A Rousing Party for African Hero
Hearts and pocketbooks open in tribute to anti-apartheid leader and support of his mission. MANDELA IN BOSTON
BOSTON — NELSON MANDELA danced! The deputy president of the African National Congress, who's on a six-week, 13-country trip telling people to maintain the pressure on South Africa to end apartheid, showed Saturday that he's also capable of enjoying the party Americans want to throw for him.
During his appearance at a concert and rally, Mr. Mandela, grinning, rocked to a bouncy song written for him and his wife by Hugh Masekela.
As he travels, more facets of the man kept out of sight in prison for 27 years show forth: Unflappable dignity. Incisive intelligence. Unquenchable charity - ``We love you'' is a frequent theme. Now it turns out the man can party.
So can Boston. While this city, which has a reputation as so unfriendly to blacks that a major black neighborhood once threatened to secede and call itself ``Mandela,'' paradoxically has been the strongest American community in the the divestment movement.
And for ``Nelson's visit,'' Boston pulled out all the stops. In less than a month, Fund for a Free South Africa (FreeSA), a local organization which provides technical support to the South African people - and which hosted Mandela's visit here - arranged for several events.
Several thousand high school and college students marched in a two-mile ``Walk for Freedom.''
More than 1,500 youths and community leaders greeted Mandela at Madison Park High School in the black neighborhood of Roxbury. He urged youths to stay in school, saying that a good education is necessary to help in the struggle.
A motorcade took him past cheering throngs in Roxbury to the John F. Kennedy Library, where the Kennedy family held a luncheon for him.
Mandela praised the attempt of Sen. Edward Kennedy to visit him in prison and said that the trip gave the prisoners the sense that they weren't alone in their struggle.
Not everyone loved the Mandelas.
A reception that was to have honored Winnie Mandela and the women of South Africa was canceled due to a bomb scare that later proved false.
And the attendance patterns kept to Boston traditions: while it was blacks who lined the streets to cheer the motorcade and went to the school function, the crowd of an estimated 221,000 that sat all day on the Esplanade was primarly white. Many were youths who wore African clothing and raised a clenched fist during the singing of the African national anthem.
Musical celebrities dropped everything and came from all over the globe to perform. They included Livingston Taylor, Jackson Browne, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Paul Simon, South Africa's Johnny Clegg and Savuka, Michelle Shocked, and the local rap group Young Nation.
While Mandela's US visit is both a consciousness-raiser and a celebration, it is also is being viewed as a prime fundraising opportunity.
FreeSA is collecting money for the Nelson Mandela Freedom Fund, which needs it to set up offices and a political infrastruture to help bring about democracy in South Africa, as well as provide housing to returning ANC exiles. The fund hopes to raise $8 million from Mandela's tour.
Donations were solicited everywhere: Buckets were passed at the Esplanade concert. The ``Walk for Freedom'' teams, each sponsored by a corporation, were to collect $1,000 per team.
Business leaders held their own fundraiser Saturday night. Requested donations ranged from $5,000 for an individual to $25,000 for a company. A local businessman put up the Mandelas and their entourage for free in one of the hotels.
Mandela warmed to the welcome.
He said he regarded Massachusetts as the struggle's ``second home.'' In 1983, Massachusetts withdrew its pension fund investments from companies doing business with South Africa. There is a bill pending that would bar state agencies from buying goods from these companies.
Speaking briefly on the front steps of the First Church of Christ Scientist, Boston, to a small group of Monitor editors Sunday morning, Mr. Mandela thanked Bostonians for the ``warmth and love'' he received while here. He also praised the ``publications and the press, which do their work in a way that give hope and confidence in the future.''