During the past two weeks, we have witnessed a heartbreaking breakout of violence among different communities across South Africa. As we recap our recent Virtual Friendship Games Twinning led by PeacePlayers South Africa, we remain hopeful that peace and unity will return to Durban, Johannesburg, and the rest of South Africa.
PeacePlayers’ global youth movement for peace and equity is founded on the idea that children who play together can learn to live together. A simple, and maybe seemingly unrealistic sentiment. Yet, coaches, staff, alumni and young people across the world have witnessed and experienced this idea. This is our foundation. But our movement represents something even bigger – the power and impact that youth have when inspired and united for a common purpose.
In June’s Virtual Friendship Games Twinning, led by PeacePlayers South Africa, young leaders across the PeacePlayers network learned about Youth Day, a South African national holiday that celebrates the power of youth-led activism. Youth Day commemorates the Soweto Uprising, a movement of 20,000 youth who stood up against inequity in the Apartheid-era education system. Though many youth faced brutal consequences for their activism, the Soweto Uprising brought international attention to the brutality of the Apartheid regime, and further energized local movements that would ultimately help dismantle it. Watch the video below for more details.
In the week before they hosted the Virtual Twinning Session, the PeacePlayers South Africa team raised awareness about Youth Day using videos and “Did you know” posts on their social media accounts. Young leaders from South Africa shared what the day meant to them. Lindani Mzobe, a young leader from PeacePlayers South Africa shared with his teammates on Team Peace, “For me as a black African child, youth day means a lot to me. The youth of 1976 signifies for me to get a better education, they also fought for my rights… the youth of 1976 created the free life I am living today.”
Lindani Mzobe, along with fellow PeacePlayers South Africa LDP peers Caitlin Bird, Braydon Rutherford, Hannah Bromley were selected to lead the Twinning day activities in their respective Zoom breakout rooms. After weeks of virtual preparation meetings, these four leaders were able to further educate youth from across the globe on the importance of pivotal moments related to Youth Day. A few include the introduction of a segregation law known as the Bantu Education act, and a well known name, Hector Pieterson, whose image surfaced across the world and served as an example of the plight of black youth in South Africa faced at the time. In the virtual session, young leaders from across the PeacePlayers network were quizzed on some of the details of Youth Day, and had the opportunity to reflect and share more on the impact of the youth who fought for equality in 1976.
In the Team Truth breakout room, Coach Thobani Ngubane of PeacePlayers South Africa shared, “It all started with our youth fighting for their rights making sure their voices were heard. To march, struggle, go through pain to make sure they get human rights, [to get] freedom that we deserve.” Rachel Marchbank of Team Truth and PeacePlayers Northern Ireland added, “I learned that young kids actually have a lot of power.” And that’s what drives PeacePlayers forward – creating more opportunities for young people whether they’re from South Africa, Northern Ireland, Los Angeles or Cyprus, and inspire them to realize how much potential they have to change the world.
What an incredible virtual session for the young leaders from PeacePlayers to finish out on before the Friendship Games in August! It seems fitting that the six-month virtual Cultural Twinnings started with PeacePlayers’ newest site, the United States, and ended with PeacePlayers oldest site, South Africa. PeacePlayers U.S. got things started with a session around Martin Luther King Junior Day, which celebrates a man who helped to ignite a civil rights movement across the world, and PeacePlayers South Africa capped things off with a session on the power of uniting young people for social change. These cultural sessions have connected young leaders across PeacePlayers’ global network, who before, may have never realized they were a part of a global movement. Through these virtual sessions, they have learned about each other’s cultures, the opportunities and challenges they all experience, and that they are all connected through a common cause. We will leave you with the words of a PeacePlayers South African participant, Braydon Rutherford,