Dozens of musicians sang “Happy Birthday” to the iconic South African leader, Nelson Mandela, on his 91st birthday Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall. This marked the first ever “Mandela Day” and stars like Alicia Keys, Josh Groban, Will.i.am, Queen Latifah, Jesse McCartney, and Wyclef Jean all came out to celebrate along with South African performers.
The collaboration between American and African jams made for an incredible tribute. Since 2003, concerts have been presented for Mandela’s birthday in South Africa, Spain, Norway and England, before New York City this year. But this year marked the first ever “Mandela Day” concert--a benefit concert for “46664,” Mr. Mandela’s organization for HIV/AIDS prevention. It is named for his prisoner number during his 27 years in jail for fighting apartheid.
Now Mandela’s admirers hope to see his birthday, July 18, become an internationally recognized Mandela Day: “Not a holiday,” Mr. Mandela declared in a video, but “a day dedicated to service.” Ben Harper even wrote a song in honor of Mandela’s dedication to activism called “With My Own Two Hands.” The song was performed Saturday by a South African singer, Chris Chameleon, and a Senegalese one, Baaba Maal.
You can also contribute to Mandela’s cause here in America by spreading the word about HIV/AIDS. Help find a vaccine for the virus by educating yourself and others about HIV vaccine research. Get tested for HIV/AIDS and other STDs and encourage your friends to get tested as well.