Reconcile the Two

Writing the last blog entry is no easy task. I am charged with tying 10 days of intense content into a nice, neat bow. However, despite trying, I cannot bring myself to do so because it would mean oversimplifying an experience that has been so nuanced, so messy, so complex. For this reason, I dreaded the walk to the room in which we would conduct our final reflection on the morning of May 27th. I was not yet prepared to speak on my experience in South Africa. I knew that I would need so much more time to sit down and unpack all of the information I had acquired on this journey. Fortunately, the almost 16 hour-long plane ride back to the United States gave me the chance to start this process.

I watched through the airplane window as we parted with South African soil and soared into the sky. I had an incredible view of the awe-inspiring South African landscape. I was completely overwhelmed by the reflection of the sun on the deep blue waters, the diverse array of birds speckling the horizon, and the lush plant life clothing the bare mountains. The scene was nothing short of paradisaical. However, as I moved my gaze towards the cities I could see the geography of Apartheid. I observed the distinct separation between homes in historically black townships, many of which lacked electricity, and homes in historically white suburbs, which boasted property values of millions of rands. I was confronted yet again with this juxtaposition that seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the trip. On one day, I would be inconsolably forlorn by the images of children being shot in the streets by police officers at the Hector Pieterson Museum. On another day, those images would be overshadowed by the excitement of watching two elephants caressing during our safari at the Aquila Reserve. These varying experiences make it incredibly difficult to say with simplicity how this journey to South Africa has been for me. As we drew closer to our destination, I wondered what I would say to my family and friends who would ask the inevitable question, How was your trip?

In this age of social media, one often feels pressured to share only the beautiful and the perfect. However, my experience in South Africa has taught me that we must, too, come to terms with the ugly and the imperfect if positive change is to be effected. As I share my experience in South Africa with my family and friends I will be sure to tell not only of the magnificence of Table Mountain, one of the 7 wonders of nature, but also of the injustices that South Africans of color continue to face post-Apartheid. Frankly, the horrors of Apartheid are just as much a part of the story of South Africa as is the glory of its natural beauty. To exaggerate the positives would be as great an injustice as to exaggerate the negatives. In life, we can choose to emphasize the details we like and downplay the details that we do not, but I have learned that this only breeds more of the prejudice and bias that separates us. In order for true reconciliation to occur we must first acknowledge the whole truth, and the truth is, this trip to South Africa has been both amazing and horrifying—and that is okay.


Mariah Dozé is a rising junior in the College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University. She is double-majoring in sociology and African American studies. Her passions include social justice, staying active, singing, and spending time with her family. 

Hope in Khayelitsha

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Today marked the final day of activities for the 2018 Journeys South Africa trip. Our trip concluded with a powerful visit to the vibrant township of Khayelitsha. This township represents the often-forgotten side of Cape Town, located miles away from the pristine coasts and high-rise buildings displayed on post cards and plastered on television advertisements. Although the government seems to have given up on this community, the people have certainty not.

We experienced the resiliency of the people firsthand through our visit to the newly developed Siki’s Kofee Kafe. Located in an informal settlement on a side road in the township, the cafe appears unmistakably different than the cafes that dot Cape Town’s waterfront, but its significance cannot be compared. From the moment we entered the cafe, the amount of creativity displayed in such a small setting was truly amazing. Aside from the delicious coffee, the best part of this cafe was the message of hope and ambition it sent into this undeserved community by sheer nature of its existence. Bustling with black young adults working on laptops, black children reading books on the couches, and black adolescent baristas brewing coffee, this small cafe directly contradicted the popular stereotypical sentiments that label such communities as hopeless. In fact, to see a black-owned business succeeding despite the lack of available resources, represented the potential that residents of townships all over the country possess. last day 4

