On Friday we went on a Journey of Remembrance with the Direct Action Center for Peace & Democracy. We started the day off by going around and saying who we are, why we decided to come to SA and what we're looking forward to about the Journey. We found out that the 3 Xhosa men who were going to be leading the Journey were combatants in the armed struggle against apartheid, which was really fascinating. After that a candle was lit and we had to say who we wanted to bring on this journey with us. It turned in to a very emotional exercise and I started crying. I said I was bringing Grandma and Poppy (my mom's parents) with me.
We then drove to the District Six memorial park where we were told to look around at the city,and take it in. Then we were told to close our eyes and visualize our friends and homes back in the States and then imagine what would happen if all that was taken away, if one day we were told to pack everything and were assigned to a new home. Then we opened our eyes and looked around, picturing the families in that place that'd had to do that same thing. We could see the remains of houses that had been torn apart or burned.
After the park we went to Langa, where we've been living. We were told that they participated in the anti-pass protests in 1960 along with most of the rest of the country. During apartheid non-whites were forced to carry passes with them at all times and get them checked and approved if they wanted to move out of their home. There were huge protests around the country in reaction to these laws,and in Langa, as in many other places, they ended with bloodshed as police shot and killed many protesters. In addition, students in Langa participated in the protests against making Afrikaans the manditory language in all South Africa schools.
In the afternoon we went to a few of the other townships in the area and learned about the resistance that took place there,and about various monuments, including the monument to the Trojan Horse Massacre and the Guguletu Seven. The Trojan Horse Massacre was a massacre by the police where they drove in to two townships, hidden under boxes and when a few students threw stones at the car, the police jumped out and started shooting. They said they'd gone in to arrest stone throwers,but instead then ended up killing many people. I think I talked about the Guguletu Seven in a past post...
In the afternoon we got lunch in Philipe (another township) and asked questions about what we'd seen, and about the leader's experiences.Then a woman from the Homeless People's Association spoke about the work they do to build houses for people and to empower women to build their houses and take ownership of them. It was a really cool and I got a lot of information that I'm to use for my term paper on housing.After dinner in the evening we learned 2 songs that are sung at protests and especially at funerals. They were eerily beautiful. We also learned a chant of "Amandla! Ngawethu" which means "All power to the people". We were taught to toyi-toyi - the protest march that's like a military march but more energetic.
Oh,something big about the day that I forgot: I talked to one of the young men who was leading our tour(well he was actually about 40,but didn't act or look like it) about his experiences in the armed struggle. He told me that he mostly joined up because it was what everyone was doing. He said that he became a Buddhist while he was in jail (he was arrested for treason) and that he has stopped eating meat because he doesn't believe in killing animals to eat them. I asked him if he regretted joining the armed struggle and he said that he did, he said that he doesn't think that politicians can create a true victory for the people,only people can do it for themselves, so he thinks that the fact that they fought and killed was not worth it. It was so interesting to talk to him, and I got his phone number and I'm hoping I can meet up to talk to him later in the trip!
Blah,what a confusing post, sorry! For some reason I'm extremely out of it and feel very agitated but I can't figure out why. I feel like I've got a lot of things to do but I don't have to do tons of things this week...except I have to call SIT in the States this evening to figure out all my things for my trip to Vietnam. AHHH so confusing!
I think I'm getting homesick...I'm not so much ready to be home,but I do miss it a lot,and I'm excited to put the things I'm learning here to use.