Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010 1:56 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

A bit of an unwind from yesterday's long entry. And just in case folks are wondering most South Africans I've met are very friendly and cool, even the ones who say or do things that make me uncomfortable. But anyway about today…

I had class. Learned some things. Blah blah blah. Had lunch with a bunch of people. That was pretty interesting actually. It was a few Americans I didn't know as well as a cat from the Caribbean and a girl from Nigeria (both of whom go to school in Paris). Once I left there I went to get on a waiting list in the English Department but got totally sidetracked.

Outside of the building there was a freestyle cipher going on. Immediately I had to go over and listen in. Some of the cats in the cipher were pretty good so I hopped in and started rapping also. We traded beatboxes and freestyles for about 45 minutes. It was great. I got one of the cats number. Apparently some of them are working on a mixtape and actually record in a room in my dorm! I was pretty happy to find some MCs and they get together to cipher every Wednesday at that time so I know I have a steady outlet. Maybe I'll be able to cut a record or two while I'm here. If nothing else the fact that I was able to walk into a cipher is something that would never happen at Vandy. That was very tight.  I got some of their info. Hopefully I'll be able to see some local shows and get a feel for the scene here. That's all for now. I'm sleepy and the rest of my day wasn't worth mentioning.

"going each and every place with the mic in my hand"

-a tribe called quest




Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:10 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Irony is a wonderful tool that God employs. So today on my way to campus I was listening to my iPod and the song "Be a Nigger Too" by Nas came on. I've heard the song a million times but for some reason when I heard it this time it seemed like the first time I ever really listened to it. Maybe it's because I'm in Africa but some lines in it resonated in a deeper way than they had previously. They reminded me of a quote from Paul Mooney when he said "Everybody wants to be a nigga but nobody wants to be nigga."

So anyway that's on my mind when I'm walking around and then I sit down to write some lyrics to this track Lamar sent me. The track is actually called Nigga Moment (all my fans of The Boondocks get it, lol). As I'm sitting there thinking about how to approach this song in a fresh way this dude walks up to me. I'd met him a few days earlier and he sits to talk with me. I can't help but notice in the conversation he seemed to be using a good bit of profanity and talking about women and what not. Now anyone who knows me knows that I'm no saint when it comes to using less than pristine language but I was unsure if dude was for real or if he was trying to "level" with me somehow or trying to play me. He's a black South African by the way.

So pretty quickly he gets to the question of if he can use the word nigga. I have to admit I felt slick uncomfortable. I didn't really answer but instead tried to explain the ways I used and the ways it's kind of conventionally used. I don't think he read my discomfort or didn't care so he told me about how they use it there and in what ways. I guess at that point he took my not saying no as a green light to use the word liberally.

At that point we get into a conversation about where we're from. I tell him Chicago and he asks me if I'm from the hood. I kinda replied yes but tried to explain what that means and how things really are in our neighborhoods but didn't get very far. We end up talking about Tupac and dude really digs Pac. At that point I was like cool but one sentence he said I was just like "wow". He said, "Man, that nigga Tupac was a nigga."

I swear I was like frozen. I didn't know whether to get mad or not. I didn't know what to do. I just told dude I had to go to class and shook up with him and bounced.

This interaction left me feeling alienated (shouts to Bridget Reilly for calling that one) and just kind of confused.

A friend of mine also had a conversation with a South African girl here who told her that she wasn't African-American, black, colored or really any of those words. That she was just an American.

These two experiences have been spinning in my head all day and I've been trying to figure out what to do with them.

I think the thing about black folks (or whatever we are) in America is that this is our experience. We don't have a mother tongue or culture that we can draw on all the way back through time. We had to and did create our own language and culture and history from scraps of Africa, America, Europe, and whatever else. But the thing about it is that leaves us with something that nobody really knows what to do with. We're not fully African and we can't be and don't want to be because America is a part of us. And we can't be solely American because that ignores our history and the current day implications. Also the racialization of our society won't allow us to be solely American.

