As Cyril Ndaba, Consul General of South Africa prepared to unveil a new bronze plaque honoring the late President Nelson Mandela at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Court of Honor, a blustery wind suddenly began to blow, reminding Ndaba of a similar event in South Africa when a statue of Mandela was precipitately uncovered by a gust of wind.
“He is the only man to have unveiled his own statue,” Ndaba said, adding “I’m sure that he intends to fulfill his plan to unveil this one himself,” he joked with the audience, which included dignitaries and elected officials. “You the people of Los Angeles helped South Africa. You affected change. Nelson Mandela loved these shores. He loved you. He still loves you. Thank you for this honor to mark the legacy of Nelson Mandela.”
The 42-inch by 60-inch plaque, located directly under the score clock in the east-side of the coliseum, is part of a collection that has been placed in the Coliseum’s columned peristyle since 1932. Other honorees include President John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and track star James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens.
Each honoree is inducted into the Court of Honor by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission. The Court of Honor displays more than 50 commemorative plaques of individuals or events that have made a significant contribution to the Coliseum through athletic participation or historical significance.
“Today we celebrate the life, the man, the witness, the legacy and the journey of President Nelson Mandela,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This plaque will remain a permanent fixture for generations to come, in a place where the world has gathered twice for the Olympic Games. Here, his memory will be perpetuated by this marker, reminding us all we can be champions for humanity.”
The dedication ceremony comes after the Board of Supervisors approved a motion championed by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas last February to induct the Nobel laureate to the Coliseum’s Court of Honor. Mandela visited Los Angeles and spoke before thousands at the Coliseum in June, 1990, just four months after his release from prison in South Africa. The anti-apartheid leader came to L.A. to thank its residents for leading a divestment movement against the apartheid government of South Africa and for showing support for South Africa’s black majority. Mandela’s Coliseum rally was a key part of his first visit to the United States, and was noted worldwide in newspapers and television and radio broadcasts.
“This man had the wisdom and the courage after his horrible time on Robben Island to forgive but more importantly to heal the country,” said Patrick Soon-Shiong, South African born surgeon, medical researcher, businessman and philanthropist. “I was just back two months ago. It’s beautiful to see a new generation of African Americans, Whites and Indians who never saw apartheid.”