Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010, 12:41 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Class today was pretty forgettable. Went to LEAP School though, which was pretty fun. Today I showed the kids the video of the first episode of Brave New Voices. It was actually pretty interesting myself to see it. They seemed to respond well to B Yung's poem particularly (perhaps since they are all black boys).  I tried to use the video to illustrate for them that youth writing and expressing is a worldwide thing and that it has platforms bigger than what they can just see initially. Next week I'm going to try to get them into writing some more structured things but I tried to use this week to chill and also to set the table for what was to come.

After LEAP I went to the library to work on my paper for Community & Youth Development. I got an invite from one of the RAs in one of the study abroad houses to come to dinner so I took a break from writing to head over there. After getting a bit lost I found the house. The food was great and it was basically me kicking it with 3 of the RAs so it was pretty chill. Eventually I got a ride back home from one of the house security guys. Finished my paper in good time and got a chance to chill. Also came home to find the Internet was back working. So that was a great end to a good day.

"pass more essays, than motorcade police parades through east la"

-pharoahe monch



Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 8:38 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

            Not having access to the Internet kind of sucks. The Internet in my dorm has been down for the past day or so and I haven't had time to go to the library or somewhere else to use it so I haven't updated my blog or anything for a while. I know today is the first day of school at Vanderbilt. What's weird about that is that I'm almost halfway done with my semester. Still, thinking about starting school there does kind of make me wish I were there.

            Today was cool though. Class was basic and afterwards we had the Wednesday cipher. It was pretty good today. Only about 3 of us spitting but there was a really big crowd. For some reason I wasn't feeling it too much which was kind of frustrating. I was coming with a lot of good lines but I also kept kind of running out of gas. There was also one moment where I had a line about the Springboks (South Africa's rugby team) losing. When I said that people definitely didn't feel it and I had to take a bit to recover. I wonder how much of it was because I was American though. Still, it was very fun.

            Today I went to Young in Prison. The boys were very restless while we were there and not as into things as they were last week. They kept kind of doing little things to cause trouble or slow things down. Towards the end of the session a lot of the boys started leaving and going to their rooms. Eventually we smelled smoke and realized the boys had gotten hold of some drugs that they were smoking. It was kind of sad but I don't know. I don't feel like I'm in a position to judge anybody really.

            After we got back I was pretty worn down so I ate and took a long nap.

"i never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death"





Monday, August 30, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 11:24 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

            Today was straight. In Lit class we discussed this book Matigari, which I liked but it was a surprisingly divisive book. Quite a few people found the book to be too simplistic but to me it just seemed episodic. I was about to launch into a whole thing about the book in this journal entry but then I realized that the chances that the person who reads my blog has read this book isn't too high so I'll spare you.

Today I also went to LEAP School. Today I actually didn't end up really talking with the kids. I pretty much spent the whole time talking to the principal about life and just everything. He's a very cool guy and really passionate about his work. After LEAP School he actually gave a few of us a ride back towards UCT and we all ended up chilling and talking in a café for a good couple of hours instead of doing work. It was a great time though.

Once I got back to my room I chilled with my flatmate. I had to interview him for a thing for my study abroad seminar so we had a discussion about his name and what it meant. It was actually pretty interesting to see the differences and similarities in the way people construct names. After that he asked me about my kane (which I brought and I twirl from time to time). I was explaining the concept of a step show to him and we actually watched the video of my chapter's show at Vandy. It was a pretty chill time.

"hi my name is…"




Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010, 11:24 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today in history class we started talking about the creation of Afrikaner nationalism, which was a pretty interesting topic to cover and it worked well with the trip to Jo'burg and the Apartheid Museum from over the weekend. African Lit was also decent. After class I went to the gym and got a good run and workout in also.

In the afternoon we had our CIEE seminar and we discussed the different parts of our trip to Jo'burg. After that we talked about Values and how they vary from country to country. We were presented with an example of a misunderstanding that happened a few years ago when a white South African girl who was a radio host at UCT played a rap song that used the N word multiple times. After the song she continued using the song and sang the N word and also proclaimed that the artist was "her nigga." An African American student who was studying abroad at the time heard this and was very offended. He complained to the station but had his complaints totally dismissed.

We discussed the repercussions of that and about use of the word in general. It was a complicated thing to think about. One thing that I found interesting was that out of the three black students in the group I was the only one who didn't wholly condemn the use of the word. It's something I've thought and read about a lot and I know why I use the word and my rules of engagement for it but it becomes difficult to explain or apply those when everyone else around is saying its wrong or too afraid to have an opinion. It was an interesting conversation. One thing that we did learn was that in South Africa, however, a person (of any color) can be taken to court for saying the word "kaffir." I don't know if a similar rule would work or be constructive in an American context but it was very interesting to see how South Africa went about dealing with its own troublesome epithet.

This evening I also sat in briefly on my fraternity chapter's retreat via Skype. It was annoying because Skype kept dropping the call but it was very good to see some of my brothers and to hear about the plans for the year. It kind of made me miss them also.

"what's the deal broski? i know its been awhile."

-vic spenser



Friday, August 27, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010, 11:00 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Was actually pretty sad to leave Jo'burg and the place I stayed there. The woman who owned was very sweet to us. We headed out to this "village tour" destination called Lepedi. It was very tourist-y. There were a ton of crafts and souvenirs for sale and we spent a long time sitting around and waiting. Eventually the tour thing started. This might've been my least favorite thing we've done since I've been in Africa.

It was marketed as "tribal experience" of South Africa and it had 4 different "villages" set up that showcased the way particular peoples lived. The way the tour was set up seemed kind of exploitative to the peoples to me and I think presented a very simplistic version of each people's history and culture. Also the video they showed us definitely had footage from the old movie "Chaka Zulu." In one of the villages one of the "village women" was I'm pretty sure hungover from the previous night and it kind of underscored for me how corny that piece of things was. In a way it felt like I was back in America because I felt very much like a tourist. With the understanding that I'm not from here and that is obvious to many people I generally try to avoid feeling super "touristy" (if that makes sense). I don't know.

            After the tour there was a big dance exhibition that the people performed for us. That was pretty tight. There was some gumboot dancing which is strikingly similar to stepping and then other African dances. That was all pretty interesting. Though throughout there were a few people in the audience who were doing too much (this old white guy who was wearing a dashiki and standing next to the "chief" the whole time dancing and this nun who kind of hovered close to the performers and put her video camera all in people's faces). Not that people shouldn't enjoy an experience they paid for, but again it just came off weird.

            We ate at the place afterwards. For all the negative things I felt about the tour, the food was awesome! Quite possibly the best food I've had since I've been in South Africa. I have chicken, beef, lamb, ostrich, and crocodile. It was all really good. Crocodile also might be my new favorite meat. It's maaaad good.

After we left there we went to a market. We didn't have much time there so we kind of rushed through but it was interesting. The people who were selling were very aggressive in trying to come and shake your hand or engage you immediately and they all claimed their stuff was handmade by them or something though a lot of the places had similar items. I didn't buy anything but when we got back on the bus a lot of people had different stories about their success (or extreme failure) haggling for prices. It was definitely an experience.

One funny thing that happened when we were in the airport was in the terminal all of the black students happened to be sitting together. One of the people who runs the program (she's a white South African lady) asked us if we had ever read the book "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Lunchroom?" I actually have read the book and I told her, "Yes, I have and I'm writing the sequel. It's called 'The White Kids are Sitting Together Too So Leave Me Alone'." Afterwards we actually had a conversation about the book she asked about and self-segregation and how it plays out but it was a very funny moment.

