By Olivia Elder, ONE Campaigns
[Change] didn’t just happen – it happened because millions of people came together from all sections of life to work towards it. – Albie Sachs
As we celebrate Human Rights Day this year, we can look to South African lawyer and activist Albie Sachs and his work toward a free and fair South Africa to learn about how we can make a difference. His endless positivity and steadfast commitment to ending apartheid serve as an example to all of us as we work to end extreme poverty worldwide. Here are five of the biggest lessons we can learn from him today:
1. Use your gifts. As an educated, white man in South Africa, Albie was in a position of power. He chose to use that power to help serve those around him as a lawyer for people unfairly convicted under apartheid. Whether you’re a lawyer, a beautiful singer, or a talented writer, use your gifts to better the world!
2. Art is universal. Art can be a beautiful tool for activism – it’s a physical embodiment of culture, yet it transcends language, race, and nationality. Albie and the other justices of the Constitutional Court of South Africa chose the prison where both Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were held as the site of the courthouse, and they filled it with amazing paintings and art installations. Use dancing, singing, painting or any other artistic endeavor as a transformative way to bring people together!
3. Have grace under fire. Even while facing extreme obstacles, Albie never lost hope for the future. Lying in a hospital bed after a car bomb exploded and cost him an arm and sight in one eye, Albie said that he felt extremely lucky: “They came for me, and I only lost an arm.” His comrades promised to avenge him, but his response was, “If we get freedom and democracy in South Africa, that will be my soft vengeance.” No matter how bad it got, he was able to see the good.
4. You’re never too young. One of Albie’s first actions as an activist was taking part in a multi-racial youth group as a teenager. Whether you’re 8 or 98, find an issue that you’re passionate about and see how you can get involved.
5. Love people. As activists, we may work to change statistics, but our ultimate goal is to change lives. Twenty years after his bombing, Albie met the man who placed the bomb in his car, chose to speak with him, and ultimately forgave him. Rather than harbor resentment, Albie saw this as an opportunity to change one more life for the better.
This Human Rights Day, commit to making the world a better place. Make your voice heard, and do what you can to make a difference.