Love must be sincere.
Hate what is evil.
Cling to what is good.
Today, June 16, is a holiday in South Africa to commemorate Youth Day.
Forty years ago, this day, thousands of South African youth took to the Soweto township streets to march in a peaceful protest against the apartheid government’s Bantu Education policies – particularly the new language policies. Bantu Education was originally introduced in South Africa in 1953. The concept was devised by Dr. Henrik Verwoerd who instructed that “Natives (blacks) must be taught from an early age that equality with Europeans (whites) is not for them.”
Black townships schools received far less classroom space, less teacher support, and less educational resources than segregated white schools. At that time (and even today), Black South African students were fluent in a number of African languages. However, as the apartheid government implemented Afrikaans as the official medium of instruction and evaluation along with English, the students’ frustration and resentment over these restrictive policies grew.
The use of local languages was now prohibited in black township schools. For students taking exams, their inability to speak and write Afrikaans, would be a serious obstacle to them demonstrating their subject knowledge and a harsh encumbrance to further educational opportunities.
These students challenged this unfair policy through song, dance, and signs one winter morning in 1976. They marched in eleven columns strong through the streets of Soweto. Their support and advocacy and I would even say their love for one another and for what they needed sang strong – reveling in their oneness.
Love Must Be Sincere
At 9 am in the morning, at a juncture, now known as Hector Pieterson Square, police stood in the marchers’ path. The police force had been ordered to disperse the youth and send them back to school. Next, according to eyewitness reports, the police surrounded the throng of students and refused to let them continue forward to Orlando Stadium. The situation churned with intense emotion. Yet the students stood fast, calm and resolute. They continued to sing.
Then, a policeman hurled a teargas canister into the front rows of the marchers. The teargas stung the marchers’ eyes and choked their throats.They were dazed and confused. Yet, they still stood. They would not retreat. The rows behind them continued to sing and chant.
Next, it is said that a policeman set his dog upon the group to push the students back. The students responded by throwing rocks at the dog. As they did so, another policeman raised his gun. He shot into the crowd of children.
Panic and pandemonium followed.
More policeman raised their guns and fired upon the students.
The peaceful and nonviolent intentions of the students were decimated in mere seconds as the children were indiscriminately shot – one after another – by a professional police force.
The Soweto Uprising was birthed through this senseless massacre. The events of June 16, 1976 and the days thereafter that year became a rallying point against the struggle of apartheid. In addition, when the iconic photo of the lifeless body of 12 year old Hector Pieterson bled across the world media, the world was horrified.
Hate What Is Evil
Who could not at such a shocking sight – children killed while they sang and danced for an education?
This is injustice.
Flash forward to today, and the events of 1976 are 40 year old memories. If you talk to anyone though, who lived during that time, these memories are Real. Heart-wrenching. Precious. Unfathomable.
Yet, are our current times, especially, in light of recent terror attacks in the United States any less real? Any less heart-wrenching? Any less precious as friends and family members forever mourn their loved ones? Any less unfathomable that people keep choosing to cause catastrophic harm to others?
Is it possible to cling to what is good in such times?
Where is the love that is sincere, pure, and true?
All many of us see right now is the hate which is evil.
We want none of it.
This blog is dedicated to blessing and encouraging others. I’ve been struggling all week about whether to jump into any kind of on-line conversation since the Orlando tragedy. What can I say to encourage and bless in recognition of the tremendous, heart-sore pain that so many of us are reeling from after yet another senseless, terror attack?
Friends, what I will say is that 10,000 South African youths decided to join together one day in 1976 and sing, “Enough.”
Their courageous decision to march set South Africa on a trajectory for change.
Not without struggle.
Not without pain.
Not without loss.
They wanted something more for themselves and more for each other.
Change always requires some level of cost.
What do we want for each other? For our children?
Are we ready to sing – Enough?
And then will we act upon our song – like the children of Soweto, South Africa?
Only then, will our love be sincere….