Jubilee performers announced

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Most Selmians would have a difficult time even pronouncing Mkhonzeni Msomi’s name.

But when Msomi and the other South African Renaissance Singers perform, their infectious enthusiasm transcends language barriers. Tuesday they turned the foyer of the National Voting Rights Museum into an impromptu stage.

The South African Renaissance Singers are a kwaximba gospel group. &uot;It’s gospel,&uot; Msomi says helpfully, &uot;but in an African way.&uot;

Be forewarned. Msomi and his fellow performers do not merely sing. They sing, clap, sway, step, jump, moan and shout when they perform. &uot;It’s just something that’s in our veins,&uot; Msomi explains.

And pity the audience that is so sophisticated it can listen without at least tapping a dignified toe or two.

The South African Renaissance Singers will be among the featured performers for the 10th annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee Festival and Conference March 6-9.

Other performers include Bobby &uot;Blue&uot; Bland, Wilson Meadows, Blac Phoak, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Dottie Peeples.

Jubilee is a national celebration of the right to vote and is held annually during the first full weekend in March. This year’s Jubilee marks the 38th anniversary of &uot;Bloody Sunday&uot; and the march from Selma to Montgomery.

This year’s theme is &uot;Looking Back to Move Forward.&uot;

The festival has grown each year since its inception and is currently one of the few commemorative events of the Civil Rights Movement in the country. The event is expected to attract more than 25,000 people to Selma this year.

Over the years the event has drawn a wide range of personalities from the political, civil rights and entertainment fields.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has become a familiar face at past festivals, likens Jubilee to a religious &uot;pilgrimage.&uot; In 2000 Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to come to Selma and participate in the re-enactment.

Among those scheduled to attend this year’s festival are Coretta Scott King, U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Maxine Waters, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, and Dr. Cornel West.

The festival will include a town hall meeting on &uot;The Nov. 5, 2002, Midterm Elections and the Crisis of Black Politics&uot;; a &uot;State of the Black Political World Conference&uot;; the popular Jubilee Parade and Festival; the 2003 Freedom Flame Awards; and a bridge crossing re-enactment.

Msomi says he and his fellow South African Renaissance Singers have been thoroughly impressed by preparations for this year’s Jubilee and by the Southern hospitality they have received since arriving in Selma.

Although they hail from the Republic of South Africa, Msomi says the group is no stranger to American culture. He laughs and explains, &uot;The youth in our country like very much the American music. They wear the big trousers and the big shoes just like here.&uot;

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the group has discovered a keen interest in all things African since arriving here. Already they have conducted a number of music workshops at Selma High School and performed at several churches in the area.