The plane ride back to Cape Town was pretty decent. I sat next to a white South African guy. Eventually we started talking and had a quite good conversation. We talked about sports and travel and the differences and similarities between our two countries. The guy seemed cool and he's actually the first white South African who I've spoken to who wasn't affiliated with my study abroad program. He ended up paying for my soda on the plane so that was a cool also. Talking to him kind of made some things that black South Africans had told me about white South Africans stick out. At one point in the conversation he kind of switched gears and started pointing out how he was a total "non-racist" and how he had great friends who were black and white. Directly after that he started talking about the South African Black Business Empowerment program. He said he was fine with them but wished that the ANC government would give them a public "expiration date" after which everything would be "equal." He was also quick to point out that even though whites had a leg up because of history there was a lot of opportunity in the country for anyone who is willing to work hard. He himself was not an educated man but he was in business for himself and doing quite well. He told me he had two children and in a way that made me understand his concern with "reverse racism." Though I think some of his views oversimplified really complex problems I understand that as a parent his first impulse probably would (and should be) the thing that will most benefit his children.

He also told me his favorite sports were cricket, golf, and rugby. That kind of highlighted the segregation in the sports system of South Africa. When we were talking about golf he asked me a really interesting question. He pointed out that Tiger Woods was an "African American" and then he asked if white people in America were "Native Americans" since in South Africa blacks were "Native." I tried to explain to him what a Native American was and what place white people occupy in American society but it kind of pointed out to me that often times things that are very apparent to us are not understood by others, even if they seem basic to us.

"if you can talk you can sing if you can walk you can dance"

-talib kweli



Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010, 12:37 AM Jo’burg Time- Emthonjeni B&B (Soweto)

This morning was great. Had a great breakfast and headed to the Apartheid Museum. I really enjoyed the museum. It was interesting. The first part of it you actually get a ticket that says White or Non-White and you have to enter through a particular entrance based on that. I got a White ticket. Weird.

            One of the most interesting things I saw in the museum was a list of people in a given year that had changed racial categories officially in South Africa. It was interesting because it showed the fluidity of a constructed concept like race even in a rigid structure like apartheid.

            Another thing I thought was interesting was the creation of Afrikaner nationalism and white identity in South Africa. I think when we consider the history of oppression we consider the people as groups constantly without every thinking of the makings of that group identity. Hate is rarely unsophisticated in its construction I think. If it were then we would see through it too easy.

            The thing that impresses me the most about all those things once again is the ability and impulse of South Africa to embrace, commemorate, and build upon its mistakes. They seem to embrace things in a way that I could never see America doing and I think it's refreshing coming from a country that is so quick to want to forget about the ugly parts of its history.

            After we left the museum we were headed back to Soweto to grab lunch when disaster struck. Our minibus stalled out on a hill right before the ramp to the expressway. The starter was messed up so we ended up getting stuck for about 30 minutes. Eventually we had to push the car in order to get it to start in second gear but eventually we got it to work. It was actually quite a fun experience though we had to get traffic to move around and all that was a bit intimidating.

            Lunch was great. After lunch some of the neighborhood kids came and danced for us and the other people who were eating. There were a lot of white Afrikaners in Soweto today because there was a big SA-New Zealand rugby game happening at Soccer Stadium (one of the sites of some of the big World Cup games) in Soweto. After that we went on a driving tour through Soweto. The woman who was our guide owned the restaurant where we ate and was really knowledgeable. She told us about growing up when she did and how things were back then. We ended the tour in a square where there is a memorial to a young boy who was shot in the 1976 student uprising. The monument's design was very cool and it was a good end to the tour. Learning about the township and really getting to see it made me feel even more so than I did before that it's not that different from black neighborhoods in America. Some are better than others but many have a lot to offer and a great spirit and sense of community that fuel them and make them beautiful places.

            Afterwards we went back to our B&B. Most of the folks in the group went to watch the rugby game on a big screen that was set up for the public. I was tired and wanted to get some work done for school though so I stayed behind. Even still the concept of having the game on in Soweto is a crazy one. Rugby's history in South Africa is very much one dominated by white Afrikaners (the descendants of the Dutch, some of whom were key architects of apartheid). To be able to have an audience for the game in Soweto and also to have white South Africans there also to watch it does give hope for what South Africa can do and also how far it's come.

We had dinner at a mall food court. I wasn't too hungry but ended up grabbing some chicken at a spot and eating. There was a boy who was wandering around the court beggin for money and looking for food. I got his attention and invited him to sit with me. I gave him my cole slaw and some of my fries (cole slaw is one of the few foods I hate). I ended up giving him a few of my wings to finish as well. It felt good to share a meal with someone and to do something good for someone else. We talked a little bit, not much, but I could still feel that he was grateful.

            After that we went to a soccer game. It was a team called the Kaiser Chiefs from Soweto playing a team called the Celtics from a city who's name I can't spell. It was a hell of a lot of fun. The game was almost all black in terms of the fans. It kind of spoke to the segregation of sport that is still in South Africa (rugby for whites, soccer for blacks). The atmosphere reminded me a ton of HBCU game in terms of the spirit of the fans and the general crunkness. We stood the whole time chanting and dancing with the Chiefs fans. Vuvuzelas and all that madness. It was awesome. The Chiefs won the game 1-0 and our whole group of Americans made friends with the Chiefs supporters in our section and had a great time.

Also copped a new GQ today. Excited.

"and wherever i go it's the same as home. it's the h double o d, the name is known."

-masta ace



for the hoops on 116th in between Carpenter and Morgan

they removed the basketball hoops
from the park this summer
the alderman said they were increasing crime

i went to the community meeting
where they discussed the crime
there were 6 of us there
the alderman wasn't
i was the only person under 50

they complained
that the courts attracted the worst
kinds to our park

said it would be safer to
take down the hoops
maybe put a garden there instead
or a vacant lot

they complained about the benches by the courts
how weed smoke wafted above them
like street lights
how boys there shot dice
and hoops
and people

when i was a shorty
I spent every Saturday
from sunrise to pitch black
at the park
the only reason
i can walk through ragtown today
as an adult
without fear
is because of the ball
and the hoop
and how the hood
respects hustle

i sat at benches
that weed smoke halos
with GDs who wouldn't pass
it to me so i could pass
in school

there was always someone
playing on the court
always shooting
not people

Monday, August 23, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010, 11:54 PM Jo’burg Time- Emthonjeni B&B (Soweto)

            ATTENTION EVERYBODY WHO WANTS TO CALL ME. SOUTH AFRICA IS 7 HOURS AHEAD OF CENTRAL TIME IN THE USA. That means that 5 PM in Nashville is midnight. Or 7 PM in New York is 1 AM. This morning I got a call at about 2:30 AM from Ashley Oliver. I wish you well at law school Ashley. I also wish you hadn't risen me from an already too short sleep. lol. It's all good. But anyway by the time I got back to bed I ended up oversleeping until 6 AM (the time our van was leaving for the airport). Needless to say, packing at night is a good thing. Made it to the airport. Security here is much more lax than London or the US (which makes sense I suppose). The flight was decent. Blah blah.