It's weird because I've realized a lot of Africans are huge fans of black popular culture from America but it gives them a very narrow view of our black experience and one that doesn't take into account most of my everyday life. Yes, there's violence and gangs but that's not all. And also there are systemic reasons for those things that people (even in America) don't get. And things a lot of rappers say are not really accurate pictures of the black norm (if it exists which is a whole different convo). So it leaves people with this weird view of who I am and how to relate to that. And on top of that Black American Identity that is assigned me here there is also still the dominant American Identity that is assigned me here (rich, frivolous with money, naïve about struggle, entitled, a bunch of other shit that I'm not really). I recognize my privilege in being able to even come abroad but its kinda crazy the way people stay trying to box a nigga in (which is something that happens everywhere anyone goes really).  And it's funny because as much of our culture Africans enjoy (music, clothing style, and more) they recognize very little of our history as significant (minus civil rights and perhaps the harlem renaissance).

But on the subject of nigga I think I figured why it made me so uncomfortable when dude said it. It seemed like he was trying me. Like he was playing with the word to see my reaction. Maybe not maliciously but still without reverence. I know that word is something people are mad divisive around and I know I use it and throw it around at times but I have my reasons. I think there's a difference to growing up with a word. Hearing your family use it, your peers, and others. Hearing it used to hurt you from white people and hearing it to marginalize criminal elements or even to unite your population. Having all that moving inside you and knowing that history, having lived a small bit of it, and then making a decision. I think that's different than a cat in Africa who hears it in a rap song, decides it's cool and rolls with it. I guess in a way I feel like I've earned it or at least like I use it consciously and after long hours of study, discussion, meditation, experience, and prayer on the subject. The very first (terrible) rap song I wrote was about "The N Word". It's something I've dealt with in my reading, writing, and thinking from the beginning so when anyone who just steps in and grabs it I feel defensive.

I think the black American experience is unique in a way that Africans and Caribbean folks often can't see or empathize with unless they come live it because we are a minority. Aside from being a minority (as there are minority blacks in England, Canada, etc.) we didn't make the decision to be where we were at. When South Africa broke free from apartheid it was the will of an oppressed majority triumphing over a despotic minority but with slavery or the civil rights movement or any black movement in America it's a vast minority appealing to the conscious or fear of a majority that has a history of hostility or at least blissful compliance in injustice. I don't even know where I'm going with this. Just wanted to get all these ideas out so that I can maybe use them later or just think about them more. I'm just trying to figure out where are the differences and similarities and all that. We'll see.

"we all black within, okay? we all african, okay some africans don't like us no way."


"they like to strangle niggas, blame a nigga, shoot a nigga, hang a nigga. still you wanna be a nigga too, true?"





Apologies for some of my language but not really. I'm just trying to be frank about my experience so folks can learn from it and also so I can go back and have an accurate record of my happenings and thoughts. That's all.


dope poem that idris goodwin has on the subject of what black folks are and such…

Monday, July 26, 2010 11:30 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

First day of class finally. Campus was pretty packed. It was kind of strange going to class and all that because I'm not totally out of summer mode. It's also a little intimidating not knowing anybody. The two classes I had today were pretty cool. A lot of Americans were in my South African History course, which is not surprising but a little annoying. I need to take the course for credit and such though so it's all good. My African Lit course seems pretty tight though and my teacher talked about the stereotypes and misperceptions of Africa. He had some interesting points about how the ideas of Africa come from knowledge (though limited), not just ignorance. It was an interesting point that made me think and be less dismissive when someone from back home asks a patronizing question about Africa or why I came here.

One very cool feature was that both of the classes I had today had black male professors. That makes more black male professors in one day than I've had in two years at Vanderbilt. It made me think about how few black male teachers I've had in any subject during my school (1 in elementary for a semester, 2 in high school, 1 in college). As few as that is it might be more than most people. That's kind of crazy to me but I think it was kind of a cool experience to see guys who looked like me in a classroom. It's one of those things that seems silly to people of the dominant culture but it really does I think start to affect some students when all the people who they see as the holders of this knowledge and discourse don't look like them. Just a thought.

Anyway that was the day. It was short and pretty painless. Also finally met my fourth roommate. He's cool, from Port Elizabeth. Haven't talked to him much but we shall see.

"teacher, teacher, tell me how you do it. it looks so easy like there is nothing to it."

-slick rick




my dad called me at like 1 South African Time. It was good to hear his voice but I was knocked out and kinda delirious.


trying to stay up til midnight though I'm tired right now. Gonna call my family to wish my Great Grandma Bae a happy 99th birthday. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010 10:33 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

I must really be settled in now. I feel like it at least because now I'm finally at a point where I can have a day here that I could have anywhere in the world. I spent my whole day organizing my room and organizing my computer files and watching CollegeHumor podcasts. I've become slightly addicted to CollegeHumor podcast since I don't have access to constant free Internet that would allow me to watch videos online and the disc drive on my computer stopped working again. These videos are pretty much the only form of visual entertainment I have. It's a little weird to go from constant access to almost none. Oh well.

