Johnson C. Smith University remembers Mandela on Friday

by: Tina Terry Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As the world celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela, those closest to him are remembering the civil rights icon in a special way.

Mandela's grandson, Zwelabo Mandela, attends college at Johnson C. Smith University.

Eyewitness News visited the university on Friday and learned the school is gathering behind him in support.

Thousands gathered on Friday to remember the man who changed South Africa and the world, and on the small college campus, students like Warren Radebe also stopped to remember.

"I am celebrating him. I am happy that we had a man like Nelson Mandela," he said.

Radebe is a native South African. He came to Johnson C. Smith University to follow in Mandela's footsteps, studying in political science.

"His history is phenomenal and I think most of our American friends sympathized with us," said Radebe.

Students on campus are also sympathizing with Zewlabo Mandela, a fellow classmate who is also Nelson Mandela's grandson.

"He is a part of the family at Smith, he is a Smithite," said Sen. Malcolm Graham, a JCSU Alumnus.

Zewlabo is a junior and many said he already displays the character of his grandfather.

"(He is a) really great example of servant leadership," said visiting assistant professor, Bryan Patterson.

This summer he and other students put together a video, part of a project promoting development on the northwest corridor.

Leaders said and other students encouraged the kind of social activism that caused the world to love Mandela.

"For us it is a big loss and it is quite sad, especially when we are away from home and we can't do anything," said Radebe.

Johnson C. Smith University has a South African student organization; many of them spent Thursday night together reflecting on Mandela's legacy.