Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela raises a clenched fist, arriving to address a mass rally, a few days after his release from jail.
Nelson Mandela. Memorials, Militancy and the ANC movement
Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez
South Africans and supporters world-wide continue to pay tribute to and honor Madiba, Nelson Mandela. You can visit the official SA government site for memorial and funeral events. From heads of state, to young schoolchildren, there has been an outpouring of condolences and sentiment.
The media coverage has been extensive—I've tried to look at as much as I can find—but so far the best and most comprehensive, imho, has been the live coverage from SABC TV, South African Broadcasting Corporation.
Coverage here in the U.S. has been varied, from laudatory to much of the usual carping and racism from the right, and many media outlets are already posting overly sanitized versions of his life and history, disconnected from his role and part in a struggle larger than one man, no matter his greatness. For those of you who may have missed it, please read shanikka's Farewell Madiba, Who We Once Called Nelson Mandela
I found responses to the Mandela New Yorker cover to be particularly interesting.
I wandered into the New Yorker blog comments section, and found some remarks particularly telling. Like this one:
jmen 3 days agoBlack power pose? A raised arm and clenched fist? The answer of course is yes—there are many such images—images that simply represent a struggle over decades that took the lives of so many who were fighting for freedom.
Are there actually photographs of Mandela in that Black Power/Black Panther pose? It seems to me that no one was less about Black Power than he was.
As De Klerk said yesterday, "Nelson Mandela's biggest legacy was . . . his remarkable lack of bitterness."
Another commenter posted from a very different perspective. It has been shared by thousands (with audio)
Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel.My question is—will the traditional media fail? Will we wind up with yet another saintly Martin Luther King Jr. known only for "I have a dream" and "content of character"? Will it be like the historically incorrect images of that "tired older woman" who sat down on a bus one day—Rosa Parks?
Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.
You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.
Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it. And perhaps the greatest tragedy of Mandela’s life isn’t that he spent almost thirty years jailed by well-heeled racists who tried to shatter millions of spirits through breaking his soul, but that there weren’t or aren’t nearly enough people like him. Because that’s South Africa now, a country long ago plunged headfirst so deep into the sewage of racial hatred that, for all Mandela’s efforts, it is still retching by the side of the swamp. Just imagine if Cape Town were London. Imagine seeing two million white people living in shacks and mud huts along the M25 as you make your way into the city, where most of the biggest houses and biggest jobs are occupied by a small, affluent to wealthy group of black people. There are no words for the resentment that would still simmer there.Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death. You will try, wherever you are, and you will fail.
Bloggers, educators, parents and teachers have to ensure that the life of the individual—Nelson Mandala—is firmly seated in an historical context, as well as part and parcel of the continuing struggle in South Africa to deal with not only the continuance of racism, but also of the severity and inequality of economic apartheid.
A good place to start is with the African National Congress (ANC) History, at their website, which is important to review if you don't understand how long this struggle has been underway. It has nine sections:
1. The African Kingdoms are defeated 1860s - 1900While there, for visual images and video please visit the ANC archives
2. The ANC is formed - 1912
3. Working for a Wage
4. The ANC Gains New Life - 1940s
5. A Mass Movement is Born - 1950
6. The Armed Struggle Begins - 1960s
7. Workers and Students Fight Back - 1970s
8. The Struggle for People`s Power - 1980s
9. The ANC is Unbanned
Poster: 1951 Defiance CampaignI was struck by this poster, from 1951 simply because it not only pictures a female trade unionist, but it references the Defiance Campaign.
Poster published by the ANC in 1984; designed by Thami Mnyele; printed by Caledonian Press, London. The photograph shows blind trade union leader Violet Hashe addressing a crowd in Johannesburg at the start of the 1951 Defiance Campaign; picture from Drum Magazine. Poster: ... to organise our womenfolk into a powerful, united and active force for revolutionary change. This task falls on men and women alike - all of us as comrades. FORWARD WITH THE YEAR OF THE WOMEN!
The Defiance Campaign in 1952 was the first large-scale, multi-racial political mobilization against apartheid laws under a common leadership – by the African National Congress, South African Indian Congress, and the Coloured People’s Congress. More than 8,000 trained volunteers went to jail for “defying unjust laws,” laws that had grown worse since the National Party came to power in 1948. Volunteers were jailed for failing to carry passes, violating the curfew on Africans, and entering locations and public facilities designated for one race only.Struggle is a long journey. Something we need to stop and remind ourselves of at times. And none of this history of the struggles in South Africa can be separated from other anti-colonial African independence movements and liberation struggles on the continent—from Kenya to Algiers, through Angola and Mozambique. The acronyms are not well always known here—but many of us who were fighting in the movement here in the U.S. paid close attention to groups like MPLA, FRELIMO, and PAIGC.
