By: Jusu Kamara
We appreciate the history of resistance and the role played by African men and women who took the risk of protesting to honor the race and restore their people’s dignity. It is with this understanding that we join conscious men and women in the world and Africa in remembrance of the heroic struggle and sacrifice of the Soweto Uprising, and the commemoration of The African Youth Day. History has taught us that on this day, African school going students from the bantustans and native reserves of South Africa rose in objection to the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974, which forced black schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50–50 mix as languages of instruction instituted by pernicious Apartheid regime.
This backward draconian decree which was passed by the white minority govt in South Africa was meant to perpetuate white supremacy and domination but met strong resistance from the student community in that country. It was premised on this the students hastily established the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) making Comrade General Teboho “Tsietsi” Mashinini the head in an effort to lead the campaign of resistance. And it was not only the students of Soweto that resented this decree. Noble Peace prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu did oppose, and the South Africa Students Movement of struggle icon Steve Biko had objected too. On the National square, The South African Communist Party of Comrade Joe Slovo and the African National Congress had done the same.
The students did come out in their hundreds of thousands in protest to show the world, the inequality of a system that imposed her foreign language on them with great respect for their African Culture and its tenets. They came out with their bare hands and opened chests willing to pay any price to defend their dignity. They were prepared to shed their last blood. And they paid the price that day. They died in struggling for their rights as the martyr Comrade Hector Pieterson lost his life. It is estimated that over 176 people died on the day while over 700 people died in the resistance that lasted for almost three months. The world wondered what kind of system would unleash dum dum bullets on students for rising up against injustice.
What kind of system would suppress people in such brutal form by exploiting a country and leaving them to wallow in the cesspools of penury, destitution, and political marginalization? This brutality didn’t frighten nor falter the people from resisting an unjust system. For them, the blood of innocent people spattered by the system were the catalysts and enzymes that would foment the path to liberation and build an egalitarian society. Every life taken was a heroic sacrifice to solidify their persistent struggle, meant to disentangle themselves from the shackles and chains and the agony of injustices.
They were clear about their struggle in preserving a scintillating future for their generational descendants in that they would not live on the kneels of their homeland. Today this history has made it possible for Africans in South Africa in that, they can now go to schools and live peacefully with equal rights and privileges without discrimination. They can serve in leadership positions, own and run businesses in harmony despite the economic inequality of the neoliberal capitalist system and the continuous labor exploitation of the people who work on the mines and plantations owned and operated by white monopoly capital.
These are the fruits of the heroic struggle of the Soweto Uprising and the people determination to achieve a resplendent South Africa through permanent struggle. The historical antecedents of this day is a tribute to the Soweto Uprising inspired by a younger generation on the African continent, must remind us to always not tremble at the indignation of injustice anywhere but to rise up to the demands for better welfare and the advancement of our given rights. With our right arms up, we give red, green, and black salutes to the memories of the heroic student and the general masses of South Africa for the role they played in crippling imperialism on the African soil. To the commemoration of the African youth day, this occasion should not just be a mere jamboree of fine speeches and flattering activities. We must struggle to lift Africa in a new era and to new beginnings!