It’s been almost 15 years to the day since Beyoncé met Nelson Mandela while performing at his foundation’s “Give 1 Minute To AIDS” concert in late 2003. But on Tuesday, the megastar published a poignant letter to the late humanitarian icon, also fondly known as “Madiba,” recalling their time together and Mandela’s incredible and enduring legacy, which she, husband Jay-Z, and others, including Pharrell, Femi Kuti, and Usher, will continue in his memory during this weekend’s Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
As the title of the festival suggests, this year also marked the 100th birthday of the freedom fighter and former South African president, who died in December of 2013. In addition to the concert, a series of initiatives have been made in Mandela’s memory, with the aim of raising $1 billion in aid to the world’s most impoverished citizens, with 50 percent committed to aiding women and girls.
As Beyoncé expresses in her letter, the mission Mandela inspired has since become a personal one:
I first met you in 2004 for the 46664 AIDS Benefit Concert in Cape Town, and the impact you have had on my life resonates with me today and every day. Your kindness and gratitude for every experience, and your ability to forgive are lessons I have learned and will pass on to my three children. My entire family holds you in high regard.
It is an honor for me to travel to South Africa this week in celebration of you and your efforts to right so many wrongs. You were a strategic warrior, a bold activist, and charismatic and well-loved leader. Your vision for dignity, for human rights, for peace and a South Africa free of racism and apartheid, allows us all to turn dreams into reality.
I remember taking that walk with you back to the prison on Robben Island where you spent 18 of those imprisoned 27 years. I recall your measured but focused steps in as you recounted the stories of the struggles, the sacrifices and your resilience. You smiled as you talked to a crowd of artists and their guests, including my mother, who first told my sister and me about the great Nelson Mandela. In that moment I truly understood your heart and humility.
You made it possible for so many people like me to reject impossibilities and understand our capabilities in making lasting change in the world. The smallest efforts could change the trajectory for so many living in extreme poverty, facing injustices, the indecency of racism and fighting for their rights as humans.
As we celebrate the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, honoring your centennial year, I promise you that we have made your dreams our own.
Your work and your sacrifices were not in vain. I will cherish every moment shared in your presence and use the lessons learned from you as fuel to stir positive ideas and solutions.