When I first started in radio - I covered the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Whether it was reporting on the suspicious death of black activist Steve Biko, the movement to get institutions to divest South African stocks, the artists who were criticized for performing in the boycotted South African Sun City - this was an issue that moved me. I met Bishop Desmond Tutu and many South Africans who were not only fighting against the system of racial segregation in that country but also pushing for the release of one of it's most visible activists - Nelson Mandela.
That moment came - when Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison in 1990. Would he be angry? Would he call for violent revolution? While Mandela didn't rule that out in his early years of activism - his dedication to equality for all people was evident in an interview he gave to a reporter while still underground. Even then he said he fought domination of whites over blacks and blacks over whites. So that when Mandela was finally released, despite separation from family and friends, solitary confinement for a time and physical abuse - he emerged from his experience as the perfect transformative figure for leading his country to democracy.
Mandela was human as are all our heroes. His iconization has already begun. But for millions including a young man named Barak Obama who was inspired to activism by Mandela and this reporter who was moved by a leader who called not for revenge or retribution - but reconciliation- Nelson Mandela was a living, breathing expression of the choice we can all make of love over hate. Listen to my tribute.
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