- 8:40 pm - Sun, Dec 8, 2013
- 314 notes
Mandela: Why He Matters in LGBTQ History
I was having a Skype conversation with someone and talking about the price of living one’s commitment to social justice and ecological wellbeing. The sound on my television had been off. I looked up from my computer screen to see printed across the television that he, Madiba Rolihlahla Mandela (known to the world as Nelson Mandela), had become an ancestor—one of the world’s cherished ancestors.
The moment was singed with poignancy, awe and reverence. Hearing about his ancestral transition—as an activist of African ancestry who came of age as an activist shortly after the movement to get governments, corporations and education institutions to financially divest from apartheid South Africa, I connected with the enormity of the personal sacrifice Madiba made as a revolutionary activist, a political prisoner for the twenty-seven years and later as a President and iconic symbol of his country. Such sacrifice makes tragic the everyday efforts by each of us to get a seat at the table of privilege and access, enjoy middle class happiness and comfort, and receive rewards and recognition for our tacit complicity with imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. How small those efforts appear in the face of such extraordinary work by an ordinary person like Madiba—for he was not born the international figure of revolutionary struggle and moral achievement so much as he became that figure.
Given the history of his work to end apartheid and institute ethnic justice, Madiba’s commitment to social justice and ecological wellbeing has to be thoughtfully considered in the context of the early moments of post-apartheid South Africa. In the midst of tremendous pressures to focus exclusively on healing the wounds created by centuries of white supremacist oppression and state-sponsored racialized terrorism, South Africa chose, the seemingly inconceivable path for the mid 1990s, to inscribe in the founding constitution of the nation a prohibition against discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender. …
I, like many people of color with a critical analysis of race, cringe when LGBTQ organizations with little to no authentic relationship to people of color communities attempt to comment about events and issues that directly affect us, e.g., George Zimmerman murder trial verdict or heterosexism and trans-hatred in our communities. But it is equally distasteful for such LGBTQ organizations to ignore, marginalize or deny the impact or role played by people of color in the advancement of sexuality and gender equality such as the Stonewall Riots or the advancement of equality in the South African constitution. So I am honored that the American Institute of Bisexuality asked me to pen this article for Bi Magazine.
Madiba’s South Africa has special significance in bisexual history. It was shortly after Madiba’s presidency that bisexual activists and other LGBTQ delegates at the 1999 International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) World Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa commemorated the first day celebrating bisexuals and bisexual experience.
Let us not forget the person that became the symbol. He was a son, husband, father, grandfather and member of a tribal family. He was also marked as a terrorist by various governments around the world. He was a community and youth organizer. He was a political prisoner. He was a politician and statesman. He was the physical embodiment of the struggle against imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. He was the leader of a movement—fist in the air, chanting, “Amandla!” He was a person who decided that personal comforts were not enough to sustain a life, freedom and justice were worth the effort and oppression, however insidious and vitriolic, was unsustainable. If we maintain a relationship with his humanity and its complexities, we may very well gain from his life what we need to do our own work. Madiba, may your ancestors and Divinities embrace you in peace, love, and grace.
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Dr. Herukhuti is a clinical sociologist, cultural studies scholar, performance artist, and neotraditional African shaman who focuses on sexuality, gender, and spirituality themes within Africa and the Diaspora. His is the author of Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality, co-editor of Sexuality, Religion and the Sacred: Bisexual, Panexual and Polysexual Perspectives and is currently co-editing an Anthology of works by Bisexual/Non-monosexual Queer Men with Robyn Ochs and is a co-organizer of the Bisexual Institute at the 2014 Creating Change Conference in January 2014 in Houston TX. The founder of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality, Dr. Herukhuti is currently working on the development on a website for conversation, e-learning, and community building related to sexuality and spirituality.