NEW YORK, March 22, 2013 – In a festive and celebratory affair, Shared Interest, a nonprofit social investment fund serving Southern Africa, honored on Mar. 18, award-winning singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte, South African pop band Freshlyground, and freedom fighter and social justice activist Father Michael Lapsley at its 19th Anniversary Awards Gala in New York City.
J.P. Morgan, a leading global financial services firm, received the Corporate Award at the gala.
Some 300 distinguished U.S. and African leaders and top diplomats gathered for the annual black-tie affair, held at New York City’s Gotham Hall. Each year, Shared Interest presents awards to outstanding individuals and institutions for their commitment and ongoing work towards economic democracy and development in Southern Africa.
The evening's celebration raised funds for Shared Interest to provide black South African entrepreneurs with access to credit and technical support to launch small businesses, create jobs and build secure new communities. Donna Katzin, executive director of Shared Interest, told gala attendees that Shared Interest has built a $14 million guarantee fund, benefiting nearly 2.2 million “hard working, hopeful South Africans.”
“Tonight, we celebrate this progress, and invite you – as campaign builders, investors and donors – to enable us to reach the next 500,000 beneficiaries; shrink the gap between Southern Africa’s banks and impoverished communities; and lay the foundations for the next generation of our work,” said Katzin, in a challenge to guests. “Help South Africa finish the job,” she emphasized.
Legendary artist and activist Harry Belafonte received the Lifetime of Social Justice and Leadership Award for his pioneering leadership in supporting African liberation, civil rights and anti-apartheid movements, and rallying people worldwide to the cause of economic justice in Africa and the U.S.
In accepting his award, Belafonte recalled his mentors in the pursuit of justice who helped shape his social activism, including Dr. Martin Luther King and actor Paul Robeson. Belafonte said one of the joys of being an artist was understanding his responsibility of being a “gatekeeper of truth.”
The 86-year-old said as South Africa transforms itself into a democratic nation, the country must exercise patience and work at perfecting democracy, noting that the U.S. is still perfecting its democracy. Offering inspiring words of hope, Belafonte said: “One has to be grounded in the belief that there’s nothing wrong that can’t be fixed.”
Father Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest and freedom fighter, received the Promoting Healing, Reconciliation and Hope Award for his life’s work in the healing of memories of South Africans affected by apartheid – enabling victims and perpetrators to reconcile and reclaim their humanity.
Guests were on their feet clapping and dancing as Freshlyground, a chart-topping multiracial South African band, performed their pulsating Afropop beats for guests. Freshlyground was honored with the Voices of the Next Generation Award for their ongoing efforts to give back to the community through its social outreach programs and concerts.
John Coulter, J.P. Morgan’s Senior Country Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa, accepted the Visionary Investment in South Africa’s Communities Award on behalf of J.P. Morgan. J.P. Morgan was recognized for its focus on investments towards the most vulnerable people in Africa through strategic partnerships, and support for sustainable programs with measurable impact.
J.P. Morgan has had a long-standing relationship with Shared Interest and Thembani International Guarantee Fund. Most recently, the organizations have worked together to provide a mentorship program to develop successful and scalable small business enterprises, ultimately to create jobs and strengthen South Africa’s economic and social sector.
Caroline Clarke, Executive Editor of BLACK ENTERPRISE and host of BE Business Report, was the evening host. This year’s major corporate sponsors were South African Airways, Merck and Black Entertainment Television. Gala corporate partners were Nielsen and Johnson & Johnson.
Event Chairs were Eddie Bergman, executive director of Africa Travel Association, and Tim Smith, senior vice president at Walden Asset Management. Honorary Chairs were The Honorable David and Mrs. Joyce Dinkins; Consul General and Mrs. George Monyemangene; and H.E. Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and Ms. Rosieda Shabodien.
Photos by: Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Shared Interest