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Mr. Mandela: Once More, with Feeling

Practical Politics

David L. Horne, PH.D. | 1/9/2014, midnight

On Dec. 5, 2013, the day Mr. Mandela transitioned, the last and probably the best, movie made about his life and significant legacy premiered in Toronto, Canada. The movie was and is, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” and it is based on Mr. Mandela’s autobiography published in 1995.

It is an excellent movie that depicts Mr. Mandela’s life of struggle and purpose for something much larger than himself. The British actor, Idris Elba plays Nelson Mandela, and as Ray Charles had “blessed” Jamie Foxx to portray him in the magnificent biopic, “Ray,” Mr. Mandela approved of Idris Elba’s casting as Mr. Mandela.

The movie is a must-see, so when you have a little time during January, please find either a suitable RAVE Theater or another facility to sit down and comfortably watch the film.

Although most of you by now think you already know the Mandela story, there are several surprising new nuggets of information you will be pleased to see. One is the fuller impression you will get of Winnie Mandela-played superbly by Naomie Harris—and her very valuable role in both Mr. Mandela’s life and the evolution of the anti-apartheid movement in and outside of South Africa. Both Elba and Harris have recently been nominated for acting awards for the film.

Previous Mandela films have included 2011’s “Winnie Mandela,” in which Jennifer Hudson played the title character and Terence Howard played Nelson Mandela. In 2009, the movie “Endgame,” with “Treme’s” Clarke Peters as Mr. Mandela, did the best job yet of depicting the very difficult negotiations to create a new, non-racist South Africa in the aftermath of Mr. Mandela’s release from prison, both before and after his election to the presidency.

The Zulu Inkatha attack on and murder of other Black South African citizens and how it was handled is a revelation. In 2004, “Drum,” depicted Mr. Mandela in a South Africa of the 1950s, and Mandela was played by South African actor, Lindani Nkosi. In 2007, Danny Glover portrayed Mr. Mandela in a TV movie: “Mandela,” and 10 years earlier, Denzel Washington gave a moving picture of Mr. Mandela in “Mandela and de Klerk.”

The important lesson in all of this is the continuing effort to tell our own story, although except for the Denzel movie (written by Black writer Richard Wesley), the other scripts and most of the production teams were neither continental Africans nor African Americans.

Nelson Mandela, the man, the legend and the symbol, is an exceedingly valuable part of our dignified contribution towards a better world. We should all make sure we absorb as much real information on his life and works as we can. Unlike Mr. Barkley or Mr. Dennis Rodman, Mr. Mandela was and is a role model.

I encourage this new generation of Africanist scholars to delve more into the relationship between Mr. Mandela and Robert Sobukwe in South Africa, into how the transformation of South African society has proceeded forward, and into how valuable the role of South African women was and still is in that country’s renaissance.

South Africa will be a gigantic player in whatever ‘unity without uniformity’ is eventually established on the continent through the African Union and any other process. Mr. Mandela’s story within that movement forward will continue to be relevant to our own interests, and well worth our consistent study.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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