The Chronicles of a Southern Girl's Adventures of Living, Loving, Learning, and Traveling in Africa
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Every now and again, I get an opportunity to meet people who truly inspire me. These rare people inspire me not only because of what they’ve been able to accomplish in such a short span of time but also because of how they haven’t allowed any circumstances to stop them from realizing their visions. The latest sources of inspiration for me are the 2012 Anzisha Prize Winners. The Anzisha Prize is the premier award for African leaders aged 15-20 who have developed and implemented innovative solutions to challenges facing their communities. I was honored to have been in attendance at the dinner where the winner was crowned. Finalists from all over Africa travel to South Africa for a weeklong entrepreneurial conference and are collectively awarded $75,000 in cash prizes, as well as access to lifelong mentorship that can be provided by Anzisha Prize’s vast network of individual partners, organizations, and youth leaders.
The finalists are judged on: 1) Impact: applicant’s efforts have a demonstrated, measurable and positive outcome. 2) Ingenuity: applicant takes a new and better approach to a pressing problem in his or her community. 3) Scalability: applicant’s solution has the potential to be replicated in communities facing similar challenges. Even though all of the finalists were a-m-a-z-i-n-g, there was 1 winner, Andrew Mupuya. Andrew ,20, is from Uganda and he is the founder of YELI, a paper bag production company that produces custom solutions for local hospitals and vendors and employs 14 persons, the oldest of whom is 53. (source: http://www.anzisha.org).
This young man was not only meeting a critical need in his community but he was also employing other people as well! Listening to his story and the other finalists’ stories made me wonder what have I been doing all my life! 🙂 All of these young people come from humble beginnings and they reminded me that all things are possible and that it’s important to use what you have/do what you can instead of worrying about what you don’t have/can’t do. It’s also important to have people around that continue to provide fresh inspiration and push you to the next level. So who has inspired you lately?
If you want to read more about the other amazing finalists and what they’re doing in their communities, please check them out at http://pt.africanleadershipacademy.org/news/2012-anzisha-prize-finalists-announced. I know you’ll be just as inspired by them as I was.
This is an annual prize and applications for 2013 are due on April 1 so please spread the word and go to http://www.anzisha.org for more information!
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During our tour of Soweto, we visited the Kliptown Youth Program (KYP). Approximately 70 kids stay at the center (many of the kids’ parents have passed away). KYP offers many types of programs for the youth including an arts program. The very popular South African dance that they performed is called a gumboot dance. Miners used to wear this type of boot to help with flooding in the mines. They started doing these dances as a form of communication with other miners since they were prohibited from drumming in the mines. The dance is similar in execution and style to forms of “Stepping” done by African-American fraternities and sororities. (source: wikipedia).
Many African-Americans, like my family, have been in the U.S. for hundreds of years but slaves were not allowed to maintain their languages or customs. Many African-Americans have no idea what country their ancestors are from and thus we have very little (if any) connection to the country, language, or customs of our ancestors. As a member of an African-American sorority who has “stepped” before, I must say it was very cool to see that African-Americans have a, albeit small, connection with Africa. Enjoy the videos!
The girls had to represent and get on the 1s and 2s as well. A quick video of some of the KYP girls drumming.
“March through these streets like Soweto” is a line from a Lauryn Hill song entitled Forgive Them Father from her eponymous 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I knew Soweto was in Africa but wasn’t sure about its significance in South Africa or the wonderful spirit of the people who lived there. It was very cool to actually visit the city that Ms. Hill spoke of in her lyrics so many years ago.
I was most inspired by the positivity of the people of Soweto. It just serves as a shining testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit. The human spirit is stronger than hate. It’s stronger than racism. It’s stronger than any type of violence or injustice.
Soweto Fast Facts
1. Soweto’s (stands for “South Western Township”) roots date back to the late 1800’s. It was originally formed out of several townships that served as the residential area for many South Africans that were evicted by state and city authorities. Soweto was meant to exist only as a dormitory town for black Africans who worked in white houses, factories, and industries. From 1923 to 1976, its residents were restricted to a limited number of self-employment categories in Soweto itself – operating general shops, butcheries, eating houses, sell milk or vegetables, or hawk goods. The number of each type of enterprise at any time was strictly controlled.
2. Population is approximately 1 million and mostly black. Soweto is known as a city that influences culture, fashion and music. Soweto is experiencing a renaissance in that there are several newer middle class neighborhoods; however, it still has some of the poorest parts of Johannesburg. Many of its citizens live in matchbox houses (4 room houses) or in shanty towns with very little infrastructure such as indoor plumbing, electricity or running water (see pics below).
