Event Recap

A Compelling Conversation with Ndaba Mandela, Executive Director of UN AIDS and Founder of Africa Rising Foundation, at Bunker Hill Community College

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Grandson of Nelson Mandela, Author, and Humanitarian Speaks at BHCC

Ndaba Mandela, grandson of former South Africa President and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, spoke at Bunker Hill Community College’s latest Compelling Conversation, offering insights into his own life and work advocating for Pan-African unity and for those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Compelling Conversations is the College’s multi-decade speakers series featuring leaders at the forefront of equity and justice across a spectrum of fields and perspectives. 

In a wide-ranging conversation facilitated by BHCC Associate Vice President and Chief Equity and Compliance Officer Nahomi Carlisle, Esq., Mandela recounted moving in with his grandfather at the age of 11. Shortly after, his grandfather told him that in carrying the Mandela name he would be expected to be a leader, therefore he should expect to receive the highest marks in his class—a moment of heightened expectations for the young Ndaba that he eventually embraced.  

“Parents put pressure on us because they want us to be the best version of ourselves, Mandela said. “That is how a diamond is made...pressure is actually a good thing that we need to learn to manage. When you make a mistake, it is not the end of the world...because every time you fail, you learn another way of how not to do things.” 

Mandela spoke movingly about the death of his father from HIV/AIDS and the importance of his grandfather’s decision to publicly disclose HIV/AIDS as the cause of their death. “It is important for parents to give children the language to express what they are seeing,” Mandela said. 

Mandela was introduced by BHCC Professor of Genetics Dr. Paul Kasili and Associate Provost Dr. Franklyn Taylor. Several of BHCC’s school partners also attended the conversation, including Billerica Memorial High School, the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston, Helen Davis Leadership Academy, and Boston Green Academy, who’s Step Performance Team preformed prior to Mandela taking the stage.  

Before the Compelling Conversation, Mandela joined Assistant Dean of Behavioral, Social Sciences and Global Learning Justice Kumahia and a group of BHCC students from the College's HOPE (Halting Oppressive Pathways through Education) Initiative for a book signing and discussion in the Mary E. Fifield Art Gallery. 

Mandela answered several questions from the audience, saying at one point that he did not plan to run for office in his native South Africa right now, but seemingly left the door open to an active political future. He closed the conversation by giving those gathered some hopeful advice: “We all have a Nelson Mandela who lives within us...find him and unleash him on the world.” 

Following in the footsteps of his beloved and iconic grandfather, Ndaba Mandela has taken the torch – and ran with it. Today, Nelson Mandela’s legacy lives on as Ndaba continues to keep its beacon of hope bright, fueling its fiery message that one person can make a difference. Thankfully for all, the legacy lives, as Ndaba was recently named one of the “28 Men of Change” by BET. His recent book, Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather, Nelson Mandela, is the first-ever to tell Nelson Mandela's life through the eyes of the grandson who was raised by him, chronicling Ndaba's life living with, and learning from, one of the greatest leaders and humanitarians the world has ever known.  

Today, Ndaba is showing the world, through his actions and orations, that Nelson Mandela’s voice and message of freedom still carries and rings true – sounded by a child that became a man under the warm embrace and expert tutelage of one of history’s greatest teachers. Currently, Ndaba is organizing the 95th celebration of Nelson Mandela Day and was also instrumental in creating the International Day of Happiness at the United Nations. He continues to keep Mandela on the world’s mind. Ndaba is the co-founder and co-chairman of the Africa Rising Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting a positive image of Africa around the world and to increasing its potential for growth in the areas of education, employment, and international corporate alliances for profit and partnership. Ndaba also serves as an executive director of UN AIDS, which seeks to end discrimination around HIV/Aids through the power of football. 

Tweets from the Event