I sat down in my seat with my fellow ONE members and I finally breathed. I turned around, looked at the audience, and at that moment a chill went through my body. It finally hit me what an extraordinary opportunity it was to join the Ann Arbor community, faculty, alumni and students in honoring the life of the hero, Nelson Mandela, just days after his passing.
Hosting an exclusive screening of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” at the University of Michigan was extremely special because of the many professors and students who were personally affected by his passing. Professor Frieda Ekotto, who has met Mandela, expressed her thoughts about the movie’s success – and feels it will trigger involvement in Mandela’s fight to make poverty history. As a ONE member who has been advocating for this mission for more than six years, to hear that was extremely moving.
In the midst of finals, papers and projects, planning this event was definitely not easy. All the sleepless nights became worth it when I noticed the astounding effect the film and discussion had on the attendees. After the panel discussion, a student came up to me and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to grieve. As a first year student from Zimbabwe, she explained she did not have many African friends and tonight was the first time she was able to truly process the passing of Mandela with fellow Africans.
Another important aspect of the event was the affect it had on new ONE members. “Seeing this film and listening to these professors share their knowledge about the historic changes and their effect in South Africa has inspired me to not only be proactive in the way I think and the way I live, but turn these thoughts and beliefs into powerful actions in my community,” said Corey Smith, a junior and first year ONE member.
Corey Smith, a first-year ONE member.
Throughout my tenure at ONE, I have been apart of amazing initiatives, but this event was by far was the most rewarding. Yazier Henry, a political science professor at Michigan and a native South African made a statement during the panel discussion that parallels my experience.
“It is now time that I take Mandela’s expectations as my responsibility,” he said. “That is how I would like to honor his memory.” I am fortunate to be a part of such a great campaign, and I look forward to rising up to Mandela’s challenge to be the generation that ends extreme poverty.