Saturday, December 14, 2013
Posted by: Kathie Stromile Golden
Remembering Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
The National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS) mourns with the family of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the people of South Africa, and the world for the loss of this dynamic son of Africa.
The goal of NCOBPS is to study, enhance, and promote the political aspirations of people of African descent in the United States and throughout the world. We aim to contribute to the resolution of the many challenges confronting Black people by promoting research and critical analysis of topics usually overlooked and/or marginalized in mainstream political science. We believe that our scholarship must address wide-ranging "real world” issues and not the narrow, often manufactured, concerns of the political science discipline. We believe that the stakes of the current Mandela memorializing project are incredibly important. Whether we remember Mandela, publicly, as we knew him is a powerful litmus test of this historical moment. We choose to remember Mandela and articulate what he means to us.
Mandela's message and life long struggle for freedom, equality and peace resonates with us because he understood that the success of struggles against state violence and tryanny is tied to a range of ideologies and strategies. His message of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation provides the framework for coping with state sanctioned humiliation, suffering and violence. Though powerful people and systems of violence relish the thought of absolution and cling to their innocence, those whose very humanity is threatened by a patently anti-democratic and unjust world require survival strategies. Knowing that liberated worlds can be imagined and that social justice can be lived, oppressed people choose to embrace survival. Mandela bore the burden of this contradiction with the political clarity of a person who would be required to embody liberal, revolutionary, militant, pragmatist, humanitarian, and authoritarian philosophies in just one life time.
Throughout his 27 years of incarceration, Mandela remained the undisputed leader of the anti-apartheid movement that animated a largely underground Pan Africanist, anti-colonialist, and black internationalist movement for the post-Lumumba generation. That generation confronted COINTELPRO; global surveillance; assassinations; countless military coups; the brutality of police forces; mass incarceration; and warehousing of Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal and millions of often nameless people of color. Exiled anti-apartheid activists told the stories of the people who rose up in Durban and King William's Town and Crossroads to global audiences. NCOBPS' scholars and activists added their voices and explained why the struggles for social justice in Wilmington, Newark, Brownsville, Mississippi, Port of Spain, Arusha, Addis Ababa or Lilongwe were a heartbeat away from Sharpeville. Struggling in solidarity with Africans on the continent, the Free Mandela Campaign enabled Black American activists to articulate their solidarity and to conceptualize their roles in the Black radical tradition. NCOBPS understands these struggles as linked and has long advanced that understanding.
The struggle for African liberation has required a kind of consciousness-raising that rejects the caricature of the most vulnerable people. Nelson Mandela's "humility” and "humor” reflect his political commitment to honor the people from whence he came, both powerful and meek. Yet, his steadfast critique is ever present. Mandela's sharp rebuke of the "unspeakable atrocities” of apartheid in Palestine and the U.S. colonialism in Iraq and Afghanistan was an indication of his devotion to revolutionary memory.
NCOBPS is an expression of a long tradition of global Black consciousness that is motivated by alternative views of government, civil society, and Black life. Its' sustainability as an independent Black institution is a tribute to Black Americans who live with the "second life of slavery” and the "after-life of slavery.” Through research, teaching, and service NCOBPS follows Mandela's dictum that true leaders, "lead from behind — and let others believe they are in front.” As a matter of daily occurrence, our members insert their research and teaching into the wheels of American Exceptionalism and American Empire and we place a singularly profound set of brakes on the romantization of the American Century. In doing so, we honor the Mandela that we remember.
For more information on the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, please visit our website at http://www.ncobps.org/
December 13, 2013