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Mandela Should Do the Paul Robeson Thing
Posted: Friday, April 30, 2004

How To Visit With The People

by Linda Edwards

In the late 1940's or early fifties, Paul Robeson came to Trinidad and Tobago, and was to appear at the Globe Cinema. The cost was five dollars. There were not many African or Indian families making five dollars a day then, so the audience was mostly white. It is reported (I was not there) that Robeson asked whether this country was segregated. He had suffered much from racisn in the USA. When he found out that it was the cost of the ticket that caused the audience at Globe to be mstly white, he offered to sing for free in the public square the following day.

And so he did, in Lord Harris Square.(I am indebted to my ex-husband George Romain for this story. He was in Lord Harris Square as a small boy, to hear Robeson sing.)

Where ever people are oppressed, Mandela is a symbol of hope. The $1000 a plate dinner may be appropriate for some, others would be deprived of his presence by their poverty. How come a man who suffered so much for the rights of the poor, is now separated form them by filthy lucre? Perhaps someone could have organized a soup kitchen meal for the poor to get to be in his presence also.

I have stood in line twice, to get into a building where Mandela was to speak. Once in 1993 at Texas Southern University (Black Landgrant College) and five years later at Rice University(The "Harvard of the Southwest"). These were free chances to stand in the presence of the man who "to
hear him talk personally, has to be one of life's, more rewarding experiences." I was quoting myself, from a piece I wrote on Tutu's visit in 1987. (Sunday Guardian Supplement, August 2, 1987.)

When I chart up memorable occasions of my life, they will include shaking hands with Bill Clinton on his presidential campaign, hearing/seeing him read Stephen Spender's poem "I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great" at the funeral of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, covering Archbishop Tutu's Visit in 1987 for the Anglican Church, and being in the same
room with Mandela, twice.

Trinidad and Tobago's children needed a chance to stand in the presence of these two giants of racial struggle. A reverse racial-party struggle in TnT may have derived them of this. How sad. Mandela, like TUB Butler, Gandhi and Marcus Garvey went to jail for strong beliefs they had about the roles of non-white people in the world. LET US NOT FORGET, IN OUR NITPICKING.

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