Woman will speak of troubled time at Martin Luther King Jr. day
It was June 14, 1985. She and her husband, Michael, were in Gaborone, Botswana, as representatives of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA, and had gotten involved in anti-apartheid efforts.
That night, the South African Defense Force raided Gaborone, just 14 miles from the border of South Africa. Twelve people that the couple knew were killed.
“The African National Congress [an anti-apartheid group] ... I got to know them in the planning for [a ‘Year of the Woman’ event]. Poetry, music, playwriting, had more positive effect to exposing the apartheid system,” she said. “Books were banned; you couldn’t even have a picture of Nelson Mandela.”
The group came together that spring, before the raid, to talk about upcoming events, Appleby said. At the time, anti-apartheid leader Mandela was in prison.
“On June 14, 1985, the South African Defense Force raided Gaborone and people who were at that event were murdered in their bed,” she said. “The things we do here [in the U.S.] that are questioning of our government are accepted here and we are not killed for it.”
Appleby, a member of the Appalachian Peace Education Center, will speak Saturday at the center’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Abingdon United Methodist Church, which begins at 2 p.m. Nelson Mandela, who died in December, will be honored and remembered at the event as well, she said.
Appleby and her husband, who lived in Africa from 1982-87, helped organize music and arts events to raise money to rebuild homes that were destroyed during the raid.
“It’s very important to speak out, and to use music and posters — art that people can touch and feel and hear — to support people who are struggling,” she said.
She said this week at her home in Abingdon that the struggle is not over to gain equal acceptance among all people, here and in South Africa.
“Nelson Mandela is a fantastic, significant leader, but there were many, many, many people who suffered for that cause and gave their lives for it,” Appleby said. “I’m just so grateful for the people who keep up the struggle and who haven’t given up. ... It’s just a feeling of great admiration and thanks for not only the [big and media-covered] events but the simple things people do on a daily basis with their neighbors and others in their community.”
She said she sees similarities between South Africa and Appalachia, in that valuable minerals are mined in both.
She said one of the things people can do to honor the struggle is to not forget it, in events like the march and in small ways.
“Remember how it was when racism was blatant in this country,” she said. “It’s still here, but it’s against the law of the land. ... The other thing is to get involved in your local community and find out how work can be done to make changes there.”