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At South African Mission in NYC, crowd is ultimate testament to Nelson Mandela’s legacy

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NEW YORK (PIX11) — Rain may have put a damper on a scheduled candlelight vigil, but a small and determined crow stuck it out, singing and dancing in front of the South African Mission to the UN Friday night.

For South African native and “new New Yorker” Layla Gamma, this was not just about mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela, or even celebrating his fascinating life.

“It’s also about what he stood for. His bravery … I’m here in America because of what he did,” said Gamma.

The more we heard from Gamma, the more we realized her presence here in the Big Apple, and in such a diverse crowd, amounted to an eye-opening and nerve-wracking experience.

“Right now, just to see even white people around me right now, it’s weird, almost uncomfortable. Because when I left Africa – the white people were still in charge, apartheid going on,” Gamma said.

So as Gamma stood just a few feet away from fellow South African native Courtneigh Cloud we realized we were witnessing a small, but unique moment shared between two members of the Mandela’s post-apartheid generation.

When asked what they thought both their grandparents would think of them standing next to each other, Gamma replied: “For example, my grandmother, she never knew how old she was. Blacks, you weren’t allowed to know how old you are, you know? For me and her to be standing here beside each other – it’s different for me. So I’m happy that I can do that.”

Cloud added: “For me it’s like nothing else. I grew up with a black brother in my house. I’ve always been someone who doesn’t see color at all. I give all the credit to Nelson Mandela. He was the most incredible man. ”