Today, we would like to wish a happy 95th birthday to Nelson Mandela. In 1990, not long after his release from prison in South Africa, Mandela ended an 8-city tour of the United States with a visit to Oakland. His trip has since been immortalized in the creation of the Mandela Parkway: a thoroughfare through West Oakland created after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
Mandela was invited to Oakland by then-U.S. House of Representatives member Ron Dellums. Dellums, an Oakland native and longtime anti-apartheid activist, had four years earlier spearheaded a major sanctions bill against South Africa’s apartheid regime. His work, and the work of countless activists throughout the Bay Area, had led many to call the East Bay “the birthplace of the anti-apartheid movement in the United States.”
As he addressed the crowd in Oakland, Mandela spoke of the energy the support of the American people had given him: “Despite my 71 years, at the end of this visit I feel like a young man of 35. I feel like an old battery that has been recharged. And if I feel so young, it is the people of the United States of America that are responsible for this.”
Like Mandela, the support we’ve received after only one day of fundraising has our batteries fully charged. At the time of this writing, we’ve received some $14,000 in contributions from over 40 backers, and friends all over the country have shared our campaign over 300 times on Facebook. You’ve tweeted, e-mailed friends, and opened your hands and hearts to our film.
But earthquakes continue to happen every day in Oakland and across the United States. Lives once built on solid bedrock continue to crumble. But like the Mandela Parkway, something new, creative, and beautiful always finds its way out of disaster.
West Oakland may be down, but it’s not out. Your support has proven that much. We hope you’ll stick with us and follow this project through to the end—to make poverty visible, and prove that redemption is possible.
The Dogtown Redemption Team