So I just realized…exactly two years ago, I had just arrived in South Africa and was beginning my study abroad adventures. At that point primarily concerned with finding breakfast and how to run the shower in my student house. Baby steps, I tell you, baby steps. I still miss it–the country, the people I met there (South African and others), the food, the conversation, and yes even that crazy, confusing, highly inefficient university. I still think about it everyday at least once, or end up talking about it almost as often. South Africa changed my life.All these mopey and mushy nostalgia is the result of me watching PBS’s Independent Lens documentary called Have You Heard From Johannesburg. I watched the first episode tonight and was moved beyond belief. I kept sniffling and I think my parents have now concluded that I am suffering from that dreaded female “disease” called hysteria. The five-part series chronicles the history of global anti-apartheid movement. If you are in the US, you can watch the first two episodes online through PBS’s website, for free.

I had to do that because when my little sister came into the living room, my father deemed the content and some of the images/film footage too violent and too graphic for her. I understand his feelings, but on the other hand, she’s seen more dead bodies with blood and guts and general violence on video games and regular TV than I did at that age. Plus I am pretty sure that I saw photos of WWII concentration camps with their rows of emaciated slaughtered Jews by 5th grade. My parents never did censor my reading.

I think it would have been good for her. People, including children, should intimately know the violence– past, present, and  future– we commit on our fellow man and that overly sheltering or “saving it for a more appropriate age” only makes kids ignorant, apathetic, and self-centered to the conditions of people beyond their neighborhoods. Learning about those who have better conditions can inspire kids to help themselves and learning about those whose conditions are considerably worst can inspire kids to help others.

People don’t know enough about apartheid and the movement against it, as well as the Red Power Movement, the Indian Independence Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Al-Anfal campaign, the Kashmir Conflict, the Bosnian War, the Landless Workers’ Movement, the Indonesian National Revolution, the Iranian Revolution, China’s Cultural Revolution or even the Arab Spring. It is not that I particularly agree or disagree with any or all of these, nor do I pretend to be the expert on any of them. But they are important– like the Shoah (the Holocaust) and the Civil Rights Movement– they are moments and experiences that show what people can do to and do for others and themselves.

The use of film footage, audio, newspaper headlines, interviews, great music makes Have You Heard From Johannesburg so effective in presenting the story of an almost 50 year struggle to take back humanity in a country that legally and socially took it away from the majority of the population. Yes some of the scenes, photos, and audio are graphic, blunt or quite frankly uncomfortable. But it’s only got a PG rating for a reason. Conversely, I totally saw waay too many kids in the theatres watching Nolan’s Batman movies, or Iron Man, or even the Bourne films. It’s ridiculous; that argument that because it’s pretend or ‘a story’ it’s not as ‘bad’ or influential on young people. I’d rather my kids see graphic images of reality than graphic images of fantasy. And if you know how much I love batman, you know how much it pains me to make that statement.

But this long ramble/rant/soapbox/late night craziness is to say that I think you should watch Have You Heard From Johannesburg, because it is an absolutely amazing program and I learned a lot just from the first episode. DO IT and then come cry with me as I go through my South Africa pictures again. I love that country. I MISS IT SO MUCH.

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