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Mandela: From Prisoner To President

Mandela: From Prisoner To President - WSS Newspaper

I was in Tucson Arizona on that unforgettable Sunday morning in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison as I sat transfixed when he was sworn in as South Africa’s first democratically-elected president who happened to be a black man. His death on December 5 made me recount the times and ways he had touched my life.
I became more conscious of the man when the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), under the leadership of president Dr. Dorothy I. Height, urged the membership to support Winnie Mandela who was being persecuted by the government while her husband suffered at Robbin Island. I was aware of apartheid and the ANC already; and wanted to know more about the man and the plight of his people. I read two books by South African writer, Mark Mathabane, who painted a starkly brutal picture of life for black people in the country.
In 1985, I attend the UN Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi, Kenya with the NCNW where we met 20 South African women who were there without the consent of their government and did not know what would happen to them when they returned home. They said they did not care as they would rather be dead than continue to live the harsh conditions imposed on them. They were inspired by the courageous resistance practiced by Mandela and our delegation discussed the situation with the ladies several times.
Following the conference, our group visited the small country landlocked by South Africa: Swaziland, a kingdom never colonized by a foreign power; we had to go through Johannesburg to get to the country. The women there had replicated the NCNW’s Mississippi Pig Project and we were there to see their progress. We visited with the wives of the king who applauded our joint venture. We talked about the women who were selling their livestock in South Africa, they said “We are neighbors-not friends” and they identified with the struggles of Mandela and his people, but had no other market for their product.
On the way home we encountered a heavy police presence in the Johannesburg airport and I checked the newspaper which stated “BOTHA DECLARES EMERGENCY”. Dr. Height suggested we all buy a paper as it could mean we were seeing the beginning of the end to apartheid, but no one could have predicted that only five years later the end would come. In the meantime, NCNW joined the movement to divest in South Africa.
The local NCNW led a large group to the Los Angeles Coliseum to see Nelson and Winnie Mandela during their American tour where thousands of cheering devotees welcomed the couple to the southland. Soon after  I discovered his biography, “Long Walk to Freedom”  which I highly recommend. It reveals an extraordinary man who never lost his dignity under oppression, one who studied his captors and used what he learned to outwit them and win them over. The book has recently been made into a movie featuring British actor, Idris Elba. Readers will learn a lot about the country, as well as the man.
The most important encounter I had was up close and personal, early into the new century, around the year 2000, I had gone to Washington DC for a Workforce Development meeting and called Dr. Height to chat. She invited me to be her guest at a high level international function that night. Thanks to Dr. Height, I got to meet Nelson Mandela, Gracla Marchal, who was being honored,  and Bishop Tutu. Mandela was a tall, stately man whose eyes exuded brilliance and he looked right at you as if you were important to him. Oh what a night! President Mandela said, “It is not that I have no fear but that I had to act in spite of my fear”. That was the same attitude the 20 women exhibited in Nairobi.
It was the book that finally gave me the in depth view of the man and I encourage readers to read the three books I referred to earlier: The Long Walk to Freedom and African Women by Mathabane.  (Written by Lois J. Carson, San Bernardino resident)

Remembering a Legend: Nelson Mandela

A young member of the Matibolo Cultural Troupe poses in front of a poster of Nelson Mandela during celebrations for the anti-apartheid leader's birthday. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A young member of the Matibolo Cultural Troupe poses in front of a poster of Nelson Mandela during celebrations for the anti-apartheid leader’s birthday. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

NATIONAL- (By Naomi K. Bonman) Last Thursday we lost a legend; however, he may be gone in the physical, but his spirit and legacy will continue to live on decades and generations to come. Nelson Mandela taught us the value of freedom and accomplishing our dreams and goals. He taught us that no matter what obstacles may come our way, we can always overcome them.

My favorite quote by Mr. Mandela is, “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” This quote reminds me that when we have greater goals and dreams than we can ever imagine, that we will have to work hard and remain patient and very consistent. There will always be road blocks on the way to success and sometimes some of us will face greater roadblocks than others, but we must always remember that God will never place more on us than we can bear. Some of us are stronger soldiers and can conquer more than other, and Mr. Mandela was one of those remarkable and strong soldiers.

He not only left a lasting impression on my life, but he also left an impression and inspired others throughout the world.

“His change was monumental. Legendary. Brave. Daring. He’s inspired me to make decisions that will make a difference. He’s inspired me to focus on what I can do today. He’s also inspired me to know this for sure: It’s not about you.” -Kareem Taylor, New York

“Today, the Young Democrats of America pause to remember a leader whose message of freedom and equality transcends race, age and national borders. We are greatly saddened by his passing, but he lived a tremendous life to the benefit of others and to the great sacrifice of himself. He continued to fight with the belief that a nation stands at its greatest height when it stands for equality, fairness, justice and opportunity for all.”- Atima Omara, president of the Young Democrats of America

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the Mandela family for their loss. Nelson Mandela is one of the most highly regarded, highly respected individuals of all time. He was an effective leader that focused on relationship building and inclusiveness. His ability to maintain peace and love even through adversity speaks volumes about his character. Today, I respectfully stand with my colleagues in the California Legislative Black Caucus, as we remember his life, accomplishments and good deeds.” -Assemblymember Cheryl Brown

(Article written by Naomi K. Bonman)

Exploring The Musical History of Africa

Curtis Wright

Curtis Wright

RIVERSIDE, CA – On Sunday, December 15 the Multicultural Council of the Riverside Museum and the Human Relations Commission will be presenting a special program featuring Historian and Master Musician, Curtis Wright, as he and audiences explore the history of the Banjo. The event will be taking place from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Box at the Fox Entertainment Plaza, 3635 Market Street in Riverside. This is a free community event; however, seating is limited so an early arrival is suggested. This program will assist the community in exploring the origins of the banjo from its roots in Africa and its evolution as a handmade instrument used by African American slaves to its current position in the country, folk, bluegrass and traditional music. Wright has worked as a professional cowboy, educator, and is currently a circuit pastor as well as an in demand musician, having performed with Buck Page and the Riders of the Purple Sage, the Frank Wakefield Band and Jimmy Collier. In addition to the banjo, Wright plays violin, mandolin, harmonica, guitar and the Indian flute. For more information, please call the Riverside Metropolitan Museum at 951-826-5273.