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Henry Rollins: Nelson Mandela's Legacy

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Thu, Jul 11, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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Two years later, I was back in South Africa. I was informed that, in recognition of a documentary I had done that addressed HIV/AIDS in that country, the Mandela Foundation was awarding me the Mandela Bangle, a silver bracelet. There would be a press conference, photos, etc.

Afterward, I was invited to visit the foundation's building. I figured this was not to be missed, so I went. One of the staff members took me on a tour. I was shown the archive room and was allowed to look through Mandela's postincarceration passport, which had visas from all over the world. I could barely believe what was in my hands. I also was allowed to read from Mandela's prison journals. Incredible.

I was taken to his office and allowed to look around. I noticed that behind his desk, he had two small photos in frames: one of him with President Clinton and one with President Obama.

On a lighter note, I was shown the mail room, where things come in for Mandela on a daily basis. I noticed a stack of books. The one at the top was the autobiography of Britain's then-prime minister Gordon Brown. I opened it up and, of course, it was dedicated and signed. A book from England's PM, personalized, in a stack with all the others, I love that. I asked if Mandela had seen this and the staffer politely shrugged. In May, it was announced that Mandela's office will be opened to visitors starting in September.

When you consider America's civil rights struggles, which we grapple with to this day, think of Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Goldberg and the others in South Africa who spent decades behind bars half a world away. This is it. This is what it's all about.

Nelson Mandela will always be with us. His is a good story for a world that wants to move forward.

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