"It always seems impossible until it's done."
- Nelson Mandela
Mandela died today, at the age of 95. It was not unexpected; many media organizations were able to publish comprehensive obituaries online soon after his death was confirmed.
I didn't know very much at all about him when the song Free Nelson Mandela (as it was called here; it was simply called Nelson Mandela in the U.K. and elsewhere) was released in 1984 by the Special A.K.A., an offshoot of the Specials. Jerry Dammers wrote the song (and evidently got some details wrong, like the shoes too small to fit his feet) after attending an anti-apartheid rally the year before. Apartheid became a burning issue in the years that followed; this song helped fuelled awareness of a gross injustice, and indeed of Mandela himself. You don't see that very often with a pop song these days!
When Mandela was released in 1990, I was not necessarily surprised to see him with a raised fist in the air. I was surprised, though, to see how profoundly forgiving he was, and willing to move forward in hope rather than look back in anger and bitterness.