The Ancestors welcome home one of the true great spirits who has walked the Earth. Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa, the woman with the rich voice, bright eyes and enchanting smile, passed away on Sunday in Italy. She worked till the very end. A tireless fighter of injustice, she dedicated her life to global struggles against racism and xenophobia, especially in her homeland of South Africa. Makeba suffered a great deal in her life. She was banned from South Africa for 30 years by the apartheid regime and for a time had all of her U.S. shows cancelled due to her relationship and later marriage to Pan-Africanist Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael). In his autobiography written with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Ready for Revolution, he recalls the almost immediate negative reaction to their union:
“It was, I’m sure, the next day after the ceremony, the next morning, Jack. I will never forget this. All that evening and morning, Zenzi [Makeba’s African name] [had] been so happy, just radiant. She went into the next room to get the phone. I was sitting on the bed. Never forget it. She came walking into the room, her face expressionless, frozen, link someone in shock. ‘Zenzi, what’s wrong? What’s wrong with you?’ I thought someone might have died. her daughter, Bongi, was pregnant. She didn’t say a word. Just came and sat next to me on the bed. I put my arms around her. I could feel her shaking. ‘Baby, what’s wrong? Tell me.’ I was convinced something terrible must have happened to her daughter. ‘Honey, whatever it is, you gotta tell me.’ ‘My Manager just told me that all my shows have been canceled.’ Her voice was flat…I knew it was me they were aiming at. She didn’t have an enemy in this country…Unfortunately, Miriam was made to suffer a great deal because of our love. I will always have a tender spot, knowing as I do the suffering she endured during our marriage. But if those jackals and hyenas intended to crush her spirit, they failed. Utterly. The American career they could destroy, but they couldn’t touch that woman’s spirit. I never once heard her complain.” (Ready for Revolution, pp. 653-655).
Another giant has left our presence, but her legacy of cultural pride, resilience and determination will continue to serve as a blueprint for those of us seeking justice and peace.