Today, December 5, 2013, we lost a man who personified Perseverance. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela led the South African fight against ugly institution of apartheid. Apartheid in South Africa was the equivalent of the laws of racial segregation (Jim Crow) that our ancestors faced in the United States of America. Under apartheid, Black South Africans could not have any political representation, were deprived of national citizenship, and were forced to live in substandard segregated areas. Most Black South Africans were removed from their homes by force, despite South Africa being their homeland; they had no say so in what was happening to them. Nelson Mandela was one of the first Black South African’s to become a lawyer. He led the fight against the injustice the colonial government had imposed on the people of his land. As a member, and eventually becoming President, of the African National Congress (“ANC”), Mandela fought for the equal rights of Black South Africans. In 1962, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for “high treason,” protesting against the injustice of the South African government, serving 18 years in hard labor, breaking rocks. Mandela was repeatedly offered his freedom if he denounced the ANC; Mandela refused, never putting his life over the lives of his people. Mandela never lost his will to fight for the freedom of his people. He became an international figure for democracy and freedom. After 27 years of imprisonment, Mandela was released from prison in 1990. He negotiated the end of apartheid, and in 1994, went on to be the first Black South African to become President of South Africa.
President Obama said “Today,….we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth”. Brother, let’s not let the spirit of Mandela…or Malcolm, or Martin, or Marcus become ‘figurines’ of history, but become the source of High Aspiration for vision, strength, Perseverance, and Uplift for every one of us. Let us have open dialog with our children about what Mandela represented and how we can effectively use the tools he left behind to change the lives of our communities. “An old man going a lone highway……” I am sure you know the rest.
May Nelson Mandela Rest In Peace and his life and legacy join so many others as a guiding light for us all.
Brother Steven G. Watkins
35th Tenth District Representative