Imagine you were back in high school. Walking through the halls with your best friend; eating lunch and gossiping.
Now imagine you were a black South African during Apartheid.
Imagine you were forced to study your oppressor’s language. Imagine walking next to your best friend in Soweto, standing up for yourself and your rights. Hearing gun shots. Imagine watching your best friend get shot in the back as you run away from hell.
Have You Heard From Johannesburg?, part 3 showed how the effect of the South African black youth on the anti-apartheid movement surged after the government jailed the anti-apartheid leaders. During the 1960s, young people began to become highly politicized activists. Not only South Africans, but youth from countries such as Holland, England, Germany, and France, protested against the apartheid regime.
Steve Biko created the South African Student’s Organization, which included the unification of students in a “black consciousness.” Young people looked up to Biko. Some say he performed the same miracles as Martin Luther King Jr. performed, but in worse conditions.
Steve Biko was banned in 1973, meaning he could not meet with more than one person, speak publicly, leave his home area, or be published. In 1977, Steve was caught out of his home area, interrogated, and brutally beaten by police. His skull was cracked and he was left naked and unconscious in a jail cell. Days later he was put in the back of a police truck to drive him almost 700 miles, in the state he was in, to a prison with medical facilities. He died shortly after his arrival.
The photo that was shown in the documentary of Steve Biko’s face made me sick.
The police left Steve to die, and then had the audacity to say he wasn’t allowed to be buried. More than 30,000 people traveled to his funeral.
“Black is beautiful.” – Steve Biko
A year before Steve died, the effect he had on the youth showed in the Soweto uprising. On June 16, 1976, students congregated and challenged the apartheid system. They were angry at the forced education, which compelled students to study in Afrikaans. During this peaceful protest, like the Sharpeville Massacre, South African police shot into the crowd. However, this was a crowd of children.
How could someone shoot and kill Hector Pieterson, a defenseless 13 year old? I felt defeated when I saw the iconic picture of Hector being carried by a classmate, missing his shoe. The more and more I watch this documentary series, the more I feel crushed by what these people went through, but the more I feel inspired by their will and determination.