Will Smith has teamed
with Nelson Mandela in an effort to educate the millions of young people who are
most susceptible to AIDS in South Africa.
Smith has taken
the roll of AIDS ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Foundation and will play
a critical role in reaching young people in South Africa, where the disease
has hit hard.
"I was saying
to you [Mandela] I am an actor, I make rap music that’s what I do, what can
I do…and he said you have to understand the power that you have and the hope
that is created by what you do," Smith told Reuters in a news conference
with Mandela. "Today the call has spoken to me and I humbly, gratefully
and will aggressively respond," he said.
During the press
conference, the two icons showed solidarity by wearing black shirts bearing
the number 46664, Mandela’s prison number that he bore during his 27-years
of imprisonment for resisting white minority rule.
In March of 2002,
the rapper said that his perception of Hollywood changed after meeting the former
South African president.
"He told me
that in prison, he was only allowed to watch one movie every six months, and
that he looked forward to it more than anything because he saw such hope in
cinema,” Smith told the BBC’s Radio Times in an interview from 2002.
“It revealed the worst human tragedies and the greatest human possibilities,
and he told me never to underestimate the power of what I do – to make people
laugh, cry and think."