Remarks by U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Sean J. McIntosh During the Step Afrika! Performance in Lusaka

Remarks by U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Sean J. McIntosh
Step Afrika! Performance
New Government Complex, Lusaka, Zambia
September 14, 2019

(as prepared for delivery)

Dr. Kennedy Malama, Permanent Secretary of Technical Services, Ministry of Health
Ambassador Larry Palmer, former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and Barbados and the East Caribbean
Mr. Muma Mukupa, Director of Youth, Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Child Development
Mr. C. Brian Williams, Founding Director of Step Afrika!
Talented artists of Step Afrika!
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
All other protocols observed

Good afternoon, everyone!  Welcome to this very special event featuring the foot-stomping masters of step dance, Step Afrika!  We are thrilled to bring this exciting group to Zambia as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Arts Envoy program, which sends American artists like Step Afrika! to countries around the world to engage in cultural exchange and to build capacity in the arts.

While I know we are all eager to get on to the show, it is important to recognize the people and partners who brought this fantastic program together.  We’d like to acknowledge our implementing partner, Umodzi Arts Organization.  Thanks also to our sponsors, Neelkanth Sarovar Hotel, Yash Pharmaceuticals, Prudential Life Assurance, and 3@1/Post Dot Net.

Finally, we would like to thank our implementing partners of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), who assisted with every step of this program.  Your support is invaluable.

Step Afrika! is a group that combines dance traditions that are both uniquely American and African, including African-American traditions of step and hip-hop, and traditional West and Southern African dance styles.  This year, the group is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding.  With its roots in southern Africa, it’s no surprise that the group has themed its visit, “The Year of the Return.”  The visit of this illustrious group is a demonstration of the close cultural connections between the United States and Zambia.

Step Afrika!’s work in Zambia is about more than cultural exchange, however.  It is also about calling on youth to step up and take an active role in the quest for HIV epidemic control and ultimately for an AIDS-free Zambia.  Through the group’s performances and workshops in Kabwe and Lusaka, Step Afrika!’s program has encouraged young people to know their status, and to start and stay on treatment if positive.  Our PEPFAR partners have accompanied Step Afrika! over the last week, providing testing and other HIV-related services.  This collaboration provides a unique and promising model for health-themed programs.

Over the next year, Zambia has the opportunity to reach HIV epidemic control—something that was once thought impossible.  Since 2004, the U.S. government has contributed more than $4 billion to the fight against HIV in Zambia.  I am proud to say that today, through our strong partnership, nearly one million Zambians are currently accessing lifesaving HIV treatment—allowing them to live longer and healthier lives.

However, HIV remains the leading cause of death in Zambia.  This means our work is far from done.  Young people, particularly young men, remain the group the least likely to know their status, and the least likely to start and stay on lifesaving treatments.  Today, I would like to ask all of you in the audience to think of a young person you know.  Go home tonight and tomorrow, tell them to get tested.  It is the best way for them to protect themselves and their families from HIV.

Finally, thank you all—the audience—very much for coming this afternoon.  Let’s all enjoy watching Deatrice, Ronnique, Anesia, Matthew, Jordan, Vincent, Conrad, and Nicolas of Step Afrika! do what they do best—ROCK THE HOUSE!