The African Festival of the Arts is a celebration of the culture that has grown out of the African Diaspora. It is that culture that distinguishes us from others. Our culture and traditions teach us that that we are all one. What happens to one of us happens to us all. We are by nature a compassionate people. When one of us hurts, we all feel the pain. When one of us is suffering, it is only natural that we all fell compelled to reach out and help.
In a time of tragedy such as this our only hope is for us to all come together, to work together and for each of us to do whatever it is that she or he can. We can make a difference and we can make things in the gulf region better, but we must recognize that it will take hard work and our collective resources to do so.
Africa International House, the organizers of the Festival, is pleased and proud of the efforts of its sponsors. The Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in cooperation with community leaders have rallied to make it possible for our patrons as well as community members to leave donations of can goods and clothing and furniture at the Festival at the main entrance of the Festival. And we are told that others are considering launching similar initiatives. These are the kind of individual efforts that when looked at in their totality can make a significant difference.
If our Festival provides some brief respite from the constant barrage of images coming out of the gulf coast region that leaves us feeling helpless, frustrated, bitter and angry, then we can some little pleasure in that. It is not our place to criticize the efforts that have been made thus far. We look at this brief time before the media this morning to call on our elected officials and the community at large, that village that we call the United States, to put the past behind and to come together to make things right, to give hope to the hopeless and to make it a better day for all.