This year, April 27 marked the 18th anniversary of South Africa’s Freedom Day, a commemoration of the country’s first democratic elections. It was in 1994 when all South Africans could vote for the first time in 300 years. After release from prison, Nelson Mandela was elected president as a result of that election. The whole world rejoiced Africa’s own Civil Rights Movement. Memories from that special day are still vivid for some.
“Every Freedom Day, I reflect on that day. I was an activist and attended rallies with Bishop Tutu. We waited in lines for hours and days just to cast a single voting ballot. It is still a struggle. But 100% of our people voted! That day was magical and historic!” said Verna Marthinus of Tolani Restaurant, on the upper West side. Tolani, which means ‘Too good!’ along with other New York South African restaurants, like Madiba, New York’s oldest South African restaurant in Brooklyn’s Fort Green, held special toasts of Pinotage South African wine and Droewors, a flavorful beef jerky, to honor the occasion.
The joyful day was a national celebration in South African communities worldwide, especially in New York with dance parties, drumming events, film screenings, and family and community gatherings. The largest NYC celebration, sponsored by the South Africa Consulate General in New York City, was held at Riverbank State Park and at the New York Marriott Marquis.