Day 3, Johannesburg

Originally posted 1/4/18


Our group seems to be divided between those who slept like rocks, and those who did not. I, unfortunately, fell into the latter category. I've been assured that jet-lag doesn't last forever, so I'm hoping for better sleep tonight.

On a more positive note, beans for breakfast might be my newest favorite thing.

After our morning orientation session, we went to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The Apartheid was a large political movement in the twentieth century in Southern Africa that is most similar to the Jim Crow Laws and Civil Rights movement in America. After this January-term course is over and Spring semester starts, we will be writing a research paper on an Apartheid-related topic.

For lunch, we went to a large mall in Johannesburg, and afterwards we went to the Hector Pieterson Museum, a true "snapshot" of an event of the Apartheid. On June 16, 1976, black high school students from all over Soweto, just outside of Johannesburg, organized a marching protest against an apartheid law that proclaimed that high school coursework in math and science should be taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white Dutch colonists who were oppressing the non-white population.

The peaceful marching protest was escalated (exactly which side initiated the escalation is a controversial topic) into a violent situation, and Hector Pieterson, a 12 year old who was caught up in the march, was shot and killed, along with several others. A photographer captured what has become an iconic photograph in Apartheid history. The WiFi here won't let me upload the picture, so here is a link.

In the photo, the girl crying to the left of Hector is Antoinette Sithole (See-toh-leh). She was 16 in 1976, and Hector Pieterson was her younger brother. Now in her fifties, Antoinette was our tour guide and our lecturer for the afternoon, and she'll be with us tomorrow as well. We were lucky to be able to hear her story from that day in 1976. She had spotted her brother in the crowd minutes before he was shot and told him to stay close, as the situation was volatile. After he was shot, the man in the photo, Mbuyisa Mahkubo, ran with him to the nearest clinic, Antoinette close on his heels.

Antoinette was very receptive to our questions and shared with us lots of information about the museum and its monuments to that event. Having her with us today to teach us made a big impact on our group, and it opened our eyes to how complex the Apartheid, colonialism in Southern Africa, and the topics of race and racism really are.

Tomorrow, we're back with Antoinette again to continue with our tour of Soweto, then lunch at a local restaurant, and then all of us are going in pairs to do a two night home-stay with a host family. Not sure what the WiFi situation will be, but I'm loving getting to write and blog about this course so far!