“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice."
By Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director, Food First
December 6, 2013
Today we honor the people of South Africa, whose father Madiba—Nelson Mandela—has passed. We honor them because Madiba’s greatness was rooted in the irreversible South African desire for freedom, justice and dignity. He “led by following” the spirit of his own people and in doing so, led many of us to be more than we believed we could be.
At the core of Madiba’s uncompromising resistance to apartheid was the deeply held principle and daily practice of solidarity, that political quality of compassion that gives us hope in the face of defeat and clarity in times of victory. How else does a person survive 27 years of imprisonment, become the first black president of South Africa, forgive his captors and usher in the policy of national reconciliation that saved a nation from ruin?
Muhammad Ali wrote of Mandela, "…ndugu best describes him: my humanity is through you...” This reminds me of the Mayan principle for compassion, “You are my other self.” It is the secret to Nelson Mandela’s greatness, and the greatness that lies within us all.
Let Madiba’s words serve as a guide for all of us working to end the injustices that cause hunger:
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
People do not go hungry in this world because there is not enough food. They go hungry because they are too poor to buy food. They are not poor of natural causes or a lack of human capability, but from systemic injustice; from exploitation. These are frustrating times in which entrepreneurial ambition and individual “achievement” are dogmatically celebrated in the interest of corporate profits, eclipsing compassion, solidarity and social well-being. Let us honor South Africa and Madiba’s legacy by becoming the generation that ends hunger, poverty and injustice.
¡Nelson Mandela PRESENTE!