What Nelson Mandela Lost

The South African freedom fighter’s letters from prison remind us that the separation of families is the ultimate expression of state power.

By Professor Tayari Jones of Emory University and published by the New York Times

Some time ago, the writer Nikki Giovanni offered me guidance on writing about the life of a public person. Most of her advice I understood and dutifully jotted into a small notebook. However, one of her dictums confused me: “Whenever you receive a letter from a prisoner, make sure you write him back.” I frowned, confused but also a little guilty. I’d received a few letters with penitentiary return addresses and hadn’t responded. “Write them back,” she repeated. “You don’t know how much mail means to people in prison. You can’t imagine what they have to do just to get the stamp.”

Since then, I’ve heeded her advice. But sometimes it isn’t possible to write back. One gentleman I met at a book club on Rikers Island said he wouldn’t reveal his last name or ID because he couldn’t bear the disappointment of not receiving a response.

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About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is retired chairman of Radnor Inc., an international political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Feltman founded the U.S. and European Conflict Indexes in 1988. The indexes have predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election beginning in 1988, plus the outcome of several European elections. In May of 2010, the Conflict Index was used by university students in Egypt. The Index predicted the fall of the Mubarak government within the next year.
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