No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000
Edited by William Minter,
Gail Hovey, and Charles Cobb Jr.
Published by Africa World Press.
1. Bill Sutherland
Interviews for No Easy Victories
With the assistance of Aluka (aluka.org), a selection of 16 among the interviews done for the book were transcribed and prepared for presentation on the web. Each transcript was reviewed by the interviewee, and a short introduction prepared by one of the No Easy Victories editors. The first four interviews, with Bill Sutherland, George Houser, E. S. Reddy, and Charlene Mitchell, refer primarily to the period of the 1950s. The remaining 12 interviews range widely over the decades from the 1960s through the 1980s. For an introduction and full transcript, click on the licks to the left or those following the short quote below referring to each interview.
" I'm a person who believes in nonviolence on principle. And true nonviolence is a spiritual force that the people can have, which can be the most powerful thing going. But I respect the revolutionist who adopts a violent method, because I think that the most important thing is the revolution." —Bill Sutherland
" We always conceived our work as part and parcel of the civil rights struggle. ... The struggle in Africa was to us, as Americans, an extension of the battle on the home front." — George M. Houser,
E. S. Reddy
" In India, in our generation, we're all influenced by Gandhi. So there is Gandhi under the skin ... We're influenced by Nehru. ... We wanted to have a society which is socialist, like Nehru wanted to have. So it was that kind of a radical outlook. ... Coming from that background, with both Gandhi and Nehru, ... we had a duty, not only to get India's freedom, [but that] India's freedom should be the beginning of the end of colonialism." — E. S. Reddy
" So to me, Africa opened its doors ... as part of the movement and solidarity with us as we were with them. And I kind of always saw that as an equal thing, because I would learn so much from it. ... The more victories that were won by the continent, people on the continent, the more we were able to expose what was going on in terms of the segregation, discrimination here in the United States. ... It was on the face of it that solidarity was a two-way street." — Charlene Mitchell
Mary Jane Patterson
" Our involvement in the civil rights movement is what sent us into our involvement against apartheid." - Mary Jane Patterson
" When Mandela and Sisulu were finally sentenced to life in prison, it really was a terrible moment for me and other South Africans who were overseas. We [Ben Magubane and Martin Legassick] decided we should do something, and the only thing we could do was demonstrate in front of a bank [on Beverly Boulevard]." -Ben Magubane
Bob Van Lierop
" [Our film A Luta Continua] was smuggled into Portugal by Frelimo. They used it there. It was also smuggled into South Africa. And prior to the Soweto uprising it was shown by the Black Consciousness Movementand others in South Africa. And they began to use some of the slogans-a luta continua [the struggle continues], which was, of course, as you know, the way Eduardo [Mondlane] always signed his letters." - Bob Van Lierop
" The work we did in the anti-apartheid movement represented one of the finest hours of multiracial social movement work in this country. Not to say that it was without its tensions and its contradictions ... I'm very interested in trying to pass on to this next generation how you can ... not let these kinds of tensions—racial, ethnic, religious—divide people from fundamental ... goals that can only be reached by people banding together and overcoming the social barriers and the polarization. That's the only possible future that we have ... to bring in real change in the United States." —Prexy Nesbitt
"I came from a very left group in South Africa. The idea that the churches were major players in the anti-apartheid movement was something I had to learn. ... About the relationship between the struggles in Africa and those in the United States other people use the word 'partnership.' Partnership implies a separation, these people in Africa and those in the United States, this organization here, that one over there. That's not how it was. It was solidarity with exchanges between the two continents, the learning back and forth, the common struggle." Jennifer Davis
" So they're intersecting sets of actors and networks in a very complex [pattern]. I'm [using the framework of] complexity theory on it now, 30 years later. But it just describes it so much better than trying to draw straight lines and arrows, because these things are not straight lines and arrows. We came together where there was mutual interest. The first African Liberation Day was one where everybody had mutual interests." - Geri Augusto
" There were outcomes to the [Sixth Pan African] conference. I've read and I've heard people say that the conference didn't produce anything, and I'm like, wait, wait, wait. ... It was really Six-PAC that led me to return and work on Southern Africa. There were a group of us who committed ourselves that we were going to work against colonialism, and it was based on the investment in this congress and the agenda of the national liberation struggle." — Sylvia Hill
" It was very easy to sort of say, well, the liberation struggle, they're the heroes. They are the good people, and I don't want to hear anything bad about them. The more I stayed with it, the more I felt sympathy for everybody else. How difficult it is, really, to have a peaceful society as well as a just society come out of this." —Ted Lockwood
" If you think that the anti-apartheid movement was full of people who worked and played well together and who liked each other—no way. ... I would characterize it as a group of people who could cooperate sometimes, oftentimes grudgingly. There were just lots of individual and institutional issues. But when push came to shove ... their collective efforts had an impact [and] were able to contribute to one of the most important things that's happened in our lifetime." —Cherri Waters
Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo
" In the eighties, when the news from South Africa of brutal repression, the beating back of student uprisings, the deaths and disappearances of activists made the Apartheid state seem invincible and U.S. collusion embedded, my colleague Dumisani Kumalo used to come back from his countless organizing trips, to places as far afield as North Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii with reports of small groups of local citizens determined to change U.S. policy, to cut the links, to impose sanctions. And all those people out there, responding to the education we and others provided, did achieve extraordinary results.... " - Jennifer Davis
" The idea behind [the Southern Africa Liberation Committee] was that people would do what was right if they knew the truth, if they knew what was actually happening. ... That was what made the arguments easy—because it was true. It was so wrong to have enslaved a whole nation of people ... How do you argue for it?" — Frank Beeman
" People have a range of ways they express support. It's everything from sitting in front of the TV and saying, 'right on,' to physically being there. Now if you want them there, you've got to work to get them there. ... it is the task of the organizer to create venues for internal feelings of disdain to be expressed publicly. This, the Free South Africa Movement accomplished; and therefore, one of our profound lessons of this movement is that one should never underestimate the power of symbolic protests to create a political climate for political change." — Sylvia Hill
This page is part of the No Easy Victories website.