For the past month I have been working at Yabonga a non-profit organization in Khayelitsha. Yabonga is an organization based in Cape Town that provides different levels of support to children and women who are infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS. My time at Yabonga has been indescribable. When we first stepped foot at the youth center, feelings of excitement, nervousness, anxiousness, curiosity, etc. filled my soul as we were about to embark on the most fulfilling 6 week journey of our lives.
One of the most fun-filled, enjoyable glimpses of the spirit of South Africa was during Youth Day celebrations at Yabonga. Youth Day commemorates the Soweto uprisings that occurred on June 16, 1976 by youths in Soweto who were responding to the implementation of Afrikaans as a means of instruction in the Bantu school system. The gap year students we had been working with were preparing portions of the event with the youth they work with on a daily basis. For instance, gap year students and their youth from Strand prepared a drama and dance piece for the event. Gap year students and their youth from Nyanga prepared poetry and dance pieces for the event. Every community part of Yabonga contributed to the Youth Day event, which was a stunning success. While we were only present for the rehearsals, the outstanding effort everyone put in during practice was breathtaking and truly warmed my heart.
Because the gap years were busy planning the youths’ activities, they forgot that they were also actors in the event. After 5 minutes of harmonizing and foot tapping to intricate beats, the group was ready. The result was a performance that gave everyone listening goosebumps.
After we applauded the gap year students in awe like tweens at a One direction concert, we decided to have some lunch and discuss what would take place the remainder of the day. By 1:00 pm the youths began to arrive and assemble for practice. What took place at the center was something I will never forget:
During the performance, Nandi, the youth coordinator at Yabonga, stopped a student that was rapping about his frustration towards being a youth in South Africa and remind him the importance of Youth Day. While I understood her message to him, his words resonated with me because they were sincere, true, and most importantly, 100% his.
After the end of apartheid, Mandela’s parliament along with Desmond Tutu established the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) in 1996 where anyone who felt they had been a victim of violence could come forward and be herd; perpetrators of violent acts during apartheid could also give their testimonies and request amnesty. The TRC was a fundamental part of South Africa’s journey towards healing and democracy. However, while some thought that the new generation would be able to live in racial harmony, reality is something many were blinded by due to the democratic euphoria that began to settle in South Africa.
The generation born in 1994 (when democracy in South Africa was established), referred to as the “Freedom Generation,” is a firsthand witness of the legacy of apartheid that exists today in South Africa. While youth today face a “new” struggle, unfortunately there is no TRC for them to report to and discuss the trials and tribulations they endeavor. However, Youth Day celebrations brought youth voices rising together; each voice empowered the other and was in perfect harmony- a testament to the strides South Africa has made not only in its history, but also for it’s people.
Arlene Bigirimana '16