Birmingham civil rights leaders react to Nelson Mandela's death - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Birmingham civil rights leaders react to Nelson Mandela's death

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Mandela's actions in South Africa were also closely watched in Alabama. Many people here say that his fight against apartheid, was a mirror to the civil rights struggle.

ABC 33/40  spoke with several local civil rights leaders. Each of them had memories and stories to share on Nelson Mandela's impact on their own lives.

"Because of the great stance he took, even while locked up in prison, it continued to bring hope forward," Bishop Calvin Woods, SCLC leader said.

Former South African President, Nelson Mandela's legacy has undoubtedly played a role in Alabama's history.

"I think that's a lesson we all can learn from that after strife and struggle is put aside, there's a time for re-unification," William Bell, Birmingham Mayor said.

"I've always been fascinated by anyone who goes through a difficult time then rises above everything," Dr. Jesse Lewis, Founder, Birmingham Times said.

Birmingham Times founder and civil rights icon, Dr. Jesse Lewis met Mandela on three of his trips to the U.S.

"Washington D.C. on two occasions and in New York at the NAACP, one of the meetings," he said.

"I walked up to him and said, I met you in NY, and he said 'oh yeah! We have to stop meeting like this!' Those were his exact words," Dr. Lewis said. "I said I want to thank you on behalf of everybody."

He told us, even just a few minutes with Mandela changed his perspective. Lewis said Mandela would never credit himself - always those working alongside him.

"I remember very distinctly he always said 'we.' I took something away from that. I Adopted that attitude," Lewis said.

"It was through much hard struggle, through much love, saying love your neighbor, be non-violent, and God honored that," Woods said.

"The thing that people can take away from Mr. Mandela's life is determination," Ahmad Ward, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute said. "This is somebody who kept fighting for the rights of his people even behind prison walls."

"We can take that legacy and move forward with it even though it was not done in Alabama but it has a direct effect on the people who live in Alabama," Lewis said.

 

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