Hector Pieterson: An Individual Can Change Society

When first looking at the Hector Pieterson Memorial outside of the museum, you are struck with the idea that something monumental must have happened here. This senseless loss shook the very roots of this community and country. These ideas invigorated them with the strength to overcome extreme adversity. However, the most significant concept that comes out of learning about Hector Pieterson is that he was a 13 year old child. He was a child that was on his way to pick up his sister from school and unfortunately was caught in the cross hairs of a stray bullet. His death was the catalyst for what is now known as the Soweto riots. His life and tragic death mark the underlying belief that regardless of age, gender, or skin color; “an individual life can change society” (Winnie Mandela).

Hector’s death became a symbol of the plight of the South African youth under the apartheid. Bricks in the courtyard of the building mark the countless lives lost with names and dates that fought for this very cause. For students, Hector’s death provided t602699_4573714064307_1100605735_nhem a new political identity. They were able to provide tangible evidence to their already rising campaigns. “They are evidence of the human texture of historical experience” (Steven Biko). These individuals stood up for their language, nation, and land. They fought for a cause bigger than themselves and thread within the tapestry of the country they lived. Their plight helped to alter their society and force change onto a government that refused to value the idea behind human equality. “Each child was fighting a war that was not really theirs, but their parents” (Winnie Mandela). “It was through this evolution of their culture that their identity was fully discovered” (Steven Biko).

“Soweto is everywhere” (Winnie Mandela). Hector Pieterson could not have achieved this type of uprising single- handedly. The students became the voice of the people. “Good moral character is not something that can be achieved alone. A culture must support the conditions under which self-love and friendships flourish” (Aristotle). These individuals believed that “in their country there should be no minority or majority, just people” (Steven Biko). This belief helped guide them during some of the country’s darkest moments into a land that now prides itself on its “democratic values, social justice, and fundamental human rights. South Africa continues to build a united and democratic nation that is able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations” (South Africa Const., preamble).

Hector Pieterson represents the piece of each of us that opposes the status quo and fights for the beliefs of your fellow brothers and sisters. His death helped to motivate thousands of students to take a stand against oppression that had consumed every bit of their lives. Their vision has led to a nation that prides itself on remembering its past while looking forward to its future. South Africa’s struggles live within each of us and motivate those within the international community to resist the oppressor whoever he or she may be. Hector Pieterson and the Soweto riots are proof that individuals can shape a society and create a vision filled with the commitment to human equality; but, can this united democracy exist under such diversity?

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7 Responses to Hector Pieterson: An Individual Can Change Society

  1. mguido2 says:

    I liked that you mentioned the fight of the students so much. When we went to the museum I was so shocked by how many children were fighting for the country and for the language that they would speak in their future. It was strange to know that people younger than we are were fighting for their country and their language. It is certainly accurate that they are fighting the fight of their parents. Throughout the whole museum all I could think about were how young and brave these children were. I admire them for their courage because I don’t think, in fact I know that I would not have the courage to do what they did.
    I love what you said about Hector Pieterson being a symbol for all of us and fighting the status quo. He drove others stand up for what they believed him and his death brought on a collective movement that would greatly affect the future. This helped shape South Africa to what it is today, even though there is a long way to go people are now able to express their concern and opinion without being killed. This alone is an accomplishment and bring about hope for the future.

  2. Julie says:

    An interesting quote I found on the wall of the museum sated that, “We learn from the past in the present, and we learn about ourselves from the way we remember the past.” Throughout the museum it was interesting to learn about the overall Bantu education and how it differed from a white students’ education. It is amazing how students at such a young age were brave enough to fight for their rights and the rights of their education. Their fight showed their maturity and strength, which is something that I don’t think I had at such a young age. By remembering them as heroes, it shows the importance of their fight and how anyone, no matter the age can make a difference.
    I like what you said about Hector Pieterson’s death helping to motivate thousands of students to take a stand against oppression. I agree with this statement, and I think that it is great to have honored Hector in such a way, one thing that I did find specifically interesting while walking around the museum was quote by Hector’s sister. It stated her feelings toward Hector’s honor and how the museum has been put in his name, and she expressed her feeling of what seemed to be surprised that her brother was being looked at as such a hero when he was in the same fight as everyone else.

  3. Marissa Mastrocola says:

    I agree with much of what you said about this memorial. It was so inspiring to learn about the students who stood up to fight against oppression. I kept thinking back to my own childhood, and if I would have done the same in that situation. I honestly cannot say that I would have the same courage and drive as these children did.
    One of my favorite parts of this museum was the pillars that had various perspectives from people when the uprising originally began. It was interesting to see how different each account was, from a young boy participating in the uprising, to a police officer trying to contain the crowd, to a girl who’s younger brother got lost in the mix of everything. It provoked so many emotions, as it is hard to grasp how it would feel to be in any of their shoes. Experiences such as this allowed me to realize how lucky I am that I have never experienced a tragedy such as this in my own life.

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