Californians remember South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela

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The former South African president and global civil rights leader died today at the age of 95 in Johannesburg.

Edward Alpers, a research professor at UCLA with a focus on African history, was an organizer of the anti-apartheid movement here in LA in the 1980s, and saw Mandela speak at the LA Coliseum in 1990.

“I had the privilege because I had been working some of the [African National Congress] representatives in Los Angeles, a number of us were able to go over to City Hall where he spoke,” Alpers said. “People knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, not just the one chance to see him, but the moment in which this was happening was just ecstatic. It was quite unbelievable.”

Alpers says Mandela’s push for civil rights in South Africa and around the world will be felt for generations. Here’s his interview with KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis:

Meanwhile, elected officials in California are also mourning Mandela’s death.

California Governor Jerry Brown said Mandela “fought heroically for freedom and a truly democratic society.”

Senator Barbara Boxer, called Mandela a true hero for freedom, saying “we should all carry out his vision of equality in our daily lives.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the hearts of people in LA are heavy with the news of his death.