Northeast Wisconsin Residents Share Memories of Meeting Mandela - WBAY

Northeast Wisconsin Residents Share Memories of Meeting Mandela

Green Bay -

Some people in northeast Wisconsin are sharing their memories of Nelson Mandela.

Months after Mandela was released from a South African prison in 1990 after 27 years, he went on a world tour.

"It's almost to say 'thank you", said Dr. Alem Asres, Director of College Diversity and Affirmative Action at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Asres was a Ph.D student at the University of Maryland at the time.

"When I heard of him coming ... I decided to go to New York to see him," he said. "It was huge, huge event. I just happened to have a chance to see him."

He was among the thousands celebrating at a parade through the streets when Mandela walked by.

"He reached out like any other president campaigning, shaking hands and other people, people reach out, you know, just a touch," Asres said.

How accessible Mandela was also surprised Erica Plaza. She's now works in NWTC's College of Advancement Department.  She was just 18 or 19 when she studied abroad in Europe.

"I just happened to be on holiday break over in Amsterdam ... came around one of the canals and standing not too far away from me were the queen and Nelson Mandela," described Plaza.

She was not able to get any closer, but from that moment, Mandela sparked an interest in her to learn more about his life.

A couple years later, her college selected her to spend a month in South Africa to determine if it should be become a study abroad destination.

With her help, it did, and still is today.

Plaza and Asres' experiences are just a couple among many that will showcase Mandela's legacy for years.

"He's dead but he will never die because his idea lives," adds Asres.

This weekend at the Divine Temple Church of God in Christ in downtown Green Bay, the congregation will remember Mandela.

"Sunday we'll have a moment of silence for him because he was a great man," says Pastor L.C. Green.

Green will also remind his congregation, especially the younger generation, of the former leader's greatest legacy.

"He's my hero because he was a man of purpose," says Green. "I just want to make sure we all have a purpose. To do things we need to do and move ahead, don't let oppression stop you, don't let depression stop you, just move ahead and do what you have to do."

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