By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
While the world is mourning the loss of President Nelson Mandela, I want to raise a voice in celebration for this wonderful, stalwart, genteel, dedicated, brave, courageous, cunning, and noble example of Black Manhood. Amandla!!! It's not enough to say "job well done." We really do owe him a vote of thanks, because what he did took us to a whole other level of the contrast between Black and white.
While others are talking about equality, Mandela exemplified superiority. His values were superior to those of the mundane white racists of South Africa and the United States and Great Britain, who conspired to keep him incarcerated. They truly found out, once and for all, that "iron bars do not a prison make," when they were dealing with the fine mind of Mandela. His mind was and is free from the oppressive, hateful, heinous things they obviously tried to heap upon him during his 27 years of incarceration. He came out clear minded, and just as set on purpose as the day they shut the bars.
Making his transition at the age of 95, and not dying in prison, which I am sure was their mission, is another testimony to the strength, endurance and intrepid fortitude of Nelson Mandela. How happy they would have been had he succumbed to the rigors of incarceration; had he made an attempt to break out, so they could dispatch with him. But, no. He managed to not only live, but continue to be a vital part of the ANC anti-Apartheid movement via his wife, Winnie Mandela - who kept things going and kept his memory alive, in spite of, and because of, the machinations of a racist regime gone mad with its own vapid whiteness.
He can truly be called the "President of the Ancestors," for having come through the fire, and walked out, head held high, smiling always, in the faces of those who would have cheerfully walked down his spine.
This in no way takes away for all that has been contributed by all of our other heroes and heroines. We have a pantheon of exemplary Black men and women, African, African American, African-Caribbean;
Africa-South American; African-Central American - but realize that there is no such thing as a Black
person who is not of BLACK AFRICAN HERITAGE. So the honor goes across the board for this wonderful
man - from all of us who know that our ancestry, cradle to grave starts in the Continent for which he so nobly fought, and of which South Africa is only a part. MANDELA STOOD FOR ALL OF US.
President Nelson "Madiba" Mandela has been a personal hero of mine since I was a student in Fredrick
Douglass High School, in Oklahoma City, OK. We had been studying the Apartheid racist pass laws
instigated under Voervood (don't know if it's spelled right, and don't care), and the efforts to fight against
it on the part of the South African people, when he was first incarcerated by the racist apartheid regime.
It paralleled our own civil rights struggle, with sit ins, being hosed by police, having dogs set upon us - all
to keep us from having a part in the so-called American rights to freedom. We learned about his incarceration, the kidnap/murder of Patrice Lumumba, and so many other atrocities taking place against African brothers and sisters, who were trying to throw off the colonizers oppressive yoke, from our teachers, Mr. Buford and Mr. Harris - who I am sure are sitting up there right now comparing what they taught us in class with the facts, now that they have him there to get the info directly from him.
Jomo Kenyatta and the MauMaus were also personal heroes of mine. Our history and social science teachers kept us well informed and up to date about colonization in Africa, in much the same way they did the racism we were suffering right here in the US. They wanted us to understand that it was all related, all the same oppressors, just geographical differences. The path between Africa and Blacks in America was a two-way street.
President Nelson Mandela - this powerful, yet genteel man, the first Black President, of South Africa, is also known as the father of Democracy in S.A. He suffered from a lung ailment that was stubbornly resistant to treatment, and to which he finally succumbed on Thursday, December 5, 2013. It was nearly six months after President Barack Obama had made a sojourn to South Africa in hopes of meeting his hero and fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient. They formed a mutual admiration society, those two. However, owing to the gravity of his illness, the meeting did not take place. President Obama, however, did go to the notorious Robben Island, where Mandela had been incarcerated for 27 years, and walked with his wife and children through that tiny cell that held that giant spirit.
President Barack Obama was a great admirer of President Mandela, and will be attending the services along with former Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George Bush; as will many other dignitaries, heads of state and elected officials. These two great men possess some of the same wonderful traits of leadership and responsibility, which places them heads and shoulders above their detractors.
As a student at Lincoln University, and peer counselor to brothers and sisters who were refugees from non-independent African Nations, including South Africa (Azania is the real name), Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Congo, Lesotho, and other countries under the heel of atrocious colonial imperialist oppression, my fellow classmates and I used to come up with scheme after scheme about how to free Mandela, free South Africa, reign down retribution on the oppressors, and move the country to sovereignty. The sad thing for me is that most of them did not live to see Mandela free. Many of my friends actually worked in the UN for a while, but later returned home to help with the liberation efforts. They there with the rest of the ancestors to greet him, share a mug of Skokian, and regale him with how they managed to escape, come to America and attend Lincoln University - the Alma Mater of Nkrumah and Azikewe - who are also there to welcome him to his new home.
