MIAMI- A poignant moment of silence for Mandela at the annual Music in the Park jazz and blues concert in Miami Gardens preceded the snazzy line-up of artists that included the popular Dave Nuby Band and the smooth vocals of legendary jazz singer Alice Day.
“I’m honored to have known him in my lifetime,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan who sponsors the concert. “To see a person with a strong character who sacrificed himself for years makes him important like Martin Luther King Jr.”
From concert venues to radio stations, community leaders and residents honored and remembered South Africa’s first black president, who endured 27 years in jail for his opposition to the government’s oppressive apartheid system that denied blacks equal treatment and opportunities under white rule.
Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III, 41, who also attended the event, said Mandela was “an extraordinary ambassador for humanity worldwide who’s one of a few leaders who evoke quality leadership.”
Tyrone Greene, who proudly displayed a picture of Mandela in his prominent Liberty City store Greene and Sons, said suffering helped make Mandela a hero for humanity.
“He was a man who had to go through so much to be the man he became,” said Greene, who attended the concert Legendary jazz singer Alice Day shared her thoughts on Mandela backstage prior to her performing before a crowd of about 600 people.
“He paid the price for a lot of people,” she said. “To love and forgive the way he did, it was very inspiring.” Musical tributes were played on the popular radio station Hot 105, where a special Mandela song by another legendary rhythm and blues artist, Frankie Beverly and Maze, was heard throughout the weekend.
Despite being over 8,000 miles apart, Miami’s black community shared a close bond with Mandela that was rooted in 1990 when Mandela visited the city to speak at a convention on Miami Beach. Then Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez withdrew a key to the city and proclamation to Mandela claiming Mandela’s support of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro, angered Miami’s large but influential Cuban exile population.
The black community responded with a boycott of hotels and conventions centers that grew on a large scale as prominent national organizations pledged their support to stay away until city officials issued a formal apology and reversed their decision. Mayor Suarez admitted publicly of regretting the snub years later, but fell short of issuing a public apology.
Though the boycott ended in 1993, the incident left deep scars as Miami’s black community struggled to heal. But some residents view the snub as a way to honor Mandela’s legacy by rising above politics to achieve peace in the same way Mandela, known for his quiet strength and courage, reacted toward his oppressors back home.
“The power of his life speaks for himself,” said Steve Smith, a Miami Gardens resident, who attended the Music in The Park concert. “For a man born and oppressed in his own country and then to forgive them, how powerful can that be?”