Had dinner with friends. It was good. We observed that a good number of the African students smell. I've learned in the past that bathing every day is a very American impulse and that our society is unduly obsessed with hygiene but it's different when you live outside of it. I suppose my feeling is that I don't care if you bathe every day but if I can get close to you/come into your room and tell immediately that you don't then that's a problem. The only thing that should be funky is your rhymes…

Not trying to bad mouth folks, just recording some observations.

Tomorrow is the first day of class. I'm ready to get rolling. Been doing a lot of thinking and planning for the future. I realized that I'm credit-wise very close to my bachelor's. I'm thinking I'll probably apply for a 4+1 at Vandy so I can get a Master's in English and then move on to get the Ph.D. (probably in African American Studies). That's the plan for now…We shall see.

"like 9 cans of shaving powder…that's funky"

-the ohio players



Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010 1:55 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

There's nothing like a good haircut…except a good haircut for 20 Rand (about 2 dollars). I got my hair cut today at this booth downtown. I must admit I was skeptical. I basically got my hair cut in a tool shed, but it was a pretty good cut. That was pretty much the highlight of my day. Also found out that a ton of stores in Cape Town close earlier on Saturdays, which is weird.

Had McDonald's today. It takes just like American McD's but better because the food tastes a little fresher and like it might be made of actual food. Not a ton happened today really. I did a decent bit of planning and I should comfortably finish my degree a semester early. Hopefully I can use the Spring of my senior year to do Master's study or at least take two classes that I'm interested in and do them both Pass/Fail. Also did some research on Ph.D. programs today. I'm going to have to start giving things a more thorough look. It's getting fairly close to when I have to make some of these decisions.

Cooked myself dinner today.  Went out with some friends. That was pretty boring though. Had a good conversation with a friend about Black linguistics and how even in America black people are multilingual in a way that most have to learn to navigate two very different cultural worlds that speak in very different ways. For some kids in our educational system it really does make it more difficult for them to do subjects such as reading or romance languages at the level of white peers. I have some thoughts fermenting there but I'm not sure for now.

"what up kinfolk? its been years since we been spoke…"

-free speech



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010 11:25 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Finally starting to feel like I fit…or at least like I actually go to school here. Today we registered for classes finally. I got my student ID card so now I can actually get through the gate at my residence hall without pantomiming to the security guard that I'm an international student. Feels good and I feel good about the classes I picked up. Here they are:

African Literature and Language II

            -Seminar on Studies in African Poetry

Community & Youth Development

Southern Africa in the 20th Century

Living & Learning in South Africa

The last one is a study abroad only course and it should be pretty tight. I think we're gonna take a trip to Jo'burg as a part of the course so that should be good. I'm excited for classes to start so I can meet more students and also just so I can get into a groove and rhythm of routine.

Figuring out class things took the bulk of my time today. Other than that I took a nap and wrote some emails.

My mama called me today. That made me feel really good to hear her voice and such. She was at work though. Hope they don't check the phone log. lol.

Also I finally sat down today and laid out a proposal for my scholarship fund. Emailed it off to some folks so we'll see what happens but I'm hopeful that everything can get together so that we can award some students in the 2010-2011 school year. Either way I'm going to donate the money to something benefitting students in Chicago if this doesn't work out. I made that commitment when I started selling my EP and chapbook that I would use those funds to help enhance my home community.

Speaking of which, I also signed up for community service today. I signed up to work at the LEAP School (it's a charter school in a township) as well as to work with Youth in Prison. Volunteering won't start for another week but I'll be glad to get out into the community and learn.

South African pizza is pretty weak. FYI. It's also mad small.

Didn't go out tonight. Too busy doing writing things. I've written so much in terms of blogs and emails to people and personal stuff in the past two weeks. I hope I can keep up this level of output throughout my time here and back home. If not I at least want to keep writing at the end of my day. It's a great way to decompress and it's good to always set some time aside for my thoughts.

Also I was thinking today about how I really don't take pictures. Part of that is because of me leaving my camera cord back home but I never really take pictures. I think its because I'm not a visual communicator. Never have been. I've always been someone to use their words, specifically the written word, to get my point across. This blog is more of a photo album than any collection of shots I could put on facebook (but you can check my facebook for photos that my friends have put up of our time here).

