Archive | December, 2013

Let’s Have a Clear-Eyed View of Mandela

12 Dec

Dec. 12. I first heard about South African apartheid during my freshman year at college in ’65 or ’66.. Two men who said they were in the armed wing on the ANC spoke one evening and I was fascinated. I recall I did one of my first papers in political science on South Africa and it was full of passionate calls for support for the cause of freedom there (to the dismay of my professor who wanted a more fact based approach).

I can’t say I did anything about it until the mid-1980’s. I was heavily involved in Middle East activism starting in 1982. Some of the folks we worked with noticed that students at Yale were trying to get the Yale Corporation to sell off stocks in companies doing business with South Africa. I’m hazy about the details, but Paula and Frank Panzarella and a number of us started the South Africa Action Committee in New Haven. We had a rally and then we talked about building shanties at Yale to give students a tiny taste of what it was like in the South African Bantustans. Frank had the building know-how and a group of activists put them together on Beinicke Plaza (which we renamed Alan Boesak plaza in honor of a South African activist). I did a google search and came up with this account about the shanties.

I remember getting a call at 3 in the morning that Yale police were on their way to tear down the shanties. 40 or so students and people from the community occupied the shanties first and then after ignoring the calls to leave from the police were arrested and taken to some gym for booking. Can’t recall what the bail was or who paid it, but when we were released we came back on the campus and 1,000 people were there to greet us. There were fiery speeches and the shanties were rebuilt on the spot. Then for many months there was a pre-Occupy Occupy. You could go down to the shanties and meet up with people for political discussions at any time day or night. Eventually interest waned, one shanty remained in a state of neglect and it was burned down by a alumni.

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