Fighting for what you believe in is vital. Especially for the youth. The youth of every generation have often been stigmatised as being radical, rebellious and extremists. Those misidentified qualities are the resilience and gusto the youth possess which helps them fight against the injustices of this world.
Case in point, June 16 1976 was the remarkable start of a wave of resistance and protest that became known as the Soweto uprising. Around seven out of 10 South Africans were not alive at the time of the Soweto uprising of 1976, which we now commemorate as Youth Day. As time goes on, first-hand knowledge of this historic turning point on the road to democracy is rapidly diminishing, so the story needs retelling.
Although we commemorate the uprising on one day, it was not a once-off event. It continued for weeks and spread well beyond the confines of Soweto, continuing in some areas in the country until the end of that year. The immediate cause of the uprising was the introduction of Afrikaans as a language of instruction. In the same breath, there were also protests against increased bus fares and the cost of living in general.
The day saw thousands of students at schools in Soweto taking to the streets with the aim of marching to central Johannesburg in protest. The police used force to turn them back and, as blood was spilled, the young protestors responded in defence. Events spiralled into a full-scale uprising, which the authorities were ruthless in quelling. The Soweto protests soon boiled over into other towns and cities.
While it was not immediately obvious, this powerful outbreak of resistance was a turning point in the history of the country. It marked the start of a 15-year period of relentless mobilisation against apartheid which in 1990 led to negotiations to end apartheid and to South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994.
The youth of 1976 played a vital role that led to a monumental change. And now the youth of 2020 have had to pick up the baton. The youth are still fighting battles of racial inequality and discrimination in schools while also leading movements like #Feesmustfall, #Metoo and #Blacklivesmatter. Albeit, the platforms differ but the fight is still the same.
By celebrating 16 June as Youth Day, we not only salute the courage of the young and their passionate opposition to injustice but we also call upon the current youth to continue the narrative – whatever that may be during these interesting times.
Yolanda Makhubele is a Content Marketing Specialist at the Tarsus Technology Group.