August 27 – 27th Day in Cape Town

Today we visited Beth Uriel, which is a supportive living environment aimed to provide young men from impoverished communities the chance to pursue meaningful, independent lives with a deep belief in the transforming power of God; Beth Uriel, “House of Light.”

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We were given an introduction to the facility by the Program Director, Lindsay Henley, or “Magogo,” as she is known around the home.  She is originally from the United States (Chicago area) but has been a part of the Beth Uriel family since 1999.  She came on board full-time in 2003 and has managed the home since 2004.  With a background in social work, Lindsay is responsible for working alongside Nosipho Seleka (Operations Manager) and Melvin Koopman (Program Manager) and supporting them in any way possible.  She is also dipping her toes in the cold, cold water of fundraising and other “not so glorious” administration required in non-profit management.  Lindsay is the proud mother of LJ.


We were given a tour of the home by one of its newest members, Richard.

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Afterwards, we stopped for a bite to eat, on our way to the Amy Biehl Foundation’s Youth Spirit Awards and Memorial Lecture, at Lady Bee, a Dehli Diner that offer home-cooked meals, including a wide range of quality curries, pastas, breyani, roasts and other favorites.


At the Amy Biehl Foundation’s Youth Spirit Awards and Memorial Lecture, we were first entertained by Aviva Pelham, a well known opera singer and the children of the foundation.

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Trevor Manuel, who is currently serving in the Cabinet of South Africa as Minister in the Presidency in charge of the National Planning Committee, was the guest speaker.


Final remarks were given my Linda Biehl, Amy’s Mother.


At the end, we met Erica J. Barks-Ruggle, who is the Consul General of the United States.



August 25 – 25th Day in Cape Town

As I mentioned in the post for August 19, one of the Memorials we visited was Amy Biehl’s.  She was a white American graduate of Stanford University and an Anti-Apartheid activist in South Africa, who was murdered by black Cape Town residents while a black mob shouted racial slurs.

In 1998 the four youths convicted of her murder were granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) after serving five years of their sentence – a decision that was supported by Amy’s parents. Easy Nofemela and Ntobeko Peni, two of the convicted men, now work for the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust in Cape Town, a charity which dedicates its work to putting up barriers against violence.

Today marked the 20th Anniversary of the tragic and we joined Clive Newman, who was one of the main organizers in the commemoration of her death.  The commemoration started at a church service at the St. Columba; an Anglican church in Gugulethu, South Africa.  What I found intriguing and a bit overwhelming about the service was the excessive use of the thurible; a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services.  Burning charcoal is inside the metal censer. Incense was placed upon the charcoal. This was done several times during the service as the incense burns quite quickly. Once the incense has been placed on the charcoal the thurible is then closed and used for censing.  It was used in the entrance procession; at the beginning of Mass to incense the cross and the altar; at the Gospel procession and proclamation; after the bread and the chalice have been placed upon the altar, to incense the offerings, the cross, and the altar, as well as the priest and the people; at the elevation of the host and the chalice after the consecration.  It was used so much; you can see the smoke on all of my pictures. 096 095 097 099 100 103 107 108 109 110 112 111 113 114 115 127 102 104 116 131 132 105 121 125 133


After church we walked down the street to Amy’s Memorial site, where children from her foundation played music, people gave speeches reflecting on their experiences with and about Amy.


Linda (Amy’s Mother) and Easy (one of the guys that killed her daughter)

A typical sight in Gugulethu

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Later that night, we went to see Sindiwe Magona’s Mother to Mother play, which is based on her novel Mother to Mother and explores the South African legacy of apartheid through the lens of a woman who remembers a life marked by oppression and injustice. Magona decided to write this novel when she discovered that Fulbright Scholar Amy Biehl, who had been killed while working to organize the nation’s first ever democratic elections in 1993, died just a few yards away from her own permanent residence in Guguletu, Capetown. She then learned that one of the boys held responsible for the killing was in fact her neighbor’s son. Magona began to imagine how easily it might have been her own son caught up in the wave of violence that day. The book is based on this real-life incident, and takes the form of an epistle to Amy Biehl’s mother. The murderer’s mother, Mandisi, writes about her life, the life of her child, and the colonized society that not only allowed, but perpetuated violence against women and impoverished black South Africans under the reign of apartheid. The result is not an apology for the murder, but a beautifully written exploration of the society that bred such violence.


Me with Sindiwe Magona, author of Mother to Mother

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