It truly feels that the experience in Khayelitsha was the perfect way to cap off our Journeys trip. In a trip that centered around the legacies of the dark era of Apartheid, viewing firsthand the innovation and inspiration displayed amongst the younger people in the townships has been most memorable for me. As with most countries with histories of conflict, South Africa has a long way to go before it can appropriately heal from the scars of injustice and inhumanity. What remains crystal clear, though, is that there are still too many communities like Khayeltisha in the country that are undervalued and ignored. One need not but to spend just a day in any one of these townships to see the ingenuity and resilience of the communities that could serve as a lesson for the whole country.

last day 1

As we prepare to depart this beautiful land, it is my hope that one day I will return and find a country that has grown and learned from itself. A country where black youth feel important, empowered and included in the makeup of the fabric of the country. A country where not only the political power, but also the economic power accurately reflects the makeup of the country. Finally, a country where the citizens are not made to feel that they have to forgive and forget the White structural racism and oppression that held them hostage in their own land – but still are able to move forward to create a just society where no such systems can ever exist again.

Micah Lewis is a rising sophomore at Emory University interested in issues of public health, politics, and social justice.

Healing and Reconciling Across Generations

We kicked off the morning with a reflection. We discussed a range of topics, but what stood out to me most was the discussion about how younger generations interact with older generations. This is a theme that has connected just about every day of our trip – the dynamic between the old guard and the new.

Specifically, we talked about where the responsibility lies to make sure that history is passed on. Should young people ask their parents and grandparents about their lived experiences?

What obligation do elders have to tell young people their stories, even when it is painful or embarrassing? What if many of those experiences were traumatic and difficult to recount? On the other hand, what if those experiences tell a story of complicity with oppression?

How can the education system and the community ensure younger generations understand their history? How can the media retell historical stories to this end? What happens to our relationships, politics and society when they fail?

We left for Robben Island perhaps with more questions than answers.madiba1

At the Clock Tower down by Cape Town’s waterfront we got onto a ship called Madiba 1 and jetted quite speedily across the freezing Atlantic water to the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he served. Incredibly, our tour was led by a man who was also held at the prison. In the 60s, he was arrested for attending a meeting in which he and other young students were planning a political protest. He was charged with terrorism and spent five years on Robben Island’s prison. It was moving and sobering to hear from someone who lived through the terrible conditions of the prison, which he described in some detail.danielle

He also described a tension between the older political prisoners and the younger ones like himself. When he and other younger activists arrived, they viewed the older prisoners as submissive to the unjust prison conditions. They couldn’t understand why they weren’t fighting back. Little did they know, he explained, that the conditions of the prison when the young people arrived were actually improved in many ways from what they were to begin with because of the efforts of the older prisoners.

This deeper understanding and appreciation of what came before may be one key to the continuity of progress across generations.

We then explored Cape Town’s central business district and many people practiced their bartering skills for gifts to bring back home. Finally, we spent the evening in the historically Muslim Malay district of Cape Town called Bo-Kaap. On our way to dinner, we happened upon a protest led by the community against the negative effects of gentrification. It was a beautiful mass laid out in the street.

Finally, we were honored to have an incredible Malay meal at Biesmiellah Restaurant.

​Danielle Douez is a ​graduate of Emory University Class of 2013. She works as a politics editor for The Conversation, a non-profit media organization that seeks to bring the ideas and knowledge of academia to the public through journalism. She loves horseback riding and chocolate chip cookies.

Perspectives: Understanding the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa

Today was one of the best days since I’ve been in Capetown. We began the morning at an Art Center in a township named Langa. The theater program there aimed to create opportunities in schools & the community for Black South Africans to express themselves and their own stories through the arts. We watched a performance exploring “dom passes” which were passes all non-whites had to carry to travel throughout the country. The two main actors included us, the audience, by randomly assigning us pass cards or green cards which have gained use in post-apartheid South Africa that require Black South Africans that entire gated communities, largely white, to show identification cards when requested. We were forced to look down & keep quiet as they asked for our names & reasons being outside of areas where our dom pass didn’t give us jurisdiction. The experience was a lot to take in & reminded me much of how my ancestors must have felt in similar experiences in America being Black. We interacted with many high school students at the Art Centers and I talked to students who say that life is still extremely hard for Black South Africans. The artists choice of word & movements evoked us all to glance back at history to offer context of the new reality of Black South Africans. Some Black people have found post-apartheid life far from substantial and many young people blame Mandela & the ANC. There is also another perspective provided by an older generation.

