San Francisco, CA – On May 19, around 100 people gathered in San Francisco State University’s Knuth Hall for the San Francisco leg of the Mandela Nakba 75 Tour. It featured the Honorable Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela and member of the Parliament of South Africa.
The tour was co-hosted by the US Palestinian Community Network and the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, and had already visited Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Orange County.
San Francisco State University Assistant Professor in Race and Resistance Studies Rama Ali Kased emceed the event, and spoke about the importance of upholding the legacies of Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X, as the event coincided with the late Malcolm X’s birthday. The night kicked off with a poetry reading by 12-year-old Falasteen Hefnali, who read the poem As Long as I Have Inches of Land.
Next was a speech by longtime union activist Clarence Thomas. Thomas is a third-generation member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10. He spoke about the ILWU’s historic acts of solidarity with the peoples of South Africa as well as Palestine. In 1984, ILWU longshoremen in San Francisco held an 11-day blockade of a South African ship in protest of the country’s apartheid regime.
More recently, the ILWU took part in community blockades of Israeli ships at the Port of Oakland in 2010, 2014, and 2021, in solidarity with Palestine. Thomas spoke of the enormous power harnessed by workers withholding their labor during these blockades, saying, “When longshore workers don’t work, the global economy shuts down.” He concluded with a series of call-and-response chants with the audience, including “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crime!”
Monadel Herzallah, member of the USPCN National Coordinating Committee, then spoke about the solidarity work shared between South Africans and Palestinians dating back to the 1970s and continuing through the present day. He recounted how Palestinian political prisoners wrote to Nelson Mandela and saw the South African anti-apartheid struggle as a source of inspiration and motivation for their own struggle at home. He also spoke about the ongoing Palestinian resistance movement, and how youth engagement in the movement is a beacon of hope and strength.
The next speaker was Sanyika Bryant of the New Afrikan People’s Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He began by acknowledging that May 19, 2023 would have been Malcolm X’s 98th birthday, and spoke about Malcolm X’s commitment to international solidarity with the oppressed peoples of the world. “The anti-colonial struggles of the world are not over,” Bryant stated. He spoke about the similarities between different nations’ struggles for self-determination, from South Africa to Haiti to Palestine. Speaking to the Palestinian community members gathered at the event, he said, “We thank you for your struggle. We thank you for never giving up.”
The final speaker was the Honorable Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, who began with a rousing chant of “Amandla! Awethu!”, meaning “The power! It’s ours!” in the Nguni languages of southern Africa. Mandela dedicated his speech to Malcolm X, saying “The history of Black Americans is an ongoing Nakba.” He pointed out the historic parallels between the displacement of South Africans by European settlers and the displacement of Palestinians by Zionist settlers, along with the solidarity shared between the resistance movements of both nations.
In commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, Mandela spoke about the horrors of the Deir Yassin massacre of 1948, when Zionist militias brutally murdered over 100 Palestinian villagers, including women, children, and the elderly. He also advocated for the ongoing cause of Palestinian resistance to Israel, saying, “We must continue to champion the Palestinian struggle, especially the BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – campaign, across all sectors of society.”
The event concluded with a question-and-answer session, where audience members submitted questions to the event speakers. In response to a question about meeting George Floyd’s aunt at the Nakba 75 event in Minneapolis, Mandela recounted how moving it was to meet with her and visit George Floyd Square, saying, “We know exactly what George Floyd and many other Black Americans are subjected to.”
When asked about what it was like to grow up as the grandson of Nelson Mandela, he told the story of meeting him in prison for the first time as a nine year old. He also spoke about his grandfather’s commitment to the Palestinian freedom struggle, recounting his quote, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
After a standing ovation, all the event attendees gathered on stage for a group photo, many raising fists high in the air in solidarity with Palestinian resistance and reinvigorated in their commitment to fight against Zionist oppression. The group chanted together, voices united, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”