By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — Nelson Mandela, a freedom fighter and South Africa’s first black president, died on Thursday. He was 95.
Hartford and the world react to the loss of an icon who transitioned from the fight to dismantle racial segregation to leader of a multi-racial democracy. He ushered in a country that shed some vestiges of its apartheid era with truth and reconciliation hearings.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra issued a statement Thursday and said the flag will fly half-staff in Madela’s honor.
“Today, the world lost one its greatest leaders, one of its greatest champions of humanity and a transformational human being. Mr. Mandela will always be remembered for his unrelenting pursuit of racial equality as well as his passionate belief in humanity,” Segarra said. ”The world was fortunate to have shared his presence. We should honor him by continuing to advance his lifelong work of pursuing justice and equality for everyone. His passing is very sad but also a reminder of how personal determination can bring about seemingly impossible change.”
After spending 27 years in prison on Robben Island in a Spartan cell, Mandela “lived for that ideal and achieved more than could be expected of any man,” said President Barack Obama.
Gov. Dannel Malloy also released a statement regarding the death of Mandela:
“Nelson Mandela’s ‘long walk to freedom’ changed our world for the better. The cause of his life became the world’s cause, and in 1987, the State of Connecticut joined him by banning state investments in companies that did business in South Africa in support of his mission of ending racial segregation policies,” Malloy said. “His reverent passion for justice will continue to inspire generations of citizens to improve social, political, racial, and humanitarian conditions around the world. While the news of his passing is cause for sorrow, we should be forever grateful for his incomparable contribution to the cause for equality.”
Local conflict transformational leader Margaret Keyser, born in South Africa, also saluted the man that became the face of South Africa’s apartheid struggle in the 1980s.
“I salute you, and I cry for you President Nelson Mandela…Madiba. – great transformational leader of our time, who has been my inspiration all these years. Rest in peace now, Father of our Nation…and peace to your family. May your life and work always be a lightning rod for the world to see,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
TransAfrica, a panAfrican organization joined the nation and the world in mourning the loss of Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and first president of a multi-racial democratic South Africa and who inspired others in the pursuit of truth and justice until his final days. Whether it was leading the struggle against apartheid regime, championing the cause of people with HIV/AIDS, or challenging the great powers of the globe to build a better world: Mandela continuously gave us strength to speak truth to power, organizers said.
“We will continue to carry on Mandela’s legacy of courageous activism. Even when unjustly imprisonment on Robben Island by the apartheid government, he and his fellow activists in the liberation movement inspired us all with their vision of a free, just and democratic South Africa,” said Nicole Lee, President of TransAfrica. “No obstacle was too great for Nelson Mandela in his quest for a brighter tomorrow. As we work to change powerful systems that perpetuate economic and social injustice, we are reminded of Madiba’s courage.”
Obama also issued a statement, harkening back to Mandela’s trial in 1964 when he said: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
The statement is apt, coming from the first black president of the United States of America and and a man who visited the ailing Mandela in the summer.
“Nelson Mandela … achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And 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,” Obama said. ”He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.”
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