We met with Rev. Peter a pastor in Methodist church in Simon’s Town and heard his personal narrative on his work with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission & Mandela. He described three key reasons why he believes South Africa failed the TRC one was the lack of prosecutors unwilling to prosecute perpetrators following their confessions, economic reparations for Black folk being slow unlike amnesty for white perpetrators of crimes during apartheid, and whites unwillingness to move beyond their privilege and create a better South Africa. The TRC was a space where victims could share their stories and perpetrators could receive their amnesty from crimes committed under apartheid. Rev Peter argued it provided healing & forgiveness for a country ok the brink of Civil War. This helps to understand the implications of the TRC in the larger community & how I can learn from the incredible stories of strength to be able to forgive the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes.


Overall these experiences have shaped me personally in the ways I engage with my history in the States and how I can begin to unpack and use the history of South Africa to change and reshape my own communities.

Bobbye Hampton is a rising senior double majoring in Human Health & African American Studies pursuing education post her undergraduate degree.


Juxtapositions in Justice

What is justice?

Unfortunately, as individuals confined to the present, we cannot erase the atrocities of the past.  Whether it be in the de facto segregation within Stellenbosch or the de jure economic realities that still haunt the majority of black and coloured South African communities, the ramifications of apartheid are omnipresent.  I have been particularly interested in how South Africans, as individuals, face their own historical injustices.

There is an intriguing age gap in perspectives.

Many of the “born free” generation of South Africans, people who were raised after the apartheid government had been dissolved, are dissatisfied with democracy and the present-day situation.  I was surprised to learn that most of the “born free” generation considers both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a government body chaired by Desmond Tutu that dealt with human rights violation through forgiveness and amnesty, and former President Nelson Mandela, to have failed them.  For many of the “born free”, justice is rooted in change within their own communities and restitution (the reclamation of stolen lands during the apartheid era).  Restitution is very bureaucratic process that has gained international attention after the controversial amendment to Section 25 of South Africa’s Constitution allowing the expropriation of white land without any compensation.  Uma Mesthrie, a professor at the University of the Western Cape and scholar on restitution, defended the amendment and argued that the South African government should not pay historical oppressors vast sums of money for land that they had originally stripped away from black South Africans in areas like District Six.  To many of the “born free” justice will not be served until they get their lands back and opportunity is equalized throughout South Africa.  For them, injustice was not settled by the election of Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) in 1994.  In contrast, many older South Africans have different interpretations of the past and views on justice.

One of the tour guides I met was Ricky Marais.   Ricky lived through apartheid as a coloured person and was subjected to dog attacks, beatings, and multiple arrests.  Despite many instances of oppression, Ricky revealed to me that he finds justice by moving on: “I will not be chained by the past.  Life can be wonderful if you choose to see it that way.”  The juxtaposition between Ricky’s views of justice with that of the “born free” generation is an interesting and important contrast.  Ultimately, the only individuals who can dictate where they find their own form of justice are those who were degraded in the first place.  Whether the route to justice is through a conversation or the reclamation of land, South Africa will never be able to move on until affected individuals have their injustices addressed.  One day, I hope each South African can come to terms with their own form of justice and finally find peace that they so deserve.  Until then, the nation will continue grappling with its past and the struggle of finding justice.


Nick Pernas is a rising sophomore at Emory’s Oxford College where he studies Political Science, History, and Religion.  Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Nick is an avid Trail Blazers fan and enjoys listening to a combination of hip-hop, soul, afro-funk, and reggae in his spare time. 

