Voorhees Statement on the Death of Nelson Mandela

December 8, 2013

“As the father of South Africa, a statesman, and an apostle of hope for mankind, as we look over the life of the late Nelson Mandela, we must remember his life sacrifice, persistency and courage. These are key characteristics of who he was as a “Lion of Africa.”

He went from 27 years in prison to the presidency of new South Africa without the stench of inhuman treatment of apartheid, which denied black South Africans their dignity and humanity. He set the tone for being the person with the most charisma and political courage of the 20th century.

His movement was revolutionary. He will be missed as a role model for others who have been marginalized and oppressed and used him as a symbol of hope.

Although I was never able to meet Nelson Mandela, our struggles were aligned during that time before it became popular to rally against apartheid. Supporting the fight against apartheid put us on the opposite side of the powers to be. Our fight against injustice tied both of our nations together with our struggle against racism and oppression.

In my youth, I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Through this involvement, I became intricately aware of the apartheid in South Africa, which was similar to the struggles of the South involving segregation.

In 1965, I, along with Congressman John Lewis and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was arrested at South Africa’s Consulate Office for protesting in memory of the Sharpeville Massacre, where police shot and killed several unarmed protestors. After we were arrested, we were later bailed out of jail by Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. Three weeks later, we went to the Embassy in Washington, D.C. and protested again for five hours, which resulted in us being arrested again.

As young demonstrators, we were aware of Nelson Mandela and his anti-apartheid movement. We knew the struggle of Nelson Mandela and others involved with their fight for the African National Congress, who rallied against apartheid or racial separation. This movement was similar to our movement in the Apartheid South against segregation and the right to vote.

In 1968, after the shooting on the campus of South Carolina State College involving students of this institution and Claflin College, we were trying to characterize what happened. We realized that what happened in Orangeburg was very similar to the Sharpeville Massacre. This is how we named the incident we now call, “The Orangeburg Massacre.”

I will forever be grateful for Nelson Mandela’s fight for justice. He embodies the values we try to teach our students at Voorhees, which are persistence, determination and resilience.”

-- Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr., Voorhees College President