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Nelson Mandela’s bodyguard leads global BLM discussion with Redbridge high school students

PUBLISHED: 17:00 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:15 15 July 2020

Nelson Mandela's former bodyguard Chris Lubbe led a global Black Lives Matter discussion thanks to Redbridge VC Network in partnership with VCfGL. Picture: Mina Patel

Nelson Mandela's former bodyguard Chris Lubbe led a global Black Lives Matter discussion thanks to Redbridge VC Network in partnership with VCfGL. Picture: Mina Patel

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School pupils joined a global Black Lives Matter discussion with apartheid activist Chris Lubbe.

Students from Woodford County High and Oaks Park High School joined peers from Hong Kong, Brazil, Spain, Canada and the US. Picture: Mina PatelStudents from Woodford County High and Oaks Park High School joined peers from Hong Kong, Brazil, Spain, Canada and the US. Picture: Mina Patel

Year 12 students from Oaks Park High School, Newbury Park, and Woodford County High, Woodford Green, along with peers from Hong Kong, Brazil, Spain, Canada and the US, interviewed the civil rights activist about his experiences fighting apartheid in South Africa alongside Nelson Mandela.

Through a Zoom call organised by the Redbridge VC Network (working with Video Conferencing for Global Learning) Mr Lubbe shared painful experiences growing up in a country with total segregation.

He recounted a story when his mother was thrown on the floor by police, after sitting on a “whites only” bench when she was feeling faint.

The attack left his mother so badly injured that doctors in the “blacks only” hospital told him she would die within 24 hours, and she ended up in a coma for three months before recovering.

Mr Lubbe discussed growing up under apartheid where signs like this were commonplace. Picture: Roy ChackoMr Lubbe discussed growing up under apartheid where signs like this were commonplace. Picture: Roy Chacko

Mr Lubbe said: “When I saw what the police did to my mother and to my friends I couldn’t believe human beings could act in such an appalling manner.”

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After Nelson Mandela was released from prison on Robben Island, a former leper colony, Mr Lubbe became his bodyguard and learned about passive resistance.

Sitting in his home in Hampshire wearing a T-shirt that read “I Can’t Breathe” in front of portraits of Mandela and George Floyd, Mr Lubbe was encouraged by the young people’s determination in keeping up protests.

Mr Lubbe gave students the same advice Mandela told him decades ago that if you think you are too small or insignificant you should consider the persistence and disruption that can be caused by a tiny mosquito.

He said he never dreamt he would be a free person but the fight continues.

“Freedom with economic empowerment means nothing. You need to put pressure on organisations to change their practices.”

A student from Woodford County High asked him how they should respond when someone uses the phrase “All Lives Matter”.

He said: “First off I wouldn’t call that phrase racist because you just raise the temperature when you do that.

“Instead calmly explain to them that the phrase Black Lives Matter is about highlighting the disparities and until we address those issues then there’s no way we can say that all lives matter.”


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