RIP: Anti-apartheid leader and activist South African Archbishop Emeritus DESMOND TUTU, 90, died on December 26. Cleric and theologian, he was the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town. A revered man of faith, a nonviolence social change warrior, he campaigned at home and abroad against Apartheid, the system of white minority rule which prevailed in South Africa since 1948. A South African Afrikaans word, Apartheid means “apartness;” and it divided South Africans into four categories:1) Bantu the Blacks 2) Coloured, mixed race 3) white and 4) Asian Indian and Pakistani. Tutu was the moral center of South Africa during and after Apartheid ended in 1994. A 1984 Nobel Peace Laureate, he was an advocate of gay rights, and he opposed the U.S invasion of Iraq. He was never reticent about his convictions. He chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa. The commission focused on confession and forgiveness. Bishop Tutu said that the Commission was fundamental for the transition of power in South Africa from a white dominated Apartheid system to a democracy. Truth to tell, the USA should consider a similar commission.
A national hero, South Africa is observing a week of mourning.
RIP: FRANKLIN THOMAS: Philanthropist and corporate titan Franklin Thomas, 87, passed on December 22, in New York. Franklin Thomas is best known as the first Black President of the prestigious well-endowed Ford Foundation, a post he held from 1979 to 1996. He gave the Foundation a facelift with a focus on urban poverty, education, and public policy. In the 80s, Thomas’ Ford Foundation got involved in international efforts to dismantle the anti-apartheid South African governance system. A friend of Mandela by that time, Thomas persuaded his friend and FW de Klerk, SA’s last apartheid president, to meet with President Bill Clinton in Philadelphia. The Ford endowment in 1979 was $1.7 billion. It was $7 billion when Thomas stepped down. As Ford Foundation President Thomas had an interface with Corporate America’s business elites. He was invited and served on the Boards of corporations such as Citibank, CBS, Cummins, and Lucent Technologies.
Before the Ford Foundation, Franklin Thomas was the President of the newly-formed Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. It was founded in 1967 as the nation’s first development corporation, born out of a partnership between America’s private and public sectors. BSRC was an extension of LBJ’s Great Society. Thomas was at the helm for 10 years. Wherever he worked, he left big footprints. In 2001, he hosted a book party at the Schomburg for his good friend Vernon Jordan’s memoir, VERNON CAN READ. He said that he was working on his bio.
Franklin Thomas was an example of the American Dream narrative. Born on May 27, 1934, in Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy area, Thomas was the son of West Indian immigrants whose mother was from Barbados and whose father was from Antigua. He enthused, “I grew up in a family that just assumed that one, you were smart and capable; two, that you were going to work hard and three, the combination of these mean anything was possible.”
The year 2021 was a provocative one, opening in the United States of America with a failed January 6 insurrection at the nation’s capitol, to nullify President Elect Joe Biden’s November 2020 victory. The mob that stormed the capitol was organized. Moreover, the insurrection seemed to have been planned and ordered by the POTUS 45 Donald Trump. Well, he did promise a dystopian America in his 2017 inaugural speech.
Who would have imagined that so many Americans would refuse the vaccine developed to rein in COVID19? Americans can forget about herd immunity with the level of resistance across country. Then there are the coronavirus variants, all named after letters of the Greek alphabet like Delta and her younger sibling Omicron now wreaking havoc with yearend season celebrations and forcing millions into quarantine.
And the American cynics are not alone. There is resistance to the virus across the planet. You see Europeans demonstrating in the streets against the vaccine. However, the latest variant seems to be scaring the manure out of the disbelievers and anti vaxxers, who are becoming believers, eager to get tested and to get the vaccines. No longer resisting the call for masks, social distancing. While there is resistance in many nations, I see that Israel is moving forward with a fourth vaccine jab.
Cynics are predicting that the Democrats will lose its razor thin majority in Congress next year. Wait a minute. Too many Congress members are retiring. Who really knows? Some state races are encouraging. A few Blacks are running for Maryland Governor, including Wes Moore, former head of the Robin Hood Foundation. Stacey Abrams is running for Governor of Georgia again. Florida Democrat Representative Val Demings is running for US Senator against Marco Rubio.
While the nation was shaken by a Trump inspired insurrection attempt, Biden continues apace with all of the vagaries that attend governance of 330 million people while remaining leader of the free world, such as it is.
But things will get better as they often due every new year.
To be sure, 2022 will usher in hope and promise!
More Blacks have joined the billionaire ranks this year. There are the usual suspects. Robert Smith, who financed the education of Morehouse’s graduating class of 2019, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan. New additions include Jay-Z; Rihanna, who was just named a national hero in her native Barbados; Kanye West; and Tyler Perry. It was speculated that Lebron James would be joining the B-club by 12/31/21.
THEATER: On Broadway, legitimate theater, was on a month pause during the latest Omicron variant spread. Revivals and new shows have been on pause for a few days. Crowd pleasers like TINA and AIN’T TOO PROUD, STORY OF THE TEMPTATIONS were on pause. THOUGHTS OF A BLACK MAN closed owing to far too many pauses. During this pandemic madness, it is oftentimes impossible “to go on with the show.”
Birthday greetings to Capricorn Oscar Bethune, who becomes a centenarian next week. He is the dad of NY influencer Joseph Bethune
A Harlem based management consultant, Victoria can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org