Nelson Mandela died this week. His story was a big part of my political and intellectual awakening as I learned of his story back in the lat 1980s and early 90s.
What is your first Mandela memory?
High School. I was at the peak of my white guilt and empathy at that time. Mandela was real, and happening in real time. See, I didn’t get history when I was young. To me, Jesus, Gandhi, Hitler… they were all unreal. To me, at that age, 30 years ago was the same as 2,000 years ago. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Now, I can, and I am catching up on history at a decent rate.
So, to see a hero and martyr in my time, in real time, was bad ass! See that picture up there? That was taken the day he got out of prison. No one had seen him for 30 years. There weren’t pictures or interviews or anything. He was, to the outside world, dead for 30 years
There are about a dozen Mandela movies. Who is your favorite Mandela actor portrayal?
I have not seen any of them. I feel I might be disappointed by the portrayal. I mean, dude was complex. We know he was the toughest man alive, but have you seen him smile? That is an amazing warmth and joy that would seem difficult to capture. How about Don Cheadle? Has he done one? Love his acting! Plus, he is from Denver, which is cool. Also, I understand he may be black. Not sure, I don’t see color.
Is there an issue that you would give up your life, your family for 27+ years?
Well, first… let’s assume he did not voluntarily spend his life in prison. You know the Rush song ‘Temples of Sphyrinx’? Click here, it is some operatic nonsense, but tells a super cool story. Long in the future, music is GONE from humanity. This kid is playing in rubble and he finds a musical instrument. So, he is discovering music for the first time. The elders, of course, are not tickled. I would fight that fight for music.
Who are your heroes.
I won’t even compare anyone to Nelson Mandela. See, here is the deal. Jesus died for our sins. That is nice. What’s better? Mandela LIVED for our sins, and fought those sins, and WON. That is a hero, far superior to Jesus in my mind.
Wait, i thought of one. Harry Belafonte. You know him as the happy banana boat songs (daylight come and me wanna go home). Good stuff. However, dude was also a HUGE pioneer of civil rights. He was black and proud long before it was cool. Remember when MLK wrote ‘letters from a Birmingham Jail’? Know how he got out of jail? Harry Belafonte!
Plus, he is alive and vital! Check out him on the Colbert report just this year.
In your eyes, how has Mandela changed the world?
Well, he gave black people hope, I assume. He gave everyone hope, but I can’t imagine the connection Africans, and blacks around the world, must have felt. He fought city hall. He fought the man, the law! He was imprisoned for 30 years by his own country, for heresy, basically. He not only held on, and got out – fucker then ran for President and took the country back for black Africans. It’s beyond terms like ‘hero’. A Buddha. I call him a god, how about that. As wise and important as the Buddha. See, Buddha means simply ‘enlightened one’. Mandela was that. Mandela is that. Mandela is dead, long live Mandela.