“It always seems impossible, until it’s done!”
This statement could have been made by Diddy or Cardi B. It could have been a lyric cleverly woven into a Drake song or tattooed across 50 Cent’s chest. But none of those examples are the origins of this statement. When Nelson “Madiba” Mandela uttered those words, he had already walked a 27-year bid in prison. He also had already lead a coup to overturn the South African government. He had already used his brilliant legal mind to engage an entire legion of young people to fight for a better life. And though he never rocked a rhyme on the mic, there probably is no more “Hip-Hop” leader than he.
Well who was he?
Madiba was a revolutionary and activist turned political titan. He was the first Black president of South Africa. His philanthropic work has inspired all of Africa, but moreover changed the academic dynamics of Black South Africa. What makes him so dope is that he was born from a royal family and from a space of privilege. Unlike many, he was afforded an opportunity to be educated and attended University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand. He became an attorney and could have lived his life lounging in relative comfort.
But he did not.
In 1944, he co-founded Youth League and joined the African National Congress with the mindset to overthrow the then newly minted apartheid system of racial segregation that oppressed his people. He organized, fought and eventually in 1961 was sentenced to life imprisonment for his work to emancipate his people. Despite this, those enemies of justice could not hold him down or back. In 1990, President F. W. de Klerk worked to get him released from his incarceration. Mandela and de Klerk both worked to negotiate an end to apartheid. As a result, Mandela was able to win the 1994 multiracial election to become President and add political validation to the ANC.
He represented excellence. He personified Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power.” Mostly, he walked the line as a diplomat’s diplomat. In fact, in South Africa to commemorate this day, President Barack Obama delivered a riveting lecture on his life and how we can use his example to create a better world.
He said, “”I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe that a world governed by such principals is possible”. He further said “It can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good.”
Happy Birthday, President Mandela. We still honor you and will work to continue your legacy.