"When he was imprisoned by the white government, the protest against, even after 27 years, he never preached hate," the Rev. Ira Acree said.
Mandela died last week at 95. Dozens of world dignitaries attended a memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday. In Chicago, the anti-apartheid leader was honored at Columbus Park Refectory by the Leaders Network, a group made up of reverends, business leaders and activists.
"Just as in South Africa, as in America, the real work of social justice is not done," Dr. Marshall Hatch, New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, said.
Members are also signing a condolence book that will go to the South African consulate.
"There many people applauding him, praising him but I challenge that today is not just to praise him but to emulate him," Rev. Acree said.
"It's going to be hard without President Mandela because I think it was the one idea that we cared about ...unity. So [we] have to step up our game. Not only do we have to show the world that we understand when he was teaching us but we have to show ourselves," Consul General Vuyiswa Tulelo said.
The South African Consulate of Chicago is planning another local memorial for Mandela later this week at Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Mandela visited Chicago in 1993.
Illinois congressional delegation attends memorial in South Africa
A congressional delegation from Illinois also attended Tuesday's memorial lead by Representative Aaron Schock.
He spoke to ABC7 Eyewitness News from South Africa about the day and that unexpected handshake:
"I am aware of that [the handshake] but I haven't spent a whole lot of time worrying about that. Today was about Nelson Mandela and looking at his life. I thought it was pretty befitting that he could still bring world leaders from all up and down the ideological spectrum together even after his death," said Rep. Schock.
The congressional delegation headed back to Washington D.C. Tuesday afternoon.