Youth Day, RSA

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16 June is a Public Holiday in South Africa, every year.

Known as Youth Day, it honors the Soweto uprisings of children protesting the authoritarian regime at the time:

“June days in South Africa can be dark, cold and short. The sun rises late and sets early. Highland frosts feel their way through blades of blemished veld; mists mask roads ahead and behind. The month brings with it the year’s mid-point and shortest day; a chance to reflect on what has been, and what may lie ahead.

Five days before the equinox South Africa celebrates Youth Day. Forty years ago on 16 June 1976, thousands of school children in Soweto, Johannesburg, braved the Highveld cold to protest the apartheid government’s decision that they be educated in a strange tongue: Afrikaans.

Out on the street the students were confronted by the South African Police force (SAP). Teargas was followed by gunfire. Young bodies fell; cameras clicked. The apartheid system was shaken irrevocably.

Youth Day takes its name from the energy and courage of those young learners. But had the police not responded as they did, 16 June might simply be another winter’s day. Police work is practical and symbolic. Through interactions with police, the state communicates with its public. In 1976, police actions embodied the unjust, indefensible and violent state attitude towards black citizens.

It exposed, in ways not seen since the Sharpeville massacre on March 21, 1960 the violence through which apartheid was upheld. South Africans remember June 16, 1976 because youth took to the streets, but also because police looked them in the eye and pulled their triggers.” credit

 

 

Perhaps the poignancy with which I feel the Soweto massacre remembrance day this year, owes to its timbre the global upsurge in protests taking place thus far in 2016:

What began in my own world with the brutal assault and mindless murder of an innocent youth – Francesca Blochliger – in March 2016, here in South Africa, affected me personally;

Reaching way too close to home (knowing the family and close community of this beautiful child in flower) as well as spotlighting shortfalls in the legal justice system, such issues gathered momentum in the broader whole.

Rhodes University “rape reference list” and campus-wide protests, echoing the global protest to “end Rape Culture” and raise awareness world wide, kicked up an enormous amount of dust in the already blustery arena of how to tackle these issues.

None of these gestures in protest or activism have been “easy”, nor simple.

The messiness and angry militancy often hand-in-glove with Protest movements, has been spotlighted for most of us, once again.

The lenient sentencing of a convicted rapist on the Stanford University campus, USA, catapulted social media into a frenzy of awareness cascading an address of “Rape Culture”.

What continues to mind-boggle me, is Brock Turner’s account of consent.

For many of us “survivors”, this action has precipitated old wounds being gashed open, un-contained and blistering with rage in its wake.

Even at the Oscars this year, Premium Diva “Lady Gaga” heralded an awakening around issues of sexual violence in the media, with her Award-Winning, courageous song “Til It Happens To You” focused on exposing the commonality in victims of Campus Rape & Sexual Assault, alongside the film “The Hunting Ground”.

For several, the constant stream of consciousness on these issues has fortified the desire and tendency to numb out, or avoid. “Give me a peaceful Facebook feed” reverberates all too often!

And who of us have not wished it….

….as if closing our eyes, could make “reality” disappear.

{The drum-up to impending elections in the US with front runners, Donald Trump and/or Hilary Clinton is enough to make us gag. But, how many more are simply choosing to “side-step” the realities that present?}

The assaults on our global Psyche are relentless this year it seems, and how many of us aren’t buckling under the thunderous weight of its load?

What floored me most recently, was the painstaking walk of Olympic athlete, Oscar Pistorious, in South African High Court:

As his lawyers aimed at pulling out all the stops towards a more lenient sentence for this convicted murderer ~ Oscar removed his prosthetic limbs, and effectively crawled on his knees across the floor before the Judge.

This action in the High Court shows me an all-too-familiar reckoning in our worldwide legal justice system as it faces off with “how low will you go”?

Oscar certainly made a memorable stoop in his bid for a lighter sentence. That imponderable action, makes the occasion all the more atrocious in my view.

Whatever happens, nothing can bring Reeva Steenkamp back to life. Her death (murder) remains FINAL.

Do I sob at witnessing this humiliation and the desperation present in our former World-Class, Media-Star “Golden Boy”, dear Oscar? ABSOLUTELY.

Do I believe justice must be served and that Oscar’s actions require him to be accountable? ABSOLUTELY, TOO.

What I know for sure, is that the narrowness of the gap between a “black and white” reality or outcome, runs far too deep. The chasm if not too deep, is too wide to navigate.

Most of us recoiling in pain with what the global stage presented thus far this year, are seeking for comfort and cushioning in the “blame game”…

Lots of fingers pointing…..

But how does change really occur?

I cannot easily recover from the violence of rape, the least bit more owing to the assailant being my husband – than I can comfort myself that Oscar “Pistol-furious” Pretorius is going away for a long, long time.

I both weep at the confrontation made by the Stanford rape survivor as she stepped forward to address her perpetrator in court – as I do the agony of soul that a father must be when he diminishes his assailant son’s “twenty minutes of action” amidst world media.

I have to wonder what Reeva Steenkamp might have said? We will never know.

I feel both rage and despair – anger and grief, hopelessness perhaps above all.

But then today, we remember the potential of our Youth – to bring about change, and endorse a better way for this world.

The triumphant enthusiasm of those who bring the future forward will never allow a sagging stage to stop their moment of truth:

The Visionary perception of Youth will always make its indelible mark. And I, for one, am watching with eager anticipation.

The conversations that need to happen, the space that must be created, for conscious discussions to take place amongst us, rests in how we address our Youth…

I will be having that conversation with my sons – as well as my daughter. I have in many ways already done so, and continue to do so. It’s who we are that matters….

But the lens of perception now becomes more pointed and acute.

I hope for our world, that whoever the Youth are in your life and surrounds, you will find a meaningful encounter for the noble amidst us to come forward.

Steep is the path most of us walk – toward a new tomorrow.

Blessings to you and yours, wherever in the world you might be.

Rain & Co.

 

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