As Villager has said, yesterday was Nelson Mandela's birthday.
I can remember standing on the 24-hour nonstop picket line outside the South African Embassy in London's Trafalgar Square in the 1980s.
A friend of mine used to go come down every Friday evening, after a full work week, to stand on the picket line. I remember when she was arrested for obstruction one night. I went to court to support her and was pleased when the case was thrown out.
We made very small sacrifices. We boycotted certain fruits. Why did the ones from South Africa always appear to be the plumpest and freshest?
On our visits to the supermarket, we dug our fingernails into the avocados to stop anyone else from eating them.
Mandela sacrificed many years of his life, but somehow managed not only to keep his dignity, but to treat his enemies with respect, and win them over with his kindness and his wisdom.
I can remember the days when we thought the end of Apartheid would inevitably involve violence, destruction and bloodshed on a massive scale. Yet, miraculously, it came about peaceably. Mandela played a major role in the peace process.
To read more about this, see:
Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela's Autobiography
Endgame: The Beginning of the end of Apartheid.
I remember, too, that when he visited London after his release from prison, he challenged the police about their handling of the Stephen Lawrence enquiry. Up until then, the enquiry had not been prioritised or pursued seriously by the police. Mandela's involvement ensured that this issue was given the prominence it deserved.
This great African leader is an inspiration to people all over the world.
Happy birthday, Mandela!