Summer campers from the Police Athletic League entertained shoppers during a celebration of Mandela International Day – Nelson Mandela’s birthday – at Sunshine Mall on Friday.
For more than an hour, young people took turns at the microphone accompanied by the Mind, Body and Soul, a band formed by PAL director Reinhold Jackson and music student DJante Carrington.
Jackson said the group chose “positive music” for celebrating the birthday of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient. The two guitarists, a drummer and a keyboardist accompanied a dozen vocalists who performed upbeat songs, including several by Bob Marley. Most of the audience sang along with “One Love” and “V.I. Nice.”
Jackson said 82 children between 6-18 years of age are participating in the PAL summer camp in Frederiksted. This summer, the group is building a dune buggy from the frame up, according to Jackson.
There is also an afterschool program he manages during the school year. In addition to music classes every afternoon, taught by Elvis Pedro and Jackson, there are courses in carpentry, sewing, bicycle repair and building go-carts.
Volunteers are an important part of the PAL program, Jackson said. He started the program 40 years ago while he was with the Police Department. After he retired, no one took over so he picked up where he left off.
“Forty years plus for camp and that’s why Labor (Department) should help us,” Jackson said, appealing for financial support.
The older kids also help – like Carrington. He learned to play the guitar at an “early age,” the 11th-grader said and, through the PAL afterschool program, also learned the piano and bass. Carrington said the group practices at least twice a week. He and the band picked the selections played at the mall and taught the music to the singers.
The celebration ended with the story of Mandela’s life, as told by Frandelle Gerard, director of Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism. She explained how he became the worldwide symbol of human rights through nonviolent activism. In 1990, after 27 years in prison, he negotiated with South Africa’s white leaders to bring peace to the country as long as the black population was given full rights. After years of negotiations, he became the nation’s first black president.
In 1993, Mandela and South Africa’s president at the time, Frederik Willem de Klerk, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for working to tear down apartheid. Mandela died in 2013 at the age of 95.
There were several organizations that participated in the Sunshine Mall event, including AmeriCorps, the Women’s Coalition, the Baha’i church and Banco Popular. They talked about and distributed literature about their programs.
Shelli Brin, spokeswoman for Sunshine Mall, said the company plans to host more public activities in the future. They chose Mandela Day first because it was an international event.
A Mandela poster was surrounded by an area for the public to write messages of peace and commemoration. The messages included “Peace is coming to the V.I.” and “Spread peace, love and equality for all.”