feature: south africa youth day 2016 remembers the soweto youth uprising of 1976 and looks towards the future

June 16, 2016

South Africa’s Youth Day 2016 is commemorating the Soweto youth uprising of June 16, 1976, where thousands of school children in Johannesburg protested the then Apartheid government’s decision to educate South Africans in the foreign language of Afrikaans. In the middle of early winter, the children squared off with the South African Police force (SAP) who hurled teargas and showers of bullets at the student protestors. This year, Youth Day 2016 aims to celebrate their sheer act of bravery and push for a united front moving forward. Problem is, the violent, anti-black rhetoric of the SAP of 40 years ago is all but in the past. And like many countries around the world, police brutality in South Africa still comes in the form of an inflated, militarized police force that inflicts unnecessary violence, sustains a shoot to kill mentality and automated suspicion of citizens with darker skin. Where events like the 2012 Marikana mine incident when police killed 34 miners on strike still linger in the community’s psyche. It’s impossible for black South Africans not to ask, has anything really changed? And if so, is that change worth celebrating? Learn more about post-Apartheid South Africa in MTV’s The People Versus The Rainbow Nation documentary, below.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

Campaigners want a statue of the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes in Oxford to be removed. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Police clash with student protesters outside Parliament in Cape Town on Oct. 21 2015— PICTURE: ADRIAN DE KOCK

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at erin@afropunk.com.