Chestnut Hill College’s Institute for Forgiveness and Reconciliation (IFR) and the Black Student Union hosted Sharon Katz and The Peace Train for a rousing concert by the four-person band and a showing of Katz’s award-winning documentary “When Voices Meet.”
Katz, who is white, was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, during apartheid. As a teenager, she snuck out to visit the “Blacks Only” townships by hiding under blankets in the back seat of her friend’s car. During that divisive era, she began her lifelong mission of using music to help break down South Africa’s artificially imposed racial barriers.
In 1992, Katz made history in her home country when she formed a 500-member multi-cultural and multi-lingual performing group and staged a production called “When Voices Meet.” Katz is now working in troubled areas around the world, earning a reputation for converting “gang members into band members.”
“Sharon’s mission of bringing people together across racial boundaries embodies the mission of the Institute for Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” says Cathy Nerney SSJ, Ph.D., director of the IFR. “It is time we acknowledge that the number one thing keeping people apart in America is racism.”
“When Voices Meet” details The Peace Train and the impact it has made on the lives of the participants and South Africa in the 20 years since the end of apartheid. CHC is one of only 25 locations across the United States to show her film.
“Sharon is someone who dreams big,” says Sister Cathy. “She makes me believe that even a small college can make a big difference in combating racism.”
Katz and her band had the entire East Parlor dancing to the music; students, staff and faculty all joined the band in dance and song.
“In a way, we witnessed the Peace Train across America, right in the East Parlor,” says Sister Cathy. “Boundaries between audience and performer were broken down, and we all left feeling as though we can make a difference.”
With violence, intolerance and problems in schools becoming a daily concern in the United States too, Katz has extended her Peace Train mission, announcing recently that she will tour America with the Peace Train, modeling it on her successful projects in South Africa. The Peace Train 2016 Tour Across America will bring together youth and adults of all backgrounds to sing about their shared values and hopes for a better future for all.
The Tour will begin on the Fourth of July in Ferguson, Mo., where community leaders will form a committee composed of arts educators, youth, religious leaders, teachers and police. Singers from states west of Missouri, all the way to Hawaii, will meet in St. Louis to begin the tour. After the first performance, the group will board an Amtrak train and pick up more singers as they go, performing at station stops along the route. The tour will stop in Philadelphia and end in Washington, D.C.
For more information, or to get involved in The Peace Train 2016 Tour Across America, visit http://sharonkatz.com/.
— Cristina Diaz ’15