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An excerpt from Students Must Rise – “The plan was simple, the march disciplined”

Students Must Rise2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the 1976 uprisings. It’s also a year in which we’ve seen a surge in student activism, from the #FeesMustFall movement that ignited last year to the more recent #RUReferenceList protest against rape culture on campus and in society as a whole.

Students Must Rise: Youth Struggle in South Africa Before and Beyond Soweto ’76 edited by Anne Heffernan and Noor Nieftagodien rethinks the conventional narrative of youth and student activism in South Africa by placing that most famous of moments – the 1976 students’ uprising in Soweto – in a deeper historical and geographic context.

Leading up to Youth Day, 16 June, Bhekizizwe Peterson wrote an essay for Mail & Guardian about the role artists played and continue to play in reshaping our country.

Peterson, Professor and Head of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, writes: “It is a truism that major social upheavals and changes are often preceded by a flourishing of the arts. This is also true about South Africa and the years before June 1976.”

In the article, Peterson reflects on the role art magazines like S’ketsh and Staffrider played in reinvigorating arts, culture and politics. In conclusion, he shares an extract from Chapter 6 of Students Must Rise, written by Sibongile Mkhabela.

Read the excerpt from “Action and fire in Soweto, June 1976”:

The plan was simple, the march disciplined

The events of the cold morning of June 16 1976 are written in blood, ash and tears.

I met other student leaders to review plans before the march was scheduled to begin at 6.30am.

The direction the march was to follow was clear. Those coming from the west would meet other students at central, designated points. The Naledi group would proceed northwards via Zola, Emdeni, Jabulani, Zondi, Mofolo North, Mofolo Central, Dube and Orlando West townships, and finally all schoolchildren would meet at the Orlando stadium where the student representatives would lead discussions about Afrikaans, and draw up a petition for the department of education. After this act of solidarity, the students would disperse.

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