TRIBUTES: NELSON MANDELA

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Roslyn Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors: “The Honorable Nelson Mandela embodied the hopes, dreams, aspirations and values of all who seek justice against tremendous odds. He responded to unfathomable violence with peace and courage, and in doing so he forever changed the world.”

Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the NAACP Board of Directors: “Nelson Mandela’s legacy remains an inspiration for the work of the NAACP. In Mandela’s name we must continue to bring attention to all aspects of global apartheid characterized by poverty, inequality, discrimination, and prejudice of all kind.”

Bill Lucy, member of the NAACP National Board of Directors and labor leader: “The world has lost one of the great statesmen of our time – a man who spent 27 years in prison because he believed in the cause of equality. His loss should set an example for political leaders still here, that there is a need to lead and govern in a manner that is equitable to all people.”

Lorraine Miller, Interim NAACP President and CEO: “President Mandela was humanity’s greatest living hero. His unwavering sense of justice and peace transformed a nation and inspired the world.”

New York City Council Member and Public Advocate-Elect Letitia James:  “I join the world in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela. Today, we recognize and celebrate the tremendous political and social justice contributions of President Mandela, which have had an immeasurable effect on worldwide activism and human rights." In 1990, Mandela visited Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant less than 5 months after his release from prison, during his 14 nation tour in 1990. President Nelson Mandela was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, among many other international honors.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: “Nelson Mandela refused to accept injustice, fought relentlessly for what was right, and showed that a dedicated person of courage actually can change the course of history. His struggle to end racism, poverty and inequality began with his fight against apartheid, continued through his service as the first black President of South Africa and is now passed on for the world to continue. We will not soon see again, nor should we ever forget the profound example of humanity that Nelson Mandela embodied. While President Mandala is no longer with us, here in New York and all around the globe, his legacy lives on. His family and friends, and the people of South Africa, are in my thoughts and prayers along with those of all New Yorkers.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “Today, we lost one of the most transformative and influential figures in modern history. Nelson Mandela was a global icon who broke the back of apartheid in South Africa and inspired generations of people around the world with his spirit of resolve and reconciliation. The tickertape parade Mayor Dinkins organized for him in 1990 was a great moment for our city, and his visit here in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 helped give our city strength and hope – for which we will be forever grateful. When I presented Nelson Mandela with the Key to the City in 2005, he spoke passionately about the work of his foundation and his ongoing efforts to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic and many other important issues. He devoted his life to building a more just, equal and compassionate world, and we are all better for it. On behalf of the people of the City of New York, I offer my sincere condolences to the Mandela family and the people of South Africa. At my direction, flags at City Hall will be lowered to half-staff in his honor.”

Marc Morial National Urban League: There are few men or women who leave such an indelible imprint and impact on the world that they are remembered, honored and celebrated by nations near and far for centuries after they depart.  There are few people for whom even all the words in every language fail to convey the magnitude and meaning of their lives.  Without a doubt in mind or heart, I know that Nelson Mandela is one among a very select few.

His dedication, perseverance, forgiveness, and purpose – his life – sparked an inextinguishable fire in the souls of freedom fighters not only in South Africa, but everywhere.  The light that he shared will forever serve as an international beacon for fairness, justice and hope for all disadvantaged, impoverished and oppressed people from every corner of the world.

Nelson Mandela gave new meaning to the word “inspiration.”  After spending 27 years of a life sentence as an apartheid regime political prisoner, he emerged, not with bitterness – but instead with a steadfast resolve to complete his life’s work.  His remarkable journey serves as an indisputable example of forgiveness in the face of persecution and triumph through tribulation.

I consider myself at once fortunate, humbled and proud to have been a part of the great work of Nelson Mandela’s life during the 1980’s here in the United States.  While attending Georgetown University Law Center in 1981, I co-led an effort to boycott the cafeteria operator because of its investments in South Africa.  During this same period, I was a member of the leadership team of the National Black Law Students Association that pushed for divestment of South African investments by U.S. companies.  Early in my career, I was arrested at the South African Embassy as part of a mass, peaceful organized protest led by Walter Fauntroy, Mary Frances Berry and Randall Robinson in support of U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa.

As co-leader of the New Orleans Anti-Apartheid Coalition, I helped to successfully advocate for the New Orleans Public Employee Pension Board’s divestment in U.S. companies who had holdings in South Africa.  When the U.S. Congress ultimately passed sanctions against South Africa, I could only hope that Nelson Mandela knew that his army now extended beyond the borders of South Africa to subsequent generations of freedom activists and advocates around the world – even in the world’s greatest democracy – helping to continue the work he started.

