Who We Are

These three ordinary yet remarkable South Africans open a window into a universal struggle to achieve peace.

They dared to fight inequality and apartheid in their South African townships. For that, they were branded terrorists and were imprisoned with Nelson Mandela in the notorious Robben Island Prison. But while they were incarcerated in that brutal environment, they somehow learned to forgive their captors, and uplift one another through song. With the wall of Apartheid gone and a new South Africa born, these three ex-political prisoners are spreading their message, including to some of Chicago’s toughest schools, where their lessons are sorely needed.

Groundswell Educational Films

Groundswell Educational Films is a non-profit organization with a mission to collaborate cross-culturally in all facets of documentary filmmaking, transfer media skills into disadvantaged communities, and partner with stakeholders to stimulate local actions that address the social justice issues raised in our films. Groundswell engages audiences through film, live performances and multi-arts programming and amplifies marginalized voices through new and traditional media.

Grant Shezi

Imprisoned for 10 Years on Robben Island

As a cameraman for Robben Island’s Heritage Department, Grant’s job involves collecting and filming the stories of former inmates like himself.

“In 1976 we quit high school in order to fight the police.” Grant says, “When we joined the struggle we never thought freedom will come whilst we are still alive.”

Muntu Nxumalo

Imprisoned for 13 Years on Robben Island

“South Africa is our country,” says Muntu. “In order to build our country we must forgive. And if we are going to forgive we must teach others to forgive.”

Out of prison, Muntu has become an owner of a successful consulting company which organizes South Africans in remote rural areas to work on government sponsored road building projects, something the country desperately needs.

Thembinkosi Sithole

Imprisoned for 9 Years on Robben Island

Since the fall of Apartheid, Thembinkosi has come full circle to take a job as a tour guide at the same Robben Island Prison (now a museum) where he and scores of others including Nelson Mandela were once locked up.

“We hope that our audiences will understand that in any conflict situation it is possible to negotiate with your enemy and not necessarily destroy one another,” he says.

Jeff Spitz

Producer, The Robben Island Singers documentary, Executive Director of Groundswell Educational Films

Jeff Spitz is an Emmy Award winner who creates original documentaries for broadcast on PBS and cable. His credits as a writer/producer/director include: The Return of Navajo Boy, a one-hour documentary that reunited a Navajo family, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and has screened and won awards at film festivals internationally; From the Bottom Up, a one-hour, national PBS public affairs report on community activism; The Roosevelt Experiment, a half-hour documentary for ABC-TV telling the story of an integrated college in a segregated city; and Libraries Change Lives, celebrating the immigrant experience in America’s public libraries, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. A California native and graduate of UCLA, Spitz teaches documentary filmmaking at Columbia College Chicago.

Jennifer Amdur Spitz

Co-founder of Groundswell Educational Films

Jennifer Amdur Spitz is co-founder of Groundswell Educational Films and co-Executive Producer of The Robben Island Singers Project. She is also principal of Amdur Spitz & Associates, Inc., a national agency providing issue-oriented marketing communications, public relations, program planning, and video production services to museums, universities, foundations, and other nonprofit, government and business clients since 1992. She has utilized her keen marketing, non-profit management and entrepreneurial skills to design and develop new non-profit organizations or programs and to develop award-winning, integrated communications campaigns. Jennifer brings her experience and expertise in communicating issues related to education, the arts, the environment, housing, and community development to Groundswell’s public education projects.

Mickey Madoda Dube

Contributing Director, The Robben Island Singers documentary

Mickey Madoda Dube is an award-winning filmmaker and a Fulbright alumnus based in Johannesburg. He received his MFA from USC School of Cinema and TV and received international recognition with his multi-award winning short film, Imbazo. Dube has produced, directed and written several documentaries, including Movements in Black, a documentary on South African Black Art, and Wa N’ Wina (Sincerely Yours), an atypical AIDS documentary, as well as a TV feature, A Walk in the Night. He has directed several TV shows, including Sesame Street South Africa, and numerous commercials. Dube also teaches, most recently at Newtown Film and TV School, and in 1998 at an intensive workshop on Robben Island.