MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Nelson Mandela brought white and black together. That is one of the ways Mooresville resident Dianne Stewart will remember the human rights activist and former South African president. We were with her as she watched the news about Mandela’s death.
Stewart, a South African native, met Mandela several times over the years. She says, “I certainly had a few words with him. He was a very gentle, very unassuming man. I was also with him in Robben Island in 2000 when he lit a candle for freedom in his cell.”
Mandela was imprisoned in the early 60s, charged with treason for fighting against apartheid, the then-South African government’s system of racial segregation. Mandela was freed 27 years later, in 1990. Within a few years of his release, apartheid ended, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize, and was elected South Africa’s first black president.
President Barack Obama spoke Thursday afternoon on Mandela’s death. He says, “We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth.”
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory says, “The world has lost a champion for the cause of freedom.” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says, “There are no words to describe the impact Nelson Mandela had, not just on his country, but on the world.” And the president of Charlotte’s Johnson C. Smith University, Dr. Ronald L. Carter, tells WCCB, “Nelson Mandela will remain immortal as a passionate leader and teacher who never settled for that which was, but fought fearlessly to help mold the world around him to be more as he knew it could be.”
Reverend Kojo Nantambu is the president of the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP. He says, “For me, Mandela is probably one of the greatest spirits to ever walk the earth. I’m gonna miss his presence, but I thank God He took him away in a very peaceful manner. The world has lost a great, great leader.”
Back in Stewart’s Mooresville home, she calls Mandela the father of a nation. She says, “I think his legacy of peace and reconciliation will always ring in South Africa for everybody, and I hope that continues.”
The American flag is at half-staff tonight at the White House. President Obama has ordered the same for flags at public and military facilities through Monday.