Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Late Afternoon in London (Remembering Nelson Mandela)

It was late June 1989. I was 17 years old, in London for the first time, and staying in the Earl's Court section of the city. On this particular day, I was checking out the city and having a great time being bombarded by everything new (sights, smells, sounds etc.). It was late afternoon and I was walking close to Trafalgar Square. I heard music, loud music blaring from big speakers and the music seemed festive. I was drawn to the tune and the scene and I had to go check it out. As I approached the source of the sound, I saw 3 people, an Indian woman, a Black woman, and a White male and later as we got to talking, I learned they were all of British descent. They all carried clipboards in their hands that contained large sheafs of paper attached to them. Behind them was the South Africa High Commission South Africa House (The South African Embassy) and their clipboards contained signatures from people all over the world demanding the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. As I struck up a conversation with the three people, they informed me that for the past few years, there was someone standing vigil 24/7 in front of the South Africa High Commission collecting signatures for Mandela's release and this would continue until he was finally released. What struck me other than the diversity of the three, which I'm sure would have pleased Mr. Mandela was their conviction to a cause in which they truly believed. This touched me and obviously made an impression because I remember this moment so vividly 25 years later. I couldn't stop thinking about the impact this man (Mandela) made on others. I was also struck by the seriousness of purpose of the three people, but at the same time, I dug the fact that they were playing festive music, The Specials (One of my favorite groups) classic song, "Free Nelson Mandela," and enjoying informing people about the petition and getting people to sign.

After this experience, I followed South African events more closely. I was ecstatic upon the release of Mr. Mandela on February 11, 1990 and the dismantling of apartheid. And, jubilant at South Africa's first free elections on April 27, 1994 and Mr. Mandela's inauguration as South Africa's first Black President in May 1994. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to witness those achievements in my lifetime.

I look back to that late afternoon in London, June 1989 fondly.

"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. 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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."- Nelson Mandela

1 comment:

Michael Beasley said...

Been thinking about this since his passing.

Do you remember this? I feel like it was just yesterday.