“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”― Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country's first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Apartheid means segregation, it was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterized by an authoritarian political culture based on white supremacy, which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation's minority white population. According to this system of social stratification, white citizens had the highest status, followed in descending order by Asians, Coloreds, and black Africans. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day. -Wikipedia free Encylopedia
People need to be heard and they ought to be heard. When their voice is not heard and their pain is not seen they often react and respond in a way that forces others to see them. This can go good or bad. Through protest humans express objection to an event or situation of unfair treatment. Some people march peacefully, others may just show up or sit or raise a sign, others display disapproval with action, some want to fight, throw things, burn things or rage in hopes that the world pays attention and asks what is happening over there and why? This was the case in South Africa in the mid 1900’s.
Protesters are first reactors, they are like the emotional brain and outbursts of humankind. They play an important role, however we must remember too that human emotion’s purpose is alerting us to a deeper issue. Protesting alone doesn’t solve any problems and if it goes on too long without constructive action it becomes ineffective. The world hears best with its eyes. People hundreds of miles away from a disaster may only pay attention to what they see in pictures on the news. Protesters let the world know that no one should sit by comfortably while injustice is being coddled in their world. Protesters are the loud and they are the noise, but only loud in comparison to the silence around them.
All people ought to be heard no matter their size , age or background. Sometimes a child has a ‘big message’. They need to be heard. Children are the most shameless protesters. If they cannot communicate their needs effectively using words, they will take action, in fact they become the action, forcing themselves to be seen and heard. A child will throw themselves on the floor, cry, scream and misbehave all in attempt to be heard. This desire is hard wired into humanity to be heard and to communicate need.
The goal of maturity and a sign of growth is to learn better ways to communicate. Mankind has a built in drive to make change to the discomforts felt or seen, to bring forth justice and build equity in the world. It takes a great leader to hear and see the underlying needs of people and know how to remedy a bad situation. Nelson was that leader. Not the kind of leader who simply gives in to loud demands, but he saw the deeper need , he heard the root cry and worked to educate people on a better way to be heard and to move forward and make change a reality.
Nelson Mandela was a man who desired justice, but the law system in South Africa was tainted with segregation and an authoritarian political culture fueled by white supremacy. Their country was fractured and the majority felt it deeply. The country of South and west Africa and in particular the city of Johannesburg was a racial war zone between white and black peoples. For 5o years peaceful protests had not accomplished the change and equality the black population deserved and needed to live comfortably and securely. They were frustrated. Nelson rose up against injustice with a streak of violent acts. He was arrested for making and using explosives. He pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for 27 years. Twenty Seven years is the better half of a lifetime. While he was in prison the divide between colors widened and riots tore through the city as the norm. Towards the end of his sentence Nelson was called upon for negotiations with an all white political party, Eventually these same men would agree to serve South Africa alongside and under Mendala, the government had summoned him to give them advice and they were willing to listen. this was just the spear head needed to begin social reform. When he was released from prison the city of Johannesburg was in an unmanageable state of street violence and chaos. and ripe for Nelson’s unconventional leadership.
“Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Although critics on the right denounced him as a communist terrorist and those on the far-left deemed him too eager to negotiate and reconcile with apartheid’s supporters, he gained international acclaim for his activism. Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honours—including the Nobel Peace Prize” WIKIPEDIA. The collaboration between two different colors of people defied the social norms of the day but something different had to be entertained in order to bring back a state of security and restore order. Nelson became a bridge , the alternative between two race groups and a voice heard amidst violence and oppression. He condemned both the violence and the white supremacy realizing neither would lead the way forward into freedom. He presented another option. He made a new way.
I love this. I love that this man left prison forgiving his oppressors rather than resenting them. He refused to let bitterness keep him in a self governing prison of his own making. It was the unconventional ways that led to freedom. I love that he rose from the lowest of criminals to the highest of leaders. The first black president of South Africa.
