New Yorkers mourn Nelson Mandela, dead at 95
Though Nelson Mandela, the South African civil rights icon, died nearly 8,000 miles away, New Yorkers felt the extraordinary loss Thursday.
At Madiba, a South African restaurant in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, mourners gathered shortly after hearing that Mandela died at 95 years old.
“We’re going to have candles and we’re going to have South African music,” said Madiba general manger Denis Du Preez, who is from South Africa.
The restaurant was named after Mandela’s clan. Madiba has also become a title of respect for the South African president. The restaurant has celebrated his birthday, dubbed Mandela Day, ever since opening in 1999. This July, the restaurant released 50 candle lanterns into the sky to honor him.
“He’s our icon, he’s our hero, he’s our father,” Du Preez said. “A president who didn’t care about politics.”
In 1990, Mayor David Dinkins organized a ticker-tape parade in his honor. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mandela visited the city.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented Mandela with the key to the city in 2005. In a statement Thursday, the mayor said he was “one of the most transformative and influential figures in modern history.”
“He devoted his life to building a more just, equal and compassionate world, and we are all better for it,” Bloomberg said. “On behalf of the people of the City of New York, I offer my sincere condolences to the Mandela family and the people of South Africa.”
Flags at City Hall were lowered at half-staff in his honor.
Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders