My appointment book memorializes not just future commitments in order to prevent the embarrassment of having the impossibility of double commitments occurring at the same time or too close to onset of one another. The appointment book also acts like a timesheet that preserves information about something that occurred at a particular time.
More importantly, my appointment book memorializes events that have become historic time stamps. The page for Thursday, December 5 at 1:00 PM, records in red ink, “Mandela died.”
Since that point in time, my mission has been to devote thoughts, recollections, influences, that became part of my awareness of Mandela the man, Mandela the leader, and Mandela the legend. Unfortunately, Life had other intentions for my time. Business matters took priority that developed ancillary necessities. Exigencies spontaneously grew out of expected successful conclusions. Thus, self-imposed feelings of guilt grew with each night that Fatigue replaced Writing Time. Additionally, the 50-year anniversaries of the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. imposed recollection of how those shocking events affected not only Americans but the world. Stacking the expanding issues that deflected attention from writing a tribute about Mandela were the various social media conversations, misconceptions, uninformed opinions, myths that purported to be informed information but proved to be hate mongering, unsupported, short sighted statements, and platitudes.
Those 50-year anniversaries were presented to us via the media by individuals who had only tangential (if any) contact with the events. They did not witness the stamping of history. However because of the importance of the events being remembered, they attempted to flagellate us into a frenzy about the significance of them. Is that what these collections of historic events will become? Attempts at being proud about the evidence of rising from the oppressive conditions become attempts to tell the tales. They aim to present the momentous significance but merely parrot the platitudes they’ve heard second and third hand and merely stand as substitutes for the pride and jubilant celebrations that are supposed to be had.
So here we are five days later. All that could possibly be said about Mandela the man, Mandela the leader, Mandela the legend have been televised, recited, discussed, and written. Images of his ex-wives, his widow, and some of his chilren have been shared with the rest of us. Interviews of people, White and Black, domestic and foreign, have been broadcast on all manner of programs. We have been advised of the plans for his lying in state leading up to his funeral. We have been informed about how The Lion felt during his developing years – his revolutionary years. There have been glimpses into how life was during his incarceration. We are told about his stoicism on release and his statesmanship in the negotiations for it. There are round tables about his challenge of making one country constituted of many races that feel passion for their country and breaking down the decades of the divisive racism that existed during the reign of apartheid.
In South Africa, there are celebrations because of the death of The Lion. Some find this odd. Those who are aware of the American Black practice of celebrating the life of one who has entered the Hereafter are able to understand. It isn’t a celebration because the person is dead. Instead, it’s a celebration that their mission has been completed with whatever successes have been achieved. It is a celebration of graduating from being a mere mortal who is subject to the many vagaries that challenge us to being among those who have risen above those challenges and into a more beautiful existence. Some achieve this at very tender ages while others have many purposes and missions to fulfill. Life does not end because of actuarial numbers but when the Master Craftsman says Death may become the possessor of the soul – but only the portion of the soul that may remain in that plane for the Master Craftsman has other, further intentions for the principal portions.
It is significant that the timing of certain events shape us and our thoughts. Those events enable us to see things more clearly. Those who are trainers and presenters should take note of those events as they develop their materials. It was in October that a discussion group was developed to study the book The New Jim Crow and the social impacts of jails overcrowded with Black men. It was a study of how Blacks in America are singled out and punished for even the slightest of matters and told they have so egregiously broken the rules that they must spend the remaining 40 to 60 years of their budding lives behind bars. They lose all rights of citizenship. They essentially become victims and unofficial slaves.
Close in timing was release of the movie “12 Years a Slave” that traces an actual account by a learned free man of his kidnap and being sold into slavery before the Civil War. We learn (or are reminded) of the conditions of that slavery and concomitant abrogation of citizen rights. Programs populate the public broadcast stations about the Civil Rights Movement and the many assaults Black citizens endured in order to make a more whole United States. Some who are paying attention to these history classes take note of how interrelated the subjects truly are and begin to appreciate the marginal progress that’s been made domestically. Additionally, appreciation of life under apartheid was for the native population.
Why have I not dedicated any time to actual writing of this tribute to Madiba until today? My emotions, like my time and attention, have been sucked out of me. Those social media conversations (so skewed and uninformed) ate much of my time spent reading and in search of non-existent enlightenment about him. Instead, I came away further drained but more aware of why America sinks into the mire of destructive rule under unenlightened Right Wing rhetoric. I deal with an increasing number of businesses striving for economic success by using some form of fraud and slipshod workmanship. I labor to educate myself about my own health maladies and then hold my breath when the time arrives that the situation is beyond my non-licensed abilities and must entrust my life and conditions to those who have been educated and licensed to do so. Those are just some of the reasons why these words are structured as they are and published today.
Today the many aspects of the man, Mandela, that taught the lessons about leadership, captivity, social and civil wrongs, forgiveness, striving to overcome oppression screamed for release. Today I was forced to come to grips with the antithesis of American Freedom and the apathy that fertilizes the American inertia. It made me want to scream. Looking at the life of Madiba causes a trickle of Hope to melt my jaded attitude, the callous perspective, and my personal numbness. The struggle for a healthy oneness isn’t subverted by one’s age nor passage of unproductive time. It only seems as though it’s been unproductive. The struggle is furthered by how many lessons have been presented and mastered.
- African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross
- The Legacy of Medgar Evers
- Homegoing Celebration Service
- Meet the Press Special Edition: Remembering the Dream
- Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness