December 12, 2013
By Kenneth D. Miller
Asst. Managing Editor
The world continues to celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela who died last week at 95-years of age, leaving footprints that will outlast the sands of time. But would Mandela have ever been freed if not for the TransAfrica movement?
Randall Robinson is the founder and now president emeritus of TransAfrica, which mobilized anti-apartheid protests and grassroots campaigns in some 40 cities throughout the United States. The TransAfrica movement began in 1984 and continued until Mandela was released from a South African prison after 27 years of incarceration.
Known as The Free South Africa Movement or FSAM it was born when Dr. Mary Frances Berry, then commissioner and later chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, D.C. Congressman Walter Fauntroy, and TransAfrica’s Executive Director Robinson were arrested at the South African Embassy for attempting to stage a sit-in to protest against the South African apartheid government.
Eventually more than 4,500 people were arrested nationwide.
With the tone being set by Robinson and others such as the late Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, more than twenty members of the House of Representatives, then California Assembly member Maxine Waters, The Rev. Jesse Jackson, entertainers such as Harry Belafonte, Tony Randall, Stevie Wonder, and sport legend Arthur Ashe along with thousands of others all joined together to form daily demonstrations at the South African Embassy.
Addressing the Democratic National Convention in 1988, The Rev. Jackson spoke of the South African movement stating: “Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end faith will not disappoint. We see this clearly in the life of Mandela. Imprisoned in Robben Island for 25 years and eight months, Mandela never lost faith that the South African people would win freedom. Suffering breeds character.”
This week Congresswoman Waters was among a select delegation of officials, which included President Barak Obama and former presidents Clinton and George W. Bush who attended a memorial celebrating the giant of human dignity at Johannesburg FNB stadium. It was the same stadium where Mandela spoke right after his release from prison.
Prior to leaving for Washington D.C. to join the delegation for the trip to South Africa, Waters reflected on the enduring struggles that led to Mandela’s freedom, a hero whom she said she was honored to call a friend.
“I had worked for years to introduce legislation into law that would force California to divest funds from South Africa,” Waters told the Sentinel.
On one of her many trips to Washington D.C. Waters who was on the board of TransAfrica traveled with her long time friend and then President of The Brotherhood Crusasde and current Executive Publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel Danny Bakewell Sr. to lead a demonstrations at the South African Consulate, they then returned home where along with then the Pastor of Ward AME Church Frank Reid took over the South African Embassy here in Los Angeles to further demonstrate their opposition to Apartheid. Their consistent and aggressive albeit peaceful protest included the support of then Los Angeles City Councilmen Robert Farrell and Nate Holden, The Rev. Cecil ‘Chip’ Murray, Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke and most importantly the then Mayor of Los Angeles the late Tom Bradley.
“Nobody was more active in California than Maxine Waters who was not just the instrument of legislative action against South Africa, but also demonstrated and marched at the South African Embassy,” stated Bakewell.
Meanwhile, Burke told the Sentinel, “I don’t think that there is anyone in California certainly, who doesn’t appreciate the changes [Mandela] brought about in this world.
Burke continued, “And certainly for those of us who had an opportunity to visit South Africa and to really find out, and experience what apartheid was and how devastating it was, the humanity of any person, we have to recognize that this was a change that changed the world—it didn’t just change one country.”
Concluding Burke added, “I was also on the board of regents at the time we went through the whole fight in terms of eliminating the investment of funds in South Africa and I really will always believe that the fact that the University of California stopped investing caused many others to follow that lead and realize that each one of us has to do something to support Nelson Mandela.”
Without Robinson a distinguished scholar in residence at The Dickinson School of Law at Penn State at the helm of TransAfrica none of these atrocities would have come to light and none of these changes would have been possible.
“There is no question that Randall Robinson played the most compelling role to defeat apartheid more than any other Black person in America,” Bakewell said.
Both Waters and Bakewell refused to take the stage with late legendary crooner Frank Sinatra at a prestigious NAACP (Bakewell was being honored as Businessman of the Year and Waters was being honored as legislator of the year) event to honor them because the singer had not completely embraced the struggle to dismantle the racist apartheid regime and performed at a concert in South Africa despite requests not to during the anti-apartheid movement.
While a member of the California State Assembly, the effort to end apartheid in South Africa was one of the most important and formative moments of Waters’ political career. Her effort culminated in the 1986 passage of Assembly Bill 134, legislation that allowed California to divest $12 billion in state pension funds tied to the apartheid regime in South Africa.
“Finally we had succeeded and legislation became law. We met every week in Leimert Park to celebrate the success, but our work was far from done,” added Waters.
Waters was among the contingent when Mayor Bradley invited Mandela to Los Angeles upon his release from prison in Feb. 1990, a visit many believe would not have happened if not for the invitation from The Mayor.
Mandela had been a free man for just more than a few months when the 71 year-old began his stateside tour that began in Detroit and then New York where the city arranged its signature welcome, a ticker-tape parade… with the pressure of sanctions on the white South African government reaching a boiling point back home.
When Mandela arrived in Los Angeles, it was Waters who led the delegation along with celebrities such as Belafonte and numerous others who greeted him.
Nate Holden was a Los Angeles City Councilman from 1987-2002 and he remembers the head of South Africa’s finance (a white Afrikan) pleading with him to not vote for divestment in South Africa.
“I said to him that eventually he was going to die because of his age at the time he was in his 80s. I told him that God was giving him the power to do good things for the people of South Africa and to go home and think about it,” Holden said.
Subsequently Holden voted for city divestment and eventually met Mandela when he came to Los Angeles and walked him to his car.
“He (Mandela) was the chosen one to become President of South Africa when he was in the belly of the whale. He was born to be remembered for ever,” Holden said.
“When Nelson Mandela was released and came to Los Angeles, I was in absolute awe. Here I was with the man who we had worked to get out of prison. He had this broad smile on his face. He was free,” Waters explained.
Local television stations covered his visit live. Although he was not yet president of South Africa his presence was treated with the highest order of diplomacy.
His first stop was City Hall, where he, as the future first Black president of South Africa met privately with the first (and only) Black mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley.
After first meeting with Mayor Bradley, Mandela attended a rally at First AME Church where he was warmly greeted by Rev. Murray and his congregation who praised in worship and in song.
“Mandela, you 'da man!
You prove the African proverb: "It's not the name you call me, it's the name I answer to."
For 27 years you were called prisoner. When the doors were finally opened, the nation called you president. You took the cradle of humankind and rocked it into a new birth. Now seven billion lives can be nurtured at your shrine of understanding that a positive spirit can and will always outlast a negative space. Live forever!” said Rev. Murray
Mandela’s visit to Los Angeles included a concert that was held before tens of thousands at the Coliseum.
“The event was huge. We worked to put together a glamorous event at the Coliseum, the stage was filled, many of our people had spoken and when he walked on that stage the Coliseum exploded!” remembered Waters.
Today the world is calm. Its iconic symbol of humanity is gone, but his freedom fighters are continued to be inspired by what he symbolized.
Waters traveled with the official American delegation to attend the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa in 1994; and in 1998, to welcome President Mandela to the United States once again, this time to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
"When I reflect upon my own career in public service, I am among that generation of protestors who have been inspired by President Mandela’s courage, dedication and wisdom. I also consider myself among those who have had the distinct honor and privilege of knowing him and calling him a friend,” stated Waters.
Robinson has written five non-fiction books: Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America; The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks; The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other; Quitting America: The Departure of a Black Man from His Native Land; An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. He has also written the novel Makeda.
He reflected on the passing of a man, many are simply hailing as the greatest human treasure to live.
“Well, I am deeply, deeply moved. He was an extraordinary human being. Seldom do you find combined in one personality this kind of brilliant thoughtfulness. He was a contemplative man. He was nuanced. He was not a doctrinaire. He was charming, and he was warm. At the same time, he was as strong as steel and highly principled, and a figure around which, of course, so many across the world could easily rally. He was, of course, everything to the anti-apartheid movement, and seldom do you find that. His life was very rare, a very rare thing,” Stated the man who led the “Free South Africa Movement” here in the United States Randall Robinson, President Emeritus-TransAfrica.
By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Nearly three decades ago, a handful of prominent Black activists began organizing a movement that would eventually help break the back of apartheid in South Africa and force the U.S. government and American companies to end their support of White minority rule on the continent.
What was called the Free South Africa Movement began on Thanksgiving Day 1984, when then-U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, TransAfrica executive director Randall Robinson, then-D.C. Congressman Walter Fauntroy, and current-D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (then a law professor at Georgetown University), were granted a meeting at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The group called for an end to apartheid and the release of all political prisoners in South Africa. When their demands were ignored, the activists staged a sit-in at the South African embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
All but Norton were arrested for trespassing, and their actions made national, then international news.
“There were already protests before, but no one got any momentum,” Berry recalls. “We wanted to get arrested. And we tried to get people lined up to get arrested the next day.”
They got arrested the next day, the day after that and the following day. In fact, every day for a year, the Free South Africa Movement held demonstrations at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The nascent movement attracted support from celebrities, members of Congress and other high-profile people, many of whom joined the protest and allowed themselves to be arrested in order to draw more attention to the issue. Before long, chapters of Free South Africa sprang up across the United States.