After the election of President Mandela, as mayor of New Orleans I signed an economic and friendship agreement in 1994 between Johannesburg and New Orleans, one of the first U.S. cities to do so.  It was an indescribable honor.  Nelson Mandela’s efforts to create a new, multi-racial democracy weren’t just an example of unwavering leadership, humanity and compassion for me, but also for the countless millions who will follow and study him as one of the world’s great leaders for centuries to come.

I often wonder if his parents knew when they named him Rolihlahla (common translation: “troublemaker”) how prophetic that was or how ironic it would be that he would grow up to be an international symbol of peacemaking.  But the “troublemaking” that Nelson Mandela undertook was of a different kind.  It was the kind that sees legislated injustice, race-based inequality and economic despair and seeks to disrupt an institutionalized system of oppression and discrimination.  It is the kind that motivates all of us in the Urban League Movement to continue to fight for opportunity parity and economic equality every day in hundreds of communities across America.

Nelson Mandela gave a voice to those who had been silenced.  He brought hope to those who had been stripped of their dreams.  He awakened a nation – and ultimately a world – to the boundless possibilities of following one’s purpose.

Today, we stand with the people of South Africa and with the international community in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela.  We remember, honor, and celebrate his extraordinary life and legacy.  The world could use a few more “Rolihlahlas.”

Bertha Lewis, The Black Institute: “I am heartbroken by the passing of Nelson Mandela, and my condolences go out to his family in their time of grief. Throughout his life and career, he was a paragon of the bravery and tenacity necessary to effect positive change in a world gripped by poverty, disease, and injustice. He received a life imprisonment sentence in the early 1960s for his efforts to oust an oppressive government that subjugated black South Africans through its Apartheid regime. His courage inspired an international campaign that eventually led to his release after 27 years behind bars. Mandela negotiated for the end of Apartheid, and established the first multiracial elections in 1994, which led to his election as the first black president of his nation. His administration investigated past human rights violations and sponsored initiatives to expand healthcare services for his citizens. In his life after politics, he founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation to fight poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He was a rare and extraordinary man who exhibited qualities that we should all aspire to possess.

Recent developments in the U.S. Supreme Court underscore the fragility of the progress that we’ve made toward ending inequality and racial discrimination. It is so important for civil rights movements all over the world to have leaders with the charisma and perseverance to tackle the ongoing challenges facing black men and women globally. Mandela’s accomplishments should inspire those who find themselves embroiled in the struggle for peace, tolerance, and equal rights. Let us honor his life and his commitment by striving to advance his mission in our daily lives, and promote the values he championed through our choices and deeds.”

New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio: "We live in a far better world today because of the life and work of Nelson Mandela. He met hatred with reason, intolerance with resolve.

"For so many of us, the fight for a free South Africa became the rallying cry of our generation. It brought us together, and inspired us to confront oppression abroad -- and also here at home.

"Just months after being released from 27 years of political imprisonment, Nelson Mandela came here to New York City. I will never forget hearing his words at Yankee Stadium, where he told New Yorkers, 'You the people, never abandoned us.' We came to believe in his fight for justice and democracy as if it were our own. Our values and activism helped us work toward justice in South Africa, and thereafter in many other parts of the world.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, his children and family, and the people of South Africa as we mourn the loss of one of the world’s most inspiring leaders."

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman: “I join millions of people around the world in expressing my deep sadness over the passing of Nelson Mandela. His commitment to the cause of equal rights has long served as an international symbol of change and unity for people of all races and cultures. His fearless quest to establish democracy in South Africa will continue to inspire the American pursuit for equal justice under the law. Let us remember him today as a role model and a symbol of peace. My deepest sympathies go out to the Mandela family and countless others who were inspired and moved by Mandela throughout his life.”

New York City Comptroller John C. Liu: “On this sad day, I join freedom-loving people all over the world in extending condolences to the family of Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa. In words that have special meaning today, Mr. Mandela once said, ‘I have walked that long road to freedom … I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me.’ Not just South Africa, but the world is a far better place because Nelson Mandela once walked here.”

New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez: "No one will ever be able to truly measure the effect that Nelson Mandela has had on this world. His unshakable commitment to freedom for his fellow countrymen and women reverberated across every corner of the globe. He was and will always be an inspiration to me and so many millions more who fight for the cause of social justice. We lose a giant today, but we celebrate his life, one that has left an indelible mark on this world. From New York City to Johannesburg, we say good bye; may his passion for freedom continue to burn bright in all of us."

