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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

South Africa Birmingham Alabama Connection

South Africa and Birmingham, Alabama Shared Histories

Six years ago, we were delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate Mandela Day with exchange students from my hometown, Johannesburg, South Africa, at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. The joyous crowd in historic Kelly Ingram Park, the site of the Freedom marches in 1960s, swayed and clapped to the rhythm of the Zulu dancers and a choir, regaling the audience with stirring freedom songs and traditional dances.

Kelley Ingram Park

For me, their exuberant performance evoked poignant memories of my childhood in South Africa described in my memoir, Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid. In my memoir I write about the beauty of South Africa in the Kruger National Park:

At sunset we came across a troop of Chacma baboons relaxing around a big rain puddle. The sun, sinking behind the koppies, cast a golden haze around the handsome ruff framing the alpha males neck . . . A baby baboon detached itself from its mother and scampered towards the puddle. Turning his imposing, dog-like head towards us, the leader bared his cruel teeth in a frightful grimace, warning us not to come near. . . . This pristine scene evoked the African landscape as the first hunters must have seen it millenniums ago.

South African Flag
South African Flag Face Paint

Now, fast forward from my memories and Mandela Day, to a recent momentous event on Jan. 12, 2017. In the closing days of his administration, President Obama proclaimed the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama a national historic monument, establishing it as a unit of the National Park System. This new monument encompasses about four city blocks in downtown Birmingham and hosts more than 140,000 visitors annually. This iconic place needs to be preserved as a reminder to future generations of the struggle and progress made towards a more just and equitable society. It also serves to inspire all of us to work toward correcting injustices faced by diverse communities in the US and around the world.

Zulu Dancer Mandela Day
Zulu Dancer at Mandela Day

Other Links:
Nelson Mandela Day and South African Apartheid

Apartheid Memoir Comes Full Circle (blog)

If this article had peaked your interest in visiting South Africa go to:
The 100 Best Things to do in South Africa