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Local celebrations for late anti-apartheid leader

Gov Quinn with 'MandelRoad' sign after renaming portiCicero Avenue from GrRoosevelt will now be 'MandelRoad'. Friday July 18 2014 |

Gov Quinn with a "Mandela Road" sign after renaming a portion of Cicero Avenue, from Grand to Roosevelt, will now be "Mandela Road". Friday, July 18, 2014 | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

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Updated: August 20, 2014 6:17AM

LaTuantis James, 17, of North Lawndale, says he spent Friday immersed in celebrations of Nelson Mandela Day because the late anti-apartheid leader, who became an international icon of peace, is among his heroes.

“We could learn from Mandela about unity, and coming together as one,” said the Phoenix Military Academy senior, who began the day watching a movie on the life of the South African leader with 300 other North Lawndale youth at the Johnny Miller Centre, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd.

The youth then led a peace march throughout their community Friday afternoon, before attending a night celebration at Malcolm X College sponsored by the South African Consulate of Chicago.

Events were held across the nation and world to mark a day of service celebrated on Mandela’s birthday, approved in 2009 by the U.N. General Assembly.

Mandela passed away on Dec. 5, 2013, at 95.

On what would have been his 96th birthday, Gov. Pat Quinn joined city and state officials in a morning ceremony renaming Cicero Avenue from Roosevelt Road to West Grand Avenue, “Honorary Mandela Road.” Other officials, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, attended the Malcolm X celebration keynoted by Nowetu Luti, Deputy Chief of Mission of the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.

“We were honored the consulate asked North Lawndale youth to lead the education piece,” said the Rev. Robin Hood, of Interfaith Illinois, which sponsored the youth’s activities. “And 300 youth marching in their community, talking to people, knocking on doors, handing out flyers, it was beautiful.”

LaMonica Holmes, a 17-year-old senior at Westinghouse College Prep, was one of the participants, and a speaker at the Malcolm X event.

“I want people to remember how Nelson Mandela’s actions and his efforts helped to structure the world, how he inspired people to change for the better, by trying to eliminate and end apartheid,” she said. “He wanted equality for everyone. I hope that when people remember him, they try to carry on his legacy.”

Twitter: @Maudlynei

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