Happy Birthday Madiba
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is often affectionately referred to as Madiba, his Xhosa clan name. Madiba turns 94 this year and it surely will be celebrated not only in South Africa but all over the world. I myself have celebrated his birthday over the years and use it as a time to reach out to family and friends I may have lost touch with in the spirit of unification and love-- two guiding principles of Madiba’s. I also use the holiday as an opportunity to reflect on the times we live in and my efforts to alleviate the pain of oppression, promote the solutions, and support the dream of love and unity in our world.
I was a child when I began reading about Apartheid South Africa and even then I knew it was a nightmare. I couldn’t make sense of the rules and policies of a land in Africa that was so unfair to native Africans.
I remember the older men in my family proclaiming their love and admiration for Nelson Mandela. My uncle would repeatedly call him a “genius” and my father would emphasize that, “He was a freedom fighter who stayed true to his people, all African people.”
When Nelson Mandela began his fight for justice, a Black man speaking up for fairness was out of the question. Yet, it made sense for someone whose tribal name was Rolihlahla’ which translates directly as ‘Troublemaker.’
On August 5, 1962 Nelson Mandela began to serve 27 years in prison for his fight for justice in South Africa with the African National Congress (ANC) for acts deemed as “treason” by the ruling all white party.
What stands out for me was the moment In 1985 when President PW Botha offered Mandela his freedom on the sole condition he reject violence as a political weapon. Mandela refused, asking the question via his daughter Zindzi, “What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned?” It’s one of many moments where Mandela could’ve and probably should've, but refused. His commitment to justice was unwavering.
On April 27th, 1994 South Africa held its first multiracial elections. The ANC won 62% of the votes and Mandela was inaugurated on May 10th as the country’s first Black president. I dream of that day, imagining what it would have been like to be there.
The beauty of Madiba is he represents something different to everyone. The person waiting but working towards his/her big break, the organizer working on a issue close to home, or the first generation student fighting through the trials and tribulations of college. His story of perseverance can be translated and honored by everyone regardless of color, age, or religious background.
Nelson Mandela means all that to me. He was a dreamer, innovator, and fighter. If you get an email from me you will see a Nelson Mandela quote in my signature which reads
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
For me as a communicator, this quote speaks to me and gives purpose and vision for my work.
This year the loved statesman, who has been hospitalised twice in as many years, will be at his rural childhood home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape province, where he has moved “for good” from the city.
His birthday is now recognized as Nelson Mandela International Day during which individuals and organizations around the world are encouraged to give 67 minutes of community service in honour of the 67 years Mandela has served society. I choose to also recognize the number 27 in recognition of 27 years in prison Mandela served. This has special relevance to me since as a 27 year old, his prison time equals my whole life.
I ask that you think of both numbers and share a story of Madiba with someone today. Use his story to inspire and liberate. And make a commitment to give at least 67 minutes to your community in his honor.
Happy Birthday Madiba!
*Some information referenced from the South African Magazine
Nov 14, 2012
Oct 02, 2012
Sep 18, 2012
Jul 20, 2012