“Let us not forget that Britain, the U.S. and all of the western powers labeled Mandela a terrorist and steadfastly propped up the apartheid regime—they were on the wrong side of history,” says civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Mandela is not gone, he remains with us always. He’ll always be a chin bar to pull up on. He has left this earth, but he soars high among the heavens, and his eloquent call for freedom and equality is still heard among the winds and rains, and in the hearts of the people the world over.”
Mary Frances Berry, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, remembers the personal side of Mandela.
“In dealing with him in personal interactions — having the privilege to be with him and talk to him in an informal setting — he was very funny. Not at all full of himself, and completely down to earth even though he was larger than life. He considered himself on the same level as an ordinary person, and he didn’t take himself too seriously. He loved a joke and always had witticisms.”
While maintain pressure on the streets, movement organizers organized a legislative assault on apartheid, resulting in passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.
It took an entire year to get it passed by Congress and presented to President Reagan for his signature. Instead of signing, however, Reagan vetoed it. But supporters had enough votes to override the veto.
Next in line were U.S. companies that profited from doing business in the White-ruled nation, including Shell Oil, which had been exploiting workers in South Africa. Boycotts were launched against Shell as well as the Krugerrand, a South African currency that would become an illegal import under the Anti-Apartheid Act.
Even while the United States and other governments had condemned Mandela and continued to support the South African government, anti-apartheid movements gained traction. Something about South African apartheid had struck a chord, especially for people of African descent.
“There were chapters of FSAM all over the country and there were many White people in those chapters, but the leadership was always Black. People got involved because our message was simple. At that time, if people didn’t remember Jim Crow or the Civil Rights Movement, then their parents did,” says Berry. “We told people that the South African government passed laws just like what we did here. It resonated with people in this country.”
Melvin Foote, founder and president of the Constituency for Africa, has worked to foster African and African American relations for more than 35 years. He remembers watching Mandela become a global symbol of injustice.
“When people of African descent learned about apartheid, it didn’t sound too much different than what happened with slavery,” he says. “And I think with Mandela – who would’ve thought you’d have this tall, very strong, powerful man come out of prison after 27 years with his fist up, and do the things he did. He got us to think differently about Africa.”
Foote says, “He was one of the greatest people to walk the Earth, certainly in our lifetime. There’s discussion of Mandela happening in China, India, all over the world.”
Foote sees parallels between Black South Africans’ regard for Barack Obama, and Black Americans’ regard for Nelson Mandela, especially for those who visited South Africa during Mandela’s presidency.
“[South Africans] based their revolution against apartheid on us,” Foote says. “People, especially White people, try not to make that connection, try not to foster any relationship between Africans and Black Americans…but the South African revolution was very much based on the Civil Rights Movement.”
For Berry, Mandela’s life and anti-apartheid work taught her that movements require perseverance, especially during low moments. And, she learned how to make movements effective.
“It reinforced the view that it takes grassroots movements working together with political action to make change,” she states. “If you organize around a simple issue – and messaging has a lot to do with it – and if the issue is clearly one of morality, you can prevail.”
The Los Angeles Community and the massive Los Angeles Unified School District are still reeling after the stunning demise of treasured Board Member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. She died in her hotel room while attending a conference in San Diego on Dec. 5. LaMotte was 80.
LaMotte was elected to represent District 1 of the LAUSD Board in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007 and recognized as a devout educator and advocate for children all of her adult life. She affectionately called all of the students “her babies.”
Multiple celebrations of her life have been scheduled; included are Lying in Repose on Dec. 19 at Angelus Funeral Home on Crenshaw Blvd. from 12p.m. to 5p.m., Celebration of Life Services on Dec. 21 at St. Brigid Catholic Church located at 5214 S. Western Av. in Los Angeles to be followed by Interment at Holy Cross Cemetery located at 5835 W. Slauson Ave. and a Public Memorial on Jan. 18, 2014 at a location to be announced.
LaMotte was born on July17, 1933 in New Orleans, the youngest of seven children, to Leon and Amy Poindexter.
She flourished in a segregated Louisiana school system and graduated from Xavier Preparatory High School and the YMCA Business College in New Orleans.
Her career in education began at age 18 when she was appointed director of Spaulding Business College in Baton Rouge. She took classes on a part-time basis at Southern University and was awarded a B.A. degree in Education, Summa Cum Laude in 1961. She completed her Master of Education Degree in 1965 from Louisiana State University.
LaMotte was the first African-American woman to serve as visiting professor, LSU Undergraduate School of Education.
When she relocated to Los Angeles in 1973 she described her first teaching assignment in the Special Education Department at Drew Junior High as one of the most rewarding of her life.
