Making a little bit of News in the USA

The headline was:”

This South African poet is helping a Maryland church protect a historic black cemetery”

What I loved about the feature or the article is that it placed the issues that South Africa is currently grappling with on the map in the context of my poem and the Moses African Cemetery battle. Most importantly, the story captures the essence of my reason for my being here.

Ever since the article, the people who have read my poem have been chanting words from my poem such as: “Our bones are title deeds!” Or “Black Lives Matte, Alive of Dead!”

 

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Take Care

Today, inside my head, I wrote an entire chapter titled: Take Care. I am yet to write it.

It’s a thing black people in America say when they say good-bye to you.

It could be a total stranger after he shows you directions, or it could be a friend ending a phone call.

I always need to hear it.

I always need to hear how they say it.

I can never say it back because I don’t think I can say it the same way.

The most authentic thing I can say back is – thank you.

I say that because I really am thankful to hear it.

I respond with gratitude perhaps because I am still learning what it means to take care here.

To you who is reading this I say, take care.

Stranger in America 

Yesterday a very friendly black man sees me and asks where I’m from after noticing my non-US accent. I tell him I’m South African. 

Immediately, he lights up and says: “Mandela!” I say yes and he lets me know that he’s Nigerian and has been living here for 30years. He, like the other Nigerians I have met so far tells me to stay in America because it’s great. I tell him that I have to go back home because we have work to do in our country and continent. 

He seems surprised, like the other Nigerians have been after I say I’m not here to stay. Then I further add that my people in SA have told me in no uncertain terms that they want me back that I better come back. He, as every Nigerian I have met here has been even more dismayed at such an expectation. 

It’s like it’s unthinkable for an African to want to go home to stay, rather than just to visit once a year. An attitude that has shaken me to the core. 

Have Africans generally given up on Africa? It’s devastating. 
Anyway, then, since we’re talking about South Africa he asks: “what is this black on black violence happening in SA? Why aren’t you turning on white people who did you wrong? What’s going on with this xenophobia?”
Guys, I knew that I was going to have to respond to this. I’m praying that xenophobia doesn’t break out again because really, it’s not going to be fun and games. I’m going to have to say I’m from Malawi or something.
Anyway, I think I gave an impressive enough response because by the time I was done he was opening doors for me like royalty. I know I will face this question again and again. So help me Jesus. 
Today at the shop, as soon as I mentioned that I was South African, the woman just about teared up. In fact she did. Because she’s been to Johannesburg 4 times and going there again in February. O, the people! She didn’t even give me a discount though for all her joy. If she was African she would have but capitalism! Anyway, she literally hugged me by the time we were done. She was white. 
I suppose it’s quite telling. It’s a reflection of the state of our country. It is telling who is enjoying South Africa and who is treated like an unwanted foreigner in South Africa. Two very different responses within two days. 
Of course, we black South Africans too, to a degree as a result of the left overs of apartheid are still like foreigners in our own land. Even Western holiday makers are more at home than our people. They enjoy the good of the land while our people dance for them in the street corners for a penny. And so the woman’s tears of joy and her hug was really difficult for me. 
Yes, she supports some organization that does good, but we also know that for every dollar given, 18 more dollars are drained from the continent.

Dear Africa sends me to USA

This is what I received on 🌈#AfricaDay🎈😇. I received this from a beautiful South African from the north. Her feet have caressed the breadth and width of this giant African continent. She speaks with fire about the beauty of what she has seen and heard with her own eyes and ears. Ears that have heard the cry of African women and eyes that have marvelled at their beauty. She reminds me of my poem “The Day of the African Prophet,” which I wrote before I met her. She is that prophetess. She is the embodiment of that cry but more than the cry, she is the very song of hope that rises from the African earth, yes, the song that rises from the beautiful dust of Africa. 
She’s the song that turns red dust into gold dust. Are we not people of gold? Was it not Miriam who sang the first prophetic song after deliverance from Africa? Was it not a sound of Africa? Did Deborah not sing after delivering her nation? So, here, this African prophet, this John the Baptist of Africa, this maker of a new way for the Lord has made a way and done what John the Baptist did for Jesus. Seeing things and agreeing with God’s doing. This is the first physical dollars I have received. A very African thing to give me physical money, if I may add. 
I have after all, at various times in my sleep been visited by dirt poor African women who have given me physical money. This has been often older African women though who have given me money they have saved up for me to go and fulfill the calling of God on my life. Somehow, they know it is for them. These are things, callings I by no means expect them to grasp. And yet, mysteriously they understand the calling deeper than I do. Who is more insightful and spiritual than an African woman? It is beyond understanding. Whether we like it or not, agree with it or not, the journey across the ocean has been set in motion and baptized. It is done. Kwahlalwa phantsi. Kwavunywa.. Kwagqitywa. Dear Africa. My everything.


