News & Media Coverage

Nelson Mandela Remembered Locally as "Prophetic Leader"

December 7, 2013  |  The Enterprise  |  Link to article

By Benjamin Paulin
Enterprise Staff Writer

Growing up in South Africa in the ’60s and ’70s, Vernon Domingo saw first-hand the effects the apartheid had on the country’s people.

Classified as a “coloured” person, he was expelled from a South African university for political activism in 1973.

For Domingo, a geography professor at Bridgewater State University, the life and death of Nelson Mandela will always serve as a reminder for him to fight for what he believes in.

“He was always an inspiration to me, refusing to take ‘no’ as an answer in his quest for freedom. In 1973 when I was expelled from a ‘Coloured’ racist university for political activism and then blacklisted for 18 months, it was the thought that people like Mandela and [Thabo] Mbeki were in political prison, suffering far more than those on the outside who only had to deal with everyday harassment by the apartheid regime,” Domingo said. “Mandela’s life and sacrifices encourage me today when I protest for a livable wage or against unjust wars. I can do no less.”

Much like the man himself, the death of Nelson Mandela has affected countless people worldwide. Locally, many have expressed feelings of sorrow but gratitude for the things he accomplished during his life.

“Nelson Mandela is probably one of the most, if not the most, significant people in this century for representing world peace,” said Stephen Bernard, 64, president of the Brockton area chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “I think we should be very thankful that we were there for his time and give thanks to the Lord for sharing his presence with us.”

Mandela was South Africa’s first black president from 1994 to 1999. He helped negotiate an end to racial segregation in apartheid-era South Africa after serving a 27-year prison sentence for treason.

Nigerian-born Rev. Dr. Abraham Waya said he was deeply affected by the news of Mandela’s death. Waya is the pastor at the United Methodist churches on West Elm Street and Pearl Street in Brockton.

“It’s like a vacuum has been created in the world,” Waya said. “The world has lost a great man.”

“His legacy is really the humanity that is in each of us and that humanity comes out and finds peace regardless of the color of one’s skin,” Waya said.

One of the most important things to remember about Mandela, Waya said, was his peaceful mindset after being freed from prison.

“At one time he believed that violence was the way to go. He evolved, he changed his mind in the process,” said Waya, 52. “Nobody knew what he was going to do when he was freed.”

“Nelson Mandela realized the limits of violence. Once he had power he could have done anything with it. He could have sought vengeance,” Waya said. “But when he got the power he didn’t allow himself to be corrupted. That’s very rare.”

The Rev. Michael Walker of Messiah Baptist Church in Brockton said Mandela’s strongest attributes were endurance and hope.

“Without question he’s one of the last grand prophetic leaders in these times,” Walker said.

For Bernard, it is important to him that future generations learn of who Mandela was and the legacy he left behind.

“My only hope is that children have the opportunity in the schools to read and have an understanding of who he was,” Bernard said.

Waya echoed Bernard’s sentiments: “If we care about what he has done, we will continue what he has done so he will live on forever.”