As most are aware, the legendary leader of South Africa was imprisoned in Robben Island, one of the harshest prisons in South Africa, for his defiant stand against Apartheid. What we are now learning is that it was the CIA that was instrumental in his capture. But then, who would be surprised at that? During the 27 years of his torture and incarceration, the ANC (African Nationalist Congress) and the youth of South Africa, under his then wife, Winnie Mandela, continued their resistance and assault against the racist regime started by that s.o.b. Voervord in the 1940's.
During this time, and later, in the fifties when they were made even harsher, (actually starting with the Boer and British invasions in the 1800's) South African Blacks could no longer walk or live freely in their own land. They had to walk around with "passes" or I.D. cards with their pictures on them. "Pass laws required that Africans had to carry identity documents with them at all times. These books had to contain stamps providing official proof that that the person in question had permission to be in a town at that time. According to Section 10 (1a-d) of the 1954 Native Urban Areas Act Africans could only stay in an urban area for more than 12 hours if they: a) Had been born there and had lived there ever since. b) Had worked there for ten years under one employer, or had lived there for 15 years without breaking any law (including pas laws); c) Were the child or wife of a man permitted to live in the urban area on the conditions of (a) or (b) mentioned above. d) Signed a contract to migrate from a rural reserve to a specific job for a limited period of time in an urban area after which they must return home. Contract workers' families were not allowed to join them in an urban area. If they did not have these, they would be incarcerated - detained indefinitely - or killed. They were subjected to harsh treatment, outright shootings by the so-called police in - their own country!!!
The brave Black men, women and students who rose up against this were finally victorious in having Mandela released in 1990. He became the first Black president in modern times of South Africa; however, instead of continuing the hostilities (as many of us kind of expected and wanted him to do - we kind of wanted revenge against the tyranny they had suffered - especially us Black folks here in the US), he put together a reconciliation plan which averted what surely would have been years and years of protracted blood baths.
New Yorkers were especially instrumental in effecting a massive boycott of South Africa, helping bring the ANC bring the heinous regime to its knees.
The brutal massacre of innocent students at Soweto, the Sharpville-Langa Massacre (which happened on my birthday, March 21) ; the production of Sara Fina, local ANC-based New York organizations that met and raised funds on a weekly basis, orchestrated by Sandra Rivers, Lyndon Prince, Elombe Brath, Sam Anderson, Duma Ndlovu, and so many others - I mention them here, because these are names the meanstream press will never mention. They'd rather talk to whites about the heroism of this great Black man. There were so many more Black people behind the liberation efforts to free Mandela. Suffice it to say, we know who we are.
Of course the support of such celebrities as Harry Belafonte - who was involved waaaay before any of the others because of his friendship and support of Miriam Makeba and Letta Mbulu - Hugh Masakela, Danny Glover, Michael Jackson, Kwame Toure` (a/k/a Stokely Carmichael), and others, all brought the message home, that South Africa ( Zimbabwe, SouthWest Africa/Namibia; Zambia, and other oppressed areas) would no longer be allowed to exist.
News caster and Soror (Delta Sigma Theta) Charlayne Hunter Gualt, and her husband, producer, Ron Gualt, moved to South Africa as soon as Mandela was liberated, and have lived there ever since. Charles Moses, former press secretary to former Governor Mario Cuomo, was hired by President Mandela to head up his University of the North in South Africa - which he did for four years. And a special mention to Susan Taylor, who at that time was Editor in Chief of Essence Magazine, and who, long before Mandela had been released, honored Winnie Mandela at an Essence Awards Ceremony when they were still being held at Rockefeller Center. She literally stopped the entire program to pay homage to Winnie and Nelson Mandela, and had Winnie speak of the necessity of keeping the pressure on.
African Americans, Black elected figures - including the Congressional Black Caucus - Black community leaders, were of one voice when it came to boycotting South Africa and keeping the name of Mandela befire America's consciousness. Artists and musicians were warned that if they performed in racist South Africa they would find their products boycotted by Black consumers. If you performed on the stage in South Africa, you were toast. "Oh no, we won't go to Sun City!!" was the chant of the day (unfortunately vocalist Millie Jackson didn't get the memo, and the consequences to her career were swift and dire. Not only did they refuse to buy her records, but audiences boycotted all her performances.) On the corporate side, companies that traded with South Africa found that their products were not allowed in the US.
But no one was more on point and up in arms than my classmate, brother/friend Gil Scott-Heron, whose song JOHANNESBURG said it all! It brought together all the emotions we were feeling, all the pathos, horror, and determination to wipe that regime out. "What's the Word: JOHANNESBURG" was on everybody's lips. It was our anti-apartheid battle cry. Gil had a knack for bringing it all down front.
Upon his release, Mayor David Dinkins, New York City's first Black mayor, honored President Mandela with a reception and a ticker tape parade through Avenue of the Americas and Harlem. It was the first (and only) time that an African head of state was given such an official honor in New York City (or anywhere else, for that matter). The streets were lined with proud Africans, African Americans and Caribbean Americans who watched as the humble man waved and smiled his way through and into the hearts of New Yorkers. We lined the streets of Harlem to greet President Mandela and hear him speak - standing for hours waiting for his arrival.
It was also the first time the South African Embassy on Third Avenue opened its doors to Black people -
ever. Several friends, including Maxine McCrey Montano, Shirley Scott and myself, went to a reception they
reluctantly held for us. Shiela Sisulu, Max Sisulu's sister, was also present. There were several Black women from South Africa present at the time, many of whom had never been outside their village. They were making and displaying crafts that they had designed to sell via an organization called "Shared
Interest," founded by Donna Katzen. The organization made micro loans to Black businesses where the white banks would not, so they could have businesses of their own. They have been one of my favorite organizations for decades. Every year they go to South Africa and help others start businesses of their own.
As stated before, there were many of us who were prepared to exact punishment against the South African whites who had held our brothers and sisters down so long. And I guess I'm guilty of that. At the South African Embassy, in Manhattan, there were South African white women whose business it seemed was to exploit the new opportunities to trade with America. They had brought some work done by Black South African women and tried to sell it to us. When we asked if they had made it, they gave us a queer look, and tried to act as if it was a collaborative effort. When the Black women who actually made the crafts came forth, I offered to purchase from her, and the white woman stood between us as though to block the transaction. When I stepped around her, she made the remark that we were to deal with them because the Black woman was "indigent." It took Maxine, Shirley and two other people to keep me from knocking the bejeebers out of her. My response was, "who the "f" made her indigent." To which the white South African beat a quick retreat from the room. As a result of my standing up for her, the Black South African sister made me a lovely beaded bracelet on the spot - which I wear to this day - it's made of grey, silver and blue miniature beads - she took less than 15 minutes to make it. When I gave her $10.00 (she didn't want to be paid), I turned to the other white South African women and said, "If I find that you've touched any of this money I've given her, I'll stomp you into a mud hole." One turned beet red, and left the room. I heard the word "kaffir" in the background.
So it was indeed a good thing Mandela's wisdom prevailed in the move forward to end the hostilities and atrocities that had undermined his people for centuries. There were those among us who would not have been so wise. We're the hotheads. We would have taken up arms. The fact that he averted a long and protracted struggle has been the blue print for others to follow. Hopefully they will.
Much to our disappointment, President Mandela only served one term as President of South Africa. We were truly enjoying the fact that they had to deal with the very same man they tried to destroy. However, we clearly understood the need to have some time to enjoy this freedom that had so long been held away from him, and to retire his second wife, Graca Machel. He had already done the hard job. It was befitting that he pass the baton, while still living, and serve in the capacity as an advisor to those who succeeded him. He withstood rigors, hardship, challenges many half his age have not been able to stand up to.
The following is a link to the funeral arrangements and order of Ceremony for President Mandela. There will be ceremonies held in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. As I receive them, I will post them on my blog for updates. In the interim, log on to the following:
NB: In New York, a procession following the path of Mr. Mandela’s June 21, 1990 motorcade will follow the indoor portion of the program. Trade unions, legislative and faith based leaders along with some of the 100,000 people of New York City who witnessed this historic event unfold through the streets of Brooklyn are expected to attend.
Again: My condolences and congratulations to my brothers and sisters in South Africa for having had the honor of such a wonderful, fine Black man as their leader and inspiration for so many years. May we each learn the lessons this fine man taught us through his living and carry it forward in our own lives and in the way we interact with each other. May the love, peace,respect and blessings of President Nelson Mandela reign in our hearts and in our lives. ###GDW
ADDENDUM: Last year in February, 2012, my friend, producer Sparkie Martin sent me this great clip of "UMOJA"a South African musical that he was promoting. I couldn't stop playing the music over and over
again. I absolutely love South African music - there is so much vibrancy, energy, rhythm, meaning - and even pathos - that you feel it right down in your very soul.
I have included the YouTube clip in this blog in honor of President Nelson Mandela, and the brothers and sisters of South Africa, who are the very epitome of what that music is all about. I hope you can hear it and it leads you to go on YouTube and view all six of the acts or log on to www.umojatheshow.com. They are so fantabulous.
(By the way: UMOJA is Swahili for Unity or Togetherness - Kenya and Tanzania gave refuge to those
South African leaders who had to escape oppression to go back and fight again).
Sparkie Martins Africa Umoja ..42 persons cast ..wishing to bring this awesome show your country..contact: Sparkie Martin @ 404-207-8834 /email: Sparkwado@yahoo.comAfter touring over 26 countries, AFRICA UMOJA is returning to SA shores to continue on their journey. AFRICA UMOJA: The Spirit of Togetherness the tale of South Africa, its people and their song.
I hope you can view these clips - I play them because they are the heart of South African spirit, and the heart of Madiba's spirit as well. Enjoy and Stay Blessed & ECLECTICALLY BLACK
Rest Well Madiba - and give our greetings to Steve Biko, Miriam Makeba, Chaka Zulu, and so many others who are waiting to greet you.
Umoja - Umoja - YouTube
Umoja - The Spirit of Togetherness Part 3 - YouTube