On the 25th May 1955, 2,500 women marched in Pretoria to protest. So infuriated were these women, they drew up two petitions to be sent to Parliament, to be signed by women only. Against all odds, delays, and other obstacles, they gathered 100,000 signatures. In vain. Thus was born a movement that would work assiduously, bearing Gandhi's principles of non-violence in mind, to defeat Apartheid, to bear witness to atrocities, to mourn the removal of rights and dignities, to provide moral support and courage to those treated unjustly, to stand vigil against the moral turpitude of the supporters of Apartheid. More often than not, these women were pelted with eggs, tomatoes, and verbal abuse as they stood silent, the least they could do in the face of the violence being done to Non-White people and the trampling of democratic principles.
|Standing vigil against the Group Areas Act 1956 (Shirley Singer, far right)|
The Black Sash protested against every move made by the Nationalist Party to control the lives of all people in South Africa, but especially Coloureds, Indians, Africans. The Nationalists used propaganda, disinformation, brain washing, and violence in the attempt to create a society in the image of Nazi Germany: the superiority of the Aryan "race". They tried divide and conquer amongst different white constituencies. They legislated relationships, they created fear of the "other", they distorted and contorted geography.
After the first free elections in South Africa in 1994, the Black Sash met to ascertain what transformation they needed to go through to serve the challenges and encourage the success of the new South Africa. Two videos recently produced explain where they came from (first) and where they are going (second).
The Black Sash Trustees produced a Position Statement September 2012 that sets forth their vision. Their website is well worth perusing to see examples of their work, to marvel at how an organization adapts to changing times and needs, to get inspiration for what is possible.
In memory of Shirley Gersohn Singer, 24 July 1929-2 January 2009