"you love it when i write that…"




Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010 11:31 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today I knocked out my number one thing to do in South Africa. I went to Robben Island Prison. It was very cool to finally be there after learning so much about it since high school. The island was very eerie and more of a testament to South Africa's curious but admirable confrontation of history. The prison guides from my understanding are all pretty much former political prisoners housed at Robben Island. The idea that someone would be able to go back to such a place not just for a visit but to live and work and is almost unthinkable to me.

I think that the way that South Africa seems to deal in a very direct manner about its apartheid history is great. I do know that there are some parts of that history that are not fully expressed or dealt with but I think they're willingness to engage with the past far surpasses the American tendency to want to erase the atrocities of yesteryear.

Truthfully the only atrocities America is comfortable with remembering are the ones that didn't happen here. Consider that there is a Holocaust Museum but no Slave Museum in the nation's capital (a city built by slaves but an ocean away from Germany). With the understanding that part of the reason is political (and financial) will, I think that it is also because we as Americans don't like dealing with our dirt. We don't want to be faced with the ugly parts of our history even though those are probably the parts we learn most from.

Anyway Robben Island took most of the day. Sidenote: I only had to pay half price to get in because the guy thought I was under 18. Actually he thought I was 13! I don't know on what planet I look 13 (I have a beard yo) but whatever since it saved me money.

Tonight went to a spot called Gold of Africa for dinner. It was kind of expensive but really nice. Had food from all over the continent and it was great. Had ostrich.  They had people playing drums and dancing for us as we ate which was a little strange but cool. The weirdest piece might've been that they seemed to really over serve us. Not that it hasn't happened at places before but it's always a little strange to me when a waiter is too attentive, I'm just not convinced I'm that important of a person.

Also talked to my flatmate today about music. He said that there's a group of students who get together to cipher on Wednesdays I believe. I'm definitely trying to check that out and see how the MCs are here.

Everybody here seems to have a hustle too. Whether they're offering a service, trying to take you, or whatever. Everybody is either trying to give you a deal or swindle you out of something. It's interesting. Not that it doesn't happen in America but it keeps me on my toes here because I'm not as familiar with the landscape, culture, or people.

"h-u-s-t-l-e, hustler. never find a dime that ain't mine motherfucker…"




ps. there are a ton of KFCs here. More than McDonalds. By far the most abundant American franchise I've seen in Cape Town. Hold all jokes. lmao.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010 11:48 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today was a pretty homey day. Had orientation stuff. It focused a lot on the academics. I had to do a bunch of running around to get some questions answered and also figure out what I'm taking. I'm thinking of changing a lot of stuff around but we'll see. I'd like to take some more English courses but the system is weird. All will be resolved soon.

Today I saw a guy with a UCT Hip-Hop Club T-shirt. I want one. I will join this club to get one. I will also fight in a cage match for one. They are that cool.

My entries are getting progressively more boring and less introspective but I think its because I'm beginning to feel more at home, which is a good thing. It would be troubling if I kept writing 500 word ruminations on my place in the world after every day. That might be a cause for concern.

The mountain that the school is on is so beautiful though. From the steps of Upper Campus you can pretty much see all of Cape Town. It's crazy.

Had some good conversations with my friend Latoya today though about the ethics and responsibilities of Wal-Mart and the fallacy of color-blindness. They were both thought provoking and dope but I won't give you the whole rundown. Short thought on Wal-Mart is that they should e held to a higher standard when it comes to providing for their workers considering their size and success. We tax people who make more money more. Why not the same with folks like these big box companies? Also being able to be colorblind is a privilege. People who live in the segments of the world that are disadvantaged because of the intersections of race and class can't ignore that fact (or they do simply because they don't know any better). Colorblindness is one of the faux-liberal ploys that people have introduced to make white people and other powerful people feel less bad about their power and the ugly things that create some of it. One thing I admire about South Africans is their willingness to talk about race. Americans are afraid of it and it is very counterproductive to the work of restructuring an unfair society when you don't want to talk about one of the key reasons it is unfair. Look at me, getting all deep again. lol. Alright, that's good for now. Talk again soon.

"to black kids wishin they white kids, when they close they eyelids like, "I bet they neighborhood ain't like this." white kids wishin they black kids, and wanna talk like rappers, it's all backwards it's identity crisis."

