Collective action envisioned through “I am the change”

Ndaba Mandela, Jasmine Rand and Donisha Rita Claire Prendergast share visions of empowerment


Photo by Lara Bockenstedt

:Prendergast speaks to audience as Rand and Mandela sit nearby.

Three speakers discussed their ideas for empowering individuals to initiate collective action at “I am the Change,” the first event of the Forum Series season.

“Everyday, individuals change the world,” speaker Donisha Rita Claire Prendergast said near the end of the forum. “They impact the world by deciding to.”

The trio consisted of Jasmine Rand, the family attorney for the Trayvon Martin case; Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, and Prendergast, granddaughter of Bob Marley.

The forum took place on Sept. 24 at Schofield Hall and was a sold-out event.

Rand, the opening speaker, is a first-generation high school and college student. The National Bar Association recently named her one of the top 40 lawyers under 40 years old.

She told the audience they should not judge her by her many successes. Rather, Rand quoted Nelson Mandela and said they should judge her by “the number of times I’ve fallen and picked myself up again.”

Mandela took the stage after Rand, speaking with a South African accent. His vision for African youth centered around their ability to see “what it means to be an African and how proud they should be.”

He described Nelson Mandela Day in South Africa as a day in which citizens are encouraged to spend just over an hour volunteering.

Mandela explained that oftentimes those who volunteer spend half the day volunteering in order to complete the task. Mandela encouraged audience members to make every day Nelson Mandela Day — audience members can all find ways to help others each day.

Prendergast spoke last, holding a notebook with Bob Marley’s face on the cover in both hands.

“We didn’t come here today to lecture you,” Prendergast said. “We came to be the examples – to show through our own experiences what is possible.”

At one point, she asked audience members to raise their hands if they had O-positive blood.

“Some places would tell us that we are totally different because of skin color. But how can we be so different if we share the same blood?” Prendergast said.

She left the audience members with some advice: the tools they need to create impactful change are already with them. There is no need to seek them out, she said, and rather exercise them through self-love.

All three spoke of what it means to be educated college students — that it is a tool to exercise for standing up to injustice.

Self-awareness is critical while applying what you’ve learned to the real world, Prendergast and Rand noted.

A question-and-answer session ensued, followed by a meet-and-greet in Davies Student Center. For several hours, the distinguished speakers posed for photos and talked with students, community members and faculty.

Senior Magdalene Abang reflected on the speaker’s message. Being from Nigeria, Abang expressed familiarity with the power of a collective society and was glad the speakers emphasized such values.

She hoped to embody their messages in the future “in my own little way,” Abang said.

As Rand summarized concerning “I am the Change” “It doesn’t have to be change in that major,  visible way,” Rand said. “It’s really more about how you live your life.”