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Mayor Gray Likens Mandela's Struggle To Fight For D.C. Statehood

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Flowers lie at the feet of the Nelson Mandela statue at the South African embassy.
Martin Di Caro/WAMU
Flowers lie at the feet of the Nelson Mandela statue at the South African embassy.

The District is celebrating the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela as its residents mourn his death.

Mayor Vincent Gray reflected on the protests more than two decades ago that took place outside the very embassy where he delivered his remarks — the campaign against apartheid that pushed the U.S. government to finally support Nelson Mandela, instead of the oppressive South African government. It was under the Reagan administration that Mandela's African National Congress was deemed a terrorist organization.

"That was not a good moment for this nation, but we obviously got past that," Gray said. "He became an enormously respected and revered figure in this nation."

Speaking at a news conference inside the South African embassy, the mayor said Mandela set an example for those fighting for D.C. statehood.

"We haven't achieved full equality in this city," Gray said. "When we can't have the authority to be able to spend our own money, when all of our local laws have to go to the national legislative body in order to be approved, when we experience taxation without representation every day, when we don't have a voting member of the national legislative body, I think the people here can relate first hand to Nelson Mandela."

Gray says condolence books will be available for the public to sign starting next week inside the Wilson Building, to be presented to the embassy.

Prayer vigils will take place outside the embassy, and on Wednesday at 11 a.m. there will be a memorial service at the National Cathedral.


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