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Mandela and the ultimate challenge

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The third quarter of 2013, although not yet finished, has been very challenging for our family. It witnessed the passing of my own mother Merdina Rose-Hyde, whose life, legacy, and relevance cannot be adequately quantified; the transition of my wife’s grandmother Elfredia Lawrence, who lived as a mystic among men; and, the transition of one of my youthful heroes, Nelson Mandela.

In 1981 I, along with several of my community friends started the Mandela Youth Club in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Our quest was to bring awareness to the issue of South African apartheid, and to agitate for equal rights and justice for the South African majority. We were seeking positive ways of challenging our energies and contribute to our community’s development. We were also, very impressed by the sacrificial life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.

With the passing of Mr. Mandela I feel compelled to share the following article, which stems from my own research:

Among the many African beneficiaries of the Ethiopian rooted Pan Africanism were Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. In the 1962, Mr. Nelson Mandela secretly came to Ethiopia for military and political training. He was welcomed in Addis Ababa by the Ethiopian government; given an opportunity to address the Pan African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA) Conference; and, on the orders of Emperor Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian military offered him military training in his struggle against apartheid. Also, on the personal orders of the Emperor, the Colonel in charge of his military training gave Mandela a gun, symbolizing Ethiopia’s support of the armed struggle against apartheid and white supremacy.

Mandela stated that while traveling to Ethiopia with the expectation of seeing and meeting Emperor Haile Selassie I he felt like he was, “visiting my own genesis, unearthing the roots of what made me African. Meeting the Emperor himself would be like shaking hands with history.” [1]

Because Mandela answered the call to serve his people and also, in his words, connected to his own genesis vis-à-vis Ethiopia and Haile Selassie I, he was able to reciprocate benefits to the Pan African ideal of the 20th and 21 centuries. He took the ultimate challenge posed by Haile Selassie I for the salvation of humanity. May history and Jah judge his works as righteous and good!

This then is the ultimate challenge. Where are we to look for our survival, for answers to the questions which have never been posed?

We must look, first, to Almighty God, who has raised man above animals and endowed him with intelligence and reason. We must put faith in Him, that he will not desert us or permit us to destroy humanity which he created in his image.

We must look into ourselves, into the depth of our souls. We must become something we have never been and for which our education and experience and environment have ill prepared us. We must become bigger than we have been, more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.[2]


[1] Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1994), 250-5.

[2] Miguel Lorne, ed., The Third Testament: The Ilect Verses of Emperor Haile Selassie I 1918-1967 (Kingston: Headstart Printing and Publishing, 1997), 377-378.

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