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The Great Troublemaker for Peace: Nelson Mandela’s Legacy

Earlier this week, I wrote about how Yoruba people take names so seriously because we think it can determine your life’s path. As we honor the memory of the late, GREAT Nelson Mandela, I reflect on his middle name “Rolihlahla,” which is Xhosa for “troublemaker.” President Mandela was the troublemaker who changed the world because of his refusal to stay down in the face of monstrous injustice. He dared to think he had the power to make a change as he battled apartheid in South Africa. And he did it with peace and love.

Nelson Mandela Impossible

Even as he sat in prison for 27 years, he stood strong with hope that the walls of Jericho in the form of apartheid would one day crumble. He fought tirelessly and went from convict to champion and from prison to President.

Yesterday, I was on a high from visiting the White House when I boarded my flight from Washington DC to Chicago. When I landed, I found out that Nelson Mandela had passed. It hit me in the chest when I boarded the train and tears were rolling down my face before I knew it. It was possibly also triggered because my iPod started playing “If God Was One of Us” as I reflected on the loss.

I knew he was sick and dying but his passing drives home the point that this “making the world a better place” work is for US to do now. That level of sacrifice is too big to even describe and who amongst us can find the courage to really inconvenience our lives for others?

What we’ve lost is not just a man but a symbol of hope and power. Mandela’s life was a testament to the power of ONE. What ONE person can do even when faced with what looks like insurmountable hate.

Nelson Mandela Difference

Which one of us can say we’d lay down our lives for the greater good of the world? Who amongst us would sacrifice our own freedom for the freedom of others? How do we fill this void?

Every single time another one of our legends and icons dies, it hits me like a brick. Selfishly, I think about how the world is less brave, less talented and less blessed from their passing. And I wonder how we can make up for it.

He said “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Madiba’s death reminds me that we cannot afford to sit down and be comfortable, especially those of us who are privileged to be in ANY positions of power. We are OBLIGATED to reach back and pull others up with us. That’s what living well really is. Living beyond our own needs and finding purpose that enriches the lives of others in some way. ALL of us need to commit ourselves to standing for something outside of ourselves. The guardians are dying and their work can’t be for naught.

For being a giant whose shoulders many of us stand on, for your innumerable sacrifice and for leaving the world a better place than you found it, THANK YOU.

Champion. Visionary. Warrior. Giant. Lion. Rest in Peace and Power, Madiba.


Please take time to watch the poem this little girl performed on South Africa’s Got Talent about Madiba. Wow.

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  1. insomniac
    December 6, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Well said!

  2. December 6, 2013 at 6:19 am

    Beautiful tribute to an amazing human. Thank you.

  3. December 6, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Luvvie you captured my heart about his passing. Thank you for sharing.

  4. DJ
    December 6, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Wonderful and spot on tribute. Thank you.

  5. jme
    December 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Beautifully written, Luvvie.

  6. Effie
    December 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

    He lived his dream. I will never stop dreaming. He did not have to become a dictator, puppet or violent revolutionary to accomplish the demise of Apartheid. He used his mind, and his heart as the true weapons.

    • Phoebe
      December 7, 2013 at 1:49 am

      There seems to be some white-washing going on here. That he did not have to be a violent revolutionary is false.
      The struggle for independence, not just in South Africa, but in most African countries was a violent and bloody affair. Ditto, the fight for equality for blacks in America. Both the colonizers and the freedom fighters lost a lot of men and shed a lot of blood and it’s no different with the ANC’s anti-apartheid fight. Mandela’s great achievement encompasses all that. The violent, bloody struggle for independence and the end of apartheid as well as the reconciliation and forgiveness that followed it. He, like many revolutionists before him used all three: violence, their minds and their hearts.

      • kwan
        December 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm

        I think what Effie meant was after his release from prison he had this power as a great leader he had he still was a selfless individual who harbored no hate. Unlike Castro or even Hitler who to their homeland and people once stood for equality and community among one another but power corrupted them to become evil minded and in the process of further progression harmed innocent people.

  7. Nerd Girl
    December 6, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Wonderfully said. I remember seeing him in Los Angeles in 1990 shortly after his release. Just awesome! I don’t waste a lot of time looking up to mortals, but Mr. Mandela is an exception. Just an amazing man.

  8. LalaLove
    December 6, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I cried yesterday but it wasn’t a joyful cry it was a sorrowful cry. I will truly miss this man… this visionary… this legend.

  9. jcanwisegrrl
    December 6, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Well said Luvvie. Poignant. May we all display even a fraction of the courage and heart this great man did in our everyday lives. We may not be called to change a nation, but we can certainly work in our communities, in our schools, even in our families, to create positive change.

  10. MsZ
    December 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Some people just seem immortal, you know? Mr. Mandela was one of those….a warrior angel in disguise. Thank you Luvvie. That brought tears to my eyes.

  11. December 6, 2013 at 10:42 am

    What a beautiful, fitting tribute. Thank you, Luvvie.

  12. rikyrah
    December 6, 2013 at 11:15 am

    beautiful tribute, Luvvie

  13. Superwoman
    December 6, 2013 at 11:45 am

    thank you, luv-luv. we’re in shock here in SA, even when we knew this was inevitable, especially since he’s been so ill for months. In so many respects, Mandela represents the best of us as South Africans, our pain and our triumph. The ending of apartheid was a dream come real, Madiba our first black president made it even more so… he gave so much, sacrificed so much… to this day, his family’s feeling the effects of him being father to the nation, at their expense.

    i hope to God that in these moments of mourning, people remember that he was Rolihlahla – a true revolutionary, guided by love. uncompromising and focused, often confrontational where he needed to be… we will really, really miss him.

    Tsela Tshweu Madiba…. Robala ka kgotso.

  14. December 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I can’t believe Mandela is gone but man, he earned the right to go!

    I love your version of RIP – because sometimes people pass and you know that they were so busy in life there’s no way they’re peacefully slumbering. They’re just continuing their work in a different location. Mandela’s power will live on!

  15. foxxxtalltrees
    December 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Beautiful. Rest peacefully, President Mandela

  16. LadyLarke
    December 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Very well written. If anyone deserves to sleep peacefully, it’s Nelson Mandela.

  17. December 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    This is a gorgeous tribute. My favorite line: “We are OBLIGATED to reach back and pull others up with us. That’s what living well really is.”


  18. Coco Malaika
    December 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    “When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, your’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    This. Madiba embodied this. And how he lived, that we are all crying now. RIP Great Son of Africa.

  19. […] equality and justice. Mandela became an internationally beloved hero for his achievements. He was a troublemaker for peace. He achieved so much and inspired so many. Now that he has passed, we can only pray that he rests […]

  20. lamh37
    December 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Man, I completely forgot about the end of Malcolm X when Nelson Mandela appeared on screen.

    Who remembered this?

    • kwan
      December 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      I do “I AM MALCOLM X!” def. one of my favorite scenes in that film.

  21. December 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Luvvie, I loved your post about names and bringing it all back to Mandela being a troublemaker for peace is very on point. After reading and reflecting on your words, can there be anything BUT troublemakers for peace?

    The clip you shared of Botlhale’s performances was beautiful and so moving. Her winning performance was, too. She referenced both Madiba and Obama…and YES WE CAN (as I sit here with my Yes We Can shirt on). Thanks for sharing. Moving and inspiring. LOVED every word.

  22. Shakira
    December 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    It is something that I never really pondered until his passing: the fact that I lived in a time with an ACTUAL revolutionary/freedom fighter. Just as when we were children we learned about Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, MLK, and Mary McCleod Bethune (excuse the alliteration lol), I can teach my niece about Nelson Mandela and his valiant efforts toward equality and justice for EVERYONE, not just one particular group. I can point out examples of the ripple effect he had on the rest of the world. That is so powerful to me and I am thankful to have known of and been taught about this great spirit.

  23. […] was a troublemaker for peace. He achieved so much and inspired so many. Now that he has passed, we can only pray that he rests […]

  24. […] was a troublemaker for peace. He achieved so much and inspired so many. Now that he has passed, we can only pray that he rests […]