Sunday, December 15, 2013
Mandela… Belongs to the Ages… R.I.P.
Today the global spotlight shines on the memorial service of a man called "Madiba," a revered statesman and anti-apartheid leader.
Countless heads of state gather in Johannesburg, including four U.S. Presidents and twenty-six U.S. lawmakers.
Nelson Mandela will be buried in his home village of Qunu, surrounded by aloe plants.
Kashmir declared 5 days of mourning; Iran named a street after him.
He once said, "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
He was born Rolihlahla Mandela, in Mvezo, in the hills of Transkei, South Africa, to a father named Gadia Henry Mphakanyiswa, a chief of the royal Thembu people, a subdivision of the Xhosa nation.
Called "the Black Pimpernel," he was imprisoned at age 44, released at age 71, from Robben Island, where dust from the limestone quarry glued shut his tear ducts.
As President, he lived in a modest house in Johannesburg, where he made his own bed.
In February, 1955, two thousand policemen of Johannesburg forcefully removed the black families of the section called Sophiatown, which was then flattened and removed from maps.
Nelson Mandela played a vital role in the resistance. Images of Sophiatown can be found in novels by Nadine Gordimer.
Here is a poem I wrote in 1955 on that terrible crime…
the dark men ... Johannesburg, 1955
ubiquitous the name of fear stands now
around the trembling hungry heads of black
where pole must cross with pole and match
the color demarcation of the soul.
black heads, black bones, black blood.
terror falls upon the ground.
how many worlds are siphoned from the one
where leprous skin more touchable than black
erupts amid the slumber deep and calm
and daylight ultimately marks the night?
black hearts, black minds, black souls.
devils haste to fell the eden trunk.
the whirling asteroids are lost within the maze
of stars yet coming in the dream; the souls
of new gigantic worlds repel the light and bow
obediently, humbly in the heat.
black cross, black tomb, black dawn.
sky reveals the multi-prismed light.
Thelma Jacqueline Straw