Guest column/Remembering the sacrifices of Nelson Mandela

Once again we have embarked upon the commemoration of African-American culture and history. Within the years of degradation of slavery and also the proceeding years, we were labeled as colored, Negro and black respectively. However, whatever race that one may categorize us to be, we, as African-Americans have a history that has touched that of almost every major civilization since the beginning of recorded time.

Because the range of African and African-American history and culture is so vast, the profiles of many well-know figures, particularly in the fields of sports and entertainment, is certainly not limited. And, due to our phenomenal history, no one can run or entertain quite like and African-American.

As a people, we are godly proud to be African-American in the 21st century in spite of the difficult days, but always remember that “We’ve Come this Far by Faith,” and remember that the fight, or struggle, is far from over.

The great lion of African liberation who walked among us as a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, a politician, civil rights activist, lawyer and philanthropist, was Nelson Rolihlana Mandela.

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Mveso, Transkei, South Africa. Major turmoils and conflicts forced his mother to move the family to Quna, a smaller village north of Mveso. When Mandela was 9, his father died of lung disease, causing his life to change dramatically. He was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo – the acting regent of the Thembu people, a gesture done as a favor to Mandela’s father.

From the time Mandela came under the guardianship of Jongintaba, he was groomed to assume high office, not as chief, but as a counselor to one.

In 1939, Mandela enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare, which was considered to be Africa’s equivalent of the University of Oxford or Harvard University. A few weeks after Mandela returned home, Jongintaba announced that he had arranged a marriage for Mandela. Feeling trapped and shocked by the news, Mandela ran away from home and settled in Johannesburg, where he completed his bachelor’s degree. He then enrolled at the university of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to study law. He soon became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement, joining with the African National Congress.

In 1942, Mandela directed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. He founded the law firm of Mandela and Tambo.

In 1961, he orchestrated a three-day national workers’ strike and was arrested for leading the effort. He was sentenced to five years in prison. In 1963, Mandela was again brought to trial. He and 10 others were sentenced to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage, and incarcerated on Robben Island.

While still in prison, he learned of his mother’s death from a heart attack and of a car crash that killed his son. He was released from prison on Feb. 11, 1990. Mandela was awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending apartheid and moving the South African government toward democratic rule. In 1994, he was elected president of South Africa.

Mandela was a man of integrity. He knew exactly what he believed in and stood tall without wavering. He went to prison disillusioned, bewildered and upset. One cannot comprehend the fight of rejection when all that is before him is to make things better for people with equal justice under the law.

Are all men created equal? Is this true, or perhaps is it a myth? Mandela, the revered statesman, emerged from prison after 27 years and died at the age of 95.

All that he ever dreamed of was to work to make South Africa a colorless country. Mandela left prison with a smile. He was not angry or bitter – he maintained his integrity. He was a man of many quotes, but the most powerful one was when he said, “I hate race discrimination most intensely, and in all of its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life. I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”

Nelson Rolihlana Mandela -God bless you, as you are now resting with the ages. You fought a good fight and you finished your course.

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Keep us forever in the path,

We pray.

(Wiggins, a resident of Steubenville, is the president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus Inc.)