June 11, 2014

On this day June 11th

DARC Ethiophile Chronicles

On this day

11 June 1988 the British Anti-Apartheid Movement hosts a Concert for Mandela.

On 11 June 1988, the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (BAAM) held an 11-hour rock concert at Wembley Stadium in London to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela on his 70th birthday on 18 July. Peter Gabriel delivered his anti-apartheid anthem Biko. Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Simple Minds, Eurythmics and Dire Straits also performed. 72,000 people went to the concert and it was broadcast live on BBC-2 to sixty different countries with an estimated audience of a billion people.

During the ten hours of the Mandela Birthday Concert, the attention of the world was focused, as perhaps never so powerfully before, on the evils of the apartheid regime, and, more especially, on the continued imprisonment of the acknowledged leader of the South African majority, and the thousands of other prisoners who languish in the goals of Namibia and South Africa.

What an event it was - what a feast! From midday until ten in the evening, some of the greatest entertainers of the world gave themselves in praise of Nelson Mandela and what he stands for. In the dazzling, nonstop parade were jazz, rock and traditional groups; singers, instrumentalists, dancers, actors, comedians, from Europe, North America and Africa - indeed, there were famous jazz veterans and newer groups from South Africa itself. An American operatic soprano ended the programme.

The origins of the concert dated back two years, to 1986, with the formation in Britain of Artists Against Apartheid. The organizers, Jerry Dammers and Dali Tambo, invited a host of artists to take part in a Freedom Festival on Clapham Common, in London. 100,000 people representing almost all sections of British society supported the march to Clapham Common before the concert. At the height of the afternoon, 250,000 were gathered on the great green Common to listen to the artists express their solidarity with the people of Namibia and South Africa through their words and music, and to hear the representatives of the ANC, of SWAPO and of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement.

The Freedom Festival took place shortly after the state of emergency was imposed in South Africa. It was a new high point in mobilizing public opinion in Britain. In spite of this, it was not a financial success. The Anti-Apartheid Movement, always short of funds, lost £80 000, was saved from bankruptcy only by an emergency appeal, and was therefore hampered at a time when maximum activity was required.

Nelson Mandela nevertheless continued raising money and awareness through his 46664 concerts.

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