Dr. Juliet V. García has been a member of the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees for more than a decade. This month, the Trustees travel to South Africa as part of their work, and Dr. García will be blogging the experience to share with friends and colleagues at home.
The loveliest moment of the day came when I was in my hotel room playing a recording of the national anthem that I had made earlier while listening to the youth choir. A member of the hotel housekeeping staff was in my room making the bed when she heard the recording. She immediately put down the towels that she held in her hands and began to sing along. She smiled broadly and proudly as she stood reverently singing the new South African national anthem. She was the clearest evidence that a new day had dawned, and I was privileged to witness it in its infancy.
February 11, 2014
This morning we again began early this time to attend a Forum that Ford Foundation had organized titled "Realizing the Dream: the Promise of South Africa." Now remember that it has only been 20 years since the end of Apartheid. And while much has been accomplished, there is still much work to do. Imagine coming to visit the United States just 20 years after the end of the Civil War. The Civil War in the U.S. was declared over in 1865. But even today, some 149 years later, we still have much inequality to deal with.
The purpose of the Forum was to gather a great variety of leaders, activists, and everyday citizens to discuss the progress that has been realized over the past 20 years and what still remains to be accomplished.
It began with music and dance from a youth group called the Mzansi Youth Choir, a group of talented, underprivileged teenagers from Soweto. Their performance woke everyone up with their fast moving energetic song and dance. By the end of their performance, everyone in the vast hall was standing and dancing with them.
The day was filled with panels of distinguished jurists, entrepreneurs, government leaders and celebrities discussing the complex web of issues that together create life in today's South Africa. They spoke of the new rules of civil society that have given the people new freedoms hand in hand with new responsibilities. They spoke of the new Constitution, considered to be one of the most progressive in the world today that has been in effect since 1997. Some of the panelists had helped write the constitution, while others were now jurists charged with enforcing it.
The forum ended in much the way it had begun with a song performed by Lira, an Afro-Soul vocalist and performer who performed at the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off and at the 92nd anniversary of Nelson Mandela.
This this evening, we were taken to the Constitutional Court for a dinner with former and current justices. Among the most impressive guests there were a group of young leaders who had been funded by Ford to do graduate work in the U.S. before returning to South Africa. They represented the next generation of leadership for the New South Africa.
And to cap off the evening, I was reunited with a former Ford Foundation trustee, Wilmot James, who is now the chairman of the a new political party founded in 2000 called the Democratic Alliance that is gaining considerable strength in the National Assembly as an opposition party to the ANC, the African National Congress. While the ANC dominates the seats in the National Assembly currently, they are expected to lose a considerable number in the upcoming May election to the Democratic Alliance.
*The national anthem is made up of five languages: English, isiZulu, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, Sesotho. To hear it in full go to http://www.southafrica.info/about/history/anthem.htm#.Uvqq11ROKcw.twitter