The Legacy of Nelson Mandela
by Marva McClean, PhD
What a friend the world has in this symbol of possibilities!
I was born amid the winds of change in Jamaica, a country fueled by the yearning for freedom and self-determination, on the brink of self government. By the time Jamaica achieved independence from Britain in 1962 and my parents readied me for elementary school, I was well schooled in the ideology of emancipation and freedom of expression. At school I learned about our country’s national heroes and at age seven played the lead narrator in a pageant celebrating the work of Paul Bogle in the Morant Bay Rebellion. Today, I have committed my life to the work of social justice and equity, determined to make a meaningful contribution in the struggle for equal educational opportunities and outcome for children who have been traditionally marginalized in the United States and societies around the world.
When I think of the work I would like to accomplish, I peer out into the world for inspiration, for examples of others who have left a well traveled trail to guide us. Like the national heroes of Jamaica, Paul Bogle, Nanny of the Maroons, and Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela stands tall as an icon of strength, a figure recognized for his stand against injustice and his unwavering commitment to dismantle the hegemonic construct of Apartheid. President Mandela went to prison for twenty seven years, yet emerged a victor as president of the Republic of South Africa. While in confinement he wrote his autobiography, mentored fellow prisoners, earned a second degree, and co-directed a massive grassroots movement that led to his release from prison. What a friend the world has in this symbol of possibilities!
For the past week I have been working with youth, reading and analyzing the biography of Nelson Mandela, writing essays about his character traits and those qualities that shaped his pathway to heroism. With my adult friends, I seek to inquire into how they will honor Mandela’s legacy; what they will do to mark the fact of his influence on their lives. As for me, I will hold onto Nelson Mandela’s legacy as a gift from a friend, a source of inspiration to remain steadfast on the path; to work with children, youth and young adults in ways to use reading, writing, and speaking as tools of social justice and empowerment. I am so grateful to have Nelson Mandela, his work and his legacy, as an archetype of heroism. I know that we, my students, my friends, family and I are in good company the world over as we continue this journey on the long walk to freedom.