Marking Mandela's 90th Birthday

Mandela in his own words

Whether talking about his time in prison, his struggle against apartheid, his emergence as a global icon or cracking a joke about his career, Nelson Mandela's words often have a resonance far beyond their original context. Here are a few of his memorable quotes.

Mandela: "In my country we go to prison first and then become President."

  • On his freedom struggle: "I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment"

  • On courage: "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

  • On dealing with opponents: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

  • On racism: "I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man."

  • On negotiating: "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

  • On leadership: "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."

  • On education: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

  • On freedom: "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated."

  • On fame: "That was one of the things that worried me -- to be raised to the position of a semi-god -- because then you are no longer a human being. I wanted to be known as Mandela, a man with weaknesses, some of which are fundamental, and a man who is committed."

  • On careers: "In my country we go to prison first and then become President."


Conspicuous by their presence

The July issue of Italian Vogue calls attention to prejudice by using only women of color.

See Slideshow

June 19, 2008
Critic’s Notebook
New York Times permalink

RACIAL prejudice in the fashion industry has long persisted because of tokenism and lookism. “We already have our black girl,” says a designer to a fashion-show casting agent, declining to see others. Or: “She doesn’t have the right look.” Laziness, paranoia and pedantry may also have something to do with the failure to hire black models for shows and magazine features in any meaningful number, but, hey, that’s just a guess.

A decade ago the thing to deplore was the stereotyping of black models by dressing them in African-inspired clothes (or the Asian girls in kimonos). This at least gave work to minority models, but it also encouraged a Western view of African culture of the many-bangles-many-beads variety.

O.K., so fashion ain’t deep. It looks into a mirror and sees ... itself. The irony in fashion is that it loves change but it can’t actually change anything. It can only reflect a change in the air. But what changes fashion? What would finally move American designers to include more black models on their runways? That 30 percent of the country is nonwhite? That black women spend $20 billion a year on clothes? That an African-American is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party?

The answer is the individual eye.

In fashion, one of the most influential eyes belongs to the photographer Steven Meisel. His pictures have caught an America basking in the earnest, self-reflected glow of celebrity and money. He has taken innumerable risks, especially with “Sex,” the 1992 volume he did with Madonna, that have paid off with a career that allows him to do whatever he wants.

And he has almost lovingly photographed some of the world’s beautiful women, tapping into their psyches, connecting with them on a human level, while transforming them into fashion deities.

As the model Veronica Webb, who first worked with Mr. Meisel 20 years ago, said: “Steven knows every single tic, every talent that every girl has. He just pulls it out of them.”

For the July issue of Italian Vogue, Mr. Meisel has photographed only black models. In a reverse of the general pattern of fashion magazines, all the faces are black, and all the feature topics are related to black women in the arts and entertainment. Mr. Meisel was given roughly 100 pages for his pictures. The issue will be on European newsstands next Thursday and in the United States soon after.

Under its editor, Franca Sozzani, Italian Vogue has gained a reputation for being more about art and ideas than commerce. Ms. Sozzani also doesn’t mind controversy.

She said that, as an Italian, she has been intrigued by the American presidential race and Mr. Obama, which was one source of inspiration when she and Mr. Meisel began discussing, in February, the idea of an all-black issue. Also, she was aware of the lack of diversity on the runways in recent years and the debate it fueled last fall in New York, where Bethann Hardison, a former model who ran a successful agency, held two panel discussions on the topic.

Ms. Sozzani said the issue was not a response to criticism that she, too, has under-represented blacks or portrayed them as stereotypes.

“Mine is not a magazine that can be accused of not using black girls,” said Ms. Sozzani, noting that Naomi Campbell has had several covers, and that Liya Kebede and Alek Wek have also had covers.

Having worked at one time with nearly all the models he chose for the black issue — Iman, Ms. Campbell, Tyra Banks, Jourdan Dunn, Ms. Kebede, Ms. Wek, Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander — Mr. Meisel had his own feelings. “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination,” said Mr. Meisel, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race — every kind of prejudice.”