-talib kweli



Friday, July 23, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010 8:34 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

I think all the running around I've been doing is beginning to catch up with me because I'm really tired right now so this entry may be short. Glad I'm keeping this journal because a lot of the days are starting to run together. Today we had the morning free so I did some reading and fully unpacked. Went to the full international office orientation.

The talks were pretty similar but they brought campus and local police to talk about safety. They said some pretty scary stuff but I'm trying to read between the lines and figure out what safety concerns are legitimate and what mostly apply to reckless (read:drunk) white folks who are loud and rocking foreign university hoodies that automatically give them away. We shall see. Walked around campus a little more today, which was good.

They did a drum session at the end of orientation. That was pretty cool but it was pretty funny we were using West African drums (I've used them plenty in the past but can't spell the name, phonetically it's JEM-BAY). They did acknowledge that though so it's all good I guess. After that I ate and headed back to the dorm. I'm tired.

"keep on pushin'…"

-pharoahe monch



ps. lost my phone. i'm annoyed. oh well.

pps. i'm ready for the rest of the students to get here and class to start so i can get things rolling…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010 11:55 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today was cool. We went on a bus tour of Cape Town all day. It was pretty interesting. Saw some of downtown. Also saw where they used to sell slaves. We went to a reserve where there were a ton of penguins. We also drove all around the waterfront. The ocean is so crazy beautiful here. We were with other study abroad students besides our group. That was interesting, some of the kids were cool, some sucked. Oh well.

We had lunch at a community center in a coloured township named Ocean View. It was kind of strange. The people were very welcoming but there was a weird vibe to it. After we finished eating the kids from the center performed for us. They did a ton of singing and dancing. They did some Motown, Michael Jackson, original stuff, hip-hop, and a lot of stuff. The older kids who were breakdancing were actually quite dope b-boys. Seeing the impact of American culture and also hip-hop is very cool and it shows that America needs to set a better example to the world. We really are an entertainment capital. And we produced Britney Spears. We need to apologize.

The director of the center talked to us before the performance and asked that if anyone had gifts for the center to bring them up and she also told us that we could talk to her about sponsoring children at the center. That was very strange. Though I know that's the way the world works and its effectively no different than me performing at a poetry fundraiser for Louder Than a Bomb it just seemed almost like a live-action Feed the Children commercial or something (no diss, that's just what I thought of). On the bulletin boards at the center they also had newspaper clippings about the different legal things that happened to create the township during apartheid. That seemed pretty crazy but in a way I guess it's no different than us having info about slavery up. Just a thought.

We went to the Cape of Good Hope after that. It was really beautiful. The country really is beautiful. We saw ostriches too, which are pretty cool. I didn't get to see a baboon though, which is my favorite animal. Afterwards I went grocery shopping and then chilled. All in all  it was a good day. Nothing too striking today in terms of deep thought and all that. Just a nice day.

"today was like one of those fly dreams"

-ice cube



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010 12:52 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today was good. Finally moved into my actual dorm room. I like it decent. I'm on a lower floor, which is good because I don't have too many stairs. The set up is a single room and a shared flat. So we have two bathrooms (1 with a shower and 1 with a tub and a kitchen to share). For my Vandy people you can think Tower Suite but with all singles. There are two Americans in the flat and two regular students. Met one of the African students. His name is Rider and he's from the Free State. He's pretty cool. We watched a few episodes of the Boondocks and talked about house music and listened to Rick Ross and Kanye.

 It's kind of crazy to me about the amount of American, specifically African-American culture that the black people here consume. I've had at least a few conversations where the way I am able to best differentiate my frat from the white fraternities (which they understand to be basically a drinking buddy) is to reference the movie Stomp the Yard and then tell some personal stories about my experience. Anyway I really like him. We also had a conversation about the whole race thing here. I told him about the one-drop rule and all that and he explained to me more about the coloured and black and all that. Apparently I would probably be mostly black but possibly mixed with coloured. Oh so many thoughts about race and all of that. Too much for now…

Also had a good conversation with one of the sub-wardens. Sub-wardens are like RAs or Head Residents in America. She was cool. We also talked about race, fraternities, and our future plans. It's interesting to see how many Africans from other countries come to South Africa specifically for school. The sub-warden was from Botswana.

We also had a cookout, which they call a brie (sp?). Had lamb meat, which was good as hell! My dorm has a basketball team, I may join.