            We went to the Constitutional Court and the Constitutional Hill Jail. The tour was really interesting. Winnie and Nelson Mandela were there and Mahatma Gandhi. Some of the things that people were subjected too were really crazy and inhumane. The method of search was also terrible. This prison was also different because it housed white prisoners and prisoners of color. Because of this you got to see the difference in accommodation that you don't see at Robben Island (which was all men and all people of color). Some of these injustices were staggering. What I thought was really one of the wildest things was that if a woman was arrested with a child and there was nobody in Jo'burg to retrieve the child then the kid would serve the sentence alongside the mother. Wow.

            The Court was pretty cool. I really loved the design and some of the reasoning behind the design. Everything about it is very symbolic and even its placement at the center of a once notorious prison is significant.

            After that we went to Soweto and settled into our accommodations. I have my own room and the place is very nice. Soweto looks much nicer than the townships in Cape Town. It is visually a lot nicer and it actually reminds me a bit of Gretna, LA (suburb of New Orleans where my Great Aunt lives). We got a chance to walk about and do some people watching. It was pretty good. The particular area right by us was very much catering to tourists. There was a museum of Mandela's old house and plenty of merchants. Winnie Mandela also lives close to here and has a restaurant here.

            We left Soweto and went to Nelson Mandela Square. There we walked around the mall there for a bit and grabbed some food then we went to see a play. The play turned out to be a one-woman show. It was very interesting. The woman was a mixed race woman who had been born of an Australian mother and Ghanaian father. She was put up for adoption and adopted by a white family. She grew up being classified as white though she was fairly visibly "coloured". She encounters a lot of confusing situations because of this racial conundrum. Eventually she begins to explore political ideologies when she goes to college and her parents tell her the truth about her background. I bought the woman's book of poems afterward and got her to sign it. Excited to read it.

After the play the bus wouldn't start for about an hour. Kinda sucked but it's all good. We made it back to the B&B and now I'm about to knock out for tomorrow's day. Hope I don't get any calls tonight.

"your girl, your girl keep callin me"




Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010, 11:54 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today class was standard. Didn't do too much. Went to Leap School to volunteer and that was kind of a big deal. Today was the beginning of me leading a cultural activity about hip-hop and creative writing. I was pretty nervous about it just because I always am when I go into a new classroom and especially since it would be my first time doing anything like this abroad. I was curious and kind of worried about how the kids would participate and respond.

At first when we got to LEAP things were in a fair amount of disarray. The guy who had been our coordinator was out for the day so we didn't really know who to talk to in order to find out key information. I eventually found one of the students who had given me a tour. He helped me out and eventually I found the room we were supposed to be in. The group was a bit smaller than I planned for. It was about 7 students, all boys. I liked having an all male group. They were pretty cooperative and I tried to ease into the writing thing. I talked to them about stuff I'd done and let them ask questions and then I eventually transitioned into talking about the importance of place.

I used the song "H.O.O.D." by Masta Ace as an example of a song that described a place well. I thought it would be a good song to use because English isn't a first language for them and Ace's flow is pretty slow and audible. Knowing I was working with non-native English speakers made me feel like I'd had to be a bit more deliberate about the song I chose. I then spit my verse from "Sun is Shining" and sent them to write. They seemed to really enjoy when I rapped. I realize more and more that even though South Africa has a lot of contact with Americans and our culture they have limited contact with Black Americans so much of who we actually are is obscured. We talked about the song and then they wrote. After they finished I talked to them about Langston Hughes and then read "Daybreak in Alabama." After that we did a read around.  It was pretty good. They were an observant group.

After the reading we talked and they asked me what was the purpose of doing this (writing and such). I thought that was actually a brilliant question. I told them it would be a good opportunity to get in working with English and learning more about the language and also to learn about themselves and so I could learn about them and vice versa. They were a good group and I hope they come back next week.

That evening I had dinner with a South African friend from class. She is very well traveled (been to Chicago, and loved it of course) so it was great to have her outlook. It was good to be able to converse with her because most Black South Africans aren't well traveled and haven't been to the States and actually seen how Black Americans live and who we are. She had some questions even still and so did I for her but it was definitely a good time and a valuable one. You should read James Baldwin's essays about where the Negro fits into Africa and its people. The conversations definitely made me think of my readings of those (currently ongoing).

I leave for Jo'burg tomorrow morning. I'm excited. I should probably get more sleep but hopefully I should be okay.

"never thought i'd be perceived as just some rapping schoolteacher"




Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 11:54 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today was fairly enlightening. I know a few people from back home have hit me up because they don't really understand the idea of coloured people. Well it just so happened that today I had a lecture on exactly that!

            In my history class we talked about the development of coloured identity and this is a rough description from my understanding.

1. Coloureds are descended from the Khoisan Africans (Bushmen), white settlers, and East Asian former slaves (India, Java, Malaysia, etc.). (South African had a slave trade that brought people in from East Africa and Asia rather than West Africa.

            2. Before 1900 "Coloured" was used as a term for any non-European.

            3. After 1900 the identity began forming, specifically in the Cape.

4. Many coloured people in the Cape are Muslim because that religion was brought with some of the slaves.

            There's a ton of other stuff but I don't want to go into the whole bit but suffice to say that it is a complicated situation. It was good to just have a straight academic lecture though to couple with my understanding of it from talking to people informally.

            My other classes were also good but pretty regular. The weekly cipher didn't happen because it was raining today, which kind of sucks but oh well. This afternoon I went to volunteer with Young in Prison. We had a group of older boys who were all around 16. It was pretty cool. We played some games with them and then we sat down in groups to talk about the idea of friendship with them. We discussed what makes a good friend and the good and bad implications of things that friends can influence you to do. Some of the boys were very insightful but it was honestly pretty sad the way many of them are ghettoized to feel like their best prospect is to commit crimes. Even though they know that it's wrong they are still endorsing of that lifestyle, perhaps because they don't know of a better one. It actually reminded me of conversations with cats I've had back home in my neighborhood who are convinced that they have to be involved in gangs. It's always hard to reach a young man who has determined that he can't be saved.

Also did laundry today. blah. that's all.

"i wish my homies wouldn't have to suffer when the streets get the upper hand on us and we lose a brotha."



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010, 11:13 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

            Being the only person in a classroom that is willing to talk is pretty annoying. That is how it is in my history tutorial though. Nobody seems willing to try and answer the questions posed by the tutor. Today he was so annoyed he actually called on me when I wasn't raising my hand at all just because he knew I would actually say something. lol. It makes me realize that I really learn by actively engaging with material. But it also makes me worry that I'm too quick to talk and not listen. I'm going to try to be more conscious in my dealings with people to not dominate conversation but to really try to listen and learn from what they have to say.

            My impulse to cop this James Baldwin collection was such a good one. Reading Baldwin while being abroad is really helping me make snese of my journey and experiences. There are times when instead of write a blog entry I would rather just copy and paste parts of Baldwin's essays and writings about being abroad and also about coming into contact with Africans and the Negro's place in the larger African world. I've read Baldwin before and of course I aspired to be in his tradition enough to shape my last chapbook around an essay of his (and a similar cover design) but now I feel like this is the first time I'm really connecting with more of his work. I really feel like a player in his tradition, if only an exceedingly minor one.

            Today I went to LEAP School and got to kick it with some of the kids there. I hung out with the grade 11 boys. They were very cool. We talked about South Africa and the states and girls (they loooove black American women, lol). I also rapped for them and we talked about music. They were legitimately thrilled I think to hear someone rap like that in real life and not on TV or on a record. It was pretty cool. Hopefully at least some of them will join my cultural activity when I try to teach a little bit of creative writing and rap.