In early 1953, the government imposing stiff penalties for protesting discriminatory laws, including heavy fines and prison sentences of up to five years. It then enacted the Public Safety Act, allowing declaration of a State of Emergency to override existing laws and oversight by courts. Although the Defiance Campaign did not achieve its goals, it demonstrated large-scale and growing opposition to apartheid. Furthermore, the use of non-violent civil disobedience was part of an important international tradition - from the independence movement in Indian two decades before to sit-ins and other non-violent protests in the United States civil rights movement more than a decade later.
I remember the Black Panther Party closing off streets in Harlem and screening films like The Battle of Algiers for the community as part of "community PE (political education)"
I think back to my own "becoming aware" in the 60's and 70's and as the time approaches for me to return to Africa (trip delayed till the spring) I can remember burying my head in books back then, reading the works of and about Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Léopold Senghor, Kwame Nkrumah, Walter Rodney, and Patrice Lumumba, among others.
We can barely correct the distortions of U.S. history still taught in our classrooms, and it is asking a lot for us to undertake an understanding of a continent as vast as Africa, with a complex and multi-faceted history and present day relationship to global capital and its multiplicity of internal conflicts, but perhaps, with the world's eyes now centered on the passing of Madiba, we can make a start.
He would ask that of us.
News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
The anti-apartheid and civil rights movements share a history of fighting for democratic change. The Root: South Africans and African Americans Bound by Struggle.
We often hear about the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain—rooted in history and personified by the close personal friendship between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair during the 1990s. But there’s another “special relationship,” one less commented upon but equally noteworthy, between the African-American community and black South Africans.
The death of Nelson Mandela this week at the age of 95 offers the perfect context to look back on the relationship that helped bring greater freedom and democracy to two different nations and continents, and forged bonds between them.
America’s civil rights struggles helped to inspire South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, and the Sharpeville Massacre, reverberating around the world in 1960 after South African police killed 69 peaceful demonstrators, became a clarion call for civil rights activists in the U.S.
The black power movement during the 1960s and 1970s inspired the “black consciousness” movement in South Africa under the leadership of Steve Biko, whose tragic death while in police custody would be immortalized in the 1987 film Cry Freedom.
Yet it would be Mandela’s story that would solidify this special relationship between black South Africans and African Americans. Mandela symbolized the fight against apartheid in much the same way that Martin Luther King Jr. symbolized the American civil rights movement. During the black power era, Pan-Africanists in this country saw South Africa as the crown jewel of a continent undergoing a renaissance of freedom and decolonization.
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Brazil scholar Cheryl Sterling explains how Nelson Mandela’s message has inspired movements for black freedom throughout the diaspora. ColorLines: A Struggle’s Echo, from South Africa to Brazil.
When the Movimento Negro Unificado (United Black Movement) formed in Brazil in 1979, they turned to the anti-apartheid struggle and to Mandela, in particular, for a vision for change and a symbol of empowerment. They looked at the apartheid structure; its separation of the races; the mandatory passes that blacks carried that showed all aspects of their lives; the separation of place and space in social, economic and political spheres, and they concluded that Brazil was an apartheid state.
Apartheid in Brazil is social and economic, in that the poor and the black population are deemed by the Human Rights Index as living under “subhuman conditions.” Scholar France Winddance Twine also named it a “spatial apartheid” because the black and poor populations and the wealthy whites live within visual proximity of each other, but under opposite conditions. The black and poor populations often live in the favelas—or, broken down shantytowns—while the whites live in properties that would command the best market rates anywhere in the world. In major cities like São Paulo, the attempted remediation of this disparity meant moving the black and poor populations to the suburbs, which are ghettos formed on the periphery of a city with limited transportation and access, so as to prevent continuous interaction with the middle class and the elite. There also exists in Brazil an abnormally large prison population of darker men, who are jailed on any charge, subject to random police brutality and who have limited-to-no opportunities.
