PROVO - Julia Mavimbela, a black South African schoolteacher and national leader who has devoted her life to fighting for equality and a better life for her people, will speak at Brigham Young University's 1989 Women's Conference.
Her fireside address, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 6 in the Marriott Center, will be titled "I Speak From My Heart: The Personal Story of a Black South African Woman." The fireside is free to the public. She also will speak at 7:30 p.m. April 4 in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom about her service in Africa.Mavimbela is fluent in seven languages. She established a career as a teacher, serving with a specialty in kindergarten training and later as a principal. Widowed in 1955 with five small children, she has owned a restaurant, bakery, butchery and herb shop.
Now 71 years old, she holds a temporary post as teacher for first grades with Catholic schools.
In the more than three decades since her husband's death, Mavimbela has turned much of her energy to community activity and service. In addition, as a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she is active as president of the Relief Society of the Soweto Branch of the Johannesburg South Africa Stake and sings in the Johannesburg Stake choirs.
"Julia Mavimbela is an extraordinary and humble woman," said Carol Lee Hawkins, chairman of the BYU conference. "She has stayed in South Africa, and, living with a spirit of love, has continually sought to fill the needs she observes."
When she noticed that youth seemed to have no leaders, she organized a youth club known as the Junior Gumboots, a name derived from the rubber boots black men wore while working in the mines. It became the equivalent of a boy's club for youngsters 8 to 14 years old.
Surrounded by large-scale riots in Soweto, particularly those that broke out in 1976, Mavimbela has sought to repair not only physical damages to the area but the mental and moral damage as well. Her message to youth has been, "Where there was a bloodstain, a beautiful flower must grow."
The 1976 riots led to the founding of Women for Peace, an organization of all races that ultimately grew to a membership of 15,000. Mavimbela, a founder-member, was co-national president with Denise Valente, a prominent white woman, during 1984-86.
Women for Peace sent her to the Minister of Education three times regarding the educational needs of detained young people. In connection with these efforts to promote peace, she has volunteered to attend trials of young detainees to study how children look, how they are questioned and whether they are "steamrolled."