South Africa project

South Africa project – One of the many things that I love about Shared Interest,  besides the wonderful work that they do to empower South African women, is witnessing the bond between New Yorkers and South Africans grow stronger each year. This year Shared Interest celebrated its 20th year in operation. Clearly honorees Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his daughter Rev. Mpho Tutu were the big draw for this year’s gala event. Beaming and cheerful, “The Arch,” as he is affectionately known, still has that high-pitched giggle when he laughs!

This sold-out gala is unlike other charity galas in the city because mixed in with the fancy people, distinguished US and African leaders and top diplomats, are many former student activists. It is a reunion for anti-Apartheid revolutionaries, and former radicals who are still paying it forward.  How many of you remember Apartheid? Did you participate in “Free Mandela” or “Divest from South Africa” campaigns as a university student?  Although Apartheid only ended in 1994, for most of our sisters and brothers back in South Africa, Apartheid still exists.

The event drew a diverse multi-generational crowd including such notables as Rev. James A. Forbes of Riverside Church, former NYC Mayor David Dinkins and honoree Anant Singh, producer of the acclaimed film “Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom.” The other honorees were South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and activist Rosieda Shabodien. Avon Products was presented the corporate award at the gala.

“Our honorees’ selfless efforts have helped lay the foundation for a united, democratic and equitable future in South Africa,” said Donna Katzin, Shared Interest, executive director and founder.  “In the beginning it was a struggle to free Mandela and divest from corporations. But, we have a new struggle now to help rebuild and empower the people. We protested against apartheid and urged US companies to divest from SA. Many of us were jailed for our efforts. I thank everyone for being here tonight, and I especially thank Mayor Dinkins for helping me get out of jail during those early protests,” said Katzin, a Smith College graduate.

“We must analyze South Africa as a young country,” said Charlayne Hunter-Gault, journalist and longtime South Africa resident, and host of the Shared Interest Anniversary Annual Awards Gala held February 27, 2014 at Gotham Hall.

The joyous occasion was highlighted by Charlayne’s 72nd birthday, and performances by Thokoza,  an acapella choral group composed of six South African and six African American women ‘of a certain age’ (stated by their own description) who sang a wide range of freedom songs. The Dance Theater of Harlem  also performed. Shared Interest is a New York-based social investment fund that underwrites micro-loans to poor South Africans. Their new initiative is aimed at women and the younger generation.


Photos by Jane Feldman:

To see more of Jane’s photos including former South Africa President Nelson Mandela and more with Archbishop Tutu, check: