Howard McCurdy

(CBC)

Windsor leaders were saddened to hear that Nelson Mandela died on Thursday.

The 95-year-old was an international symbol.

"You'd be surprised at what an ordinary human being he seemed to be," said Howard McCurdy, who met Mandela several times during his political career.  "But we all know we were looking at one of the most magnificent symbols of the racial struggle and racial conciliation, as well."

McCurdy was the first African-Canadian Member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party. He co-founded and chaired the National Black Coalition of Canada and also formed the Guardian Club to fight racial discrimination in Windsor.

Clayton Talbert Sr., a former leader of Windsor's Black Coalition, did not get a chance to meet Mandela. However, he said the first president of a democratic South Africa was a symbol for him in Windsor\Essex.

"He was a person that I really did appreciate the things that he had done. It gave me insight into the tribulations that they were experiencing there through apartheid," said Talbert. He added lessons from that struggle were applied locally.

Daphne Clarke owns the Black History Book Shop in Windsor. She was at Tigers Stadium when Mandela spoke there in 1990.

She, too, was sad to hear the news of Mandela's death, but was consoled by what he had accomplished.

"It is really uplifting to see all the things he has done," she said. "It really, really, gives you a desire to go forward and do the best you can even if the road is hard." 

McCurdy said Mandela's legacy will live on.

"Even though there may be hostility among races, there may be conflict, there may be oppression... there are those who stand very high in defeating those kinds of relationships," he said.

McCurdy also wondered what the future will hold in South Africa.

"One needs to worry about what happens next," he said. "In the absence of that symbol one wonders where the ANC [African National Congress] is going now because you see signs of some destructive elements within it that seem counter to what Mandela stood for."

"Know that the man will never be forgotten for the things that he means to many people nation wide," said Talbert.

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