Nelson Mandela was born 100 years ago today on July 18th, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. His death in 2013 was marked with sadness the world over and Lowell was no exception. Lowell Community Charter Public School held a celebration of his life that was featured in the original Room 50 blog.
Then Mayor Patrick Murphy remarked, ““We have all lost a strong voice for peace and justice in the world. In his life, Nelson Mandela struggled for no less than the freedom of his people, at great cost to himself and his family. Jailed away for three decades, he later prevailed in the end to Apartheid, and began as president to heal a nation divided by its history of tyranny and oppression.”
Mandela’s passing renewed a call from local activists in the African community for a monument in his honor. In April 2014, the City of Lowell and University of Massachusetts Lowell dedicated the Mandela Overlook alongside the Tsongas Center in a ceremony headlined by special guest (and Mandela friend) Judge Albie Sachs.
Judge Sachs was in Lowell as the 2014 Greeley Peace Scholar. The Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies award honors a distinguished advocate for peace, noted humanitarian, or faith leader who is asked to serve in limited residency at the University of Massachusetts Lowell during one semester each year. Sachs devoted much of his lectures to remembering the life of Mandela who had passed away only a few months prior.
The following year, a marker was installed at the Overlook site. The marker notes that the Mandela Overlook “resonates in a special way with the city’s growing African immigrant community.” The Africa America Alliance is working with the university on eventually installing a larger monument to Mandela based on a design created by UML students.
The Nelson Mandela Overlook is graced with a quote from one of Mandela’s most well-known and influential speeches:
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”