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North Texans Honor Nelson Mandela's 95th With Celebration In Fair Park

Former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela turned 95 Thursday and North Texas held a party in his honor.

A friendly trio of West African drums greeted the guests who poured into Mandela’s birthday party in Fair Park.

The Hall of State was full of well-wishers like Patricia Hawkins. She wanted her granddaughters to get a sense of how beloved Mandela is.

“I want them really to not so much see and learn, but to feel the kinship be a part of it. Be part of the spirit,” says Hawkins.

Mandela supporters sang songs in his honor, prayed for peace, even wrote personal birthday notes to be sent abroad.

This event was organized by state Representative Helen Giddings, a personal friend of Mandela’s. She’s met with him half a dozen times on her 19 trips to South Africa.

Giddings is not at all surprised that several hundred North Texans would turn up to celebrate a man 9,000 miles away.

“I think it’s that he didn’t preach us a sermon, he showed us one. He showed us that love does conquer hate and that right will overcome wrong,” Giddings says.

Giddings is South Africa’s Honorary Consul to Texas, and says while Mandela’s recent illness has been hard on everyone who cares about him; it’s inspiring to see how far his message has spread.

“South Africa may have elected him President, but the world thought of him as the world’s President,” says Giddings. “He had this moral compass. I’ll tell you, standing in his presence, you just get chills.”

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.