New York City is paying tribute to South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who passed away yesterday at the age 95, by creating a new high school called the Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice. The school will be located in the Boys and Girls High School campus, which Mandela visited in 1990 during his first trip to the United States after being released from 27 years of confinement in prison. The new school will be in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott made the announcement today, saying the school would open in September 2014 and that the Panel for Education Policy would vote on the proposal at its December 11th meeting. “Equal opportunity and access to education were among the many things Nelson Mandela spent his life fighting for,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “President Mandela once said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Renaming the campus he visited shortly after his release from prison, will forever serve as a reminder that our mandate as public servants is to provide our children with the weapons they need for a successful future and help us build a City of inclusion and opportunity that Madiba could be proud of.”
The mayor also announced that community service this weekend would be dedicated to Mandela’s legacy and that volunteers could share their experiences through the NYC Service initiative by using the Twitter hashtag #ServeMandela.
Mandela chose Boys and Girls High School as his first stop in New York City despite reports that the African National Congress wanted him to skip the school. The New York Times reports that many New Yorkers wanted him to visit Brooklyn, where there was still a climate of racial tension a year after a black teen was shot to death by a white mob in Bensonhurst.
The New York Times wrote that a crowd of about 100,000 lined the streets of Brooklyn as Mandela approached the school. A Times report from the event described a mix of pride and confusion as Mandela spoke about the state of education in South Africa and appealed for financial help. ”If we receive the support of the youth of the world, our cause can never be lost,” Mandela said.
The Times described Mandela’s departure as follows: “All the security was virtually swept aside at one point as hundreds of excited black teen-agers surrounded the motorcade when it left Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, running, whooping and cheering alongside the cars. State Department security officers paled and their eyes widened at the sight.”
Lead image via One Change