A Message for Nelson Mandela Day


It’s a cruel, cold world. This week, I watched video footage of (mostly) men in full combat dress, weapons of oppression at the ready, chasing down a young man on a bicycle, throwing him to the ground and handcuffing him. Unarmed protesters were being bundled into unmarked cars by faceless, masked stormtroopers – in Portland, Oregon. My spirit sank and my heart grieved.

Nelson Mandela himself saw this kind of oppression, during the terrifying, stifling days of apartheid in South Africa. Why is it with us, in 2020? This is not his vision, but one of Dystopia revealing itself – not only in Trumpworld, but elsewhere; with COVID-19 presiding over it all, a malevolent presence.

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Nelson Mandela Day with the children at the YMCA in Kingston, sponsored by the JN Foundation – South Africa’s national colors. (My photo)

So, I am relieved and thankful for this timely message of peace and justice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. It could not have come at a better time. 2020 is not a year for the faint-hearted. So let us reflect on and draw inspiration from Madiba’s legacy – and act on it, in our daily lives. Stay strong!

I have added some of my photos – memories of past Mandela Days, at Trench Town Reading Centre and at the YMCA with JN Foundation, years ago.

Kamina Johnson Smith
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

Message by Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

In commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day

18th July 2020

Jamaica is pleased to join the international community in celebrating 18th July as Nelson Mandela International Day. Although this year’s commemoration takes place in an environment where our health and economies are threatened by a global pandemic, we heed as always the call to action of the spirit of Mandela.  The COVID-19 pandemic also having unmasked grave inequalities and systemic injustices across the world, Jamaica recommits to the quest for international peace, equality and justice.

Today, our global community recalls the objectives of the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace 2019-2028, as designated on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. Jamaica therefore re-affirms our full commitment to the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies. We will continue to work locally and globally to pursue lasting peace, collective security, sustainable development and human rights that are fundamental to our well-being and continued survival.

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Reading from a book about Nelson Mandela on Mandela Day at Trench Town Reading Centre. (My photo)

We are constantly inspired by the work and the sacrifices of Nelson Rolihlahla “Madiba” – a wonderful human being, role model and Ambassador for peace and reconcilation. Mandela’s legacies are the results of a life-long commitment to fight for truth, freedom and justice for all. He was dedicated to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was committed to its implementation. In spite of his own  experiences of institutional  racial discrimination   and his imprisonment  for twenty-seven (27) years by the illegal and oppressive apartheid regime, he remained resolute and committed to the dismantling of the system and the realisation of the dream of justice and equality for all South Africans.

Let us be guided by his legacy.  Let us take personal responsibility to denounce hate and injustice. Let us promote peace and reconciliation among ourselves and others. Let us abide by the rule of law and the processes established for ensuring justice. Let us work with our communities to protect and care for our children and reduce acts of  violence, particularly against the most vulnerable in our societies. Let us work with one another to promote a peaceful just and non-discriminatory society.

In the words of Madiba:

“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Let us live a Mandela Day every day!

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Planting seeds of peace: An activity on Nelson Mandela Day at Trench Town Reading Centre. (My photo)

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