As the world celebrates Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, it is timely to reflect on his life, spent fighting for equality for people of color who long suffered under South Africa's apartheid regime. Mandela was arrested in 1962, a year before Martin Luther King Jr. would give his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. After 27 years in prison, Mandela was released in 1990. Four years later, he would become the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

We should use Mandela's incredible life to shine a light on injustice in the United States, as George Zimmerman is acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, and as a massive hunger strike envelops the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where scores of men have been held without charge for more than a decade.

When President Barack Obama visited South Africa recently, he took his family to Robben Island, the notorious apartheid-era prison off the coast of Cape Town. First lady Michelle Obama said of the experience, "It was amazing to see Mandela's cell, a tiny room — about 6 feet wide — where he spent 18 of the 27 years he was in prison. He slept on a thin mat on the floor, and when he stretched out to sleep at night, his toes touched one wall, while his head grazed the other. The walls were two feet thick with no decorations, and he was given a bucket to use as a toilet."

President Obama signed the Robben Island guest book, writing: "On behalf of our family we're deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit."

"We don't need a lecture; we need a leader," Col. Morris Davis told me. He is a retired Air Force colonel, and was the chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay until he resigned in 2007, refusing to use statements obtained through torture. He went on: "When President Obama and his family visited South Africa, he took Sasha and Malia to visit (Robben Island). And at the same time, he's operating an island prison in Guantanamo, where the majority have been cleared to be transferred out. There are people that have been there for 11 and a half years that we have cleared to be transferred home, and they still sit in prison."

While Obama's two elections as president prompted many to declare a post-racial America, the Zimmerman trial verdict last week exposes that fallacy. Phillip Agnew is the executive director of Dream Defenders, a network of black and brown youth and their allies in Florida who are fighting for equal rights and education. Following the verdict, he told me: "It's our refusal as a country to acknowledge that we still have a race problem in America that creates environments for a man like George Zimmerman to walk around, as he does now, with a gun, looking to take down young people of color."

The Dream Defenders mobilized immediately after Zimmerman's acquittal, and descended on Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, where they occupied the offices of Republican Gov. Rick Scott. They want Scott to call a special legislative session to repeal Florida's "stand your ground" law, which expands a person's right to use deadly force in a confrontation, and vowed to remain until their concerns are addressed.

"If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today," civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander writes on her Facebook page. "If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty — far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste."

Meanwhile, in California, thousands of prisoners are also on the largest hunger strike in state history. Among their demands: an end to long-term solitary confinement, where more than 3,000 prisoners are held in the isolation units with no human contact and no windows — some of them for more than a decade.

Nelson Mandela told an interviewer in 1993: "Once you have rid yourself of the fear of the oppressor and his prisons, his police, his army, there is nothing that they can do. You are liberated." From South Africa to Sanford, Fla., from Pelican Bay to Guantanamo Bay, courageous people are taking a stand, fighting for justice, a fitting birthday tribute to President Mandela.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America, including WORT here. Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

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(4) comments

pdibble
pdibble

Follow-up on Ms Goodman:

Democracy Now![edit]
Main article: Democracy Now!
Goodman had been news director of Pacifica Radio station WBAI in New York City for over a decade when she co-founded Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report in 1996. Since then, Democracy Now! has been called "probably the most significant progressive news institution that has come around in some time" by professor and media critic Robert McChesney.[11]
In 2001, the show was temporarily pulled off the air, as a result of a conflict with a group of Pacifica Radio board members and Pacifica staff members and listeners. During that time, it moved to a converted firehouse from which it broadcast until November 13, 2009.[12] Democracy Now! subsequently moved to a studio located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.[13]
Goodman credits the program's success to the mainstream media organizations who leave "a huge niche" for Democracy Now![11]
When President Bill Clinton called WBAI on Election Day 2000[14] for a quick get-out-the-vote message, Goodman and WBAI's Gonzalo Aburto challenged him for 28 minutes with questions about Leonard Peltier, racial profiling, the Iraq sanctions, Ralph Nader, the death penalty, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Clinton defended his administration's policies and charged Goodman with being "hostile and combative".[15]
Arrest at 2008 Republican Convention[edit]
During the 2008 Republican National Convention, several of Goodman's colleagues from Democracy Now! were arrested and detained by police while reporting on an anti-war protest outside the RNC.[16] While trying to ascertain the status of her colleagues, Goodman herself was arrested and held, accused of obstructing a legal process and interfering with a police officer,[17] while fellow Democracy Now! producers including reporter Sharif Abdel Kouddous were held on charges of probable cause for riot.[18] The arrests of the producers were videotaped.[19] Goodman and her colleagues were later released,[20] and City Attorney John Choi indicated that the charges would be dropped.[21] Goodman's (et al.) civil lawsuit against the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments and the Secret Service resulted in a $100,000 settlement, as well as an agreement to educate officers in First Amendment rights of press and public.[22][23][24]

pdibble
pdibble

Is this a proposal to canonize Nelson Mandela? It is wearying to read and listen to the puking and mewling of radicals of any stripe in these recurrent attacks on any perceived injustice which keeps the fires of reverse prejudice burning.It would appear that Ms Goodman's diaper was red and remains so. Trayvon should not be dead but when you start swinging your fists in a state that allows for any self-defense measures that is your risk. Other libs have announced that Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoodie. Can you visualize him walking in the rain in this neighborhood looking in windows? Amy, I tire of you.

gkmoynihan
gkmoynihan

Wow...co-opting the life of a great man in his deathbed to advance a dishonest, nonsensical liberal narrative; par for the course for Amy Goodman.

No one whatever their skin color, should be punched in the face, pushed to the ground and have their head slammed into the ground for walking behind someone else and asking "what are you doing here?"

But the left has always been much more comfortable with violence if it helps advance their agenda. Whats a little bloodshed if it helps slow down the Vietnam war? Whats a little destroyed property if it keeps a mine from operating?


If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today," civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander writes on her Facebook page. "If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty — far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste."


While I know racism exists and minorities face prejudices all the time, there is absolutely No evidence that this attitude or mindset existed with George Zimmerman at ALL. Thye are trying to create this storyline that just isn't there. At no time did George say of do anything to make us beleive he would have acted any differently based on race. There are piles of other cases out there every day where this IS true, but not in this one. They keep speculating and saying this occurred but the Facts say NO.

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