Williams hails Nelson Mandela International Day

As the world on Monday celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day, a Grenadian American legislator here has paid tribute to the late South African president whom he said had an “unwavering devotion for human rights, peace and social justice.”

New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams said that Mandela’s devotion was not only to those within his own nation but for all people around the globe.

“In celebrating Nelson Mandela International Day, we want to recognize a political pioneer, who fought effortlessly to encourage people to pledge their time and effort in restoring and rebuilding their communities,” said Williams, representative for the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

“Nelson Mandela’s legacy serves as inspiration to those who follow in his footsteps, and is a true testament for what he set to accomplish – equality for all,” added Williams, deputy leader and co-chair of the New York City Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence.

He noted that, during Mandela’s campaign for peace and equality, Mandela also known as Madiba (used as a sign of respect and endearment) received over 250 merits, including the Noble Peace Prize in 1993 “for his continued efforts in terminating apartheid.”

Williams said Mandela had challenged people to use their knowledge and education to battle prejudice, racism, violence and human suffering.

“It deepens me with sadness that we are still battling some of the same troubles that he fought to overcome,” Williams said. “But what’s more disheartening is the widespread epidemic that we are being confronted with now, which is the senseless killings of Black and Brown men at the hands of police officers.

“We are also confronted with the harm we inflict on our own communities,” he added, stating that, over the weekend, there were two shootings in his district.

Williams said these incidents of gun violence “speak to the gun violence epidemic that is spreading across the country, and infiltrating our neighborhoods.

“We cannot in good conscience condemn injustices inflicted on the community without also taking a hard look at what we can do ourselves to strengthen our neighborhoods and stop bloodshed,” Williams said.

With the recent killings of two Black men by police — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minnesota – Williams said it is his “sincere hope that we start to carry forward Mandela’s ideology of unity so that his mission remains prolific.

“I call on everyone to adopt the spirit of love, and not see the injustices being committed against Black and Brown communities, as a reason to retaliate or spread hate,” he said.

At the same time, Williams said his “heart goes out to the five officers in Dallas, Texas and the three officers in Baton Rouge, who lost their lives,” in recent shootings.

“Targeting and attacking police officers is not the answer,” he said. “We can all agree that now is not the time to lose faith in change; but, instead, we should continue to mirror Mandela’s perseverance, and celebrate a hero by continuing the efforts in being great humanitarians.”

United Nations officials and UN Peace Ambassador Stevie Wonder on Monday paid tribute to the South African activist and peacemaker’s tireless efforts to end intolerance and injustice, calling on the international community to follow his guiding example in efforts to build a better world for all.

“Nelson Mandela International Day is an opportunity to reflect on the life and work of a legend who embodied the highest values of the United Nations,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson at a meeting of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the Day, which is observed annually on July 18.

“Today, we remember a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement who worked tirelessly for peace and human dignity,” he added, delivering the message on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is currently in South Africa for the International AIDS Conference and who marked the Day in Durban.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General emphasized that, as the UN sets out to implement the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States should seek to continue building on Mandela’s legacy of selflessness and deep sense of shared purpose.

Eliasson said that the UN joined the Mandela Foundation in inviting people around the world to devote at least 67 minutes on Monday to community service activity, “because at the heart of the Day is volunteer work for people and the planet.”

“This is the best tribute we can give to an extraordinary man who, with his steadfast belief in justice and equality, showed how one person can make a difference,” the UN Deputy Secretary-General said. “Let us all continue being inspired by Nelson Mandela’s lifelong example and his call to never cease working to build a better world for all.”

UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft noted that the Day represented an opportunity for the Assembly to celebrate and promote the values and extraordinary vision of one of the greatest men in modern history.

“President Mandela’s contribution to humanity extends across the three pillars of the UN and both the Nelson Mandela Prize and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners — also known as Nelson Mandela Rules — are a testament to his global impact,” Lykketoft said.

“But an even greater testament to Mandela’s influence, would be for all world leaders to follow his example,” he said, urging UN Member States to write a new chapter of history by dedicating their time and talent to improving the lives of billions of people everywhere.

The keynote address at the UN’s festivities in New York were given by Wonder, who began with a moment of silence for those who lost their lives as a result of gun violence and terrorism.

The UN Messenger of Peace said he was overwhelmed with joy to be part of the festivities for Mandela, according to the UN, whose struggle for democracy, human rights and social justice was only possible because he conducted himself with the highest standard of courage, integrity and grace.

Mandela “set forth a model of behavior and sense of being, that is so very desperately needed today,” said Wonder, a world renowned singer and song writer. “He has given the world a road map to follow in order to advance peace and social justice more effectively. We must follow it.”