Mandela’s grandsons laud ’DEIS Impact, seek to create ‘African Dream’

Founders of Africa Rising Foundation deliver keynote address

Who better to inspire a ballroom full of young social justice enthusiasts than the grandsons of a man who inspired the world to fight discrimination?

Despite a snowstorm that canceled classes and shut down the university, Kweku Mandela-Amuah and Ndaba Mandela, grandsons of the late Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist and first black president of South Africa, gave ’DEIS Impact’s keynote address to a packed Levin Ballroom last Wednesday, Feb. 5.  

“You not only share a last name with a great anti-apartheid crusader, you clearly share a commitment to making the world a better place,” said Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment, welcoming the cousins to the third annual “festival of social justice” Brandeis.

Both speakers underscored the power of collectively striving for social justice during their talk.

“Take a moment and look around you,” Mandela-Amuah said. “Look to your left and look to your right. Behind and in front of you. What do we all have in common? Each of us brings something unique to the table, but our DNA has a common thread — our thirst for social justice.”

The comment resonated with the audience, especially those involved in organizing ’DEIS Impact. This year’s 10-day festival featured more than 50 events, including talks, workshops, performances and exhibitions organized by students, faculty, clubs and academic departments to raise awareness of social justice on campus, in Waltham and around the world.

“’DEIS Impact is an audacious, bold undertaking whose goals are not beer and football,” Mandela-Amuah said. “[Social justice] is a goal you are destined to fail [to achieve.] No society has ever achieved it. You remind us that each and every one of us can try.”

 To help bring greater social justice to the African continent, and to change the world’s view of Africa, the young Mandelas established the Africa Rising Foundation. Their goal is to unite a generation of African youth to work on improving the continent’s socioeconomic conditions and to inspire them to strive for the “African Dream.”

“We all know what the American Dream is. It has pervaded every society,” said Ndaba Mandela, adding that African youth should be challenged to create and pursue their own vision of a better future. “What is the Africa that you want to see tomorrow?”

Africa’s diversity will make answering this question a challenge — the continent includes more than 50 countries and an estimated 1,500-2,000 languages, Ndaba Mandela acknowledged. But the Mandelas are committed to getting input from people in as many areas as possible.

Their foundation also aims to provide youth from rural villages with mentoring, guidance, access to computers, and other services to to help them find and keep employment. The World Bank estimates youth account for 60 percent of the unemployed in Africa.

Dan Terris, director of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, which organized ’DEIS Impact with the Student Union and with support from the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice, praised Mandela-Amuah and Mandela for motivating youth to solve problems that defied their elders.

“They are focused on bringing together diverse groups, drawing attention to the power of young people in Africa, and harnessing that power to call attention to continental issues of poverty, of disease, of climate,” said Terris.

The keynote speech was presented in collaboration with the Ruth First Lecture Series, named for the South African freedom fighter who inspired Nelson Mandela in school, and sponsored by the African and Afro-American Studies Department.

“[Nelson] Mandela’s university experience and interactions with radical students like Ruth First transformed him and set him on the course to becoming the biggest freedom fighter in modern history,” said Chad William, AAAS chair. “We should all aspire to be as revolutionary as Nelson Mandela.”

A complete schedule of this year’s events and a history of ‘DEIS Impact is available online.

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs, Student Life

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