Thank the youth of 1976 for the South Africa 2010 Fifa World Cup today
Christine Davis, AAYMCA communications volunteer
On 16 June 2010, International Day of the African Child, amidst
Africa's 2010 Fifa World Cup frenzy, the Africa Alliance of YMCA's
can't help but look back on history and give an appreciative nod in
awe to the youth this day marks and celebrates.
International Day of the Africa Child is celebrated every June 16 as
a testament to the power of children's and youth voices and action.
It is in fact, an international reminder, that on 16 June 1976 in
Soweto, South Africa, a peaceful march by South African school
children turned violent and become a significant contributor to the
eventual decline of South Africa's Apartheid system.
It seems remarkable then that a little over 30 years later, a new
generation of African children and youth are marching to a different
song on the streets of South Africa during the 2010 Fifa World Cup
because of the sacrifices made by other children on this date. They
clutch and call on their vuvuzelas, clothed in their country's
colours, faces flag-painted as they march through streets and
stadiums calling support for their national teams and if their team
isn't playing, calling support to any African team that is.
Soccer is Africa's biggest sport. It is played by the poor and the
wealthy across race, culture, gender and religious differences in
schools, streets and stadiums throughout Africa. It is a sport that
relies on the contribution the one can make to the many and the
support the one can provide in achieving the goals all strive for.
For the first time on African soil, Africa's favourite sport is being
played by Africa's youth, on the world's most important international
stage and the youth of Soweto in 1976 are in large part responsible
Without the 1976 Soweto Uprising, there is little doubt that
international pressure for a South African regime change would not
have been as forceful or effective. The state sanctioned murder of
hundreds of children at the hands of South Africa's police force
acted as a powerful visual call to action and intensified the ongoing
international embargo's placed on South Africa's economy.
The youth of 1976 understood the pressure of the world they were
fighting against. They understood their voices would be silenced and
made invisible by the state-controlled media, understood that the
politics of the time would not listen, understood even that the sheer
numbers of their voices would act as a threat and that political
response would be swift and unforgiving. But, the youth understood
also, that the quality of life they led was dictated and determined
by a carefully orchestrated system of controls and limitations. They
were subject to the biased and manipulative influences of a powerful
few who would never allow them to experience a full citizenship to
the country within which they were born. Yet, despite all they were
facing, they stood, marched and demanded change, and received it.
Through their acts, Africans throughout the continent are now able to
watch their national teams compete and challenge each-other, and go
further by supporting all African teams who battle against countries
across from Africa's oceans.
New media technologies in 1976, such as televisions which are
commonplace in many households now, worked against South Africa's
tight control of the internal press and globally distributed now
famous images of children, still wearing their school clothes, as
they ran frightened and carrying the bleeding and broken bodies of
their fallen friends from their police. The voices, images and cries
of the fallen hundreds and their need for a better education system
were carried to a world-wide audience. The voices of the African
youth, their message of peace met with brutality, became the symbol
of the inherent power youth represent, of a need to move youth from
subjects of control and manipulation to fully recognised and
incorporated citizens working towards a betterment of society for
all. Those same media technologies, evolving into today's free social
media platforms have become the spaces youth themselves can control.
In the end what began as little more than a peaceful march by youth
speaking out against an inferior education became a significant push
in the fall of an unjust system. Today, in part because of those
youth, the world convenes on African soil in a democratic space to
peacefully compete, but also to celebrate the best their countries
have to offer. Today, Africa's youth showcase their pride at their
citizenship and their belonging to countries that have learned
through the actions of generations of youth before them, to accept
and nurture their power.
The Africa Alliance of YMCA's salutes the past youth of Africa on
this day and pays tribute to them for shaping our understanding of
the power youth play as active citizens. We celebrate the positive
contribution Africa's youth and children are currently making for
positive change in our continent and commit our movement to continue
our efforts to transform youth from subjects to citizens.