WASHINGTON – Two area anti-apartheid activists fulfilled dreams of exploring their African heritage Thursday when they left for the first-ever Peace Corps mission to South Africa.
Steven Douglas, 27, of Towson, Md., and C.D. Glin Jr., 24, of Adams Morgan in the District, are two of 11 African Americans recruited for the South African mission. They’re among an ethnically diverse group of 33.
Both men had spoken out against South Africa’s institutionalized racist government since they were in high school.
And although they both applied to the Peace Corps hoping for West Africa, they were hand-picked for the highly competitive South African assignment, said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan.
Douglas said he had always wanted to go to Africa to explore his lineage, noting his family was most likely from West Africa. But he said he is honored to be part of the South African tour because of its historical significance.
Glin, who graduated from Howard University last year, spoke to a packed auditorium there Thursday at a send-off party. He called the assignment “an adventure of a lifetime.”
Glin handed the Rev. Jesse Jackson a Peace Corps application, urging him to “fill it out” and apply. The gesture was greeted with cheers and laughter.
But the crowd quieted as Jackson explained why the group going to South Africa is like no other. He said its mission is to learn from a people who have fought and won the battle against racism.
“Go to South Africa to learn. … You will learn more than you teach and this will strengthen your ability to be strong world leaders,” the preacher and politician said.
Gearan said the group departing “represents the very best of Americans” who will teach and learn, and bring their lessons back to the United States.
The volunteers will all be assigned to rural regions of the Northern Province, which were neglected by the South African government during white rule. In 1990, apartheid laws were dismantled, and in 1994, all-races elections were held.
American volunteers will work with South African teachers and community leaders to improve primary education.
Douglas, a 1993 graduate of Morehouse College, where he was a defensive lineman, has a history of working for others.
He said after Morehouse “shot me out like a cannon, charged and ready to tackle the world,” he went to Baltimore to work with troubled youths.
There, for Baltimore’s Department of Social Services, he worked for a family preservation initiative that brought convicted Maryland juveniles jailed in out-of-state institutions back to their communities for rehabilitation.
Glin was active in the Concerned Black Men Inc., a mentoring organization in the District, and worked with many programs focusing on young, black men.
While in high school and living in Portugal on an Army base, he and two friends started a rap group for social justice, with a special focus against apartheid.
Both men agreed that their respective universities helped shape their passion for international human rights and issues significant to blacks. They said their work and drive is a product and tribute to the historically black colleges. South Africa is the 132nd country hosting Peace Corps volunteers. The mission was agreed upon in principle during President Nelson Mandela’s trip to the United States in 1994. -30-