Jean Grae's South Africa Vacation

This winter vacation I went home to visit my family in South Africa. I was born there, but came to civilization when I was really little.

There were lots of lions and tigers and monkeys. My great aunt who is a witchdoctor gave me a big spear and a drum to take home. We didnt wear a lot of clothes because it was sooooo hot, especially inside of our hut. My mom wasn't used to walking around without a shirt or bra on but she got used to it. I liked all the tribal dances and hunts we went on. They were fun! A lot of times I didn't understand what people were saying cause they were speaking African.

I had fun, but am I am glad to be home now cause we have phones and computers and refrigerators.

Yes my ignorant American friends. I suspect, no... I KNOW that this is sadly still the vision that most Americans have of Africa.

Might I add, AFRICA referred to as one big lump. No countries, cities, mountains, deserts.. No. Just AFRICA. Where AFRICANS speak a strange language called AFRICAN.

When AHH’s co-chief Jigsaw asked me if I wanted to write about this, I thought it would be an interesting chance to open the sadly closed minds of black Americans. I changed my outlook and have decided to give you a small glimpse of how devastatingly wrong the widespread perception is. I would rather have you do some looking and find out on your own. You're already on the internet. For once, surf to another place besides a hip hop message board, alerts for your 2 way, or big butt porn. This mass ignorance must stopped being blamed on education teaching only from the view of a white Western Civilization. I attended the public school system of America too, but like most schools I'm sure yours had a library as well. I'm sure you went on one of those field trips to the library where you all got cards. No? Well then, I'm sure you've HEARD of a library before. No? Newspaper?

Perhaps not. Assuming that you are reading this without the assistance of psychic powers, I will believe that you are currently on the internet, and as stated before - enough said. Why is there no motivation among us to learn more about our true heritage than we see on the godamned Discovery channel, or PBS...or is it every two years when Shaka Zulu replays on channel 11??? Hip hop knows only of South Africa when an American rapper perhaps references something like gold, diamonds, gas companies, the AIDS epidemic, or we remember Stetasonic doing sanctioning songs in the time of Apartheid. I stopped being a Jamie Foxx fan when I saw his recent HBO stand up show where he relayed his recent trip to Cape Town in the most insulting bullshit 10 minutes I've ever heard.

I can't understand how seemingly intelligent black people with the opportunity to educate the masses about the amazing beauty (and tribulations) of this country in particular, will do more damage than all those hours of "Global History" classes in perpetuating the white taught view of Africa as the spear chucking, foul smelling, technology lacking savage land that it is the exact opposite of. As a friend pointed out to me, even rap groups , i.e. De La Soul, who made a comment on their last album, Bionix somewhat to the effect of "African people smelling", buy into and spread the same view. However it may have been made as a clever of witty side remark with no offense intended, how is that not taken as offensive?

Now, I am definitely not one for censorship in music, hell no, I would have never been able to put out an album if that was the case...but I think even witty clever people know when certain things are just not to be played with. A friend who had help promote a show in Johannesburg 2 years ago emailed me distraught, saying she was really sad that they would say something like this and they lost a great deal of fans in the process. Apparently they don't understand the fact that since mostly white young teenagers are in attendance at their concerts now, they are viewed as intelligent black men to black fans all over the world and a comment like that is a blow to their most loyal listeners.

My friends, I implore you to understand. Africa is not just the place of original beauty and creation. It is the place of the future. Companies are realizing it now. Heavy campaigning, sponsoring and investing from big budget companies such as Levis, Red Bull, Diesel, and even companies such as ADT Home security are diving into this previously untapped yet so obvious market of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, all major cities South Africa. Interesting to wonder who this really helps though. It's not as if any kids from the townships are going to be given jobs at Levi's and be coming home with a check any time soon. Yes, there are seriously fucked ways in the government and economic system of South Africa. What makes it even more unbelievable is the fact that this is the place where your diamonds, gold and platinum and wine come from. Such a rich country, with such an oppressed and battered mentality that is going to take years of "unlearning" (thanks Shaheen) and some serious education and healing until its people realize and are able to utilize all of its resources to their full potential. Black Americans are still talking about reparations and the effect of slavery on our society, culture and behavior. Just imagine what it is to just have come out of that in the last decade. It is mindblowing in this day and age with so many liberties that we take for granted.

