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"