(R – L) Alexandra Paul, Danny Glover, and Angela Bassett
greet potential first-time voters in KwaNdebele on ANSA’s 1994 Democracy Tour
Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA) was founded in 1989 by Alfre Woodard, Danny Glover, Mary Steenburgen, Blair Underwood, CCH Pounder, Robert Guillaume, Roderick Spencer, and other members of the creative community, many of whom had long been involved in efforts against apartheid.
Working to End Apartheid
Originally called Artists for a Free South Africa, the organization was established to support the struggle to end apartheid and the quest to bring freedom and democracy to South Africa. ANSA was formed in response to calls from U.S. and South African grassroots organizers, American elected officials, and South African anti-apartheid leaders for greater public support of the international, anti-apartheid movement. The founders recognized the role artists and the arts could play in helping to galvanize public attention at a time when media coverage of South Africa was scarce due to increased South African censorship, the expulsion of foreign journalists, and lagging U.S. interest.
Visit the Artists for a Free South Africa page at the Michigan State University African Activist Archive.
In our early days, ANSA’s founders joined together to inform and mobilize the entertainment industry in support of the cultural boycott, economic sanctions, and other international campaigns to help end apartheid. ANSA organized educational events and programs to inform members of the entertainment community about conditions in South Africa and about the vital importance of the cultural boycott and other efforts to isolate the apartheid regime. ANSA mobilized artists and media professionals, coordinating their support and participation in these national and international campaigns. ANSA members appeared at press conferences, authored opinion editorials, lobbied Congress, joined in protest marches, and participated in letter-writing campaigns to support economic and cultural sanctions, protest apartheid, advocate for the release of political prisoners, and call for the protection of human rights and civil liberties in South Africa. By involving celebrities and other VIPs in these efforts, ANSA helped to increase media coverage, generate greater public awareness, and encourage more widespread public support.
As dramatic changes occurred in South Africa, ANSA refocused our mission and developed new programs to address needs unique to each developmental phase. In 1990, shortly after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, he embarked on his first U.S. tour. ANSA co-coordinated his Los Angeles visit and a fundraising dinner that netted $1.2 million for the Nelson Mandela Freedom Fund.
Transition to Democracy
In the months leading up to the historic 1994 elections, ANSA responded to urgent requests from South Africa to assist with voter education efforts. ANSA coordinated the participation of internationally renown artists and leaders in nonpartisan national educational media campaigns for newspaper, television, and radio in South Africa. ANSA also raised funds for voter education and organized petitions and letter-writing campaigns to the South African and U.S. governments urging them to ensure free, safe, and fair elections. ANSA’s efforts culminated in the Democracy Tour, a delegation of American artists–including Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Alexandra Paul, CCH Pounder, and Delroy Lindo–who joined with South African artists to work alongside grassroots voter education organizations in the field to help reach the 21 million black, Indian, and “colored” South Africans who had never before been allowed to cast ballots.
Rebuilding a New Nation
With the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president, ANSA centered our work on helping to rectify problems created or exacerbated by apartheid. In consultation and partnership with South African NGO’s, leaders, artists, agencies of the new government, and grassroots groups, ANSA targeted key issues and partnered with effective South African organizations on efforts where our involvement and available resources could have significant impact. Simultaneously, ANSA utilized our media access to continue raising America public awareness about South Africa and encourage continued support.
Please click here to read a May 1999 Los Angeles Times article on ANSA by Renee Tawa.
Combatting the HIV / AIDS Pandemic
As HIV/AIDS began increasing in South Africa, ANSA made combatting the disease a central focus. In 2000, ANSA launched The Amandla AIDS Fund, employing a consultative approach to high impact and cost-effective grantmaking. In 2005, ANSA started It Takes a Village, a groundbreaking collaborative program that provides comprehensive services to AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa.
There are now more people in South Africa living with HIV/AIDS and more children orphaned by the disease than in any other country in the world. Yet the efforts of ANSA, our allies, and many other local and international organizations are having a very real impact and helping to stem the rising tide.
Current Efforts and Accomplishments
Today, ANSA is working in the U.S. and South Africa to combat HIV/AIDS, assist children orphaned by the disease, advance civil and voting rights, and educate and empower youth.
ANSA works in partnership with effective organizations on the frontlines of these issues and makes a substantial difference through: grantmaking; developing innovative, collaborative programs; raising public awareness; sending shipments of medical supplies and educational materials to impoverished communities; and advocating for more effective and humane government and corporate policies.
Since 1995, ANSA has raised and granted over $9 million for effective African non-profits, shipped over 70 tons of books and medical supplies to impoverished communities, and educated tens of million in the U.S., South Africa, and across the African continent about HIV/AIDS and voter rights. Since 2005, ANSA has also provided comprehensive, ongoing support and services to over 3,500 AIDS orphans.