A Long Walk To Freedom...
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Nelson Mandela
Many , many years ago, I remember getting up early and climbing on an old Routemaster bus. As the sun rose, it left Bournemouth town centre and made a very noisy, bumpy four hour journey to London. But the excitement and anticipation we all had, meant that the journey went by in a flash and we disembarked in central London. The crowds were amazing. Cascading down Oxford Street and every thoroughfare attached. We marched and we sang and I bought LPs in Indie record shops (couldn't resist). But overall we celebrated our freedom and hoped our voices would help free others, because it was bigger than Nelson. It was about a world that needed to change.
It was the Freedom at 70 march and we were heading towards Hyde Park. These are the moments that instil your values for the rest of your life. My hatred of injustice and love of humanity was watered and grew out of this moment. In many job interviews, I can remember being asked what upset me or what angered me. I always answered injustice.
When we arrived at Hyde Park we were amongst the first to arrive. The crowd looked disappointing, but it swelled and it grew like a smoke cloud billowing from the power station of hatred and injustice and replaced by a crowd of love and passion. I look back and remember the people I heard speak. Desmond Tutu was impassioned, Richard Attenborough was fabulous, Denzil Washington was inspiring. Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke with joy and hope. It was also the Rock Against Racism soundtrack that coloured the day. Jerry Dammers belting out Free Nelson Mandela and Simple Minds singing Biko! It still lifts the hairs on the back of my neck.
And it worked. A few days later the Sharpville Six were reprieved, eight months later Namibia was free of South African oppression and 18 months later the day arrived. The day of the great mans release. I sat in my college dorm and smiled. Within a few weeks the Berlin Wall fell and I cried. These were tumultuous times.
It scares me to think that this was thirty two years ago and we now find ourselves now with the greatest restrictions on freedom that we have ever known. Greater than during world wars, depressions and civil unrest. But out of these restrictions I have once again seen the seeds of hope and freedom resown. Will they survive? We are only three weeks in to our lockdown but I hope that the freedoms that we have grown to take for granted, will now be appreciated by us and also protected by our voices raising and saying "no, this can't return to the way it was."
As Jane Eyre said “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” We must never take these things for granted again. A walk on the beach, a hug (not me though), a queue , a crowded platform, a shopping trip, friends, the list goes on endlessly. It will be a shame when noise returns and I can no longer hear the cacophony of bird song that fills my days and not just the dawn and dusk.
But it is our minds that will give us our greatest freedoms. Virginia Woolf said “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” We must not only unleash our minds, when our freedom comes but we must insist and help the whole of society gain this type of freedom. Now as I come to my rambling end I feel like William Wallace " Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it." And for those expecting another Braveheart quote, how could we disappoint.