Nelson Mandela, who shattered the chains of apartheid in South Africa and became a courier for the country’s new multi-racial democracy, passed away December 5. As an international icon of social justice and peace, Mandela inspired generations of people from across the globe and every walk of life to fight injustice and break down barriers. Mandela’s determination and courage in the face of adversity and suffering resonates with us all at Solid Ground – in our work and personal lives. We would like to take a moment to honor his life and mourn his passing.
A word from Gordon McHenry Jr., President & CEO of Solid Ground:
“This week, the world paused to reflect, respect and rejoice the life of Nelson Mandela. It is appropriate and necessary that Solid Ground do the same, for his legacy is directly relevant to our mission of empowerment and equity for those who are suffering from racism and oppression. He modeled the behaviors that reflect the values of Solid Ground – courage, perseverance, leadership, integrity and compassion.
“Nelson Mandela was a warrior for social justice who developed strategies and tactics that were confrontational, caused discomfort and often controversial; actions that were ultimately successful in achieving long-overdue fundamental changes to benefit persons of color in southern Africa and throughout the world. He was a liberator of people who were oppressed and those who inflicted the oppression; he helped create the world’s 25th largest nation-state, and he succeeded in achieving reconciliation and collaborative leadership.
“I am sad that he is no longer with us, but I rejoice because he has given us a legacy which, if we follow, will enable our region to achieve the noble goal where all of our residents have access to equal justice and opportunities to thrive. I will always be grateful for the life and gifts of Nelson Mandela.”
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life … Recognize the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision … Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
Kira Zylstra, Stabilization Services Director, shared her sentiments about Mandela and what the above quote signifies to her: “In my mind, I don’t know that anyone can inspire and motivate people for positive change like Nelson Mandela. I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa during my studies in college and again several years ago. I was moved by the people I met and by the obvious impact that Mandela had on improving such extreme injustices in South Africa and across the world. I am amazed at his ability to continue to pursue what is right and just amongst so much adversity. His words here are simple and clear because the importance of overcoming poverty is simple; it is ‘an act of justice.’ ”
Celestine Berrysmith, King Co. Housing Stability Project Case Manager, writes a farewell to Nelson Mandela:
“There are few people who are truly extraordinary visionaries. Nelson Mandela was one of those people. His vision to end apartheid in Africa was a vision of monumental proportions, and only his commitment and dedication, his complete belief in the cause, sense of integrity, and selflessness allowed him to be successful in achieving his dream. His focus on achieving this goal put his life in danger on many occasions, as well as taking him away from those he loved for many years, yet he moved forward with his vision, not allowing fear to cloud the way. In doing so, he changed the world. This action, and the way he lived his life, were an example to me that shines a light on how to achieve my own goals. The way he lived his life also shows me how to model positive behavior for the upcoming generation.”
Steve Thornton, Network Administrator, expresses that he was “lucky enough to have seen the great man, in Boston in 1990. I was literally a mile away; he was a speck in the distance, and a slightly larger speck on one of the giant TVs they had placed on barges in the Charles River. But the size of that crowd, and his words, and the feeling that day engendered in everyone who was there, made me weep. He directly changed the world, utterly changed it, and that doesn’t happen very often. A colossus.”
In his article “Remembering Nelson Mandela,” EJ Juarez, Development & Communications Coordinator with the Statewide Poverty Action Network, recalls that “Nelson Mandela, known affectionately by his Xhosa tribal name Madiba, was making world history while I was watching Ninja Turtles. My first awareness of Mandela was a drawing of him, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks holding hands above the chalkboard. The teacher always mentioned him, but there was no picture book, no video or worksheet to help my 8-year-old self understand the substantial impact he would make on the world as I was growing up.
“We never seemed to see the revolution when it happened. I was too young, but I feel it now. Unfortunately, our children always hear of the hero afterwards. I wish I could have had him as a role model as a child. Mandela’s life was seemingly built for the idealism of youth. He took the system and shook it with a vibrancy and grace that produced worldwide impact.”
We’ll close these reflections with the following quote, read at Solid Ground on December 6 at 2pm, prior to a request by our agency’s Black Affinity Group for a moment of silence in honor of Nelson Mandela.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this 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 achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
-Nelson Mandela, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964