Dr. Eric Conway, D.M.A., Fine and Performing Arts Department Chairperson of Morgan State University, writes about Day 2 of the tour to Australia:
Today, was a much better day than yesterday. First, it appears that everyone got a good night sleep, which is not always the case when you travel over 14 time zones. Everyone appeared fresh and ready to go and on time! We had a great buffet breakfast, included in our package, which everyone enjoyed. The weather was spectacular! We could not find a cloud in the sky before noon. The sky was as blue as I ever have seen. The temperature was extremely comfortable, especially given that we are currently in the winter season of the southern hemisphere.
Our first stop was to the Australian Museum. Rather than take our limited time and learn about the European history of the country, we asked our guides to concentrate on the aborigine history and culture. The aborigine culture is perhaps the oldest continuous culture in one geographical location in the world. As we learned of the aborigine history, we learned of the European's (white man's) discrimination towards the indigenous people of the land. Their discrimination mirrored that of many cultures agains people of color - thus another chapter in the African diaspora. Especially for those Morgan students who have already taken the required course at Morgan in the African Diaspora, this was a unique hands-on look at how the world's views on humanity are similar despite the tremendous distances that separate us. To hear of the stories of the lost generations, i.e the story of have children of aborigines were taken from their parents because they wanted to make them more like the Europeans who settled. Sometimes they justified this because of giving them a more civilized life, sometimes because of pseudo-religions reasons. but at the end of the day, no child should ever be taken from their family, under no conditions. We learned that up until the 1980's there were still tribes of aborigines who have never seem a white man. Most recently, Australian parliament made an official apology for their actions against the aborigines tribes. Although this may have been too little, too late, this effort was considered very important in trying to have these two cultures co-exist in a civilized manner.
After the museum, we travelled to Bondi Beach. Not bad for a winter day! At least in Sydney, the daytime temperature typically do not go below 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter season. The beaches in Australia were well maintained, with good surf, and very beautiful. As we travelled up the coast, we saw beach after beach, each with a unique name and unique infrastructure.
After Bondi beach we travelled to the Taronga Zoo. Taronga is an native word that means beautiful view. We had yet another beautiful view of the Sydney Skyline form the zoo. We travelled to the zoo via ferry. After the short ferry ride to the zoo, we went up via cable car to the entrance. We saw many indigenous animals including kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, Koala bears, and many other exotic animals - see photos attached.
After the visit to Zoo, we only have minutes to get back to the hotel to wash, dress, and get to the bus. Our first concert was in St. Luke's Anglican Church. We had a very full house, despite the fact that this church had never had a Thursday evening concert. The music director suggested that we begin the evening singing both the U.S. and Australian National anthems in a show of respect for both countries. The MSU choir then proceeded to sing a 70-minute program without intermission, concluding with a joint selection with the St. Luke's church choir - Mack Wilberg's Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. From the reaction of the crowd throughout the concert, they were very moved by our performance. After the performance, they made supper for us (which was not originally on the schedule). Virtually the entire church stayed behind to greet the choir and group of supporters.
Although at this point, our stay has been relatively short in Australia, already we all can say with a great deal of certainty that the reception has been favorable in every aspect. We were not certain initially how we would be embraced, as there is a relatively small African American population in Australia. Most blacks that are seen are directly from continental Africa. We hope that our upcoming concerts, will yield similar good will as was shown this evening.
See link to news report on the Morgan State Univeristy Choir in Australia below:
More to come. . .