Hung with some American friends tonight. Didn't do much but order pizza (missing Giordano's) which was not great. The friends are both girls from Georgetown but they live with two guys in their flat. One is very quiet and doesn't drink or anything and is very Christian. The other was passed out by about 10:30 from drinking 80% alcohol. It was really interesting but the two guys got along fine with each other. That flat will probably produce some great stories. I think we're going to the Cape Peninsula tomorrow morning. Sleep for now. More writing later.

"alphas step, omegas step, kappas step, sigmas step…"

-kanye west



Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010 1:28 AM Cape Town Time- UCT Dorms

Today was our last day in the CIEE orientation. That means that in the morning I'll be moving into my actual dorm. I'm happy about that because I've had to live out of my suitcases for a week. It'll be nice to actually be able to unpack and settle.

Today we toured some of the different places where we can do community service. It was pretty good and the three places we went all had things I liked but some stuff struck me as strange. One person in our group had a big camera and spent the whole time taking pictures. Not that I'm against pictures but the way he did it was kind of invasive/National Geographic if you get me. I also felt weird that when we toured the TB Hospital we kind of marched through all the child wards. It felt like we were at a zoo in a way. It just made me feel weird. I also felt similarly when we went to the Christian mission. We just walked in and through the drug rehab center and the women and men's homes. It made me think about what I would've thought as a shorty in Charleston if a tour group had just stomped through our house. I don't know. It was strange.

I think I might really want to volunteer at this charter high school. The guy who spoke to us again is so real and so impressive to me. He didn't seem interested in compromising his students or putting them on display to make us Americans want to help and he made it clear that this was an example of a community doing for itself and that they did not require our help. Plus I talked to dude and he lived in Chicago for like a year. (Chicago runs the world.)

Went to the mall today and that was okay. Malls are pretty much the same. I dig American clothes better but stuff here is cheaper generally. It was interesting cause people who spoke to me did not immediately speak in English. They all tried to talk to me in I guess Zulu or Xhosa. In some ways its comforting to know that I can fit in, visually and in some ways not.  I guess it's kind of the same thing as being at Vandy in that it makes me feel separate from the whitefolks, even the ones who go to Vandy with me that are here.

We also went to a South African restaurant. Food was dope. Live band. A little dancing. All to the good.

After that we went to Long Street (Cape Town's Rush Street for the Chicagoans or 2nd Avenue for the Nashvillians). We went to two different club/bars. The first place was cool. They played house for an hour then hip-hop and switched like that. Interesting to listen to Gucci and Soulja Boy in Africa. haha. One South African girl was surprised to know that we had house music in Chicago. Frankie Knuckles would shake his head. lol.  Some of the house really sounded like juke music, which made me happy.

The last bar wasn't as good as the first but it was cool and they had a rooftop spot that was chill. On the roof I listened to two guys and a girl from South Africa freestyle in a cipher. I thought about joining in but I didn't. Probably should have. Oh well. Ciphers make me feel like I'm at home. I was content to just listen in that moment.

"I start thinking, how many souls hip-hop has affected, how many dead folks this art resurrected, how many nations this culture connected. who am i to judge ones perspective?"




Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010 1:17 AM Cape Town Time- UCT Dorms

My mama is famous worldwide.  Today was really cool. I had a chance to talk more to the South African RAs and such and that was a good experience. I found out definitively that I am black here, which is a relief I suppose. It would be weird to have some type of different distinction than back home. I feel more comfortable now than I did. One of the conversations that we had that really kind of allowed s to bond was about our mothers and about how they dealt with us when we were going through puberty and sex and all that. It was really cool to see some of the commonalities and differences between my experience and the black South Africans. With the understanding that I am American I feel a certain kinship with the black students more than I feel with many of the white study abroad students. That is I'm sure probably naïve of me and I'm sure I will find times when that proves untrue but it's how I feel right now. My moms will be pleased to know that many of the South African students were thrilled with some of my stories about her and they think you are cool.
We also had people come and talk to us about service opportunities while we are here. There was some really cool stuff and some stuff I thought was a little contrived and patronizing. The two that I really dug were one where you work with Youth In Prison. One of the things those youth are doing in hip-hop theatre as well as creating a magazine with poetry and prose about self-identity and how the world sees them. I think that is really cool and important work and there are a lot of issues around criminal recidivism that mirror the US. Also the other program I thought was cool was a program where there is a charter school started in the townships that focuses on cultivating black talent and skill in science and mathematics. The guy who spoke of the program was the least flashy and didn't bring a powerpoint or try to pander to the American students to get us to want to work for them but he seemed to really believe in the importance and power of his work and that was inspiring. He was also an educated cat who reached back to where he came from and continues to live there and work for the betterment of that community rather than go for personal gain. I feel that. He spoke about how many of his favorite American rappers talk about getting out of the hood and not how they can give back and provide a blueprint for the people back there.  Dude was legit. I would like to work with both of those organizations if I can work it out with my class schedule and everything.
We also have a break so I'm thinking about traveling with some of the other students around South Africa. It would be cool to see more of the country and then to see wild animals and all that jazz. Who knows what will happen?
Also went to a bar tonight and had a good conversation with some folks about raced, privilege, and education. South Africa is pretty cool thus far. We shall see.
"from a woman and man, i was not a mistake. from the cradle of god, and the cradle of earth…"
-idris goodwin

