There are few more influential figures in the last century than the late human rights activist, Nelson Mandela. In his honour, Toronto Raptors president and GM Masai Ujiri hosted a star-studded charity dinner last night, inviting NBA players and celebrities alike to share in Madiba’s memory.
Guests of the gathering held in Toronto’s historic Distillery District at the Fermenting Cellar recounted personal stories of how the world leader affected their lives. In attending, they helped raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nigerian-born Ujiri’s own Giants of Africa foundation.
The Toronto Star reported that organizers estimated a boost of more than $300,000 for the foundations, noting that 200 guests were expected to attend the event. Of course, members of the Raptors franchise were in the house, dressed to the nines for a good cause. Luol Deng of the Cleveland Cavaliers also made it.
Dressed up for a good cause
Masai Ujiri himself came outfitted with a navy one-button suit when he rolled up onto the red carpet.
Kyle Lowry paired a light blue two-button blazer with summery white pants and a no-frills, no-tie look.
DeMar DeRozan went all out with accessories, on the other hand. He wore a grey three-piece suit with waistcoat, topping it off with a dotted tie and a tonal purple pocket square.
Amir Johnson’s also not one to get flashy, but he did kick it with a pair of suede loafers emblazoned with a hand giving a peace sign. It’s all in the details.
Representing a completely different aspect of Toronto sports, soccer player Jermaine Defoe showed us how they do it back home in the UK wearing a slick, black-lapeled tux and tie.
One of the star attractions, former NBA player and Congo native Dikembe Mutombo was honoured during the evening for his contributions to peace across his home continent. He runs his own charitable foundation dedicated to improving quality of life in the Congo, and has been an ambassador for NBA Cares’ basketball clinics in Africa.
Ujiri’s close friend Wolf Blitzer visited to pay his own respects. The CNN anchor and political commentator interviewed Nelson Mandela in 1998, and was surprised by his compassion and kindness.
Singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc was also there, which had everybody excited. He performed two songs at the event before rejoining the gathering. Other guests included actor Danny Glover, NBA Africa vice-president Amadou Gallo Fall and Anant Singh, who produced Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom.
However, perhaps the most notable guest was a close personal friend of Mandela, who may have known him best of all. Tokyo Sexwale spent 15 years alongside Mandela in prison and helped him spread his message of peace and dignity.
Spreading the message
Mandela’s message hit close to home for students at Toronto’s Nelson Mandela Public School (The school was renamed in honour of the democracy advocate in 2001, when the man himself visited to give a speech.).
Ahead of the dinner, Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang shared Mandela’s story with the students in an effort to keep it alive for future generations. With luck, that memory will live on undiminished.