Photo Credit: Twitter
Brandeis Univ. Student Union Pres. Ricky Rosen (center) with grandsons of Nelson Mandela, Ndaba Mandela (L) and Kweku Mandela-Amuah (R)

It was the kind of opportunity most Jewish institutions are incapable of passing up. Two of the grandsons of the iconic Nelson Mandela,  Ndaba Mandela and Kweku Mandela-Amuah, agreed to share the keynote speech at Brandeis University’s annual celebration of “social justice,” in an event known as the “Deis Impact.

It happened on Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the ballroom of the school’s student center. The two grandsons gave the keynote speech(es) in collaboration with the Ruth First Memorial Lecture, which is sponsored by the Brandeis African and Afro-American Studies Department.

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The topic of the talks was “Africa Rising: The Mandela Legacy and the Next Generation of African Leadership.”

Africa Rising is the name of the foundation created in 2010 by the two Mandela grandsons to “create a new legacy and understanding of Africa as a continent showcasing the tremendous potential and unprecedented growth.”

Andrew Flagel, the school’s senior vice president for students and enrollment, sounded elated as he gave a preliminary introduction to the event. He talked about the social justice festival, begun 3 years ago, which is distinctive because it is “university funded, but student organized.”

Flagel talked about the incorporation of the arts, music, film, global justice, ethnicity, into Deis Impact, and how it is all about delving into the meaning of social justice.

Following Flagel, the student union president, Ricky Rosen, introduced the two speakers. Rosen spoke about what distinguishes Brandeis from other small liberal arts schools in the Boston area.

What did the Brandeis Student Union president come up with? That Brandeis is “unconventional.” Not only is Brandeis unconventional, but the students are intensely proud of being that way.

Rosen described Brandeis students’ unconventionality by comparing what they do with walking the wrong way on an escalator, or swimming against the tide, working harder to get anywhere. That sounds admirable. It’s really hard, especially for young people, to swim against the tide.

But do they?

What does not sound so great is the kind of reaction the Brandeis audience gave to one of the Mandela grandsons, when he went through a litany of the kinds of discrimination to be challenged in the world.

The Mandela grandsons are not the great orators their grandfather was, but they are young and they will get much more practice as they continue on their lofty quest.  Their goal is nothing less than to create the great African Dream.

First Kweku Mandela-Amuah spoke. He is the less forceful speaker of the two cousins, but he is a film producer and director, with his own production company, Out of Africa Entertainment.

The second Mandela grandson to speak, Ndaba, is a more relaxed, natural speaker. He was a political consultant at the Embassy of Japan in Pretoria, and his attempts to engage and energize the audience met with some success.

Ndaba Mandela started with a classic public speaking rhythm: you give the crowd a tagline, and then wait for them to understand it comes after every pause.

The tagline this Mandela was teaching at the Brandeis Social Justice event was “That is discrimination.”  He preached a descriptive line about governmental authority or oppression, and the tagline was “That is discrimination.” This is what he said:

Discrimination is the enemy of social justice.

Multinational companies mining gold in Australia, on land that historically belongs to the indigenous  people, the Aboriginals, which are making billions, while the Aboriginal people make nothing and the government says zero….That is discrimination.

When Africans from North and West Africa and France are consistently harassed, victimized and searched on the streets by police…That is discrimination.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Welcome to Newspeak for the Jews: "I care about social justice" translates as "I hate my people and my country." Pathetic. How many Jews are there who care about social justice who properly value Israel's contributions to the world?
    I've heard it said among religious Jews that non-Jews respect them because the non-Jews respect people who have genuine commitment. The unrecognized reality is that the world would respect the Jews more if the Jews respected themselves, and their country, more. As it is, the Mandelas of the world can only be moved to contempt, because we are contemptuous of ourselves — out of the preposterous belief that only by hating our own people can we show how truly committed we are to doing good.

  2. It is chilling that malicious and totally inaccurate statements about Jews and Israel can be made in any setting, especially an academic one, where one would expect the organizers and at least some of the audience to be intelligent and sophisticated enough to know the facts, and have the courage to confront those casting ill informed seeds of controversy on the wind..

  3. This article is presumptive and insulting to members of the audience (myself and friends included). Ndaba Mandela's misinformed comment concerning China was heard and disapproved of by everyone I spoke with after the talk.
    This article is just pandering to the pro-Israel readership of this website. The writer has left out information as it suits her to do just that. Furthermore, the concluding paragraph is drawing a feeble line between clapping in support of a statement critical towards Israel and ignorance towards the cultural makeup of China. That is laughably absurd.

    Why, may I ask, did the writer of this article not stand up and correct the speaker in the middle of his speech, or even go up during the Q&A? She also failed to point out the speaker's misinformation. Simply by writing an article does not put her above the rest of us in the audience– our jobs are not to write articles. Instead, we discussed the talk, its shortcomings but also how it positively effected us. And for that reason, this article is incredibly disrespectful to the Brandeis community.

  4. As an alumnus of Brandeis, I have a question – Did the Brandeis audience applaud when Mandela's grandson said,"When the American government supports the Israeli army [sprinkling of applause] in disputes over the land against Palestine[SIC]…That is discrimination. [biggest applause]

  5. Brandeis is a nonsectarian Jewish community-sponsored school. Not just Brandeis students attended this event. Assuming that because we attend Brandeis we are Jewish is presumptive. His comment was critical of Israel, not anti-Israel. Some of us did not vote for Obama, some of us were not even old enough to vote. In summary, everything you said was based on false information.

  6. Another case of riding on some one else's coattails even when you have nothing to contribute. This constant cry of discrimination is getting very old and tired Anything that you do not like, anything that is not your way, and anything you can't change just because you don't like it is not discrimination. But that is the constant cry. Also another favorite ploy of this group is to label anyone who does not agree with them or has a different point of view is always called a racist by these people. It is the favorite cry to cause most good people to just shut up and try to forget the whole matter. For some reason people are more afraid of being called a racist than they are of having to accept lies and injustice. If I know in my heart that I have an opinion that is different for an honest and good reason then I have no fear of being called something that people who know me and of me understand that I am not. Of what the others think, I have no control, but i place my faith in God and my faith in my honest beliefs to stand by my statements and beliefs regardless of what the radicals say.

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