I have a picture on my mantlepiece showing Nelson Mandela leaving the International Convention Centre in Birmingham during his visit to the UK in 1993. He had just spoken to a packed hall for two hours, without notes, and it seemed as if he was just holding a conversation with us. It certainly didn’t seem like two hours and those present would have willingly stayed another two or more to hear what he had to say to us. As the car left I positioned myself to salute him which he acknowledged with a smile and wave. He made everyone he came across, it seems, feel important, and as we have seen the people of South Africa are celebrating his life which brought them not only freedom but a knowledge of who they are. This feeling of course extends not only across Africa but the whole world.
One of the first to pay a tribute to Mandela in Birmingham was Rev Jesse Jackson. He is no stranger to Birmingham and Handsworth, home to a significant African Caribbean community. When former Councillor Phillip Murphy made a request for Nelson Mandela to come to Handsworth the response was that it would be impossible given his tight and exhausting schedule. When ANC contacts let it be known that such a visit had been requested he insisted on meeting them early that morning.
Tributes to Mandela continue to pour in across the world, including from the Israeli government who continue to uphold their own apartheid regime between Arab and Jew. Palestinian tributes were countered by the Israeli army using their accustomed violence.