Kweku Mandela: Making an Imprint on Society
Darrel L. Hammon
It’s not everyday a member of Nelson Mandela’s family arrives on your university’s campus. That happened on October 9, 2014 at Utah Valley University (UVU) as part of UVU’s “Summit: The Sustainable Mountain Development and Conflict Transformation Global Knowledge and Action Network.” The Peace and Justice Studies program and UVU Student Association Senate sponsored the event. (For more information, please go to http://blogs.uvu.edu/newsroom/2014/10/01/grandson-of-nelson-mandela-to-speak-at-uvu-oct-9/.)
Kweku Mandela, grandson of the famed South African leader Nelson Mandela, arrived, dressed in an untucked blue, long-sleeve shirt and jeans. While his clothes did not define him during his presentation, Kweku’s work and words did.
Soft-spoken, yet energetic and poised, Kweku spoke about his cousin Ndaba Mandela and him meeting for the first time and becoming instantly best friends. Kweku actually grew up in the U.S. but returned to South Africa where he and his cousin are creating their own legacy under the auspices of their incredible grandfather’s legacy. They founded Africa Rising Foundation “to contribute to the development of the African continent” (http://arfoundation.co/). Their mission is to be a “conduit for the New African Generation that is committed to promoting Africa through a series of campaigns that address the continent’s socio-economic challenges” (http://arfoundation.co/#about).
Kweku also spoke about founding and being a partner in Out of Africa Entertainment, “an entertainment group committed to producing projects that portray Africa in a more positive light and challenge the prevailing perceptions of the country… through publications, films, media and social interaction to create a heightened sense of pride and purpose in young Africans” (http://blogs.uvu.edu/newsroom/2014/10/01/grandson-of-nelson-mandela-to-speak-at-uvu-oct-9/).
One of the major challenges facing today’s world, according to Kweku, is uncertainty. In Nelson Mandela’s world uncertainty was a way of life, including his almost three decades of being incarcerated. But he didn’t just give up. Instead, he rose above his uncertainty and became a leader of a greater movement.
Kweku talked about his grandfather and the imprint he left on him and his family, particularly his cousins with whom he works now. Part of the “social good,” he said, “is leaving your imprint on society and your community.” It was Nelson Mandela who said, “Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/n/nelson_mandela.html#PjQcugusFEvjekmb.99.)
One of the students at the forum asked about the significance of the World Cup in South Africa. He said it was one of those moments of great significance to showcase what the legacy of the good that has been done. But, he said, “The World Cup was one moment, but we need thousands of more moments.”
Interestingly, he spoke about the people in Utah. His remarks were not just merely words to appease Utahans. Rather, they were heart-felt. He said, “The people of Utah are poised and pure. You have a religion that helps people.” He asked those who were “Mormons” to raise their hands. Numerous people thrust their hands high into the air. Then, with conviction he counseled, “When you introduce yourselves, you should say, ‘Hi, my name is…., and I am a Mormon.”
Kweku mentioned that that Utah is one of the most giving states and not just in giving money or volunteering. Each day we must “challenge ourselves everyday to determine which battles you want to battle and find unique ways to come together.”
He stopped for a moment and looked out over the audience, and in his quiet unassuming way, he stated “Each of us has the capacity and seed for greatness.” Kweku has taken this statement to heart and exuded his capacity for greatness. His mantra of “power of words” pushed us to think more about ourselves and reflect what imprint we are making on our society, our communities, and our families.
Kweku’s moment with UVU faculty and staff was one of those moments that we need more of. Indeed, we all learned that “ultimately, the purpose in life is to give back—in some small way.” He inspired us to “take moments each day to improve relationships and to help others.”
Kweku's grandfather Nelson Mandela would have been proud!