Today we celebrate the life of Rolihlahla Mandela. Yesterday the world lost an activist, peacemaker and a true revolutionary. Born July 18, 1918, in a small village in what is now Eastern Cape province of South Africa, a teacher at a British colonial boarding school later gave him the English name Nelson (read more). He was the first black president of South Africa and one of the key figures in a decades long struggle against apartheid and the key figure in ending it.
To embrace Madiba, as he was affectionately called, we must embrace the entirety of his legacy; never forgetting that before he was a benevolent wielder of power in the South African presidency, he was once a rebel freedom fighter. David A. Love recalled this legacy and makes the case for it’s full embrace in a recent post in The Grio; General Colin Powell also spoke to the matter of Madiba’s freedom fighter days.
Although he will be lauded from every mountaintop upon his transition to the ancestors, let the record show that many powerful forces sought to curtail his freedom struggle, or take action again the apartheid regime, or otherwise condemn his legacy. Ronal Reagan, former president of the United States had the African National Congress placed on the Terrorist watch list, and former Prime Minister of Britain Margaret Thatcher would not impose sanctions on the apartheid regime. Spike Lee spoke to this matter in a CNN interview.
Mandela was revered worldwide for leading the anti-apartheid movement and not letting his nearly three decades in prison, nor opposition from the powers that be shake his determination. His enduring legacy is a gift to humanity. As President Obama said it, “He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.”
His story gives us hope, his words made us move, and his actions made us more free; and so may his legacy continue to guide us. At Dreaming Out Loud, we remember his call to action:
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” – Nelson Mandela
Many don’t know that Madiba – during his 27 years of improvement — maintained rooftop garden that he declared “one of my happiest diversions.” Each morning, he “put on a straw hat and rough gloves and worked in the garden for two hours”. Each Sunday, he would “supply vegetables to the kitchen so that they could cook a special meal for the common-law prisoners”; even giving some of his harvest to the warders.
It was this spiritual and moral power, that he carried into the heights of political power. It is this sense of humanity that we identify with and seek to represent through the Adinkra Symbol Ethics Mirror; so may his legacy endure and continue to guide us.