Yesterday my friend Jennifer Davis passed away.
She was surrounded by family and close friends. Jen was a true hero to me: Stalwart fighter against apartheid, defender of human rights. As director of The American Committee on Africa and The Africa Fund, she had significant impact on the direction of the anti-apartheid divestment campaign and as such was honored by the South African government for her contribution to the downfall of the apartheid regime.
But now I mourn her as one of my closest friends since 1967. HAMBA KAHLE my dearest friend, comrade, colleague. You are sorely missed.
After leaving South Africa, she pressed colleges, churches, unions, philanthropies and others to unload their stock in companies profiting from a racist system. Read The New York Times obituary.
Ms. Davis, who died Oct. 15 at 85, devoted decades of her life to dismantling the apartheid system of racial segregation that cleaved South African society and oppressed the black majority for nearly half a century after its establishment in 1948. Read the Washington Post obituary.
South African Broadcasting Corporation report about Jennifer Davis, who died on October 15, 2019. Davis is described as a fearless, courageous and dedicated woman who supported freedom in South Africa. The video report includes an interview with Donna Katzin, who during apartheid worked at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and after apartheid became the Executive Director of Shared Interest.
a time like this I stop to reflect on how I met Jennifer, what kind of
relationship we had and what impact she had on my life. We’ve come a long way
from NEUM workshops at her home when I was a student at Wits (University of
Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) in the early 1960’s and reconnecting in the
Movement in the USA in the 70’s. A relentless fighter against
injustice throughout her life. She was among those teachers who
shaped my thinking especially about inclusivity and leaving no one behind.
I also remember is that I had my very first alcoholic sprit at her
house. I had never taken an alcoholic drink ever. Someone
poured a clear watery drink into my glass as we arrived. I gulped it
all immediately because I was thirsty. I coughed violently before
someone brought me orange juice. I had never seen gin nor vodka
before. I still do not know what I drank!
convey my gratitude that I am one among the multitudes whose progressive
thinking she shaped through all her organizing. She gave so
much. She will be sadly missed. Sincere condolences to
her children, Kered and her huge extended family around the world whose lives
Zanele Mbeki, former First Lady of South Africa
How does one say ‘good-bye’ to a friend/”sister”
and comrade like Jennifer?
It is not possible when one has known someone so well and
shared so much with such a person. All of us know that “Jen” was
someone very talented, very special, very committed. Her qualities were passed
on to her children, Sandra and Mark, probably onwards to her grandchildren.
Like Amilcar, like Samora, like Graca and Madiba, Jen was my teacher.
How much more valuable than multiple classrooms across the country were those hours we spent in Jen’s living room listening and learning from one guest or another with Jen constantly asking the key questions.
What a lesson in “anti- racism” and “race
relations” Jen provided when she would stand barely over the podium of
some crowded Harlem Church and painstakingly describe the role the Federation
of South African Women in South Africa’s resistance struggle of the 1960’s.
With her smile and the determined tilt of her head, she exemplified a too-rare
leadership style that believed there was nothing too small or too big for the
leader to take up.
Oh how we will miss you, Camarada !!
Prexy Nesbitt, Making the Road
The world has lost a wonderful human being. Jen introduced me to the art of lobbying back in 1974 when she asked Maryknoll Sisters to join ACOA in opposing the appointment of Nathaniel Davis as Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Maryknoll chose me to help write and deliver our submission to Congress through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Jennifer was there for me every step of the way. She sometimes came to visit me at Maryknoll when I was in the States and we met several times in Zimbabwe and during the elections in South Africa in 1994. Her wisdom and commitment to end apartheid and to create a new multiracial society that served all South Africans were unmatchable. I believe that she will continue to be an advocate for a better world from her new home. Thanks for letting me know of her passing.
I know that you have passed on. But your Spirit still remains with us. Guiding us towards the Absolute Truth. There are many lessons from your life. I hope we will remember and pass them on to the next generations.
You were always there for us. Even in our personal capacity. I remember as if it was yesterday you hosting me and the woman I married twenty nine years ago, Lucie Pagé, from Montreal. I proposed to her in your apartment. And we are happily still together with three beautiful children and now two grandchildren.
So your influence cast far beyond politics and struggle to also embrace us all with the love and compassion of your sincere humanity. Your life was an example of what it means to be human. I learnt so much from you.
Thank you for always being there. Your spirit will always touch my heart.
Hamba Khahle, my dear sister.
Jay Naidoo – Founding General Secretary of COSATU.
Former Minister in Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet.