By Jessica Iman J. Earlier this Summer, I traveled to South Africa to study Global Health Impediments through Jackson State’s Pas...
By Jessica Iman J.
Earlier this Summer, I traveled to South Africa to study Global Health Impediments through Jackson State’s Passport to the World Program. I had known since January, but it didn’t manifest until later that I was going to be traveling halfway around the world to a new country, a new continent! I made the mistake of over thinking my travel before it even began, at first. Would I make a good impression of myself? Will they understand dis (my) southern country accent? Calming some anxieties, a friend gave me some good advice. She told me to relax, be myself, be polite, smile, and communicate effectively with my new acquaintances. I was definitely excited to be leaving my life in Mississippi to discover what Cape Town, South Africa had to share. New cultures, new customs, history and new ways of thinking/learning were waiting to be discovered for any person experiencing a journey abroad. No matter what, I was getting ready to experience a whole new world! Preparation to travel even became exciting, from acquiring my passport to attending briefing classes on how to prepare and what to expect abroad. The 22-hour flight over was horrible. I get the worst motion sickness. Though once I set foot in Cape Town, it was all worth it. Arriving at the airport was surreal, little did I know that my perspective on life, liberation, and culture would be tremendously raised over just a 2-week period.
My first day in Cape Town, Western Cape Province was breathtakingly, beautiful (see pic above, that’s me). The magical scenery in the South African city of Cape Town can be seen from every and any point in the city. It was winter, but I learned quick the weather is very bipolar. Like the ones we have in MS, the weather refusing to decide whether it wanted to be winter or fall, but occasionally possessing a windy, tropical twist. Cape Town is situated between unique mountains and outlined by the coastal shores of the Atlantic Ocean. One of my most memorable sceneries would be Cape Point, where you can watch the Atlantic and Indian Ocean clash from view at the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Peninsula. Observing closely, I could see faintly where the deep blue waves met the soft blueish green waves. Seeing forces of nature at work like that was truly amazing. Geographically, the Cape of Good hope is located at the most south- westerly tip of the African continent. Along with the tour of the land, I got a chance to visit some historical places. Robben Island, the political prison Nelson Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned, and District Six, a residential area where 60,000 residents were forcibly removed during the 1970s, to name a few.
Aside discovering wonderful Cape Town’s physical features and historical places, health impediments was the focus of this study abroad experience. I learned many wonderful things. Did you know that South Africa has the largest antiretroviral treatment program in the world for the victims of AIDS/HIV? Largely these efforts were made possible through domestic funding. Since 2014, South Africa invests over $1 billion annually to its HIV and AIDS programs. South Africa’s HIV rates are still an epidemic, but with that much commitment things are looking up. As a political science major, naturally my fascinations were directed to the ugly and beautiful illustrations of transitions from apartheid to post-apartheid and liberation in South Africa.
Apartheid marks the period South Africa struggled with racial segregation under the all- white government power of the National Party. Under the apartheid system of legislation, non-white South Africans were forced to live in separate areas, use separate public facilities, and be divided into classification of four races, Black Africans, Coloreds (mixed), Asians (Indian and Pakistani), and whites (Afrikaners). Sound familiar? Yes, in some ways this oppression was similar to what our grandparents experienced in the Jim Crow era. The apartheid legislations would rule South Africa (SA) for nearly 50 years, 1948 to 1996.
The most intriguing fact about SA apartheid to me was the resistance. We hear mostly of the courage of Nelson Mandela using his speeches and work with the African National Congress (ANC) organization as groundswell to raise awareness of apartheid treatment. Resistance in SA phased tremendously from the 1940s to the 1970s. The 1940s and 50s for South Africa was moderate, meaning there were many petitions written and formations of organizations. Groups of organizers/charters held mass protest, boycotts, and passive resistance. When civil disobedience against curfew laws and segregated facilities were introduced, the oppression increased. In the 1960s, ANC and the Pan- African Congress (PAC) resorted to protecting themselves from police brutality by forming their own military wings. Sadly, most of these members, including Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe (PAC leader), were either imprisoned or exiled, along with the termination of their organizations. 1970 brought about the Black Consciousness (BC) movement. South Africa’s youth had taken control of the black resistance movement, and sparked the movement of the South African Student Organization. June 16, 1976, 20,000 students banded together to protest new child education laws. The police opened fire on the protesting students, killing some, and the students reacted violently. This, known as the Soweto Uprising, sparked resistance throughout SA and would finally gain the attention that the stand against apartheid could no longer be ignored.
What’s so wonderful about black South African resistance, the effective resistance against government ills are still being demonstrated today. Today the ANC is in full effect and represents every nationality in Cape Town. In 2013- 2014 protest sparked all over the Western Cape province demanding proper sanitation and private toilets in townships. The sanitation problem has progressed but is still yet to resolve. This February, students at the University of Cape Town strongly protested the housing crisis the university is facing. Students advocated how disproportionately the black students from townships were affected by the shortage of housing. Over the years of apartheid, many townships and suburbs have recognized the importance in keeping their culture alive despite oppression. Langa Township is one of the oldest/first designated areas for blacks during apartheid. Since the ending of apartheid, Langa has thrived by allocating funding for efficient/safe schooling in the area, creating a cultural center, observing a DOM Pass museum, and running a vibrant, homey small restaurant filled with a live colorful band. Legacies of Langa are told by faces from and of the community only.
From the largest mountains of Cape Town to the poorest shantytown, Cape Town, South Africa is rich in beauty and enlightenment. Post- apartheid still has its effects, but South Africans understand that it is up to the people to hold their government accountable for inflicted hardships, and they do it brilliantly. The multicultural city of South Africa is full of inspiration, full of struggles, yet full of vibrant hope. I learned as much knowledge as I could and created my own unique experiences. Land masses and water masses may divide space, but we are all connected through our struggles and triumphs. I will forever be shaped by the history I learned and the experiences I felt.