A new documentary, "RFK in the Land of Apartheid," has public screening at Fairfield University Sept. 1



Image: RFK filmThe story of a little known but historical five-day visit that Robert F. Kennedy made to South Africa in June of 1966 is told in "RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope," a new documentary film that will be screened at Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 7:00 p.m. The public is welcome and admission is free.

The film, produced and directed by Larry Shore who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, tells the story of several dramatic acts of courage, not least of which is Robert Kennedy's decision to travel throughout South Africa with no security at the height of apartheid. The Apartheid government did its best to conceal his visit from South Africans, even denying the foreign press entry into the country to cover the visit.

Ian Robertson, a leading South African student activist, who invited Kennedy to speak to the National Union of South African Students, was banned under South Africa's Suppression of Communism Act, just before Kennedy's arrival. Under the ban, the college senior was not allowed to be with more than one person in a room at a time, speak to the press or appear in public, without risking greater imprisonment. Kennedy visited him at his home and archived film of the young Robertson along with video of him today and his reflections are all part of the documentary.

Kennedy paid a surprise visit to another banned citizen, Chief Albert Luthuli, president of the African National Conference and one of only three Black men to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Kennedy then went to the black township of Soweto, bringing the residents their first public news and greetings from their beloved leader.

Throughout his visit, Kennedy tried to engage the Afrikaners in dialogue, acknowledging the civil rights struggle that was going on in his own country. At Stellenbosch, a premier Afrikaans university, he had a good exchange of ideas with students and was credited with helping to plant the seeds that would later contribute to the growth of the Verligte ("enlightened") Movement at Stellenbosch. It was during this trip that Kennedy delivered one of his most memorable speeches. Known as the "ripple" speech, it includes the often quoted:

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

The film will be a centerpiece of the welcome to new first year students at Fairfield, who will have their own showing of the film and who will be challenged to explore the relationship between global conditions of inequality and local commitments to change. The film provides a natural transition from the University's Year of Activism to the Year of Global Citizenship.

Fairfield University's annual fall Convocation will be held on Thursday, Sept. 2 at 4:30 p.m. on Bellarmine Lawn. In a break from recent tradition, the convocation is not just for first year students, but for the entire student body, including graduate students. Speaking will be Dr. Reneé White, professor of sociology and anthropology, and Rev. Gerald Blaszczak, S.J., University chaplain.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 19, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 23