He began casting in March. “I love the history of fashion, obviously, and I love old, and I tried to get as many of the older girls as I could,” he said. Over Ms. Sozzani’s initial objections, he also hired Toccara Jones, a full-figure model, who became known from “America’s Next Top Model.” “I wanted to say something about weight, and I’m never allowed to do that,” he said. “I met Toccara and thought, she’s beautiful. What’s the deal with her? She’s great and she’s sexy.”

If these pictures have a heightened sense of glamour, it probably has something to do with the atmosphere of a Meisel shoot. According to Ms. Webb, “it’s the darkest studio, like a studio at MGM.”

There are fans and reflectors; many assistants. An area is marked “Hair” and another “Makeup.” (Pat McGrath did all the makeup for the issue, and Guido Palau did the hair.) A mirror is placed behind Mr. Meisel, so the model can see herself.

“It’s a dark world,” Ms. Webb said, “and you’re in the spotlight.”

The four pictures that Ms. Campbell was supposed to make turned into 20. She also appears on the fold-out cover, along with Ms. Kebede, Sessilee Lopez and Ms. Dunn. “Franca doesn’t realize what she’s done for people of color,” Ms. Campbell said the other day. “It reminds me of Yves using all the black models.” She was referring to Yves Saint Laurent, who, like Gianni Versace and a handful of other designers, routinely cast minorities.

Mr. Meisel has his own theories about why black models, save for the token few, have disappeared from runways. “Perhaps the designers, perhaps the magazine editors,” he said. “They are the powerful people. And the advertisers. I have asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say no.” The concern is that consumers will resist the product, he said. “It all comes down to money.”

Ashley Brokaw, an independent casting agent in New York, believes that designers want more diversity in their casts but, she said, “what they want and what the reality is are two different things.” She thinks that agencies don’t spend enough time to groom new models for the catwalk, making it easy for designers to reject them, and then the cycle of new faces is spinning faster and faster.

But it’s also true that designers, in spite of their creative powers, yearn for the approval of insiders. “They are looking around, over their shoulders, asking, ‘Is that cool?’ ” Mr. Meisel said. He agreed that it’s a crazy kind of paranoia. Whether it’s a new model or hip style, he said with a laugh, “It can only be stated by a certain five people and then they go with it.”

What is striking about Mr. Meisel’s pictures, especially a portrait of Ms. Banks in a soft head-wrap and one of Ms. Lopez in a neat brocade turban, is how much beauty and life he was able to extract from them, so that you almost feel you are seeing these women for the first time.

Ms. Hardison hopes that the Italian Vogue issue (to which she contributed) will open people’s eyes in the industry. “They need to see what they’re missing out there,” she said. This week, in its July issue, American Vogue will have an article about the dearth of black models.

Perhaps no individual, though, will know what it means to be included more than Ms. Lopez. Last year, she barely worked. Ms. Brokaw predicts that after insiders see Mr. Meisel’s pictures, she will have a terrific season.

This kind of perplexes and delights Mr. Meisel.

“Here’s this exquisite girl,” he said, addressing no one in particular. “What don’t you get? She’s a beautiful woman. There was no trick to it.”


Kenya: Barack Obama is Africa's Talisman

I've started a new blog on the Obama presidential campaign here http://www.obamabrasil.blogspot.com/

Posted to the web 9 June 2008 on allAfrica.com


Kenyans are celebrating Senator Barack Obama's success in the US Democratic Party nomination, not because they expect goodies from him if he becomes the most powerful leader in the world; they know there won't be any.

At one level they are doing so because of a sense of kinship. His father was Kenyan, after all. But the bigger reason is that he is a role model for almost a billion black people in the world today who are used to coming last in everything important. The black race is the poorest, least powerful, most unhealthy, least hopeful of them all.

