JUNE 16TH 1976, SOWETO
Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying and 12-year-old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa
Photograph taken by Sam Nzima.
the more things change …
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Soweto Student Uprising, June 16th, 1976
On the morning of June 16, 1976, thousands of students from the African township of Soweto, outside Johannesburg, gathered at their schools to participate in a student-organized protest demonstration. Many of them carried signs that read, ‘Down with Afrikaans’ and ‘Bantu Education – to Hell with it;’ others sang freedom songs as the unarmed crowd of schoolchildren marched towards Orlando soccer stadium where a peaceful rally had been planned.
The crowd swelled to more than 10,000 students. En route to the stadium, approximately fifty policemen stopped the students and tried to turn them back. At first, the security forces tried unsuccessfully to disperse the students with tear gas and warning shots. Then policemen fired directly into the crowd of demonstrators. Many students responded by running for shelter, while others retaliated by pelting the police with stones.
That day, two students, Hastings Ndlovu and Hector Pieterson, died from police gunfire; hundreds more sustained injuries during the subsequent chaos that engulfed Soweto. The shootings in Soweto sparked a massive uprising that soon spread to more than 100 urban and rural areas throughout South Africa.
The immediate cause for the June 16, 1976, march was student opposition to a decree issued by the Bantu Education Department that imposed Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in half the subjects in higher primary (middle school) and secondary school (high school). Since members of the ruling National Party spoke Afrikaans, black students viewed it as the “language of the oppressor.” Moreover, lacking fluency in Afrikaans, African teachers and pupils experienced first-hand the negative impact of the new policy in the classroom.
The Soweto uprising came after a decade of relative calm in the resistance movement in the wake of massive government repression in the 1960s. Yet during this “silent decade,’ a new sense of resistance had been brewing. In 1969, black students, led by Steve Biko (among others), formed the South African Student’s Organization (SASO). Stressing black pride, self-reliance, and psychological liberation, the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s became an influential force in the townships, including Soweto. The political context of the 1976 uprisings must also take into account the effects of workers’ strikes in Durban in 1973; the liberation of neighboring Angola and Mozambique in 1975; and increases in student enrollment in black schools, which led to the emergence of a new collective youth identity forged by common experiences and grievances (Bonner).
Though the schoolchildren may have been influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement of the 1970s, many former pupils from Soweto do not remember any involvement of outside organizations or liberation movements in their decision to protest the use of Afrikaans at their schools. In his memoir, Sifiso Ndlovu, a former student at Phefeni Junior Secondary School in Soweto, recalls how in January 1976 he and his classmates had looked forward to performing well in their studies but noted how the use of Afrikaans in the classroom significantly lowered their grades. (Hirson 175-77; Brooks and Brickhill 46) Echoing Ndlovu, current Member of Parliament Obed Baphela recalled: “It was quite difficult now to switch from English to Afrikaans at that particular point and time.” [Watch Bapela video segment] The firing of teachers in Soweto who refused to implement the Afrikaans language policy exacerbated the frustration of middle school students, who then organized small demonstrations and class boycotts as early as March, April and May (Ndlovu).
also, here’s the thing about Afrikaans - it’s a language that’s spoken ONLY in South Africa. so not only is it the language of the oppressor, by mandating that black children would only be taught in Afrikaans (or that major subjects be taught in Afrikaans, i think things like art were still allowe to be taught in English and/or indigenous languages), they were effectively attempting to isolate Black South Africans TO South Africa. And to keep the outside world from them.
"as a poor person who has had to use planned parenthood for multiple reasons—i need these bitches to…"
and my bitch ass needs us to go deep. waaaay fucking deep. as in “why are we trying to shut down clinics that provide abortions during the depths of the endless fucking michigan recession we’ve all been sitting in for decades?” deep. as in, “why is the control of “what a woman is” and “what a woman can do” all of a sudden so important for a state that people want to “let die” and that obama has centered as the cornerstone of his “recovery” project?” deep. deep as in, “why do the fucking white christians who have more money than anybody else in the state get to decide what’s best for all the poor ass broke folk who can’t manage to get a fucking break” deep.”
Thank you. And before I sound like I’m not glad that we’re talking about this, or that I’m not excited (if mildly conflicted) that Eve Ensler will be performing The Vagina Monologues with Michigan women lawmakers at the Capitol next week, I just want to stress, as many times as I have to, that if we’re going to air our grievances, if we’re going to yell and scream and shout the word “vagina,” if we’re going to make a big event out of empowering ourselves—we have to do something with that empowerment. Very soon it will be time (if it’s not time already) to outline what the fuck we need to do and then fucking do it.
i had not heard about eve ensler.
At a protest in favor of reproductive rights today in Richmond VA, protesters assembled on the Virginia Capitol’s steps. Police, many in riot gear, demanded that they disperse or be arrested. 33 people refused to leave the steps, and were arrested.
Top picture: The 33 arrestees, shortly before police moved in.
Bottom picture: Protester, identified as Mara Hyman, faces down cops in riot gear.
reblogging for this badass women
wait… i know who this is.
Doña Lolita, as she is singularly known in Puerto Rico—no last name necessary—became a nationalist hero in 1954 when she organized an assault on the U.S. Congress with her comrades Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andres Figueroa Cordero. On March 1, 1954, Lolita and her three comrades calmly entered the Capitol, walked through the lobby and up to the visitor’s gallery above the chamber in the House of Representatives, which was in session. Shortly thereafter, Lolita gave the order, the Nationalists unfurled the Puerto Rican flag, Lolita stood up and shouted “Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” and within seconds they opened fire on the U.S. Congress. Five congressmen were wounded in the attack. All four Nationalists were immediately arrested. Soon after the attack, the mass media launched a campaign to demonize the Puerto Rican independence movement. But Lolita was not intimidated: “I am not sorry! I am not sorry to come and demand freedom for my country in any place.” As she had written on a note in her purse the day of the attack: “My life I give for the freedom of my country. This is a cry for victory in our struggle for independence… . The United States of America is betraying the sacred principles of mankind in their continuous subjugation of my country.” The four were soon convicted and given life sentences. During the social upsurge of the 1960s and 1970s in Puerto Rico and the United States, more and more people raised the demand for the immediate release of the four as political prisoners and combatants in a just war of self-determination. An international campaign arose, which gained steam with the diplomatic and political support of revolutionary Cuba. The pressure paid off in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to Lolita Lebron, and the other nationalists, after spending 24 years in prison.
(photo: the arrest of Dolores Lebrón Sotomayor, March 1, 1954)
(text quoted from PSLweb.org, authored by Monica Ruiz and Javier Lavoe.)
The Greenham women keening in Parliament Square, 1984. Very excited to see documentary about this movement in a few weeks with jeanne and elizabeth. Keening also interesting right now in relation to this, and this, and this:
In a world in which the Other has collapsed, the
aesthetic task—a descent into the foundations of the symbolic
construct—amounts to retracing the fragile limits of the speaking
being, closest to its dawn, to the bottomless “primacy” constituted
by primal repression. Through that experience, which
is nevertheless managed by the Other, “subject” and “object”
push each other away, confront each other, collapse, and start
again—inseparable, contaminated, condemned, at the boundary
of what is assimilable, thinkable: abject —Julia Kristeva, “Powers of Horror, 1982.
And always, this: