July 25, 2018
Books for Africa celebrates the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth
by Simon Reichley
Nelson Mandela, the socialist freedom fighter who led South Africa out of Apartheid in the nineties died in 2013, and would have celebrated his 100th birthday last Wednesday.
To commemorate the occasion, the award-winning charitable organization Books for Africa, whose thirtieth birthday we had the great pleasure of writing about earlier this year, hosted a special volunteer event at their fulfillment center in Minnesota. The event was tied into #MandelaDay, a social media initiative of the Nelson Mandela Foundation that honors Mandela’s memory, and his philosophy of service and self-sacrifice in the name of emancipation.
For the day of service, players from the Minnesota Orchestra—who will travel to South Africa later this year to celebrate Books for Africa’s thirtieth anniversary there—performed music as volunteers worked.
While Barack Obama’s speech in Johannesburg on Wednesday drew much attention (and rightfully so), it is organizations like Books for Africa that continue to carry forward the spirit of radical solidarity and mutual aid that Mandela so exemplified. And in a very direct way, Books for Africa has dedicated itself to a goal enshrined in the 1955 Freedom Charter drawn up by Mandela and his comrades at the South African Congress Alliance, much of which was subsequently incorporated into South Africa’s democratic constitution. The charter demands that “The Doors Of Learning And Of Culture Shall Be Opened!” The “Doors of Learning” section of the charter reads in full:
The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life;
All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands;
The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace;
Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children;
Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit;
Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan;
Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens;
The colour bar in cultural life, in sport and in education shall be abolished.
Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.