A day after world leaders gathered in South Africa to honor the life of former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, San Francisco held its own memorial for him this morning.
A portrait of Mandela hung at the top of the steps inside San Francisco City Hall this morning, where hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the life of the human rights leader, who died Thursday.
A trio of musicians played traditional African drums and other instruments as attendees took their seats. A boys’ choir from Oakland opened the ceremony with renditions of the South African and American national anthems.
Among the attendees were a number of city, state and national elected leaders, many of whom eulogized the late president and drew connections between Mandela and the Bay Area, which was home to a vocal anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s and 1990s and has long been a hub for equal rights.
“Former South African President Nelson Mandela … fought against injustice and oppression to build a South Africa that set off a global movement,” Mayor Ed Lee told the crowd.
“His values are San Francisco values,” he said.
In his eulogy, Lee noted Mandela’s advocacy of LGBT rights and his fight against the AIDS epidemic, which claimed his son’s life.
“San Francisco mourns, as we have lost a friend and truly inspirational leader who never stopped fighting for equality,” he said.
A short time later, South African Consul General Cyril Ndaba spoke, honoring his country’s late leader and crediting San Francisco for its longtime support of Mandela.
“It was from this area that the anti-apartheid movement became very strong,” Ndaba said. “You agitated for the release not only of Nelson Mandela but for all political prisoners in South Africa.”
Next, the crowd heard from former U.S. Secretary of State and current Stanford fellow George Shultz, who recalled his meetings with Mandela and highlighted the late leader’s emphasis on action rather than discussion to solve difficult social problems.
“We celebrate him by what we do—doing things, not saying things,” Shultz said. “That’s what he did.”
Following the ceremony, a line formed to write condolences and sign a memorial in remembrance of Mandela.
Another memorial for the former president will be held at Oakland’s City Hall from noon to 1:30 p.m. today. Ndaba and East Bay leaders are expected to attend.
Laura Dixon, Bay City News