Happy Freedom Day!!

It is crazy to think that 30 years have passed already.

30 years ago, twenty-year-old me voted for the first time on 26 April 1994 during the first democratic election in South Africa. I voted remotely.  That day, I was swamped with end-of-semester papers and studying/taking finals. I remember racing on the DC Metro to the voting location in downtown Washington, DC because I was still in the middle of a final paper that was probably due that day.

I remember there was wayyyyy less fan-fair at the voting location than I thought the occasion deserved.  That was in stark contrast to the many videos on the news of long lines of people waiting to vote across South Africa.   I cast my vote, took in the moment and rushed back to my dorm at Howard to finish my paper.

Ibrahim was of course so excited about the historic day.  His insistence on getting every detail about how voting went and how I felt, helped me express how momentous the day as life kept happening in realtime.

Madiba released a statement the next day (27 April 1994) celebrating the elections. The statement begins with his hope for a new beginning and it ends with reassurances of his continued commitment to minority protection.  I keep coming back to this paragraph in the middle:

“Our message is that the basic needs of the masses of the people must be addressed: the creation of jobs, of houses, the introduction of electricity, building of schools and hospitals, providing free, compulsory quality education, running water, paved roads. These are our priorities.”

Progress has been made but we are way off from where we all thought we would be 30 years ago.

As we celebrate this anniversary, I think about all the people who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of South Africa. The who just barely got to celebrate going back home or experiencing freedom like my dad, my brother Mkhululi, Chris Hani, Mncedici, Joe, Uncle Pete, DJ . . .

I think about the people who didn’t get to return home and/or experience a free South Africa. People like Aunt Florence, Uncle Duma, Gift, Nkuli, Mwelase Njobe, Shaka Msimang, . . . I hope that the efforts to reinter their bodies back to South Africa are successful.

Happy Freedom Day!!

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