*Trigger warning: contains graphic images*
Youth Day South Africa happens every year on June 16. The day commemorates the SOWETO youth uprising of 16 June 1976.
Why do South Africans celebrate Youth Day?
This public holiday is an honor to South Africa’s young people who opposed the apartheid regime and helped the country of South Africa attain independence. Colonialists killed and jailed many young Black people during the 1976 Soweto Uprising.
What actually happened…
On June 16, 1976, between 3,000 and 10,000 Black students skipped school. They all met at Soweto’s Orlando stadium to protest against the White government’s education laws that had been oppressing Black students. Sadly, many Black young adults lost their lives in the protest. They were met by heavily armed police who fired tear gas and later, live ammunition on protesting students. Hector Pieterson, age 12, was one of the first students to be killed during the Uprising. He has since become a symbol of youth resistance to apartheid.
5 Facts about The SA Youth Day
There are various countries worldwide that celebrate Youth Day. However, SA’s June 16th holiday is unique because of what it symbolizes to the black youth. It inspires the South African government to enforce strict human rights laws that prohibit racism, oppression, and discrimination.
- Nelson Mandela declared Youth Day an official public holiday in 1994, and June as the Youth Month
- This year marks the 46th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 Soweto uprising
- While Youth Day is celebrated annually in South Africa on June 16, the International Youth Day, recognized by the UN, falls on August 12.
- Hector Pieterson, the schoolboy that the police killed in the Soweto Uprising protests that day, symbolizes the consequences of oppression around the world. Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum is in Orlando West in Soweto, 2km away from where he was shot.
- To celebrate the day, some South Africans visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum. Some visit Vilakazi Street in Soweto which is perhaps the most famous street in Johannesburg. It’s the only street in the world to have produced two Nobel Prize winners—His Excellency Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and The Reverend Desmond Tutu. The street has now become a Tourist attraction site with restaurants and street vendors selling proudly South African items.
Sarafina was released in 1992. It is a fictional musical/drama retelling of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. The movie features Whoopie Goldberg, lead actress named “Sarafina”- Leleti Khumalo, and Doja Cat’s father Dumisani Dlamini. Miramax, Hollywood Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Ariane Films have distributed the film. This movie is a memory that is being passed on to different generations, as every black South African home plays it annually on June 16th.