I invite you to give me some dollars also. Please be part of the story and bring the dream to life..,

https://www.gofundme.com/9eqec-sikis-education-fund 

What Samuel L. Jackson got out of “Get Out”

Samuel L. Jackson is crying about what South African actors have been crying about since the end of apartheid. We want to be the ones who tell our own stories. 
When I see Idris playing Nelson Mandela, honestly, I am not overjoyed because I prefer Sello ka Ncume to be playing Mandela. I think Sello would have been spectacular. I thought Idris was okay. Sello would not merely act a part but he would be telling his own story as a SAn. 
Jennifer Hudson acted Winnie Mandela and that film was basically sabotaged in SA because we want to act our own heroes and tell our own stories. 
Well, Winnie was also trying to sue them because they did not have the decency to request her permission for the use of her story while she was alive. 

To a degree though I can imagine that for an audience outside of South Africa, if Denzel plays Biko for example in Cry Freedom, the American audience find an access point to our story through the actor that comes from their context. And to some degree they are telling the story from their own perspective, experience and using their own money to tell it. 
It is also their story because they were part of the liberation story protesting to Free Mandela far away from what our eyes could see. Maybe if we knew that we would have been more tolerant.
Yes Samuel L. Jackson is being attacked but he is saying nothing new. South African actors have been saying that for the last two decades. I’m not saying we should not act each other’s parts but there are sacred parts of our stories that need to be told with sensitivity. That sensitivity includes how you pronounce some words. It expressing certain nuances of the culture you are portraying. You do not want to insult the people whose stories you are telling.
I have not seen “Get Out” yet but I absolutely love the confidence of that Brit actor. I feel that the fact that he is not as affected by racism because of where he comes from makes the story more effective. What he hasn’t experienced in this regard adds a character that mocks racism. He makes the story great and I’m saying that just from watching the trailor.

Robben Island with Angie Stone – a spiritual experience 

Photos are all mine. The article was commissioned by SA Tourism. 


Beyond South Africa’s compelling splendour as a popular destination for holidaymakers, there is a deeper and more elusive allure, whose qualities may quite possibly be addictive. Today’s visitor was asked if she would return to South Africa after her short visit. She was emphatic; “Yes. This is home.”

I was worried about the weather. Our tourist was the illustrious American actress and Grammy Award nominated singer, Angie Stone. She was travelling with three of her crew members. It was the morning after the songstress had delighted her fans at this year’s Cape Town Jazz Festival.

Had I learnt sooner about Stone’s lucky streak, which she revealed to us once she was relaxed at Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch; I would have known not to worry about the weather.

“I won R120 000 at the casino last night after my performance at the Jazz Festival!” She was boisterous.

“At Gandwest Casino?” I interrogated, wondering whether lady luck and fame were separable.

“I don’t know what it’s called but it’s a beautiful colourful casino.”

I wondered what kind of casinos she had been gambling in if Grandwest was impressive. She proceeded to share stories of her famous wins around the world. The weather would never have been a problem with her kind of luck.

South African Tourism as supporters of the Cape Town Jazz Festival was Angie Stone’s official hosts to two key Cape Town destinations. Stone was about to follow Madiba’s footsteps on Robben Island and taste some of South Africa’s famous wines at Warwick Wine Estate. I became a part of this once in a life time experience, because of the same forces that later pushed the clouds away and caused the sun to brighten our day.

Our ferry to Robben Island was called Thandi. Thandi means beloved. Stone’s successful debut album Black Diamond was released in 1999. The album was named after her daughter, Diamond. She gazed at the often unstable sea waters through the ferry window. Her fans naturally spotted her shine everywhere she went, even inside of Thandi. For us, this day would be our window into Stone’s world.