            I've also been emailing back and forth with my homie Ben Spacapan. He's in Istanbul right now finishing up an internship with Coca-Cola. I know a lot of times I come off harsh in this journal and like I'm making snap judgments of people because of how they look but I really hope that when I engage with people I really give them a chance. Talking to Ben always reminds me of that because he is exactly the "type" of person I'd be dismissive of quickly (rich, white, Republican, Ivy League, frat boy, etc.) but he is one of my best friends and one of the most thoughtful people I know. His responses to some of the things I've written in my blog really challenged me and made me think about why I have certain feelings rather than just blindly having them. His conversation keeps me honest. It always has and that's why I've always valued him as a friend so much.

            Also this evening when I was talking to my South African roommates we talked about ethnicity and how it impacted relationships. Neither was opposed to being involved with a woman from a different ethnic group but my one Xhosa flatmate said he would most likely marry a Xhosa woman. His chief reasoning was so that when his son became a man and had to go through his initiation she would understand the demands of that immediately. My other flatmate said his family was not as much into their tradition (Tesotho) and it wouldn't matter. To be honest listening I was kind of jealous that I didn't really have a body of tradition to look to in any substantive way. It's weird but I guess that's part of the condition of being American, particularly a black American. That kind of knowledge about tradition is nonexistent. Which give opportunity in some ways to create new tradition but it does in a sense make me feel like I'm missing something. Some of the initiation things he told me about reminded me of black Greek life in America. In a sense that's probably the closest thing that myself or my sons will have to initiate or teach them about manhood.

"i walk like a man and i walk what i talk and i walk, never ran."





my flatmate gave me the episodes of the boondocks I missed except the last one. i am happy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010, 11:48 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

            Today was a decent day. I had two lectures, which were both decent. The classes here are decent and I'm not having as tough of a time with lecture-based learning as I thought I would. After class I went to a drug store and copped a razor that my dad recommended and shaved my head for the first time. It went all right, although doing the back is pretty difficult. I'm going to probably stay with the shaved head for awhile and see how I really dig it. I feel like it makes me look mad old, but then again so does losing my hair, lol.

            Today I had the second meeting of my study abroad seminar. For the class we had a reading called "American students can't be global citizens." The reading was cool but it quite honestly I didn't totally identify with or agree with the points. She had some interesting things to say about becoming aware of her privilege as a rich, white, American woman when she studied abroad in India, Nepal, and Tibet. I thought she was spot with some of her observations about how her privilege played out in that context but she makes the mistake of applying her experience broadly to all American students in developing nations. Undoubtedly this was not intentional but implicit in her analysis was the neglect to consider study abroad students who were not white and affluent (like me) when she discusses the reality for "American" students. My qualm is not with her experience or background but I think it is indicative of a key issue for many white Americans and many black Americans. Black (and other minorities) are not really seen as American.  Of course we are in some ways but for so many people even within our own country when we talk about "America" and the "The American Dream" it doesn't really work for us. When the Tea Party talks about preserving our America, many minorities are straight up not included in that. The Tea Party is of course a problematic group and their existence is problematic altogether but they are not baseless. They don't come from a vacuum. They are a product of America as much as Barack Obama or John F. Kennedy or anybody else.

Another thing that struck me is that so many people in America don't examine their privilege until they leave the country and that is a mistake. There's a lot of reasons for that but it definitely I think is problematic if some has to travel to Nepal to see the privilege they hold over a huge percentage of the world's population. This is not to minimize the plight of developing nations but simply to say that there are third world spaces in America. In our ghettos and in the rural spaces of our country that have suffered in silence and misunderstanding there exists similar conditions to those you might see in developing countries. The saddest thing about "American privilege" to me is that is does not extend to all Americans and even on the ground we fail to see that.

Of course we're all human and I'm human too and we like cool stuff. We like to splurge and do things to feel good and that is cool. We shouldn't have to feel bad for the opportunities we've received or the things we were born into. With that said I think that there are ways to operate responsibly in that knowledge and to try and remain cognizant of your privilege and what you can do to empower others. I'm trying to learn and think about how to do that but in the mean time I try to stay cognizant of the privilege that I do have (male, heterosexual, educated, etc. etc.). I don't know. It's a start though.

I also went to the gym. 'Twas good to get some running and lifting in. It's been a while.

"moments in time are sorta like bricks in your path, landmarks to reflect on your past"

-chali 2na



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010, 1:08 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today I went to church for the first time in South Africa. The church was an "Every Nation" church and it was pretty cool. The music was really good. I suppose a few key observations in how it operated differently from the Lutheran, Baptist, and Methodist churches I'm used to back home:

1. Very little liturgy. No chanting or reading of lessons. Basically we sang. Got announcements. Got a sermon. Got gone.

2. White people. For real. I don't go to church with white people. Having a white preacher was a little weird (only other white person I've ever heard preach in person was Father Phleger). This is not to say I don't read white theologians but oral delivery is definitely different.

3. They stand for a long time. Basically the entire time we were singing (about 30-45 minutes) we were standing the entire time with no break. That was definitely different. Most churches back home its stand up read this sit down do this stand up etc etc.

4. People seemed to be more visibly moved in the spirit quicker. It seemed like as soon as the music started some people started crying or shouting or going to their knees. The type of fever pitch that we really have to work to in a church at home seemed to be their default setting.

These are my main observations. There are others but these are the biggest. It was a cool experience. I'll probably go back and maybe try a few other places also.

            After church I went grocery shopping and then we went to eat and then to a film festival with my study abroad seminar. The place we ate was called Eastern Bazaar. I had some chicken shwarma. Shouts to Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin for putting me on. The movie we saw was a documentary about sexual violence against women in South Africa called "A country for my daughter."

            The film was really interesting. It highlighted some very grisly cases of rape in South Africa and the way the justice system tends to not work for women, particularly those without resources.  Stories that need to be heard but often are not. It was a good film.

            I also read some great stuff from Baldwin. He's writing about being abroad and encountering the Africans (who were in France with him). I relate a lot to what he says about the contrasts in the African and Negro experiences. Oh to be a Negro…

"flyers passed out like my mama at revival…hallelujah…"

-phonte of little brother



Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010, 12:44 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

It's interesting to me to see the reasons why people want to go abroad. I remember when I first thought to go abroad and I completed the application and everything I went to the office to get a form signed by the study abroad counselor. She told me to approach the situation with little or no expectations. She talked about how she had often heard of black students in particular going to Africa with the expectation to be embraced. Sort of a cosmic, diasporic homecoming of sorts. I understood her point then and still do but I took exception to the way it was presented. Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive but the whole thing smacked of paternalism to me in the way she spoke. Not malicious paternalism, but so many things aren't malicious and yet still suck.

In any case, I was excited to come to Africa in order to interact with and learn about the people. For all the students here who had read up on the geographic and natural wonders of the land and were excited to go backpacking and stay in hostels I shared none of that knowledge or excitement. In truth, the only thing I've ever read about South Africa was about apartheid and its aftermath. So my primary interest was in talking to the people and seeing what the deal is on the ground now. Perhaps it makes me someone who misses a lot of beauty but I never get too bogged down in the beauty of nature. I think that people constitute so much of what is important to me. Maybe it's the byproduct of growing up in a city gentrifying but for me the place is paramount but the people give it the things that really make it important (I don't mean this is an anti-environmentalist way but everybody on State Street who stops me for "a moment for the environment" while people are dying everyday mere blocks from there kinda lose me).

