“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
- Nelson Mandela
As we celebrate Mandela Day and honor the legacy of a man who dared to dream of a different world, I would like to thank all those who stand at the crucible of American history.
This past weekend, my cousin and I kicked off The Living Rooms Across America Tour in Phoenix, Arizona, a 10 state tour that’s using music as a way to stimulate conversation, build community and inspire people to get involved in efforts to transform America.
As we traveled into the scorching sun, I began thinking about what Nelson Mandela would say about the racism and fear that’s brewing in Arizona?
What would Mandela say about the fact that during the first six months of last year alone, the federal government deported more than 46,000 parents whose children are U.S. citizens?
What would Mandela say about the fact that all Arizona residents— citizens and non-citizens alike — are continuously being harassed and discriminated against as they simply try to take care of their families?
As I drove further into the desert, I concluded that Mandela would encourage us to use our gifts and talents to help humanize the hearts of those who may hate us because of our skin color, immigration status, religion or identity.
As I performed throughout Phoenix, I was reminded yet again of the power of coalition-building and speaking out against any injustice that dehumanizes a person.
And as I made life-long friendships, I knew that Mandela would want us to utilize Mandela Day as a vehicle to share our stories of change and transformation.
So I would like to share with you some remarkable stories of people living in Phoenix, Arizona who are truly living the spirit and courage of Nelson Mandela.
Let me share with you the story of Daria, an immigrant from Israel who grew up in Ohio and moved to Phoenix five years ago to make sure that “what happened to her family during the Holocaust wouldn’t happen to others living in Arizona.”
Or let me share with you the story of Christine, a Native American woman who organizes every single day in 110 + degree weather because she doesn’t want to “see another community decimated like her tribe has become during the past two generations.”
Or the story of Edder, a young undocumented honor student who was pulled over by the police for not having a light on his bicycle and now faces deportation simply because he didn’t have the right “papers.”
As I met numerous students, workers, parents and children, I kept asking myself what would it take for people to see their own reflections in the hopes and dreams of those living in Arizona?
What would it take for us to see that people, whether they are 96 or 13, are being unlawfully detained and deported because of a law that allows police officers to racially profile people of color?
What would it take for us to see that what’s happening inArizonaright now is reminiscent ofU.S.citizens of Japanese descent being interned during World War II?
Or what would it take for us to accept the fact that what’s happening inArizonahorribly resemblesMississippiin 1955 when people were being frequently stopped for having the wrong skin color?
This is not what our country stands for and we should no longer accept this.
So for Mandela Day, I’m utilizing my voice to help amplify the stories of those directly impacted by too many fear-based laws in Arizona and throughout America.
I’m thanking all those who I met who are creating a better world for my daughter and for all children.
Today, I celebrate those unknown women and men who continue to struggle everyday for the inherent dignity and worth of every person in this country.
Today, I celebrate those undocumented students who continue to fight for an Americathat acknowledges the contributions of all those working for a better future.
And today, I celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, a citizen of the world, who continues to remind us of the power of love and forgiveness.
Mike de la Rocha is an LA-based musician, writer and co-founder of shopsharelove.com. To find out more about Mike visit mikedelarocha.com and follow him on Twitter at @mrmikedelarocha.