Saturday, December 7, 2013

Maya Angelou - His Day Is Done (A Tribute To Nelson Mandela) video & transcript

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a video of Dr. Maya Angelou's spoken word tribute to South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013).

A transcription of this spoken word trbute is also provided in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, historical, educational, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

FEATURED VIDEO: His Day is Done - A Tribute Poem for Nelson Mandela by Dr. Maya Angelou

U.S. Department of State, Published on Dec 6, 2013

Video message delivered by Dr. Maya Angelou on behalf of the American people in memory of Nelson Mandela.

To view this video with captions in Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Hausa, Portuguese, Russian, Sesotho, Setswana, Spanish, Swahili, Wolof, Xhosa, or Zulu, please visit

(Maya Angelou)

His day is done.
Is done.
The news came on the wings of a wind
reluctant to carry its burden.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done.

The news expected and still unwelcome reached us in the United States
and suddenly our day became somber.
Our skies were leadened.
His day is done.

We see you South African people,
standing speechless at the slamming of that final door through which
no traveler returns.
Our spirits reach out to you – Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer.
We think of you and your son of Africa,
your father, your one more wonder of the world.
We send our souls to you as you reflect upon your David,
armed with a mere stone.
facing down the mighty Goliath.
Your man of strength,
Gideon emerging triumphant
although born in the brutal embrace of apartheid,
scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism,
unjustly imprisoned in the bloody maws of South African dungeons.
Would the man survive?
Could the man survive?

His answer strengthened men and women around the world.
In the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas,
on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco,
in Chicago’s Loop
in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras,
in New York City’s Time Square,
we watched as the hope of Africa
sprang through the prison’s doors,
his stupendous heart intact,
his gargantuan will hale and hearty.
He had not been crippled by brutes,
nor was his passion for the rights of human beings
diminished by twenty-seven years of imprisonment.
Even here, in America, we felt the cool, refreshing breeze
of freedom when Nelson Mandela took the seat of Presidency
in his country where formerly
he was not even allowed to vote.

We were enlarged by tears of pride
as we saw Nelson Mandela‘s former prison guards invited, courteously,
by him to watch from the front rows his inauguration.

We saw him accept the world’s award in Norway
with the grace and gratitude of the Solon
in ancient Roman courts
and the confidences of African chiefs
from ancient royal stools.

No sun outlasts its sunset.
But, it will rise again and bring the dawn.

Yes, Mandela’s day is done.
Yet we, his inheritors,
will open the gates wider for reconciliation.
And we will respond generously
to the cries of Blacks and Whites,
Asians, Hispanics,
the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet.
He has offered us understanding.
We will not withhold forgiveness
even from those who do not ask.

Nelson Mandela’s day is done.
We confess it in tearful voices.
Yet we lift our own to say thank you.
Thank you, our Gideon.
Thank you, our David,
our great, courageous man.

We will not forget you.
We will not dishonour you.
We will remember and be glad
that you lived among us,
that you taught us
and that you loved us
This transcription is from the copy of this video that was published online with English subtitles

The background music for this spoken word video is the Gospel song "Oh Happy Day" which was composed by Edwin Hawkins.

Read my comment below about the use of the word "Bantu" in this spoken word composition.

Thank you Dr. Maya Angelou for this eloquently written and spoken tribute to Nelson Mandela. My thanks to Madiba Nelson Mandela for his life's legacy. Thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

RIP Mandiba Nelson Mandela!


  1. Regarding the line "Our spirits reach out to you – Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer" in Maya Angelou's spoken word "His Day Is Done", I think that line flows well from a rhythmic, poetic standpoint, in part because that list of group names begins with a "b" and ends with "b". However, I think that list was an unfortunate choice, and it is (further) evidence of Americans' inaccurate knowledge about South Africa. I believe this because

    1. Zulu and Xhosa are Bantu people

    "The Zulu (Zulu: amaZulu) are the largest South African ethnic group, with an estimated 10–11 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Their language, Zulu, is a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup."
    "The Xhosa (pronounced [kǁʰɔsɑ] ( listen)) people are speakers of Bantu languages living in south-east South Africa, and in the last two centuries throughout the southern and central-southern parts of the country."

