Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a founding father of the democratic Republic of South Africa, in the words of Dylan Thomas, went gently into that good night after a long rage against the light’s dying. His ninety-five years of life spanned the course of most of the 20th century and the first decade of the new millennium. In today’s memorial service in South Africa, President Barack Obama highlighted that Mandela was born in the first World War era and that he began his freedom struggle in the Cold War years. Those of us in this country old enough to remember the Reagan and Clinton years will recall how South African apartheid, that evil institution, carried devastating similarities to the Jim Crow systems of domination blacks and others suffered under here. Not long after most of de jure segregation was dismantled by the modern Civil Rights Movement, children and grandchildren of those freedom fighters, themselves now the beneficiaries of an imperfectly integrated nation, understood with urgency the import of global white supremacy. Racism wasn’t just America’s original sin; its depravity showed up all around the world. To be sure, many US activists were globally conscious in taking seriously Martin King’s declaration that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere. A younger Obama was introduced to activism and community organizing through the American movement against apartheid’s sinister injustice.
As I reflected on Mandela’s life and legacy, and his impact on those of us born after the Cold War, I came across a brilliant piece over at Uppity Negro Network that is most fitting as a Millennial memorial to the Tree Shaker. Please find it below: