PHOENIX - Norris Barker will never forget the day he met Nelson Mandela.
“It was divine intervention,” said Barker.
Barker was teaching in South Africa in the early 90’s when a day of car trouble landed him in the right place at the right time. He asked around for help at a world trade center in Johannesburg when he came across a banquet room where Mandela was speaking.
"I got his autograph, I got to speak with him for two or three minutes. I met his first wife Winnie Mandela. After that I just fell in love with the guy,” Barker said.
That love for Mandela only grew when Nelson Mandela won the 1994 election for president of South Africa, making him the first black president after the end of apartheid. It was a feat Barker new was monumental, so when he heard a number of unused ballots from the election were up for bid, he wasn’t about to let them slip away.
“I was lucky enough to be Johnny-on-the-spot so to speak and I bid on them and I was awarded 1.5 million ballots."
Barker moved back to the U.S. and has since been selling the ballots, which are the last remaining original documents from the historical election. For $57.50 a piece, anyone can purchase the ballots at Afridom.com . Barker plans on using the money he makes from them to pay tribute to Mandela’s contributions.
"I'm down to now around 400,000 now, and I want to sell the rest of them for various philanthropies in Africa, but also to create statues of Mandela and his late granddaughter Zenani Mandela,” Barker said.
Barker plans on making statues all around the world, starting in Africa and expanding to places in the U.S. including his home of Scottsdale and hometown in Wichita, Kansas.
“There is no one that has more charismatic, notoriety, and admiration than Nelson Mandela, and he deserves this honor,” said Barker.
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