Art Exhibit Opening: Helen Suzman—Fighter for Human Rights
April 10, 2012
Student Center 314AB
Join us for an opening program and reception to welcome an exhibit chronicling the life and political career of Helen Suzman, the iconic South African leader who devoted her life to the fight against apartheid. The exhibit which will be on display in Student Center 105 during the month of April, tells the story of Suzman's human rights activism.
Helen Suzman, the iconic South African leader who devoted her life to the fight against apartheid, was a member of the South African Parliament for 36 years, from 1953-1989. She was the sole opposition voice condemning apartheid during the 13-year period (1961-1974) when she was the governing body's only member of the Progressive Party.
Helen Suzman was born in Germiston, Gauteng, on 7 November 1917 to a Jewish Lithuanian immigrant couple. She matriculated in 1933 from Parktown Convent, Johannesburg. After school, Suzman went on to register at the University of the Witwatersrand for a B.Com. degree. In 1937, aged 19, she married Moses Meyer Suzman, a specialist physician. The couple had two daughters, Frances and Patricia. In 1941, following the birth of her first child, Suzman returned to university to complete her degree and then worked as a statistician with the War Supplies Board until 1944. In 1945, she was appointed tutor and then lecturer in Economic History at the University of the Witwatersrand, a post she held until becoming MP for the opposition United Party(UP) in the Houghton constituency in 1953. By 1959, the UP was deeply divided between conservative and progressive groups and following the party's decision to oppose further purchases of land by the government for African settlement,11 MPs, including Helen, resigned. It was agreed that a new Progressive Party(PP) be formed and at its inaugural congress Dr. Jan Steytler was elected leader. In the 1961 general election, Helen was the only PP MP to retain her seat. She remained the party's only representative until 1974, when she was joined by seven colleagues. In 1977, the PP's successor, the Progressive Federal Party, became the official opposition. She retired from politics in 1989, with former Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon succeeding her as MP for Houghton.
In recognition of her role, Helen Suzman received honorary doctorates from a number of leading universities throughout the world and South Africa. Among them were Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia(NewYork), Harvard, Witwatersrand and CapeTown. She also received an honorary Fellowship of the London School of Economics. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and for the Chancellorship of the University of the Witwatersrand in recognition of her contribution to the pursuit of justice. In 1978, she received the United Nations Award for Human Rights and in 1989, Queen Elizabeth conferred on her an Honorary Dame Commander(CivilDivision) of the Order of the British Empire. She was honored with an exhibition showcasing her life and work in film, print and photography at the South African Jewish Museum in March 2005.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela, whom Helen visited on Robben Island during his imprisonment there, has referred to her as "a remarkable South African woman". In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom6, Mandela said of Suzman: "It was an odd and wonderful sight to see this courageous woman peering into our cells and strolling around our courtyard. She was the first and only woman ever to grace our cells."
Art Exhibit Opening: Speakpeace
May 7, 2012
Student Center 103A
The Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children's Paintings exhibit features original poems written by American children, veterans, and established poets in response to Vietnamese children's paintings on peace and war collected over the last 10 years by the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. Join us for an opening reception, including an art viewing and refreshments.