Mandela: Why He Matters in LGBTQ History by Dr. Herukhuti
in Bimagazine.org December 2013
I was having a Skype conversation with someone and talking about the price of living one’s commitment to social justice and ecological wellbeing. The sound on my television had been off. I looked up from my computer screen to see printed across the television that he, Madiba Rolihlahla Mandela (known to the world as Nelson Mandela), had become an ancestor—one of the world’s cherished ancestors.
The moment was singed with poignancy, awe and reverence. Hearing about his ancestral transition—as an activist of African ancestry who came of age as an activist shortly after the movement to get governments, corporations and education institutions to financially divest from apartheid South Africa, I connected with the enormity of the personal sacrifice Madiba made as a revolutionary activist, a political prisoner for the twenty-seven years and later as a President and iconic symbol of his country. Such sacrifice makes tragic the everyday efforts by each of us to get a seat at the table of privilege and access, enjoy middle class happiness and comfort, and receive rewards and recognition for our tacit complicity with imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. How small those efforts appear in the face of such extraordinary work by an ordinary person like Madiba—for he was not born the international figure of revolutionary struggle and moral achievement so much as he became that figure.