Witnessing History: Mandela in Los Angeles

/ Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 / No Comments »











In 1990, Nelson Mandela made a trip around the United States and came to Los Angeles at the invitation of Tom Bradley and Maxine Waters among others.  It was a triumphal visit after his release from prison – I remember it well.  Back then LACAAW as POV was then known had a staff of 10, (since then we’ve quadrupled in size). Cathy Friedman and Peggie Reyna and our entire staff made the pilgrimage to the Coliseum to greet and honor Mandela. Cathy and Peggie are still at POV!  The crowd of 70,000 could not have been more joyous, peaceful and hopeful for this man who was already a symbol of transformation. LA’s great historic stadium was filled with people of every race, color, hue, size, and age.  The look of that crowd was a sneak preview of the LA that would continue to grow and evolve into one of the worlds most multi-cultural cities. I remember that we all took our partners and spouses and children to witness history in the making.  At that point no one could have predicted that Mandela would become the president of a new South Africa and father of his country after being imprisoned by it for 27 years. As Mandela says: “In my country first you go to prison and then you become president.” The hope that day had a lot to do with what we were all feeling about what might be possible. That one man could transcend the oppression thrown at him and transform his own anger into a powerful kindness and lead with wisdom and grace reminded us that day of another man – Martin Luther King, another seeker of justice but who had been lost to us over 22 years earlier.  Perhaps we too Angelenos, a city of filled with people from other places could struggle and transform.  What a moment this was! Mandela was in our midst and we roared in jubilation.  Being a witness to such a moment was exciting and unforgettable and LA cheered him just as this week LA and the entire world mourns his passing.  He made great impact on people and on history and no doubt he will continue to teach us as his legacy becomes even more powerful. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Is one of my favorite Mandela quotes.  We can learn a lot from the life and times of Nelson Mandela if we pay careful attention. Mandela teaches peace, and if only we would all be better students, we really could change the world with love.



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