In 1955 a large, multiethnic group of anti-apartheid liberation structures led by the African National Congress (ANC), educators, intellectuals, and clerics came together to author a declaration called the “Freedom Charter.” This proclamation contained numerous clauses that openly contradicted and damned every principle that the racist South African regime cherished. The following years saw many of the Charter’s authors imprisoned, charged with treason, banished, exiled, or assassinated. A substantial number of them were put under house arrest or sentenced to long terms on Robben Island, yet they all held onto the Freedom Charter dream—for over three decades. Ongoing protests eventually inspired international embargoes, disinvestment, cultural and economic boycotts, and an ungovernable South Africa.
The discriminatory government finally yielded to freedom for all. This led to the unbanning of the liberation movements, the release of political prisoners, and the return of activist exiles. The formally intolerant government opened negotiation talks with their adversaries; Apartheid was at last swept aside, making way for the universal vote, freedom of movement, the cessation of police harassment, full human rights, and a new ”democratic” dispensation.
However, the Freedom Charter never saw the light of day. Its authors, now aged, began to depart this world for parliaments of the afterlife. They never saw their dreams of genuine freedom come true. In simple Brooklynese, “THEY WUZ ROBBED!”
At the forefront of the liberation struggle was Nelson Mandela, known affectionately as Madiba (his clan name) or Dalibhunga (Xhosa for “creator or founder of the council” or “convenor of the dialogue”), who was made its symbol. He truly cherished and hoped that the Freedom Charter would become a reality. Instead, the entire world turned him into a deity, making him an international hero in the eyes of all who opposed injustice. Even dictators bowed at his feet!
Mandela was an inclusive man who had the talent to accommodate even those who had been enemies of that for which he and colleagues fought. When he passed away, millions wrote tributes to him. The media hunted down everybody they could pin down for a comment, a quote, or a sound bite. I went into hiding until the dust had cleared. I remember a loveable giant of a strong, mischievous, curious, loyal, majestic, focused, and extremely funny old geezer…
edited by the English Department at Howard University