3. Soweto came to the world’s attention during the Soweto Uprising which occurred on June 16, 1976. Students protested in response to the government’s decision to introduce Afrikaans (a mostly Dutch-based language and not a traditional South African language) as the language of instruction in schools. Police opened fire on the student protesters and 13 year-old Hector Pietersen, was one of the first protesters to be shot and killed that day. The picture of a South African carrying his lifeless body made news headlines around the world (see below). Many of the young people that protested went into exile and never returned to South Africa. The Soweto Uprising sparked similar protests throughout South Africa’s urban and rural regions.
4. Soweto is the only city in the world that can boast that two Nobel Peace Prize winners lived on the same street – Desmond Tutu (1984) and Nelson Mandela (1993)
5. Soweto is home to the Orlando Power Station, Baragwanath Hospital (reportedly the world’s largest hospital), FNB Stadium (South Africa’s largest stadium) and the annual Soweto Wine Festival which attracts over 7,000 wine aficionados and 100 of South Africa’s finest wineries.
I have to admit I didn’t know much about apartheid. I knew that apartheid was similar to the segregation system in the south but I didn’t know how it started, the specific parameters of it, or how it differed from the segregation system in the U.S. I went to a high school that only taught European history and I went to an elementary/middle school that only discussed African-Americans’ role in history during slavery and the Civil Rights Movement – we picked cotton and we marched. That was about it. So needless to say, I didn’t know much about what was going on with black people on another continent. I’m still trying to learn what happened with us in the U.S.
The Apartheid Museum is definitely one of the most popular tourist sites in Johannesburg and it chronicles the painful history of apartheid and the courageous black and white South African men and women who fought against it in Johannesburg. I figured I better learn about the system that shaped this country and still has an imprint on it today.
For those that may not know, Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced by the National governments of South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority “non-white” inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rules was maintained (source: http://www.wikipedia.org). The basic principle behind apartheid was simple – segregate everything. Cut a clean line through a nation to divide black from white and keep them divided.
You can’t take pictures inside the museum so unfortunately I can only tell you about some of what I learned and the “Aha” moments I had while touring the museum.
The Apartheid Museum experience begins as you enter the museum. Your admission ticket into the museum is labeled as “White” and “Non-White” and you have to enter the door with the label that matches the label on your ticket. The entrance on the Non-White side is in a dilapidated state while the White side is in a much nicer state.
Top Moments from The Apartheid Museum that made me say “What in the world…?”
1. Racism is really CUH-RAZY. I’m not just having this thought. I’ve thought it was cuh-razy for quite some time but I can’t help but be shocked at it still. The concept that one race of people would subjugate or enslave another race of people solely on the basis of race is crazy. Also, I find it crazy that black South African women were good enough to be nannies and take care of white South African children (presumably a person’s most treasured loved ones) but they weren’t good enough to attend school with or use the same restroom. That’s RIDONCULOUS to me. Is it just me or does anyone fail to see the logic in that arrangement?
2. Johannesburg was a very racially diverse city until the system of apartheid. Different races were living and working with each other. Government officials designated areas where each race (White, Black, Asians, Indians, coloured (people of mixed race), etc.) could live and people were displaced and expected to relocate to the area designated for their race. It’s interesting to me that blacks in the U.S. were the minority, had no rights initially as slaves and gradually fought for and were given more rights; however, blacks in South Africa were the majority and their rights were gradually taken away with the passage of over 100 apartheid laws.
3. Walkways into railway stations, bank teller lines, taxi stands, and telephone booths were also segregated in addition to the usual segregated locales (bathrooms, schools, restaurants, water fountains). Blacks and Whites were not allowed to ride on the same buses either. One quote in the museum read due to all of the segregation signs “because of apartheid, Johannesburg became a city of signs.” Intermarrying between any races and alcohol sales to blacks in the urban centers were also forbidden.
4. Every black person over the age of 16 was required to carry a “pass card” within white regions. Racial classification was a huge part of apartheid. Black South Africans had to apply for the pass card and a person could be arrested if s/he was approached and did not have a pass card. Any white person (even a child) could ask to see a black person’s pass card.
5. Conditions in Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was held were really deplorable. They didn’t get access to hot water until 1973. He was imprisoned in 1964. I didn’t think it was Club Med but dang! No hot water? That’s brutal especially when you consider that that part of South Africa has very cold winters. His wife Winnie was allowed to visit him 2 months after he was imprisoned and then she wasn’t allowed to visit him for a year.