Have Faith

day 1

“Indeed God holds the Heavens and the Earth from falling apart. And if they should fall apart; there is none who can sustain them except for Him. Indeed he is forbearing and oft forgiving,” (Al-Quran 35:41) read the stunningly beautiful Arabic calligraphy at the center of the magnificently decorated main dome of the Nizamiya Masjid complex in Midrand, Johannesburg. The place was beaming with energy as hundreds of faithful, including families and children, opened their day long fast. Minutes earlier a beautiful rendition of the call to prayer rang through the evening sky to mark the end of the 4th day of fasting in this blessed month of Ramadan. Afterwards a delightful meal was followed by our group sitting in a circle inside the Masjid to learn more about the place, space, and faith tradition. Once we were done taking photographs we were encouraged to try a special, hot beverage, called Sa’lip. It was delicious! Faith communities played an important role in bringing apartheid to an end. Have faith?

Faith, ushered in the day for us at a beautiful church called St. John The Evangelist United Church in Sandton, Johannesburg. During the service we were invited to share a little about ourselves and in turn were greeted with meaningful blessings. The pastor who led the service made us laugh consistently. He possessed a great sense of humor and in his lighthearted way implored through gesture to clutch our bags close in Johannesburg! “That is our reality!” he exclaimed.  At the conclusion of the service our group was invited for hot tea after which a short discussion on reconciliation that added depth to our perspective through witness to history and wisdom from experience. “The Truth and Reconciliation may have prevented a civil war…people were stocking up their cupboards thinking a war was coming. The war never came”. Have faith?

This night the gentleman who sat next to me at dinner calmly shared, “we suffered a lot [under apartheid]”. Then he repeated it…if you were in the city, you had to find an early transport out because exactly at nine o’clock you could be arrested. Even if you were waiting in line at the bank, the police would still pick you out [of the line] and arrest you. We suffered a lot”, He had a warm, peaceful, and joyful aura. This was just one human being moving forward after the horrors of apartheid. Have faith?

Dr. Isam Vaid
Muslim Religious Life Scholar
Emory University, Office of Spiritual and Religious Life

My name is Thabo

We have seen mankind’s start from millions of years ago, here in Africa, horrible atrocities committed by the Nationalist government, along with the positive and negative aspects of the TRC. We have visited the Apartheid Museum, Wits Museum, and had the pleasure of visiting Soweto where we toured Mandela House and the Hector Peterson Museum. With all this being said, nothing meant more than when I received my own African name.

We were at St. John’s Church, Sunday morning and were introduced to the congregation as their Emory University friends from the United States. Pastor Maake Masango, stated that there were chocolate brown visitors as well in our group whose ancestors were taken from their home land of Africa and now that we are home, he would give us an African name; I was so elated that I began to cry.  I am Thabo, which means the bringer of joy! I will never forget that moment.

day 4

It’s Tuesday, 6:00AM in the Western Cape and a breezy 53 degrees outside as we wait for powdered tea and coffee. The spiritual whirling of the air and the noise of the animals keep you on your toes as we wait for the morning safari to begin.

Dawn has not come, the rain is light, but the wind is high.  The terrain is rough in our TATA vehicle. Suddenly, we hit a bump and I fly out of my seat, thankfully landing on my feet. We come to a stop and there is a hippo to the right out of water. You normally can’t see them in the day unless they are in water so for us, this was a real treat.

We trudge along the craggy terrain and see a zebra on the left and a camouflaged giraffe zebraon the right. The zebras kick is 5 times the strength of the horse and the giraffe’s kick is 10 times stronger than the zebra. We saw the buffalo, the wildebeest, lions, ostrich, springbok, rhino, elephant and then concluded the safari by received a grand view of the hippos in water.

After the safari, it’s back to the resort for breakfast and then the bus headed to the outskirts of Worcester headed to Stellenbosch.  On the way, we visited Victor Verster Prison, now called the Groot Drakenstein correctional facility. This facility is where Nelson Mandela spent his final months of imprisonment. A bronze statue of Mandela shows him with a raised fist.


Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 and is said to be the birthplace of the Apartheid where thousands of Africans were displaced from their homes and given shacks to live in. As you ride through the town, you see all of the beautiful homes and high-end shops, including the university. Immediately, outside of town, you see miles of shacks where people lived in the past and still currently live, simply because of the color of their skin. This journey has and continues to weigh heavy on my heart. It is my hope that all who read these blogs learn from the past and wish for positive change in our future.

I am Thanicia Childs, Emory alumni and a proud employee of Emory University’s Office of the General Counsel. 


Reflections on Day 3 of the JOURNEY

It’s been a powerful trip thus far, and we have seen many things that have caused deep reflection, pain, hope, and joy. Much like the United States, South Africa is a complicated nation with a complicated history. Reverend Maki said it best yesterday when he stated that being in another country helps one reflect better on one’s own country. Facing the pain of apartheid, and the false narrative of white supremacy in South Africa, can better help us face the same things back home in the United States.

safari entranceIn the midst of these conversations, we arrived today at the Aquila private game preserve where we went on our first of two safaris. In spite of all the complicated history, the awe of mother nature and creation was on full display today. Seeing what they call in South Africa “the big five” (Cape buffalo, leopard, lion, rhinoceros, and elephant) brought clarity to the reality that we are all on this planet together and we are all deeply connected to each other, to our environment, and to the Divine. These animals demonstrate the power and majesty of mother nature, and that our actions as humans have wide consequences on all the animal kingdom. We are striving to be present with each other and this beautiful country as we work through these meaningful conversations and seek to be a force for good.

Take a look at some of the sites from today’s safari:

Rev. Dr. Joshua M Noblitt is a 2018 graduate of the Doctor of Ministry program at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He is one of the pastors at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta and has a private psychotherapy practice. He can be reached at

Into the Dark and Deadly Heart of Apartheid.

Our second day in Johannesburg began on a cool morning with a smooth bus ride under a blue sky and a glistening sun. We passed fields that, above and below ground, once produced nearly 1,500 tons of gold and left vast hillsides poisoned by cyanide and coated by yellow sand unable, decades later, to produce trees, bushes or any sign of green growth. We drive within range of the Gold Reef Casino and the Gold Reef theme park, with its towering thrill rides, then come to our destination: The Apartheid Museum.

Apartheid Museum entranceOur tickets tell us whether we enter as whites or non-whites through entrances designated for each. Those of us who are designated non-white quickly encounter a stray pigeon that has gotten trapped inside the building. At a door that leads tourists outside, the pigeon is standing on an overhead ledge where he faces a clear glass window. He flaps his wings, tries to fly out, hits the glass, and falls down; he tries again and again and again. Finally, our tour guide Brian Gough Palmer recruits a tall tourist to gently scoop the pigeon backward off the ledge. The bird gets traction in the air, turns toward the open door and flies low through the door to freedom. His easy freedom was unlike anything we would witness inside the museum for the next 90 minutes.

The museum paid tributes to two giants of the anti-apartheid movement who died recently – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Hugh Masakela. Unsurprisingly, the museum’s next focus is on Nelson Mandela. We proceeded along a labyrinthine course that, due partly to construction and detours and poor signage, was confusing, out of chronology and lost its clarity and impact. In fact, from start to finish, the museum was difficult to navigate.

But the strength of the museum is its presentation of the history of apartheid – the raw, racist, and thoroughly comprehensive and methodical exclusion of blacks from every opportunity to achieve, far short of equality, mere visibility. This was unlike anything we experienced in the U.S., even in the South; South Africa was a Mississippi Jim Crow mentality spread out over an entire nation, but by white supremacist leaders who were smarter, savvier and more devious that just about any of the leaders of the government of Mississippi, the white Citizens Council or the government’s spy agency, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. On a wall listing the South African government’s quiet, legislative carpet bomb attack on freedom, I counted 148 laws and proclamations the government enacted to remove blacks from the lives of whites throughout South Africa.

