100 Years of Freedom: Honoring Nelson Mandela’s Centenary

St. Mark A.M.E. Church Holds Celebration


DULUTH, Minn.- Joy, reverence, and nostalgia fill the small room of the St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us!”

The room unifies in one voice, booming what many call the black national anthem: Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.

All the people, and all the libations, to honor a man born 100 years ago.

Nelson Mandela was born in July of 1918, and his achievements, milestones, and suffering were commemorated across the world on Sunday.

Beyonce, Trevor Noah, and other stars celebrated Mandela 100 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Duluth joined in the global festivities.

His trials and triumphs striving for equality still make an impact today.

“The principles that he stood for, his commitment, the sacrifices that he made,” said Gerri Williams, Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Committee, which organized the event.

“I think that that shows that when we do have challenges in our communities, that we really¬† need to be prepared for the long haul for everyone to participate in solutions.”

Mandela was born in Mvezo, South Africa, with the name Rolihlahla, meaning troublemaker, before a teacher made him change it to Nelson, to sound more Christian.

Throughout his life, the troublemaker caused no shortage of trouble–rising through the ranks to the forefront of the anti‚Äďapartheid revolution.

Despite being jailed in 1962 for treason, he continued spreading his message of tolerance and freedom.

He would live out the next 27 years of his life behind bars.

“It is an ideal, for which I am prepared to die,” he said, featured in a video played at the church.

Despite all his suffering, a hallmark of Mandela’s personality was his undying ability to see the good in people, to be free of hate.

“One of Nelson Mandela, one of my favorite quotes, he talks about: no one’s born with hate,” said Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford. “That’s a learned behavior. And if we learned to hate, then we can learn to love.”

“And there’s an opportunity for us to change the world, our politics, our communities, by truly loving each other.”

But today’s global event is about more than commemorating Mandela’s life.

“It’s given the young people, and old alike, an opportunity to relook at themselves, and what part are they playing in the change of our community,” said Crawford.

“Are we spreading love? Are we holding on to hate and discomfort? It’s an opportunity for us to walk in the light of Nelson Mandela.”

At the end of the celebration, the whole congregation gets up to dance the Mandela Jive, which was filmed to be sent to the Mandela Foundation with the other celebrations globally.

The whole world, joining in a jubilant, diverse dance of happiness.

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