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New York Celebrates Nelson Mandela
Will.I.Am, Carla Bruni, Dave Stewart Queen Latifah
Will.I.Am, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy & Dave Stewart
Queen Latifah
Aretha Franklin Josh Groban Alicia Keys
Aretha Franklin in concert
Josh Groban greets fans at concert
Alicia Keys
Morgan Freeman Lil' Kim & Cyndi Lauper Karolina Kurkova & Archie Drury
Morgan Freeman
Lil' Kim & Cyndi Lauper performed together
Karolina Kurkova with fiance Archie Drury at Mandela dinner gala

New York, July 15-18, 2009 – It was more like “Mandela Week” as New York City celebrated Mandela Day with a slew of events from a reading in Washington Square Park to planting in Jackie Robinson Park to an interactive exhibition at Grand Central Station in celebration of South African leader Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday. 

While Mr. Mandela was not able to travel to the U.S., his wife, Graca Machel attended a dinner and auction on Wednesday hosted by former president Bill Clinton.  Clinton toasted his old friend Mandela, and urged the crowd to bid on the auction items with an anecdote:  “Even back when my wife was not Secretary of State, I bid on, paid for and won rum provided by Fidel Castro.  And I still have it; as far as I know, I violated some American trade law,” Clinton related, to much laughter. Among the guests at the star-studded dinner was Victoria’s secret model Karolina Kurkova, who made her first public appearance after announcing her pregnancy, and dutifully showed off her gleaming engagement ring and her fiancé, film producer Archie Drury.

The Mandela Day festivities culminated on Saturday night with a glittering concert at Radio City Music Hall featuring Stevie Wonder, Forest Whitaker, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Will.I.Am, and Wyclef Jean.  Even with that lineup, all eyes were on French First Lady Carla Bruni, who sang two songs with rocker Dave Stewart.  In fact, odd but wonderful duets were a hallmark of the concert: Aretha Franklin sang with Josh Groban; Alicia Keys with Angelique Kidjo and rapper Lil’ Kim joined Cyndi Lauper in a strangely delightful rendition of Lauper’s classi Time After Time.

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