The world lost a heroine when Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on April 2. She was the lioness who kept the fight against the apartheid government of South Africa alive as her husband languished in jail. I was heartbroken to hear of her death. She was truly an inspirational woman who never once sold out her people. The horrors of the apartheid system, which lasted from 1948 to 1991, occurred during our lifetime. It was a brutal institution that mirrors what American slavery would have morphed into had it not ended in 1865.
I watched the last interview she gave in December 2014. In it, she remained true to the cause of the African National Congress. She spoke of “we” and “us” and admitted being uncomfortable using the pronoun “I”. She admitted that the South Africa of today is not the dream utopia that the ANC envisioned when so many gave up their lives for the freedom of their people. She also reflected on how the political freedom they gained means nothing unless they also have the economic freedom to go along with it. She spoke about how unemployed youth in any country is a ticking time bomb. Her words as she continued on in the interview could have been about blacks in America for we, too, still display behaviors directly and indirectly influenced by the effects of slavery.
Winnie Mandela’s 11-hour funeral had many speakers, including friends and foes. The sweetest moment was when her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchild spoke of her. The revolutionary moment occurred when the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, spoke and ignited the crowd by demanding that the Cape Town airport be renamed in her honor. Amandla!
Chicago also lost a “Warrior of the West Side” with the death of Kenneth “Butch” Campbell on April 12. I’ve been living in my house for about 28 years and I’ve known Butch for probably about 25 of those years. I can’t remember when or where I first met him. I don’t even think I’ve ever heard anyone call him by his real first name. He was always “Butch.” But anyone who has ever been involved on this side of town knows that he has been an advocate for us, fighting against crime and for opportunities for our young people. Even after moving away, Butch continued to come to this side of town. His voice may be silenced but the echoes continue as we remember what he wanted to achieve.
Butch’s visitation is this Friday, April 20 at Smith & Thomas Funeral Home, 5708 W. Madison, from 4 to 8 p.m. His wake is Saturday, April 21 at 11 a.m., followed by the funeral at noon. Both will be at Christ Lutheran, 1511 N. Long.
Rest in peace, my warriors for black people!
Arlene Jones writes a column for our sister publication, the Austin Weekly News.