Cape Town Consul General Erica Barks-Ruggles Welcomes Chicago Children’s Choir to the National Arts Festival

Chicago Children’s Choir
Chicago Children’s Choir

On July, 3, Cape Town Consul General Erica Barks-Ruggles helped to welcome the Chicago Children’s Choir to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa. It was a rousing performance that celebrated the cultural diversity of both countries.

Read the Consul General’s remarks below:

“Wow! What an amazing performance!

With talent like that, it’s easy to see why the Chicago Children’s Choir has performed around the world for dignitaries including Madiba and Archbishop Tutu–and with groups such as Ladysmith Black Mombazo.

With programs in 65 schools throughout Chicago, the Choir’s aim—along with creating the spectacular music we just heard—is to bridge cultural divides in the United States’ third largest city. In joining voices with the choir, members become ambassadors for their communities.

And, on this occasion, they’ve become ambassadors for their country, as that theme of cultural unity also defines the Choir’s South Africa trip. As you heard, the Choir selected powerful songs that drew on the legacies of the US Civil Rights Movement and South Africa’s anti-Apartheid struggle to remind us that we are stronger when working together than we are living apart.

This year marks two anniversaries in our nations’ similar struggles to ensure equality for all our citizens. It has been 50 years since the US Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin; and it has been 20 years since the birth of post-Apartheid democracy in South Africa, which was only gained after a long and difficult struggle with which you are all familiar.

This is the final stop on the Choir’s South African tour to spread its message of unity and hope. After collaborating with the Soweto Gospel Choir and township choirs in Cape Town’s Macassar area—and at fellow Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy near Johannesburg—it’s fitting that the Chicago Children’s Choir finish its 2014 South Africa tour here in Grahamstown at the National Arts Festival.

Every year the Festival brings more than 200,000 people from around Africa to the continent’s largest celebration of the arts. There, on the Festival’s stages, they find more than 350 performances that foster the healthy dialogue about social issues that helps ensure that our societies become ever more inclusive.

There are few better ways to unite people than through a shared love of the arts, which is why the US government has for many years helped sponsor the National Arts Festival—something we hope to do for many years to come.

So…thanks to the Chicago Children’s Choir for a wonderful performance, to the people who annually bring you the Festival and to all of you for joining us tonight. Enjoy the rest of the festival!”