Hundreds pack Raleigh church for Mandela memorial service
Posted December 14, 2013
Updated December 15, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Hundreds of Triangle residents joined area leaders Saturday afternoon at Raleigh's First Baptist Church for a memorial service honoring former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Mandela, who served 27 years in prison before leading his country out of apartheid as its first black president, died Dec. 5 at the age of 95.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane spoke to the crowd, saying that Mandela's life was an example of the power of forgiveness. She also talked about a trip she took to South Africa to visit her daughter.
"We went to Cape Town, and we went to Robben Island," McFarlane said. "Seeing the conditions he lived in, seeing the conditions of the prison, being able to stand in his cell, it was one of the most amazing points of my life. Nelson Mandela changed the world, and he changed me, too."
Rep. David Price (D-4) compared Mandela's struggle against apartheid to the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
"We know this struggle was inspiring to Mandela and others in his movement," Price said. "We know the courage and perseverance of women, men and children who withstood fire hoses and dogs helped Mandela endure the solitude and inhumanity of his imprisonment at Robben Island."
Robben Island, the notorious prison where Mandela spent nearly three decades for his political activities, is now a museum that reminds people of the country's past oppression.
The 8-square-mile island, more than 4 miles off the coast of Cape Town in the South Atlantic Ocean, served as a prison from the 17th century, when Dutch colonists established it, until 1996, when the South Africa government moved the last inmates out. Small memorials to Mandela have sprung up inside his cell since he died last week.
Jeremy Collins, a lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said Saturday that words don't adequately address the legacy Mandela leaves behind.
"The work that Mandela has done speaks for him. Nothing I can do or say can add or take anything away from his life," Collins said. "We honor him with our living."
State NAACP President William Barber spoke about remembering the anti-apartheid icon and former leader.
"We must not mythologize Nelson Mandela, but truly honor his memory," Barber said. "Pitiful words of compliments to him while he is dead disgraces his memory. We must engage in imitation, which is the greatest form of flattery if we are to dignify his memory."
Doris Franse moved to Durham from Capetown, South Africa 15 years ago. She remembers the apartheid struggle.
"The police would come down to our shacks and kick down doors in the middle of the night looking for passes," Franse said.
UNC student Kutala Franse has a very different picture of South Africa. She spent the semester abroad and was there when Mandela passed away.
"Everyone was really in a state of peace and everyone was really upholding his message and his legacy," Franse said.
Ten days of mourning for Nelson Mandela will come to an end Sunday with his state funeral. WRAL.com will live stream the funeral service from South Africa. The service is scheduled to begin at 1 a.m.