Now referred to as "The Mother City", Cape Town is quickly becoming an investors and tourists dream. The World Cup travelers flood the streets, along with the masses other foreign backpackers and tourists that mingle with the Cape Townians, sounds and incredible scenery. The backdrop of Table Mountain that you can see from everywhere, the clouds nicknamed the "tablecloth" that seem to drip down the massive rock, the surrounding beachfront neighborhoods of places like Fishoek, Kalk Bay, Muizenberg, SeaPoint and the ultra ritzy, ultra WHITE Camps Bay, to name a few. The incredibly diverse spectrum of color in the population of various African nations, Indian, Chinese, Cape Coloured, Malay, White and gosh... much more. The food reflecting every bit as colorful as the people (and might I add the best damned tasting food in the world, I had to switch to being almost vegetarian while here so I wouldn't get huge) the music, from Hip Hop to Jazz, to Kwaito(you need to hear some of this..its crazy hot) to the rhythms of the minstrels in the Carnival on New Years, can't escape drifting into your ears somehow. I wish American artists knew how much they were loved and danced to.

I wish they knew how much these kids, incredibly talented in their own right, would love to have them perform here. But nobody comes. Well sure, maybe an AIDS benefit concert can bring Alicia Keys. Great. What about the kids who can't afford that kind of ticket? What about the incredible amount of hip hop heads like their hip hop Def Juxed instead of Ja Ruled?? What about the hip hop dedicated kids who live in Lavender Hill, Khyalitsha, or Mitchells Plain (America doesn't KNOW what the ghetto is) who have no transportation to get out to these events? The ill workshops that young people have set up to learn how to write to be better emcees and dj's and become more aware of the quickly corrupted politics of the South African government and the ever changing socio-political climate are far more advanced than the American view of hip hop as a way to teach and learn. It's wonderful to hear things that haven't been Americanized and hold the story of the people and their own tradition and culture - - but more on that next time.

To put it bluntly, its fucked up. Oh yes, South Africa - land of the AIDS epidemic - and that’s it, right?. It makes me sick that these random big artists will come out here for something like that and experience nothing of the real South Africa. There' s so much talent here, from Kwaito acts like Mzambiye, to rap groups like Godessa and we aren't seeing the opportunity to give them an opportunity to reach a wider audience. I wish I had money. Any money. I would do so much here. I would try and change the revenue so that they didn't get release three months after we do. So people would know and understand the importance of coming out here. The fact that the young kids are so intelligent about using computer programs that its almost scary, is a preview of what the next generation is going to be like.

I know I'm ranting on, but it can't be helped. I'm trying to cram all of this into your reading but I can't. I'm feeling bad because I've left so much out. So do me a favor. When you have some spare time online, go to a search engine and type in Cape Town, or JoBurg, or damnit, any city or country in Africa.. If you don't know any, go find a map online. Read about languages like Afrikaans and Xhosa, and imagine seeing commercials on television that have beautiful dark skinned black women in them selling products we use all the time in America but are never used to advertise...

Please. It's important, it’s happening right now and you've already missed a ton. I wish I could say more right now, but I'll be back.

By the way. Your brothers and sisters said they miss you. Come home and visit.

This winter vacation I went home to South Africa to visit my family. I was born there, but my parents went into exile when I was little. There were lots of Mercedes Benz', dollar vans and braii's(bbq's). My cousin is a really talented young producer who gave me some new software to take home. We didn't bring a lot of clothes cause it's summertime and we wanted to get tan .Especially at the pool in our apartment complex. My mom wasn't used to walking around without living in constant threat of terrorist attacks, but she got used to it. I liked the clubs and all the pretty scenic drives we went on. They were fun! A lot of times my family made fun of me for not speaking 2 languages because I am a New Yorker.

I had fun, but I am sad to be home now because I miss my cell phone and internet cafe and full refrigerator.