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18 June | Newcastle | Spirit of Soweto: racism and rebellion 40 years on

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Spirit of Soweto: racism and rebellion 40 years on
June 18 | 11.00-17.00
Barbara Strang Teaching Centre - Newcastle University
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne & Wear
Tickets Available Here

Organised by: Newcastle Stop the War, North East People's Assembly, Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Newcastle's Multilingual Library, Newcastle Unites, Stand up to Racism (North East) and Unite Against Facism (North East).

A number of campaigners and educators - in partnership with the Martin Luther King Peace Committee - are organising this conference, to be held at Newcastle University on Saturday 18 June, titled 'Spirit of Soweto: racism and rebellion 40 years on'. The conference is supported by Newcastle Stop the War, North East People's Assembly, Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Newcastle's Multilingual Library, Newcastle Unites, Stand up to Racism (North East) and Unite Against Facism (North East). 

It is designed to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976, which involved tens of thousands of black South African school students protesting against racist apartheid policies in schools. This rebellion was greeted with large-scale massacres by state authorities. It is universally seen as having been a turning point in the struggle to end apartheid, both through opposition inside the country and through the efforts of the global boycott and solidarity movement. 

The aims for the conference are to: 
a) rediscover the history of what happened in Soweto in 1976 and examine its significance for the direction and success of the anti-apartheid movement
b) use this as a springboard for discussing a range of issues relating to racism (and non-violent resistance to it)
c) specifically make links between history and the present day, learning and taking inspiration from South Africa four decades ago to nourish anti-racist and international solidarity movements in 2016.  

Timetable for the day:

10.30am doors open. 

11am-noon: Opening plenary session -
Soweto Uprising: a turning point in the struggle to end apartheid - Chi Onwurah, Zola Zembe, Christabel Gurney, Athini Nyatela 

12.15-1.30pm: Workshop slot 1 (you choose from 3 options) -
- The Soweto Uprising and the international solidarity movement - Zola Zembe, Christabel Gurney, Sue Mathieson 
- Promoting peace, equality and anti-racism in schools - James Thorpe, Andii Bowsher, Drew Dalton, Kiri Tunks 
- Spirit of Soweto: poetry and music for social change - Mandy Maxwell, Harry Gallagher, Aaron Wright, Charley Reay, Bethany Elen Coyle 

2.30-3.45pm: Workshop slot 2 (you choose from 3 options) - 
- Freedom City: when Martin Luther King came to Newcastle (in partnership with Martin Luther King Peace Committee) - Brian Ward, Daniel Kebede, Bethany Elen Coyle 
- Apartheid in South Africa and Israel: boycott movements and justice (in partnership with Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign) - Sue Mathieson, Alex Snowdon, Nader Alhussein 
- Prevent agenda: Islamophobia in schools? - Kiri Tunks, Laura Pidcock 

4-5pm: Closing plenary session - 
Racism and rebellion today - Athini Nyatela, Kiri Tunks, Nader Alhussein, Nelly Stavroupoulou 

There will also be a special poetry night on Thursday 16 June, which is the 40th anniversary itself (and Youth Day in South Africa). 


Confirmed speakers:

Kiri Tunks is junior vice president of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and a teacher in east London. She campaigns against racism and austerity, and in solidarity with Palestine.

Zola Zembe was active against apartheid for decades, including through the trade union movement, and shared a cell with Nelson Mandela for a year; now aged 88 and living in Tyneside, he has agreed to speak if his health is good enough.

Chi Onwurah is MP for Newcastle Central and a former Anti Apartheid Movement activist; she will be making the opening remarks of the conference.

Brian Ward is a historian, professor of American Studies at Northumbria University, and expert on the US civil rights movement.

Christabel Gurney was active in the Anti Apartheid Movement from 1969 until 1994 and edited the AAM's monthly newspaper in the 1970s. She now runs the AAM Archives.

Daniel Kebede is joint secretary of anti-racist coalition Newcastle Unites and a teacher and NUT activist in North Tyneside.

Bethany Elen Coyle is a musician, singer-songwriter and campaigner who leads the North East Socialist Singers and was involved in the Journey to Justice exhibition and project, which documented American civil rights struggles and movements here in north-east England.

Nader Alhussein is a Palestinian activist, poet and musician currently based in Teesside. 

Laura Pidcock is head of the education team at Show Racism the Red Card, a campaigning and educational anti-racist charity. She is also a Labour councillor in Northumberland and has recently been active in promoting solidarity with refugees.

Rev Andii Bowsher is chaplain of Northumbria University and co-convenor of the Martin Luther King Peace Committee.

Athini Nyatela is a community organiser from South Africa, working with youth-led development organisation Restless Development.

Alex Snowdon is chair of Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign and secretary of Newcastle Stop the War. He is a teacher, NUT activist and one of the Spirit of Soweto conference organisers.

Drew Dalton is a sociology lecturer at Sunderland University and a campaigner for LGBT rights and equality. 

Sue Mathieson was an anti-apartheid activist in Britain and later in South Africa, living in the country from 1985 until 2009. She is a former ANC researcher and is now a lecturer in teaching and learning development at Northumbria University and is active in Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

James Thorpe volunteered for the NGO Restless Development in South Africa. He is a Master's student at the School of Oriental and African Studies and his research focuses on inclusive governance in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Nelly Stavroupoulou is doing PhD research at Durham University, exploring the role of digital storytelling as a vehicle for self-expression for young refugees. She is active in refugee solidarity work.

Plus: poets Mandy Maxwell, Harry Gallagher, Aaron Wright and Charley Reay. 


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