With the sad news of Nelson Mandela’s death, the internet has been filled with quotes and memes, such as the one above, which celebrate his life and achievements, and continued fight against inequity and injustice. I was moved by the pathos, lyricism, and above all the kindness that came out in his words that I was inspired to put together this eulogy, and also a reminder that whilst Mandela is no longer here to fight, his memory lives on, and with that the duty for all of Earth’s people to continue his fight against injustice, inequity and poverty in all its forms, and to work together to create “a society of which all humanity will be proud.”
I have gathered a selection of his quotes into a sort of cento; a poem made from the lines of other poems. This is my first attempt at a cento so I hope you’ll forgive me if it just sounds like plagiarism, but I wanted to write something that captured the essence of his commitment to equality and justice, as well as the capacity to forgive and love despite the many years that were taken by his imprisonment.
A Cento for Nelson Mandela
I have walked that long road to freedom:
I stand here as a humble servant of you
the people—I place the remaining years of my life in your hands.
The time for the healing of wounds has come,
the moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come
and the expectant air of walking into a brighter future—
our march to freedom is irreversible,
we must not allow fear to stand in our way;
I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.
I have walked that long road to freedom
through the valley of the shadow of death again and again,
I have fought against white domination,
and I have fought against black domination—
your freedom and mine cannot be separated
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: the struggle is my life, and,
the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.
I have walked that long road to freedom,
I have tried not to falter,
I have made missteps along the way
for with freedom come responsibilities;
I learned that courage was not the absence
of fear but the triumph over it,
and inspiring others to move beyond it.
There is no easy walk to freedom and I dare not linger
for my long walk is not yet ended.