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Bill De Blasio, NY politicians pay tribute to Nelson Mandela

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio reflects about the life

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio reflects about the life of Nelson Mandela as he addresses the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. (Dec. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio celebrated Nelson Mandela's life with song, dance and prayer Sunday at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center and afterward said he would apply the South African leader's values to his governance of New York City.

"I think it's about reconciliation and I think it is about mutual respect. It is definitionally what Mandela was about," de Blasio told reporters after speaking to about 3,000 at the church service. "And I think in terms of this city, it means bringing people together. Working tirelessly to heal divisions, to increase communications."

Mandela's refusal to "accept unacceptable conditions," de Blasio said, inspires him to raise and address issues of inequality.

De Blasio was among political leaders who attended a tribute to the former South African president, who was remembered in a video montage with clips of his speeches as well as with African-style dancing, drumming and songs with such lyrics as "Let peace and freedom ring."

Mandela, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F.W. de Klerk, the last South African president under apartheid, died Thursday in Johannesburg at age 95. The two worked together to bring the nation peacefully from under systemic racial segregation.

De Blasio was an aide in former Mayor David Dinkins' administration when Mandela visited New York City in 1990 and spoke to a packed Yankee Stadium. De Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, who is African-American, performed spoken-word poetry for the group Art Against Apartheid in the 1980s. McCray on Sunday said the group's work was "beyond the politics of black and white." Mandela's death was personal to the couple, de Blasio said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during Sunday's service that Mandela didn't lead by force or even by oratory. But "he led by moral majesty and when you lead by moral majesty, the walls come tumbling down," he said.

The city's Public Advocate-elect Letitia James, Brooklyn's District Attorney-elect Ken Thompson and the Rev. Al Sharpton also attended the service.

The church's pastor, the Rev. A.R. Bernard, a member of de Blasio's transition committee, said he believed the mayor would encourage an atmosphere of "peaceful collaboration" in the city.

De Blasio after the service said his family still has not decided whether they will move from their Park Slope row house to Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence on the Upper East Side, when he takes office Jan. 1. They were weighing the "pull of Brooklyn" with logistical and security considerations, he said.

He said this week would bring important announcements about his administration, though the appointment of a schools chancellor -- one of the most anticipated -- would not necessarily be one of them.

Picking a chancellor is something he is doing methodically, De Blasio said. He added that some being considered belong to a "substantial personal network that we're tapping into." He did not disclose his candidates.

The mayor-elect last week announced government veteran Anthony Shorris as first deputy mayor and a return of Bill Bratton to the post of NYPD commissioner.

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