Today is Mandela Day, an international celebration in honor of Nelson Mandela, a man who wrote an important page in history and now, more than ever, in the history of humankind. Today we praise his courage, his profound humanity, his perseverance and his insatiable commitment to equality that earned him the Nobel Peace prize in 1993. The story of Madiba (as he was known) is a story that should be studied and shared; especially the more painful moments. Because, as often happens, the emotions you feel when you see a hero of our times wounded hits you too late. Let us never forget that Mandela spent 27 years in prison. He was accused of sabotage and high treason and received the death sentence. For almost three decades he was locked away in conditions one cannot even imagine. Everyone knew, but this did not prevent a man who was fighting for equality between blacks and whites from spending a third of his life in prison like a dangerous criminal.
One wonders how many Mandelas are still locked up in prisons on the planet; how many women and how many men have been deprived of their freedom because of their commitment to protect human rights; how many women and how many men are arrested as criminals when their only “crime” is denouncing abuse, corruption, repression, limitations on freedom and the denial of rights. There are cases unknown to us, left on the backburners in the most remote places in the world , while others are public domain which is why the commitment to defending freedom and human rights should never stop.
Mandela inspired and continues to inspire men and women from all walks of life. And to honor his teachings it is important to always have an open heart and mind.
To prevent the memory of Nelson Mandela from becoming hypocritical, we must find the courage to read his words and remember what his life was like for thirty years. Following is an excerpt from his autobiography:
Like everything else in prison, diet is discriminatory. (…)
For supper, Coloured and Indian prisoners received a quarter loaf of bread (known as a katkop, that is, a cat’s head, after the shape of the bread) and a slab of margarine. Africans, it was presumed, did not care for bread as it was a “European” type of food. (…)
So color-conscious were the authorities that even the type of sugar and bread supplied to whites and nonwhites differed: white prisoners received white sugar and white bread, while Coloured and Indian prisoners were given brown sugar and brown bread.
From The long Walk to Freedom, the Autobiography of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela – first published in 1994 by Little, Brown & Co.