Black history month is a famous month celebrated here in America, but as an African who migrated from Zimbabwe, the cultural celebration has had a great impact on me. I have come to realize that even in Africa we tend to celebrate this time, just in a different form and fashion. There are so many influential people who made Africa what it is today. Some of the most celebrated heroes who inspired me to be who I am are Nelson Mandela and Desmond Mpilo Tutu.
Nelson Mandela was a former activist and president of South Africa. He sacrificed 27 years of his life to bring an end to apartheid and he is an icon also known for his advocacy on human rights. Just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mandela led a peaceful protest against the white minority. He stood up for his people when the whites tried to bribe him to stop his protest against the oppression, and that landed him behind bars for nearly 30 years.
During his incarceration, Mandela continued with his hope and faith by reading books, attending university by correspondence and teaching other fellow inmates. While he was confined, Nelson Mandela earned a bachelor’s of law degree from the University of London. His incarceration did not stop his influence on the outside world. While incarcerated, he also drafted his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” which was published five years after his release.
After 27 years, he was released from prison in 1994 and became the first black president of South Africa. Mandela has inspired so many people, including me, because he stood up for what he believed. He’s precious to the oppressed Africans who he led to freedom. As a president, Mandela introduced social and economic programs that helped improve the living standards of black South Africans who had lived under apartheid for so many years. He also brought people of all races together, ending the racial tension between blacks and whites in Africa.
Even after leaving office, Mandela continued his legacy; he began many organizations which include the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Elders Program that helps ease human suffering and advocates people to help the elderly. The AIDS pandemic was ignored for years in Africa. People used to ignore the severity of the disease but after Mandela saw this, he became a vocal advocate of AIDS awareness and treatment programs. Mandela died on Dec. 5 2013 after a battle with a respiratory infection. His legacy lives on as he has inspired so many people. This led to the production of the movie “Long Walk to Freedom.” The movie was so popular it made it to the cinema. Mandela is a hero and legend whose legacy will live forever.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu is another role model of mine. He is an African icon of endurance and perseverance. Tutu was born Oct. 7, 1931 in Kleksdorp, South Africa. Tutu grew up in South Africa under segregation and oppression, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most inspiring and educated youth of his time. Growing up, he had a passion for reading novels. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from University of South Africa in 1954. After graduating he became an English and history teacher, teaching black schools and helping unfortunate kids restore their pride. Bishop Tutu worked tirelessly to restore the African pride that had been taken away by apartheid. In 1984, Tutu was awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize for his concerns with democracy, human dignity and fraternity. Him receiving the Nobel transformed the apartheid movement into an international issue and the whole world began sympathizing and helping to liberate South Africa.
In 1985 he became the first black bishop for South Africa; before this, in 1987 Tutu was named the president of all African conference churches. He used the word of God to liberate and enlighten the black majority on freedom.
After South Africa obtained its independence in 1994, newly elected president, Nelson Mandela appointed Desmond Tutu as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Even today Tutu continues to advocate against inequality, social injustice and racial discrimination, also standing up for the fight against AIDS, an epidemic that has torn apart South Africa, a country with the highest per capita of AIDS victims in the world.
Desmond Tutu is now 85 years old and lives in South Africa where he continues his hard work on behalf of Africa.