June 16, 1976

“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn't even know it.”

That is a famous quote from one of my favourite books, the Alchemist. 

As the month of June with all it's festivities comes to a close I reflect upon how far we, as a nation, have come. Yet, in the same breath, I am also saddened by how much we have forgotten.

I went scrolling through the net in search of a familiar picture that has become an iconic image of the 1976 Soweto Uprising in apartheid South Africa to us all and what I found broke my little heart. A couple of images enacting the famous photo of Hector Pieterson and fellow students only they somehow have managed to make a mockery of it. A couple, of what I imagine to be ignorant youths, depicting what June 16 means to them. I wondered if Tsietsi Mshinini and the class of ’76, if all those souls were alive today, what would that say. Better yet, how would they feel?

It is quiet normal for a generation to forget. It has been that way since the beginning of time. Just take a look at the children of Israel; classic example. But what scares me is how apathetic we are and have become with regards to things of a sacred nature. Please, don’t get me wrong, I am not a pessimist, quiet the contrary actually. But I fail to find the humour in making a mockery of a sacrifice made for me. A sacrifice that has granted me the privileges that I now enjoy. I fail to understand how is it that we can make a mockery of lives that were lost, blood that was shed, futures cut short, and stories left untold. I fail to find humour in that. Maybe I am too uptight; maybe I take life too seriously. But I do not wish to play a part in making a mockery of a life lost that mine can be made free. I refuse to walk around in ignorance because someone told me it’s blissful. By no means I am saying that we ought to be sad and walk around playing the victim role but we ought not to be so quick to forget either. 

This is our heritage. This is our legacy. This is our history. And if we fail to know, remember and honour those who have made the sacrifice how are we to preserve it, teach it, and pass it on to our future generation so that they too will continue to ensure that no such malice ever reoccurs ever again. How will we ever teach them to look back and say “yes, our forefathers knew. Our forefathers understood.”??? The brutal truth is that should we fail to honour the sacrifice then we can be assured that those who will come after us will continue to perpetuate our ill behaviour and that the sacrifices made for us and ones that we will have made will all be in vain and we will end up where it all began.

Therefore, let us take stock of our lives and remind ourselves of the things and moments that have shaped the course of  our lives. Let us honour the class of ’76 by leading a life of contribution.