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Nelson Mandela: Inspiring change

UBA OKEREKE and ROBYN H. JIMENEZ | 7/26/2013, 12:27 p.m.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2, 2009. Theana Calitz-Bilt

The Dallas Examiner

During the last seven decades, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has fought for human rights and peace in Africa and throughout the world.

Since 2009, every July 18, Mandela’s birthday, the United Nations joins a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day. Throughout South Africa, many participate in the day of service and celebration.

This year, State Rep. Helen Giddings led the effort to bring the celebration to Texas. The event was free and open to the public at the Hall of State at Fair Park. Slated as “It’s in Your Hands” Day, Texans were encouraged to be of service to humanity in some way, as Mandela was.

The former South African president and civil rights icon, who turned 95 last week, has been a life-long champion to end apartheid in South Africa since his days as a young activist fighting against injustice.

He was born as Rolihlahla Mandela in 1918 into the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Transkei, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela. His father died when he was a child and he became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni.

He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with custom to give all school children Christian names.

He later matriculated to Healdtown, a Wesleyan school in Fort Beaufort. Mandela began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College at Fort Hare, but was expelled because of participating in a student protest. He finished his degree at the University of London in 1943.

That year, Mandela joined the African National Congress and helped the organization form a youth league.

Mandela rose through the ranks of the African National Congress Youth League and was chosen as the president of the ANCYL in 1951.

In 1960, after almost 70 demonstrators were fatally shot during a protest of the laws, the country declared its first state of emergency and banned the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress.

In 1961, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, he secretly left the country to gather support for an armed movement that he was to lead. Seven months later, after returning to speak to the ANC president, he was arrested for incitement and leaving the country illegally. Mandela was sentenced to five years in the local prison at Pretoria before being transferred to the infamous prison at Robben Island on May 27, 1963, where he would be known as Prisoner 46664.

In October 1963, during what is known as the Rivonia Trial, he and nine other men were tried for sabotage, which carried a possible death penalty. During the long trial, his words to the court later became part of a famous speech.

“I have fought against White domination, and I have fought against Black domination,” Mandela asserted. “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.”