    From "Bantu-speaking peoples of South Africa"

    As the southern groups of Bantu speakers migrated southwards two main groups emerged, the Nguni (Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Swazi), who occupied the eastern coastal plains, and the Sotho–Tswana who lived on the interior plateau. The two language groups have diverged and differ on certain key aspects (especially in the sound systems).

    2. "Bantu" is a term that is considered offensive

    From "Bantu-speaking peoples of South Africa"
    "Black South Africans were at times officially called "Bantu" by the apartheid regime. The term Bantu is derived from the word for "people" common to many of the Bantu languages. In South Africa Bantu is no longer in wide use as a description of black South African people. The Oxford Dictionary of South African English describes its use in a racial context as obsolescent and offensive because of its strong association with white minority rule and the apartheid system. However, "Bantu" is used without pejorative connotations in other parts of Africa."

    Here's an excerpt of the Wikipedia page about the referent "Boer"
    "In contemporary South Africa and due to Broederbond propaganda, Boer and Afrikaner have been used interchangeably despite the fact that the Boers are the smaller segment within the Afrikaner designation as the Afrikaners of Cape Dutch origin are larger. Afrikaner directly translated means "African" and subsequently refers to all Afrikaans speaking people in Africa who have their origins in the Cape Colony founded by Jan Van Riebeeck. Boer is the specific ethnic group within the larger Afrikaans speaking population."

  2. I am so thankful to you for creating this blog. I have been pondering President Nelson Mandela for many years; and I played a part in the many protest here in the United States to rid South Africa of that system of Apartheid. After listening to Dr. Maya Angelou and reading your comments, I feel more knowledgeable about South Africa - a subject that we don't learn about in our public schools. I am a retired classroom teacher, and I understand that I should be doing more than just sitting at home posting comments on facebook. There's so much more for me (and others like me) to do. We must take a stand and educate our youth. I hope, as I take on this task, I will be able to attract adult learners as well. I am a lifetime learner so...again...I thank you for this valuable information.

    1. You're welcome, msblkwidow!

      And thank you for your comment and the work you have done in your life to make the world a better place.

      I started this blog because I love music, dance, and poetry/spoken word and wanted to learn more - and share- historical and contemporary examples of those arts from African Americans and from other people of Black descent throughout the world.

      I've learned alot from the research I have done for many of these pancocojams post - and I get the aesthetic pleasure of the examples that are featured here.

      I'm glad that other people get some satisfaction & information from this blog. Unlike other blogs, this isn't one that gets many comments. So receiving one such as yours is an unexpected gift.

      Thanks again and keep on keeping on!

  3. Here's an excerpt of a dailykos diary about the United States' stance about Nelson Mandela before he was released from prison:
    "Al Sharpton silenced the [Meet The Press television show] round table as he placed into context America’s role in South Africa’s liberation. The USA was not a supporter of Nelson Mandela. Conservatives are attempting to rewrite history. Al Sharpton ensured that all around that table were forced to accept that fact.

    [Sharpton said]
    I think it is a betrayal of history to act as though as Nelson Mandela evolved the world embraced it. There was a real battle in this country,” Al Sharpton said. “So when Randall Robinson and Maxine Waters and Reverend Jackson led that fight … there was major contention. They were attacked for supporting communists. Let’s remember the ANC that he refers to, they were pursuing freedom. Many of the communist nations embraced them. This country did not. So it is not like they were born Marxist. They were born people seeking to be free. Some of the Marxist nations, either genuinely or in a self-interest way, tried to embrace that. This country did not, and fought that, and denounced them, and denigrated them. And I think that for us now to sugarcoat that is a betrayal of history. We chose sides. We chose the wrong side."