Centenary celebration for Nelson Mandela being held in Dallas

State Representative Helen Giddings is calling on North Texas to honor the life of Nelson Mandela.

Mandela fought his entire life against the apartheid system in South Africa and ultimately became that country's first black president.

Giddings forged a friendship with Mandela that took her to South Africa 24 times.

“I was so fortunate to have an opportunity not only to get to meet him but to get to know him,” she said. “Standing in his presence without him saying a word you just knew you were in the presence of greatness.”

Mandela fought South Africa's apartheid system until it fell, becoming that nation's first black president.

“I carried the legislation along with then-Senator Rodney Ellis to remove the sanctions that Texas had in its constitution against the apartheid South African government,” Giddings said.

The bill was signed into law by then-Governor George W. Bush. That led to the first trade mission from Texas to South Africa after the new democratic government and a personal invitation for Giddings to a state dinner with Mandela.

In 2009, the United Nations passed a resolution that would honor Mandela's 67 years of public service with 67 minutes of community service.

“On July 21, which is Saturday, we will gather at the North Texas Food Bank and we will give our 67 minutes of service there,” Giddings said.

On July 23, the World Affairs Council and Dallas Museum of Art and Trinity Links will bring one of Mandela's granddaughters to Dallas. For a centenary celebration, this year marks Mandela's 100th birthday.

Giddings hopes all of Dallas will give time Saturday and be part of next Monday’s celebration of Mandela.

LINK: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Nelson Mandela's Birth tickets