Rich Egger’s guest on Emphasis is social justice activist Prexy Nesbitt. He was in Macomb to speak with students at Western Illinois University and raise awareness of ongoing civil rights and freedom struggles in the United States and Africa.
Nesbitt said his family talked a great deal about Africa while he grew up on Chicago’s west side, yet it was still a life-altering experience when he first visited Tanzania as an exchange student in the mid-1960s.
“It was still so completely different from the United States and it was such a different feel to it,” Nesbitt said. He said there was an “atmosphere of freedom struggles.”
He said a group of South African students had him listen again and again to a record on a Victrola.
“This RCA recording of a speech that a man had given as he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The man’s name was Nelson Mandela. I didn’t know who he was … it had really just happened. (In) ’63 he was sentenced. It altered my whole framework of existence.”
Nesbitt said he was privileged to meet numerous African leaders of the time.
Nesbitt feels too many people today think of Africa as a single country rather than a diverse continent consisting of many nations. He would like to see more people become better informed about Africa and the challenges it faces.
For example, he said news reports about strikes by miners fail to delve into the income disparities between mine owners and workers.
“How unequal their (the mine owners) earnings are compared … to the kind of earnings those men get in horrible conditions when they go down into those mines to mine gold and platinum and the all minerals we have to have to run this economy.”
He also said every cellphone contains a chemical item that can only be found in the Congo. He said the mining of that substance is also done in horrible conditions.
Nesbitt said his most recent trip to Africa was in July when he visited Mozambique and South Africa. He said Mozambique has a tremendous problem with HIV and AIDS but it’s developing creative ways of dealing with the problem.
He also said the country has “…some of the most phenomenal beaches in the world.”
Nesbitt plans to return to Africa next month.