San Diegans mourn the loss, celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

San Diegans mourn the loss, celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela

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SAN DIEGO (CBS News 8) - San Diegans are joining millions of others around the globe who are both mourning the loss and celebrating the life of 95-year-old Nelson Mandela, widely regarded as the worldwide symbol of the struggle against oppression.

"I don't think he can ever be replaced," said Marion Cloete, a South African native who is now Director of Diversity Services at Cal Western Law School in San Diego.

"We grew up during the struggle years," Cloete told CBS News 8. "Your weren't a child for very long. It took very little time to realize that things were not right."

"His legacy will always be that he was a leader at the forefront , taking our message of struggle all over the world and standing up for South Africans as a well as oppressed people throughout the world," she added.

"He's become a symbol of grace and dignity and peace for the entire world," said San Diegan Steven Malk, who was born in South Africa, living in Johannesburg until age five.

"When I was growing up there, it was very segregated obviously, and it's not anymore, and that's an incredible thing," Malk said. "I think that's just a testament to what he was able to accomplish."

A literary agent, Malk represents author and illustrator Kadir Nelson, a San Diegan who created a children's book on Nelson Mandela published earlier this year.

"In the end, Nelson Mandela is someone to look up to," Nelson said. "His legacy is a powerful example of choosing love over fear, of choosing a higher path."

Makeda Dread Cheatom, executive director of the World Beat Cultural Center in Balboa Park, had the privilege of meeting Mandela at a dinner in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, soon after his release from prison.

"It was incredible. He meant courage and he meant compassion," she told CBS News 8. "He gave everybody inspiration all over the planet. He made me know that none of us are free until all of us are free."

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