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “The loss of Nelson Mandela is felt around the world and with a particular resonance for those of us in the American civil and human rights movement.

As African Americans had begun walking into the sunshine of human rights with the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960’s, Black South Africans were losing their citizenship and their right to vote, to live where they choose, and to seek quality education and health care.

Against this backdrop, American civil and human rights advocates turned our attention to apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela emerged as the cauldron for our fire and our greatest hope that we could all one day be free from oppression.  We poured our hearts, our hopes, and our ambitions for freedom into organizing, educating, fundraising, and pursuing international pressure in support of his people’s just cause.  Mandela’s struggle, along with that of his countrymen, became ours. When apartheid finally ended, we were reminded yet again that an organized coalition in pursuit of justice can achieve great things.

President Mandela often spoke about how the sit-ins, marches, and demonstrations of the United States inspired his work. Yet, in the cycle of learning and dialogue, it would be Mandela’s fearless advocacy for peace in the face of prison, death, and torture that would inspire us.”

Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights Under The Law: Civil rights leader Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, anti-apartheid champion, Noble Peace prizewinner and South Africa’s first Black President, passed away today at the age of 95. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Mandela, who focused on dismantling apartheid by addressing issues such as racism, poverty and inequality.

Mr. Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994-1999. He was the first Black South African to be elected and hold office and was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1993 for his dedication to taking his country from apartheid to democracy. He was a legend in part due to his long fight against the South African government and spent 27 years in prison for his beliefs. Mandela worked tirelessly his entire life to improve the South African government and bring peace to his country.

“One of my greatest honors is to live during the same time that Mandela walked this earth; men like him only come once in a lifetime,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara R. Arnwine.  “He was a man of great character, displaying tremendous courage, leadership, grace, humility, intellectual powers and an amazing ability to always forgive. There simply is no man quite like Nelson Mandela and his efforts will never go unrecognized. He will be greatly missed and the Lawyers’ Committee will remember him in our work every day.”

The Lawyers’ Committee extends our deepest condolences to his wife Graca Machel, and to his children, grandchildren and host of other relatives and friends.

The Lawyers’ Committee was active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement through its Southern Africa Project, founded in 1967.  The Lawyers’ Committee’s work played an important role in the ultimate defeat of apartheid in South Africa and in the independence of Namibia.

Requests from lawyers in South Africa and Namibia representing political prisoners were instrumental in the creation of the Southern Africa Project.   During its history, the Southern Africa Project, directed by Gay McDougall for its last fourteen years, engaged in virtually every major political trial in South Africa and Namibia. The Project staff repeatedly testified before Congress and the United Nations regarding the subject of its work, and the Project provided legal observers for daily demonstrations at the South African Embassy as part of the “Free South Africa Movement” in the 1980s.The Lawyers’ Committee traveled all over South Africa to ensure that voting elections were held in a fair manner. Ms. Arnwine had the privilege of interacting with Mr. Mandela on several occasions during this time.  “Every time he would speak, his every word was powerful,” she said. “I was struck at how utterly humble and inspirational he was. The Lawyers’ Committee will remember Nelson Mandela as one of the most gracious men to ever live. We greatly appreciate and admire all the work he has done and we are so honored to have worked with him in South Africa.”

In 1993–1994 the project opened an office in South Africa to assist with the deployment of fair election fact–finding teams and Election Monitoring Teams. In addition, the Project co-sponsored symposia for the purposes of the development of a new South Africa constitution. When Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994, Gay McDougall was the only American who served on the Independent Electoral Commission. With his election, the Southern Africa Project ended successfully.

Ms. Arnwine also fondly remembers Mandela speaking at a rally in Washington, D.C. where he recognized the Lawyers’ Committee.  “Gay helped to officiate and I and some others from the organization were honored to be special Dias guests!,” she enthusiastically recalls.

It is also meaningful to Ms. Arnwine that her legacy of leading the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, founded at the request of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago to address racism and discrimination, includes vigorously advocating for Mandela’s freedom over the course of his 27-year imprisonment and also working to combat decades of apartheid.  “The world has lost an indelible civil rights warrior,” she added.  “He is one of my personal heroes whose unyielding contributions and bitter sacrifices will always hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of so many others worldwide.” 

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