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Medill To Host One Of South Africa's 'New Heroes'

Justice Edwin Cameron will deliver two public lectures during weeklong stay

  • Prominent South African jurist to deliver two public speeches in Evanston
  • Stunned judicial commission in 1999 by announcing: ‘I am living with AIDS’
  • Well known for gay-rights and HIV/AIDS activism

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Edwin Cameron, the prominent South African jurist who stunned the public years ago by revealing his HIV-positive status, will deliver two public lectures during a weeklong residency at Northwestern University. 

A fierce critic of former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s AIDS policies, Cameron will reflect on efforts to move toward a nonracial, nonsexist and egalitarian nation, using what is often called the most progressive constitution in the world.

Cameron’s visit is sponsored by the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

The lectures will be held at:

  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, Harris Hall, Room 107, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston. In his first talk, Cameron will focus on South Africa's transition from an oppressive, racist autocracy to an inclusive democracy. Cameron also will speak about the most notable successes and failures in a nation that has long been divided by wealth and race and one that carries heavy burdens from the past.
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, in the McCormick Foundation Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, Evanston. In a conversation with Douglas Foster, an associate journalism professor at Medill, Cameron will discuss South Africa’s constitutional commitment to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media. Cameron also will give a rare first-hand account of the exciting and sometimes daring decisions handed down by South Africa's highest court.

“We are honored to have one of the architects of a new democracy at the southern tip of Africa that strives to create a nonracial, nonsexist, non-homophobic and more egalitarian society,” said Foster, who regularly takes groups of Medill students on reporting trips to South Africa and is the author of “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post Apartheid South Africa.”

Cameron, appointed to the Constitutional Court in South Africa in 2009, has written two books, “Witness to AIDS” and “Justice.” After spending much of his childhood in an orphanage, Cameron was awarded a scholarship to the whites-only Pretoria Boys School. He went on to become a noted human rights lawyer during the struggle against Apartheid.

President Nelson Mandela appointed him as a judge in 1994 and later wrote that Cameron was “one of South Africa’s new heroes” for his courage in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  In 1999, Cameron told a judicial commission that was considering whether to elevate him “I am not dying with AIDS. I am living with AIDS.”

In 2009, Cameron was appointed to the Constitutional Court and has been described as “the greatest legal mind of his generation” and a “jurist of the highest order.”

Medill’s South Africa Journalism Residency program, founded by former dean Loren Ghiglione in 2003, has sent more than 100 journalism students to South Africa. The students have worked in news outlets in Cape Town and Johannesburg and lived for at least one academic quarter in South Africa. In April, a group of 14 Northwestern students are headed to the new democracy. Their first stop: The Constitutional Court.

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