From those who would have witnessed the dark days of apartheid South Africa at work via distant television coverage or personal interfaces to those for whom that new rainbow Nation’s glorious triumph over institutional injustice is the stuff of research and popular cinematographic culture, as in the movie “Invictus”, the force that was and still is Nelson Mandela remains a point of singular significance.
From his early days as a militant, anti-apartheid activist (fighting the oppression that was essential to the racially discriminatory policies of the then minority white government) to his ascendance as the first fully representative, democratically elected President, his life was one of currency, passion and effort. He has come to epitomise the unending, indeed unwavering, fight for justice against intractable odds, and it is for this reason that 18 July takes on such significance for people all around the world who will, with us at the Jamaican Kittitian (JamKit) Association, commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day 2012, Mr. Mandela’s 94th birthday.
For Jamaicans, there is a particular point of resonance with the Mandela story. Indeed, it was in the year that Jamaica was gaining political independence, almost to the day (5 August 1962), that we saw the deprivation of Nelson Mandela’s own liberty with his infamous incarceration at institutions such as the equally infamous Robben’s Island Penitentiary off the coast of Cape Town, where he spent eighteen (18) years. Despite the twenty seven (27) years of his confinement, Mr. Mandela remained a formidable part of the world’s consciousness, while still a prisoner of conscience, and his efforts impacted on aspects of life in his country from sports to business. Jamaica shared a very special place in the annals of that experience and struggle, facilitating the work of Mr. Mandela both during and after his incarceration. Also, several pro-Mandela and anti-apartheid reggae songs were released by Jamaican artistes and one year’s performances at the then popular Annual Reggae Sunsplash Series of Concerts in Jamaica were dedicated to the anti-apartheid freedom fighters of South Africa. Perhaps the most meaningful acknowledgement of that partnership can still be seen by the inclusion of a section of the Jamaican flag in that of the South African. For this honour, Jamaicans remain truly humbled.
It is in this spirit of national camaraderie and shared belief that the JamKit Association wishes to use this opportunity to encourage all persons here in the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis to truly embrace the Nelson Mandela International Day 2012 experience. As part of its mandate to spread the word and impact of Mandela’s work globally, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, supported by the United Nations, through this day, promotes the suggestion of individuals and organisations taking sixty seven (67) minutes of their time to dedicate to volunteerism; each minute representing one of the sixty seven (67) years of dedicated service to humanity that Nelson Mandela has given. The membership of JamKit Association commits to continuing its work on this day towards it goals of outreach in the community. We remain keen in our efforts to assist in improving certain aspects of health care delivery in the Federation. Similarly, we continue to work towards increasing the avenues for sharing, as we increase activities focused on this year’s celebration of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Political Independence. As an association of Jamaicans and friends of Jamaicans, including partners, living in St Kitts & Nevis, the JamKit Association is particularly pleased to have yet another opportunity to make its mark on this country in affirmative ways.
The South African High Commission in Jamaica said that, “Nelson Mandela Day not only celebrates Nelson Mandela’s life, but it is also a global call to action for people to recognise their ability to have a positive effect on others around them. The day hopes to inspire people to embrace the values that Mandela shared. These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect.” (Jamaica Observer, July 2012)
Let us hope that the inspiration to be derived from a life like that of Nelson Mandela will provide each of us with the drive to try, in our own ways, to make the world a better place. And, as His Excellence Mandela said, let us ensure that “what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.” But that, “It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
Always we remain, with One Love.
NB 1: Nelson Mandela International Day was adopted by the United Nations on 10 November 2009 and officially launched on 28 March 2011. As of this year, Jamaica will officially join in the observance of Nelson Mandela International Day, to be observed under the theme, ‘Take action, inspire and make every day a Mandela Day.’ (Jamaica Gleaner, July 2012)
NB 2: Jamaica will celebrate her 50th Anniversary of Political Independence on 6 August 2012. Dubbed Jamaica 50 SKN Celebrations are activities to be hosted by the JamKit Association on Nevis and St. Kitts during the period 5-26 August 2012 to celebrate achievement of this milestone.