Memorializing Madiba, ‘the one who stirs up dust’

Professor Roger Green | 12/13/2013, 10:55 a.m.

Mandela was aware of the fact that the Congressional Black Caucus, under the leadership of Ron Dellums, had achieved a major victory when it moved the U.S. Congress to institute economic sanctions against the regime over the protests of President Ronald Reagan.

Mandela and the leadership of the ANC were also aware of the fact that the enactment of sanctions occurred because the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement had successfully used the tools of the victory. 

Basil Paterson has a photograph on his wall depicting how he and I were arrested in front of the South African Consulate General with Randall Robinson. This action was intended to draw attention to the Soweto uprising and draw support for sanctions. While on Robben Island, Mandela and the leadership of the ANC were provided with information about this action. These realities would eventually lead to a negotiated “truce” between the liberation movement’s ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress. This truce could be best categorized by Malcolm X’s admonitory speech “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Madiba’s genius is based on the fact that the ANC made it very clear that they were prepared to use any means appropriate to secure rule by one person, one vote.

Finally, when Randall Robinson, Jesse Jackson, June Douglass, Dellums, Daughtry and I returned from the U.N. World Conference for the elimination of apartheid in Paris, we knew that Mandela would be released in a matter of months. It was at this moment that a meeting was called with Bill Lynch, Mayor David Dinkins, Cleveland Robinson and Bell to prepare a grassroots welcome for Madiba in the United States. 

From the beginning, I had proposed that the first stop should be at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. I argued that the youth of my generation had been instrumental in building a grassroots movement for this cause. Belafonte, Lynch and Cleveland Robinson agreed. To whit, I was given the responsibility of serving as the political coordinator for the welcoming committee and the chair of the event at Boys and Girls High School.

However, I am most proud of the fact that the coordinators of this event were representatives from the youth section of the ANC in North America and a broad coalition of youths in Brooklyn who came from the Palestinian community, Latino community, etc., as I articulated at the House of the Lord Church. Following his speech at Boys and Girls High School, Madiba turned to Winnie Mandela and uttered the words, “I think I’m in Soweto,” as a broad cross section of youth stirred up dust to “The One Who Stirs Up Dust.”