His Excellency Ebrahim Rasool, Ambassador of South Africa to the United States, will accept the Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence, Inc.â€™s Drum Major for Freedom award on behalf of the family of the late President Nelson Mandela at this yearâ€™s 32nd annual MLK Association Awards & Benefit Luncheon.
Due to the worldwide impact of the life of President Mandela, who died on Dec. 5, 2013, MLK Association officials decided to change this yearâ€™s original luncheon program and honor the anti-apartheid activist and freedom fighter posthumously, which will be held at the Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia Hotel, 17th & Race Streets, at noon Monday, Jan. 20.
In addition to his appearance at the luncheon, Ambassador Rasool also will participate in the MLK Associationâ€™s annual National Bell Ringing ceremony at the Liberty Bell at 11:15 a.m. The ceremonial ringing of the Liberty Bell happens at exactly 12 noon.
â€œIt is an honor for the Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence, Inc. to welcome Ambassador Rasool to our city and for him to receive a Drum Major award on behalf of the family of the late South African President Nelson Mandela and the citizens of South Africa,â€ said Dr. William Tucker, president of the MLK Association. â€œPresident Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. never met but they fought for the same cause of freedom and justice at the same time on two continents. Both men will be remembered as important moral leaders for all time.â€
â€œThe family of Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa deeply appreciate the honor being bestowed on Jan. 20, on the father of our nation by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence,â€ Ambassador Rasool said. â€œDr. King and Nelson Mandela dreamed the same dream. None did more in their generation than Dr. King and Nelson Mandela to bend the long arm of the universe towards justice and advance humanity along our shared long walk to freedom.â€
The Philadelphia MLK Association is an organization that aims to preserve and advance the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through educating, advocating and promoting nonviolent principles and philosophy. The MLK Associationâ€™s annual King Day luncheon is one of the largest gatherings in the United States to honor Dr. King and his accomplishments.
Activist Dr. C. Delores Tucker and a group of community leaders held the first Philadelphia luncheon in 1982 as a way to raise funds for the establishment of Martin Luther Kingâ€™s birthday as a federal holiday. Tucker officially formed the Philadelphia MLK Association in 1983 and the MLK Association continues with itsâ€™ annual luncheon today. The annual Bell Ringing at the Liberty Bell started in 1986, the first year Martin Luther Kingâ€™s birthday was celebrated as a national holiday.
Dr. Kingâ€™s widow, the late Mrs. Coretta Scott King, knew Philadelphia held a special place in her husbandâ€™s heart and thought it fitting to have a permanent organization dedicated to his ideals of peace and freedom here in the city.
The MLK Association is affiliated with the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. and commissioned by Mrs. King.
During 2013, the Association conducted workshops on nonviolence and sent leaders into city schools and other organizations to talk about and conduct workshops connected to the principles of nonviolence supported by Dr. King.
Among the major educational programs organized and run by the group each year is a College for Teens curriculum, a year-round program that helps encourage success for students in middle and high school and includes a summer component where students spend time on college campuses to get the experience of campus life.
The group also runs the Educational Ambassadors of Nonviolence Club, where students are taught about the political system and are trained to be leaders in their communities and schools. The organization also organizes two events for underprivileged children and families during the Christmas holiday season.
Ambassador Rasoolâ€™s history in the anti-apartheid movement began in high school and includes leadership in the United Democratic Front and the African National Congress and sacrifices including prison time and house arrest.
Before becoming South Africaâ€™s Ambassador to the US in July 2010, Ambassador Rasool had been a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, special advisor to the State President of the Republic of South Africa and Premier (governor) of the Western Cape Province.
His social and political involvement has consistently been faith-driven. He has been active in both the Islamic and Interfaith Movements and created the World for All Foundation to promote cooperative relations between faith, cultures and communities at a global level.
For his contributions to South Africa, Ambassador Rasool has been the recipient of a number of leadership awards. In 2008 he was awarded the Visionary Leadership and Public Good Award from the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists. In 2005 he was given the Foreign Direct Investment in Africa Personality of the Year Award by the London Financial Times.Â In 1998 Ambassador Rasool was the recipient of the Kaiser Family Foundationâ€™s Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights.
President Mandela was born on Jul. 18, 1918 and became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s, joining the ANC in 1942. For more than 20 years, Mandela directed a campaign of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. He was released from prison in 1990 after serving 27 years.
In 1994 President Mandela was inaugurated as South Africaâ€™s first Black and democratically elected president. He left the presidency in 1999 but remained a major force in South Africa until his recent death.
National Bell Ringers and Drum Major Award winners over the last 32 years include: Malaak and Ilyasah Shabazz, daughters of the late Malcolm X & Betty Shabazz; actress Cicely Tyson; the late actor Ossie Davis; former US Secretary of State Colin Powell; Martin Luther King III; the late Rev. Leon H. Sullivan, pastor of Philadelphiaâ€™s Zion Baptist Church and founder of Opportunity Industrialization Centers; South African Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace winner Desmond Tutu; the late Rosa Parks; and the late Coretta Scott King.
This yearâ€™s Drum Major Awardees include Charisse R. Lillie, VP of community investment of Comcast Corp. and president of the Comcast Foundation; Jill M. Michal, president of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey; Dr. Joshua Feldstein, former president, Delaware Valley College, Doylestown, Pa; and Dean I. Weitzman, managing partner of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman (MyPhillyLawyer).
Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections Secretary John E. Wetzel will be the keynote speaker for the luncheon. Wetzel, who has served in his position since May 2011, is responsible for the management and operations of this department, which houses more than 51,000 inmates, has approximately 15,000 employees and a nearly $2 billion budget.
Tickets are still available for this yearâ€™s luncheon. For more information contact the MLK Association at (215) 751-9300 or visit the website www.philadelphiamlk.org.