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07 December 2013

Amandla!


In 1995 Jennifer and I traveled South Africa for three weeks to check out this "new" nation under the presidency of Nelson Mandela.  Suffice it to say, it was a remarkable experience. 

Americans hadn't yet begun to travel much to the new South Africa, so we encountered many people who had never met Americans. Our itinerary took us from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown to Johannesburg to Durban and to a bush camp on the edge of Kruger National Park.  We traveled with our Lonely Planet guidebook and Nadine Gordimer novels, by car, bus, and on foot and saw we it all: The Cape of Good Hope, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet; the beauty of Stellenbosch and the grinding poverty and shebeens of Crossroads Township; the police station in Port Elizabeth where Steven Biko was tortured and murdered; Umtatu (Mandela's birthplace); the Indian community of Durban where Ghandi practiced law; and the bush... lions, bush babies, hippos, jumbos (elephants), baboons, rhinos...all up close and personal (at times a little too damn close and a little too damn personal...).

So, I guess I feel like we knew Mandela a little if only because we were able to obtain some understanding of his country, of his people, of that Xhosa click.  Before Thursday, I'd never cried upon hearing of a world leader's death.  But when I heard the news on December 5, of Madiba's passing, I wept. 

On her second album, "Crossroads," Tracy Chapman included a wonderful tune about Mandela that is one of my all time favorites.  So here's a live version of it, followed by the lyrics:



They throwed him in jail
And they kept him there
Hoping soon he'd die
That his body and spirit would waste away
And soon after that his mind

But every day is born a fool
One who thinks that he can rule
One who says tomorrow's mine
One who wakes one day to find
The prison doors open the shackles broken
And chaos in the street

Everybody sing we're free free free free
Everybody sing we're free free free free
Everybody sing we're free free free free

They throwed him in jail
And they kept him there
Hoping his memory'd die
That the people forget how he once led
And fought for justice in their lives

But every day is born a man
Who hates what he can't understand
Who thinks the answer is to kill
Who thinks his actions are god's will

And he thinks he's free free free free
Yes he thinks he's free free free free
He thinks he's free free free free

Soon must come the day
When the righteous have their way
Unjustly tried are free
And people live in peace I say
Give the man release
Go on and set your conscience free
Right the wrongs you made
Even a fool can have his day

Let us all be free free free free
Let us all be free free free free
Let us all be free free free free

Free our bodies free our minds
Free our hearts
Freedom for everyone
And freedom now

Freedom now
Freedom now
Freedom now

Let us all be free free free free
Let us all be free free free free
Let us all be free free free free