Fundraiser Celebrates Life of Nelson Mandela and Supports his Namesake Community

After the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013, Jacksonville Sister Cities Association (JSCA) decided to plan a memorial that would honor him and their sister city, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in South Africa. Previously called Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was renamed in 2001, and is the only city in the world officially named after Dr. Mandela. The two port cities twinned via teleconference back in February 2000, and since then have formed a robust partnership through various exchanges over the years. JSCA decided to celebrate the life of Dr. Mandela by organizing a fundraising banquet with proceeds benefiting existing JSCA health programs in the Nelson Mandela Bay community. 

In order to make this event a success, JSCA President, Crystal Broughan, and the Mandela Celebration Planning Committee Chairwoman, Tina Daniels, worked closely with former Senator Tony Hill, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, Betzy Santiago, the Mayor’s International Officer and Liason to JSCA, JSCA board members from all eight JSCA committees, and members of the City of Jacksonville. The support of local government officials and the city helped JSCA gain 20 valuable sponsorships from local businesses, universities, and organizations. Securing sponsorships was of great benefit and boosted the visibility of JSCA within the community. 

A South African delegation including Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Nkosinathi Benson Fihla came to Jacksonville the week of the event and spent time exchanging best practices by visiting city government departments. They met with members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Florida to discuss trade opportunities with Jacksonville. In addition, the delegation toured the city, met with the people of Jacksonville, and helped spread the word about the event and JSCA.

In addition to the help from government officials and sponsorships, Ms. Broughan explained that the event appealed to so many people because “Nelson Mandela was so well-known for his bravery and activism; people want to feel that they can unite with all members of their community to honor his legacy.” 

The event itself was highly successful. Tickets sold out with over 300 people in attendance. The diverse group of attendees included community members, government officials, doctors, lawyers, church delegations, university and high school students, and JSCA board members and volunteers. 

For entertainment, the Mandela Celebration Combined Choir comprised of the Edward Water College Concert Choir, Florida State College of Jacksonville Gospel Choir, Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, The Ritz Voices and the University of North Florida Chorale delighted the audience during the banquet before the keynote speech.

Keynote Speaker Mayor Fihla was one of the 26 people jailed with Dr. Mandela on Robben Island. His firsthand experience and journey alongside Dr. Mandela and others led him to give a unique tribute and appreciation for the cross-cultural sister cities movement. “We feel it deeply incumbent upon us to live out the values Dr. Mandela exemplified throughout his life: compassion, forgiveness, warmth, equality, and Ubuntu. Many of these qualities and values we have witnessed and experienced in our engagement with our friends in Jacksonville, especially the citizen volunteers.  

The $75 ticket price and sponsorships brought in approximately $10,000 for the cause. The money earned will be used to purchase medical supplies for a Mobile Clinic in Nelson Mandela Bay and will help to continue the humanitarian aid efforts in the region. 

The overall exposure to JSCA and the sister cities movement before, during, and after the event has been wonderful for the community. JSCA has several more events planned throughout the end of 2014 for all eight of their sister cities. To learn more about upcoming events and to learn more about the Mobile Clinic in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, please visit