Friday, December 6, 2013

Tree Shaker

“Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.” Nelson Mandela

The most heroic person of his time, Nelson Mandela, passed away at age 95.  Willing to spend nearly three decades incarcerated for the cause he believed in, he achieved what seemed impossible, the peaceful transition from apartheid in South Africa to democracy.  As he said in 1990, “Great anger and violence can never build a nation.  We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.”

Mandela’s tribal name, Rolihlahla, in the Xhosa language means tree shaker or troublemaker.  South Africans commonly called him Madiba, the name of his clan, or Tata, meaning father.  Nelson was a name given him by a teacher on his first day of school, a common practice during colonial times.  Said Mandela: “A thousand slights, a thousand indignities produced an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.”

Richard Hatcher, who spent a night in jail for picketing in front of the South African embassy in Washington and as head of TransAfrica worked to have Mandela freed, told the Post-Trib that his courage in the face of tyranny and compassion to forgive will be his greatest legacies.  Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly stated: “Mandela’s tireless efforts to bring freedom and equality to all in his home country and the world will continue to inspire us.”  Appropriately, flags all over the world are a half-staff.
Watching TV coverage of mourners in Soweto celebrating Mandela’s life by dancing in the streets, it reminded me of dancers I saw in Pietermaritzburg and Durban when I was South Africa a decade ago for an oral history conference.  From Paris Blandine Huk sent me a link to songs “in tribute to a great man.”  IUN librarian Anne Koehler posted quotes and memorials about him, and Archives volunteer Maurice Yancy had on a Mandela t-shirt that his nephew, a musician, bought in Johannesburg.

Identifying himself in a letter to Pat Wisniewski as “a History professor (sidelined for now),” Chancellor William Lowe thanked her for expressing in writing her appreciation for the services she received and the resources she found in the Calumet Regional Archives while working on documentaries about the Kankakee Marsh and the Indiana lakeshore.  A former IU Northwest student, Pat wrote: “The amount and types of documents stored at the archives are irreplaceable.  They not only tell the story of our surrounding communities, they tell the stories of our country and our world.  People came to the region from all over the world speaking many different languages and bringing their cultural stories with them. Those stories are stored in the Archives. America's industrial story unfolded along our shores and that history is preserved in the Calumet Archives in such amazing detail and cataloged so meticulously, in place and online, that it makes it easy for anyone to do research.”

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