The 3rd annual ‘Giant of Africa’ event to honour the late Nelson Mandela began with a warm reception at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. The GOA team was accompanied by SEEDS Project & NBA Africa Director, Amadou Fall, 6x Olympic medalist Clara Hughes, and Nelson Mandela’s own grandson Kweku. After a quick lunch, the group toured throughout the hospital and learned about the different types of therapies the hospital offers for its young and unique patients, including stories of success stories that had never been seen before in the medical world. After learning about the importance of child life specialists and therapy programs the tour continue to the reading room where Amadou Fall and Clara Hughes read stories aloud to children that had come out with their parents and siblings. Afterward, the team took photos with the children and gifted them with Giant of Africa t-shirts.
Finishing up at SickKids, the team made their way to the Art Gallery of Ontario for the official start to the event. The afternoon included a unique performance from prolific Toronto speech artist: Mustafa the Poet, a speech from the Chief of Paediatrics, and a panel discussion with our special guests. Making their way through the gallery, guests entered a vibrant and colourful room that displayed the artistic style of our live artist, Benny Bing, and a stage flanked by tasteful displays and slideshows of Mandela and his life’s work.
The event kicked off with TSN host, Rod Black, as he introduced the young and exceptional poet, Mustafa Ahmed. Mustafa, a Canadian of Sudanese descent, had already shared the stage with Margaret Atwood, Nelly Furtado and the Weeknd, and had performed for Prime Minister Trudeau. Growing up in Toronto’s Regent Park the poet was once a student at the Nelson Mandela Park Public School. Being a spoken word artist, Mustafa is an advocate for social change and the empowerment of youth. Performing an emotionally charged poem the 20 year old prodigy captivated the entire room as he spoke of the hardship and struggle of youth today and the importance of empowering young children.
“Sometimes when I’m spiritually drained and mentally drained, I remember the Giant of Africa”.
SickKids Chief of Paediatrics, Jeremy Friedman, was then invited to the stage where he spoke of his African roots, “I am of South Africa, but I think that for those that are of Africa – regardless of where you’re from, whether you’re short or tall – it is a magical feeling”. The doctor spoke about the amazing work SickKids does every day and how children are an extremely important part of our future. Masai then took the stage speaking to guests and partners, while remembering his hero Nelson Mandela and his legacy. “It is an unbelievable day celebrating an unbelievable man – I can only hope that he becomes more special as time goes on”.
The panel included curated questions for each of the special guests. One of the first focused on Mandela’s grandson, Kweku, his special relationship with his grandfather and the unique advice given to him as one of his grandchildren.
“He is one that believed in the capacity we have as humans to come together”
Describing him as a man who knew and understood the people, rather than a politician – Kweku told us that his grandfather never wanted to be on a pedestal – he understood the importance of engaging with the community and actually making a difference.
Clara Hughes explored the power of sport and how it can not only change, but save lives. For a young person coming from a broken home where alcohol had become a coping mechanism playing sports in the community was able to help correct this and fund the journey to the olympics- “It shifted the direction of my life, and saved my life”.
“It’s what you do with your success – it’s not what you have, it’s finding a way to get behind your own selfish ideas of success and giving back”
As managing director and Vice President of NBA Africa & the SEEDS Project, Amadou discussed the power of sport and its ability to influence youth, saying that he, “Committed to a life of service through sport”.
To end the event, Masai returned to the stage ,after a recap video of Giants of Africa’s camps and community outreach in the Summer of 2016, and took this last opportunity to speak to our guests, stressing the great importance of helping where they can and empowering children across the world.
“See those kids there – unbelievable – we need to help, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it might be your cousin sister or brother, a neighbour – you need to help these youth “