“I think there is a movement among the young people in South Africa for a full and complete freedom for equality and equal membership among civilized people in civilized society, and they want justice regardless of race, creed, color or class,” said Minister Hafeez Abdul Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. “The young are going to ferment something new that will not destroy our enemies, but will take back what belonged to us.”
Back to the point of origin, New Yorkers turned out to the Nelson Mandela tribute at Boys and Girls High School in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, on Saturday, Dec. 14. Many reminisced about the time in June 1990 when the then newly released Madiba visited New York and made the iconic school his first port of call.
There were fierce speeches by the likes of Republic of South Africa Consul General George Monyemangene and Viola Plummer of the December 12th Movement. Now Mandela has made his transition and been buried with tremendous ceremony in his hometown of Qunu, with former wife, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, and his last wife, Graca Machel, consoling each other over this “Great Lion of South Africa.” It is time for the people to step up, get right and continue the original mission, said activists and political observers with a handle on South African politics.
“The original mission of Madiba—while it’s very thoughtful and necessary to want to see harmony between the races—charity begins at home then spreads abroad,” Muhammad told the Amsterdam News. “The people of South Africa have not been given back all the land that was stolen under de Klerk and others under the apartheid regime. The people of South Africa do not control the resources that belong to the indigenous people, not the white South Africans who were supplanted there with military power and might. Former President F.W. de Klerk betrayed Nelson Mandela with the signing of the South African constitution with things he inserted in and things he left out. He was berating him on the stage during that time. But the world wants to forget that South Africans are not totally free.”
A fired up Muhammad stressed the need for a close analysis of what happened after Mandela was released from prison and when he came to “power” and the thereafter.
“Madiba did not control the army,” Muhammad pointed out. “He was, to us in the world, pride, but he was a titular head. Unless you control the army, you can be subject to other things, but the army did not overthrow Mandela because he was a national figurehead; he was a liberator, so they knew that that was not wisdom. So they allowed him to rule, but the resources were still being controlled by our oppressor.”
Muhammad was speaking to the AmNews moments after stepping off the stage at the “Celebration of Life” ceremony for Mandela, hosted by Bob Myers and members of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium. It was a grand community affair that brought out music, song, praise and goodwill in the name of Madiba. The Rev. Karen Daughtry and Councilman Al Vann delivered rousing speeches during an audience participation event that brought out the likes of Public Advocate-elect Letitia “Tish” James and Bed-Stuy Councilman-elect Robert Cornegy.
Muhammad implored the community—local, national and international—to remember, “Winnie was the face of Nelson Mandela. She was his spirit. She was his representation, and she was his wife at that time. But many have put her to the side. I don’t even know if she spoke on the stage [at the inauguration], just a glimpse of her. But we embraced her at Mosque No. 7 under Minister Louis Farrakhan’s leadership, and his wife, Khadijah Farrakhan, and the women of the Nation of Islam received her.”
Still inspired to inspire, Muhammad spoke on Mandela’s choice to seek reconciliation as opposed to retribution, saying it “was a strategic move because it would have destroyed our people. But we can now not continue to make our enemies comfortable. We must make them uncomfortable, and the way to do that is to unite the South Africans under one banner of unity, where the leaders represent the people, not money in their pocket. You represent the aspirations of the people in land acquisition and getting back that wealth. The diamond industry must now be controlled by Black South Africans and, relating to their Black brothers here in America, put together international trade and commerce.”
The steadily falling snow did not stop the motorcade that traced Madiba’s 1990 drive through Brooklyn in 1990.