Tribute to a Hero
South African political leader, Noble prize winner and former South African President Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 in his home in Johannesburg. As the news spread across the world of his passing, many events were held to celebrate his life and his work. Ball State was among many organizations that honored Mandela in such a manner.
Ball State’s event, held on February 25 in the Student Center Ballroom, was called “Mandela + Muncie + Marion = Reconciliation.” Not only was the event to honor Mandela, it was also to reconcile the cities of Muncie and Marion.
In 1930, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were jailed in Marion, Indiana for several crimes, including armed robbery and murder. An angry mob formed in the Marion community and kidnapped Shipp and Smith from the Marion jail and hung them from a tree in a local courtyard. Muncie residents took down the bodies of the two men, despite the threat of violence from the Marion community, to give them a proper burial. The mayors of Muncie and Marion, Dennis Tyler and Wayne Seybold, respectively went to the event last Tuesday to reconcile the past.
Speakers at the event included a professor at Stellenbosch, Tony Naidoo and instructor at the University of Botswana, Sophie Moagi. Both Naidoo and Moagi are Ball State University alumni. They spoke about their experiences growing up under the apartheid, a system of segregation in South Africa that lasted from 1948 to 1994 as well as their experiences at Ball State University.
Georgiana Sofletea, a doctoral student at Ball State and graduate assistant at the Office of Institutional Diversity, put on the event. As part of her job, she puts on events to encourage diversity around Ball State. She came up with this idea to pass on Mandela’s message of reconciliation to bring Muncie and Marion back together.
“The passing away of Nelson Mandela was very, very emotional for all of us,” Sofletea said. “We all looked up to him as an icon, a hero, an inspiration to the work that we do in the Diversity Office.
“We wanted to celebrate the two communities [Muncie and Marion] as well as South Africa. Therefore, we remembered that we have two heroes, alumni of our program, Dr. Tony Naidoo and Sophie Moagi and we invited them back to speak about their experiences in South Africa. As a part of our event, we will ask them to bring artwork from the children from South Africa and in Botswana to exchange with the children of Marion and Muncie. That way, that not only all of us are reconnecting and reconciling but the children as well,” Sofletea said.
Other organizations, such as the Marion Choir and Voice of Triumph, participated in the event. Voice of Triumph performed “I Need You to Survive” by Hezekiah Walker. The president of Voice of Triumph, Sanovia Garrett, led the song and came to the event also as a supporter for the cause.
“I feel like that’s a very appropriate song for this type of event, because when you’re dealing with something like Nelson Mandela and then you get a little more spiritual, you get more in tune as far as Muncie, Marion, [and] Mandela; we need each other to survive. So, without Muncie helping Marion, or Marion helping Muncie, or Mandela helping the world, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Garrett said.
At the end of the event, director of the multicultural center Ro-Anne Royer Engle gave her closing remarks about the life of Mandela and reconciliation of Muncie and Marion. Even though the event ended promptly after her remarks, many visitors stayed and conversed with one another and shared their thoughts on the life of Mandela and the future of South Africa, Muncie and Marion.