Thursday, January 21, 2010

RFK In The Land Of Apartheid

Tonight I went up to the JFK Museum, which is on Twitter @JFKLibrary for one their Kennedy Forums. I don't get to enough of them. But I made a point of this one on Robert Kennedy, he is my favorite.

"RFK in the land of Apartheid" is the new documentary by filmaker Larry Shore on RFK & Ethel Kennedy's trip to South Africa in 1966.

It's an important and largely overlooked moment in history and the film is compelling.

Larry had me with his intro showing young man after young man introduce themselves to the camera...."My name is Kennedy." "My name is Kennedy." "My name is Robert Kennedy". Larry explained later that he knew that people named their oldest child after someone they admired and respected. He had put an ad in the paper asking for people named Kennedy and had been born in 1967 or 1968. There were over a hundred right in the general area he was in at the time.

From the film's website -
Senator Kennedy’s visit to South Africa in June 1966 remains the most important visit an American made to South Africa because it took place during the worst years of Apartheid. The architect of Apartheid, Dr. Verwoerd, was Prime Minister, while Nelson Mandela, Chief Albert Luthuli and other opposition leaders were in prison on Robben Island or in exile. With rare exception, all opposition across the spectrum of black and white South Africa- political parties, the universities, the churches, the arts and the media- were living under the tight control of the National Party and its military, bureaucratic and ideological machinery.

Surprisingly, very few Americans know of this dramatic visit by Robert Kennedy, then the Junior Senator from New York, to South Africa from June 4th to the 9th, 1966. He was invited by NUSAS, the anti-Apartheid National Union of South African Students, to deliver its Annual Day of Affirmation Speech to be held that year at the University of Cape Town. He was accompanied by his wife Ethel and a small number of close aides.

Let's just say I was glad the lights were lowered.

After the film RFK's daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend introduced the panel; Margaret Marshall, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and RFK's student host while he was in South Africa; Albertina Luthuli, Chief Luthuli's daughter and a member of the South African Parliament; and filmmaker Larry Shore.

I was simply in awe of Dr. Albertina Luthuli. What strength of character it must take to suffer all those years and still make such a dramatic and positive impact on the world. There was no bitterness or anger apparent as she spoke. She make the remarkable understatement, that what she and her family suffered "wasn't pleasant". Holy cow! I'll say!

Dr. Luthuli suffered not just a horribly oppressed minority in South Africa, but as a member of a familysingled out for harsh treatment because of who her father was. One short year after being visited by RFK, Chief Luthuli was killed. The official story was that he was hit be a train when walking near the tracks one night. Dr. Luthuli simply stated that she did not believe it was an accident.

Veteran broadcast journalist Sarah-Ann Shaw moderated and boy, did she keep a lid on the questions!

It's an amazing film and I highly recommend it.


Jay said...

RFK is one of your favs, Magggie?
What happened to you?

BostonMaggie said...

LOL, Jay! Actually, I liked all the Kennedys except Ted. I felt they did good or great things. RFK is my favorite Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

Saw a preview. Great show