Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Freedom

On July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa, a child was born. He was named Rolihlahla, which means “pulling the branch of a tree” in Xhosa. More commonly it is translated as “Troublemaker”. Rolihlahla earned that appellation many times over. 

Rolihlahla was the first in his family to go to school and, typical of the time, was given a Christian name there - Nelson. After completing his primary and secondary education, he went to Fort Hare, the only university that admitted blacks at the time. True to his moniker, it didn’t take long for trouble to find him. He was expelled for taking part in student protests and fled to Johannesburg. It was there that he was initiated into the life of politics that would consume him for the rest of his days.

By 1942, Nelson joined the African National Congress (ANC). He studied law and took every opportunity to speak for the rights of blacks. When the National Party formerly ushered in Apartheid (racial classification and separation) in 1948, he organized protests and strikes. The government noticed. They issued bans, arrests and jail time, but it didn’t stop him. 

In 1964, Nelson was sent to prison on Robben Island. He steadfastly believed in his cause and touted it until his release in 1990. Undeterred by the long years in prison, he commenced talks to end white-minority rule with President F.W. de Klerk. They earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. By 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president. 

The troublemaker finally made good.

***

This was my historical fiction submission for my creative writing class this week, I felt compelled to share it today, as it was a momentous day in Nelson Mandela's life; he was finally released from prison on February 11th, 1990 after spending 27 years behind bars.

Nelson Mandela believed in the equality of people, no matter their skin colour, and made enormous sacrifices for those beliefs. In so doing, he realized his goals, as Apartheid was struck down in theory by 1991. The multi-racial elections in 1994 were the true celebrations of its end though, as Mandela himself was elected President. What a reward for everything he had done. He was truly a brave and noble figure and accomplished all without inciting racism to battle racism, or bloodshed to vindicate shed blood.

South Africa, and indeed the world, is richer for having had Madiba in it.


- 46664 -

Nelson Mandela, Speech from the Dock, 20 April 1964
“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.”

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