Local men reflects on meeting with Mandela

OVERBROOK - December 6, 2013

Raheem Manning was a 15-year-old at Overbrook High School back in 2005 when he was chosen as part of a student delegation to South Africa to tour that nation and spend a day with anti-apartheid champion Nelson Mandela.

The leader of that delegation was Philadelphia's show biz giant Will Smith.

They spent a day visiting with Nelson Mandela. Raheem is now a college graduate working in the corporate world. He shared with us what he took away from his day with Mandela.

"He inspired me to want to affect change. And one thing he did say is that change doesn't have to be on a grand scale. You know, you start small, and eventually you may have something big."

Alexander Rylander, who now works for a major airline, was a 16-year-old Overbrook student in that delegation to meet Mandela and learn about South Africa. By then Nelson Mandela, political prisoner, statesman, and politician, had also become an activist fighting for aids victims.

Alexander says, "He wanted us to being back… don't stigmatize AIDS, and actually try to help support people who have it."

Raheem's uncle, Joseph Manning Jr., was also part of the delegation. A contractor who went along as a chaperone, he got a lesson from Mr. Mandela himself.

Joseph says, "We must do what we have to change something. If we don't like we have to try to put our steps forward. If it's small or if it's giant, it all started off with a small step."

Nelson Mandela is rightly being hailed as a global icon of enormous power and influence. From these West Philadelphians, you can feel his impact on their individual lives and their thinking. They will never forget their once in a lifetime experience and the messages that rubbed off.

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