July 18: Mandela Day

TRCF’s Social Justice Calendar series celebrates the days, weeks, and months that have been dedicated to human rights issues. By highlighting these lesser known but equally important holidays, TRCF hopes to raise awareness of the ongoing struggle for social justice marked by these occasions. 

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94 years ago today, Rolihlahla Mandela (more commonly known as Nelson Mandela) was born in Mvezo, South Africa. From his early involvement in the civil disobedience movement to his election as the first president of post-aparheid South Africa, Mandela dedicated his life to the abolishment of racism and the establishment of equal rights. Read his inspiring biography here.

In 2009, the United Nations declared that July 18 – Mandela’s birthday – would be celebrated as Nelson Mandela International Day. The day is meant to honor Mandela’s legacy, and to encourage all of us to follow in Mandela’s footsteps by taking an active role in righting the social injustices we see around us.

Mandela spent 67 years working for social justice. On Mandela Day, the UN asks that we all take at least 67 minutes – that’s little more than an hour – to do something good for someone else. This can be anything from volunteering at a local shelter or organizing a community group to helping your little brother do his homework or visiting an elderly neighbor. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to the creation of “a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” He went to jail for 27 years because he refused to give up that vision, even in the face of death. Today, we can honor him by helping to promote equality for all people, regardless of race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation.

I’d say that’s a pretty great birthday gift.

Nelson Mandela



Photo credit: Nelson Mandela Online