A Legacy of Freedom
‘It is an idea for which I am prepared to die.’
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me
I have stood upon the very spot where Nelson Mandela was captured for his dream of a free South Africa. I, a young black woman, have walked along beaches which twenty years ago were ‘whites only’ zones. I have taught children born in 1994 poetry, and understood what it means to be a ‘South African Freedom Baby’. Like the rest of the world, I sat shocked on the 5th December 2013 at the news that Nelson Rolihlala Mandela was dead.
The first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, what Nelson Mandela represented was more than a Nobel Peace prize, more than a freedom fighter or a political activist. He was a visionary, the embodiment of hope.
Discriminated against because of the colour of his skin, Mandela fought for the liberation of the black South African people so that they could be equal participants in the running of their country, in the sharing of their nation’s wealth. He was persecuted for that vision, labelled a terrorist, a dissenter and incarcerated for over 27 years. Yet in 1994, that idea, which he was prepared to give his life for, began to come true.
[column-break]Over the next few months, our media stations, Facebook timelines and Twitter accounts will be inundated with tributes, memorial quotes and pleasantries aimed at honouring a dead hero. Idris Elba is likely to be shortlisted for an Oscar for his portrayal of Mandela in the biopic A Long Walk To Freedom, whilst the film itself will no doubt smash box office records. Yet, whilst Mandela’s life is commercialised and his famous speeches memorised, let us not forget that he is still alive.
Nelson Rolihlala Mandela’s body has departed, but his vision still burns brightly. It is a vision of hope, it is a legacy of freedom that has been entrusted to us to continue. In the mid 1960’s another man, Martin Luther King Jnr, had a similar vision; yet in the 1990’s segregation still existed in South Africa. Today we remember the end of South African apartheid, yet segregation still exists today, and wherever segregation exists so does Mandela’s vision for the end of such injustice.
Let us not mourn his departure, but rather rejoice in the existence of his life. And as we honour him, and honour his fight for freedom, let us ask ourselves, what is the next battle to be won? Where does injustice and oppression still exist today? In the eyes of the apartheid government Nelson Mandela was a nobody, without power or a voice. Yet he became a somebody who not only changed a nation, but changed our world. So let us set out on our own long walk to freedom, let us shine brighter with the hope of transformation, knowing that we too are powerful beyond measure. Let us continue to usher in a new era of freedom and justice for all, no matter how small we think we are. Let us continue to shine like stars in the universe.
Let us become people who bring hope to the hopeless.
Words: Justina Kehinde