Hi everyone! Izzy, Jason, and Marlon here. Today we woke up and had breakfast with our host mothers and families before reconvening as a group. We were sad to spend only one night with our host families because we had such a great experience. After we said our goodbyes, we piled on the bus and got a tour of Soweto by Thandi aka Mama Thandi. Mama Thandi is a Soweto native who showed us around Freedom Square, the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial, Mandela’s House, and Regina Mundi (a church).
At Freedom Square, we viewed unique statues that outlined the rights of the people in the new South Africa. Some of the rights include, equality for all and the right to own land. Next, we went to the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial which sparked many emotions. Hector Pieterson was a 13 year old boy from Soweto who was shot and killed on June 16, 1976 during the Soweto Uprising. Many school children gathered and protested the government plan to teach Afrikaans as their primary language in school instead of English. The police forcibly stopped the protest and started shooting into the unarmed crowd. Hector Pieterson was an innocent bystander during the protest and only one of the many children who was unjustly shot and killed by the police. There is a famous picture of a bleeding Hector Pieterson being carried by a local Soweto resident named Mbuyisa Makhubu. The moving image shows Hector’s older sister running alongside Makhubu as he flees the horror carrying her dead brother. The picture was published worldwide making it possible for the world to learn what was really happening during apartheid South Africa.
After the Museum, Mama Thandi took us to Mandela’s home where he lived for 15 years before being imprisoned. Mandela lived in Orlando West, Soweto, at 8115 Vilakazi Street. The house was built in 1945 and he moved in the following year with his wife Winnie Mandela and their children. After Mandela was released from prison, he returned to his home and was only able to stay for 11 days because he had no privacy from the media. His home has been renovated as a museum and has original furniture and belongings inside. This famous street is also the home to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Interestingly enough this is the only street in the world to have two Nobel Peace Prize winners living on it, Mandela and Tutu.
Our last stop of the day was the Regina Mundi Catholic Church. This church was the site of numerous protest planning meetings after the Soweto Uprising. This church was symbolic during the Soweto Uprising because it was the only open building nearby the protest that students were able to run into seeking safety. Police followed the students inside and bullet holes can still be seen where they opened fire on the church. The church opened in 1962 and is the largest Catholic church in Soweto. It can seat up to 2,000 people.
Overall, today was a great day! Physically being at the historical places where many important events happened during the apartheid era such as the Soweto Uprising, really put all of what we learned from class into a deeper perspective.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more! To our families, we miss you!
Izzy, Jason, and Marlon