Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.12.13: Nelson Mandela, New York’s Poor, Black Republicans and more

You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.

You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.

Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

I’ll be 34 this year and we’re only beginning to see a change in the scenery when it comes to diversity and the fantastic. A recent UCLA study found that even though racial and gender diversity in television remains appallingly low, more diverse shows bring higher audiences while less diverse ones struggle. Meanwhile, some major networks may finally be getting the message. At this year’s annual Fox Broadcasting confab, titled “Seizing Opportunities,” the underlying theme was more diversity equals more money. Speaking to an invitation-only crowd of executives, producers, agents and media coalitions, Fox COO Joe Earley said this about welcoming more diverse shows: “Not only are you going to have more chances of a show being made here, more chances of a show being a success on TV, more chances of making it into syndication, more chances of a show selling globally and making you millions of dollars, but you are going to bring more viewers to our air and keep us in business.”

Cultural critics have rightly decried whitewashing in the name of social justice. Networks are now beginning to see dollar signs where they once imagined dearth. But beyond money and morality, diverse programming is also a question of quality. “Racist writing is a craft issue,” the poet Kwame Dawes said at this year’s AWP conference. “A racist stereotype is a cliché. It’s been done. Quite a bit. It’s a craft failure.”

Without an understanding of culture, power and history, diversity is useless; it’s blackface. And television has often given us nothing but that: cheap stand-ins and tokens to up their numbers and check off boxes.

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Video: President Obama’s Speech At Nelson Mandela Memorial

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well — (applause) — to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.

We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done.

The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today.

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

- Full transcript available here

Quoted: A South African Muslim Woman’s Memories of Mandela

My daughter outside Mandela’s home in Soweto on Saturday night.

My daughter outside Mandela’s home in Soweto on Saturday night.

From Muslimah Media Watch:

I wrote part of this piece when Dr Laury Silvers asked me for a few words she could read in her khutbah at El Tawhid Unity Mosque in Toronto. She wanted to open with words from a South African, and I am grateful to her and the congregation for the opportunity to express these words on the passing of our beloved Comrade, President, Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who returned to his creator on Thursday night, December 5 at the age of 95.

Tata (father), as we fondly call Nelson Mandela, represents so much to me, as a South African Muslim woman, as he does to all South Africans. His name is synonymous with struggle and sacrifice. His contributions to dismantling Apartheid in South Africa and his lifelong commitment to non-racialism and non-sexism has made my years growing up in South Africa an incredible experience. I still cannot fathom that he spent the total sum of my life (27 years) imprisoned!

I was born in one of the areas to which South African Indians had been forcibly relocated, at the tail end of Apartheid. Madiba’s rise to presidency, however, meant that I would no longer be confined to racially-segregated towns and limited options for education as my parents experienced.

Mandela taught us important lessons about the deeper meanings of peace and forgiveness but he was by no means a passive resistor against the indiscriminate violence of the Apartheid state, and nor was he without severe critics and opposition. Whilst I do not wish to sanitize or idolize the life of Nelson Mandela, neither is today a day to critique or analyse his policies and politics – it is a day to celebrate the immense goodness that one person brought to the world around him. What I do wish to highlight is that he overcame many of his own inner weaknesses (such as his rather tumultuous relationships with women) during the struggle years, and wrote openly about his development. He taught us to own up to our lives, our mistakes and our choices – and to walk for the ideals we profess to stand for.

Even after his rise to presidency in the new democratic South Africa, Madiba continued to show support and solidarity for global issues of social justice, especially HIV/AIDS, education for all

children, the occupation of Palestine, and of course, gender equality… all issues that still require our commitment and activism today.

(Left) Mandela with struggle activist Fatima Meer. [Source].

Madiba had a wonderful and open relationship with the Muslim community, and many of his closest friends during the struggle were Muslim. Figures like Ahmad Kathrada, Ismail Meer, Yusuf Dadoo, Fatima Meer, Rahima Moosa and Amina Cachalia are household names in South Africa and represent some of the key stalwarts in the anti-apartheid movement, many of whom were close confidantes and intimates of Nelson Mandela, and some of whom spent decades in prison with him. Read more…

 

Voices: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Front page, The Sowetan newspaper, Soweto, South Africa. Image via Lydia Polgreen.

African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after 11 o’clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the labour bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.

Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

- Nelson Mandela, during the first day of his trial on charges of sabotage, April 20, 1964.

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Invictus (Clint Eastwood, 2009)

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown


Morgan Freeman: the kind of black dude even an old white racist can’t hate. Which is why he was cast to drive Miss Daisy, free a man from prison, become president (twice), help Batman, and become the literal, physical embodiment of God. Apparently has magic in his melanin.

Matt Damon: the kind of white guy maybe a Panther can love. Plays the peckerwood douchebag role convincingly while managing to assure us he’s a real compassionate, progressive guy offscreen.

Clint Eastwood: the guy who brought Dirty Harry out of retirement last year in Gran Torino and killed him once and for all. One of maybe two or three big Hollywood directors (Martin Scorsese is the other) with a 1970’s movie style that still manages to work.

South Africa: A country with social and political contradictions similar to America but far away enough to not have to think about it if you don’t want to. And close enough, unlike an imaginary planet in the future, to feel empathy for. Once upon a time used to dominate the World News section of the nightly news.

Invictus (2009): the film directed by Eastwood and starring Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Damon as a rugby player. Opens with a 40-minute set-up story of Mandela’s election and transition to President of South Africa. Obama/Mandela parallels everywhere. Although Mandela is played like a funny-accented black Confucius, the racial tension and political drama make for entertaining historical fluff. Along comes a whole ‘nother story about the South African rugby team, which Mandela recruits to unite the country by winning the World Cup. Like Eastwood recruiting a tiring formula to add some action to a political biopic.

