In my memory is the disinvestment movement which encouraged the world to take their investments out of South Africa as long as Apartheid was their primary political activity. We all discovered that the University of California and other national American organizations had invested in the South African economy. I remember attending rallies where we promoted the disinvestment programs, while our politicians like Maxine Waters from Los Angeles and Ronald Dellums from Oakland pushed, more or less, from within. My recollection is that this push to divest was done over the objections of then Governor Ronald Reagan. However, for many investors, it was the anti-Apartheid struggle that revealed our ability to effect change through the power of our money.
Al Sharpton made a statement recently that said, in effect, that there are many famous men in our history. There are few great men. Mandela was a great man because he put the needs of his people over his personal needs and desires. President Zuma, South Africa’s present executive, unlike Mandela, has taken millions of tax payer dollars to support his harem and his family.
When Mandela was released from his twenty-seven year exile/imprisonment on Robben Island, I remember staying close to the television to see the man. It was kind of a “touch the hem of his garment” moment for me. For years I kept a copy of TIME magazine which presented a picture of Mandela. It didn’t look like him, as I had remembered.
Over the next few days, the world will watch as we all honor Mandela’s memory and all he did for the world, as an example of commitment. There will be words of forgiveness when, in fact, it is not clear what he forgave. What he was in my opinion is that rare man who was a winner because he was willing to give his life for the benefit of his people.
I remember that the world did not let Mandela’s life fade into irrelevance. The world signed petitions, marched, gave speeches, hung banners demanding his freedom and sought divestment to gain his freedom. When he was released in 1990, this little newspaper was less than one year old, and we got to hail the release of one of our heroes. We watched as he was elected President, and we watched as he continued the struggle for equality for the Black majority of South Africa. And now we have learned that the President of our Country, who is Black, was inspired by President Mandela. Oh how the world has changed. There is a lesson in both of their lives.
As a note: A Congressman from Wyoming, Dick Cheney, who later became George Bush’s Vice President, was voting to keep Apartheid alive. Most of all, I remember that Cheney wanted to keep Mandela locked up on Robben Island. In Cheney’s mind, Mandela was a communist and a terrorist. That is funny because Cheney believes in doing business with China and other communist countries.
I also remember that Cheney, during President Barack Obama’s inauguration, never stood up for the president. He, allegedly, claimed he had an accident that required him to ride in a wheelchair (for just that one day, I presume).
Here’s hoping that he is not a part of the delegation to travel to South Africa to Mandela’s funeral.
For Blacks everywhere, the world awaits our participation because it is true that all men are created equal. Don’t buy the hype that you are inferior. If you jump through the hoops, you can and will achieve. Your examples are numerous, i.e., Martin, Malcolm, WEB Dubois, Barack Obama, 40 Black Congressmen and Congresswomen, Secretaries of State, and leaders in all areas of the world, from music and education, to religion. You can do all things if you are willing to pay the price.