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Nelson Mandela Had An Open Mind


In 1962, he was arrested by South African security police for his opposition to the white government and its apartheid ("separateness") policies of racial, political, and economic discrimination against the nonwhite majority. In 1964, the government brought further charges including sabotage, high treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government. This is Mandela's statement from the dock at the opening of his defense in the 1964 trial.

The Legendary President Nelson Mandela has left our world, but will forever be in our memories leaving us mere mortals much to reflect upon as it relates to our own legacy. I have purposely waited for this special moment after the world’s attention on the funeral to share a bit of my personal experience with the family of Nelson Mandela, and about the family that Africa knew all so affectionately well as Madiba. Frankly, I wanted to sense the worlds reaction, and all the while praying that Madiba’s departure from life would begin to change the tenor of our country’s contentious debate and divides. Yes, Nelson Mandela had an Open Mind, and I encourage all leaders to take on the same.

I have taken out the time to share this story not only because it is honorable and timely, but because I truly believe that we are on the threshold of a greater breakthrough especially for those of us who seek to advance freedom, champion solutions for equity in education for the underserved, bring about economic parity for minorities who aspire to achieve, and advance social justice for people all over the world. I have a sense thatafter Mandela’s passing, injustice around the world may continue, but not without being challenged in an intelligent, and effective manner that produces more victories, and progress over injustice than we have seen in the past. I have a sense about this as I share:

I met Winnie Mandela at her house in Soweto with the family back in 2004, in the Great Room where all of Madiba's trophies and photos were on one giant table. As I listened to Winnie, and other members of the family tell me stories about life after Mandela’s release, when JFK, Jessie Jackson, and hordes of reporters were not allowed to get beyond the fortress gates because the family felt that at that time, they did not want to entertain the press that surrounded the home. This neighborhood in Soweto where the Mandela’s raised their children, is the only neighborhood in the world to have two recipients of the the Nobel Peace Prize, Bishop Desmond TuTu and Nelson Mandela. Most people are not aware of this little known fact of history. The Mandela family, as it is for so many in South Africans, are deeply-rooted in Thembu culture, and tradition, as the world got to watch the funeral procession from Mandela’s home land in the tiny village of Mvezo. I vividly recall in my experience with the family, the energy of family that was most important. It was clear that only authentic relationships were most valued and regarded. Of course, protection of the family legacy will require surrounding themselves with authentic relationships just because of the last name. This protection process for the younger Mandela generation will become an interesting next step in life after  Madiba.

I remember Winnie at her home saying to me with tears almost about to shed as she described how freedom was still not being realized. After all they went through with Apartheid, and the Freedom struggle, because her people still had poor to no housing, a lack of quality education, and scarcity of good jobs for people from the struggle, she felt a sense of continued commitment to the struggle. Wow, is the only emotion that I could think of as she continued sharing this with me, and this remained with me as I traveled throughout South Africa. 

My first experience in South Africa, and subsequent visits inspired me to take on a sense of urgency to position my life to become a part of making sure that what ever little I could do to make a difference, I would be forever committed to doing just that. As a house guest with with the Mandela and Dlamini family I began to understand the difference between perceived and realized power. People who wield demands based upon their title, position, and contained way of thinking versus those leaders who lead by example, endure struggle, are committed to inclusion, believe in sacrifice, and doing for
others, as a result of their enduring experiences. For me, and hopefully for others who choose to have an Open Mind, these qualities will resonate as the true definition of leadership. Mandela spoke the opportunity for justice and freedom into existence. When Mandela spoke the world listened because his goals, objectives and motivations were empowering for others without focus on self preservation and elevation. Mandela’s ability to preserve in prison for 27 replaced his need to focus on self preservation.

We now see that Mandela endured until the end of his prison term so he could continue his Long Walk to Freedom outside of prison. This is a profound reality that I hope endures in the minds of men and women, young, and old.

Talk about the impact of power and an Open Mind. Look at the impact Nelson Mandela had on Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, and world leaders across the globe. His presence, his leadership, and his Open Mind instilled in others a form of life changing spiritual inspiration. You see, Nelson Mandela knew of the depth of poverty and struggle that his people had endured, yet he also knew all so well without ever forgetting his native born heritage of royalty in which he was raised as a child. The combination of the two sides of apartheid and royalty allowed Mandela to have an Open Mind about strategically approaching each challenge as a master of the art of overcoming challenge. His life from the birth of royalty to prison back to royalty was furthered by the marriage of Zenani to Prince Muzi Dlamini whose marriage connected once again the family of royalty to Mandela’s journey.

Zenani's mother, Winnie, had been detained by apartheid police for taking part in a women's protest shortly before giving birth to her in Soweto in 1959. Her father was imprisoned when she was five. There would be no innocence of what it meant to bear South Africa's most famous surname.

Zenani (the name means "what have you brought to the world?" in the Xhosa language)Mandela-Dlamini emerged from her father's shadow last week to join the country's diplomatic corps. The 53-year-old, who studied science at Boston University and became a Swazi princess through marriage, was named as ambassador to Argentina after a successful career in business.

Below is a video clip of Prince Cedza Dlamni, another Mandela family member who I had the opportunity provide supportive housing and family care while Cedza worked in New York where there were many weekends that Cedza stayed at my home as one of our family members.

I hope this story gives you a sense of where you stand in the hour glass of time, and And to the youth of our world, may you all begin to recognize the mile markers in life's journey so that you too can begin to build bridges to our own legacy to leadership in the 21st century. Yes, if Nelson Mandela had to have an Open Mind, we too may need to look at how we approach conflict, controversy, challenge, and adversity. In honor of Nelson Mandela, have an Open Mind.



Diversity Conversation with Prince Cedza Dlamini


Washington, D.C.


Humidity: 76%

Wind: 6 mph

  • 19 Mar 2016 41°F 36°F
  • 20 Mar 2016 42°F 35°F

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