Miami pays tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela

Celebration includes dance, songs and the words of Madiba

D. Kevin McNeir | 12/19/2013, 9 a.m.

Close to 300 people attended a moving but joyous celebration last Thursday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center where they recalled the numerous contributions of Madiba — the name affectionately used when referring to the South African civil rights activist Nelson Mandela.

The memorial service and celebration was organized by an ad-hoc group of leaders from Miami that included: Dr. Nelson Adams, Gepsie Metellus, H.T. Smith,

Marlon Hill and a host of others. As celebrants entered the auditorium, they were greeted by a larger-than-life painting of Mandela, commissioned by local artist Davel, 27, the owner of Davel Designs. Davel had actually completed the painting before Mandela’s death and had sent an original to him with his hopes that he would recover from his illness. Sadly, the world knows the outcome — Mandela died on Dec. 5th.

But the program was not about death but rather focused on life as the history and contributions of the South African former president were lauded through speeches once given by Mandela, musical selections from local singers, the SIGN Quartet, and the internationally-acclaimed steel drum player and vocalist Leon “Foster” Thomas, prayers from area ministers that came together in the spirit of ecumenism and the spirited dance of Miami’s own Delou Africa.

Dr. Walter T. Richardson, chair of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board and pastor emeritus, Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in Perrine, offered a prayer that spoke to the humility of Mandela.

“At the height of our holiday seasons, we are gathered to celebrate one of God’s choicest gifts to humanity,” he said. “Whether we be Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians or other expressions of faith, we recognize the gift of Nelson Mandela.”

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime said “his [Mandela’s] imprint on South Africa and the rest of the world will be felt for generations to come . . . Now he has taken his reserved place in eternity next to his maker.”