- Created on 11 December 2013
Photo by News One
The death of Nelson Mandela leads many to remember a man whose life was a shining example of how to be extraordinary by staying true to your principles and learning to forgive.
A little over a month ago, I had a chance to stand outside of the prison cell that housed Nelson Mandela for most of his 27 year imprisonment. The tour through Robben Island was guided by a former prisoner who painted a chilling picture of the treatment of inhabitants. Men were stripped and cavity searched, forced to wear shorts, and go barefoot even in the winter months during some of the early years of apartheid. They also had limited interaction with loved ones. Most of the prisoners housed on the island were not murderers, thieves, or rapists. They were political prisoners; most notably, these were men who wanted equal justice and challenged those who wanted to rob them of their land and treat them as less than human simply because of the color of their skin and their political beliefs.
The most famous of the prisoners who were housed on Robben Island is Nelson Mandela. His life is a testament to what resilience, courage, peace, and forgiveness truly mean. Unlike some of his contemporaries whose lives also inspired the masses, Nelson Mandela's physical departure from this earth was a quiet and expected one. There was no bullet that robbed him of living out his full potential. There was no tragic accident that stole his promise. Having lived 95 years and having given the world a true and legitimate hero, his physical absence will mean nothing to his legacy.
His light will shine on and be an example forever.
As I sat in the prison holding room on Robben Island listening to the former prisoner-turned-tour-guide tell of his story and the stories of many others, I felt anger and hurt, disappointment and despair. But when he was asked about how he felt toward his imprisoners, he said that he forgave them. He was the one who faced brutality and lived with the memories of abuse, and yet, he was able to forgive.
That example was also taught to the world by Madiba. His ability to forgive helped him to become President and helped South Africa begin to realize its potential. Had he clung to anger instead, his greatness would have been outweighed by the burden that he would have carried with him.
As I began to feel sad at the news of his death, I realized there is no reward in that. Yes, Nelson Mandela is no longer physically here on earth, but that he lived the life he did was a reward for us all. His life wasn't perfect and neither was he, but in the worst conditions, he became the best of men. The sum of his years on earth will last exponentially longer than his physical being did. And in the end, isn't that all any of us could ever ask?
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- Created on 11 December 2013
Nearly 2 dozen U.S. lawmakers were scheduled to be at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, many of them members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The caucus' link to the South African leader and his people's struggle is longstanding. Former Ohio congressman Louis Stokes described the history on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin.
"The Congressional Black Caucus had long been involved as the major force in Congress fighting for [economic] sanctions on South Africa," Stokes explained, "and in that role, we have also been in in protest there in Washington, D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy had been organizing protests."
After refusing police requests to leave, said Stokes, "We were arrested, taken to jail, refused bond, we spent the night in jail in order to symbolize our alignment with cause of Nelson Mandela."
Stokes also mentioned the leadership of former California congressman Ron Dellums (who introduced an anti-apartheid bill in 1972), Rep. Maxine Waters (who still serves California), and the late Parren Mitchell of Maryland, in the fight against apartheid.
It would not be until 1986 that The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act finally passed. The economic sanctions that resulted helped put pressure on the white-controlled South African government to start dismantling the country's brutal system of racial segregation and oppression.
Listen here as Stokes describes the struggle, as well as the joy of attending the inauguration of Mandela as South Africa's first black president.
- Created on 10 December 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama implored thousands gathered in a cold, rainy stadium and millions watching around the world on Tuesday to carry forward Nelson Mandela's mission of erasing injustice and inequality.
In a speech that received thunderous applause at FNB stadium and a standing ovation, Obama called on people to apply the lessons of Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in prison under a racist regime, embraced his enemies when he finally walked to freedom and ushered in a new era of forgiveness and reconciliation in South Africa.
"We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace," said Obama, who like Mandela became the first black president of his country. Obama said that when he was a student, Mandela "woke me up to my responsibilities — to others, and to myself — and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today."
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- Created on 10 December 2013
Apartheid might not have ended in South Africa if it weren't for the help of African Americans. Jesse Jackson spoke with Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to talk about contributions to end apartheid as well as how Nelson Mandela was viewed after he became the first Black president of South Africa.
"Once he [Mandela] won the battle, Whites feared that he would engage in retribution," said Jackson. "He said, 'There's no future in retribution. The future is in voting. You don't realize who you are and who I am.'"
Jackson also went over the parallels between civil rights in the United States and apartheid, "The parallelisms run infinitely," he said, "and many of them [South Africans] got their education here."
Jackson also recounted how he, along with other notable figures in the Black community, such as Radio One's own *Cathy Hughes, Maxine Waters, and Harry Belafonte, raised money to end apartheid.
Finally, Jackson discussed how difficult it was to be South African in America after apartheid ended. "Anything South African became toxic," he said. "Even today we're much better off than South Africans. We freed them of the pariah status."
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