Fresno State community remembers Mandela

By | December 10, 2013 | News (2)

Fresno State President Joseph Castro and his wife Mary Castro join a vigil to remember the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Photo Roe Borunda

Dozens of students, faculty and community members gathered in the Free Speech Area on Monday night to commemorate the life of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in the wake of his death last week.

“Nelson Mandela was a candle in a world of darkness,” said English professor James Walton.

Mandela died in Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday. He was 95 years old.

Mandela was widely recognized for his work against apartheid in South Africa and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years in the infamous Robben Island prison.  He was remembered as one of history’s most outspoken and influential leaders in human rights.

One after another, professors, students and club representatives shared how they felt about Mandela during a candlelight vigil.

Event emcee and women’s studies professor Melissa Knight said she remembers when she heard of Mandela’s freedom for the first time. It was something she has not forgotten.

“There is no other way to describe it. It was like it was a vibration,” Knight said, “It really felt like an earthquake. You’re in the Bay Area and you’re asking, ‘Was there an earthquake?’”

Outreach counselor and event organizer Kornya Lansana said the goal of the event was to celebrate the life of Mandela and to bring awareness of his achievements to students on campus.

“I believe when you hear the name Nelson Mandela, it goes across race, ethnicity and gender,” Lansana said. “It’s about struggle and people’s resilience in what they believe, which is human rights. I think his name signifies a lot and just for that, it gives us celebration and that’s what we are doing.”

Knight said she hopes that this event will provide adequate awareness of who Mandela was.  She said there is still much that students are unaware of when it comes to the true legacy of his life.

“Younger generations may not be able to specify exactly what he did,” Knight said.  “Whether you’re grabbing folks as they walk by or they read about it in the newspaper, or see it on the news, it’s events like these that will perhaps encourage students to look a little more into what his life really was.”

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