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Nelson Mandela: Not Just My Freedom

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“Madiba is dead,” a headline in the Mercury, a South Africa’s newspaper, expressed in bold print.

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People all over the world are giving tribute to a man that had a heart to forgive, a revolutionist who personified struggle and sacrifice, transformed a country, and touched the world.

The first time I actually heard of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela did not come through media coverage, or major publications, as it is blanketed across media outlets today. There were no Mandela supportive snippets or sidebars in newspaper headlines. No breaking news broadcast informing or condemning apartheid’s atrocities. It was newsworthy; a revolution was going on, but it was not being televised.

Knowledge of Nelson Mandela, for me, came through hands of conscientious students on a college campus receiving bits and pieces of information provided by AAPRP (All African People Revolutionary Party). AAPRP was a Pan African movement that talked about the African National Congress (ANC) going from a peaceful struggle to liberate Africans experiencing extreme injustices not only in South Africa, but also the Congo and other places due to atrocities of racial injustice.

Madiba said, “I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed, but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did. That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people."

And so it was, my introduction to the name Mandela came long before his release from prison cell B on Robben Island where he served 27 years, approximately 14,191, 200 minutes for a charge of sabotage.

Respect for Mr. Mandela, for me, came before he was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, or elected as South Africa’s first democratic president on May 10, 1994 – June 1999.

Even though, in this country, he was classified as a terrorist until 2008, my respect for him did not falter because many years ago, before it was televised, I read a few steps of his story, bits and pieces of his walk, slices of his life. It was clear, filtered throughout his journey was an uncompromising fight for what was right, a fight against domination, whether it was white or whether it was black.

That is why when Mandela came to Atlanta June 1990, after his release, my family and I were among the 50,400 gathered at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium to hear the African National Congress leader who fought a good fight of faith against apartheid, and linked the struggle of South Africa’s struggle with inequality and race discrimination to the civil right's movement in this country.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela testimony is inscribed in that "long walk to freedom." He said:

“I have walked that long road to freedom, I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I daren't linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

Madiba walk ended as he transitioned, December 5, 2013 at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg. He was 95 years old. Upon which, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma declared, “South Africa has lost its greatest son,” but what an amazing example he has left to all of us.

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