Friday, July 18, 2008

Nelson Mandela Celebrates His 90th...Happy Birthday, Madiba!

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, an international icon for freedom, is celebrating his 90th birthday today at his home in Qunu, Trankei/Eastern Cape, about 600 miles from Johannesburg, South Africa. He was born on July 18, 1918, at a nearby village; the son of a high-ranking tribal chief.

Mandela, often respectfully called by his Thembu clan name "Madiba", is a former president of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Other names of endearment and respect include "Tata", meaning father", and Khulu", which means "great" or "paramount". An attorney, a fighter against the apartheid system, a founder of the African National Congress, President Mandela spent 27 years of a life sentence for treason at the Robben Island Prison and Pollsmoor Prison until he was freed on February 11, 1990.

In 1993, along with F.W. de Klerk, the president of South Africa at the time who freed Nelson Mandela from prison and worked with him to help end apartheid, Mr. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In 1994, Mr. Mandela was elected president of a post-apartheid-era South Africa. Newly emancipated Black South Africans walked for miles and stood in line for hours to vote for the first time in their lives.

Soon after his release in February 1990, Nelson Mandela embarked on a world tour which included Detroit. Many Detroiters, including the late Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey, fought against the South African apartheid system; and Nelson Mandela acknowledged their efforts for freedom, including those of Rosa Parks, who greeted Mr. Mandela at the rally at Tiger Stadium along with Mayor Coleman A. Young. Detroit, in one day, exceeded the 3-day fund-raising totals of New York City. Nelson Mandela stated his appreciation of and love for Detroit when he strolled out onto the field, proclaiming: "Hello, Motor-town!" A day I will never forget...I was there with my then 9-year-old son.

Shameless Plug for my husband's blog: Please read "The 'D' Spot".

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