Johannes "Mark" Mathabane, was born on October 18, 1960, in Alexandra, South Africa. He was the oldest of seven children; two boys and five girls. Mark lived out his youth in South Africa during the time of Apartheid. At eighteen years old, after being awarded a tennis scholarship, he left South Africa for America. He attended Limestone College, Quincy College, and Dowling College. In 1987, he married Gail Ernsberger; they have three children and currently reside in Portland, OR.
Historical Event: Arthur Ashe Paints Wimbledon Black
Historical Event: Soweto Uprising
Historical Event: Death of Steve Biko
African American tennis player, and activist, Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to win the men's singles at Wimbledon. Because the sport was largely dominated by whites, his win meant a great deal to black people. They saw his historical win as a beacon of hope. On June 16th, 1976, the Soweto Uprising began. Enraged with a new law passed, requiring students to learn Afrikaans (the language of their oppressors) in place of English, black school children took to the streets to protest. Steve Bantu Biko was a South African anti-apartheid activist. After being arrested and staying in custody for a month, he died due to injuries sustained by the police.
Part 1: The threat of starvation.
Johannes' father, Jackson, was arrested for being unemployed. With their father, the breadwinner, gone, the family almost starved. It was an especially dire situation considering his mother was also pregnant at the time. Even after Jackson returned home, the family still struggled. While in prison, Jackson developed a passionate hatred for white people. He also, after he was able to get his job back, began to drink, gamble, and argue with his wife over monetary matters.
"A vindictive hatred for white people, which was soon to become the passion of his life, had crept into his speech....his words ringing with anger and hatred..."
Part 2: The scholarship.
After being top of his class consistently, Johannes was awarded a scholarship to secondary school. The scholarship would cover everything from uniforms, to books. Prior to receiving the scholarship, Johannes considered dropping out of school to help his mother, after their father was arrested a second time and refused to pay for his children's schooling. Without the scholarship, Johannes' life might've turned out very different.
""I'm going to leave school as soon as I finish Standard Six.........Because you have six children and a useless husband to look after. I want to help"
Part 3: America.
After learning about life in America from a friend, and the equal rights that blacks had, Johannes' aspired to live there. His tennis game improved, and through people he knew, he was able to befriend tennis legend Stan Smith. Johannes' told Stan about his dreams to go to America, and Stan promised to help make them a reality. He spoke on Johannes' behalf with multiple tennis coaches in America. When he was 18, Johannes' was offered, and accepted, a full tennis scholarship to Limestone College in South Carolina.
"I felt the responsibilities piling on my conscience. By going to America, I felt that I owed the duty to my race and country to use my life in a meaningful way, to see my successes and failures as the success and failure of the black race."