So all of this put me in an interesting place to when I visited Stellenbosch today. Stellenbosch is a little bit out from Cape Town and its some very beautiful wine country. As we drove in we saw ostriches and zebras and cattle and horses of all kinds. We were out there for a tour of a wine farm and a wine tasting. Almost the entirety of my study abroad program (over 100 students) was there for this. Which doesn't seem strange because of course a wine tasting is both a cool cultural activity and free alcohol for college students. However, what struck me was the disparity in numbers between the roughly 120 of us at wine tasting and the 10 or so of us who took the township tour the week before. It just seems like a big drop off and while I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of a township tour to begin with, it seems weird that people seem so much more interested in gleaning the perks from the land and its attractions and not meeting, learning about, and trying to understand the people (seems like a parallel to imperialism). Now I am not at all suggesting that my fellow students are colonizers or that people should feel bad for being tourists or wanting to enjoy their privilege and experience cool stuff. I just think that wherever we exist in the world we should enjoy the beautiful things but also appreciate the ugliness that might've had a role in creating it. The planter who hates handling manure will have an awful garden.

"isn't it strange how we estrange ourselves from our neighbors?"

-blue scholars



Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010, 1:14 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

First off. The 14th is my little sister's birthday. Happy birthday to my little bighead girl. She's 13 and that's weird. I remember the phone call when my mama told me I had a little sister and I got to name her. Wow.

So I missed my first lecture because I overslept after finally falling asleep at 6 or so after the fire alarm. Class was okay otherwise. I went to get my hair cut after class though. Decided to cut all my hair off. I'm trying to decide how I like it. It's cool. Makes me really look like my dad I think.

Also went to the mall. Nothing much to tell there. Got a few things and it was decent. The fashion here is sort of random. Meh.

            Had a good long conversation with my line brother Jeremy. We talked about a lot of stuff, including the construction of black culture in America and how that played out. It's always good to talk to him and we always have challenging conversations. It's something I really value about him.

            I was also able to email the English and African American Studies Departments at Vandy and get their lists of their course offerings for the fall and I've basically decided on my fall classes. I'm excited about my schedule both because of the classes and the times it looks like they'll be. I'll have Thursday off and me done by noon on Friday if everything works out properly. That plus one class on Tuesday makes for a pretty sweet schedule. We shall see though.

            Not too much to say for today. My head feels weird. I'm gonna have to get used to this.

"hate to say it but it seems so flawed. success didn't come 'til i cut it all off."




ps. got Erika Dickerson's (Sanele Vox) chapbook. Excited to read it. She's my labelmate. New School Poetics Press. We murk hoes. (not the official slogan, though I will suggest it to Kevin Coval).


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010, 4:22 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

I am writing this in an angry sleepy haze. Tonight at about 3 AM we had a fire drill. It was super loud and obnoxious and we all had to go outside and stand around until we got checked in and it was wack. Blah. Anyway.

Class today was pretty meh. Started going through some poems in my African Poetry seminar, which was good. My teacher really knows his stuff and that makes it easier to get into the work. After classes today I went to the library and did some poking around and found James Baldwin's collected essays "The Price of The Ticket." Baldwin is very much one of my idols so I had to check out the book. His writing really is spectacular. His construction is masterful and some of the insights he had even way back when are so true to me now in terms of the fate of America and the condition of the Negro (this is my current preferred word for Black Americans). He is that dude.

Today I also went to LEAP School to volunteer. I'm probably going to end up working with the kids during their sports time on Tuesday and on Thursday I'm going to teach a hip-hop/creative writing program during their cultural activities. It should be good. It'll force me to get organize and do some serious lesson planning and it will hopefully make the kids more dexterous in English (which is particularly important as they go to college because it is not their first language but it is the language of university). I'm looking forward to getting into things and teaching and learning. Some of the other volunteers kind of annoy me. They mean well (oh such dangerous words) but they tend to say and do a lot of stupid things. And on that note…a surefire way to irk me is to use the term "ghetto" indiscriminately and flippantly for things that you consider to be of poor quality or construction (particularly when its said from the place of privilege of never having to live in so-called "ghetto" spaces). But yeah. Meh.

            What was funny and great was the "black privilege" I experienced at the school. There are 2 other black students who are volunteering and all three of us basically took initiative to offer our skills and establish new programming for the school. The other students were more tentative and kind of waited to be placed. As a result when we were talking to our coordinator he sorted us 3 out very quickly and invited us to chill in the other room. All the other students looked kind of confused. When everything was done and they called students from the school to give us a tour the two girls who were tour guides immediately gravitated toward us (the black volunteers). Our coordinator had to tell them to not simply focus on us because we were black. Once we got back to his office, we had a very frank discussion about the ethics of educating black kids and teaching them more than how to imitate white intellectuals. He talked about the importance of social responsibility and giving back, particularly from a black, urban standpoint. These are things I get very much and it was great to hear an educator sharing my views. The other (read: non-black) volunteers looked confused and distraught slightly.

            This is not to degrade whitefolks or anything like that I assure you. But honestly sometimes it feels good to have the tables turned. I can bet that is probably the first time that most of those kids have been in an all-black school and had to have that conversation. It's nice to sometimes be in a context that gets you straight up without you having to code switch.

So LEAP was dope. After that I pretty much chilled. T'was a good day. Until of course, this damn alarm. Good night/morning.

"count days of the week while you fools count sheep. i'll have enough time for z's when i'm 6 feet deep."




Friday, August 13, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 11:45 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

            Today was decent. It started off really great. I found out that this alumni organization from my old high school is going to cosponsor a scholarship program I want to start. The program will be called the Lost Count Scholarship Fund (LCSF) and the organization is called Whitney Young Dolphins Making a Difference (WYDMAD). I'm really excited about the possibilities for the program and that I'll be able to see a dream of mine since I left the city come to fruition.

            Class today was pretty standard. I have a different professor in my history class now. He is White South African. I don't know if it's the time period we've run into or just his emphasis but today I felt like we really didn't talk about Black people except in passing. Perhaps I'm just being sensitive but in a lot of ways it reminded me of the way history was taught to me in high school and elementary school. Ah well.

Had the cipher today also. I could only stay for a short period of time but it was good. It's great to have a weekly space to stay sharp with it. I know I get rusty at times being at Vandy and I feel myself getting more dexterous off the top of my head every week here. I also notice people have a tendency to kind of focus on me when I rhyme. I don't know if it's because I'm American or because I have a distinctive flow or what. Who knows?

Today I volunteered at the youth prison for the first time. It was pretty fun. Most of the boys were Coloured and spoke Afrikaans. We played some games and by the end they really got into it and became more cooperative. It was a good time. They were the youngest group. I think they were around 13 or 14.

Makes me think about the things I can do back home to help as well. From trying to start this fund to volunteering to just helping young men with their college applications. I feel called to help young people, especially young men of color.

"if it comes a time and you aint feelin ya real dad, put my face on his body"




Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 11:59 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

            First thing first I want to thank everybody who voted for Daily Lyrical Product in the RedEye Track-Off.  We won! We'll be in the RedEye on Thursday so if you're in Chicago definitely cop that. I was really touched that my friends and supporters were able to rally back and get the victory. So thanks.

