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Seeing my hero Nelson Mandela in person

BY JULIAN ROBINSON

Friday, December 06, 2013    

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IN 1991, Nelson Mandela made a historic visit to Jamaica, a year after his release from 27 years of imprisonment.

At the time, I was a member of the Jamaica national youth cricket squad preparing for the annual regional competition. As is customary, the squad was in residency at the JDF HQ at Up Park Camp. Camp rules prohibited us from leaving the compound and breaking that rule risked a penalty of being sent home.

However, I was determined that I could not miss seeing Mandela in person, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Mandela was scheduled to speak at the National Stadium. I made my way to the boundary wall of the Up Park Camp compound on Arthur Wint Drive, close to Bustamante Hospital for Children. I scaled that wall and walked up to the stadium, which was packed to capacity as Jamaicans from all walks of life were determined to see their anti-apartheid hero.

I weaved my way through a thick crowd and got inside the stadium. The atmosphere was electrifying as Winnie and Nelson made their way around the cycle track in their open top motor car. I got to see my hero in person, for the first and only time.

— Julian Robinson is the minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.

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