On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, on June 20th, a crowd began to gather on Nelson Mandela Boulevard (University Avenue) with Native drumming provided by SpiritWind Women’s Hand Drum Group and South African drumming done by Muhtadi African Drums Ensemble, setting the mood for the day’s celebration. This celebration marked the 1st Annual Spirit of Mandela Freedom Walk, concluding at Queen’s Park. The walk’s purpose was to bring the community together to share in the commitment to a common goal of an inclusive society that is free from discrimination, where all persons enjoy full rights to dignity, fair treatment and equal opportunities. This is what Mandela stood for, and this is what a great amount of people were walking for on Saturday.
The ceremony that took place at the end of the walk was hosted by former Canadian Idol judge, Farley Flex. In order to pay tribute and and show respect to the Mississaugas of the New Credit, for it was their ancestral land that this celebration took place, and in honour of National Aboriginal Day on Sunday, June 21st, an Aboriginal prayer and blessing was offered by Andrew Wesley of the Moose Cree First Nation. In addition, there were special performances of both the Canadian and South African national anthems, performed by the Nelson Mandela Park Public School Choir. This choir also performed a song in dedication to Nelson Mandela called “Dream”.
The speakers that were present for this celebration included Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, as well as the Mayor of Toronto John Tory. His Excellency Membathisi Mdladlana, High Commissioner of South Africa offered a powerful speech, as well as the former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Hon. David C. Onley. Speeches also included keynote speaker Akua Benjamin, social activist and professor at Ryerson University, as well as the Chair of Mandela Legacy Canada, Lloyd McKell. In addition to these speakers, the growing crowd in Queen’s Park was entertained by top acts, including singer/songwriter Amanda Martinez, spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan, hip hop artist Najjah Calibur, Juno award winning Aboriginal band Digging Roots, and singer/songwriter Lorraine Klaasen.
For more information on this successful and inspired event, or on Mandela’s legacy in Canada, please visit the Mandela Legacy Canada website.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013)