            Today in my history tutorial we discussed the Natives' Land Act of 1913 that took a lot of land from Black Africans. We talked about if there should be reparations given to the people. Oh, you gotta love a good reparations talk. The tutor brought up the similarities between the South African and American questions of reparations but I was quick to point out a few key differences (time elapsed, size of population, miscegenation, etc.). It was an interesting topic and conversation.

            In my African Literature class we talked about the question of language in African literature. We discussed Franz Fanon and his chapter  "the Negro and Language." The whole question of whether an African could legitimately write in a colonial language (English, French, etc.) was an interesting one to me. I think it's because as a Black American poet I am preoccupied with language and its ramifications and I know that at some points I do feel that English, or at least standard English, is inadequate to express some things in my writing. Additionally, I've had the conversation with some other Black writers and I've found that iambic pentameter is very hard for me to grasp. As a kid I always did really well on vocabulary quizzes EXCEPT the part where we had to pick the syllable with the stress. Black English in America has a tendency to be more fluid than that rigid system so it never occurred to me that the stress HAD to rest at a particular place. That's one of the things you notice in rap, is that words change emphasis to fit a scheme or even an accent. Our language is dexterous to a fault. Iambic pentameter is supposed to mimic the pacing of actual speech but I think for Black folks it does the exact opposite. Not to say that I haven't done good work in it and there haven't been plenty Blacks who have been great traditionalists in the European sense (Brooks, Wheatley, and others). I just think that naturally our language has different patterns.

            My mama also called me today. It was a good call. I talked to her about my plans for the rest of undergrad and afterwards. She seems cool with it all. She asked me about where I was thinking of going to school for my Ph.D. I told her Northwestern was high on my list. Then she started talking to me about how her and my father are a lot more comfortable when I'm not in Chicago. She says the city is so dangerous and random now that it's better we're not around. On one level I feel her but I really feel like part of my calling in life is to reverse that trend. I talk so much mess about how Chicago is the greatest city in the world and it would be a terrible thing for me to gain so much from the city without reinvesting in it. I'm not saying that I alone can or will save the city, but it will take people with the will to do so to really affect change for our people back home.

"every interview i'm representing you, making you proud"

-kanye west



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010, 11:30 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today we went on a township tour. This was pretty interesting. The concept of the tour at all is kind of crazy to me. It's kind of like if foreigners and rich people wanted to take tours through Englewood or Roseland. Weird. Anyway it was cool. We went to a community center and the kids played the drums for us. We took pictures outside the center and a few other places and each time people from the community (mostly kids) hopped into the picture with us. It was kind of funny but a little odd.

We went through a few different townships, both coloured and black. It was crazy to see the difference in the places. Even though they would border each other, some of the black and coloured townships were just totally different. The coloured townships were always a little nicer and had streets that were wider (though they weren't in great condition either). I am glad that we got to see the differences between the way resources were allotted in that system though.

We ate at a place in a black township called Gugulethu. The place was really good and it was a bed & breakfast. The man who ran it had a really interesting story about how he literally built the place from the ground up. His business partner who was a white guy seemed a little sketchy to me. The way he characterized the community and everything was a little too idealistic but I suppose it was that good for him because he was there as a result of a capitalist venture and not because a racist system forced him to be.

We saw some monuments in the townships as well for various freedom fighters. Those were cool but it was a little weird how they were kind of just in the midst of things, like one was right in front of a gas station. I don't know.

We didn't have class today because it was Women's Day also. Other than that tour I just relaxed some. It was a good day. Some things to think about.

Also I'm in this Track-Off thing for the Chicago RedEye. Hopefully my group (Daily Lyrical Product) will get the win. We'll see in about 7 hours. Damn time difference.

"so let me be your tour guide, so when you in a certain area you will know what that hood ride"

-d.a. smart


(this quote is from a classic Chicago gangsta hip-hop song called "walk wit me". this is like the audio version of a Chi version of a township tour. check it.)




Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010, 2:36 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today was pretty good. Finished this book called Matigari for my African Literature class. The book definitely went hard a bit on American and European influence in Africa, which is fair. I really dug it though. The author was Kenyan and in the front of the book he wrote a note for the American version of the book. He was in exile in America but he was sure to make clear that the book was originally written in his mother tongue. The decision to write the book in that language was a very political one to him rather than simply writing in a more universal colonial language. At the time of the note the book was banned in Kenya and he talked about the sad irony that the book and its author were in exile from homeland.

Other than that I didn't do much. Had some pretty good sushi. Wrote a ton of stuff for my personal use and also talked a lot to people back home. I wrote a bit of a manifesto on how to revamp and improve the Black Student Alliance at Vanderbilt. I'll keep refining that and submit my ideas eventually. I think I've realized why I manage to be such a productive person. I tend to procrastinate by doing things of worth so instead of doing homework I don't watch TV but I write poems to publish or make plans. I try to make most of my time work for me. I think that's an important thing to do in life. Even your entertainment should enrich you on some level I think.

no quote…just listen to the song "why is that" by boogie down productions. the whole thing.



Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010, 1:00 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today went by pretty fast. Went to the library to check out a book for class. When I went I walked from my dorm to campus. It was actually kind of comforting to me to walk around alone and to watch people the same ways that I do back home. Seeing people live is the most beautiful thing to me.

After the library I went to a café and then hung out at my dorm. I went to see the movie Inception with some friends. That movie is so crazy. It was good but it made me think about the way so many things in our life that we consider so real (coughracecough) are constructed by other people for their personal devices. Not saying that I think it's necessarily that heinous or deliberate (though the creation of race as a rationalization for slavery/colonialism was) but it does make you consider some things.

That was really most of my day. Got an email from Kevin Coval which made my day. Also talked to my young homie Sebastian from Nashville. Talking to both of them made me think about where I've been as a writer and where I'm going and the work in both of those places. Sebastian especially really makes me think. Whenever we talk he always is so hungry for information on how to take himself to the next level as a writer, performer, and scholar. I think that's what it takes. That desire to improve and to make impactful work is really half the battle. The other half is what Coval says. It's about ignoring the fallacy of the genius and the muse and doing the work of telling stories and of writing.

"im not the best to do it, i just do it the best"





Vote for "Fool" by Daily Lyrical Product to win today's Chicago RedEye "Track-Off"! Thanks! http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/kyles-files/


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010, 3:42 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

So I'll start today's post with what I did last night. I watched the movie School Daze with a friend. It had a few effects on me. First off seeing the movie made me reminisce to the first time I watched it with my line brothers. Ha. Memories. Seeing the stepping and the shots of the old school Kappas in the movie made me really miss my chapter and my old head frat brothers. I do look forward to taking part in the "Good Ol' Kappa Spirit" when I get back stateside.

There's also a scene in there that spoke to me where Samuel L. Jackson and his band of townie guys conflict with Laurence Fishburne's crew from Mission College. It made me think about the kind of conflict that happens between making "out" and the people back home. I really love Chicago and my hood there and I value my ability to walk through Ragtown and be greeted with warmth and respect. I always try when I'm there to not think of myself as better or above the place or people.  I just made a view different decisions and I was blessed in different ways with different opportunities. But there's one part where Jackson's character tells the college boys that "Y'all niggas just like us and you always gon' be niggas." and Fishburne tells him "You're not niggas." I'm somewhere between them. With the understanding that the usage of the word in that context was decidedly negative I don't disagree with Jackson's base point. You don't really ever transcend or overcome the set of circumstances that made you. Racial, geographical, financial, religious, everything. Regardless of where you go those things are still a part of you and had a formative influence on you. I read an article about Kevin Coval's "transformation" from Suburban jock to hip-hop poet today but I think he's a prime example. He's never not suburban and he doesn't run from it because he can't. He understands it, learns from it, peeps the good and bad of the situation, and moves from there. That's all you can do with anything that happens in your life.

The movie also made me miss my sister Jamesa because it got me to thinking about black college bands and all that. I didn't think about it when I applied to come here but because I'm here during her senior fall I'll probably never see her march with FAMU again. That actually makes me really sad. Going to all her games at Morgan Park and with FAMU was a big influence on me culturally and musically. I love black marching band music and it definitely informs my sensibilities (think about songs like "Pompous"). I miss her. I want to go to country ass Northern Florida.

Anyway, today was a pretty good day. My first lecture was canceled so we had a substitute guy who let us out after like 20 minutes. After class I studied some and then I went to the sports centre and signed up for the gym. I went back to the sports centre that evening and played pickup basketball with a bunch of guys. I was actually surprised about how closely they follow the NBA. They were as up on the goings on of the game as me and in some ways more since they didn't have a particular team that they felt the need to be tied to and they just kind of observe as a fan of the game. It was dope though.

Went to dinner with friends tonight. T'was good. Spent the night having some good conversations with folks around and then folks back home via the net. Good times.

"some of my niggas will probably never make it. the s-a-ts? shit, I doubt they ever take it, cause instead of tryna send a nigga to a tutor them guidance counselors tryna introduce us to recruiters. it's a setup."

-j. cole




Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010, 11:33 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Hmmm. Today was decent. Made it to my African Poetry Seminar. It was decent. He talked about oral literature and how it was prevalent in the African tradition and informed the African poets. I was actually pretty thrilled because he talked about American Rap and Jamaican dub poetry and how they borrow from and use the same elements. Needless to say it had a brother feeling all Diasporic and what not. haha.

On that subject I talked to a friend of mine and she had an idea about doing some type of forum here at UCT where African and Black American students could kind of get together and discuss the misconceptions, similarities, and differences we have. Basically we want to figure out a way to make all these smaller conversations we've been having bigger and more productive. We drew up a plan for it tonight so hopefully we'll be able to do that. She has a meeting with someone involved with the Centre for African Studies tomorrow where she's gonna present our ideas and see if we can make it all work.

Today we also had a session to prepare for working with Young in Prison. It was decent, mostly instructional about what not to wear (for women) and dos and don'ts type of stuff. I'm excited to go and work there and see how it is.  The place where I'll be working is less of a prison and more of a boys' home for young offenders without a stable home to go back to.

We also had an expectations workshop for volunteering with everybody in my study abroad group. That was kind of frustrating. I understand the "comfort" of the folks in my group to all be back together with other folks from the state and being in a room where they're the majority (haha) but some stuff they say is just ridiculous. At one point we were talking about our expectations and I heard the word ghetto tossed around one too many times in jest. Also ambitions to "take pictures with cute African babies" and such were expressed. I guess it's cool kind of since it was closed company but it just annoyed me. I just hope that those same kids are actually engaging with people other than Americans and learning to deal with people as people. Too often being a constant majority (by actual number, influence, or both) makes people feel (consciously or unconsciously) like they don't have to deal with the Other. I don't think that's a good way to live life.

"rejected by the black, not accepted by the white world"




Friday, August 6, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 11:43 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Apparently today was a day of getting signals crossed and wrong. Haha.  I was supposed to start volunteering at Young in Prison today but apparently it won't be until next week. We have a meeting for it tomorrow. I also accidentally missed my first African Poetry seminar. I slick forgot the class was on Wednesday and got some food instead. Oh well, I have it tomorrow so hopefully everything will be fine.  Other than that it was a good day.

Went to the Wednesday cipher. It was dope and there was a pretty big crowd today. Afterwards got a chance to talk to a bunch of MCs. One of them ended up being the president of the Hip Hop Club. I went ahead and officially joined the club also. A few of us had a good conversation about hip-hop and the state of it internationally and also in Cape Town. I also met a cat who has a studio in his dorm and he lives 2 floors above me!  Shaft in Africa: The EP? Perhaps. But anyway everything else is good. Catching up in my class readings. They give a ton of reading here. That's most of my day.

Cooked chicken and rice tonight. I be cooking yo. I can do chicken a ton of ways now plus I can do pasta and rice and other stuff. Just put me in the kitchen with some chicken and Italian dressing and get out the way.

Also emailed with the guy at LEAP School. I might do a program there where I teach kids how to rap. Oh yes. I will train an entire generation of African Illuminate Mics Mini Me's. Be nervous. All for now.

"this is dope school, i'm dean here"

-mikkey halsted



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 11:22 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today I thought a lot about language. Firstly, I had a tutorial for my history class. A tutorial is a smaller class than the lecture where we turn in assignments and also have discussions about additional readings we were assigned. I liked the readings. They were about historiography and how there were different camps of people who took different approaches to the writing of South African history. I think the point I derived from the whole thing was that the history changes a lot depending on who's telling it. The class would have been good but it was a little frustrating because nobody seemed to be engaging in the work. The seminar is basically all Americans (the class as a whole is, I guess because it's South African History).  That's not necessarily a bad thing but they seemed to be afraid of getting the "wrong answer" or they just didn't read. Either way it was annoying. lol.

My next class we talked about this book The Palm Wine Drinkard. At the end of class we got into a conversation about how the author utilizes English in such a way that it seems almost like the book was not meant to be written in English. We also talked about how he uses words that don't exist. I brought up the point that with that author's language when he creates a word it's primitive literature but when Shakespeare does it, it's art. Just my thought at the time.

Third class wasn't too interesting. Just learning more about South African Youth Policy but all the work is pretty dry as of right now.

After that I went to my first volunteering project at LEAP School. Today we didn't do much, they just showed us around and then had a conversation about the type of work we would possibly be doing there. It was pretty cool. During the tour the student that was showing us around spoke to some of the other students we came across. He seemed much more confident and dexterous in his own language. Not that his English was bad by any means but you could definitely tell that he was more comfortable in his language.

This evening when I was doing laundry I also had a conversation with a girl in the laundry room. She told me that her first language was English but that she also knew Xhosa and Afrikaans. Her father speaks Afrikaans and her mother speaks Xhosa. Her parents speak Afrikaans to each other but their home languages to her. I couldn't imagine growing up in a house with so many simultaneous discourses but it definitely seems like a valuable skill. She said two things that stuck out to me. Firstly, she characterized English as the "language of education." That is definitely true in a South African context but even in an American context. Though we don't have as many languages that are dominant we definitely emphasize standard English over Spanish or the various levels of Black creole that are spoken (and yeah I'm including hood vernacular in that).  The second thing she said was that language does NOT determine identity.

Her laundry was done so I didn't get to probe more on that idea but I wish I had. I actually disagree in some ways. I can understand that in an South African context where people where separated by language and assigned identities as a way to strip them of power that someone would be eager to dismiss the things that separate one from another but I don't think it's that simple. Even as a Chicagoan, when I hear someone say "Whaddown Jo?" or some reference to home I immediately identify with them and know something of their context. I think the challenge then becomes how do we embrace our personal and cultural identities while still valuing and being a valued member of the whole of society. The world would lose a great deal if it lost all the identities that people have and that I believe language is a key factor in. What has to happen is that we have to use identity as a positive factor not something to divide us.

