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Dr. Maki Mandela, the eldest daughter of former South African President Nelson Mandela visited Los Angeles where she received the first international businesswoman of the year award from Women Working Together (WWT). Mandela was the guest speaker and she was also honored as one of the outstanding women achievers at the Purple Carpet Awards Ceremony. The awards ceremony was the culmination of the three-day conference hosted by WWT for the expressed purpose of showcasing the achievements of women in all disciplines and fields of endeavor. Carmen Muhammad and Sonya Boatner were responsible for scheduling the events of the three-day weekend.
Mandela is currently the executive director of Enviro/Serve, a major petroleum and mining corporation in South Africa and also serves on many other boards including the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nestle Corporation of South and East Africa, the South African World Development Bank and the Omega Scientific Research Corporation. She attended the University of Fort Hare in South Africa and earned her Ph.D in anthropology at Amherst College in the United States.
Because of her international appeal, it was most fitting that Dr. Mandela was selected to be the guest of honor at the gala ceremony. She spoke directly to the role of women in the world when she said, “We need to stay alert because even as African American women have made strides in owning their businesses, there are still a lot of women, even in this country, who have not scratched the surface. We cannot just rejoice for the success of the few and leave the many still struggling.
“We can’t look for solutions, as women, from elsewhere unless we lift ourselves,” she continued. “I want to talk about the impression and expectation of being a woman. We now live in a very complex world that is moving very fast, and since nine-eleven, the world has become more complicated for women. My father has always said to me ‘my child, charity begins at home.’ You can’t feed somebody else if you don’t have food. It means that if we ourselves as women, are not committed to this service of working together, of sharing and caring for each other, can I tell you, my dear sisters, I love you anyway. As women we need to educate and expose ourselves to the opportunities of business.”
The WWT is an organization dedicated to promoting the spirits of positive camaraderie among all women. It includes educators, attorneys, physicians, community activists, politicians, mothers, wives and students who are committed to providing with a platform to address issues that are critical to the positive growth and development of women and their families worldwide. According to WWT’s mission statement, it is designed to unite, heal, educate, inspire, enlighten, empower and strengthen women at a retreat that transcends all economic, social, cultural and religious background. And the selection of Dr. Mandela as the guest of honor lived up to the distaff expectations of the organization.
The Honorable Mervyn Dymally, chairman of the California Legislative Black Caucus, presented Dr. Mandela with a resolution from the California State Assembly and shared with the gathering an anecdote when he was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He said that he flew to Brazil to accept a peace award for a famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, after which he flew to Soweto, South Africa, to deliver the award to Dr. Mandela. In addition to the international award, WWT also presented several awards to women of substance including Syretta Wright Muhammad (posthumously), Betsy Jean Farrakhan, attorney Barbara Pershay Muhammad, Barbara Becnel, Dr, Aisah Muhammad and Shelby Muhammad.
During a conversation with this reporter, Dr. Mandela was asked to comment on the WWT and the weekend conference. She stated, “I think it’s a good thing for women to come together like this to discuss issues that are relevant to them in today’s world, and to formulate solutions that are unique to women particularly.”
Of course, no conversation with the daughter of the world’s most famous icon and statesman would be complete without asking about her famous father especially since he recently celebrated his 89th birthday. In response she said, “My father is fine; he has a little trouble walking but other than that he is enjoying his family and all that life has to offer.”
Finally, she was asked if the name “Mandela” brought unreasonable expectations of her, to which she replied, “I learned long time ago that I have to do what I have to do with my life and not to let others make demands on my life.”