TBB Talks … The Mandela Project With Marsai Martin

This five-part mini docu-series showcases the lasting legacy of Nelson Mandela

Through impactful real-world acts of service – inspired by key elements of his story, work, and life learnings. Each 15-minute episode features one black creator/artist/talent, undertaking their chosen Act of Service bearing significance to one focused part of Mandela’s story or socially relevant theme/cause connected to his work & learnings.

Narrating the series is Mandela’s grandson, Ndaba Mandela, who provides anecdotes and personal stories of the legend.

Black-ish star and Marsai Martin’s episode focuses on Poetry, Martin mentors three young people – all of whom have, for differing reasons, missed out on a part of their education – & introduces them to the power of spoken word through a Poetry Slam.

Please introduce yourself…

My name is Marsai Martin. I’m an actress, producer, CEO and entrepreneur. In terms of heritage, I’m African-American. I was born in Plano, Texas and moved to Los Angeles in 2014 and am part of a family of 4.

Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.

Beautiful chaos.

You are a young actress, producer, visionary, philanthropist and the list goes on, how have you managed to do all things and still find time to be a teenager?

I try to balance it all by doing my best to incorporate some of my beloved activities into my work, whether it’s going to events like movie premieres with my best friends or being able to do something cool with both my professional and personal worlds.

Monday 18th July was Mandela Day and in celebration, you took part in The Mandela Project, a series that examines Nelson Mandela’s legacy by letting modern-day celebs emulate some of his acts of kindness. How did you get involved in with project?

Our head of digital media, Dessie Brown Jr, introduced the offer to me while I was filming my feature Fantasy Football in Atlanta earlier this year. I immediately wanted to be a part of it to show my support and to highlight Nelson Mandela’s global humanitarian impact.

Marsai Martin – The Mandela Project

What does Mandela and Mandela day mean to you? How has being involved opened your mind to what the day represents?

It means so many things to me. I would say one of the most important aspects of Mandela and Mandela Day is showing what you can do when you have a passion for something, the fire to fight for something. Nelson Mandela was about helping the next generation and helping people in need, especially the younger generation and uplifting our aspirations.

What act of service did you choose to do and why?

My act of service was participating in a poetry workshop in Atlanta. The experience was especially important to me because I worked with a young poet and activist named Neveah, who is the same age as me. It meant a lot to me because it’s one thing to work with adults who have more life experience but to work and collaborate with a young black girl my own age allowed for a very genuine and authentic connection. We’re dealing with the same things at the same time together. To participate in something like the poetry workshop with young black people – especially young black girls – in the local community was especially fulfilling.

You are truly an inspiration to young people especially young women so mentoring seems like a right of passage for you, but in what ways did your mentees inspire you?

With Neveah and the poetry workshop, she taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. She’s very collaborative and inspired me for the greater good. The fear of not feeling accepted or that no one’s paying attention to you holds a lot of people back. Letting go of our fears allows us to do or find those unexpected gems and builds up our personal confidence.

Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela said that it is important for all people to get involved in Mandela day, especially GenZ. Why is it so important?

It’s important because it’s essential to know who came before you and the history behind our heroes, especially as a culture. Nelson Mandela was one of them. Even though he’s a global icon, there are still many young people who aren’t aware of him and his movement. With the way Gen-Z has grown up, especially with the pandemic and missing many important rites of passage, Mandela and his beliefs are a huge inspiration for fighting for what’s right and better for our world.

Marsai Martin and The Poetry Slam contestants

Ndaba narrates the series and shares anecdotes and personal stories of the legend which I found quite inspiring, is there a quote from Nelson Mandela that resonates with you and culminates the legacy that you want to leave behind?

A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.
Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

What is your favourite episode of The Mandela Project series? How did it resonate with you?

My favourite episode was the final one with Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi. One of the reasons I do what I do is to help build confidence in young girls and encourage them to embrace their beauty inside and out. Many young girls have missed a lot of opportunities, especially with recent global events like the pandemic, so to give back to them is very special.

  • A book you have to have in your collection? Amari & The Night Brothers

  • A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Wilton by Alex Isley & Jack Dine

  • A film/TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? New Girl

  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance, or concert)? My first “concert” was Earth, Wind & Fire as part of a holiday special. I only saw them perform a couple songs but it meant a lot to me because I come from a very musical family and my uncle is one of the band members. Seeing them in their element was extremely special and it was a very family-oriented thing for me.

  • What has made you sad, mad, and glad this week?

One thing that made me sad this week is confronting the future as a young adult as I’m turning 18. It’s beautiful but it also does come with a lot of unknowns.

One thing that made me glad was reading scripts and thinking through different opportunities to create.

One thing that made me mad was going to my favourite acai spot, only to realise they were closed when I got there.

The Mandela Project is currently streaming on youtube.


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