It is almost a quarter of a century since Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie made Brooklyn their first stop into the United States.
The historic visit garnered international attention because it marked the former freedom fighter’s first international trip since his release from a 27-year confinement in South African prisons for resisting apartheid rule and segregation.
The Mandelas arrived on June 21, 1990 as part of an eight-city tour of the U.S. Their first official stop was Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
After 24 years, Brooklynites are still nostalgic and reminiscent of that historic visit and will reflect on how they packed into Boys & Girls High School to tell the African champions to “keep the pressure on.”
On June 21, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams will welcome representatives from the office of the South African Consulate, anti-apartheid activists, cultural artists and all of Kings County to participate in a free, community event slated for Columbus Park at Borough Hall Plaza (near 209 Joralemon St.) Musicians, singers, dancers and members of the Jazz Drummer’s Circle are expected to commemorate the eventful date.
At a time New York now has Mayor Bill deBlasio and Chirlayne, the first biracial couple to reside in Gracie Mansion, New Yorkers might recall that on Mandela’s visit residents had already elected its first Black, city leader. Mayor David N. Dinkins was the official occupant of Gracie Manor and he invited the couple to make his home theirs for their visit here.
Also memorable is the fact that when crowds in Brooklyn shouted the anti-apartheid chant “Aluta Continua!” it resonated as an anthem that kicked-off the national visit.
Last year, Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced that a new high school located on the campus of Boys & Girls High School would be renamed the Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice. Slated to open in September, the institution will honor the iconic statesman, former president of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and transformative global ambassador who devoted his life to democracy, equality and peace.
In 2009, the United Nations declared Mandela’s birthday, July 18, as Nelson Mandela International Day to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader’s legacy. The motto of Mandela Day “Take Action; Inspire Change; Make Every Day a Mandela Day,” aims to encourage and inspire individuals and groups to take action to help change the world for good and empower communities around the world.
After visiting the USA, the couple headed to the Caribbean to thank the English, Spanish and French countries from the region that aided in Mandela’s release. He visited Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti.
The retired former president of South Africa’s last trip outside of SA was to the twin Islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
Nelson Mandela died Dec. 5, 2013 he was 95.