Mandelas deliver keynote
On Wednesday, Kweku Mandela-Amuah and Ndaba Mandela, the grandsons of Nelson Mandela, delivered the 'Deis Impact annual keynote address. The address is the pinnacle of the week of events designed to celebrate and understand social justice.
The cousins founded the nonprofit Africa Rising Foundation in 2009 as a way to encourage African pride, as well as to encourage people from all over the continent to become innovative entrepreneurs. According to the organization's website, Africa Rising's goal is "to create a new legacy and understanding of Africa as a continent showcasing the tremendous potential and unprecedented growth" and they are partnered with the African Bank to accomplish this goal.
Prof. Chad Williams (AAAS) started off the evening by discussing Nelson Mandela's legacy. He described Mandela as "the greatest freedom fighter in modern history" and "revolutionary [because of his] ability to change and evolve with the times." This year marks the 20th anniversary of South Africa's first open elections. Mandela, as Williams went on to say, not only changed South Africa, but inspired a new generation of leaders in the country, as well as in other nations of Africa.
Andrew Flagel, the senior vice president for students and enrollment, then took the podium. Addressing the audience, he honored Jules Bernstein '57, who is one of the sponsors of 'Deis Impact.
Student Union President Ricky Rosen '14 was next to speak. He began with the question, "What makes the University special?" In a round table discussion, students noted the high number of service-oriented clubs and the number of leadership positions at Brandeis held by students.
However, Rosen pointed out that although these are accomplishments of which students should be proud, Brandeis is about more than numbers.
He said one of the great things about Brandeis is that "we don't stand for things, we move them," meaning that Brandeis students will work to change injustice rather than remain passive.
Rosen noted that this idea was shared by Nelson Mandela and now by his grandsons, who want to spread Africa's story and history to people who "don't see the whole picture of Africa" through education. Mandela inspired people by his "unwillingness to look away when faced with injustice," but, Rosen went on to say, looking to the future of Africa, the world can see "hope in Kweku and Ndaba's fight."
Mandela-Amuah began his address by asking the audience to look at their neighbors. He asked, "What do we all have in common?" He then answered, saying that "each of us has a thirst for social justice."
Furthermore, he said that humans are able to accomplish the impossible, resulting in man walking on the moon, the ability to travel around the world and even produce technological advancements such as cell phones and computers. By putting these two together, the innovation and the belief in social justice, Mandela-Amuah said that "there is hope for us yet." He asked audience members to make this choice, to find a balance between individual needs and giving back to the community.
Mandela-Amuah called for "new hands to lift the burden," specifically students at Brandeis and at other universities who are motivated to fight for social justice. "When I think about Brandeis, I think about the degree to which magic can really happen at an institute like this," Mandela-Amuah said. Referring to the movie Inception, Mandela-Amuah said that Africa Rising is about planting ideas in the youth because, in his opinion, it is the youth who hold the future.
Mandela-Amuah admitted that pursuing social justice is not easy and that it "takes blood," but it is the pursuit of it that will lead everyone to a stronger future.
Ndaba Mandela took the podium next. Mandela focused on cases of discrimination in history as well as the present day. He talked about the unlawful seizure of aboriginal land in Australia and how the government said nothing, how Africans are harassed on the streets by policemen in many countries, how black people in Brazil are treated as second-class citizens because of the color of their skin and that "the American government supports the Israeli army in a dispute over the land against Palestine." All of these are cases of discrimination, Mandela said.
Furthermore, when Africans are "seen as hopeless, poor, backward, uncivilized people, unable to lead themselves" this too is discrimination, said Mandela.
Mandela pointed out that people do not care to differentiate between Nigerian or South African, instead labeling everyone with dark skin as simply African. Mandela then went on to say that he hopes to use the label of "African" to unite Africa and to "tell [African] stories from [an African] point of view."
The American Dream, as Mandela observed, is a powerful concept as a propelling force for American society.
He said that there is no equivalent to the American Dream in Africa, which he hopes to change with Africa Rising.
Africa Rising reaches out to people of all classes and ages in Africa, from high school students to heads of states, and helps to define what people want to see Africa become in the coming years.
Mandela notes that the continent is the most diverse continent and has the most potential for growth compared to the rest of the world.
Within Africa Rising is a branch that consists of a resource center to provide young Africans with the information, guidance and expertise necessary to found successful businesses.
One of the major resources that Mandela-Amuah and Mandela hope to make available to all of Africa is computers. Furthermore, Africa Rising wishes to show that "black people are not just the best athletes," but are musicians, scientists and lawyers.
Audience members were then allowed to ask questions. Williams asked about the cousins' opinions on what it means to be African in this day and age. Mandela-Amuah replied that it has to do a lot with pride. Africa has "confidence issues" due to the fact that its history is "distorted" and doesn't include all of the accomplishments that African civilizations achieved, he said.
Mandela replied that "an African is someone who respects his culture" and that each African culture has a long history. Growing up in South Africa, he saw many of his peers grow up with their parents being staff in mansions, but they were still proud of their parents because they "understood the context and situation."
Parents weren't condemned for the fact that they grew up in a time where they were unable to receive an education and were a source of pride for their achievements under oppressive circumstances. He compared this pride of parents to pride in Africa.
The first question from the audience was from a Brandeis student who wanted to know the cousin's opinions on how useful a pan-African view of African pride is in the long run.
Mandela-Amuah said that there is a need for respecting national and cultural histories, but also said that Africa would be benefited by a unified monetary system. Mandela said that the boundaries between the nations of Africa were not created by Africans, but by Europeans who were dividing the continent according to their own negotiations and national interests rather than where the boundaries naturally fell. Pan-African pride would somewhat alleviate the tensions caused by these boundaries, he said.
Another question concerned a student's own experience with returning home to her family Africa. The student felt that there was a barrier between her as someone who is being educated in the United States and others who did not have that opportunity.
Mandela-Amuah, in response, quoted his grandfather, saying that "if you speak to a man in his language, you speak to him in his heart." Mandela-Amuah, in discussion of his own experience of living in the United Stated and moving back to South Africa, said that one cannot expect to maintain the same lifestyle in different places in the world and with understanding, there is not as much of a difference as one might think.