* Seth Naicker says you’ve got to be willing to walk the talk in honouring and commemorating the Youth of June 16th 1976. *
The youth of 1976 stepped out from Morris Isaacson High School and marched down the dusty streets of Soweto, perhaps without all their ducks in a row. But there was a projected hope, a projected goal and a projected intention to see South Africa as a country for all to enjoy their liberty, their equal access to opportunities and, more especially their access to the rights of all humanity being upheld.
The actions of these hundreds upon hundreds of young people may not have been well established or even fully thought through – perhaps there were those who marched just because of the hype. But whatever the reason for their presence in the march, the collective actions of the youth of 1976 brought the world’s attention to the harsh social realities and injustices of apartheid.
While the youth of June 16th 1976 will be remembered it is also important to acknowledge the youth of June 17th 1976 who, even after fully knowing the danger ahead, continued to march and voice their cries for the abolishment of a dysfunctional and demeaning education system.
In our everyday world there remain potent opportunities for people to take action to bring about healthy change. But there are many people who are trapped in a culture of inaction and passivity. We find young people unable to respond to the social pressures that plague the communities from which they come. The culture of acquiescence is disheartening but it is a reality when so-called responsible members of society go about their 9-to-5 lives without the heart and passion to realise a better social order of safe and healthy communities.
My work in youth and community development has shown me that young people are longing for a place that builds unity and allows individuals to develop personally and communally, a place where people can grow and become the best they can be, for their personal lives and for their communities.
Youth and communities today can draw wisdom and inspiration from the youth of 1976 while considering two important values that have the potential to inspire, motivate and realise what Dr Martin Luther King called the “beloved community”. These two values are being proactive and working as a team.
The youth of 1976 took the initiative to bring about change they required from their reality. Being proactive calls for us to anticipate instead of being reactive, but sometimes the journey requires for us to go the distance with trust and to be willing to engage even the unexpected.
While you can project and make calculations, being proactive is an exercise that calls one to move forward in action without having all the conclusive data and knowing all the possible ramifications of one’s actions. Our youth and communities can be proactive in dealing with the social pressures and evils that are killing our youth and communities.
Working as a team
The youth of 1976 created a movement through collective action which was purposed to bring about the demise and destruction of an oppressive regime. The marching, singing and vocal opposition to the apartheid regime and its enslaving education system was challenged through a collective voice. We can draw from these youth and their collective action to further inspire us on our journey building our youth and communities. Working as teams must encourage us to be who we are, propelling a notion of unity that is supportive of people being different but standing for a common cause.
Stay committed and stay on the path
While we honour the youth of June 16th, we must also honour the youth of June 17th who after having been through the turmoil of June 16th, returned to continue their vocal and demonstrative struggle. Such commitment and boldness of walking knowingly into the danger zone must be praised and encouraged.
Our youth of 2014 must also step out in the hope and belief that we may achieve and realise economic emancipation, but it takes those of us who have agency to become partakers in this assignment. We need to be bold enough to walk alongside those youth at risk, those who are marginalised, the hurting, the unemployed… Think of how your business or faith community can assist young people to change their beliefs and behaviours through practical and conceptual ways.
We need organisations to start a radical drive for employment. I have found that simply starting an intern- and volunteer programme can put young people on a path toward success. I have seen internships and volunteerism result in up-skilled young people, who are able to navigate and broker their way through the tough terrain.
If you have the will, resource and organisational power, create an internship today – even if it only offers a basic salary. Just imagine if every church, mosque, temple and synagogue prioritised taking on a youth intern. Just imagine if every small business, huge corporate or every non-profit empowered young people through internships?
May our youth and communities today be encouraged to take on the social evils of our 21st century. More specifically, may we be bold in ensuring that our communities develop and grow into “beloved communities”. May each of us honour the legacy of the youth of 1976 by being willing to walk the distance and stay on the path to see our world change.
Seth Naicker is a Reconciliation Entrepreneur and a facilitator on the HEARTLINES Values & Money campaign.