December 5th was a day of gladness and sadness. The day began with celebrating my father’s 83rd birthday. The day ended with mourning the death of the father of a nation, Madiba.
Both these men impacted my life profoundly. One brought me into life, the other brought liberation to my life!
For the first time since my departure from South Africa in 1990, I had two conversations with my dad on the same day. The first one was about celebrating his life. Our second was about remembering the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.
“I will remember his sacrifice and service, courage and commitment that enabled me to vote for the first time in life at age 64,” my dad said. I could hear in his voice a renewed sense of dignity and possibility. A real and robust possibility that South Africa will realize the dreams of her father.
Growing up in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was a mystery man to many of us. The apartheid government did all to either erase him from, and/or re-interpret him in the second-hand pedagogical discourse we had access to.
Moreover, the government took an extreme revisionist disposition towards the movement for freedom and dignity for all South Africans.
However, for many of us, there was education in the classrooms, and education in the room called life. This education was characterized by discrimination, dehumanization, oppression and marginalization.
Through banned books, outlawed curriculum and whispering voices, Nelson Mandela transitioned from a mystery man to a man on a mission to restore dignity and equality to everyone, and Ubuntu in all the land.
This mission and movement has infected and affected my life in unexpected and unexplained ways. As I find myself at the intersection of South Joburg and South Los Angeles, I am persuaded that the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela must continue to inspire voice and vision, connect hearts and hands, and fortify feet towards the beloved community of dignity and equality.
Nelson Mandela envisioned such a community as one where supremacy has no place. He connected this vision upon entering prison in 1964 and when he walked out of prison in 1990.
He said, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for, and to see realized. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Equality for all was an unapologetic commitment of Nelson Mandela. He had a sense that equality was an inextricable thread connecting humanity into a poly-cultural garment of destiny. A collective covenant to equality is a sacred calling to restore human dignity.
Given his commitment to humanity, dignity and equality, Nelson Mandela believed in the power and purpose of forgiveness. He embodied the collective consequences of fear grounded in ignorance and indifference for the uniquely ‘other.’
Having seen and experienced such inhumanity, he believed that forgiveness is a path to wholeness.
Mandela promoted forgiveness and goodness as paths leading towards inner and outer beauty. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness; instead, it’s a strategic practice to reclaim the greatness God has called you to achieve.
We must continue to develop a courageous and audacious faith, and deploy fortitude for the long haul. Though long, the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela is confirmation that history’s crescent leans towards the mountaintop of equality and dignity for everyone.
Therefore, let us embrace and embody Nelson Mandela’s legacy of courage, commitment and compassion. Let us connect with this great legacy to facilitate communities of Shalom – restoring right relationships of dignity and equality, so that wholeness and peace cover the American landscape.