Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) and Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) introduced a resolution at last night’s City Council Meeting calling on the City of Providence to recognize July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day. The resolution was co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilor David A. Salvatore (Ward 14, Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilwoman Helen Anthony, Esq. (Ward 2), and Councilor Kat Kerwin (Ward 12).
“Nelson Mandela International Day was inspired by President Mandela’s call for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that ‘it is in your hands now,’ stated Councilman John Goncalves. “Nelson Mandela International Day is more than a celebration of his life and legacy, but it is a global movement to honor his life’s work and to change the world for the better. I believe that those of us in public service should heed that call and all work towards making a better tomorrow for those that come after us. From what we see happening in our own country at this very time, I believe that we can look to the work that President Mandela did and make a real change like he was able to achieve in his lifetime.”
On July 18, 2009 the United Nations declared Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition of the former President of South Africa’s dedication to the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic South Africa.
President Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who was imprisoned in 1962 for conspiring to overthrow the anti-apartheid government. He was originally sentenced to life in prison but was released 27 years later. His release came after outcries from world leaders, and due to the civil unrest and the fear of a civil war. For these reasons, President F. W. de Klerk released Mandela in 1990. Together, they worked to negotiate an end to apartheid which resulted in Mr. Mandela being elected the first Black President of South Africa in 1994.
In 1994, Nelson Mandela shared this story, “A friend once asked me how I could reconcile my creed of African nationalism with a belief in dialectical materialism. For me, there was no contradiction, I was first and foremost an African nationalist fighting for our emancipation from minority rule and the right to control our own destiny. But at the same time, South Africa and the African continent were part of the larger world. Our problems, while distinctive and special, were not unique, and a philosophy that placed those problems in an international and historical context of the greater world and the course of history was valuable. I was prepared to use whatever means necessary to speed up the erasure of human prejudice and the end of chauvinistic and violent nationalism.” Time goes on, but still, President Mandela’s words ring true today as they did then.
Mandela served one term as South Africa’s President and left to become a philanthropist who focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through his foundation. In 1993, upon a visit to the United Stated Mandela was awarded one of the United States’ highest honors, the Liberty Medal, by then-President Bill Clinton. The same year he and President F. W. de Klerk were joint recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
President Mandela was an ardent supporter of education and education for all. He once stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” President Mandela died at the age of 95 on December 5, 2013.
Sadly, his youngest daughter, Zindzi Mandela, died at the age of 59 on Monday, July 13, 2020. Ms. Mandela served as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is world renown for his values and his dedication to the service of humanity, through his work as a humanitarian in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of the poor and underdeveloped communities.
“Tomorrow around the world there will be celebrations honoring the extraordinary life and enduring legacy of President Mandela. Let us take a moment here in Providence, especially with all of the division in our world, to come together in unity and solidarity, to reflect and follow in Mandela’s footsteps in advocating for a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable city for all,” stated Councilman John Goncalves.