Thursday, December 5, 2013

A N.I.C.E. Tribute to Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013

Madiba, Nelson Mandela:  A True Champion For Freedom!

Nelson Mandela was a great man.  Clearly, this is a statement that can be made without a shred of hesitation. He languished in prison for 27 years, where he suffered for the reason of wanting equality for African people in South Africa during the time of apartheid. He was an anti-apartheid warrior and will always be remembered as such. The strength and courage that he exhibited provides one with a sense of marvel. He lived during a time in which such courage in the face of hatred and animosity was not commonplace. We know who he is because he stood out among men.  He did not stand out  because of his grandiose stature, as he was a very tall African man, but because of his  leadership. He exhibited leadership in ways that we no longer see even though grave injustices continue.  He also did so, ultimately, in peace and won the Nobel Peace Prize, which he surely deserved, and many other prestigious awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He is of the Xosa Clan and is often referred to by his clan name which is Madiba. Others refer to him as Tata which means "the Father" referring to him as the "father of the nation." He was born in 1918 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and ultimately became a Lawyer.  What many do not know is that he was also a boxer.  Maybe this helped to define him as a fighter although "the good fight" that he handled with grace and style was not with his hands but with his mind.  He spoke vehemently of the need for  political independence as a necessary goal for African people in South Africa, but his fight transcended that location and touched the hearts and minds of people all over the world.  I visited South Africa many years ago, with my family, and during that time we visited the Mandela House in Soweto, which is a historical site. We also visited Robben Island and stood in front of the cell where he was imprisoned and then we passed by his home in Johannesburg where he resided during present times.  It was an honor to travel throughout South Africa, always knowing that this is where Nelson Mandela along with Winnie and many others, fought for the freedom of African people .  I am so grateful that I  had that experience with my family.  The recall of it all now feels wonderful because we understood then who he was and we understand it now. I also recall being in Harlem when Mandela came there after he was released from prison.  It was in 1990.  It was amazing.  The streets of Harlem were filled with excitement.  It was a fantastic day of celebration and another moment where I can say, I am so grateful that I was in the right place at the right time with my family.

So in closing, it is my perspective that his legacy is that of a man who struggled for freedom, not just for himself but for his people.  He became the first Black President of South Africa which was an incredible feat.  He was loved and respected and now what we have left is the legacy of a great African Ancestor.  Let's remember him fondly as the African man, the human being that he was.  Let's remember his struggle but also his colorful shirts, the way he danced, the way he smiled, the way he fought and the way he showed us what an African leader looks like when he is at his worst and at his best and what an African leader IS in our lifetime.  N.I.C.E. salutes Nelson Mandela on this day knowing that he is going home.  December 5, 2013 will always be a day that we remember with sadness but also with pride.
Mandela's Home in Johannesburg

With my family at Mandela House in Soweto

Mandela's Cell on Robben Island

On Robben Island with my husband

A picture on Robben Island

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