Successful promotional examinations led to her service as head counselor, Edison Junior High; assistant principal, Francis Polytechnic High School and in 1984 LaMotte was appointed principal of Horace Mann Junior High School. The tremendous improvement in students’ academic performance and social behavior was featured on several television programs including the Tom Brokaw NBC Nightly News.
In 1988 LaMotte was promoted to director of secondary instruction in Administrative Region C. She also served Region C as administrator of operations. With the District’s reconfiguration in 1991, she requested to return back to the schools, “back to the real action working directly with and positively changing the lives of the students.” She was assigned as principal of Washington Preparatory High School.
Under LaMotte’s direction Washington Prep received Outstanding Accreditation Review by WASC for a maximum 6-year period. LaMotte credited the school’s staff with developing and producing an innovative school-wide study skills program which provides each student with a focused 2-day exposure to the basic study skills needed to be successful and productive. In addition the implementation of standards-based lessons, a continuing effort of all departments, placed Washington in the forefront with common lesson plans for curriculum mapping. LaMotte’s staff considered her the “founder” of the Theater Arts Academy at Washington Preparatory High School.
The former teacher, counselor and principal was elected to serve District 1 of the LAUSD Board of Education in 2003. She was re-elected in 2007 and 2011. LaMotte represented a geographically and ethnically diverse area, including Palms, Mid-City, Baldwin Hills, Pico Union, Jefferson Park, Vermont Knolls, Gramercy Park, Exposition Park, North University Park, Gardena and much more.
Her many colleagues on the board and other prominent elected officials immediately began to mourn their tremendous loss.
“When you think about her life and her accomplishments, she was an educator’s educator,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, a friend and associate of LaMotte’s for some 30 years.
Others also gave a fitting tribute.
Los Angeles County Democratic Party (LACDP) Chair and California Democratic Party Vice Chair Eric C. Bauman issued the following statement on the passing of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte:
“We we mourn the loss of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, one of the strongest advocates for teachers and students in the history of our city. A lifelong ally to Democratic causes, LaMotte never backed down from a hard fight. Her leadership will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with her family and many, many friends.”
Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr. said:
“Marguerite LaMotte was a long time community leader who dedicated her life to the noble cause of educating children, spending most of her professional career serving the South Los Angeles community. Her spirit will be missed and my condolences go out to her family.”
Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement on the passing of Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, who had served on the board since 2003:
“Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte’s legacy is the difference she made in the lives of countless people who attended Los Angeles schools, and who benefited from her passionate and determined leadership. My sincerest condolences are with her family and many friends.”
“I am honored to have known this fearless fighter of public education for over 15 years. As a field organizer at Unified Teachers of Los Angeles, we worked closely together on significant education policy issues that made an enormous impact on our youth. Likewise, I have also volunteered on her successful bids to represent District 1 of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board in 2003 and 2007,” said Carson City Councilman Mike Gipson.
Los Angeles Sentinel Executive Publisher Danny J. Bakewell Sr., for whom a school is named in his honor and sits in her district, was also saddened by the loss.
“First and foremost Marguerite LaMotte was a friend. She was someone who could always be relied upon and each of us have a responsibility to become caretakers of a legacy that can not be duplicated in the education field,” Bakewell stated.
She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, Frank and Willie Poindexter and sisters, Elodia Rogers and Alma Ferebee. She leaves to cherish her memory, a son, Dale LaMotte of Little Rock, Arkansas and daughter, Faye Landry of Los Angeles and three grandchildren: Christopher, Clayton and Danielle; brother, Leon Poindexter of Houston, Texas and sister, Juanita Shepherd of Katy, Texas; faithful companion, Melvin Morris and a host of relatives and friends.
LAWT News Service
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has announced a $75,000 reward for information in the shooting death of 7 year old Taalib Pecantte and the attempted murder of his mother Sawan Mock.
Wesson and the Los Angeles Police Department are asking for the public’s help in identifying and bringing to justice the perpetrators of this terrible crime.
On Monday, December 2, 2013, at 8:55 p.m., Taalib Pecantte, a 7 year old boy, his mother and her friend were seated in her vehicle in the 1900 block of South Corning Street. Four male suspects wearing black hoodie jackets ambushed them and fired multiple gunshots into the vehicle. Taalib and his mother were struck by the gunfire. Taalib died the following day from his injuries at Children’s Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery
LAPD Detectives have been unable to identify any suspects or eye-witnesses to the crime and are seeking the public’s help.
“We need the public’s help in getting the person or persons who committed this crime off the streets before they can do it to someone else’s child,” said Wesson. “Somebody saw something.”
Anyone with information is urged to call the LAPD’s 24-hour toll-free number, (877) LAPD-24-7. Anonymous tips can be conveyed by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.
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