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Remarks at the Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad Program

Carol J. Thompson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
National Geographic Society
Washington, DC
April 17, 2008

Thank you so much for that kind introduction. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bureau of African Affairs in the Department of State. The creation of the Africa Bureau was not just a bureaucratic step. It really meant that the United States Government recognized that the relationship between Africa and the United States was significant.  Our relations with Africa should be based on partnership, and not on Africa’s colonial dependency on Europe, then ending in many countries.

Our relationship today with Africa is deep, not only in politics and economics but in education and culture as well. Cultural exchanges between the United States and Africa bring the best of American culture to Africa and, in return, inspire American artists with the rhythms and colors of the continent. Through cultural exchanges, we bring South African films to Maryland, and American video art to Senegal, West Africa. Our cultural exchanges help preserve traditional music in Zanzibar and bring the imagination of African novelists and poets to American school children. In virtually every sphere of the creative arts, cultural exchange has built bridges across the Atlantic. Our partners in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs have done a magnificent job in leading this work, together with United States Embassies in Africa and such organizations as Jazz at Lincoln Center and the National Geographic Society.

Tonight we are celebrating the exciting tour in five African countries that our first band recently completed. Like the jazz giants who, over the past 50 years, have performed in Africa with the assistance of the Department of State and our American Embassies on the continent, tonight’s band fulfills the wishes of young Africans for a personal tie to America. They follow in the distinguished footsteps of Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Jackie McLean and so many more. Tonight, as we in the Africa Bureau celebrate our anniversary, we want to thank all the artists who, over the years, have contributed so much to the strong – and growing – relationship between the United States and Africa. 


Released on July 2, 2008

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