As we say ‘Goodbye’ to our beloved leader in the struggle, Nelson Mandela, it brings to mind these words of Rev. Dr. King, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Arcs begin with a climb, reach their epoch at their highest point and then travel back down to earth. This is an illustration of life in general and the pattern of the moral universe. Mr. Mandela provided us with a current example of what it means to live this type of life.
In the beginning of any phase of life, we must climb. The length, height and jaggedness of the climb can be intimidating, but when you know that you have to climb, you prepare for it, pray about it and then do it.
When Mandela struggled to climb the arc of the moral universe, he was met with brutality, false charges and arrest, but he kept climbing. Even in jail on Robben Island, he climbed such that he began to discuss a future of a just South Africa with some of the very people who put him there.
In 27 years of imprisonment, people of the world protested his imprisonment and the circumstances that caused it, and this seemed to give him and the movement the strength to keep fighting up the slope of the arc.
In 1990, he and we reached a moral epoch when Mr. Mandela was released from prison. When Mr. Mandela came to Los Angeles, we felt the joy and blessing of the ‘mountain top experience,’ the feeling that we all, as one people, had accomplished freeing him.
When we are on the mountaintop, the top of the arc of the moral universe, we’re so happy and content that we want to stay there forever, but what goes up must come down. And, one thing that’s for sure is that the down slope moves a lot faster.
Mr. Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and elected President of South Africa in 1994. Black Americans were enslaved in this country 300 years, segregated through Jim Crow laws for another 100 years, but 44 years after getting the right to vote, we elected a African-American man President of the United States, 24 years after South Africa elected President Mandela.
These are examples of Rev Dr. King’s words ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’
Brothers and sisters, if we are willing to work towards justice for all even at the expense of our own personal lives, justice for all will be accomplished.
It’s our turn to climb the arc now. Let’s climb it together.