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Trip Report South Africa, Soweto A Sad History

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Nothing saddens my heart more than the death of the innocent especially when it involves children. Standing at the Hector Peterson Memorial in Soweto, I am taken back to a time when such an event occurred. Even today it is hard to imagine the horror when in June 1976 police opened fire on 15,000 student participating in a peaceful demonstration. On that sad day in South Africa's history about 600 students innocently lost their lives for a just cause.

Forever a Hero, Hector Peterson was one of the youngest victims in South Africa's struggle to free itself from an oppressive white minority ruled government. With sad consolation, it can now be said that Hector and may others did not sacrifice their lives in vain.

A more recognized proponent of South Africa's fight from an oppressive government lived not too far away from where the student uprising occurred on June 16th, 1976. At 8115 Orlando West, I am at the former home of Nelson Mandela which is now a museum. Here, one can get just a glimpse of the struggles of those who opposed the government. Bullet holes can still be seen on the exterior walls of the home and you can hear Mrs. Mandela share her side of the experience.

The museum also displays many of Nelson Mandela's memorabilia including letters written while he spent 27 years in prison, awards and gifts including a Title Belt from a fellow boxer like himself, Sugar Ray Leonard. In his struggle to free South Africa, Nelson Mandela went from prison, returned to Soweto, won the Noble Peace Prize and eventually became South Africa's President.

Today, Mr. Mandela is in his 90's and is believed to live somewhere in the Eastern Cape.

Although the museum itself is small, the things that happened here played a huge part not only in South Africa's past but also what it has become and will continue to be in the future. Today, what happened in Soweto many decades ago is proof that good can overcome evil, that all should live free of oppression.

Did you know that Archbishop Desmond Tutu another Nobel Peace Prize winner lives just blocks from 8115 Orlando West? I imagine it is a rare occurrence to have two Nobel Prize winners that are practically neighbors.

Understanding what occurred here, it is not surprising that both Mandela and Archbishop Tutu won this prestigious award. A due recognition of what happens when you represent the best of humanity and what we can all achieve when the human spirit is triumphant.


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