Youth Day 2016: What has changed?

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Today is 16 June 2016. It is not a mere public holiday. Or the start of a long weekend. It is Youth Day. And it is #40yearslater. What has changed? An oppressive system that fails those who are least powerful in society still seems at the order of the day. Most of us who live comfortable lives have forgotten about the events of June 16, 1976. It is easy to feel that we don’t need to remember and remain ignorant to the fact that our very comfort is built on what the youth was fighting against as pointed out so powerfully on the Izwe Lethu blog recently (I encourage you to read this provocative post). It is #40yearslater and so much has gone wrong… So much of what was paid for with such a high price has been forgotten, corrupted and repressed. So what has changed?

This week as people and organisations have been preparing for Youth Day, images and clips from the movie “Sarafina!” have been doing the rounds again on social media and the news. The plot (for those of you who still may not know this) centres on the Soweto Uprising in 1976. I can remember seeing advertisements and news reports regarding Sarafiona, the musical, in the 80’s and the movie in the early 90’s. Without knowing a single detail about the history, the music or the prolific and legendary Mbongeni Ngema at the time, I can remember that the images and the name simply provoked negative feelings from me as a child. I confess with tears in my eyes, I was ignorant and had no idea of the deep seated racism running through my veins as an Afrikaner child. That was 30 years ago.

Today, however, I can say that I have come to a place of realising my ignorance and growing frustrated with living a life of privileged comfort. I am still privileged however, but I am repenting of my ignorance. I can say that I have read the history, I have listened to the songs, I have cried for those who lost their lives, their children, their brother and sisters. I have cried for our country and continue crying our in prayer for our country. I am a recovering racist. I actively work towards a more just society by the way I live and who I chose to have relationships with. I still make many mistakes, but there is a slow dismantling of my own inclination to discriminate and stereotype others. It is an everyday struggle to face up to those demons. God is working in my heart and my life. I have decided not to let comfort and ignorance define my life anymore. I have decided to be the change that South Africa needs. I have decided to take the hand of God and partner with Him in making His dream come true for South Africa.

So, June 16 1976. #40yearslater… What has changed? It seems that so much is still unchanged in our society. But I am changing. I have changed. It is not much, but that is the only place I can start. Aluta Continua.

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