I am at a loss for words, in this same year that I have lost my beloved physical grandmother, Miss Susie May Jackson, I just heard on the news that “Madiba”, my spiritual grandfather, Nelson Rolilahla Mandela. The news was not a complete shock due to his waning health but it is deeply saddening. A great deal of my life as a teenager was spent learning about Nelson Mandela, and having not known any grandfather, paternally or maternally, I secretly carried him in my heart as the grandfather I never knew. His passion and political career and life has served as an inspiration to me and countless others over the years. The true example of passion and unrelenting commitment, In fact, me and my cohorts had an obsessive focus on South Africa as kids studying Apartheid and Nelson Mandela and studying the great changes that took place in that country from the 70’s- late 80’s. As a theatre student and member of the Freddie Hendricks’ Youth Ensemble of Atlanta,also known as Y.E.A. I can still hear the voice of Michael “Sahr” Ngaujah yelling Amandla! Long before we starred together in Broadway’s Fela!, we, and many others, portrayed the young South African students who struggled in their fight against Apartheid in some of the earliest productions of “Soweto! Soweto! A Township Is Calling!” with Y.E.A.
As a child of a Liberian father I saw very few African stars on television, but I saw Nelson Mandela walk from prison after 27 years of captivity, a star indeed. Every year just around the time for school Turner Broadcast the mini-series, Shaka Zulu about a great South African warrior king who reigned tall above tyranny from his own people and from foreigners alike. Mandela was a great warrior king and first black president of that nation. Next to my own Liberia, the South African story has fascinated me to no end! Seeing and learning about Nelson and Winnie Mandela helped with my own appreciation and pride in my African heritage, as children can be cruel I was often isolated by my name. My African pride was seeded more deeply as I watched in 1990 as apartheid was abolished much like the ending of segregation had occurred so many years before in the United States. It is with great pride that I honor the life of Madiba! Nelson Mandela!!! #Amandla