Because a movie about Mandela himself, particularly the parts of his life we haven’t seen on TV before, is worthy of its own two hours. And so is the rugby team’s story, which would’ve probably made yet another one of those decent inspirational sports stories. The ones that do an awesome job of convincing us that sports is a matter of life and death.

Sometimes, we’re convinced. But when it’s tasked with something like, say, healing the wounds of Apartheid, it’s a cinematic gamble that loses. Not to mention the audacity of the American movie industry to make a movie about another country’s history in its own image, or the way we eat it up like that’s not some seriously fucked up shit. Plus, we all know Mandela had a much thicker accent than that.

Quotable: More on South Africa and Film

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
Hudsonmandela1

In reading the discussion about Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela, it’s interesting to note that South African actors have been protesting the casting of Jennifer Hudson in the title role of a biopic on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

“This decision must be reversed. It must be stopped now,” Oupa Lebogo, the union’s secretary-general, told The [UK] Times. The story also quoted a friend of Madikizela-Mandela’s, Udo Froese, as saying,: “There’s a lot of good local talent, why not use them? Winnie herself is not involved in this, and in no way has given any sort of green light.”

At a Dec. 5 press conference, actor John Kani and the Creative Workers Union of South Africa called for tighter regulations on foreign projects, and said the issue wasn’t Hudson personally, but a bigger problem:

“Every time there is a movie that tells a South African story, it is done by someone who must be taught the right way of pronouncing Sawubona. Enough it enough.”

He said if local actors were to be included in such films, they had to be given serious roles to play.

ANC Women’s League deputy president Nosipho Dorothy Ntwanambi said as a struggle veteran, she knew and understood why South African stories had to be portrayed by people who lived and knew them.

“One can’t read a book about our history and claim to know our way of living,” she said.

The Associated Press ran a story Monday quoting two more union officials upset with Hudson’s casting.

“It can’t happen that we want to develop our own Hollywood and yet bring in imports,” the union’s president Mabutho Sithole said in The Citizen newspaper.

“This decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now,” union secretary general Oupa Lebogo said in The Times. “If the matter doesn’t come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film.”

The Times also noted that both the film’s source material (the book Winnie Mandela: My Life) and director (Darrell J. Roodt) are local.

Another South African publication, the Daily Maverick, is concerned less about Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus – which, the Huffington Post says, features an almost completely South African cast – than , but about how it holds up as a rugby film:

Can Graham Lindemann really demonstrate the awesomeness of Kobus’s arrival at a ruck? Can Rolf Fitschen throw a lineout ball as straight as Naka?

The answer, of course, is no. And because the answer is no, there’s likely to be much sniggering when the film gets released here this month. In fact, the sniggering has been gathering momentum for a while already – honestly, what was your first reaction when you heard that Matt Damon was cast as Francois Pienaar? Did you tell your mates that the guy was born for the role?

Why are Black Americans Playing Roles Meant for Africans?

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

“Invictus,” a film about Nelson Mandela’s efforts to unify post-apartheid South Africa through rugby, opens Dec. 11. The film stars Matt Damon as captain of South Africa’s 1995 rugby team and Morgan Freeman as Mandela.

I’ve little interest in seeing this film, but the commercials for it caught my attention when I noticed someone attempting what I considered to be an atrocious South African accent. That someone was Freeman, an amazing actor, no doubt, but not convincing to me as a South African. A quick trip to the IMDB.com thread on the film, and I realized I wasn’t alone in my criticism of Freeman.

A thread devoted specifically to Freeman’s accent in the film began:

“HOLY CRAP…. Morgan’s accent sucks!! Not even close…. did he even try? Didnt hear to much of Matt but wow Morgan really missed the boat.”

And another poster followed up, “I came here to say the exact same thing after having just seen the commercial. Holy horrible. It sounds like Morgan Freeman in every movie he’s ever been in plus a hokey accent that couldn’t possibly be attributed to any ethnicity or area.”

After pondering how Freeman speaks in the film, I wondered why a South African wasn’t cast in “Invictus.” With Clint Eastwood as director and Damon in a starring role, would it have been that much of a gamble to cast an unknown in the role of Mandela? Then, I thought about other films set in Africa—“Hotel Rwanda,” “Cry Freedom,” “The Last King of Scotland” and “Sarafina!” All feature black Americans in starring roles as Africans. A recent exception would be 2006’s “Blood Diamond” in which Djimon Hounsou has a starring role.

I understand that casting African American film stars likely makes movies about Africa more marketable, but would African Americans be as accepting if roles designed for them were given to whites to increase a film’s marketability? Judging from the uproar surrounding Angelina Jolie starring as Mariane Pearl in “A Mighty Heart,” I think not. So why aren’t more people speaking up about the tendency of African roles to go to black Americans?

On IMDB.com, a poster who challenged the assertion that Freeman was born to play Mandela, arguing instead that an “actual South African” be given the role, received this response:

“There isn’t any South African actors that have Freeman’s acting skills though. Just because someone is from a particular country doesn’t make them automatically better for the role.”

I don’t know the ethnicity or nationality of the person who wrote this, but the idea that South Africa has no quality actors is ludicrous. But, say, we take the poster at his word. South Africa having no actors with the chops to play Mandela shouldn’t rule out the possibility of an actor from another African nation playing the role. Nigeria, for one, has a $250 million film industry, which puts it in the Top 3 film industries in the world, along with India and the United States. Clearly, Africa has its share of actors to go around. So, when will Hollywood shine the spotlight on them, and when will black Americans demand it?