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Modern Day Cross-Culturalist
Former political activist, trade unionist, and university professor, Jim Harris went to Africa
for the first time in 1980; six months after Zimbabwe won its indepen-dence.
Between traveling and taking study tours of Senegal, Mali, Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast,
Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and Mozambique, Jim worked as the country
representative of the African American Labor Center in Zimbabwe. He provided
educational and technical assistance for the newly emerging national federation, the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
After completing this assignment at the end of 1983, he returned to the United States.
However, Jim’s feelings for Africa remained close to his heart and he always harbored a
burning desire to return to the Motherland.
His wish was fulfilled in 1985. Jim returned as an Operations Management Specialist for
the Academy for Educational Development on a five-year USAID funded education
development project in Maseru, Lesotho. When the con-tract ended, Jim chose to
preserve this spiritually lifestyle in the quiet moun-tains of Lesotho and stayed on,
relishing warm friendships and the earthy rhythms of African village life.
Stirred by winds of change in neigh-boring South Africa, Jim felt a new urge to deepen
his African experi-ence and moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1991.
It was during this critical transformation phase that Jim played a pivotal role in the
formation of the Musicians Union of South Africa (MUSA), it was to be the first non-racial
musician’s union in the country. MUSA was a powerful step forward for black South
African musicians. It provided legal information many African musicians who were ill
informed of their rights under the apartheid legacy.
Hitting the streets, Jim explored many avenues of Jo'burg cultural life and turned his
talents towards managing the ‘Softown’ Nightclub. At that time, it was one of the hottest
jazz clubs in South Africa. It was an exciting time for Jim, as many exiles visited his club
while making their long-awaited returns to the country.
As manager for ‘Softown’, Jim worked with many of South Africa's greatest jazz
entertainment personalities, including Winston Mankunku, Jonas Gwanga, Sibongile
Khumalo, Robbie Jansen, Zim Ngqwana, and Hugh Masekela.
A long time student of American jazz, Jim was so inspired by South African jazz and the
spirit of the times, that he began playing the trombone. This inspiration to be the best
trombone player he can be, has become one of Jim’s great passions.
South Africa seemed to offer endless opportunities for Jim’s creative involvement in
entertainment, music, arts and cultural. His charming character, his sly smile, and
engaging personality and earthy African American accent earned him acting roles. He
has acted in the movies, American Ninja 4 and in Generations, South Africa's most well
know TV soap opera.
Jim has also appeared in a series of highly popular radio and television commercials
for Coca Cola, Southern Comfort, Ray Ban, and Uncle Ben's Rice. Jim has written two
unpublished plays, " Coming Home to the "Motherland," and "Death of a Sideman'" and
popular poems "Johannesburg City of Gold," and "Life in Hillbrow."
Beyond his performances with some of South Africa's most accomplished musicians,
such as George Lee, John Davis, Bheki Khosa, Lulu Gontsana and Mike Makhalemele.
Jim took over the management of the African Jazz Pioneers, leading them on tours in
Japan, Mauritius, Botswana and Namibia, as well as throughout the major centers of
Since returning to the United States, Jim expanded his jazz music abilities by studying
with top jazz artists such as his trombone mentor, Benny Powell and Calvin Jones,
Webster Young and Marc Fields. Through his mentor and private studies, Jim evolved
his own unique style of playing by combining American and South African jazz styles and
even created a special repertoire for a “Gospel Trombone.”
Jim Harris, political activist, trade unionist, university professor, philosopher and modern
day Cross-Culturalist, has returned to the United States, He has a great deal to share as
actor, writer, lecturer, musician, humorist and story teller.
There is no one else quite like…JIM HARRIS
If you would like for Jim to speak to your book club, group, school, church, library,talk shows or
business, please contact:
Jim Harris & Associates
1850 U Street S.E. Suite 103
Washington, DC 20020-4243
Interests: What do you do when you leave America to visit Africa and wind up staying for 22 years?
You write a book. I have done just that. The book entitled, "Coming Home to the
Motherland: A Journey from Self-Hate," is a memoir of my life as a modern day cross
Published writer: Yes