Dumi Matabane, exiled 15 years ago from his South African homeland, says he grew up hating whites.
"How come they have everything and we have nothing?" the 45-year-old lawyer and Washington representative for the outlawed African National Congress recalls asking.
He watched white children go to schools with windows and desks and nice pictures on the wall while his school had no windows and he had to sit on a cold cement floor in winter.
"To this day I cannot eat breakfast because I grew up having no breakfast, and no lunch except for sometimes tea," he said. "That disparity makes a young child feel bad to be black. I wondered, 'Why did God make me black?' "
Matabane lives in Capitol Heights and has been in the Washington area for seven years, working with various antiapartheid groups. The movement, he said, has been very strong in Europe since the early 1970s, but he is glad to see the campaign picking up in America.
"At last, people are beginning to believe us," he said.
Born in a black township about 50 miles from Pretoria, Matabane supports efforts to seek economic sanctions against South Africa, and he does not have much sympathy for those who caution that South African blacks would be hurt the most by such measures.
"We've been suffering for more than 300 years, and the whole world closed their ears to our cries," he said. "So how come in 1985 people are worried about us? We're talking about the eradication of a whole racist system."
The African National Congress was formed in 1912 and initially sought reforms through peaceful means. The group, he says, took up arms several years ago when the white minority-ruled government adopted stricter apartheid laws and began resorting to violence against blacks who opposed the new measures.
Now, he says, white fears about retaliation by blacks are justified "because if you have been sitting on someone's head for a while . . . . "