Clayton Early Learning
12Dec/13Off

A Tribute to Nelson Mandela: His Legacy of Walking in Cultural Humility

Shant'a Johnson

It is fitting to use this space and time to honor and celebrate the life of one of the world’s most influential and courageous leaders of whom we have recently lost-Nelson Mandela.  Mandela, a South-African anti-apartheid activist and revolutionary, also served as the first black South-African President from 1994 to 1999.

Over the past week, as I viewed news clips of his life and legacy, one theme continued to shine through about who he was and the life and work that he lived.  It was his legacy of forgiveness and resiliency.  This legacy is one that many of those on either side of the former apartheid system attributed publicly to being the unifying factor of the 52,981,991 people who live in South Africa today.  Being an African-American female in the U.S., who still feels the impact of racism, classism, and gender inequality; I am thankful to have an example such as Mandela to look to as I journey and grow towards cultural humility.

You might be asking, what is cultural humility and what does this have to do Nelson Mandela?  Cultural humility, is a concept first birthed out of the health field to address the issue of lack of patient compliance to doctor prescribed treatment.  In the article Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education, cultural humility is defined as being:

“A lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and critique, to redressing the power imbalances… and to developing mutually beneficial and non-paternalistic partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations” (Tervalon, 123).

A young African American boy immitating a picture Nelson Mandela's raised fist during a speachMandela’s legacy embodies the very essence of cultural humility and its standing principles.  One standing principle that I feel reflects the life and legacy of Mandela is that of self-reflection and the life-long learner model.  Mandela states, “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself.  You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”

This principle deems it “imperative that there be a simultaneous process of self-reflection (realistic and on-going self-appraisal) and commitment to a lifelong learning process” (Tervalon, 119).  One must first be willing to “consciously think about their own, often ill-defined and multidimensional cultural identities and backgrounds” (Tervalon, 120).

Mandela is characterized as a highly self-reflective individual, he shows what he has learned about himself and accepted through the following quotes:

“I am fundamentally an optimist.   Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.  Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.  There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.  That way lays defeat and death.”

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find ways in which you yourself have altered”

We also can see Mandela’s process of letting go and forgiving in the following quote, as he reflects upon being released after serving over 27 years in prison, due to his involvement in anti-apartheid activism, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”

Mandela, with a firm foundation of understanding who he was, and the strength to accept what came, changed the course of a nation’s history and impacted the world.  If we were to take a closer look at his life’s journey, we can see one who lived by the principle of self-reflection and the lifelong learner model, allowing his life’s tragic events to transform him from being not only an influential activist against the apartheid, but also an advocate for the cause of peace on behalf of all.

In conclusion, let us all be challenged to take more time to self-reflect and accept what comes, using it to strengthen ourselves and others in this journey called life.  Together, we can have a hand in helping to shape the future for those little ones who will follow.

References:

Tervalon, M., Murray- García, J. Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education.  Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved; May 1998; 9,2; Research Library pg. 117.

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/278812-as-i-walked-out-the-door-toward-the-gate-that

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/367338.Nelson_Mandela

 

Shant'a Johnson

About Shant'a Johnson

Shant’a recently began serving in the position of Recruitment Specialist at Clayton Early Learning in January of this year, as well as actively supporting the Fatherhood and Positive Male Involvement program. Through her current position, she seeks to enhance visibility for Clayton Early Learning as well as encouraging community partnerships. Additionally, in the two previous years with Clayton, she served on a team of Lead Child Family Educators, supervising other child family educators in family services, and partnering with families to obtain their life goals and resources in their community. Beginning her journey in service to families and children close to 12 years ago, she had the opportunity to work as a youth intern for Assets for Colorado youth while obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a minor in leadership through the Pioneer Leadership Program at the University of Denver. This experience propelled her compassion for families and children and passion for empowering others. Continuing on in her work of strengthening families and the community, Shant’a found her niche in Head Start where she has now served families for the past 10 years. Having the opportunity to engage with individuals of various socio-economic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds ( being fluent in the Spanish-speaking language), she has also added to her work the strong desire to see communities engage in cultural humility and inclusive excellence. Shant’a strives to be the best model of love, strength and support to her beautiful and very active and gifted daughter, Salome, who keeps her on her toes. She also enjoys dance of any type, and has been trained in modern/ interpretive, African, and is learning her most recent favorite- the bachata.
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