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Pulitzer Center Update December 9, 2013

This Week: Mandela's Legacy

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Jamaica has the reputation of being one of the most violently anti-gay countries on earth. Male...

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Nelson Mandela. Image from Global Food for Thought, 2013.


"What will he say? What will Mandela say after 27 years in prison?"

That was the question on everyone's mind as the multitudes gathered in the center of Cape Town on the day when the leader of the African National Congress walked to freedom, recalls Pulitzer Center grantee Roger Thurow. Roger, who was then the South African-based correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, was in the crowd that February afternoon nearly a quarter of a century ago.

With crisp eloquence, Mandela delivered his message of tolerance, dignity and freedom from oppression—a message that would guide not only his native South Africa along the path to democracy, but would inspire oppressed people in every corner of the world.

"When I'm asked what Nelson Mandela was like then, I answer with one word: 'Serene,'" says Roger. "Not the serenity of a man leaning back in a chair with his feet on the desk, good heavens no. When he left prison, he developed the habit of frequently checking the time; he was a man in a hurry, for too much time had already been wasted in building a new country. Rather, it was the serenity of a man resolute in his convictions, confident in the correctness of his ideas, his words and his works."

At the Pulitzer Center, we join the rest of the world in mourning the passing of this towering figure of our time.


In a small but significant step forward in the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation, Pulitzer Center grantee Micah Fink's powerful documentary, "The Abominable Crime," had its first public screening in Jamaica last week. As the title implies, homosexuality is still a crime in Jamaica and harassment of gays is widespread and occasionally deadly. Micah's film tells the story of two Jamaicans forced to flee their homeland fearing for their lives.

Despite opposition from some church leaders and public officials, the screening at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies drew about 50 people.


The best journalists have a knack for spotting the unexpected story. Pulitzer Center grantee and Foreign Policy national security correspondent Yochi Dreazen always seems to discover something out of the ordinary. Earlier this year, while reporting a story for The Atlantic on northern Mali's worrying slide into the hands of jihadists, Yochi also brought back a marvelous tale about how a fast-thinking band of locals managed to rescue the medieval manuscripts of Timbuktu from almost certain destruction by Islamic fundamentalists.

This time, fresh from a reporting project in Israel on the spread of drone technology, Yochi returns with a fascinating story on how a nice, crowd-pleasing cabernet sauvignon may turn out to be the latest obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In a dispatch for Smithsonian, Yochi reports that the West Bank's high altitude, dry air and sandy soil are ideal for producing grapes. This has given a determined group of Jewish settlers near the ancient town of Shiloh an opportunity to sink their own roots ever deeper into Palestinian territory.

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