Memorials, NGOs, and Crime

Thursday, my program took us to several memorials and to an NGO. The memorials were really interesting. Two were in Gugulethu, a township, and two were in Athlone, an area that had been designated for coloreds during apartheid.

The first was for the Gugulethu 7, a group of seven boys brutally killed by the police. These boys had been infiltrated by the police, and were planning on blowing up a government building. The man who told us about it was there, and had been with the boys, but had lived. The second was for Amy Biehl, a white American activist doing her Fullbright in South Africa. She was caught in the middle of a riot in Gugulethu, and because she was white, it was assumed she was an oppressor, rather than a human rights activist. She was stoned to death. The third was for two people named Colleen and Robbie, but to be honest, I could not hear enough of the explanation to give a good overview. The last monument was the Trojan Horse monument, dedicated to several children, ages 15-20, who were shot by the police during rioting.

These monuments painted an image of exactly how complicated the apartheid system, the anti-apartheid struggle, and race relations could be. For instance, the Gugulethu 7 were on their way to blow up a government building when they were ambushed. Why? Because they had been trained for violence by two members of the police that had infiltrated. Only one had been trained before the infiltration. Amy Biehl had done nothing explicitly wrong, but she was white and therefore presumed the enemy. The rioters were caught in the riot mindset, an murdered an innocent women. An incident similar to the Trojan Horse incident happened in a black area, and when the colored families of the Trojan Horse fiasco were asked to meet with them, several made racist comments, in spite of both groups being oppressed by apartheid. There may have been a clear “good” and “bad” during apartheid, but neither side was purely one or the other.

After the monuments, we divided into groups to visit an NGO. I went to a community center connected to a church in Gugulethu. The center has several programs, including hospice care, HIV/AIDS outreach, and an after-school program. The space was gorgeous. The building was sprawling, with beautiful paintings on the walls and lot’s of chic cinderblock (it doesn’t sound chic, but it is). The best part, though, was our guide around the center. He answered all of our questions, and he was also really intelligent. He told us he had only recently learned English, but his use of the language was impeccable. He gave us a really good overview of race relations in SA. He asked us what we thought about SA before coming here. He was clearly brilliant, and trying to finish his degree. I loved him.

Sunday is my last day in Langa. I’m really sad to leave. My family here has been so wonderful. I love the area. I actually quite like Langa life. I’m excited for the next two weeks though—Simon’s Town, where the Cape of Good Hope is; Tshabo, where I will be showering in a bucket (literally) and learning how to bead (so excited!); and Buccaneer’s, where I get to see some wildlife! No idea what my WiFi will be like—definitely none in Tshabo though—so I may not write for a bit. When I do, it will be 49934904904 posts at once, or a wicked long entry, I’m sure.

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