When Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013, the world felt it. They expressed it through social media platforms, news announcements, and special interviews. I watched one in particular on the MSNBC program The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. We all mourned the loss of this man, who was an anti apartheid activist for 20 years, and in 1994, South Africa’s first black president. We mourned him the way that we have so many celebrities before him. Will we forget him in the way that we have so many before?
This question may seem like something typical of my cynical generation, and maybe it is, but it still holds true. When a celebrity passes who we’ve been making fun of for years,or forgot about completely, we pour our hearts out, we remember everything that we loved about them, and just as quickly we forget.
Let’s forget then. Let’s forget the passing of this man, and instead remember the life, contributions, and ideals that he had to offer. It’s easy to make fun of something that comes off like a fad, and unfortunately seeking positivity and peace in your life, in order to make a better world, and believing in the interconnection of all people and things come across to many as a pitch to sell self help books, or the brain washing of yoga crazy twenty somethings. However, simply wanting to do what will work and what is right should steer you in the direction of keeping the best interest of all people at heart. It is said that this is what drove Nelson Mandela to being what he was.
According to various sources, Mandela’s choices to seek non violent revolution where not based on morality but simply what he felt would work. This may be a fact, but Mandela has a strong hold as a moral authority all the same. As a man who gained notoriety after his incarceration he participated in negotiations while in prison. According to Charlayne Hunter-Gault, South African author, resident, and personal friend of Nelson Mandela, he was offered his release, as well as the release of other political prisoners in exchange for a cease to his fighting for the end of apartheid. He repeatedly said no, and for his entire stint in prison he was a living legend. Small children sang songs about Mandela as well as other political prisoners, in the streets around the prison.
”I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.” -Mandela
Mandela said in 1961 that he was willing to die for what he was fighting for. Instead he lived for it. He lead a revolution. He was a noble sacrifice and bought about transformation, he forgave the powers that be, leading to a better future. Mandela could have been bitter, but he was not. He was a man who some believe didn’t want to be president. For a fact he didn’t enjoy the “trappings of power” as observed by Chris Bishop of Forbes Africa, who studied Mandela for years, and fondly remembers his greeting of ”Hello young people” when he would walk into press conferences. Maybe this will be the beginning of your study of Mandela. Maybe it will be a continuation, I do sincerely hope that it will be a spark in someone’s heart to start their own revolution, in their life and the lives of others they affect.
A nice place to start would be watching these videos beginning:
Here is Dr. Maya Angelou‘s poem dedicated to Nelson Mandela:
Here is his first interview:
Here is his speech upon his release from prison:
Here is his Inauguration speech: