What I learned in Cape Town
Back when I was an intern in Atlanta, I was asked by a mentor what is it that I want to do to leave an impact. That was a loaded question for my then 23 year old self, especially since I didn't understand or know who I was, and was consumed with telling people what they wanted to hear about me. Giving the "proper response" if you will. I answered "I'd like to work as producer, of course an Actor, and a Director." Things she had actively seen me working towards. The next thing that came out of my mouth surprised even me. I said, "I like to expand my reach and do international arts programing for teens and other youth." I had never thought to do such before that conversation, but that moment manifested something that would continue to evolve over the next several years.
Recently, I had the uniquely amazing opportunity to facilitate a performance art workshop in CapeTown, South Africa. It was at a disadvantage school and I was really excited/nervous. The outcome was better than anything I could have imagined. So much so that I thought it was a learning experience worth sharing. Here are a few of my take aways from the trip.
1.) Cape town is Cape Town
So put some respeck on it.
The moment I arrived I was so excited to be in Africa. I kept shouting "I'm in Africa!" I was gently but firmly corrected that I was in South Africa, and reminded to acknowledge the difference. Cape Town, South Africa to be exact.
Affectionately known as the Mother City or the Rainbow Nation, it's home of 11 official languages and is the second most populous city in South Africa behind Johannesburg. While currently dealing with the socio-political, and economical remanence of the Apartheid Era, Cape Town is currently experiencing a drought.
The day I arrived it rained. A sign that this would be a fruitful trip.
2.) You can take the girl outta Texas...
But everywhere I went, it was no secret that I was a foreigner.
The students snuffed out this American almost immediately. My appearance was a dead give away. That and the fact that I was an educator that couldn't speak Afrikaans (A required language in schools along with English). Black American pop culture is heavily ingrained into their society. Stations like BET are a household norm and Tyler Perry movies seemed to be at the forefront of most of the casual conversations that I had. It should have come as no surprise that the kids would flood my personal space with questions about my apparel, fascination with my vibe, and a desire to come visit America. I was all very flattering.
While working in this under-privileged school did pull back the veil onto some ugly truths about systemic oppression, this poor black and coloured township experience did shed light on a revelatory moment for me. I was exactly where I need to be living out experiences that I only dreamed that I would have. Not only was I having the chance to to work with GRATEFUL students, my life's work was being reaffirmed.
3.) The Coloured Culture is real
Up until I met my friend and host, Simone, a few years back , I didn't even know there was a race of people in South African referred to as the Coloured culture. As a black American, when I heard Simone referred to herself as a Colored person , I got slightly offend. I said, "Sis don't call yourself that, we have overcome." She later tried to pacify my ego by referring to herself as"mixed race" in my presence.
What I didn't understand was that much like black Americans, they're comprised of mixed races that don't know always know the tribes from which they derived. Their Faith, identifies with Christianity, which differs from the ancestral beliefs of many of the African Tribes. Many understand that the word coloured or colored derived from a derogatory term, but have since chosen to embrace the it much like many subcultures do here in the States.
4) I kept saying "Bro, I'm in Africa"
As I mentioned earlier, I was corrected by this phrase, but I couldn't help it- I was in Africa. I still can't believe that happened. The experiences were rich and plentiful. Simone is like a little energizer bunny, that wanted to make sure I got to see as much as I could. I had the chance to Celebrate freedom Day, meet local creatives and celebs, and visit townships.
I went to Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned and got the rare opportunity to listen to a former political prisoner speak about his experiences on the Island. I also saw wild animals just chilling on the side of the road as if we were in the live version of the Lion King. I even hung out at Cat Park! Trust me Cat park in South Africa takes on a whole other meaning- let me tell ya. The South African wine paired with the life changing views made it all feel like a dream.
One of the cat park Cats
4) Long layovers make for a fuller more exhausting trip
I had a hard time finding direct flights from New York to Cape town so I decided to make an event out of it and get an additional passport stamp. I spent a Day in Amsterdam. After flying 11 hours to the Netherlands from Cape Town I pulled a muscle in my back. A sign that I should take it easy because age (coupled the tiny European economy class seats) subtly shaded my travel plans. I laid low by taking a canal cruise and ended up chilling in a local coffee shop after a brief trip to a theatre and film bookshop.
5) More Life More Love
The term "Southern hospitality" reached new heights during my stay in Cape Town. The love was unsurmountable. I had the best- a Goddess of a host and friend that went above and beyond to make sure I had a wonderful trip and birthday, since I spent it there. Her friends and family were amazing- words wouldn't do them justice, so I won't try!
I will say this, she made me get on a cable car (knowing about my fear of heights) and ride 5000 miles above sea level to see the city from a different perspective. But that's the spice of life right? Having beautiful people that challenge your perspectives, make you reach for more, and hold your hand along the way.
Going into this next year of my life, I plan to manifest more things by having the courage and the faith to fearlessly speak them into existence. A lot of times we don't say what we want or mean out of fear of rejection. That or a disbelief in it actually happening . My life's experiences have slapped that theory right it's lying mouth. "Say what you see until you see what you saw."
God is amazing ya'll, purpose is never easy. It always costs but this experience has made me believe that it's always worth it.
I'm so grateful for the supportive and loving people I have in my life. Thankful, that they'll always challenge me to be the best version of myself.
I think it's safe to say, I learned more about me in Cape Town.