Robben Island is a striking place, surrounded by vivid blue water and clear views of Cape Towns famous mountains. To imagine South Africa’s leaders of the anti-apartheid movement locked away on the barren island surrounded by such natural beauty, left to rot away while life flourished around them, that was so difficult to swallow.
Our tour guide called the island a place of “banishment and dreams.” Where leaders of the African Liberation were dissembled and dehumanized to the point of mental and physical disability.
I had a very out of body experience when standing outside of President Mandela’s cell, that type of moment where you see flashbacks of what I imagined he looked like, what his cell looked like, how he spent his days locked away for being a terrorist. How he still found the strength to wake up every day on that God forsaken island for 18 years. It was a lot for me.
That island really represented the Black struggle. From Cape Town to Lagos, from London to Southeast DC, from Abidjan to Baltimore, the story of black oppression, solidarity, pain, hope, and disillusionment does not change very much. The same tactics of segregation, white superiority, degradation, and censorship have been faithfully applied by racist governments around the world and across many generations.
But what brought me to tears many times during that visit was the power in freedom, that these men, on this island not so long ago, were willing to die for freedom, to be locked away forever for freedom, and not for their own freedom, for humanity’s freedom from the barbaric institutions that cripple inner cities and developing nations all over the world. It was moving to be on the land that cultivated such thinking.
….Ok, ok I’m getting too deep. Let me stop here before this becomes the introduction to my book.