On the 24th of September, South Africa celebrates Heritage Day. On this public holiday – South Africans across the spectrum come together to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and diversity of the country as a rainbow nation. However, this solemn occasion should not conceal the harsh realities present throughout South Africa. Increasing levels of crime, unemployment, drug abuse and a high number of xenophobic attacks are only some of the problems many people living in Townships have to face in their day-to-day life. For a group of young adults from a Township called New Crossroads in Cape Town it became very clear that they could not be bystanders and see the situation getting
worse. Together, the young people were determined to find a way of tackling the above challenges – In 2001 they created a platform for youth empowerment which later became known as Africa Unite. For the past 14 years Africa Unite has brought many young people from different backgrounds in facilitated dialogues to address the negative social and economic effects of marginalization, to celebrate diversity, promote social cohesion and respect for human rights for all.
Against this background, on the 24th of September 2015, Africa Unite hosted an outdoor heritage day celebration in its ‘birthplace’ New Crossroads. The event sought to awaken people’s memories on the motives why Africa Unite was created and highlight its
achievements. Furthermore the event raised awareness among young people on the importance of celebrating our diversity. Young people from all walks of lives, women groups, local government, traditional leaders, faith based leaders, community leaders, refugee leaders and local media all came in numbers to witness this memorable day..
The event started with the planting of two trees in David Street (where Africa Unite started) by a group of Africa Unite’s pioneer members and other community leaders. The trees were named Africa Unite and they are a symbolic gesture of all the victims of crime in David Street as it is regarded as on e of the high risk zones in New Crossroads where people often get robbed or murdered. Councilor Luvuyo Zondani (Ward 38), the main guest speaker then officially opened and welcomed everyone. He spoke on the importance of Heritage Day, social cohesion and the importance of having NGOs like Africa unite in the community that work with young people from all countries.
This was then followed by several activities such as traditional food tasting, comic skits,
music, traditional dances, poetry and short speeches from various leaders to strengthen common bonds among youth from different backgrounds. Highlights from the cultural offerings included the displays and explanations of various aspects of Xhosa, Kenyan, Somali, Khoisan, French, Germany, Rwanda, Burundi as well as children’s dances. These activities got everyone on their feet especially the live music performance by ‘The Young Bakubas’ band which is made up of refugee artists from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During the intervals various community and youth leaders together with Africa Unite pioneers gave short speeches to remind the audience of how this small township movement of young people had grown and attracted young people from all over the world.
After a long day of celebrating diversity and 14 years of Africa Unite, one of the community leaders in New Crossroads who was part of the dialogue that led to the inception of Africa Unite gave the last speech and thanked everyone who attended the event from different institutions, communities, areas and cultural backgrounds. Africa Unite would like to also extend its gratitude to all the organizers and participants of this historical event and a special thanks to Emily Mati Africa Unite board member who took time to be with the rest of the team on this day.
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