The Belize Times
Sunday July 29, 1990
Dem See Mista Mandela
“He came, he saw, he conquered.”
Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress, speaking before a packed Los Angeles Coliseum of 75,000 plus, conquered the hearts of the many Belizeans in attendance.
“We ask you to assist our people and their organization in this time of hope, but also pain, suffering and anguish,” Mandela appealed.”You can help by maintaining sanction.”
Belize’s presence at the Mandela rally was very visible. Belizeans were among the many arriving as of 6:00p.m.on the evening of June 29. Particularly present were African-Belizeans, some dressed in African clothing, others in U.S. made Mandela T-shirts and others wearing the African headdress. By the way, look for Mandela T-shirts to be the most popular clothing item during the September celebrations in Belize.
Belizeans made up part of the electrifying response to Mandela’s appearance. While speakers and entertainers set the stage for an evening of entertainment, education and inspiration, Belizeans had a particular reason to be filled with the ‘spirit of the new wine’.
At 8:00 p.m. veteran actor and professor of literature Roscoe Lee Brown, in his capacity as master of ceremonies, took to the stage and introduced Andre Crouch and his gospel ensemble. Following presentations by Marsha Warfield of television’s ‘Night Court’, Kris Kristofferson and singer Diane Reeves, Dick Gregory vowed to take no more solid food, only juice and water, ’until everyone in South Africa has one vote for one man’. The tempo of the entertainment became more upbeat with the ’heavy’ rapping of famed Iced T, Tone Loc, Def Jeff, King T, Low Profile and other rappers and dancers. They had Coliseum audience on their feet waving their fists in the air.
The tempo dropped a notch when Jonathan Butler mellowed the crowd with ’We must heal our land’ dedicated to the brothers and sisters in South Africa. African-Caribbean’s broke loose when Professor Roscoe Lee Brown returned to the stage and brought on ‘The Babylon Warriors’.
Overnight, the meek gave up the land and opted to be dancers instead. They were dancing in the aisles and on the seats; folk who had apparently not attempted to dance reggae before were thrusting their fists in the air and throwing one-two combinations to the moon that was now setting over the coliseum. It was the perpetual motion of lead singer Brother Trapp who at times moved from a mean job of ’skanking’ to the thrusting of his fist in the air that made it impossible for the 75,000 plus to remain seated.
The Babylon Warriors knew that they were part of history in the making and were therefore in perfect harmony as they ‘blew’ ‘shooting and killing and dying in the name of the Lord”. But perhaps it was Trappy’s enticement of the crowd to join in the refrain ‘Free-ee South Africa’ that again brought the crowd to its feet.
The Caribbean influence on the programmed continued when actress Rosalind Cash brought Jamaican superstar Judy Moar to the stage. She sang ‘We’re coming home Mother Africa’. ‘We’ll fight for our right to be free’. And ‘Stand up for your right’. Of course, the 75,000 did just that.
It was when Jesse Jackson, during the course of his moving speech, stated “We’re Africanizing America”, that an elderly African-American woman shouted, ”You right about that, son, and I am glad to be part of it.”
If you were around in the late sixties you would remember the strong influence South African born Hugh Masakela had on the music world. Well, he has not lost any of his skills as a trumpeter. In introducing a tune about working the goldmines of South Africa he used the following monologue which brought to the forefront what life is like for Black Africans working the gold mines in South Africa. “There’s a train that comes from Zimbabwe and Mozambique, from Gambia and Zaire, from the whole of Southern Africa to contract to work deep in the goldmines of Johannesburg.”
Applause thundered when the tall gray haired African National Congress leader stepped onto the stage with fist shot into the air, the traditional salute of the ANC. At his side was his 54 year old wife, Winnie, herself the subject of years of harassment, detention and banishment by South African authorities.
“We will not give up until apartheid gives in,” Mandela boomed to the Coliseum crowd. Mandela went on to urge the young to forsake the use of illicit drugs.”We learned that the solution was not to escape reality by resorting to drugs. “We learned that we could make our future bright by overcoming our own weaknesses and weaknesses of others,” he concluded. “Amandela! Amandela! Amandela! Amandela!”
The programme concluded with the singing of the African American anthem “Lift every voice and sing”.
Some reflections on the visit of Nelson Mandela: Non African Americans have always displayed tremendous outpouring of pride, particularly those of European or Latin descent, whenever a leader of their country of origin visits the United States. For the greater part, Africans, African-Americana and Caribbean peoples have never felt a part of that euphoria surrounding such visits.
Well, we have finally had our day in the sun. It lasted for 12 days. To most of us, Nelson Mandela represented a chief among his tribe. Our king finally paid us a visit. His visit was a boost tour self image.
Belizeans, particularly African-Belizeans, spoke of the difficulty in expressing just what it was like to hear, much less see Mr. Mandela. Would it be too much for the asking for Mr. Mandela, to someday ride in an open back truck down Freetown, into Douglas Jones, on to North Front Street, into Albert Street and on to Yarborough Green where he would address a crowd of at least 20,000?
Thanks again, Babylon Warriors.