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NABSW Remembers Nelson Mandela
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Mandela, Madiba, Tata 


NABSW has had a long and storied history with South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress.  As I spent moments in my daily ritual of meditation and reflection, I could not get Nelson Mandela out of my mind.  When I get tired and discouraged, I call upon our ancestors, Tubman, Malcolm, Garvey and Martin to get me back on track.  My struggles are nothing compared with theirs. I will now add Mandela to my inspirational list. 


When I think of South Africa, in addition to Mandela, I also think of my predecessors Cenie Williams and Lenny Dunston who led us to that country when it suffered under apartheid and when it threw off the chains of oppression.  Through their perseverance, NABSW connected with the people and the cause of liberation and in our small way we assisted in the freeing of Mandela.  For those unaware, NABSW’s entire delegation in 2012 was invited to a State Dinner by the South African Parliament leaders and NABSW was conferred the status of being a full member of the ANC, an honor rarely given to non-South Africans.


Mandela, a Xhosa, was affectionately called Madiba, the name of the Thembu clan to which he belonged.  But more importantly, to many of us and the children of the world, Mandela is the embodiment of Tata, which means "esteemed Father,” also in his native tongue.  Tata Mandela was the glowing example of how you put Ma’at into action. 


Ma’at is the African Centered understanding of how the universe functions and is best described as a clear understanding of truth, justice, righteousness, balance, order, harmony, propriety and reciprocity.  In the South African Constitution, Mandela made sure that those principles were made part of that important document.  Our Constitution in the United States, for example, never mentions the words, justice or truth.  Can it be because we have no concepts of truth or justice in the United States worthy of the written words? 


Mandela demonstrated through his life that African people are the hope and the salvation for the world.  No other philosophies, principles, religion and ways of living could have resulted in the progress seen in South Africa in 20 years, that have not been accomplished in over 200 years in the United States.  Such changes as voter participation, equitable political representation, over two million homes built for the poor, salaries increased over 300% for the lowest paid workers, universal electricity and universal healthcare are but to name a few of the steps forward.  Humanity began not too far from where Mandela will have his final rest, but his work to restore humanity in all of us shall always be a challenge that we should accept and accomplish.  The transition back to humanity is our continual job in the future and in our present time.  Mandela through his life’s example has laid the foundation for our work. 


Let us not cry for Mandela but celebrate his life through song, dance and remembrances.  Let us stand strong against the oppression and inhumanity that still plagues our world.  Let us work to build on the legacy of President Nelson Mandela, focusing all of our efforts to eliminate illness, hunger, homelessness, pain, suffering, injustice and inequality.  Tata Mandela did much, and let us thank the Creator that he, Tata, left challenges for us to complete using and acting in our Way, the Way of Ma’at. Ase! Ase! Ase!



Joe E. Benton, LMSW

11th National President

National Association of Black Social Workers, Inc.

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