Nelson Mandela called his journey against apartheid the long walk to freedom, and it's also been a long journey for a South African journalist who died in New York in the 1960s and is buried in Westchester. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Gladys Maphumolo, the elderly sister of South African journalist and activist Nathaniel Nakasa, traveled across the ocean to America to reclaim her brother's body almost 50 years after his death.
"I feel the pain because we were not here when he was buried. That was the greatest pain for us," Maphumolo said. "My father couldn't come here. We couldn't come here. Those were the days of apartheid. We couldn't come."
In his 20s, Nakasa was a newspaper journalist who heavily criticized the South African government's treatment of blacks. He was told to leave South Africa and never return. The alternative could have easily been going to jail like Nelson Mandela or even death.
"The pen is mightier than the sword, and he used his pen to fight for freedom, for liberation in South Africa," said South African Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
A journalism fellowship at Harvard University brought him to America. The writer often stayed in New York.
Less than a year after his arrival, he died after falling from a seventh-floor window in Manhattan. It was ruled a suicide, something family and friends had a hard time believing.
He was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in the same area Malcolm X was a few months earlier that same year, 1965.
"When he comes in America, he actually found that the black people were actually going through the same sort of struggle as well," said Thami Nakasa, Nathaniel's nephew.
His body will be exhumed and re-buried in the country where he was born.
"South Africa is celebrating its 20 years of democracy, and this also serves as a very significant moment in celebrating the democracy," said South African Consul General George Monyemangene.
Nathaniel Nakasa's body will be flown home next week, where there are several celebrations and memorials scheduled to honor one of South Africa's heroes.
"It is healing the wounds, yes, of the family and of the nation," Maphumolo said. "South Africa is very proud of this son."
"We will lay you there, and you will sleep very peacefully on home soil," said Sipho Masonodo, Nathaniel Nakasa's nephew.