“Perhaps once in a generation, a man… a movement… and a moment come together on a mission for freedom that is so powerful, so courageous, so just… that all the guns and dogs, hatred and violence, deprivation and force that can be mustered cannot turn them back. It has been our good fortune for that moment to come within our lifetimes, and a great blessing that it came in the person of Nelson Mandela” (Ex-Mayor of New York, David Dinkins, Huffington Post, June 22, 2009) (1).
The Nelson Mandela Foundation and the 46664 campaign, in association with their sister organisations, have called for Mandela Day to be celebrated on 18 July, and to be recognised as an annual international day of humanitarian action. This day is intended to honour Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy by enabling people all over the world to become a part of it. Last year, at his 90th birthday celebrations in London, Mr Mandela appealed for “new hands to lift the burdens” of the world . From this impassioned plea the idea of a Mandela Day was born.
The Nelson Mandela organisations receive countless inquiries and proposals from people who wish to become involved in his charitable works or other areas of social need. Since it is not possible to respond to all these initiatives, Mandela Day was conceptualised as a vehicle through which people could actively contribute to Mr Mandela’s legacy. Given Madiba’s stature and moral authority, the potential to seed a national and even a global movement for positive change is powerful.
Mandela Day is not a holiday but a call to service. Nelson Mandela has given 67 years of his life actively devoted to promoting and bringing about social change. On Mandela Day, individuals are asked to symbolically give at least 67 minutes of their time in service to their communities in whichever way they choose. People are encouraged to become involved in activities to uplift the communities around them on an ongoing basis, but to make a special effort on Mandela Day.
There is recognition that the vision of a movement for good will take time and extensive collaboration. However, such a movement begins with small actions and a willingness to take responsibility. As Mr Mandela constantly reminds us “it’s in our hands” to create a better world.
In his State of the Nation address, President Zuma urged South Africans to “wholeheartedly support Mandela Day and encourage the world to join us in this wonderful campaign.” South Africa’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) is currently in discussion with UN officials and member states in order to seek official recognition by the General Assembly for Mandela Day – which would mean that Mandela Day becomes an international campaign.
The City of New York and their partners are generously hosting the inaugural international Mandela Day events. This includes photographic exhibitions on the life and times of Nelson Mandela and promoting dialogue between students in New York and South Africa. A dinner and concert will be held to raise funds for the ongoing work of the Nelson Mandela Charities and for 46664 supported projects in various African countries. As always, these events are sponsored, and artists at the concert perform free of charge.
If the international campaign is more focused on creating awareness of Mandela Day, the South African effort is based on individual and collective implementation of the Mandela Day intent and purpose at community level. It is vital that South Africans lead the way in establishing a movement for good, by planting the seeds of service in their own communities. By using the example of Mr Mandela’s own life of sacrifice and service to the people of the world, we hope to inspire ordinary people to give of themselves to others and to their communities. Every small act, every bit of time spent on doing good works, contributes to the betterment of humanity. Over time, as Mandela Day gathers momentum, the wave of positive change will start to create the kind of world that Mr Mandela envisions – a world of peace, freedom from hunger and poverty, respect for human rights and promoting the wellbeing of children.
The Mandela Day campaign welcomes the involvement of individuals, government, companies and NGOs into this global movement for good. But it is important that Mandela Day activities do not divert resources earmarked for communities and their NGO partners. NGOs in particular are requested to use the banner of Mandela Day to enhance their own ongoing work, and to provide opportunities for public involvement if possible.
(1) Honoring Nelson Mandela, Huffington Post, 2009
For more information, please visit Mandela Day.
Chantal Cuddumbey is the 46664 Communications and PR Manager