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The Man Who Shook the Tree… Nelson Mandela (A Man with Many Names)

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By Adam Weatherall

12/5/2013

 

Boxer, Lawyer, Activists, Terrorist, Prisoner and finally President, In Nelson Mandela’s 95 years on this earth he was given many names, but he will forever be remembered as one of the greatest freedom fighters of our time. You might know his first name to be Nelson, a name his first grade teacher gave him on the first day of school but to the people apartheid White-Areaof South Africa he was known as Tatu or sometimes Khulu, names which translated mean father or grand. As his countrymen gather in the street to celebrate the legacy of their “grandfather” the world too gathers to remember “Mandiba”. His birth name Rolihlahla roughly translated means “troublemaker” or “the man who shook the tree”, one namesake that would hold true throughout his life. For It was a young Nelson Mandela that took on the role of freedom fighter for his people and began shaking the tree of apartheid . A tree and a system that would later collapse arguably due to Nelson’s iconic and popular international image. He began his activist life after leaving a successful career of practicing law. A career he gave up to begin protesting, no longer able to work within a system that was ultimately responsible for the evils inflicted upon his people.

Mr. Mandela, before going into law, gave up the right to chiefdom of his tribe. Mandiba is a name given to his tribe; it is considered a sign of respect to refer to someone by the name of their tribe in South Africa. The respect that “Mandiba” has garnered was mainly earned due to his legendary status as a freedom fighter which grew as the years of his incarceration mounted. He started his quest for freedom in the same era men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were fighting here in America for their own version of freedom. And though at one point he was given the task of leading the armed resistance during his country’s racial revolution, it was commitment to pacifism that he became known for. Despite his 27 year prison term on Robben Island he harbored no hate, and upon his release preached a similar style of nonviolent resistance Mahatma Gandhi became known for. It was his ability to forgive combined with his undaunted commitment to his cause that inspired people the world over to never give up hope with their own struggles. Even a young Barack Obama, during his study, was deeply impacted by his words. At the time he was reading the ghostly words of an imprisoned icon, he had no idea he would one day meet President Nelson Mandela as a young Senator from Illinois. Nelson Mandela was called to action by the evil of the apartheid system, a system which bares many similarities to our own Jim Crow Laws, but for those of you unfamiliar with both…

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With the enactment of apartheid laws in 1948, racial discrimination was institutionalized. Apartheid’s goal was to maintain white domination while extending racial separation in South Africa. Starting in the 60s, a plan of “Grand Apartheid” was executed, emphasizing territorial separation and police repression. Race laws touched every aspect of social life, including a prohibition of marriage between non-whites and whites, and the sanctioning of “white-only” jobs. In 1950, the Population Registration Act required that all South Africans be racially classified into one of three categories: white, black (African), or colored (of mixed descent). The coloured category included major subgroups of Indians and Asians. All of who were equally discriminated against until Nelson Mandela was elected President in 1994 and apartheid was abolished.

Nelson Mandela, during his long walk to freedom, left us with many kernels of wisdom for instance “For 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.” He also said, “I learned Mandela-1990-raise_2522744bthat courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” As the world mourns the loss of this great man, I wonder if there are still “troublemakers” of the same caliber as this man willing to upset the status quo of their own discriminatory systems. I hope that there are still men and women who are inspired by the life and times of this great man and are willing to “shake their own trees”. I also hope that one day evil systems like apartheid and slavery and all discriminatory laws are abolished worldwide, but until that day, I hope logic will prevail.

Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall is the political correspondent for PowerFist.Us a company whose mission is to spread truth and justice to all within it's reach, but more specifically to cover news stories that are often times pushed aside by larger media organizations.