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Atlanta Mourns Nelson Mandela

By The Atlanta Voice Staff | 12/13/2013, 12:21 p.m.
Nelson Mandela, deputy President of the African National Congress, pauses after laying a wreath at the tomb of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta Wednesday, June 27, 1990. Holding hands in remembrance are King's widow Coretta Scott King and Rev. Joseph Lowery, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson stands in the background. Photo by Charles Kelly/AP.

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Nelson Mandela receives the Martin Luther King Jr. International Freedom Award from King's widow Coretta Scott King during a ceremony at the Big Bethel AME church in Atlanta Wednesday, June 27, 1990. Mandela is the first recipient of the award. Photo by David Longstreath/AP.

Atlanta and Georgia joined the world in mourning the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela who died last Thursday at the age of 95. The World Affairs Council of Atlanta and the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College held a memorial service Wednesday evening in Mandela’s honor for Georgians who were not able to make the trip to South Africa.

Speakers included former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves, Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Dov Wilker, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee, Imam Plemon El-Amin, Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta and Bernice King, CEO, The King Center.

Hundreds of dignitaries and world leaders along with tens of thousands of South Africans Tuesday packed the FNB stadium in Soweto to pay final tributes to Mandela. Hundreds braved the rain to get the best seats which were under the canopy.

President Obama called on people to apply the lessons of Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in prison under a racist regime, embraced his enemies when he finally walked to freedom and ushered in a new era of forgiveness and reconciliation in South Africa.

“We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace,” said Obama, who like Mandela became the first black president of his country. Obama said that when he was a student, Mandela “woke me up to my responsibilities — to others, and to myself — and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.”

Mandela’s body will be flown Saturday to Qunu, his home in the Eastern Cape Province. He will be buried Sunday.

When the word of Mandela’s death quickly spread around the world Atlanta leaders and citizens were quick to offer words of condolences and appreciation to his family and the people of South Africa.

On June 27, 1990, Atlanta was among the stops on Mandela’s first U.S. visit after being released from prison after 27 years. Mandela wanted to thank Atlanta for its participation in the anti-Apartheid movement which helped pressured the South African government to release him and to change the laws which opposed the black and colored citizens.

Mandela was met at Hartsfield International Airport by a host of Atlanta notables including Gov. Joe Frank Harris, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Coretta Scott King and Rev. Joseph Lowery, then president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Mandela expressed his appreciation for visiting Atlanta, the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the face of the Civil Rights movement which gave inspiration to the anti-apartheid movement.

“It is a great honor and pleasure to be where Martin Luther King Jr., was born and brought up. We look forward to paying our respects,” Mandela said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed who met Mandela as a law student at Howard University cherishes a photo of him standing behind the statesman during a program at the school.

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Mandela votes. AP photo.

Mayor Kasim Reed:

Today, we mourn the passing of a leader who was peerless in his sacrifice, courage and commitment to changing not only a nation, but the world. Nelson Mandela was truly a hero for the entire human race. As an undergraduate student at Howard University, I had the opportunity to meet President Mandela when he visited the campus in 1994. I was profoundly moved by his strength, dignity and grace. A photograph from that day hangs in my office; Mr. Mandela has been a constant source of inspiration for me and millions across the globe. We are all better because of the life he lived.