During dinner last night I met a man who was referred to as “Mr. T”. Mr. T grew up in one of the local townships to the north of Port Elizabeth and I had a pretty amazing conversation with him. We first started the conversation asking him about the changes he has seen in his lifetime of 31 years. We asked about Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, and numerous other changes he has witnessed. For those that may not know, apartheid was a period of time (1948-1994) where these was enforced restriction between whites and blacks. Ending only 21 years ago, the scars of country wide segregation is still felt today in both black, colored, and white communities.
What I find so fascinating is that segregation for South Africa has ended just a short 21 years ago, as if they are 50 or 60 years behind the “western world” in this respect. Mr. T described what it was like the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and how within the townships there was nothing but cheers, joy, and happiness. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like this in my lifetime, something so life changing for a minority of people. Something so massive, caused by just one person. This really speaks to the respect and vision that Nelson Mandela had, and how much the township citizens looked to him for change and revolution. What I took from the conversation, is that the children are the ones who need the love, support, and attention. It sounds quite obvious to say, but when children can receive a proper education, they have a chance to leave the township life that is quite circular, in that many children end up following in the path of their parents.