It was the day before Thanksgiving when I heard the afternoon news report: Walter Fauntroy, Baptist minister and the District of Columbia's delegate to the U.S. Congress, had been arrested at the South African embassy.
I could feel my excitement rising as I listened to the details of how Fauntroy, Randall Robinson of TransAfrica, and Mary Frances Berry, member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, had met with the South African ambassador to protest Pretoria's recent crackdown on dissent and, in particular, the jailing of black union leaders. The three U.S. black leaders refused to leave the embassy until the South African government agreed to release the prisoners. The representatives of apartheid said no, and Fauntroy and the others were arrested for their protest. Now they were prisoners too.
There have been precious few occasions in my life when I have felt proud of my elected officials. This was one of those rare days.
On Thanksgiving Day we had a neighborhood feast for all the people in our neighborhood food distribution line. For the poor and hungry of Washington, the act of civil disobedience by black leaders was quickly understood and warmly supported. Many talked about the old days of the civil rights movement when such tactics were at the heart of a movement for conscience and change. The people knew about South Africa, and they too were proud of their Congressperson. The next week, many pinned red solidarity ribbons on their coats.
Since November the South Africa protests have grown daily and spread throughout the country. Something has been sparked, and even the organizers have been surprised by the breadth and intensity of what has now been named the Free South Africa Movement. This issue of Sojourners is devoted to that very hopeful movement that is giving life to every other movement for social justice and peace in this country and around the world.