By Brian Gilmore

This week we celebrate the life and courage of Nelson Mandela.

But let's also pause to remember and salute all of the many men and women, right here in the United States, who fought against apartheid in South Africa.

Let's remember Randall Robinson, Sylvia Hill and Cecelie Counts, co-founders of the "Free South Africa Movement" in the United States.

This movement's big contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle began the day before Thanksgiving in 1984 when Robinson, Mary Frances Berry and civil rights movement stalwart Walter Fauntroy were arrested for refusing to leave the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C., in protest over the country's racial policies.

Following their well-publicized arrests, a collective of people began to appear each day at the embassy to be arrested.

The local chapter of AFL-CIO joined the cause and sent buses of members to the embassy to protest regularly.

Rosa Parks was arrested at the embassy, as was Amy Carter, daughter of former President Jimmy Carter.

Celebrities such as Stevie Wonder and boxer Larry Holmes also joined the arrest protest, along with many others, including Eleanor Holmes Norton, who now represents Washington, D.C., in Congress.

Let's also salute the members of Congress who fought to pass comprehensive economic sanctions against South Africa despite President Reagan's resistance to sanctions and his support of the regime.

In 1986, the U.S. Congress repeatedly sought to impose sanctions on South Africa. Eventually, both chambers passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. Reagan vetoed the bill. However, Congress overrode Reagan's veto, imposing the harsh sanctions on the government of South Africa that helped bring down apartheid once and for all.

Let's also salute the many college students who protested apartheid and advocated for their schools to divest their financial holdings from South Africa. Through such pressure, universities across the United States began divesting as early as the 1970s.

And finally let's salute the actors and athletes who, at some cost, honored the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa.

In 1983, tennis legend Arthur Ashe, Harry Belafonte, Tony Randall, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Gregory Hines formed the organization Artists United Against Apartheid. They urged their colleagues not to perform in South Africa or to visit for cultural exchange. The boycott resulted in more isolation for the regime.

There are, of course, countless others who contributed in big and small ways to the anti-apartheid struggle in the United States.

There are poets who wrote poems, singers who sang songs and lawyers who organized and assisted political prisoners in South Africa with money and their legal talents.

The names are too numerous to list here. But as we celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, it's worth also celebrating the collective effort of so many people who helped fight the evil of racial oppression a continent away and won.

Brian Gilmore is a poet and public interest lawyer. He can be reached at

Copyright Brian Gilmore.


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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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