This morning I awoke to the news of the tragic death of Mama Africa Mama Miriam Makeba. To many Africans in the Diaspora, Miriam Makeba was the voice of South Africa. Having accomplished so much as a vocalist, she went further to be the ambassador of the people of South Africa to the world. She helped bring vivid details of the beauty of the South Africa and its people and at the same time present the horrors of apartheid.
Working and living in the Black liberation movement, I along with many others participated in the anti-apartheid movement. I spent many years on marches, rallies, boycotts, and other activities. The Music of Miriam Makeba and her ex-husband Hugh Masekela will forever be the soundtrack of that struggle. This music was our news reports on the lives taken as well as the victories won in the anti-apartheid struggle. Their music made the names Mandela, Sizulu, Biko, Tambo, etc come to life for those of us across the waters. The theaters that she performed in became transformed to meetings for people to share and update each other on the movement to free South Africa.
Culture has always been central to the lives of African people. The marriage of culture and movement were clearly essential and effective in the struggle to end apartheid. Mama Africa’s role in creating this environment must never be forgotten. The boycotts were effective because the word got out. The calls for the release of Mandela were effective because the word got out; one of the carriers of the word was Mama Africa. She managed to spread the word with clarity and power without preaching.
Her voice, grace, beauty, vision, strength and commitment will live on. I feel honored to have been moved by the life of Miriam Makeba and thank the creator for allowing her to share her talent and vision with us. We have much to learn from her life. As many African traditions teach us, her spirit is now stronger than ever. Lets Celebrate Mama Africa.
In the words of freedom fighter Sekou Odinga “If you are a poet make revolutionary poetry, if you are an artist, create revolutionary art!”
Long Live the struggle for a truly free and Independent Azania
Long Live Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba