Lest we think what the youth of ’76 did was normal
I wonder if I would have been part of those meetings. Meetings when the June 16 march was planned. Already the country was in turmoil. I wonder what kept the hope in them and have the courage to still be willing to protest against being taught in Afrikaans. I believe they were fed up. The new law for township schools to be taught in Afrikaans was the last toll for them, but I wonder if I would have been in those meetings.
If I would I have been part of the mass? The mass that believed in the vision of the small group of learners who were structuring the march in those meetings. Most learners and teachers were not agreeing with the new law, but how many of us are willing to stand for what we don’t believe in? Conforming is always better and “wiser” than fighting the system that already had our leaders in jail. We don’t agree with a lot of things in our workplaces, schools, and our country, yet many complain amongst ourselves and we never take action.
“A friend said to me that drive is what often separates those who succeed from those who don’t. What he meant was that we make it, despite coming from the townships because we have a burning desire to change our own lives. Therefore, we will use the train, we will study by candle light, we will go to school and come back on an empty stomach and we will still get a degree from a university that enforces structural separation and inequality. Despite this, some of us are still not exceptional. I ask again, is it all about equality and fairness?” http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/motlatsimotseoile/2015/05/06/black-child-you-are-on-your-own/
Controversial as I seem to be, it’s possible I would have stayed home for the time the tension was developing in schools. Maybe I would have moved to a safer area when I heard there’s a group of learners planning a march against the law. It is possible I would have never excelled in being taught Mathematics in Afrikaans but that would have suited me well than being killed and never live to be a teacher, or nurse, or a police woman as those were the careers one could only pursue.
As much as it is said Sowetans can be lazy, it seems during apartheid, people were not sitting and waiting for handouts. They were not waiting for things to happen but made things happen for themselves. I believe we still have the spirit and strength in us that the youth of ’76 had in them, if only we were pressed in a tight corner we would see our true strength. Not in any way am I trying to down play the youth of ’76 and think what they did is what any youth would. I admire them, I admire their courage and strength. I admire the spirit of Ubuntu they had. They did not think of themselves but thought of every school learner in Soweto. Nothing gets to my skin like our peers who are doing well in their careers and forget to give a helping hand to someone who needs help. Motlatsi puts it so well to those who have and are making it: Those who look good are also those who will say proudly how they could never be caught dead in the township, despite growing up there and perhaps having their parents still living there. These same black people, those who look good, are the same who say “I made it, why can’t they. We all had the same opportunities”. But did we all have the same opportunities? Are the scales tipped equally or even fairly? Do black youth stand a chance of changing the face of poverty and circumstances of their families?
This is also to the young person who is making it, please look behind and pay attention and lend a helping hand. It might have been different for you, but you owe it to yourself and the others like you to do something. If we don’t have each other’s backs, guess what? We are on our own. http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/motlatsimotseoile/2015/05/06/black-child-you-are-on-your-own/
I don’t know if I would have been part of the small meetings planning the protest, I don’t know if I would have been part of the march or stayed home and watched others do it for me. All I know is I am grateful to the youth of ’76 for taking that stand. For a young lady like me who grew up in the very dusty roads of Soweto and hearing of such historical events that one is still benefiting from today, I know that if I die average, I have no one else to blame but myself. I have seen and heard of remarkable events that show there’s a possibility. A township where people remained hopeful despite what was happening around them. Same township where I saw a spaza owner’ dream of one day owning a shopping mall become a reality. A township where I got to be part of a mega church that started in a classroom with 35 members, to it being a Mega church in Soweto. A township where the youth of 1976 took a stand. I have seen it! As Sowetans we need to step out from kasi mentality and expired entitlement. By nature we are not lazy, we don’t conform and we don’t give up. We are hard workers, are willing to fight for our freedom and we have Ubuntu. We are future thinkers and always have the next generation in mind. That’s who we are, it is in us. Lest we forget!