SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) – Reaction to Nelson Mandela’s death is coming in from area political and community leaders.
Among those moved by the death of Mandela, former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer. Archer saw Mandela speak at the State Department in Washington during the Clinton administration and says he had the feeling he was in the presence of greatness.
“Not too many people I think have the capacity and the ability to do what Nelson Mandela was able to do during his lifetime. And the enormous impact that he had on people all over the world,” says Archer.
Most impressive, says Archer, the fact that Mandela didn’t hold on to anger after he was in prison for more than 20 years.
“I think for those of us who are lawyers and care about justice and care about equal opportunity and respect for our fellow man, he was a great role model and example,” says Archer.
NAACP Detroit Chapter President Wendell Anthony says he’ll never forget a visit he paid to Mandela’s home. Anthony was a part of a delegation seeking to encourage Mandela to visit Detroit.
“His home was too small to accommodate us, so we had to meet him in the backyard, in Soweto. And I was so excited and out comes this tall, handsome statesman Nelson Mandela. I’m simply blown away, and he’s thanking me for coming to his home. And I said ‘No, Mr. Mandela, it’s not for you to thank me, it is for me to thank you for all that you have done for people all over the world’,” says Anthony.
And Mandela did visit Detroit in June of 1990, capped off by a rally at Tigers Stadium.
“The stadium was overflowing with people. Rosa Parks was there, Stevie Wonder was there, Aretha Franklin, then-mayor Coleman Young. It was just electrifying,” says Anthony.
Detroiter and U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith remembers Mandela’s visit to Detroit. The late mayor Coleman Young asked Keith to introduce Mandela before the crowd at Tiger Stadium.
“I just told him how we welcomed him to the city of Detroit and how proud we were of him and what his presence meant to this city, this state and to this country. And out of all the cities around he selected Detroit, and I know he went other places, but coming to Detroit had special meaning,” says Keith.
Keith says he still has pictures of Mandela’s visit hanging in his office to this day. At the time of Mandela’s Detroit visit, Jim Blanchard was the Governor of Michigan.
“I can’t think of anyone I admire more in our history of our society than Nelson Mandela. How a guy could be in prison for 27 years, treated like dirt and emerge humble and gracious and unite a country that had betrayed him as an individual, it’s a fabulous story. And it was an exciting, electric moment that night in Detroit,” says Blanchard.
Blanchard also says Mandela’s speech was memorable, but Mandela’s presence was even more impressive.
Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement:
“Nelson Mandela’s life was an inspiration not only to this generation, but it will continue to inspire mankind and sustain those who seek justice against overwhelming odds. In a world that is in too many places being ripped apart by violence, his example of the power of nonviolence provides a shining alternative.”
And Gov. Rick Snyder offered the following comments on the life and legacy of former South African President Nelson Mandela:
“Nelson Mandela set out to transform a nation. In doing so, he made our entire world a better place. Through his convictions, courage and vision, he led the reforms that abolished the shameful policy of apartheid and established multiracial elections in South Africa. He suffered greatly because of his principles, yet was undeterred in his lifelong mission to combat poverty and other social ills stemming from decades of racial segregation.”
Congressman John Dingell says he was deeply saddened to learn of Mandela’s death and called him a true and honorable man who helped move our world forward, taking giant steps closer to the goal of equality for all.
Congressman Dan Kildee says Mandela’s perseverance in the face of oppression inspired millions around the world. While West Michigan Congressman Fred Upton said Mandela’s words and actions will continue to inspire, strengthen, and bring hope to future generations.