Afro-Brazilians leaders, in searching for paradigms to help transform their society, read the works of freedom fighters everywhere. But with Mandela they found a symbol for their resistance, a symbol of courage and an articulated demand for the type of justice they wished for in their own society. His struggles and story were so evocative that one of the most famous modern day Afro-Brazilian poets, Márcio Barbosa, penned this praise poem titled, “Mandela,” as a testament to how imprisonment cannot stop the fight for freedom:
No prison can hold, between the stonewalls and mossThe Movimento Negro similarly began protest marches against governmental policies, strikes against key establishments and grassroots educational campaigns to organize and mobilize the people. Its demands were similar for a free society, with equal opportunity for all and a nation where all could live together in harmony. Brazil has always touted itself as a “racial democracy,” even a racial paradise, where supposedly all peoples of all colors live in harmony. The black movement has helped to expose that lie, but the demands for full civil justice and participation in the nation still loom. A recent census from 2010 found that over 50 percent of the Brazilian population is of African descent, and just this recognition is seen as a leap forward in the movement’s demands for equal rights.
The music of those marching on,
The rebellious voice of the youth
The loving kiss of the women on the faces of black men
The dawn of a new world in the ghettos made from tin and gunpowder…
No, no prison will stop the sunrise or the bloody march of the times
Basel Miami Beach 2013 turned 12 years old this year, and it has clearly come of age in terms of art from the African diaspora. The Grio: Review: Art Basel goes ‘Afropolitan’.
Basel is no longer just a city in Switzerland. It is now used as a both a verb and a noun by those drawn to Miami Beach for the four-day “winter meeting of the international art world.” It’s a kind of post 21st Century word with multiple uses, roughly translated as “bliss and beauty.” As experienced at the show to end all art shows, Basel means to laugh out loud while overindulging the imagination with art and music or to dance from your heart without caring who is watching. And it’s a destination where multi-cultural artists rule.
With the presence of more artists of African descent than ever, Basel is also increasingly an amalgamation of rock and roll, the blues, and Yoruba rituals with a mixture of classical West African High Life, salsa, hip hop, regalia (reggae) and meringue. It is Raashid Newsome, Wangechi Mutu, Mikalene Thomas, Yinka Shonibare, Armando Marino, Kehinde Wiley, Christopher Cozier, Hank Willis, Ellington Robinson, Alexander Arrechea, Amadou Yacine, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Shinique Smith, Nick Cave, El Anatsui, Betye Saar, but also Kendrick Lamar, Swizz Beats and Pharrell.
You might call it “Afropolitan.”
Basel Miami Beach (BMB) is young, but it already has far more potential than the original: Basel Switzerland. And that’s in no small part because “Basel on the beach” is significantly more multi-national and diverse. BMB 2013 was a wonderland of contemporary world culture with a pulsating global African presence.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Color Lines: Central Park Five Settlement is Still in Limbo.
For the Central Park Five—Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise—the election of New York mayor Bill de Blasio could be a blessing. In 1989, when they were teenagers, the five black and Latino men were falsely accused of and convicted of the brutal beating and rape of Tricia Meili, a 28-year-old white jogger in Central Park. In the sensational, racially charged case, they were coerced into confessions by police and prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer. The five, who were tried as adults and convicted of the crime despite their inconsistent testimony and a lack of their DNA on the victim, had their convictions vacated in 2002 after serial rapist Matias Reyes admitted that he’d committed the rape. That same year the five filed a $250 million civil suit against the city of New York and the officers and prosecutor involved in their case. McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise have waited for a settlement ever since.
In mid-November filmmaker Ken Burns, who directed the documentary “The Central Park Five,” renewed media interest in the settlement when he told HuffPost Live that the mayor-elect, had “agreed to settle this case.”
Further reporting by Colorlines showed that “agreement,” however, had come in the shape of an old campaign promise: “It’s long past time to heal these wounds,” DeBlasio said in a January 2013 statement. “… As a city, we have a moral obligation to right this injustice. It is in our collective interest—the wrongly accused, their families and the taxpayer—to settle this case and not let another year slip by without action.”
At present, says de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell, there is no timeline for the settlement.. Colorlines talked to Yusef Salaam, one of the five, about the long wait for closure, holding the mayor-elect accountable for his campaign promise, and what he’d say if he had a sit-down with de Blasio.
Voices and Soul
by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor
The great man has gone home, his day is done and he is now of the ages; and yet the work is incomplete. The inequities exist still and must still be rectified. A beacon has shown us the way. We know what to do.
... you beckoned him
at the beginning
when you needed him
to help you explore
the southern part
of this dark man's land
at your anchorage then
where you had lost
at the Cape of Good Hope
... since then
you lassoed him
to quench your thirst
the dark man
was denied of his rights
... you used him to dig
while you didn't mind
how he lived
so long as each day
at the break of dawn
he was there with strength
to borrow the earth
of diamond or gold
.. he is to you
just another mule
whom you can abuse
to satisfy your glutonny
for wealth and power
while you never care
to even stretch your arms
or dare to touch him
- lest you brush against his SKIN.
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