Nelson Mandela And How He Changed My Life

It was February 11, 1990, ten days after my sixth birthday. Even at that young age I was aware of politics and justice way beyond my years. I thank my grandmother who was herself deeply involved in equality herself. She having attended Megdar Evers College with Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's wife years before. On the television in front of me I was watching Nelson Mandela walk out of jail after 27 years. As a young boy I knew that I was watching history and would never see something like it again. This man was important to me even at six years old. Years later it became clear to me why he was.

As Mandela continued his path to the presidency of South Africa and beyond I marveled at what he was able to do. His work on ending apartheid inspired in me the belief that being a servant of the people and aiming to create equality was not only noble but necessary. As I navigated the worlds of predominantly black and brown schools and then predominantly white schools Nelson Mandela's work became even more salient. His example of leadership more profound. The reason for that is because the United States of America has a history so closely tied with South Africa that one could not be amazed and feel a personal investment with his greatness. Apartheid is kindred spirits with slavery and Jim Crow. The anti apartheid movement siblings with the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are cut from the same cloth. And at this moment they are all holding court with the ancestors. 

Nelson Mandela beyond any man has shown me what leadership and sacrifice truly looks like. I can not imagine spending 27 years in jail and coming out more steeled and more passionate about changing the lives of people. Last year I picked up A Long Walk To Freedom. I picked it up knowing deep down that Mandela didn't have long to live. It was my way of wanting to keep his life alive and hear from the man himself about his life and journey. I have read more books than I can count. This book ranks right up there with any that I have read. It put everything into perspective. And I recommend it greatly.

His life is a living testimony to the words of the great theologian St. Ignatius of Loyola to set the world aflame. The flame of Nelson Mandela will burn for eternity. It will continue to be a shining light, a beacon in the treacherous oceans of inequality and injustice. He has irrevocably changed the course of this world. And his impact on this 29 year old man has irrevocably shaped who I have become and who I will forever be. Madiba thank you. You may have departed this earth but you will not die. The great ones don't. They live on in the lives of those they leave behind. They live on by those who continue the work that they did. They live on because the inevitably of death is too small to hold their impact back. Sleep well King and allow your princes and princesses to continue what you have done. As your chariot carries you home may the angels that await you in heaven greet you warmly. You are truly free now Madiba. Long live the King.


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