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010 12:57 AM Cape Town Time- UCT Dorms

Weather in America is temporary. Chicago gets super cold but in Chicago we are blessed to have buildings with heat. Even homeless people can frequent stores that have heat. Nobody in Cape Town really has central heat and its not terrible but it's definitely a change. In America we have low temperatures and they're much lower than anything here but because our privilege in that respect acts as a buffer we don't always feel the lows. That sounds poetic I guess. I'm loving it though.

Today over the lunch conversation we talked about the most dangerous thing we had done in our lives. The group was my South African RA and other American students. It was funny because the RA talked about disobeying her father as her most dangerous thing and then most of the American students had some form of extreme sport or something as theirs (white water rafting, bungee jumping, etc.). I told them about the time I was caught in the crossfire of a drive-by. Needless to say I killed the mood for a second. It made me think about something interesting. It made me think about how sometimes the children of privilege (we are all included because we all are privileged in some way) often create danger as a means of excitement. What else is cheating but someone with the privilege of a mate creating the excitement of being single? Not to say that all privilege or expressions of the manufactured danger are bad things but it just made me think about it.

The food is straight, haven't had any of that traveler's tummy (which perhaps proves my theory that it is something white folks who don't eat real food get). Getting to know the RAs is cool because they are African students. I think I will be pretty good friends with a few of them. My dorm has a basketball team or club I may join. I'm also thinking about traveling further around the country and/or Africa.

Today we also had a very interesting session on the racial and cultural construction of South Africa. I think I understand the racial distinction of "coloured" more than I did just reading about it. We watched some stand-up from this comic Trevor (I forget his surname) that shed some light. I wanted to ask people if I would be first considered black or American or possibly coloured but I was kind of embarrassed to ask it I suppose. I will get around to it at some point. I'm looking forward to getting in a good bit of community service while I'm here too. This post is a little unfocused and I'm kind of sleepy now so I'm gonna stop. I'll post again later.

"when they ask for hot shit i freeze, i tell them where i was rose we always said cold"




Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:29 PM Cape Town Time- UCT Dorms

Finally made it to Cape Town. As we were flying in the sun was rising and it reminded me of a conversation. The day before Vandy's graduation I ran into my Black Masculinity professor and we talked about going to South Africa. He raved about how beautiful the country was and how it would change my life. I remember one thing he said was to be sure and get a view of the country as you are landing. It really is quite dope. When we were walking out of the airport I saw a dude carrying a small DJ case with stickers all over it. He was also wearing some t-shirt that I can't remember other than that it was very hip-hop. It's always nice to see heads. It kinda made me sad that I was rocking what I was (straw fedora, Vandy hoodie) because I know dude didn't recognize me at all. The world speaks hip-hop though, that makes me feel good.

On the road to UCT we passed the townships with the little aluminum houses. That was a little crazy. In a way they kind of remind of the old Chicago high rises except they built out instead of up. I know things are different everywhere but they're kind of the same too. On the outside walls of the townships there was some ill graffiti. I hope I'm able to track down some of the writers whose names Kevin Coval gave me. It would be very dope to get plugged into the hip-hop community here.

Being in this big group makes me feel two things, very American and very not. I'm one of the only black males in the group (who's surprised?) and yet I'm still American. I wonder how I register to people walking down the street. I wonder if I was walking alone would they see a black man or an American? Does this work for or against me? We'll find out I suppose.

