Grandson of late South African President Nelson Mandela speaks at UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst held a community brunch Tuesday honoring the ‘National Day of Racial Healing,’ which comes a day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 1:45 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2023 at 4:51 PM EST
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AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - UMass Amherst held a community brunch Tuesday honoring the ‘National Day of Racial Healing,’ which comes a day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The featured speaker was the grandson of activist and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

“These are the future leaders of our country, of our nation, of our world, who will make this world a better place,” said Ndaba Mandela.

Mandela asked UMass Amherst students to stand up for what is right, just as young people did back in the 70′s and 80′s when UMass became a leader in the campaign to disinvest in U.S. companies doing business in South Africa in protest of apartheid.

“These young people, probably the same age as some of the students that are here today, put their body on the line for what they believed in,” Ndaba Mandela noted.

UMass History Professor Dr. Joy Bowman remembered when certain products were banned on-campus.

“There was no Coca-Cola on-campus since Coke did business with South Africa. You could buy Pepsi, but you couldn’t buy Coke,” Bowman explained.

“…And that is, when the tide of apartheid started to turn, only because of the power of the purse,” Ndaba Mandela added.

Apartheid, the legal and cultural segregation of non-white citizens of South Africa, ended in 1994 thanks to Ndaba Mandela’s grandfather, activist Nelson Mandela. Ndaba went to live with his grandfather when he was 11. Soon after, his father died from HIV/AIDS and Nelson Mandela shared with the media the truth about his son’s death.

“It was the first time that a prominent family had disclosed the actual real reason of why one of their loved ones had died,” Ndaba Mandela said.

The announcement challenged the widespread prejudice against those suffering from the disease in South Africa.

“People were dying in isolation because this was seen as a dirty disease, he had been doing dirty things,” ndaba mandela explained.

Bowman said if Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela were here today, they would likely agree the fight for equality continues.

“Recent racial incidents in Amherst on-campus and in town make us wonder if it’s 2022-23 or 1962-63,” Bowman added.

Ndaba Mandela spoke directly to the students and said it’s up to every single one of them to effect change

“I am a leader. What I can dream, I can achieve. It is in our hands to work together to make this world a better place,” Ndaba Mandela said.

Nelson Mandela was awarded an honorary UMass degree in 2006, when a delegation from the university traveled to South Africa.