Today is the 18th of July. On this day in…
64, the Great Fire of Rome begins under the Emperor Nero
In 1980, Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” album tops US charts, featuring “It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me”
In 1976, Nadia Comăneci, age 14, becomes the first gymnast in Olympic Games history to score a perfect 10 (doing so 7 times) at the Montreal Games
In 1992, a picture of Les Horribles Cernettes (a pop group parody) was taken, which became the first-ever photo posted on the World Wide Web.
And, most importantly to us, in 1918 a wonderful man was born – a man by the name of Nelson Mandela.
Today is the birthday of Nelson Mandela– he would have been 104 today. Madiba’s birthday is about celebrating his life and, once again, like a compass, returning to his lessons and letting his knowledge guide us through our years as South Africans and as people of the world.
A Quick History Of Madiba
Nelson Mandela was an activist who dedicated most of his life to dismantling racism. He went from starting the nation’s first black law firm in 1964, to the world’s most famous political prisoner of 27 years; from South Africa’s first black president to being awarded a Noble Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela guided South Africa from apartheid into a time of reconciliation and majority rule. Over his 27 years spent in prison, Madiba became the globe’s best-known political prisoner. Mandela led the country as president for five years. After leaving office in 1999, Mandela spent the rest of his life working to help poverty and raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. He passed away in 2013 at age 95 but his name and story will always live on. His birthday is now known as Nelson Mandela International Day, a United Nations holiday that commemorates his service and sacrifice and his symbol of hope. It’s a reminder that Mandela’s work is not yet done — and that we need to continue his journey in a positive direction.
“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. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Mandela taught the Londolozi family first-hand about his thinking and way of living. Immediately following his release from prison, he visited Londolozi as a guest of the Varty family and stayed for weeks as part of a recuperation period before resuming his role as leader of the African National Congress. From that day, Londolozi has endeavored to live by and share his values. In 2009 Londolozi built Mandela’s Way (also known as Freedom’s Way)- a piece of land art by Simon Max Bannister that forms the central pathway through the Londolozi Village, lined with indigenous trees and shrubs, planted by the Londolozi Family over the years. Along the path are words carrying small reminders of Madiba’s values.
Just as this day comes along every year and reminds us of hope, so does nature. Just as the seeds of every plant lie dormant throughout winter, a seemingly vast and arid landscape explodes back to life after the yearly rains. This is a constant – we see this happen year after year. Just when we believe that this year will be different, and our sacred wilderness will be brown and dead forever, life begins to slowly and persistently return. And not only does it return, but it also becomes beautiful. Bright greens take over from dry browns. Burnt sections of earth sprout anew with fresh grasses. Flowers bud and bloom. Pollinators begin to return and spread new life.
Life, like hope, lies dormant. But it returns. That’s what nature reminds us of. And that’s what Madiba believed too when during his inauguration speech in 1994 he said:
“To my compatriots I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld. Each time one of us touches the soil of this land we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change. We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.
That spiritual and physical oneness we all share with this homeland explains the depth of the pain that we have all carried in our hearts as we saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict and as we saw it spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world, precisely because it has become the universal base of the pernicious ideology and practice of racism and racial oppression. We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil. We thank all our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity. We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.”
Mandela reminds us that from the darkness there will always be light. Even from the deepest devastation springs hope. He reminds us to turn to unity, to come together, especially at times when we feel most divided. Today we invite you to spend 67 minutes in service of others, one minute for every year that Mandela fought for human rights and social justice. Mandela Day is a reminder that everyone has the ability to make an impact and do something in their own way to change the world and the world of those around them. We would love to hear what you do with your 67 minutes in the comments section below.