The Spirit and Message of Nelson Mandelas Lives on in the Invictus Initiative
His lifelong fight against injustice and commitment to truth inspired Dr.Richard Kaul from the first time he heard his name while growing up as an Indian child fighting racial discrimination in Britain in the 1970s.
Dr.Kaul was born in India in 1964, moved to the UK in 1966 and then temporarily relocated to South Yemen from 1969-1972. He grew up on a council estate just outside of London in an area that was controlled by the British National Front, a right wing fascist group, whose racist slogans and violent persecution of racial minorities were aimed at intimidating Indians and Afro-Caribbeans into leaving the country.He became used to fighting words and acts of discrimination, sensitized to injustice and distrustful of authority. His mother died when he was 14 and his father died when he was 16.
The poem Invictus was written by William Ernest Henley in 1857 aged 17 as he lay in a hospital bed in London after having just had his left leg amputated and communicates his profound belief that all life circumstances can be overcome with the understanding that the individual directs his own destiny. Nelson Mandela used these words to guide him through some of his darkest moments while imprisoned on Robben Island. An internal shift in perspective can alter the harshest of realities and redirect the course of humanity. Mandela did this. But he was human and possessed all of the characteristics, albeit in the extreme, that define our existence. As the world mourns his loss and celebrates his life it is important not to forget the many shades of his personality and even more vital that the message of his journey be continued. The fight against injustice.
Is apartheid still alive?
The youth prisons of America contain a disproportionately large number of African-American males and seem to be a continuation of the racial discrimination that has marked the historical record since the country was founded. The mass deportation, segregation and disenfranchisement of a people has left a profound socio-psychological scar that explains the economic disadvantage which forces young boys into making destructive choices. No fathers or male mentors exacerbates a social epidemic that should concern all members of society and a cause that one ignores at their own peril.
Mandela was often referred to as a troublemaker and his life was marked with a seemingly never ending series of both personal and professional conflicts the lessons of which all ultimately contributed to the demise of apartheid in South Africa. An interesting question is would he have defeated this system had he not constantly challenged authority. The South African media attacked his name and reputation labeling him a child killer, rapist and terrorist. Those headlines clearly did not stop the truth from emerging and today the truth is that young African-American boys are being denied the opportunity of economic freedom.
The Invictus Initiative is a US program of the Spine Africa Project that takes the words of the poem and the message of resilience into the hearts and minds of boys in the youth prisons in the inner cities of America. The program commenced in September 2013 at the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center in Newark, New Jersey with presentations from Dr.Richard Kaul and Jason Cejour who is a 22 year old African-American who despite being orphaned at 13 and growing up in the Newark ghetto went on to enter university. Their personal stories of overcoming the obstacles, hurdles and injustices of life provide inspiration and hope to those that need it most and in a place where a meaningful change for society can occur.