I'm looking forward to classes starting so that we can have a chance to interact with South African students. The other American students are mad cool but I want to see what this country has to offer. The only South Africans we've met are our RAs. They're pretty cool though and they're our age. Haven't had a chance to really level with any of them though. In due time.

I'm jetlagged as that thang though. I'll write again tomorrow. All good for the now.

"I'm taking over the world and it's so far, so good."





Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fwd: Monday, July 12, 2010 4:55 PM London Time- London Heathrow Airport

Broke is universal. Earlier today I was trying to buy some VitaminWater and sushi. Can't front a nigga was very pleased with himself, feeling all cosmopolitan and all that but then that young card got declined TWICE and I got that sinking feeling you get where you leave school in high school during lunch because you don't have the dollar 85 that day.  I put the food back and sat in this big waiting area.

Eventually after a long nap I went to the cash machine, which showed a whopping 0.00 USD in the coffers. So yeah, a brother would've been sweating but there's no room for that. Being broke in high school wasn't bad, sometimes it was kind of fun. Putting change together with Lamar to cop a croissant wasn't terrible. It made us closer and it made the sadness of the situation less than it was. Even in college, I have friends and frat if I ever really REALLY need it. But I'm in London. I don't know these folks. I think I'd be thrilled to see a GD right now…or even a Chicago Police officer. Something familiar. Haha.

But anyway I called my pops from a phone that inexplicably took my card (My account has plenty in it, I just think BofA may be holding funds since the charges are from so far away). Facebook even makes you verify it's you when you sign in from another country. Haha. But I expect the thing to be figured out soon. No worries.

I hate when moms are right but I did end up eating some of those Skittle she gave me. I haven't had candy in months but after you try to be bohemian or whatever and that doesn't work you just want some Skittles, or a hot pickle with a peppermint inside, or some Doritos with nacho cheese and ground beef. Something they used to have at the candy stores in neighborhood basements that you grew up going to (shout out to Terrell's Store). That's all for now.

"i guess poverty breeds the most creative shit"

-mikkey halsted



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010 11:30 PM Chicago Time- On the plane to London

Social media is crippling. Being so connected has kind of made me uncomfortable with my own thoughts. I can’t have one thought or experience without feeling like I’m missing a tweetable moment or a great facebook status. It’s weird. I’m actually glad to get away from that. Not to say that I won’t continue to use all those platforms but I’m going to make an effort to be more cognizant of living in the moment.
I’m used to feeling out of place. But even this plane makes me feel that way. I fly a lot around the country, to and from school and other spots but not like this. First off this plane is mad big. Also I had a meal on the plane, which is really weird. The food was pretty decent and I had salmon and pasta. I even had a glass of red wine with it (sorry mama). I don’t know if that was the right kind of wine with fish or whatever but alcohol is nasty. It’s always been something I’ve avoided because of fear (mucho substance abuse in the fam) but the junk just doesn’t taste good. Ah well, it was an experience. They also gave me some socks and a blanket and a sleep blindfold thingy. Tight.

I keep having this feeling (I’m not even to Africa yet, lol) that I’m not supposed to be here. Not that I don’t deserve it because I know I put in work my whole life to get to the school I’m at and do the things I do but I feel out of place. Like someone is going to look at my passport and the Illinois, U.S.A. Birthplace is going to change to Roseland Community Hospital, The Hundreds, Ragtown, Chicago, or something and they’re going to send me back. They’re going to know that I’m some fluke, glitch in the matrix type of nigga. This is a lot of melodrama I know but it’s where I’m at right now. I’ve felt it before at Vanderbilt and at camp as a kid and even at Whitney Young but I’ve always been able to shake it. I wonder if that is how it’ll be this time.

On the ride to the airport my mom and pops were talking about Chicago Public Schools. About 90% of the kids who go through that system won’t finish college. I will. That makes me feel weird. Especially when you look at black males, the numbers are worse. The numbers are always worse. It made me think about how blessed I am to be where I’m at and also how bizarre. It’s empowering and terrifying simultaneously. When I’m at school people don’t always see me out at the parties or being social. Not that I’m a total recluse but I can’t do those things, at least not often. I don’t have the luxury to fail. I don’t have the luxury to pass. I have the responsibility to exceed. That’s what it is.

“a kamikaze in a danger zone far from home.”

- black thought



Thursday, July 8, 2010