One of the least acknowledged facts of life is that being black is not the easiest thing in the world.A black person carried the legacy of slavery, colonialism and, increasingly, the failure of Africa to quickly pull itself out of the mire of poverty, war, hunger, disease and ignorance.

Even promising countries such as South Africa and our own have had their moments of madness.In their secret hearts, Africans see in Sen Obama's victory a confirmation that a black person can be anything he or she wants to be if they work hard enough and are smart and lucky enough.

In diplomacy they talk about the "ripe moment," when all factors arrange themselves to suit a deal. Sometimes all it takes to arrange those factors into a ripe moment for the beginning of a brighter future is optimism and faith. And that is what Sen Obama has done for Africans.


Savouring the Moment

Op-Ed Columnist
Bob Herbert

Savor the Moment for a Historic Campaign

Published: June 7, 2008
This election year has been a testament to the many decades of work by men and women to build a more just America.

Friday was the 40th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Had he lived, he would be 82 now.

It’s impossible to gauge the what-ifs of history. But nevertheless, I wonder what Kennedy, a complicated man with a profound sense of the moral issues at play in politics, would have made of the idea that Barack Obama has captured the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

He might not have been surprised. Kennedy had been accused of dreaming when he said in the early 1960s that a black person could get elected president in the next 40 years.

The fact that even a dreamer could imagine nothing shorter than a 40-year timeline gives us a glimpse of the nightmarish depths of racial oppression that people of goodwill have had to fight.

The United States in 1968 (the same year in which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated) was a stunningly different place from the country we know now, so different that most of today’s young people would have trouble imagining it. The notion in ’68 that a black person — or a woman — might have a serious shot at the presidency would have been widely viewed as lunacy.

Thurston Clarke, in his new book about R.F.K., “The Last Campaign,” tells of the time that Kennedy was touring a Ford plant in Indiana. A white assembly-line worker refused to shake the presidential candidate’s hand, telling Kennedy, “Get your [expletive] nigger-loving presence out of here.”

George Wallace also ran for president in ’68. He was famous for “standing in the schoolhouse door” to block the court-ordered admission of black students to the University of Alabama. Wallace’s views on racial matters were unequivocal. His mantra was: “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!”

The winner of the election was Richard Nixon, riding the G.O.P.’s soon-to-be infamous, racially polarizing and remarkably successful Southern strategy.

A black man president? You must be joking.

Women in 1968 were mired in depths of misogyny that were as soul-destroying as racism. Discrimination on the basis of gender was so pervasive as to barely attract notice. Many retail stores refused to issue credit cards to married women in their own names. Employers could fire women with virtual impunity if they got married or pregnant or weren’t attractive enough or turned 30.

According to the National Organization for Women, in a statement of purpose issued in 1966, fewer than 1 percent of all federal judges were women, fewer than 4 percent of all lawyers, and fewer than 7 percent of doctors.

Racism and sexism have not taken their leave. But the fact that Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, and that the two finalists for that prize were a black man and a white woman, are historical events of the highest importance. We should not allow ourselves to overlook the wonder of this moment.

I was stopped on the street the other day by a woman who was holding the hand of a little girl, a toddler. After talking politics for a couple of minutes, the woman smiled and said: “Watch this.” She then looked at her daughter and, referring to a certain presidential candidate, asked: “What’s her name?”

The little girl beamed and said: “Hil-la-ry!”

That same night a middle-aged black man came to my apartment door with a food delivery. I’d seen him before, but he’d never said much, just sort of grunted a hello and a thank you. This time, after handing me the package and counting out change, he asked, shyly: “Did Mr. Obama win the nomination?”

“Yes,” I said. “He won.”

“For sure?”

I said yes, and suddenly the widest grin spread across the delivery man’s face. It was as though he’d been holding that grin in some hidden depth of emotional reserve for the entire campaign.

