8115 on 11.7.2010 – A LIFE CHANGING DAY

On February 11, 1990, I along with millions of others, waited and watched. For me, I was a younger version of myself and early in my college career. Due to the 8 hour time change, I had to set my alarm to wake up in the wee hours on February 11, 1990. On this date Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela walked to freedom after spending 27 years in prison- the name Madiba is Nelson Mandela’s tribal name. I had originally learned about South Africa and Madiba from an HBO movie about his life and times. So, it was a no brainer that I recognized the importance of witnessing this significant and symbolic historical event. I come from a bi-racial background with Latino and African-American roots – and I maintain a keen interest in civil rights history and I continue to try to understand the world in which we live. I had always been drawn to historical figures such as Gandhi, Malcolm, Rosa, and Martin; however, over the course of several years, I was learning the story of a man who had been imprisoned for decades and of the struggle against apartheid.

Then we all watched the evolution of South Africa the next several decades through the sometimes turbulent times. In 2006, I found the love of the world’s most popular sport – international soccer or ‘futbol,’ as the non-Americans refer to it. More than a decade of international travel, a recent trip to Croatia, watching past World Cup’s on TV – never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I would have the opportunity to visit a country I had seen evolve before my eyes on the evening news and during my sociology studies. In 2008, I started to envision that the 2010 World Cup in South Africa could be a remote possibility. I viewed this as an opportunity to witness one of the greatest sporting events – and also a unique opportunity to visit a country that had undergone such dramatic social justice and historical changes in my lifetime. This was my chance to visit Madiba’s home country.

Fast forward to the early morning of July 11, 2010, where I found myself in South Africa and Soweto along with two friends of mine – one who unbeknownst to me at the time would become my Globosocks, LCC business partner. This is a day of my life that I will forever hold as profound. One could easily say it was because it was the day of the World Cup Finals where I witnessed Spain win la Copa Mundial (World Cup). Although that was special no doubt, earlier in the day proved to be even more profound as I had the unique opportunity to visit 8115 Orlando, Soweto, South Africa. For people who don’t know, 8115 Orlando is the address of Madiba’s home, which is now a museum – and is, coincidently, down the street from the home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It is the only place on earth where two Nobel Peace Prize winners have lived on the same street, in this case, literally down the street. We spent the morning in Soweto where we stopped at a grocery store to buy fresh fruit and fried foods for lunch. We sat outside a Baptist Church in a dirt parking lot down the street from Mandela’s home and rolled down our windows to hear the most beautiful hymns being sung by the church choir while we enjoyed lunch.

As my two friends and I collectively talked and reflected – I had no idea the significance this day would have for me as I just enjoyed the moment. During my lifetime – I had witnessed Mandela walk to freedom, saw him sworn in as the country’s first Black President, and I was about to see him during the opening ceremonies of the World Cup (or so I thought). On my journey to South Africa, I dreamt of the opportunity to see Madiba. Madiba was scheduled to attend the opening ceremonies of the World Cup as a crowning achievement of hosting such a historic event for the first time on the African Continent; before this, no such event had been hosted anyplace in Africa. Unfortunately, due to a horrific car accident that killed Madiba’s granddaughter -he did not attend any public events.

I have had the pleasure of meeting three living U.S. Presidents, countless figureheads, musicians, entertainers, and world leaders. But for me, nothing fills me with more gratitude than having been in the stadium at Soccer City, Soweto (Johannesburg, South Africa) when Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela made what would be his last public appearance of his storied, yet sometimes tragic life. The crowd was elated and I confidently say I still get goosebumps when I think of how special that 2010 moment was. The intensity of cheering for Madiba exceeded the noise level of even the World Cup finals. Did I know at the time how special this moment was, absolutely not, nor did I know how my life would change from this journey. I have been blessed with many worldly experiences; however, this one will remain as one of the life-altering days of my life for a variety of reasons. Madiba’s life has impacted so many lives, including mine. On my personal website I still have the original photo and the words from Mandela which I hold close to my heart – “In judging our progress as individuals, we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence, and popularity, wealth and standard of education…but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being: humility, purity, generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve your fellow men – qualities within the reach of every human soul.”

A footnote to my personal history was that my company Globosocks, LLC, was born that day and we committed ourselves to not just be another company with goals of making a living, but a company dedicated to providing support for others less fortunate that ourselves throughout the world. In this spirit, our first philanthropic initiative was in Lira, Uganda back in 2011 and we hope to continue this dedication in the days, months, and years to come. On this sad day, our world has lost a GIANT who strived to use nonviolent means to work towards equality not only in his country but around the world. Did Madiba have faults which history will judge critically, yes? Did Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela positively change the world, absolutely? I reaffirm my commitment to serve others and those who remain voiceless and powerless. Rest in Peace Madiba.