This post was originally made two years ago, during my first ever Seminal Readings experience at African Leadership Academy. Next week I begin all over again, but this time without the 6 young people with whom I journeyed with . Bitter-sweet. Let’s see what happens…
So folks, it’s been a minute since I’ve had easy access to the internet or free time. But I’m here again to share some of the happenings with me.
I’m gonna start for the next few posts sharing with ya’ll ( i miss saying that, :/) a bit of the teaching that I lead our young leaders through.
So back in September, we began our first week of school with a crazy idea, which I had never heard of, but maybe you have, of stopping class for an entire week to focus on a series of readings that set the tone for the level of inquiry and dedication we expect from our students. We call this the Seminal Readings.
I and one of my favorite people, Miss Sue (an expert teacher from a 800+ year old boarding school in England — the school is twice as old as the US itself, no wonder the Brits esteem themselves so highly, smile) began our first session with our grouping of 5 advisees. Now the schedule for the week was a 2-hour reading block the night before followed by a 2 hour discussion period at the top of the morning, then another 2-hour reading followed by a second discussion block. after lunch.
Well we jumped right in to a very meaty, thoroughly inspiring, and mentally-stimulating reading: I Am Prepare to Die by Nelson Mandela. Wow, what a way to get to know a group of 10 adolescents from 10 different countries speaking Amaric, French, Arabic, Zulu, Swahili, Portuguese, and more. So many tough issues and questions arose from this reading like: is violence ever justifiable ?and when is someone’s liberator another persons terrorist? But in the end this reading was consumate depiction of a value we believe is necessary for transformative leaders who will affect positive change in Africa — Couraage. If you haven’t read this before, check out the excerpt below (but here’s a link to the full speech) the strategic and reasoned thinking in combination with the courage and honesty of this man are truly awe inspiring:
I am the First Accused.
…. I have already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto. I, and the others who started the organization, did so for two reasons. Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalize and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which is not produced even by war. Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.
But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. We who formed Umkhonto were all members of the African National Congress, and had behind us the ANC tradition of non-violence and negotiation as a means of solving political disputes. We believe that South Africa belongs to all the people who live in it, and not to one group, be it black or white. We did not want an interracial war, and tried to avoid it to the last minute…
Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.
But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on color, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.
…During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
… As I look back on this text now, the question is again raised for me at what point is someone’s terrorist another person’s patriot/liberator? I never knew before arriving in SA the willful and conscious part Madiba played in using violence in the struggle. Did you? Does Mandela’s arguement that their actions weren’t terrorism make sense?
Does that change how we see him? Or rather should it change how we judge violence in movements of struggle?
For instance what is the difference between the Black Panthers and Umkhonto?
Nelson Mandela – April 20, 1964