The burial that takes place today could be the most widely watched one in history when Nelson Mandela takes up his final resting place.
I remember the day he was let out of jail. It was a Sunday in February and I wore a big hat to church in celebration. My daughter who was 14 at the time, stood up front and sang a brief a cappella duet with her best friend Samantha.
So much has been said over the past week – so much WILL be said in years to come – but for me in these last days there days there is only again and again the sound of Ladyship Black Mambazo singing, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, whose lyrics use the five most widely spoken of South Africa’s eleven official. (More about its origins here.)
I saw them sing this South African National Anthem as part of Paul Simon’s Graceland your in 1987. Here is footage of the them doing the song it almost as a prayer to Mother Africa itself, that time with the great Miriam Makeba who I saw sing even longer ago, in the summer of 1967 when I was a schoolgirl still.
I understood in only a small way who she was and what truths she spoke for. I knew more by the time I attended the 1987 performance. I know – all of us know – even more about them today thanks to this great man. Rest well, Father of us all.
I came to DC for the AARP 50th birthday bash and convention Thursday night because I knew I’d get the chance for a bargain-price Segway tour. That was my secret REAL reason coming here but then two things happened: (1) I found out that a tall athletic way-younger-than-me fellow columnist shattered her pelvis riding one and (2) I saw what dorks people look like traveling in them.
So thus far I’m grounded but I’m still having fun. There are thousands upon thousand of people here in the gargantuan Convention Center, and not that many with grey hair either since the organization starts romancing you the second you turn 50. I invited my friend Pat to come with me. Her registration fee was 30 bucks and mine was just $20, so never mind that they make it ridiculously easy for you to come to this annual wingding but you also get all kinds of deals on hotels, rental cars, insurance, airfare, etc. etc. 365 DAYS A YEAR. (I read recently that 40% of the population will be over 50 by something like 2011 and how frightening a thought is THAT, kids?)
The last time I was in DC it was to sleep 30 to a room with a bunch of teenagers who jumped over every parking meter they saw and kept chinning themselves on the ceiling rails of the subway, so the company is different this time but the spirit’s still great.They’ve got Martina Navratilova and Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken and the agelessly crinkly Shirley McClaine. The last two nights there were concerts by Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan and Chicago and tonight the big headliner is Paul Simon who I sometimes think is my cool older cousin so familiar is his every song to me.
Barack spoke to us by live feed this morning and 5,000 people were clapping and stamping their feet. And Maya Angelou and Quincy Jones who are having a little visit with us in the auditorium that seats like 500,000 are just plain bringin’ down the house.
I say ‘are’ because I’m in this auditorium as I write. ‘She’ just asked ‘him’ if he enjoyed doing Killer. He was up all night flying home from China so so didn’t quite catch the reference.
“Uh, Killer Joe?” he said.
“No NO!“ said Maya in that deep school teachery voice of hers. “I’m talking about that big album you did with Michael Jackson!”
When she realized her mistake she laughed harder than anyone and slapped her knee besides and I thought HERE’S a person that would NEVER worry about bring thought a dork and I’m just wondering now: is it too late to scare up that Segway tour before my flight home at tonight?