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Meeting Mandela: Bah-Pna Dahane

Memories from Johannesburg, after returning to this land that was long infamous for its segregationist policy of apartheid. A memorable stay because I met Nelson Mandela in person on Tuesday, June 6th, 2013, just two

Memories from Johannesburg, after returning to this land that was long infamous for its segregationist policy of apartheid. A memorable stay because I met Nelson Mandela in person on Tuesday, June 6th, 2013, just two days before his hospitalization.
Shortly after an interesting meeting at the Michaelangelo Hotel in Sandton, I received an email saying, “Hello Brother, come and greet the old man. Our address is …” I could not believe it. I have had many sleepless nights in my life, but like that one, only once before: the night of April 13, 2004, as I was looking forward to the birth of my little princess, this little angel sent from heaven on the wings of love.
I spent hours reading and rereading the same text message; I still could not believe it…  And then I thought of my uncle who, when I was still just 11 years old, led me to discover this legendary personage by bringing me to the Festival of Humanity in Lyon. We spent all that afternoon collecting signatures for the release of the oldest prisoner in the world.  I had experienced racism in France after fleeing the civil war in my country of Chad.  Being taunted with names like Kunta Kinte, Snow White and the like, I had had to fight at school all the time.  At the age of 11, I had already realized that some countries were indeed making racism a constitution to live by. I spent hours at the local library learning about him but also about Martin Luther King, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame N’Krumah, others leaders and the one who became my second hero, Malcolm X.
Tuesday morning, still having trouble believing it, I left my room at 5 a.m. to go for my daily jog.  I kept looking at my phone, almost expecting a “Sorry, it is cancelled.” I do not know why, but I found it so inconceivable to have such a privilege, I, who growing up in France was mocked for the color of my skin in the country of the “declaration of human rights” which had often forgotten to look at me for the “content of my character”.
After spending a long time at the gym, I went back to my room. I saw the driver well ahead, waiting. In the car, I was in the same state that I had been in the 13th of April 2004, when I was driving to the hospital to witness the arrival of my little angel. A quarter of an hour later, we finally arrived at the super-secure residence. I stood in front of the door for about five minutes before ringing. A security guard opened the door: “How can I help you? ” I just showed him the message I received the day before. “OK, call him; he will come and fetch you.”
Five minutes later, the grandson arrived with a “Welcome brother, happy you made it. Let me check on the old man.” I was left alone to wait in that huge property, contemplating the swimming pool surrounded by palm trees and the lush grass.  I was told, “The old man will be ready shortly,” but it was no problem for me: I had looked forward to this moment for 27 years, so waiting for another hour or even another day was not going to be a problem at all. While exploring the vast property, I was told “The old man is ready; you can come.”
I first entered the kitchen and was introduced to Graca Machel  as “The brother from Chad “.  Graca Machel: “Oh nice, it’s great to have friends from all over the world. It’s the first time we have a guest from Chad visiting us at home. Welcome.”  I walked through the kitchen and entered the living room.
On my right was his personal library, with a large painting of him and lots of books. As I slowly approached, it was the white hair that I first noticed. The old man was lying down, watching TV. “Well, Grandpa, this is Bah-pna, our guest from Chad!”  I observed him. I felt the same as I had on the 13th of April 2004, when for the first time I felt my daughter in my arms.
I thought about that historic day in February 1990. Early in the morning before my father went to work, he told us to make sure to record Mandela’s liberation.  We waited hours and hours in front of the TV that day.  I still recall reading Madiba’s details in Long Walk to Freedom of being late before walking free from Victor Verster prison.
I shook his hand once, then a second time. The emotion is hard to explain: it was the same emotion I had felt when the midwife gave me the scissors to cut my daughter’s umbilical cord. I stood there and the old man said, ” Please have a seat.”  The old man was Nelson Mandela. After spending a few moments with him, I realized that it was not a dream but reality.  I left the house shortly after.  I would have loved to capture the moment with a photo, but Tata Madiba was in a state of extreme fatigue. This moment will forever remain etched in my memory. Buy Prednisone online
So I left South Africa thinking about the quotes of Howard White in my mind: “Never let your dream die. You may have to sell them but there is always someone willing to buy if you are tenacious. Spread your wings, believe in yourself and fly”; Thoreau: ” Go confidently in the management of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler”; and of course Spike Lee’s “Do the right thing.” citalopram no prescription
The inspirations of Mandela, Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame N’Krumah, WEB Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Robert Sobukwe, Hampata Ba, Wole Soyinka, Haile Selassie, Steve Biko, my Mother, my Father, the driving force that my daughter represents and my other children and wife to come…and President Barack Obama lead me to “not follow on the footsteps of the wise but seek what they sought.” (Osho) Buy ventolin inhaler
Today, I still hope for my angel that she will live in a world where she will not be judged by the color of her skin, but by the content of her character.  And as Nelson Mandela wrote so well in 1978 “ Science and experience have also shown that no race is inherently superior to others, and this myth has been equally exploded whenever blacks and whites are given equal opportunity for development”. Buy Amoxil online
Debo Folorunsho
Debo Folorunsho serves as CEO of Applause Africa Communications and Executive Producer of the African Diaspora Awards. He has worked in Visual Design at Music Creative Group, Warner Music Communications and Design Group, and Permission Data.
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1 COMMENT
  • Lightbody February 11, 2017

    What an incredible moment that was. Thank you for sharing your story. I feel greatly inspired. Mandela will be forever missed. God bless <3

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