Sharon Katz and Nonhlanhla Wanda were unlikely partners – born in South Africa on opposite sides of Apartheid’s barricades, but determined to free their country with their voices instead of AK-47’s. Marilyn Cohen grew up during the civil rights movement in the US and crossed the ocean to help.
Nonhlanhla was traveling four hours a day on three pieces of transportation to teach in a rural KwaZulu school without windows or electricity, but she was one of the “lucky” ones to have a job under the brutal police state that restricted every aspect of life. At night she was a jazz singer in South Africa’s segregated gathering places while taking correspondence courses to get her diploma, and looking forward to a better future.
Sharon left the privileges of white life to begin sneaking past police barriers at the age of 15. Spending time with revolutionary actors and musicians in the “Blacks Only” townships outside her hometown, Sharon experienced the depths of Ubuntu’s extraordinary humanity amid the harsh realities of life under the Apartheid regime. Armed with a Master’s degree in music therapy, she was committed to a better life for all.
Marilyn came of age in the time of protest music, the Kennedys, Dr. King and the women’s movement. While working for social justice causes in America, she heard a haunting recording by Miriam Makeba and then learned about Sharon’s plans to use music in healing the wounds of Apartheid. She was on a plane to South Africa six weeks later.
In 1992, the three women met in Durban, South Africa. Risking their lives and careers, they formed an inseparable bond that continues to this day. It became clear that when voices meet, all things are possible.