Monday, December 9, 2013

I Am Mandela. You Are Mandela.

As I stepped off the plane from a quick trip last week, my breath was taken away by the news I read in my Facebook feed, "RIP Nelson Mandela." Of course, I knew the day would come when we'd say goodbye to cultural icon, Nelson Mandela who was 95 at the time of his death. I just was not prepared for that day, just yet.

Ironically, I'd just read an excerpt from a recently release book of a friend and noted racial reconciliation author, Ed Gilbreath.  Remembering Birmingham is a short e-book that reflects on the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail written by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The complexity and conflict of being a leader of the civil rights movement was palatable to me as I read this quick tome. Earlier that week, in a conversation with my 76 year old father, the topic of my activism came up. My dad carefully asked me if I'd considered myself a radical.

I paused to really absorb his question and he immediately began to apologize and started to take back the question when I interrupted him.

"Actually, dad, that is a great word for what I am." We ended up talking about why I was OK with the word and what it stood for and we spoke about Dr. King and his work, specifically in Alabama as I was headed to that state that very week. After the conversation with my dad, I'd been wrestling with his question and my "full on" embrace of the radical label. Nelson Mandela crossed my mind during this reflection. I tucked those thoughts away as I prepared for my trip. Traveled to Alabama, accomplished what I wanted to accomplish and on the way back finally read the e-book I'd downloaded in October.

It is no coincidence that the conversations, reading the e-book and the passing of Mandela all occurred when it did. These events are all interrelated.

This all matters for one reason: A rallying call for me and my fellow leaders.

We are called to be radicals. Radicals for good. Radicals for justice. Radicals for equality. The passing of Nelson Mandela last week only solidifies my thinking about leadership and my own place in society. We can no longer wait for the next ... Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. We are it. I am she. It's been clear to me since my early 20s and most of my actions to date support this. We are the leaders we've been looking for. Clearly the accomplishments of Dr. King and/or Mandela will never be replicated. It is a different time. We face some of the same issues but both those great men pushed doors open that must be continuously walked through by as many of us as possible.  In all areas of our lives we must continue to strive to lead from a place of integrity and lift up as many people in the process as we can.  Not only on  MLK day in January or Madiba's birthday in July but every day.

My heart is heavy at the passing of Nelson Mandela but I fully embrace the challenge to carry on his legacy. #IAmMandela

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