The Past and Present: How People’s Lives Were Changed by Gabriele Shaw

This morning we prepared breakfast for the residents at Victory Outreach alongside members of the Call to Serve Foundation.  Many of the residents at Victory Outreach are recovering addicts, battling homelessness and using religion to reform their lives. Although their life paths so far have been different from ours, we were given the task to critically reflect on how we are similar to the residents we spoke with. I personally connected to Pastor Tom’s testimony. Coming into the day, I had the assumption that all the residents were there because they experienced a tough childhood that eventually lead to their bad decision making. Because of this assumption, I believed it would be a challenge to find similarities of my life to those of the residents at Victory Outreach. However, Pastor Tom’s testimony proved my assumption to be false. Similar to myself, he was brought up in a loving home with two supportive parents that were financially stable. However, due to his own greed, he made the decision to become a bank robber which would later lead to his heroin addiction and contraction of HIV. After hearing Pastor Tom’s story, I began to question my own life path and decision making. Would it have been different if I only had one parent?  If I turned down the wrong path, would my parent’s support be enough in the end? These questions gave me the chance to reflect deeper on my own privilege; not just in my current state but the privilege that was handed to me when I was born into a stable, middle class household. I am fortunate enough to have the life I was given, but not everyone has that chance. Although, it is also important to remember a story like Pastor Tom’s and that it isn’t just your privilege that paves your path but what you choose to do with that privilege. 
            Later in the afternoon, we visited the District Six museum. In 1867, District Six was named the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town. District Six was a vibrant community of freed slaves, merchants, artisan, and laborer. However, as years passed District Six fell victim to the process of forced removals and marginalization. Black South Africans were the first to be forcibly removed in 1901. In 1966, at the peak of the Apartheid regime, the district was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950. Due to this law, more than 60,000 residents were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats while their homes were destroyed with bulldozers. The Cape Flats were outlying barren lands where blacks and coloreds were moved to during the Apartheid as a way to keep them away from the city. The District Six Museum was established in 1994 as a preservation place for the memories of the residents of District Six as well as an educational experience on process of forced removals. To this day, there are arguments going on about whether or not District Six should be preserved as a National Heritage Site. The opposing side argues that there is nothing to conserve due to the fact that most of the area has been destroyed. However, others would argue that it is not the building that need conversation but the memories and the lives of the people who lived on the land. The National Heritage Resources Act No. 25 of 1999 states, “Our heritage celebrates our achievements and contributes to redressing past inequities. It educates, it deepens our understanding of society and encourages us to empathize with the experience of others.” I found this quote to be particularly true as I walked through the museum. The museum allowed a way for visitors to see the true feelings of the residents during that time and imagine how you would feel if it were your family. With that being said, if it were the land where I grew up and formed crucial memories I would fight for preservation.

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