I admit, I do not know enough about Mr. Nelson Mandela. As a little boy growing up in the Caribbean, Mandela’s name was second to God. Who was this man? I grew up hearing chants of ‘Free Mandela!’ from Calypso singers, reggae greats and poets. Even the legend, Bob Marley sang about him. Our school books talked about him. To my ignorant mind, he was God-like.
I was told that he fought against the apartheid system that ruled his country and was imprisoned because of it. That’s all I knew. In a nutshell. A black man was jailed for fighting racism in his country and we wanted him freed. The world wanted him freed. Even the white people! He must be a great man! Every kid needs a hero and I had found mine. “Free Mandela!”. I too picked up the chant. “End Apartheid!” I started chanting long before I even knew what apartheid was. It just sounded like a bad thing. It was.
Twenty seven years after he was jailed for allegedly inciting strikes among the workers, he was finally released. More chants and songs accompanied his freedom. “Mandela is free! Free at last!” He quickly picked up from where he had left off as he had unfinished business to take care of. The system he had sacrificed most of his life for was still very much in place. He could have disappeared into anonymity then. No one would have accused him of cowardice but he didn’t. He was a freedom fighter and a real freedom fighter does not quit until freedom is achieved or he is dead.
Mandela’s fight culminated in him becoming the first black President of South Africa. He toppled the racist regime that had governed his country for many years, exploiting the black majority with rampant racists practices. Apartheid in South Africa was over!
I am not sure how or if Nelson Mandela changed or affected my life living in the Caribbean, oceans away from South Africa. But what Mandela did was inspired me. Inspired a world. His fight for justice and equally could not be subdued even behind bars. Twenty seven years after being locked away, he rose again like a phoenix from the ashes. The ultimate freedom fighter.
I have always gravitated to people who stand up for what they believe it, even if it means sacrificing the things they hold dear or their very lives. That’s why I can call Ali and Mandela my heroes. Mandela’s legacy will always live on even after he’s gone. South Africa and the world will always remember this great man who took on the giants and won. Because of Nelson Mandela, South Africans could be proud of who they are. Maybe the world on a whole became a better place because of him. Even if so very slightly.
Soon, Nelson Mandela will be free in truer sense of the word. The weights on his shoulder forever removed and he will finally take a much-deserved rest.
God Bless You, Nelson Mandela! Great job!
This was originally posted back in June when Mandela was thought to be close to death. Yesterday, Mandela was freed in every sense of the word. Just like he was a hero in every sense of the word. My thoughts and prayers to all his loved ones. May his soul rest in continual peace.
Nelson Mandela – July 18 1918 – December 5 2014