This election year has been a testament to the many long decades of work and sacrifice by men and women — some famous, most not; some still alive, many gone — to build a more equitable and just American society.

When the night riders were fitted for their robes, when Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door, when lowlifes mocked and humiliated those who were fighting for women’s rights, they were trying to forestall the realization of this type of moment in history.

We’ll see whether Senator Obama gets elected president. But whether he does or not, this is a moment of which Americans can be proud, a moment the society can build upon.

So a victory lap is in order. Not for Senator Obama (he still has a way to go), but for all those in every station in life who ever refused to submit quietly to hatred and oppression. They led us to a better place.


"The United States of America is an extraordinary country. It is a country that has overcome many, many, now years, decades, actually a couple of centuries of trying to make good on its principles. And I think what we are seeing is an extraordinary expression of the fact that 'We the people' is beginning to mean all of us."
--Condoleezza Rice


Obama Victory Speech - June 3, 2008

Here is the full text of Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama's speech in St Paul, Minnesota.

Tonight Minnesota, after 54 hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.

Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

Thousands of miles have been travelled. Millions of voices have been heard.

And because of what you said - because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another - a journey that will bring a new and better day to America.

Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America.

I want to thank all those in Montana and South Dakota who stood up for change today. I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign - through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls.

And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for president.

At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for office.

I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better.

They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.

Made history

And that is particularly true for the candidate who has travelled further on this journey than anyone else.

Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she is a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.

Senator Obama praised Hillary Clinton for her strength and commitment

I congratulate here on her victory in South Dakota and I congratulate her on the race she has run throughout this contest.

We've certainly had our differences over the last 16 months.

But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning - even in the face of tough odds - is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fuelled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency - an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be.

And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, and we will win that fight, she will be central to that victory.

When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen.

Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honour to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Inspired a nation

There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided.

Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time.

There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about a change of party in Washington, it's about the need to change Washington.

There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.

All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply.

But at the end of the day, we aren't the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard.

You didn't do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else.

You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing.

We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future.

And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say - let us begin the work together.

Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.

Republican agenda

In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St Paul with a very different agenda.

They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically.

I honour, we honour, the service of John McCain, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine.

My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.

Because while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.

It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95% of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.

It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college - policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.

It's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians - a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.

Foreign policy

So I'll say this - there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new.

But change is not one of them.

Because change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged.

I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years - especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in - but start leaving we must.

It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future.

It's time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home.

It's time to refocus our efforts on al-Qaeda's leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century - terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

Understanding struggles

That's what change is.

Change is realising that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy - tough, direct diplomacy where the president of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for.

We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world.

That is the legacy of Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy.

That's what the American people demand.

That's what change is.

Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it.

It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a middle-class tax break to those who need it, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation.

It's understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was president.

John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy - cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota - he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for.

Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay the medical bills for a sister who's ill, he'd understand that she can't afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy.

She needs us to pass health care right now, a plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it.

That's the change we need.

Our children

Maybe if John McCain went to Pennsylvania and met the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, he'd understand that we can't afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators.

That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future - an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

That's the change we need.

And maybe if he spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St Paul, Minnesota, or where he spoke tonight in New Orleans, Louisiana, he'd understand that we can't afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education and recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support and finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American.

That's the change we need in America.

That's why I'm running for president.

Americans first

The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a good thing, that is a debate I look forward to.

It is a debate the American people deserve on the issues that will help determine the future of this country and the future of its children.

But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo, and division.

What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon - that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize.

Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first.

We are always Americans first.

Despite what the good Senator from Arizona said tonight, I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself.

I've walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white, and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools.

I've sat across the table from law enforcement officials and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent 13 innocent people to death row.

I've worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.

In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the false labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes.

And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

Our time

So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.

So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.

So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause.

So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder, and more just.

And so it must be for us.

America, this is our moment. This is our time.

Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long.

I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations.

But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.

This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

Thank you, Minnesota, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.