by Lebo Mashifane
June 16 is known as Youth day in South Africa. On the 16th of June 1976, there was an uprising in the township of Soweto, with students protesting the introduction of Afrikaans in schools, a way to keep up racial segregation in the educational system.
All subjects had to be now taught in Afrikaans, a language of the oppressor and not familiar with the people. The authorities clamped hard on the students, maiming and killing protesters, many of them youths, in the process. Hector Pieterson, who was
carried by a fleeing Mbuyisa Makhubo, succumbed to the violence. 2014 marks 38 years since blood was shed in Soweto, surrounding areas and beyond.
Every year the day is celebrated in memory of the lost lives that fought for the liberation of black South African students.
In 2014 June 16, the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC) organised a march and an after party in celebration of Youth Day. The after party was
held at Mpumi’s Tavern in KwaThema. The LGBTI’s of KwaTsaDuza, KwaThema,
Tsakane, Duduza – neighboring townships of Ekurhuleni, East of Gauteng) were
dressed in their uniforms to celebrate Youth Day because the Youth of 1976
had put their lives on the line for post-Apartheid generations not to be taught in Afrikaans. Further comments from organisers and attendees are to follow.
The after party was attended by about 50 people. To me personally June 16 is a remembrance of what struggles the youth of 1976 were faced with. They did that for us, younger generations that followed, to be liberated from the mental incarceration by European oppressors. My message to the current youth is this ”let’s leave drugs and beat drums to celebrate our liberation… Let’s put our fists down and lift up our pens to sign our gratitude as B.E.E’s in our celebration”.
Some quotes from the attendees:
Shane Mokae (19)
“The reason for the event was to give an awareness to the community about the LGBTI community and I will not really say I was participating. I was just supporting the group that hosted it and the people that told me about it was the group called EPOC. I felt really touched about the event because it might change the way people see the homosexuals, my views about the youth is that things get to change and they are not done like before so I’m saying the struggle still continue for the LGBTI community but our heroes and heroines fought against the oppression.”
Simphiwe Munyai (19)
”A friend of mine told me about the event. I’m a fan lesbian not an exact lesbian. I felt welcome and I enjoyed the event a lot and it was all about celebrating the lives of the students who died in Sharpville fighting for a better education for everyone we would not be having this kind of education if it wasn’t for them”
Lerato Dumse (25)
”Youth Day is very important to me as it serves as a reminder of the power that rests within young people. The struggles might be different, but they still exist and June 16 reminds us that we also have to do something. The event at Mpumi’s was a relaxed and laid back event, but I didn’t have the time of my life.”
Tshepo Mosamo (20)
”It was a day obviously enjoyed and well planned, we came from the local rank distributing Safe Sex Packages, educating the young and old about the importance of Safety and Health. Many were impressed by how much we knew about maintaining our health, at our age. Youth Day should be considered a sacred day of nothing but remembrance. I’m a proud LGBTI youth and it should be known that so many of them died for a reason, that of liberated opinions and power of speech.”
Nokuthula Tshili (36)
”I organized an event at a friend’s place it was mainly gays and lesbians, commemorating the day and celebrating the achievements that we see in South African education today. They fought back and we reap the fruits. It is more a celebration, not a struggle anymore.”
Bontle says her age remains confidential.
”On Monday the 16th of June in Duduza rank, KwaThema we had a community awareness campaign. Its purpose was to reach out to the community of KwaThema and inform them about LGBTI issues. We gave people pamphlets, and by people I’m referring to ordinary citizens, street vendors, taxi drivers who were around the area
that time. Pamphlets about EPOC’s information were handed out and we also
provided them with safe sex packs and we also gave them our details in case
they need to contact us at a later stage.”
Zandi Mabaso (17)
”The June 16 event was fabulous and it was something really out of this world. It was my first time being at such an event and it is a day that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life. I came with a few butch lesbians namely: Shane, Refiloe, Masemola, Luyanda & Siyanda, Ntsiki etc.
These people literally forced me to attend the event with them and that’s why I came. I met new people and I had new experiences and got to do new stuff that I would rather not talk about. Youth day to me means that I must enjoy the free life and Education that the students died for. I still do learn in Afrikaans and I think they also fought so that we can have a choice as to whether to learn in Afrikaans or not.”
Rose Matusse (35)
”I was at home, with my two brothers and my partner. We went to Mpumi’s place where we met with lgbti and had some drinks. I was invited by one of my friends Ntsupe Mohapi from EPOC. My view on youth day is that it’s a remembrance of the
youth that fought and died for us, even though it’s not celebrated in a correct way because today’s youth wear uniform and go to taverns to drink alcohol, that is wrong.”
Popie Nozipho Masangu (39)
”On the 16th of June we had a campaign organised by EPOC LGBTI. The Campaign
was to teach people about lgbti people and for the community to accept us.
We chose this day because we also have young people who are gays and lesbians who also suffer because of people discriminating us. The event went well. We distributed pamphlets and people were supporting us. Youth day is a special day to remember youth who died fighting for their rights.
Now children are free to be taught in their languages. They are not forced to learn Afrikaans at school. June 16 is not just for people to celebrate and party but to remember those kids because of them we are educated and free to use our own languages.”
Khanyisile Mtungwa (28)
”I knew about the event through Facebook. As a member of EPOC, I was also
part of the planning of the event as we shared ideas. The results turned out quite impressive. The event was good, we handed out pamphlets and t-shirts walked to the after party. And the pub that we went to is not discriminating. They did not judge us or abuse us, so all in all it was good.”
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