Nelson Mandela is known worldwide as a man who was an advocate of peace, freedom, and equality. The Nelson Mandela International Day, named after him, celebrates his birthday and all the things that he has done for South Africa and the world. This year, the essence of the holiday is to take action and inspire change, which people around the world can use to make a difference to their communities despite the economic and social challenges happening everywhere due to COVID-19.
Mandela Day can serve as an inspiration to make changes, even if they are small ones. It’s a celebration of the idea that each person has the power to change the world and impact it. In many places around the world, individuals and groups are finding ways and means to help and support their neighbors, and even people they do not know. People share whatever they have, cook and deliver food packs, make facemasks, teach new skills so more people can have alternative sources of income, and donate whatever they can to help the less fortunate.
Nelson Mandela’s real name was Rolihlahla Mandela. He was born on July 18, 1918, into the Madiba clan. He became a ward of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the Acting King of the Thembu people at the age of 12, after his father’s death. Mandela’s father worked as a principal counselor to the king. Since he was young, he already thought of helping his people gain freedom.
In the 67 years that Mandela spent as a public servant, his life went through many difficulties. He was a social rights activist and joined the anti-apartheid movement. He became a member of the African National Congress while supporting a non-violent, peaceful campaign against the government and the racist policies the national government espoused. Accused of various political offenses, Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. After his release, he was democratically elected as the first Black president of South Africa.
Things you should know about Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela carved a niche for himself, becoming an icon of freedom and equality. Besides the things mentioned above, here are more things you should know about this great South African.
- Mandela’s name, Nelson, was given by his elementary school teacher, Miss Mdingane, following the custom to provide a Christian name for children who are starting school.
- Mandela studied law and became one of the first Black lawyers in South Africa.
- He was elected as the African National Congress (ANC) youth wing leader, a liberation movement in South Africa.
- For racial reasons, the ANC was banned. Mandela secretly organized a military movement in retaliation for the violence the government used against their peaceful protests.
- The South African government accused Mandela of conspiracy and treason and sentenced him to spend time in prison from 1962-1990. His inmate number was 46664.
- Mandela became the rallying symbol of the oppressed South Africans who were fighting for their rights.
- Nelson Mandela established or helped establish the African National Congress, uMkhonto we Sizwe, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and the Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development.
- In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first Black president of South Africa and stayed in office until 1999. His government endeavored to destroy the Apartheid government that espoused racial segregation.
- Mandela won many accolades and received more than 250 awards. In 1993, while still in office, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize for destroying the Apartheid government peacefully and made way for democracy.
- When he retired from politics, he established the Nelson Mandela Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS, constructing schools, and supporting rural development.
- Nelson Mandela married three times and had eight children. He had two stepchildren from his third wife.
- After a prolonged battle with respiratory tract infection, Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013.
History of Nelson Mandela International Day
On November 10, 2009, the UN proclaimed July 18, as the Nelson Mandela International Day, to honor his contribution to the peace movement through his involvement in human rights promotion, addressing racial issues, international reconciliation and democracy, and resolving conflicts. The day coincides with Mandela’s birthday. However, the first Mandela Day was launched four months earlier in New York.
How do people celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day?
Mandela Day celebrates his birthday. But beyond that, it’s a call to action to use one’s ability to have a positive effect on family, friends, and members of the community. It’s a day to use Mandela’s values regarding freedom, diversity, democracy, respect, reconciliation, and equality,
Organizations and global citizens join various activities to celebrate the day. Activities include volunteering, culture, music, education, art, and sport.
You can do so many things on your own. You can prepare stationery kits for neighborhood children who are about to start school but lack the funds to buy pens, crayons, pad papers, scissors, and glue. You can offer to clean an elderly neighbor’s yard or prepare simple food packs for the homeless. Look for a charity and either donate or volunteer to help them for a few hours.
Most of all, the holiday requests people to use 67 minutes of their day to do something good. The 67 minutes is a representation of the 67 years that Mandela spent to effect change.
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