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On Mandela

This isn’t the post that I had planned for today but a series of conversations surrounding Nelson Mandela’s birth and whether it calls for international celebration led me to make a change. My thoughts on USA Basketball can wait.


On my drive to work this morning, a local DJ mistakenly called Nelson Mandela the first African-American president of South Africa. Not ten minutes later, I recieved a text message from a disgruntled friend, lambasting the DJ for what we can assume was a misspeak. She wondered how many African-Americans understand Nelson Mandela’s contributions to the global community.
Just a few minutes ago, she pointed out that her 9th grade English class struggled to find his significance as a leader. My response was, right or wrong, they were probably never encouraged to consider the Black community on a global scale. I am a product of Houston’s public school system and I didn’t hear the word “diaspora” until I was out of high school.

Thinking back on my public school education, I couldn’t remember a time that I learned about Mandela. Outside of school, yes. But in school, no. I didn’t learn to think of the Black community on a global scale until I went to college and took African and African-American Studies classes. And even then, we were encouraged to think of African freedom struggles in terms of our struggle for equality in America.

How much did you learn about Mandela in school? Do you think it’s important that we, as American citizens, take a moment to celebrate his contributions?