Senator Bill Perkins' Office, in partnership with Imbizo Host Committee-NY hosted the 2nd Annual Harlem Mandela Day on July 18 on the outdoor stage in front of the Adam Clayton Powell building in Harlem, New York, to commemorate International Nelson Mandela Day.
"It feels great to see all these people who came out tonight to celebrate Mandela's Day, to hear all the people talking about him,” said performer Nomalanga Magona of the South African Harlem Voices (SAHAVO). “It really brings back memories. It's like wow, first time I see him coming from prison, to here; it's just great."
A fellow compatriot shared similar sentiments. "It's pretty awesome that all the way in America they [are] celebrating one of our own; our father who has contributed so much,” said Vuyo Sotashe, lead vocalist of Brown House who performed at the event. “It's a great feeling to be part of something like this so far away from home."
Gracing the occasion with words of remembrance were local leaders Congressman Charles Rangel, Dr. Boji Jordan, and Mama Moli Ntuli among others. There were additional musical tributes by Tuelo Minah, Tanyaradzwa, and Vuyelwa Booi. Local students also read poetry.
Following his performance, Sotashe explained the significance of the songs he and his band performed, saying, “Two of the songs are very connected to the history of South Africa, and I thought it'd be great to perform those and pay homage to what is happening at home and to the legacy that Mandela left in our country.”
"What would make me tap dance at a Nelson Mandela celebration, that speaks for itself," said professional Tap-Dancer Omar Edwards. “It's a Nelson Mandela celebration. I could only give what I could give."
The attendees also expressed their admiration for Mandela. "He really is someone who advocated peace in all aspect of his life, said Magona. “For me, its all about peace, it's all about doing what's best for you, for your community, and for your country."
Masidi Dione, Ambassador at UNESCO Center for Peace also shared her impression of the legacy Madiba left. “He inspired we Africans to know ourselves, Dione said. “He helped us to grow up physically, mentally, and he opened our eyes to a lot of things we didn't know before so we are very proud of him.” “He had a strength that I wish I had and I don't have it. I know he had it, and it's a beautiful thing to see,” said Edwards. “I wish I could do, or was strong enough to do what he did. But I already know I'm not."
Sotashe, also one of the youngest performers at the festivity said, "There is no age limit or age gap to fulfilling your dreams or fulfilling something you are really passionate about...He [Mandela] never felt he was too old to be at the forefront of our struggle."
The family-friendly event gave an aura of peace and solidarity, a perfect way to exhibit the conviction that Nelson Mandela stood for. “We know he is not here with us today, but we pray to God he rests in peace, Dione concluded.”
The South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, 2013, at age 95.