. at my school, the older kids all gathered at the fence in “solidarity” with the boycott, but we quickly cave when the principle ordered us to our classes.
hector pieterson too, was 12. he would never grow older. i’m sure there were other children killed that day, before sam nzima took that photograph, but it was that image which sped around the world and put what was happening in south africa in the forefront of world news. if not for that, we might not be living in this changed world we occupy today. it may not be perfect, but because of hector pieterson and the bravery of others who maybe unwittingly, were the change they wanted to see in the world, we have generations of “born free’s” who have no idea about apartheid and cannot even begin to comprehend what it is to have your life restricted by the color of your skin.
33 years later, today might just be another opportunity to get puza-faced (drunk) and enjoy a day off from work, but hector and youth like him are the real reason today is a holiday.
and i want to acknowledge that.
i salute them.