South African icon Nelson Mandela celebrated his 95th birthday on Thursday, July 18, as the rest of the nation and the international community took part in a variety of Mandela Day activities. PPI-SA staff members Kyler McClary, Kristin Degou, and Thobani Khumalo honored the former South African president and champion for human rights by participating in a Mandela Day youth march in the township of Lamontville, where PPI-SA operates in four local schools.
Roughly 100 people participated in the march, mostly children, carrying signs, singing songs, dancing, drumming, and of course, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to “Madiba” or “Tata” as Mandela is endearingly called by many South Africans (“Madiba” is Mandela’s ancestral clan name and “Tata” means “father” in Mandela’s native language of isiXhosa). As the march winded through the streets of Lamontville, the noise, excitement, and spirit of the event brought community-members out of their homes to witness the spectacle, and many decided to join the procession. Several PeacePlayers participants were involved in the march, and Kristin, Kyler, and Thobani brought Mandela-themed artwork created by former PPI-SA participants to display as they moved through the streets. The march was organized by the Lamontville-based Deprived Youth Service (DYS), an organization which promotes youth empowerment through performing arts.
Mandela Day, which was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, is celebrated each year on Mandela’s birthday, July 18th. The objective of Mandela Day is to “inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good.” On Mandela Day, people are asked to spend 67 minutes doing community service, promoting peace, supporting charities, or anything else that promotes Mandela’s values and honors his 67 years of fighting for social justice.
Last year, PPI-SA held a “Sports Day” on Mandela Day, promoting health, wellness, and friendly competition for local primary school kids. Mandela is a huge supporter of the “sport for social change” concept and has even said himself that “Sport has the power to change the world.” At PPI, we try to make every day a Mandela Day.