PLATTSBURGH — Only one degree separated the late Nelson Mandela and Paul Ferrari of West Chazy.
Ferrari’s late father, Frank, worked at the Africa-America Institute in New York City.
“He was really one of the leaders in this country working with the anti-apartheid activists and also bringing influential politicians like Teddy Kennedy, Andrew Young and John Lewis in terms of helping to divest, to put sanctions against South Africa,” Paul said Thursday evening.
“The Reagan administration was against sanctions, saying that it hurt the people.
“The South African leaders, my father and anti-apartheid activists led by the African National Congress and Bishop Tutu called for sanctions to abolish apartheid in South Africa.”
Frank was very close to Mandela and attended his presidential inauguration on May 10, 1994 in Pretoria.
“My father opened up the office in 1990 in South Africa,” Paul said. “He and my mom lived there for two years. I got to meet him (Mandela) when he addressed the United Nations for the first time in 1990.”
Paul and his wife, Lynn Schneider, visited South Africa soon after Mandela had been released from prison after serving 27 years at Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison.
“Nelson had been released that February,” Paul said. “When we went to South Africa, it was such an exciting time. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, I can remember watching it at home and seeing him come out for the first time.
“It was one of the most exciting moments of my lifetime, just because of what he represented, knowing that he made the ultimate sacrifice for his people, really for South Africa and the world in going to fight against an unjust system like apartheid.
“He was an inspiration. At that time, he was prepared to die to create a nonracial South Africa and his commitment toward his people, his country where everyone is respected regardless of one’s race. He was willing to give up his life.”