In the U.S., Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi only talked about sending blacks back to Africa; in South Africa, the government in the early 1960s stripped blacks of their right to own land, forcibly removed them from their homes in the cities, moved them to far-flung townships with non-existent or poor public transportation, and put them in small, cement-block government-built homes that had metal roofs and no electricity.

Here’s another important distinction between South African leaders of the apartheid period and, say, Bilbo or Ross Barnett in Mississippi or George Wallace in Alabama, or Gene Talmadge in Georgia. The South Africans – Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd in the 1960s, for example, or Paul Sauer, Minister of Land, and others who came before and after, were not hysterical podium pounders. In televised speeches and interviews the museum featured, they explained their brutal and intractable tactics, and the ideology behind them, with calm voices, solemnity and simple metaphors. But these were maniacal men whose words unleashed authorized thuggery that routinely killed blacks not in twos and threes but by the dozens.

When we emerged from the museum, the first sound we heard was disconcerting. Not some fugue music to prolong our somber mood, but the sounds of kids, free to terrorize themselves, screaming in fear and joy as they rode thrill rides at the nearby Gold Reef theme park.

The entire day was not devoted entirely to the past. We visited with Keval Harie, (pictured) director of GALA, Gay Lesbian Memory in Action. While serving an advocacy role for current concerns of the LGBTIQ+ community in South Africa and beyonKeval Harie, director, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Actiond, GALA also has also embarked on the ambitious and important project of gathering and preserving a history of LGBTIQ life on the Africa continent. GALA has been gathering private and institutional collections of papers related to LGBTIQ history and lived experiences from across the continent. The archive, which has letters, oral histories, photograph albums, news articles, personal possessions and organization records, drew 120 local and international researchers last year, Harie said, and has served 50 so far this year.

We headed next to Soweto, the townships southwest of Johannesburg where the South African government forced blacks to move beginning in the late 1940s. It’s quite remarkable to drive through these streets, to see so many decrepit houses, fetid streams, insufficient municipal services and then to run into two homes, probably not more than 400 yards from each other, that produced Nobel Peace Prize winners – Nelson Mandela, who became president of South Africa, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Soweto is changing as it witnesses new home construction, but that can hardly change the overall image of poverty that the newcomer sees.

Soweto holds on to its past as a stark reminder of the inhumanity that poisoned it for so long. A critical and defining moment in that past is found at the Hector Pieterson Museum, named after one of the 27 people shot dead on June 16, 1976, during what became known as the Soweto Uprising. Schoolchildren, opposed to a new requirement that they learn the Afrikaans language, began a series of protests that very quickly brought an overreaction from fully armed government forces in tanks.

Soon, gunfire felled Hector Pieterson, who was 12 years old. His lifeless body, showing blood from apparent gunshots to his face, was picked up by a neighbor who ran with him through the streets. Hector’s sister ran alongside, screaming hysterically. We know this because newspaper photographer, Sam Nzima, captured that awful moment in several frames. The riveting photograph, which circulated the world, instantly captured the excessive government effort to shut down the student protest. Nzima, by the way, spent many years trying to claim rights to the photograph. The government harassed him, his newspaper was shut down, and it took him until 1998 to succeed in claiming rights to the photograph. Nzima, it turns out, died only a week before we visited the museum. (Thank you, Danielle Douez, an Emory alum and Atlanta journalist on our trip, for informing us of this).

Sam Nzima photograph of a lifeless Hector Pieterson, carried by a friend while Hector's sister runs alongsideProf. Pamela Scully views her father's painting of a black Madonna, at Regina Mundi Church

Our final site visit was to Regina Mundi Catholic Church, the largest Catholic Church in South Africa. There was a personal connection for us. The dominant work of art in the church is a massive painting, “The Madonna and Child of Soweto,” which portrays a black Mary holding a black Jesus; the painting was presented to the church in 1974. The artist was the late Laurence Scully, a South African whose daughter, Pamela Scully, is one of our trip leaders. Prof. Scully, who has been a professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and of African studies at Emory University, is the university’s new vice provost for undergraduate education – and essential to all we have learned on this trip.

