by Ebonie JC
As I sit, watching the live coverage of Nelson Mandela’s life (and now death), I am overcome with shock and subdued sadness. While the streets of South Africa are awake with dancing, singing, and chanting, the recollections of his life being shown are reminders of how much of a full life he really lived. His activism and leadership shaped my childhood and how I learned to stand up for what I knew was right.
Nelson Mandela was not just a leader but rather a servant leader. He led from a place of peace, love, democracy and yet, never wavered from receiving respect and authority. I don’t know that there is anyone else who could have done it better.
I was seven years old when Mandela was released from prison. Lucky for me, I had pretty progressive parents so I knew how important Mandela was and how instrumental he was to the country of South Africa. Leading up to his election to President, I recall seeing on television the long lines of people waiting to vote throughout the South African country side. My teacher made it a point to explain how important voting was to South Africans. She also made the correlation with the black struggle in America to help us understand how important voting was to South Africans. To me, Nelson Mandela was to South Africa what Dr. King was to us. I learned that Nelson Mandela was a good man, a man to be praised, a man who fought so much for an injustice against all odds.
I will never forget when I learned he and I share the same birthday! It felt like I’d won the lottery. How blessed was I to be born on his day? I knew from then on there had to be something special about my life too. I never met Mr. Mandela in the flesh, but I’ve always felt connected to him and his journey. His death is very hard to accept.
His story will be told over these next ten days many times, in so many ways but there will be the constant thread of a genuine man who fought every day of his life for other people. Even in his final years, he fought to stay alive, I believe, for those of us here on earth. But at last, he doesn’t have to fight. He can rest. He fought the good fight – for others and for himself. As his body is laid to rest here on earth, may his spirit forever be at peace in glory.