Letter: Teaching work of Mandela to students will continue

I was privileged to introduce a course at LSU called, “Malcolm, Martin, and Mandela in the Media.” This course was taught at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, and it was the first of its kind. The students were excited. I had to drum up students my first semester, but after that, I always had a waiting list. As I write these reflections, I am reminded of the many students who took the course and engaged themselves in the legacy and thought of Nelson Mandela. This class reflected on the media and the influence in play in the lives of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mandela. In the African and African American Studies program, I developed a course called, “The Philosophy and Thought of Nelson Mandela.” This course centered on his early childhood until his rise to international leader. His African name means, “Shaker of Trees,” and throughout his life, he shook the foundation of an unjust society in South Africa.

We talked about his childhood, when he would play war games with his friends in the countryside. This playtime would soon develop into a philosophy and be his leadership style for later moments in his life. The students would always be puzzled by his words, “Leadership can be from behind; one always gets the faster and most nimble sheep to lead, and the shepherd follows.” I was fortunate to teach both courses to students at LSU, and in my teaching, I also learned that we must find something that we are willing to die for. I am passionate about teaching, and I am called to teach a new generation the legacy and thought of Mandela.

Mandela taught us how to forgive and to reconcile with our worst enemy. He was not bitter, and he changed a culture, a society, and even a nation with his dignity and passion for justice for all persons. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to teach and study the life of Mandela. I traveled to South Africa, and we stopped in Cape Town, and as I looked across the ocean, I thought about Mandela, but I had no idea I would one day teach students about his philosophy and thought. What a wonderful blessing. Thank you Mr. Mandela. You also shook my spirit.

Herman O. Kelly, Jr.

pastor and adjunct professor

Baton Rouge