“In 1979, the South African Council of Churches and US Council of Churches, under Howard Shomer’s leadership, facilitated a 10 day mission to visit South Africa. We went behind the walls of the society officially separated by race to observe first-hand the social, economic, cultural and political impact of South Africa’s apartheid system.
We visited Johannesburg, Durbin, and Soweto, meeting with Archbishop Tutu and a wide range of leaders, while many ANC leaders were in exile or under house arrest.
Across this century the ANC has led an epoch battle to end the official racist regime in South Africa. They affected the whole of southern Africa, if not the entire continent. All the while, the European powers allied themselves with the old apartheid South Africa system in order to dominate and control the South African people and the natural resources of the region.
Against this backdrop, I spoke out against the US kinship with apartheid South Africa in my 1984 speech before the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, calling it a moral disgrace. I joined with Oliver Tambo, Archbishop Huddleston and others in mass marches across the UK, went to jail with my sons in the U.S., and helped inspire the Free South Africa Movement and the drum beat for justice led by Dr. Randall Robinson and Trans Africa.
The good news was that I was in Capetown, South Africa with my family on that bright morning when Nelson Mandela walked free from Robben Island after twenty seven years of imprisonment. We were among the first Americans to meet Mandela at City Hall just after his release. Later, we were honored and privileged to host him here in Chicago, Washington and other cities around the country.
Similarly, I was blessed to be part of the official U.S. Delegation--as part of my role as President Clinton’s Special Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa—that witnessed the inauguration of President Mandela in 1992.
It is a glorious occasion to now go back to South Africa as the official guest of the ANC and representing the State of Illinois at the request of Governor Pat Quinn.
The U.S. and new South Africa relationship in trade, culture and education is a huge step toward peace and stability in the world. I look forward to meeting with the ANC leadership, African heads of state, the Mandelas, and other dignitaries and honored guests who will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ANC.
I congratulate the leadership of the ANC, past and present, for such a historic anniversary. 100 years of fighting for freedom, equality, justice, unity, and development is a significant milestone worthy of celebrating. During this long and difficult journey, lives were sacrificed, families divided and forced to live in exile, and thousands scarred for life.
But through it all, courage and hope was never lost. Dr. Albert Luthuli, Tambo, Sisulu, Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, Zuma--to name a few--these are leaders who had the vision, strong will, and the moral courage to stand up against an inhuman apartheid system and deliver South Africa from repression to freedom. South Africa has set the course and is keenly positioned to advance into the next era of political democracy and economic empowerment.
I am honored and privileged to be invited to participate in such a historic anniversary. I will be in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein to join other leaders across the globe to pay a deserved tribute to the ANC and the beloved people of South Africa. This is not just an ANC celebration, but one for the entire country and, indeed, for peace and freedom loving people around the globe. I look forward to giving a report to the American public upon my return.”
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit the organization’s website, http://www.rainbowpush.org, or telephone (773) 373-3366.