An obligation to not participate in racist activities: The South African Anti-Apartheid Movement in Grand Rapids

(This is the first is a series of articles that deals with the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement that was active in Grand Rapids.)Abolish_Apartheid

The international Anti-Apartheid Movement for justice in South Africa is an interesting case study and an example of how economic boycotts, economic sanctions and economic divestments can be effective tools to fight against racism and White Supremacy.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement was born out of the struggle of Black South Africans demanding political and legal equality. After decades of political struggle by groups like the African National Congress (ANC) and events such as the Soweto Massacre of 1976 and the murder of Steve Biko in 1977, a call for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign was issued.

Dozens of States around the world and millions of people actively participated in the Anti-Apartheid campaign and particularly the BDS Campaign. Pressure was put on the diamond industry that profited from South African Apartheid and many other corporations that did business in South Africa, such as Coca Cola, GM, IMB, Motorola and Caterpillar.

Universities, religious institutions, unions and municipalities also participated in the South African Anti-Apartheid movement by divesting funds from banks and other financial institutions profiting from Apartheid.anti-apartheid

The Divestment efforts were well organized across the country and in Grand Rapids. Numerous organizations and religious institutions took a public stand against South African Apartheid by holding forums, educating the public and initiating a divestment campaign in Grand Rapids in 1982.

The City of Grand Rapids adopted a resolution put forth by the Community Relations Commission in 1982, which was the result of a grassroots effort by dozens of organizations and countless individuals who were organizing against South African Apartheid. 

The language of the resolution reads in part:

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Such a resolution was only possible because so many people were involved and pressured the City of Grand Rapids to take such a stance. Organizations such as the Grand Rapids NAACP, the Grand Rapids Urban League, the YWCA, the Hispanic Center, the Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council and the Institute for Global Education, along with religious groups such as Temple Emmanuel, Plymouth Congregational Church, the Afro-America Lay Catholic Caucus of Grand Rapids and the Christian Reformed Church in North America all sent letters in support of the resolution, demonstrating such an effort was initiated and endorsed by the community. 

The letter from the Grand Rapids Urban League in part reads:

The current racial policy of Apartheid, practiced by South Africa is an insult and an injustice to the people of color in South African, as well as a violation of universally excepted human rights.

The City of Grand Rapids has a moral obligation to sever all economic ties to South Africa whether they are direct or indirect.

The Grand Rapids Chapter of the NAACP also used strong words to push for the resolution. Their statement in part reads:

Most often, the policy of Apartheid sustains its existence on the monies of people and companies who knowingly or unknowingly do business with businesses which contribute directly to the South African government.

The City of Grand Rapids has an obligation to this city and its citizens to not participate in racist activities of any kind.

The City of Grand Rapids eventually divested its funds from any financial institution or business that was profiting off of South African Apartheid. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign organized in Grand Rapids was another example of the power of movement fighting for against oppression and for justice.

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7 Responses to An obligation to not participate in racist activities: The South African Anti-Apartheid Movement in Grand Rapids

  1. Pingback: Calvin College took a stand against South African Apartheid by Divesting | Grand Rapids People's History Project

  2. Pingback: The Roots of the South African Anti-Apartheid Campaign in Grand Rapids | Grand Rapids People's History Project

  3. Pingback: The Kent County Commission was complicit in South African Apartheid | Grand Rapids People's History Project

  4. Pingback: Grand Rapids BDS Campaign kicks off by asking City of Grand Rapids to pass a resolution to Divest from companies or financial institutions profiting from the Israeli occupation and Israeli repression | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

  5. Pingback: Grand Rapids BDS Campaign kicks off by asking City of Grand Rapids to pass a resolution to Divest from companies or financial institutions profiting from the Israeli occupation and Israeli repression | Healing Children of Conflict

  6. Pingback: The Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ unanimously endorses the HCC BDS Campaign | Healing Children of Conflict

  7. Pingback: Learning from the past: How previous Social Movements impact todays efforts in Grand Rapids | Grand Rapids People's History Project

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