Posts Tagged ‘Nelson Mandela’

Madiba: A life, and a man, that counted for so many of us

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. - Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

My first real memories of political activism happened (repeatedly) in the BC Liquor store on Commercial Drive. I was 5, my sister 3. And our parents would place us strategically at the end of an aisle and give us a very important task: we were to be the lookouts, in charge of warning them about any staff who might be moving their way. So while we — seemingly innocently — stood watch, my parents plastered the labels of the South African wine bottles with anti-apartheid stickers.

You see, the fight against Apartheid was just part of my childhood. Our home was the BC mailing address for SACTU (the South African Congress of Trade Unions, an affiliated partner of the ANC). It was just the way things went at my house: my sister and I would sometimes give up our beds for fleeing or visiting political refugees. We thought it a treat to help sort and count the change gathered from all the fundraisers. And we knew every word and proudly belted “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAFrika” at any chance we got.

Many of the people cycling through our home became good family friends — for me, in particular, a wonderful man named Peter. They would make curry, we would make sweet coconut bread to dip in it, and we would all eat while the adults talked about political action, Nelson and the struggle. Once, Peter even agreed to let me take him to my school classroom — as an odd kind of ‘show and tell.’ And there, he patiently talked to a class full of suburban (primarily Caucasian and Asian) children about what his very different life had looked like. He talked about running out the back door of his house — in the middle of the night, without shoes on — because he heard police trying to break through the front door. He talked having to leave his family behind. And he talked about Nelson.


Four women of NOW on the meaning of December 6

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Because we are women: December 6Today marks the anniversary of the massacre at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. 24 years later, the echoes of that terrible day are still strong. And they’re especially resonant on a day when we also mourn the death of Nelson Mandela.

The struggle for justice and equality has many faces. But there are strong common threads in both Mr. Mandela’s life and the daily work of multitudes to end violence against women.

In the same way that Margaret Mitchell’s male colleagues laughed when she raised the issue of domestic violence in the House of Commons, Nelson Mandela was demonized and dismissed on the editorial pages of the same newspapers running glowing eulogies today.

This is work that demands bold vision, persistence… and an enduring faith that ridicule and contempt can’t withstand the power of determined people. Today, we remember those who died on that day in 1989 in Montreal, and renew our commitment to building a world that treats our mothers, sisters and daughters with respect, justice and dignity.

Here, four of the women of NOW share a little of what December 6 means to them. (more…)

Remembering Nelson Mandela: Reflections from a Spartan Against Apartheid

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Bust of Nelson Mandela

Photo by George Rex (

I grew up in North Surrey in the 80s, which means I attended North Surrey Secondary School. Everything you’d expect to see in a Surrey high school was there — big hair, neon accessories, stirrup pants. What might surprise you was that one of the more active school clubs was Spartans Against Apartheid (we are the North Surrey Spartans, after all). A remarkable team of activist teachers and a multicultural group of students was drawn to the cause of our time, ending apartheid in South Africa. And the imprisoned hero Nelson Mandela.

Together with students like Rupinder Kang we ran education workshops for other students to raise awareness about apartheid in South Africa, and put pressure on the Canadian government. We learned about the role of companies such as Shell. (I still can’t buy gas there.)

For teenagers it was a thrilling cause. The cause was so just. The music was awesome. The anthem was stirring. We went to workshops, watched films and wrote letters. We organized speakers to come to our school. I was once invited to a home in Coquitlam where the Canadian Ambassador from the African National Congress was staying. There I met a small Kristen Keighley-Wight, herself an activist, as her home was the Canadian headquarters of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.