Mandela Day is celebrated on July 18, Nelson Mandela's birthday. (Photo: Theana Calitz, AP)
Los Angeles City Council members recently declared July 18 Nelson Mandela Day to honor the late South African president and human rights activist on what would have been his 96th birthday. During a ceremony at Los Angeles' Berlin Wall Monument, Councilman Tom LaBonge helped unveil a portrait of Mandela painted on a section of the wall.
``Everyone will look to this ... and never forget Nelson Mandela and what he did, what his struggle was and what he did to accomplish all the changes in South Africa and the world,'' LaBonge told Video News West.
Last Friday marked the first worldwide celebration of Nelson Mandela Day since his death last December. The global icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner is remembered for his fight against apartheid in South Africa and for becoming South Africa's first black president after 27 years of imprisonment. LaBonge was joined at the ceremony by international, state and local leaders, including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Cyril Ndaba, the consul general of South Africa in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles muralist Kent Twitchell, who painted the larger-than-life portrait of Mandela at 5900 Wilshire Blvd., said he wanted the portrait to appear as if Mandela was actually there.
``I thought of him shaking hands with Tom LaBonge and all the people here today,'' Twitchell said last Friday.
``I thought I would paint him as I saw him standing here today.''
Nelson Mandela Day was first celebrated in 2009 and was enacted after a unanimous decision by the UN General Assembly. According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the annual celebration challenges individuals around the world to follow in Mandela's footsteps and address the world's social injustices.