Madiba Nelson Mandela July, 1918--December, 2016

Madiba Visits Oakland and Los Angeles CA June, 1990


Madiba Nelson Mandela RIP

In June of 1990, lost in the mass of humanity listening to Nelson Mandela’s address from the steps of the Los Angeles City Hall, I drifted to where, for me, it all began. 

In Oakland, back in 1969, when few in America(including myself) knew who Nelson Mandela was, I stumbled into a group of activists who were forming a “Free Nelson Mandela Committee.” Mandela, leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in the white minority ruled, apartheid country of South Africa had received a life prison sentence for his fight against the system. For me, that seemed to be a mountain too high to climb! I stayed around for a few sessions but soon faded to other pursuits that seemed less formidable.

The Committee’s resolve remained steadfast, known as “divestment”, the plan was to convince American institutions to withdraw investment funds from companies doing business in South Africa until Mandela was free and the racist apartheid system collapsed. No one was listening…But it took one drop of rain to birth a trickle, that flowed into stream that converged into a mighty river that started the flood, that changed American opinion and changed American policy toward apartheid that helped free Mandela, eventually becoming that wall of water that washed apartheid out to sea. Oakland was that drop of rain that spread divestment from the East Bay across the nation.

After spending twenty-seven years in harsh South African jails as a political prisoner, in 1990 Mandela was finally released and four years later, apartheid collapsed. On a world tour, he arrived in the United States as an awe-inspiring hero, a man of extraordinary courage, dedication, and conviction. His crammed itinerary naturally included visits to the important hubs of commerce, population, and political prowess found in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. He visited Atlanta to pay respects at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial; then he traveled to Northern California, not to the sophisticated allure of San Francisco, but  to a magnetic-like pull to her ragged sister city across the Bay, Oakland. This was the one city Mandela insisted upon visiting above all other. The visit wasn’t to bathe in the ocean of praise that was sure to be lavished upon him; rather, he was coming to personally thank the people of Oakland for being that first Drop…That started a freedom flood! 

From Nelson Mandela Parkway in Oakland, CA

Jumal Okeyo Jumal