I also had a conversation with that girl about music. We ended up having a conversation about the hip-hop show that happened the week before at school. We both kind of agreed that many of those guys, though talented, weren't trying to use hip-hop as a tool to create something specific to them. I think that is one of the beautiful things about hip-hop. The obsession to represent and the obsession of place in hip-hop has always been a big trope for me in all of my writing and I think it creates essential art that other people can't do. Love it or hate it, Gucci Mane couldn't exist in Chicago the way he is and Common couldn't exist in Colorado and Snoop couldn't exist in Hawaii. Though artists have movement and growth, most in hip-hop retain a posture and sense of language from the place/s they are from and that comes through in the music. I want to see what South Africa can do with the culture when they make it their own, not simply imitate their American favorites.

"put they don't give us our due, for providing you with slang for all of youth mouths"

-rafael casal




Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010, 11:37 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Mondays kind of suck everywhere. Not that today was bad, just a slow day. Had lectures and such. That was the bulk of my day. I did have the first meeting of my study abroad seminar. That was decent. We're going to take a trip to Johannesburg with that class so that should be tight. In the seminar we had a discussion about people's names and what they mean and things like that. It got me thinking about how my family has a tendency to name people after each other. I've always thought it was important because it's one of the main ways that we link ourselves to our history and remember it. I think that linkage can be particularly important for Black Americans because of the truncated nature of our history. We start volunteering tomorrow which I am excited about. I expect that will be a longer entry. This is all for now.

"my parents went and chose my MC name at birth"

-george watsky

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010, 11:01 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Today was a pretty relaxed day. I took it easy and did some homework. Went grocery shopping and cooked dinner. Had a good long conversation with my homegirl Blue. The convo made me reminisce about Brave New Voices and LTaB and how much I miss performing. Also finished my press release and sent it out to a few people. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to book a few shows when I get back stateside. That would be great.

Today got me thinking about my goals and how I've gone about accomplishing them in the past. I think I'm a pretty productive person but I really want to get more organized and waste less time. As much as I do now I feel like I could twice as much if I was more focused. This summer for instance. I was able to release a chapbook and an EP but I didn't get a lot of work done on putting together the poetry anthology with Kevin as I wanted to. I also didn't get to do some of the things I wanted to do with my family. I get a lot of opportunities in life and I want to make sure that I take full advantage.

This is also the week that the Louder Than a Bomb film has its run in New York for DocuWeeks. I really pray that it is well received. Aside from my personal ego I really believe in the film. I think it's very dope and it showcases a great program that saved my life and can do the same for countless youth. I think that the movie Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs made is one that improves the world. I think it deserves as wide an audience as anything I've seen in a long time. That's word.

I need to get back to this history homework. This reading has all kinda snuck up on me and now I need to do that thing I was talking about before. grind.

"please don't take it personal, but i gotta go and work some more…"





Monday, August 2, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010, 10:52 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Hola journal. It's been a minute. Haven't written the past two days. Reason is somewhere between not having much to say and also not having time. Doing this as the last thing in your day can be hard when your days are long. Friday not too much happened. I went to a mall. It must be something in me that is very American but I really loved that mall. It was pretty and it was huge. It legitimately might be the best mall I've ever been to. There's also a Kodak store AND an Apple store in the mall so I plan to go back and try to find a cord for my camera and get the disk drive on my computer fixed. That means I may end up posting pictures sometime soon.

Other than that I've actually found myself missing some things about the states. Not missing per se but doing that rap thing on Thursday made me really feel like I want to travel and perform more in America. It's something that is really hard for me because I go to school away from home and I'm so involved there but it's something that I at least want to try to be more active in. I really do love performance and to go somewhere and get up in front of a new crowd is an amazing feeling.

Saturday I pretty much lazed around all day except I went to a going away dinner for a friend who is in my study abroad program but has to leave for personal reasons.  That was decent. Nothing else big.

I'm struggling with thinking about the things I want to bring back for people as souvenirs. Ah well. I've got like four more months to figure it out.

"and when i come in the mall and then i start to roam, you wouldnt think its a store, you would think its my home."

-biz markie



Sunday, August 1, 2010

on the eve of losing one’s hair

So in case you don't hear me mention this in a lot of my writing already, I'm losing my hair. Not terribly bad but it's definitely noticeable. I'm actually fine with it. I think my mom and sister's had more trouble with it than me cause last year they kept trying to get me to use Rogaine but I digress. I would simply like to take this time to reflect on things I should have done with a full head of hair…

1. Locks

Always liked the style but felt like it wouldn't work for me. Wish I would've given these a try. Say sometime around junior year of high school. I could've been all poetic and what not. Like a baby Billy Tuggle. Ah well

2. Braids

I actually had braids when I was like 12 or 13. Perhaps I should've kept them longer until about freshmen year of high school. Would they have made me a better basketball player? No. But I sure would've looked cooler while sitting on the bench.

3. Bald

Yeah. I should've done this. It would've been nice for it to be a fashion statement rather than a reality. I probably could've done this Summer '08 right after Brave New Voices and claimed it was some type of artistic recentering (or some artsy bullshit like that). Yeah, that woulda been tight.

4. Fro'hawk

Yes it's a dumb hairstyle that I don't think black people should really do. But hell, guess I should've made bad decisions while they were still possible.

5. That Kanye West shaggy weird thing

Actually…no. That junk is still ugly. That fool be looking homeless with jewelry.

6. That Maxwell/Old Musiq/Lenny Kravitz nappy fro thing

This I think might've been tight. I could've rocked it like freshman year at Vandy and came in looking very afrocentric. Then when Spring 2009 came around I wouldn't have looked so crazy (if you were there you remember). Then I could've came out at my probate all fresh cut and it would've been a more drastic change. Yeah.


Those are all I can think of right now. But word to the wise. Appreciate the things you have. And don't be afraid to try new things. You never know when you won't have the option anymore. 

Friday, July 30, 2010 1:50 AM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

So yesterday was a cipher. Today was a whole show. lol. Found out that there's basically some type of show or concert at UCT every Thursday during lunch. Today Blackberry hosted a poetry and rap contest. I didn't realize it until too late to sign up but I talked to the host and he let me get on and spit afterwards. It felt good to get on stage again and it's probably the biggest crowd I've been in front of since BNV finals '08 (it was like a few hundred people at least). Spit half of the intro from my EP. 'Twas a good time.

I got a chance to talk to the poet who kicked off the show. Apparently he's the slam champ in South Africa but I didn't think he was that nice. I'd definitely be interested to hear more stuff hear though. The host of the show was rocking a black on black Bulls fitted and some Jordans. I felt hella at home. At the end there was a South African rapper who did a few songs. He seemed like he was kinda popular. He was decent. I liked his energy but it was really kinda funny to see how similar it is. They looked like our MCs, used similar beats, and even some of our slang and such. In a way its really cool but in a way I'd be interested to see them make it more their own.

Class was pretty basic. Went to dinner with a bunch of folks in my program which was pretty cool and then went to a lounge. Today was pretty chill all around.

Also today was the first time all of my flatmates and I have sat around and chilled for an extended period. It was pretty cool. We talked music, sports, and all that good stuff. I really like all of them. Indeed.

"whos so cold his shows require a coat?"