News / Africa

Obama Visit to Soweto Seen as Bow to Struggle for Freedom

Obama Visit to Soweto Seen as Bow to Struggle for Freedomi
X
June 25, 2013 9:30 PM
During his tour of Africa, President Barack Obama plans to address students in the South African suburb of Soweto, the birthplace of the struggle against racial segregation, or apartheid. VOA's Mary Alice Salinas takes a look at Soweto’s history and the promise it holds today.
Mary Alice Salinas
During his tour of Africa, President Barack Obama plans to address students in the South African suburb of Soweto, the birthplace of the struggle against racial segregation, or apartheid.

The images from a 1976 student uprising in the township of Soweto remain searing to this day: apartheid police firing at, and beating back, black students rebelling against a deliberately racist educational system, imposed by the powerful apartheid government.

South African Ambassador to the U.S. Ebrahim Rasool said this is when Soweto rose to the global stage and gave birth to a long and difficult - but ultimately successful - struggle to end government-mandated racial segregation.

“In a way, it has come to embody the symbol of resistance, that you do not have to accept injustice and wrong," said Rasool.

It is much like the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960’s.  

“Civil rights leaders said we must be free at home. But we also must defend the right of those abroad to be free as well, especially those in southern Africa,” said Johnnie Carson, former U.S. diplomat for foreign affairs.

Carson said a visit to Soweto by the first black U.S. president sends an especially powerful message to all those who struggled against racial discrimination.

“It is a tribute to all of those who lived there and who fought against apartheid, sacrificed their lives, sacrificed their community, sacrificed their development in order to change the system,” said Carson.

Soweto is no longer the collection of shantytowns it was when South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, took office in 1994.

It is now a center for tourism, culture, and a growing middle-class.

“There is this creativity, there is this dynamism, there is this growth that is taking place," said South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool.

Rasool acknowledged there still are many challenges, including poverty, unemployment and housing problems in Soweto. He noted there is a renewed hope, though, especially among young people who are pushing ahead with astounding speed.

“Soweto has almost moved directly from the drum to the cell phone without too many fixed lines in between. In much the same way it is going from counting on our fingers in Soweto to using the tablets and iPads and all of those kinds of modern technologies. No personal computers in between. I think that this is the energy that you must see,” he said.

Rasool said that Soweto today offers a window to a new Africa - and symbolizes not only resistance, but resilience.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs