Gil Scott-Heron and other anti-apartheid artists unite to Liberate Mandela

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All: 
Just went on a Gil Scott-Heron Binge and listened to 49 selections of his work - what a great trip - I forgot how erudite my brother/friend/classmate really was, and how prophetic too. 

Traditionally speaking, in Africa, Griots usually talk about the past - they recount all of our history, the history of the village, the kings, their conquests, etc.  - their memories go back centuries.  Gil was definitely much more than a Griot - because he also could see where we were headed.  He could look at where we are currently and put the finger on the pulse in such a way that it became palpable for others as well.   For example, he did a piece called "We Almost Lost Detroit," way before Detroit's declaration of "bankruptcy."  His piece on "the Nation's Capitol, Washington DC" is still relevant today - actually even moreso.  

Intermixed with his 49 pieces (Youtube selections) were some great pieces of work by other artists on President Mandela and South Africa that I wanted to share with you.  I think, given the fact that we are honoring the memory of the great Nelson Mandela, it's important to note that his liberation was an effort that took decades, sacrifices of lives, and people having to escape South Africa to avoid persecution.  Many went to Kenya, Tanzania, and other countries, where they received assistance to be able to go back and fight again.  Many others had to leave the country entirely, some came to the US; many were students at Lincoln University, who had an entire division for students of non-independent African nations, which included South Africa, Southwest Africa (Namibia), Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Angola, Mozambique, the Congo, Basutoland (Lesotho), and other countries tangential to South Africa, and therefore, in very real measure, under her oppression as well. 

It may well have been from these classmates that Gil first became aware of the horrors in South Africa.  Goodness knows we spent many a day talking about how to liberate South Africans and to take back the land.  We even went to the UN to protest Ian Smith's Unilateral Declaration of Independence, an effort to keep Rhodesia white and continue oppressing the Black people.  (that's another story for another day)  Most of my classmates returned home to continue the fight to liberate their country, while others became part of the United Nations, and began working from that standpoint to dismantle the heinous regime. 

So   when the meanstream media tries to "whitewash" the participation and culpability of the US, Great Britain and other countries in keeping Mandela incarcerated; or tries to take credit for his liberation, these will serve to set the record straight.  To the US's credit, after having finally seen the handwriting on the wall, they did come through and support the boycott  of South Africa, which served, finally, to topple the apartheid regime. Overturning Reagan's veto was an act of defiance, and definitely has to be given credit for spelling the deathknell in apartheid. 
Hope you can listen to, and enjoy these pieces I selected for you.  If not, you can definitely log on to Youtube - Gil Scott-Heron/Johannesburg - it's a great way to spend an evening.
Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson
  1. N'Kosi Sikeleli (Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black... by miracleshaven
  2. Gil Scott-Heron -Johannesburg -Live 1976 Old G... by Jimmie B

Salif KEITA - Mandela by maddiallo
Hugh Masekela - Mandela (Bring Him Back Home) by boricuajazzz8

Artists United Against Apartheid - Sun City

musicinhistory musicinhistory·19 videos
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Uploaded on Jan 25, 2009  (Youtube)
Not long after Band Aid and We Are The World focused musical attention on poverty and famine, a collection of artists took a similar approach in the struggle against apartheid. The initiator was Steven van Zandt - erstwhile guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band - who whipped up dozens of musicians to work on the project. They included Peter Gabriel, members of U2, Springsteen himself, Hall and Oates, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Run DMC, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne and Keith Richards. Van Zandt wrote and produced the song and it reached the top 40 in several European nations, though not in the US.

Sun City is a large casino resort in the north-west of South Africa. During the apartheid years it was located in 'independent' state of Bophuthatswana, a phoney political entity that enabled white South Africans to visit a casino, gamble and attend strip shows, even though these activities were illegal within South Africa itself. The United Nations placed a cultural ban on artists touring or performing in South Africa - however many notable American and European acts ignored this and received large sums to perform at Sun City's massive auditorium. Amongst those to defy the ban included Linda Ronstadt, Queen, Laura Branigan, Rod Stewart, Julio Iglesias - and, ironically, black singers like Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick and Boney M. As a result, Van Zandt's song continually insists that "I ain't gonna play Sun City":

Twenty-three million can't vote 'cause they're black
We're stabbing our brothers and sisters in the back
I wanna say I, I, I ain't gonna play Sun City
I, I, I ain't gonna play Sun City

Boputhuswana is so far away
But we know it's in South Africa
No matter what they say
You can't buy me, I don't care what you pay
Don't ask me Sun City because I ain't gonna play

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Stay Blessed


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