I remember the day like it was yesterday. My mom and I walking to the old Tiger Stadium, alongside what seemed to be thousands of people. Once inside, the energy was palpable. There was singing, rejoicing and celebrating for one of the most influential men of our time. I was almost 10 years old and couldn’t quite grasp what it meant to be in the same place as Nelson Mandela, and now 20-plus years later, I still can’t. I just knew that it was a big deal. The smiles and joy on the faces of the people around me told me so. Somehow though, I knew I was part of history, and that I would remember that day for the rest of my life.
Today, Mr. Mandela passed away. Even though he is no longer with us, I smile because of the legacy he left behind. I smile because of the people he touched. I smile because of the strength, perseverance, patience and grace he showed us was possible in the midst of what none of us could imagine. He never gave up. He did what was right, not for accolades, fame or fortune, but because it was the right thing to do. He stood up for what not only he believed in, but we all deserve — basic human rights. That’s more than most will do on any given day, let alone for 27 years. He was a great human being, and one we all should aspire to be like. He empowered us by being who he was meant to be, and doing what he was put on this Earth to do. That’s what life is all about.
Just last week, following the recommendation of my cousin, I began reading Mr. Mandela’s autobiography, A Long Walk To Freedom. Things always happen for a reason, don’t they? I didn’t know why I started to read it then; the reason was revealed today. I will celebrate and honor his life by learning more about him and continue to sing the song we sang when he graced Detroit with his presence 23 years ago: Man-de-la! Man-del-a! Man-de-la! Man-del-a!
Rest in peace.