20 years ago on this date, Nelson Mandela emerged from Victor Verster prison a free man, after spending 27 years behind bars on Robben Island for his struggle against apartheid.

I remember sitting in my living room at the time watching with awe, as he walked hand in hand with his then wife Winnie Mandela. I felt a surge of defiance and victory against “the powers that be”, when they raised their hands in a fist, high above their heads with the Black Power salute. I felt a sense of pride that here was a Black man… an African… (along with his then wife), who had struggled and sacrificed his life for what he believed in, the freedom of his people. He was 72 years old when he was freed! 

His struggle at the time symbolized not only the fight against a national policy of racism and fascism, but it also encompassed the personal struggles and sacrifices, as well as the blatant and subtle indignities Black people worldwide… and other people of colour… experienced at the hands of imperial powers, national elites, or individuals of the dominant culture (aka “dem White people”).

As I was a child of a colonial past and a neo-colonial present, Nelson Mandela represented me. His victory was my inspiration. His long walk to freedom was along a path of the road we all travelled… and in some ways still journey today.

“I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

We honour you Madiba!!

“Amandla Awethu!!”

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