The day ended gloriously with dinner at the home of Ayesha Kajee, who has been a front-line humAyesha Kajeean rights activist, writer, consultant and force of nature in South Africa. We were pleased to meet her friends Gillian Anstey, a former journalist with the South African Sunday Times, and Buff Bafokeng, an electronic engineer.




Our end-of-day reflection, led by Bobbye Hampton and Nick Pernas turned into a lively discussion. Nick noted that museums devoted to our violence against each other are helpful to understanding. But he wondered, wisely, how long the violence must continue.

P.S. One final, fitting note: Subsequent to our Day 2 experiences, I was reminded that Nelson Mandela, when asked what he missed the most during his 27 years in jail, said he missed the sound of children. So in retrospect, perhaps the sound of screaming children at the theme park across from the Apartheid Museum shouldn’t have been so disconcerting to me. Maybe I should have seen it as the soundtrack of a new South Africa.

Blog contribution by Hank Klibanoff, an Emory professor in Creative Writing; co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Race Beat; and creator and host of the narrative podcast, Buried Truths, which is based on research and stories developed by the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory.

First Day Foundations

day 1

Yesterday was our first full day in South Africa! We decided to face the jet lag head on, starting the morning off at Origins Centre in Johannesburg. In this museum, we could trace back the earliest humans, all stemming from Africa. From stone art to arrow heads to skulls, evidence of the first human species was at our fingertips. This was truly the best place to begin. The Origins Centre was created after apartheid to rewrite history that had been erased or distorted. The museum demonstrated Afrocentric ingenuity and history, highlighting the sophistication of people frequently misrepresented. Reconciliation requires recognition and reparations. This museum took the first step in that process by acknowledging a vast history that had been warped and hidden due to Eurocentric history and colonialism. Taking the time to document and display part of this history is a fundamental step in creating a foundation of reconciliation. Taking the time to view the museum was a fundamental step for us in creating our own foundation of what reconciliation can and should be.

After our museum tour, we had the opportunity to meet with a group of people who work at the Center for Applied Legal Studies. Our conversation centered around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, land reparations, and the legal framework of apartheid. Personally, I could’ve talked with them for hours. Each person brought so much important personal, historical, political, and legal knowledge to the conversation. Through our dialogue, the disillusionment of South Africa became more and more clear. In a way, this brought me some small hope because the first step in fixing a problem is recognizing that there still is one. If people in South Africa are still suffering from disenfranchisement and economic woes, there can be no free and just South Africa. I’m thankful the legal scholars reflect the work that still must be done before there is liberation. Our conversation also highlighted the large institutional and international backing of apartheid. Foreign governments directly assisted South Africa in persecuting black citizens in the 20th century. That happened. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had many problems, and one of which was the individualized nature of the commission. One person acting as a scapegoat does not represent or signify the businesses, schools, companies, countries, prisons, law enforcement, and more that upheld and enforced the unjust system of apartheid. Accountability needs to happen, and while the TRC attempted to provide this, it largely failed. Hearing that something so highly regarded outside of the US such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has failed in its job forces further questions. What does this say about image portrayal? Then what is the best solution or step for reconciliation? How do you hold institutions and governments accountable? What does reconciliation look like in South Africa? What could it look like in the US? As we continue on this journey, I’m eager to find some possible answers and develop more questions. 

Julianna Nikodym is a rising senior in the College majoring in American Studies and minoring in Anthropology. Born and raised in St. Louis, she plans to write her senior capstone paper about South Africa and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Julianna is an avid Cardinals baseball fan and a proud member of the Beyhive.