Individual Reflections from our tour in Johannesburg on May 12, specifically Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum.
I was really moved by the power of collective resistance against oppression. And I was left asking myself what principles I am willing to die for. ^DD
Constitution Hill reminded me of the importance of space in creating change and striving for justice. Relics of the past can be used as thoughtful reminders for the future. ^BD
I was in awe of the hope in South Africa in light of all that has happened. It made me think of the U.S. and our continual inability to own the oppression we have caused. We have so much to learn from South African’s process of truth and reconciliation. ^MKB
Being in South Africa studying abroad and doing all of these wonderful things thus far has really caused me to look at my own privilege. I wish that everyone could have these opportunities, and it has been challenging to deal with the fact that I am here, gratefully, but also knowing many others cannot be. ^JK
The main thing that has stuck with me is the resiliency of the people in South Africa. Both during and after Apartheid they stayed hopeful and continued fighting for equality. The Apartheid Museum made me angry and sad, but also motivated to work towards the same goals in my community. I am incredibly grateful for this experience! ^D. White
Having the opportunity to view Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum, all I could reflect on was “forgiveness.” Many people in South Africa were fighting and killed; innocent people and those wanting freedom. Throughout the whole struggle they never gave up on hope, but forgiving those who hurt them has become a difficult challenge. As I view this challenge, I reflect on my own life and compare those who I haven’t forgiven to the individuals’ people in South Africa haven’t forgiven, and I feel silly. My challenges would never amount to the challenges they endured. ^V. Hunter
From the Apartheid Museum and Constitutional Hill the thing that sticks with me the most is “why?” Why were the black prisoners treated worse than the whites? (I know it’s about skin color) but can it be something more engrained? Weren’t they all, according to the law, criminals? How can such injustice have gone on so long? How can any government allow its people to be murdered in cold blood and do nothing (There is footage of them picking up their shell casings)? My heart is heavy. ^JT
I decided to shut all emotions off at the Apartheid Museum. I was so emotionally drained from Constitutional Hill that I knew another four hours of it would cause me to have a breakdown. As a black woman things like that tend to hit me a little harder than others. ^Anonymous
I felt anger. I wanted to yell. I wanted to run. I wanted to cry. I kept thinking to myself, “How can fellow man be so cruel to each other based on the color of one’s own skin?” I was in tears when I read about how the black Africans were treated in jail and in the mines. I was happy to see that South Africa has made great progress to ensure that Apartheid never happens again. ^L. Jones
Sometimes, the world can be a cruel, yet beautiful place – bittersweet. Humanity represents all that is divine and treacherous, and in some cases humanity uses divinity to wreak havoc and cruelty on itself. This narrative has been told and retold throughout history. Within each ring, each passing year, in the tree of humanity – stories are told of the triumphs and failures of (wo)man land. Wars have been waged, first world (core) countries colonize, societal constructs are created, resources are hoarded, heternormative\ norms are imposed, and Capitalism can consume one’s soul. Yet there is much to be said about all the beauty in the world that is created by humanity working with one another.
When the Civil Rights movement, the women’s lib movement, the anti-war movement, the sexual liberation movement, and the drug counterculture were all forming in the U.S., an Africanist fight for ending Apartheid was well underway in South Africa. It hasn’t been very long since Apartheid ended, the U.S. has never given the indigenous peoples from the states an opportunity to tell their story. Claiming an identity and having a sense of ownership over it is crucial for any group’s freedom.
The ANC and Nelson Mandela made it possible for an entire nation to address via atrocity. People were given a voice and an opportunity. Being able to learn about the strength of the people of Soweto and the passion for justice held by South Africans has confirmed my beliefs in what humankind is capable of. My faith in humanity has been improved.
In South Africa there is a term used, Ubuntu, which means humanism – A concern for the well-being of others. This concern for my fellow people has me anxious to come home and own my privilege through working for social justice.
