Saturday, June 1, 2013

District 6

Today we went to District Six Museum.

I didn't have a clear idea of what District Six actually was until today. It was a Municipal District of Cape Town that was actually integrated and full of color and life. It was considered a "slum" but only because it was a lower-income area. It was a happy place where races coexisted as friends, peacefully. 

The apartheid government couldn't allow such a thing to exist. Apartheid means separation ("apartness") and the Nationalist Party government that instituted it could NOT allow such mixing of races, especially in light of the fact that it was a SUCCESSFUL area--living TOGETHER happily and peacefully. Such success flew in the face of all that apartheid stood for. SO....though Black resettlement had been in place for awhile, the blow came in 1966.

From the Museum website:
"In 1966 [District Six] was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers.
The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of these experiences and with the history of forced removals more generally."

We had the privilege of walking through along with a tour guide for part of the time. She was taking a group of five eager twelve-ish-year-old girls and her talk was so inspiring, it moved everyone within earshot to tears.  I felt tears running down my cheeks before I realized I was crying. I looked up to see Marti Benson in the same state. 

If I can at some point post the video of her talk, I will, but the point where I started crying was something like this:
"You can write poetry. You can say whatever you want. You can sue Zuma [President] if you want, because you are free. Under apartheid, we couldn't criticize the government. If you wrote a poem against apartheid, you would go to jail. I did. I went to jail." 

Reminders are everywhere, but as the girls responded to this talk, they said "We can't ever let that happen again." 

World, are you listening? 

1 comment:

Annie Miller said...

Tears here. Thank you for sharing.