Our first stop was Indiana University, Bloomington hosted by the African and Afro – American Studies Department. They screened in the film in their state of the art cinema, 70 folks turned up and the vast majority stayed for the discussion, the folks were really engaged and some of them visibly disturbed by what they saw. The town is small , dare I say quaint, and their autumn in full swing, given the abundance of large trees made it a resplendent sight and given the wonderful weather and very comfortable small country inn I had been booked into made it a very pleasant stay. Jim and I gave a class the following day and the students were in the main from working class backgrounds, they were bright and alert to what they had watched and began shortly before the class ended to make the links between what they saw in the film and their own society.
Next Stop Ohio State University, again a beautiful campus and first class cinema, about 50 people, a number of whom were black South Africans, it raised the intensity of the discussion. The Black Matters Live campaign were there with posters connecting what was happening in the US and South Africa, most impressive.. Franco Barchiesi, a good friend and one of the sharpest radical academics I have the pleasure to know organised this leg of the tour and is indeed one of the moving spirits of the tour, ensuring that my flight costs were covered. Ohio State incidentally is also the home Kent State University, which saw four students brutally gunned down by the National Guard in 1970 during an anti Vietnam war demonstration that sparked a massive reaction across American campus’s, that in large part was to end America’s imperialist exploits. Like Marikana, many students were charged for the murder of their own comrades. Like Marikana, many citizens believed that they were partly responsible for their own deaths.
This university screening was followed by a public meeting the following day hosted by a local public service employees trade union, students against sweatshops and the International Socialists groupThe meeting was attended by about 40 people, mainly students. James Nicholl, the lawyer for the families of the murdered miners, whom appears in the film gave a short input followed by myself and a young black socialist, his speech was most interesting as he teased out the similarities of the black experience in America and that of South Africa. The discussion that followed was animated and passionate. It was heartening to see so many young militants seriously engaged in the fight against oppression and exploitation making grounded, relevant points.
Third stop New York, lunch time screening at the Murphy Institute that runs university programme for trade union activists. The room was full by all accounts and the response very heartfelt. I was delayed by the shuttle that got caught up in picking people up from different terminals and then dropping them off at different points in Manhattan and so was not able to make it in time for the discussion, but John Treat, a trusted comrade whom has spent a lot of time in South Africa was able to fill in for me. Two more screenings followed this that same day, the second hosted by the Marikana Support Campaign that has been born out of the City University New York, Staff Association’s international committee. Great turn out and some wonderful contributions form old and young. The last screening blew me away, this was held in Harlem in the Betty Shabazz Centre, Betty was the wife the Malcolm X. This deserves a blog on it own.
Suffice to say, the Americans we have encountered on this tour have a deep connection to South Africa and maybe this has to do with their long fight to isolate apartheid in South Africa, a fight that continues to mirror their fight at home. Next stop, Howard University, Washington DC, one of America’s historically black universities.
Black Lives Matter – one struggle one fight