A black-American woman's and a white-South African woman's musical journeys for racial equality
On April 9, 1939, Marian Anderson’s landmark performance of classical and spiritual song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, later dubbed the “Freedom Concert”, blazed the trail for later humanitarian work in America. With 75,000 people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds in attendance and many more listening through the radio broadcast, Marian’s majestic contralto established equality for the arts on that historic day. Until that time, artists were routinely barred from venues and separated from audiences because of the color of their skin.
On Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 12:00 PM, seventy-seven years later on the other side of the reflecting pool in the National Mall, South African musician and humanitarian Sharon Katz, along with her Peace Train, will command the stage at the base of the Washington Monument as the headlining band for the Nelson Mandela International Day and “Action Moves People United”, the World Peace Project of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In 1992 Sharon Katz and Marilyn Cohen created the first, 500-voice mixed race choir, inspired by Nelson Mandela’s vision of a new South Africa with equal rights for all, to break down the barriers of apartheid. A year later, one hundred and fifty young performers climbed aboard the Peace Train, living together in mixed-race compartments and traveling across South Africa, stopping at each town along the way to give concerts and encourage a peaceful transition to democracy. Their documentary, "When Voices Meet", released in 2015, details the account of their journey from conception to fruition and has been shown at twenty-three film festivals. The Peace Train’s goal has always been to spread Nelson Mandela’s dream of justice, equality and a better life for all.
In July 2016, Sharon Katz and the Peace Train, a diverse group of 100 singers and musicians from all across the USA, plan to inspire international goodwill, putting the "United" back in the United States. I am happy to be a part of this community of artists focused on generating World Peace, and to take my part in the upcoming concert on July 17, 2016 at the Sylvan Theater, Washington Monument with Sharon Katz and the Peace Train and Grant Maloy Smith.