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Remembering Nelson Mandela: A Man Who Fearlessly Ramped His Voice for Equality & Justice for All

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On Thursday, December 5th 2013, the world lost one of the most faithful, courageous, and influential leaders for equality and justice in our lifetime, former South African President Nelson Mandela.  Nelson Mandela inspired generations within his home country of South Africa and throughout the world to be fearless about what you hold true to be right when it comes to standing against the evils of hatred, prejudices, oppression, and discrimination.  Though Madiba, as Mandela was affectionately called by his countrymen, may no longer be with us, his legacy and resilience will remain in the minds and hearts of those who advocate for the rights of all people, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, class, and ability.

Nelson Mandela is one of a few civil rights leaders I view as a role model as I pursue my own life’s work.  His commitment to civil rights for his people, despite being persecuted and imprisoned in his own country, as well as being labeled as a terrorist by the United States and several European countries, leaves me in awe.  The strength and humbleness he exuded in the way he carried himself and stood firmly for what was right proved that he owed his life’s purpose.  Mandela did not become bitter from his 27 years of imprisonment or being considered a threat due to his anti-apartheid stance.  Mandela knew that his enemies may have placed physical restraints on him, but they would never have the ability to restrain his determination to abolish apartheid and unite his beloved country.  Keeping his eye on the prize of one day freeing South Africa from the grips of apartheid is why I view Madiba as an inspiration; he is a true example of someone who did not let adversity stop him from advocating and empowering millions.

When Nelson Mandela made his transition from this world, a thought came to mind:  who will now continue the work that he, and others like him, started?  Who will pick up the torch, and continue to march and fight for equality and justice for all humankind?  The fire that burned within Mandela should not go out because he is no longer here; that fire should ignite a powerful force within the depths of each of our souls so that we can lead the charge for social and political empowerment for all people, regardless of their differences.

As a Disability Rights Consultant and Advocate, Nelson Mandela’s bravery and wisdom empowers me to never shift my viewpoints because it may not be popular; I am to remain steadfast in my convictions that people of color with disabilities should be respected and visible within both the disability population and the general public.  Some people may not understand why this focus is so important to me, but the work that I am undertaking will speak for itself.  He taught all of us through his actions that our opponents only have power over us if we feel defeated or weaken by their attacks.  Mandela never allowed naysayers to shake his spirit; that is one lesson from him that I take dearly to heart.

Madiba, we miss your presence, but the gifts and inspiration you provided the world through your dedication to civil rights will never be forgotten.  You fulfilled your destiny, and it is time for you to take your rest.  Well done, Madiba… well done.

To my fellow advocates & allies, how has Nelson Mandela inspired you?  What lessons from his fearlessness against oppression do you keep in mind as you battle the injustices in your line of work, and in your own life?  Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below, or by sending an email to Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com.

(Featured images:  Courtesy of Pixabay.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

2 Comments

  1. Melinda Moore

    I love this part — I agree with you — a true inspiration and role model for us all! Keep up the great work :-).

    [Mandela did not become bitter from his 27 years of imprisonment or being considered a threat due to his anti-apartheid stance. Mandela knew that his enemies may have placed physical restraints on him, but they would never have the ability to restrain his determination to abolish apartheid and unite his beloved country. Keeping his eye on the prize of one day freeing South Africa from the grips of apartheid is why I view Madiba as an inspiration]

    • Vilissa

      Thank you so much, Melinda, for your comment! His dedication to freedom for all is indeed an inspiration for those like you & I who work hard to fight for equality & justice people with disabilities.

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