So here we are: is this it? Is this the end? Oh no, there is still much work to do, right here in the United States in achieving freedom for all. I'd like to suggest that one way to honor Mandela's spirit here in the U.S. is to free the one man imprisoned for being Native American, Leonard Peltier.
Leonard Peltier may seem a more controversial figure than Mandela. He's not seen as the saint by some that Mandela is. That Mandela is today. Last night, the Cleveland TV-news interviewed a Shaker Heights couple originally from South Africa. They said they were raised to believe that Mandela was a monster, a very evil man, and that it wasn't until his release and his famous soccer game appearance that they saw he was, in fact, a man, and a good one, who would go on to lead their country into positive changes that were generations in not coming until he led.
So imprisoning people on trumped-up charges is not a new game, nor a passé game, nor a South African game only, and if the person is a person of color, he has a greater chance of drawing a "get trumped-up" card.
|KSU parking space where one of the |
four students was slain.
So today we are all feeling the sorrow in the death and the joy in the life of this great leader. And I do mean there is joy in my heart today along with the sorrow because I feel he is still with us. I am reminded that when I lived in Nicaragua, there was a tradition that never failed to bring tears to my eyes. When the name of a person who had died in the Revolution was called out, someone would answer, "Presente," present, reminding us that the person's spirit was with us. So today, I say "Nelson Mandela. Presente."
And if the spirit of Mandela is indeed with us as I believe it is, I hope it works through us, and especially through President Obama who has the power, to free Leonard Peltier.
MANDELA APPEARS IN MONTREAL, 1990
Your personal world echoesin ways common enough,
a parking lot....
Although it is a drizzly dayin June in Champs de Mars,
thousands can more easily stand it
than they stood it a century ago
in November cold as only
Montreal after Louis Riel hanged.
Then City Hall went upwith its back to the site,
but still the people gathered here
A new court house rose
so high its shadow cast a pall
over the promenade, finally fit
for only a parking lot.
For this day, the lot’s been paved,
sodded, painted, and set with a stage,
bannered MANDELA, as though
the title of a new musical.
For hours the musicians sound-checked,
dress rehearsed, then did their work
for hours past the set hour, right up to
a choir that started Nkosi Siekli
then began again as Mandela appeared
to shouts of Amandla!
his native Xhosa, “power!”
that surged in his voice, reverberated
against the lot’s three walls.
“Twenty-seven years agowhen I went to prison
I had no vote....”
(no vote, no vote, no vote--)
That first echo stoppedthe applause and silence
held out for a right to more.
“Today I still have no vote....”
(no vote, no vote, no vote....)
Seventy-two years old, POW-thin,having withstood so much, still standing,
“Our people continue to be killed....”(be killed, be killed, be killed....)
Montreal echoed, the world’s walls echoed,the backs of the leaders
he would have to see all week
had to face the millions
that stood in the rain to hear
words that reverberate
years later, though the hasty sod
has buckled and died and cars
pack the space again
The words reverberate:
“Injustice continues....”(continues, continues, continues....)
to the millions who stoodin Toronto, Montreal,
and New York; Boston, then
Oakland, and London--
“Who will stand with us to the end?”
(From The Places We Find Ourselves: Poems. Diane Kendig copyright 2009.)