“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
On December 5th, 2013, the world lost one of its most principled heroes in the struggle against oppression. Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African politician, anti-apartheid revolutionary, and among many other things, a philanthropist who served as South Africa’s first fully representational and democratically elected President from 1994 to 1999. Mandela’s government focused on dealing with institutionalized racism, inequality of all strands, and fostered an environment where racial reconciliation was possible. Truly, this was affirmative and improvisational territory born out of Mandela’s love for justice. Politically an African Nationalist and a democratic socialist, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his unrelenting and activist position towards the abolition of apartheid. In 1993 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He is held in profound esteem around the world, and in South Africa he is often referred to as Tata (“Father”): “the father of the nation.”
Predictably, Canadian media coverage of Mandela’s death has been rather untrusthworthy, as it is important to remember that Mandela, while a man of peace, also commenced a three-decade-long armed struggle after non-violent avenues had been shut down. Further, while many people living in Canada did resist apartheid, the Canadian government only opposed the racist system rather late in the game. The fact remains, as Cecil Foster argues, that the apartheid model in South Africa was largely based on Canada’s successful colonization of First Nations people with the Canadian constitution providing a model to control the undesirables (Race 41; 95).
Mandela importantly remains a force who taught the world about the power of resistance, redress, and reconciliation.
Have a listen to South African jazz artist, Abdullah Ibrahim’s moving composition, Mandela (1985):
Also, check out this very touching Mandela tribute, which came from a rather unexpected place:
Foster, Cecil. Where Race Does Not Matter: The New Spirit of Modernity. Toronto: Penguin, 2005. Print.