Albany-area leaders recall the former South African president and world icon for his dedication to the law, and to justice. YNN's Geoff Redick reports.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Thursday was a moment that Alice Green had prepared herself for, so much as anyone can prepare for the death of their inspiration.
"He had become such a moral force and such a leader," said the Head of Albany's Center for Law & Justice, speaking of the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Mandela died Thursday in South Africa, at the age of 95.
Directly from Mandela's preachings during his decades imprisoned in South Africa, Green has shaped her next goal as an activist here in Albany.
"It's a model that we are now using to try to get the Governor to set-up a 'Truth, Justice & Reconciliation Commission,'"Green said. "To look at the harm that mass incarceration has had on our community."
Green visited Mandela's South African cell block two years ago. It is where he spent 27 years behind bars. After all that, Green said she is amazed at Mandela's capacity to forgive, rise above the adversity and a lead a nation.
"He gave us the guidance, in terms of how we work for freedom and against oppression, wherever we find it in our country," she said.
Across town at the Albany Law School, Dean Penelope Andrews, LL.M., shared her perspective with YNN from her years growing up in South Africa. Andrews was labeled "colored" by the government, and said she was considered a second-class citizen.
That changed, finally, when Mandela took office in the early 1990's.
"There was a change in the culture," noted Andrews. "Whereas under apartheid, black people couldn't live in the cities, were not a strong presence suddenly you'd go Johannesburg, go to Capetown, and these were black cities now."
Little could the young Penelope Andrews have known, though, that she would grow up to edit a book on South African Constitutional Law, the foreword of which would be written by Mandela himself.
"It stands out in the foreword, but it also stands out in what Nelson Mandela was about," Andrews said. "He was very committed to the rule of law, and to the capacity of constitutions to make a difference in people's lives."
Andrews said Mandela was even more defined by his morality and sense of justice and believes those principles should not die with him.
"We will carry on the traditions and the values and the principles that he stood for," she said. "So that in South Africa, in the United States, and globally, his legacy should live on."
Nelson Mandela's funeral will be held in South Africa on December 15.