I drew Nelson because of his rise from prisoner to president. He reminded me of a man named Joseph in the bible who started out as Egypt’s slave and ended up as her ruler. In humbling himself he accomplished a more peaceful existence around him and saved the lives of many people. Freedom is not purchased with hate but forgiveness. We need a Nelson Mandela right now, we need a Joseph.
Weapons will not ease the tensions or bring about the kind of peace mankind needs. Jesus Christ was a lamb led to the slaughter silently, He laid down his power and weapons as the King of Creation and made peace a possibility through sacrifice not rioting. I do not know what Mendala’s religion and faith looked like, but I do know he was willing to forgive rather than get revenge. The shouts are necessary to get the attention of the world, but the forgiveness is necessary to lead the world to change. people must be willing to change if they want change to occur.
The people of Johannesburg wanted to fight, they wanted revenge, this is the human way, when needs are present, it is the normal instinct that all peoples have when they are angry, grieved and ignored. Nelson wanted freedom but not by violence, freedom not vengeance, freedom more than he wanted anything else, for himself and for South Africa. Dead men are not free to live, wounded men are not free to move forward , convicted men are not free to make choices. Fighting would not bring the kind freedom he sought , oppression would not bring peace and freedom, but voting might. Equal voting rights could bring the change so desperately needed.
Nelson gave the South African black population something to aim at. He empowered them to change the situation. Gandhi is famous for saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Nelson Mandela recognized in order to break the cycle of hate and anger, he had to become better than those who behaved badly, not the same. If the white men were treating them badly, they needed to be better than that. Be the change. Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point says that the tipping point is when small changes make a dramatic difference and that even small ideas in the right place at the right time can be more contagious than the FLU. If people want to see change first they need to be that small change. Make that small change and talk about, it let it become a contagion. New York City’s crime tipped dramatically in the 1990’s starting with a plan to remove graffiti. Paul Revere starting the american revolution after one stable boy told him a secret he overheard and “the British are coming” turned into the shot heard round the world. If we want to see change in our world we only need to make a small change, commit to a small difference and Nelson was willing to do just that. Treat people the way he wanted to see all people be treated. When Ruby Bridges, at 6 years old, walked through a crowd of hateful people casting insults and spitting on her, she prayed for them every day. They spit on her and she prayed for them . Jesus Prayed for his persecutors and so Ruby prayed for hers. “Forgive them” such a small act. Did it change them, or her? She was willing to be better then those who hurled hateful speech at her, she was willing to be different and she made a difference. We all need to change and learn to do things differently, not just one group or one person, but its might start with one person.
All peoples are created in the image of One God therefore all are an equal reflection of that One God. It is only when we deny God as Creator that we begin to lose sight of that unity. The only distinction and restriction that God made on any man was sin not race. It was always behavior within the heart he addressed.
The people of Africa wanted weapons in order to be seen and noticed, but Nelson Mandela gave them a voice to be heard. He gave them a vote to affect leadership and he gave them courage to forgive, an example to follow and a key to their freedom. Forgiveness accomplishes change in the men who utilize its power, what it does not do is approve or excuse wrong behavior. With their votes and voices and great rejoicing the people of Johannesburg elected Nelson Mandela as the first black president of South Africa. Nelson Mandela deserves to be remembered that is why I drew him. He inspires me to be not a peace keeper, but a peace maker.
As we watched the Nelson Mandela story, Long Walk to Freedom, my phone kept pinging with news alerts. Reports were coming in of real time street violence in America. As I learned about racial division in South Africa in the 50’s and 60’s, I was watching it live in my back yard of Boston. Perhaps things haven’t changed in total. We need someone to rise up who will lead with peace and give understanding where there is none, arm humanity with love and forgiveness and open the eyes of the blind to bring truth, otherwise we will continue generation after generation to revisit the same sort of race wars, cultural wars, gender wars, religious or political wars. The people around us are not the problem it is the sin within that needs to be addressed. This is the alternative I believe will be most effective, yes social reform is valuable , but more importantly a heart transformation is necessary.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ― Nelson Mandela