As the news of his death spread across South Africa, residents of the black township of Soweto gathered in the streets near the house where he once lived, singing and dancing to mourn his death and celebrate his colossal life.
The people of South Africa reacted Friday with deep sadness at the loss of a man considered by many to be the father of the nation, while mourners said it was also a time to celebrate the achievements of the anti-apartheid leader who emerged from prison to become South Africa’s first black president.
During the time of apartheid, it took guts to stand up for what’s right, but that’s what Mandela did. To stand up for racial equality and to stick by it required passion, intelligence, conviction, and courage. It also landed Mandela in jail for 27 years. His prison number, 46664, is now a symbol of everything Mandela represented. But above all, the reason why this one man is so loved all over the world, and the reason why the world grieves in unity today, is his kindness and compassion that prevailed despite having lived with so many years of racial hatred during the apartheid.
Mandela lived without malice, bitterness or anger, and inspired others to live with love, compassion, acceptance, and understanding for one another, as he did.
Today, instead of mourning and feeling sad because we’ve lost a great man and an incredible world leader, we should remember to celebrate his spirit. Remember his words, and how he lived without anger in his heart. Remember his dreams for the world, and his enthusiasm for education. Remember how he inspired equality and forgiveness, and how he greeted each day with a smile.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela (2002)
What is apartheid?
Apartheid means “the state of being apart”, and was a governing system used by the National Party (NP) governments in South Africa between 1948-1994. This system separated two groups of people living in South Africa: the local black people, who made up the majority of the population, and the whites, who were the European settlers who arrived in South Africa during the mid-1600s. They were mostly Dutch people, and when they came to power in 1948, the NP enforced general white supremacy and racial segregation. Meaning black and white people were very distinctly separated, and white people were considered superior.