We have all been recalling our ‘Mandela moments’ over the last few days, many recall anti apartheid protests as their introduction to a life of activism and defending Human Rights. As we reflect on the change in public attitudes to this amazing man and how the spirit of reconciliation, justice and humanity won the hearts of the whole world, we can gain hope for our struggle to see justice and recognition for our friends who have had to flee to seek safety on our shores.
Tees Valley of Sanctuary had a special opportunity to celebrate Mandela’s life and legacy in their World Party on Friday. Here is part of what the coordinator, Pete Widlinski, said:
Teesside Anti Apartheid was a very active group in the 80s and early 90s and the level of support we had from the general public, the local councils, etc was fantastic: including a fundraising event here that attracted 300 plus people, to leafleting in the town centre and outside the old cinema on Corporation Road when Cry Freedom was screened. We even had our own Anti-Apartheid Tee Shirts printed. The Crypt was the venue where many Teesside Anti-Apartheid events took place in the 80s and 90s. The support we received from Middlesbrough Council was fantastic – despite many people and organisations still claiming that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.
One of my proudest moments was in 1988 when Middlesbrough Council flew the African National Congress flag above the town hall to mark Mandela’s 70th birthday, when he was still in prison, and called a terrorist by some. One person’s TERRORIST is another person’s FREEDOM FIGHTER. I’m glad to have been on the side of the latter!
But how things have changed! Not least because of the incredible generosity, forgiveness and love for human kind that Nelson Mandela has taught us, but also how we have all played a part in challenging racism: both state and personal racism and intolerance. Still a way to go, but eventually history will prove us right!
As Mandela said when he came to the UK in 2005:
‘Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.’
Mandela finished his speech with these few but poignant words
‘Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.’