Understanding the timeless relevance of Mandela's legacy

Step into a world where history comes alive and resonates through the artifacts and personal reflections contained within at the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Mandela: The Official Exhibition. This limited-run exhibition invites patrons to immerse themselves in the life of one of history's greatest icons: Nelson Mandela.

Rapid Growth invited Kimberly Kennedy-Barrington, Th.D., co-host of the podcast "Rolling on the Road: Live with Dr. Kimberly and Dave," to tour the exhibition, and here she shares her insights with Publisher Tommy Allen. Kennedy-Barrington unveils the timeless relevance of Mandela's legacy, which ignites a spark within each visitor to understand and confront today's challenges with unwavering determination, mirroring Mandela's resilience.

Photo by Tommy AllenKimberly Kennedy-Barrington raises her fist to join Mandela at the exhibit.

Photo by Tommy AllenKimberly Kennedy-Barrington confronts the South African signs from Mandela's time.

On Mandela's trailblazing spirit (and discovering that they share the same birthday):

"He was such a trailblazer. And he operated as if there was no box. He just woke up every day as if there was something new that he felt that he needed to do…he just got up, and he did it. I find myself doing the same thing…to be able to endure the most difficult circumstances."

Photo by Tommy AllenThe family life Nelson Mandela craved was elusive.

Photo by Tommy AllenMandela's family tree moves Kimberly Kennedy-Barrington that she almost touches the wall.

On Mandela's resilience, leadership, and working with what you have:

"I could see often in the exhibit where Mandela saw there were times where the country needed time to rest and just exhale. This is what I realized that I need to do in order to achieve longevity. (Mandela) gave the country the opportunity to rest and to recuperate."

Photo by Tommy AllenThe ceremonial leopard-skin headdress awarded to Nelson Mandela by the Xhosa people.

Photo by Tommy AllenThe layout allows folks to get up close with artifacts from Mandela's life.

On finding inspiration in Mandela's actions:

"Even if you didn't feel like you could have a cause or fight against some type of injustice, you'll leave the (Mandela exhibition) and say, ‘I want to do something.” That’s the type of life that he lived, where at any given time, he could have been killed as (society) was very much on the edge. We can find ways to recreate it in some kind of way. Not that we want to recreate how it was, but rather recreate the necessity for all of us to answer the call or a call to action.”

Photo by Tommy AllenNelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on the same day at Kimberly Kennedy-Barrington.

On Mandela's connection to humanity:

“To see the humanistic side of him (within the exhibition), is a view so many never got to see as most of us only saw a particular moment in time …and at times that was only towards the end of his life. And yet it's what happened before that we get to see here as it showcased what made him who he was."

Photo by Tommy AllenNelson Mandela received more than 260 awards during his lifetime, including the Nobel Peace Prize.
Photo by Tommy AllenPowerful moments and discoveries are within every part of Mandela at the GRPM.

On learning lessons from Mandela's legacy:

“I enjoyed finding a quote of his, ‘I never lose. I either win, or learn.’ When I read that I just broke down crying. And I said, thank you, God, because no matter what happens, I have learned a very valuable lesson."

Photo by Tommy AllenDespite being in prison, Nelson Mandela found solace in tending to the earth.

On Saturday, May 18, GRPM invites the public to celebrate the legacy of Nelson Mandela and African cultures through music, cuisine, art, and fashion. This is taking place during the second to last weekend that the GRPM will host Mandela: The Official Exhibition. The exhibit runs through May 26.

Photos by Tommy Allen

Kimberly Kennedy-Barrington, T.hD., is the creator and co-host of the weekly live streaming “Rolling on the Road: Live with Dr. Kimberly and Dave (Bulkowski of Disability Advocates of Kent County).
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