Courtesy of EBONY.com
On December 5th, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as Tata Madiba to some, transitioned to the ancestral realm. His name rings in many corners of the globe and on Tuesday he was memorialized in South Africa, but his relevance and importance to global and local freedom struggles cannot be underestimated. In the past few days, many accounts have sought to paint him as both revolutionary and peaceful, anti-establishment, as well as establishmentarian—the truth is that in 95 his years Mandela was all of these things. Through my own lens as an African-American with Pan-Africanist sensibilities, his diverse personas lent me insight into what “a long walk to freedom” looked like and why we all must engage in the process of creating, not only more just communities, but a more just world.
I first heard Nelson Mandela’s name as a child when discussions of apartheid in South Africa pulsed across the television screen. At the time, no one in my household was particularly educated on the politics of apartheid so his name was one of many that was heard but did not resonate. He became immortalized in my memory one Thursday night when Sondra and Elvin of the Cosby show named their twins Winnie and Nelson, which I learned was in honor of Winnie and Nelson Mandela who were married at the time, but physically separated by his incarceration. For me, like many in my generation, the name Nelson Mandela started as a symbol. Over time we would discover the substance of the man, his struggles, crusades, and that for which he stood.