“It always seems impossible until it’s done,” said Nelson Mandela. The former South African leader was an international Civil Rights icon and has inspired movements around the globe. Although he passed several years ago, the Mandela name is synonymous with the fight for justice and equality.
Last week, his legacy was celebrated in Jacksonville, FL with Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, eldest daughter of Nelson Mandela, and her daughter Tukwini visiting the city for the 1st Nelson Mandela International Day. The week included several events in which the dignitaries shared their worldviews, experiences and vision for a world that focuses on love and togetherness versus hate and divisiveness.
The largest event during their visit was an awards gala that recognized the life-changing work of some of Jacksonville’s foremost leaders in areas like education, business and social impact. The event honored Nelson Mandela’s 67-year commitment to social justice. Honorees included Jennifer Brown the executive director of KIPP Schools, Darnell Smith, Florida Blue’s Market President for North Florida Region, Melissa Nelson, State Attorney for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit and Kevin Gay, Operation New Hope’s Founder and CEO.
The Mandela’s also stopped by Operation New Hope (ONH) to learn more about the organization. Both ladies toured the ONH facility on Main Street and had a chance to see how the organization works to help citizens returning home from prison get back on their feet. The Mandela’s learned about our four-pronged approach (case management, supportive services, job training and job placement assistance).
The highlight of the visit was the Ready4Work Graduation Ceremony. Dr. Mandela addressed the current class of participants and told them, “All of us have beauty and goodness inside. We should not let anything or anybody tell us otherwise.”
“Being honored with the House of Mandela Reflecting Freedom Award comes with a great responsibility to live up to,” says Gay. “There are few other people in the world who have been so closely identified with Freedom, Service, Unity and Sacrifice than Nelson Mandela. It is my great hope that my work will continue to honor his legacy, and that by doing so, others will be inspired to work for Freedom and Unity as well. “
The Mandela’s also helped to open ONH’s new office in St. Johns County, FL and held events at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University as well as numerous other events during their week-long visit