Summer solstice 2013, the longest day of the year, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela returns to critical care and the world prays the sun will not yet set on our beloved Father of Freedom. I use the term “our” beloved Father of Freedom, because the life and story behind Nelson Mandela is one that touches and inspires millions of people around the world, outside of South Africa as well as within the country. His legacy is such that truly, should our beloved Father of Freedom, our hero, leave us now; tears will flow freely from around the globe and the grief will be shared, by all of those touched by the power of his Spirit and the momentous size of his heart.
""His work and legacy we recognize Nelson Mandela as not only a Father to a great nation, but also a Father to a movement that continues to inspire us all. – D.L. Chandler 2012""
As difficult as it is to accept, that perhaps it is Mandela’s time to leave us, and to be embraced by his ancestors; we have his story, we share his memories, and we prepare ourselves to say a final thank you and good-bye to this famous freedom fighter and former President of South Africa.
"“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 only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”"
Was it his willingness to die for what he believed in, that enamours our deepest respect? Is it the kindness and wisdom shining his eyes, that makes us feel awe struck by the man? Is it the eloquence of his speech or his writing that fills us up and inspires us to reach for something better within ourselves? Or perhaps it is the sheer tenacity and will power behind the man’s story that stirs us to realize that love is a force that can sustain us through any trial, and see us to greater glory. Maybe it is a combination of all of this, and more, that created a singular unique soul vibration, and human being whose life was a testimony to the inherent power within us all to change the world by changing ourselves.
“"As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela""
It is for these reasons, and so many more, that we the people of the earth, from all four corners, come together in the spirit of unity that he loved so much, to comfort one another, and to celebrate the memories of Nelson Mandela, our beloved Father of Freedom, We Salute you Madiba!
Mandela is seen here 2 months after being released from South African prison, after spending 27 years as a political prisoner. He was jailed under the Apartheid regime, led by P.W. Botha as a terrorist and member of the militant wing of the ANC the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Mandela was 45 years old when he entered Robben Island, where he contracted tuberculosis while working the quarry. Although he was in his early seventies before he was released, his strength of character and determination saw him rise from the ashes of oppression and imprisonment to lead a new South Africa. The crowd cheers for him for a full 6 minutes before he is able to speak.
Surely, the soul and spirit of Nelson Mandela was destined for greatness, and it was his path to be one of the many leaders whose personal sacrifice would pay the cost for revolution and legitimate freedom for the majority Black African population of South Africa. Anyone familiar with the history of South Africa cannot help but wonder, what conversations, debates and political discussions would have been held between Nelson Mandela and Steven Biko, had the Apartheid system not killed Biko in 1977. Although both men were active in the struggle, and well known anti-apartheid activists, they held somewhat different beliefs and perspectives on the future of South Africa.
"“in contrast to more multi-racialist ANC leaders such as Nelson Mandela after his imprisonment at Robben Island… Biko saw the struggle to restore African consciousness as having two stages, “Psychological liberation” and “Physical liberation”".
Steven Biko was banned under Apartheid, which meant he was not able to meet with more than one person at a time, could not speak in public, nor with the media, nor publish materials. It was illegal to quote him, or repeat fragments of conversations with him. It was through white liberal journalist Donald Woods and his sacrifice to leave South Africa for the U.K that the book Biko was published, and the movie Cry Freedom was produced. I recall being fourteen years old watching Cry Freedom when it came out, and for the first time learning about what Apartheid was. That was the first time I heard the names of Steven Biko, and later Nelson & Winnie Mandela.
Tonight on the summer solstice, I sit with these memories and consider how they influenced me, how I will teach my children their stories and inspire and motivate them to move beyond any injustice, and to stand up and speak for that which they know is right. That which they know is their god-given inherent rights as human beings, and to have the courage that these great leaders demonstrated. Tonight on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, I join with millions of concerned people, in quiet reflection, prayers and memories for Mandiba, Nelson Mandela, our beloved Father of Freedom, from our heart and souls we salute you.