October #64 : The March - by Kai Wright

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Table of Contents

Stephen Gendin

Be Very Afraid

The CD4 Solution?

The Boys in the Band

Bare Witness

The March

My, What a Big Trial IL-2 Has! Will It Work?

AIDSplotation or Art?

Refugee All-Stars

Drive-By Shopping

Upward Mobility



Take Five

POZ Picks

The Medium Is The Message

A Conference Of Their Own


Cutting Class

Last Word

It Takes A Village Voice

Conference of the Century

Stop and Start

Sit Up, Sit Down?

Too Much Information

Sex RX

Talking Tipranavir

Shelf Life

The In Crowd

Herb Of The Month

He Died Of Old AIDS

10.8.88: Old Flames

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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October 2000

The March

by Kai Wright

A freedom-song refrain

Over and over, the

A freedom-song refrain

Over and over, the song rang out in Zulu, a cadence that had summoned the strength of black South Africa in its struggle to end white minority rule: "Hold it / you fighters / The sound of your machines / reminds me / of Oliver Tambo!"

Engulfed by 2,500 people belting out the chorus of the famous African National Congress (ANC) tribute to a movement hero, I watched awestruck as protesters danced the toi toi, another expression of the anti-apartheid struggle. I'd seen countless newsreels of this sort of defiant celebration. Now, with apartheid history, I listened as a new generation of fighters told the world that the war for their lives has begun again.

"The toi toi gives me strength. I bring down this foot," said HIVer-activist Mercy Makhalemele, stamping down one foot while raising the other high, "and I feel it. I bring down the other foot" -- her boot crashed to the cement -- "and I feel it."

That's just the reaction that organizers of this July 9 march through downtown Durban sought to spark among the 4.2 million South Africans who are HIV positive: a renewed spirit of resistance against what they consider the nation's new oppressors -- multinational pharmaceutical companies.

South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) organized the protest in partnership with the U.S.-based Health GAP Coalition, with scores of conferees from abroad joining in. The march, which nearly upstaged the opening of the conference, revealed a growing impatience among black South Africans from poor townships, both with drug-company price gouging and with their own government's equivocation about providing basic medications for HIV-related illnesses.

"The drug companies are strong. But we have right on our side," said Zackie Achmat, a TAC leader. "We did not stop apartheid by not fighting. We can't stop HIV without a fight."

The march witnessed the reassembly of the old anti-apartheid coalition -- including a major trade-union confederation, the South African Communist Party and rank-and-filers from the ANC. But the most dramatic link between past and present came when Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a national hero for her decades-long resistance to apartheid, addressed the rally. Youthful protesters screamed like adoring fans seeing a rap star, but her song went this way: "Today we are marching again. It is part of the long walk to freedom. We brought down apartheid -- who are the pharmaceuticals?"

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