Rarely does a world leader have much impact on Mission Hill, but Nelson Mandela, the former South African political prisoner and president who died Dec. 5, was one of them.
Mandela won global goodwill for bringing down his country’s racist apartheid regime with both words and deeds of peace, equality and reconciliation. How that message resonated locally can be seen in the year 1990.
The previous year, a white man murdered his wife in Mission Hill and blamed it on a fictional black killer. Police harassment and the arrest of an innocent black man followed. In 1990, the public learned of the real murderer’s hoax. Racial resentment festered and blatant inequalities were exposed.
Also in 1990, Mandela made a historic visit to Boston, including neighboring sections of Roxbury. Freshly released from prison, he arrived as a living example of justice and trust at a time when Boston needed it.
Since then, the family of murder victim Carol DiMaiti Stuart honored her legacy and built a bridge to Mission Hill by creating a scholarship in her name for local students. And 20 years later, local residents created Harmony on the Hill, a series of events to reflect on the horrible crime and reaffirm Mission Hill’s commitment to closing the racial divides that were exposed.
Mandela did not create these efforts, but his morals and tactics are all over them. As someone who overcame injustice and violence in his own life and then in his entire nation, Mandela inspired peacemakers everywhere, including in Mission Hill.