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Congresswoman Maxine Waters Mourns the Death of Miriam Makeba, South African Singer and Activist

July 30, 2009
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) today expressed her sorrow over the death of South African singer Miriam Makeba, who died of a heart attack this week.  She was 76 years old.  Funeral services will be held tomorrow in South Africa.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of my dear friend, Miriam Makeba.  Miriam was beloved by audiences around the world.  Her music and her passionate commitment to social justice will be celebrated for years to come," said Congresswoman Waters.

Miriam Makeba performed for audiences in the United States, Europe and Africa for over forty years.  Her music combined the styles of jazz and folk music with traditional South African songs. 

Because of her opposition to apartheid in South Africa, she was exiled from her homeland for over thirty years.  The apartheid regime would not even let her return to attend her mother's funeral in 1960.  However, she continued to speak out in Africa and the West against apartheid until it was abolished.  She was finally allowed to return to South Africa after the release from prison of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in 1990.

"Miriam was an outspoken advocate of peace, justice and humanity throughout her career, and her passionate commitment was reflected in her music.  Her songs gave hope and inspiration to the people of South Africa during the darkest days of apartheid, and she continued to speak and sing for social justice until the day she died," said the Congresswoman.

Miriam Makeba collapsed on stage in Italy and died of a heart attack on Sunday, November 10, 2008.  She was performing at a concert in memory of six immigrants from Ghana who were shot dead in Italy last September. 

"I am comforted by the fact that Miriam died doing what she loved – advocating peace and justice through her music," said Congresswoman Waters.