“Motho ke motho ka batho” – A person is a person through other people ~ African proverb
Visiting the Apartheid Museum brought about a host of feelings and concerns for South Africans. Reading historical facts, quotations, along with visual aids brought this 48 year tragedy to life. As an African American woman, I must admit it was extremely difficult to envision this ordeal that many South Africans endured. It felt as if I was learning about the Civil Rights Movements all over again. The unfortunate aspect is that Apartheid, however has fairly recently ended and therefore is still fresh in the minds of South African people, young and old. “We are not anti-white. We do not hate the European because he is white, we hate him because he is the oppressor” – Robert Sobukwe, 1959 ^Keyah W.
Touring Constitutional Hill was inspiring. There was a painter who created pictures of what life was like behind bars. She was able to smuggle them out and share them with the world. She showed a bit of truth and the dangerous and degrading life behind bars. What stuck with me was the emptiness people who are arrested during apartheid were set free. The prison is used as a historical reminder of what was, the past has built into the present and future. Unlike the U.S. whom continues to overcrowd their prisons … looks to build and open more jails and prisons. It makes you wonder, who is really a criminal?
“Shutting those brave, just men away for long years in the brutal and degrading prisons of South Africa will leave a vacuum in leadership. With them will be interred this country’s hope for racial cooperation” – Chief Albert Luthuli
I was walking towards this room at the Apartheid Museum; there were these strange dark circles on the floor, it created this very scary feeling. When I walked in and looked up, the dark circles were the shadows of 50 or more nooses hung from the ceiling representing the numerous persons who were hung during their detainment during apartheid. When you believe so powerfully in something, death is just one of the millions of foreseeable and unforeseeable paths to obtaining that dream for all.
“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that enhances and respects the freedom of others” – Nelson Mandela ^D. Womeldorf
Today was hard. It wasn’t that I didn’t know these things were happening in our world… it’s more the fact that living in America I was protected from them. Never in my life have I been oppressed for reasons beyond my control – things I was born into. It hurts. I feel a sort of survivor’s guilt because while I was living a happy life in America, children my age in South Africa were being segregated, persecuted, tortured, and even killed. I will always be inspired by South Africa’s ability to demand the truth of what happened during the Apartheid era and to even offer forgiveness to those whose actions were truly horrifying. I am still trying to process what I experienced today. ^JE
Our day at Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum was an inspiring day. I wasn’t very sure what to expect at first but I ended up walking away from both experiences with a new respect for South Africa and its people. At Constitution Hill, seeing all of the places great men were kept and how they were able to survive prison with their spirits intact was amazing. The whole prison felt like a very powerful place. My favorite part was the Constitution Hall that all of the judges sat at. The meaning behind each and every brick, seat, floor, ceiling, and wall was awe-inspiring. It made me reflect on the United States and all of the symbols of power we have. Nothing about equality, it was all power. The constitution in South Africa was made in modern times, they are very lucky for this. Our constitution was made when all races besides whites were oppressed, women were oppressed, and LGBT were oppressed. The South African constitution leaves out nobody and ours feels so limited. I wish that the United States could take a clue from what they were able to do here in South Africa and not be so bent on tradition. I feel like South Africa has had an amazing opportunity to create a nation for themselves. Our trip to the Apartheid Museum only re-enforced my thoughts at Constitution Hill. Seeing the struggle and pain a whole nation endured and what they were willing to do about it was absolutely amazing to read about. I feel like the quality of their fight for equality exceeds I’ve ever seen from a group. The passion and conviction in their work was just amazing. Everyone, even school children, fought to have the human rights they felt every person should receive. I wish that people in America could care for their freedoms and justices just as much as these men and women did. After going through the museum and exhibit I had these profound thoughts, asking myself, “What is it I can do for others and the world?” It makes me think twice about how I live my life and how I want to live it. At the hotel I had a 2 hour discussion with Katrina on our thoughts and that banter really helped develop my feelings and thoughts towards South Africa and the amazing, beautiful people residing in it. ^Katrina V.