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Race, politics and equality are hot button issues that comedian D.L. Hughley loves to talk about, speaking his mind and making folks laugh is what pays the bills for the long-time comedian and actor turned radio host.
On his self-titled afternoon drive show for the Cumulus Media Network, Hughley has touched on his reliable topics while joining the world in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela, the once controversial anti-apartheid leader who endured an unjust 27-year stretch in prison only to emerge from that and eventually become the first black president of South Africa, Mandela died at the age of 95 on Dec. 5.
Hughley believes that Mandela was truly selfless in his work and that a leader being so selfless is a rare occurrence in society today.
“I’ve only known of four or five men that were so selfless that they crossed borders and languages and cultures,” Hughley told Regal Radio recently by phone.
“It’s rare to be that selfless and I don’t think we’ll see the likes of him again.”
Mandela was globally regarded as a man who fought for freedom and stood as a champion for black Africans in South Africa by fighting against the issues of inequality that sprung from the institution that was apartheid.
After spending his time imprisoned at Robben Island near Capetown, Mandela was released early from his imprisonment in 1990 after a series of negotiations with then-president F.W. de Klerk. Mandela and de Klerk were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together and Mandela succeeded de Klerk as president of South Africa beginning in 1994, his term ending in 1999 after Mandela chose not to run for the office again.
Hughley never had a chance to meet Mandela but he’s always admired him from afar.
“Imagine, schools will be named after a man that wasn’t even born in this country,” he said. “Do you know what kind of dignitary you have to be to have a school named after you in America?”
Hughley has also been impressed with how the United States has paid homage to the fallen leader. A memorial service for Mandela was conducted last week at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., he was spoken of as a statesman of biblical stature for his ability to forgive those who imprisoned him.
“The United States had the flag put at half staff— for a 95-year-old black man,” Hughley said. “I don’t know if that’s ever happened, for Martin Luther King’s assassination, I don’t think the flags went half staff.”
Mandela was laid to rest yesterday in his native South Africa with a funeral in his childhood village.
With the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first free elections coming upon us in 2014, Mandela’s legacy will continue to be brought up and it is expected to live long. But like the well-trained comedic observer he is, Hughley can’t help but look at a certain irony that can be associated with Mandela’s election and presidency in the ’90s, one that showed a huge leap forward in South Africa that wasn’t made anywhere else in such an immediate time.
“The first time apartheid went away and (everyone in) that country could vote, they voted for (Mandela),” Hughley said. “That would be like if slavery was over (in America) and the next week they voted for a black man. That’s amazing!”
Brandon Robinson is a contributor to Regal Radio. He’s a digital journalist who covers sports and pop culture. You can find his work in VIBE, SLAM, TD DAILY, Ebony, CBS Interactive and Da Laughing Barrel.com. He is also a lecturer at NJIT in Newark, NJ. You can follow him on Twitter @Scoop B and see more of his work here.