We disembarked from Thandi and without any time lost, Stone was found studying Robben Island’s story wall. She stood looking at the life sized images as though meeting the former prisoners – beyond the photographs.

Often, her hands touched the images as though past the printed wall paper, they would feel her touch and communicate with her, spirit to spirit. She looked as if they were as alive as the moment they were first photographed.

“I know these faces. These are faces of my uncles, cousins and grandfathers.” Her voice was raspy from being infected by a virus during her flight to South Africa. She started speaking about the ongoing struggles of police brutality against black young men in America. She fears for her 19year old son’s life. “I’m afraid that one day the police will beat him to death.”  

The tour had not yet begun and Stone’s heart was already captivated by the political prisoners’ stories and faces. I was already arrested by her experience.

“He looks just like Mohamed Ali!” She was smiling and pointing at an image of a younger Nelson Mandela, even their hairstyles were similar.

After two more step she announced: “Look, that’s my name right there!”

At first we did not quite understand what she meant but finally, we saw the magic word; ‘stone.’ She was referring to the limestone quarry where prisoners such as Nelson Mandela were forced to do fruitless labour. This image triggered a painful memory from her musical journey.

“When I read this, it embodies my struggle in the musical industry as a black female artist. I did not fit the (industry) mould. My hair was too kinky, my lips too full, my skin was too dark. I was boxed in. No one knows how difficult it’s been just to stay afloat.”

Stone felt destined to visit Robben Island because her name was written on its walls and echoing her own struggle to musical success. Beyond the stone quarry, Mandela became president and a worldwide inspiration. Beyond Stone’s early challenges, she sold millions of albums in America and worldwide.

I did not anticipate that Stone could be affected any further than she already had been, but Nelson Mandela’s former cell at Maximum Prison became the apogee of Stone’s Robben Island experience.

“It will never ever be okay to be locked away, but I know that it will be alright.” Stone commented. She was broken that Mandela had been confined in such a small space.

She was however quick to add: “I found peace in Mandela’s cell.”

She believed that Mandela found peace with God in that cell and with that peace; he was able to lead a nation out of possible civil war and into peace. Stone was having an epiphany. The influence of an artist lies in their ability to effortlessly translate an idea into an experience. Her words led me to wonder whether she may have explained what the Madiba magic was; or the cause of the national euphoria that existed during the years of Mandela’s presidency. Mandela only seems to make sense when we tap into a higher state of being.

Stone was speaking like an oracle. It was as though she had accidentally uncovered our forgotten secret water source.

Stone retraced Madiba’s footsteps until I recognised them again, just as they were about to fade in the dust of derision.

In the Robben Island special visitors’ book, Stone wrote: “I never thought that in a million years that I would walk this journey, that I would witness such a place as this. Thank you God for allowing me to peddle behind the greatest footsteps known to man.”

 

She was scheduled to travel to Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch on a helicopter ride. Stone smiled and said; “No, I will be travelling on land.”

The rest of her crew however enjoyed the scenic beauty of Cape Town from the sky. It was an exhilarating ride with uninterrupted views of the ocean, mountains, suburbs and vineyard upon vineyard.

It was at this estate that I knew that rest can be festive. Families feasted as they rested on the expansive inviting lawn. Wine lovers cheerfully chatted. Fine wine was plentiful. The atmosphere was like orchestrated tranquillity.

Our Warwick hosts were ready to feed our hungry travellers. We were seated in a sophisticated picnic pod, designed for privacy and relaxation. After the previous night’s performance and an early morning to Robben Island, the crew could not have been more pleased with the current situation. Inside the Gourmet picnic baskets, were cheeses, cold meats, breads, grapes and jams all made from the highest quality ingredients.

Stone was at rest and full of stories. The taste of the picnic jams transported her into joyful memories in her grandmother’s kitchen. Stone had missed the wine lands safari but her crew had returned with grapes as evidence of their ride.


After a day of touring with Angie Stone, I have discovered a long lost daughter of the soil whose appreciation for our people and country was elevating and exceptionally revelatory.


Selah.

Selah.

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Don’t talk.

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Don’t think.

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Don’t try.

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Just breathe.

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Be.

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Stop.

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Cut the noise.

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Take off the weights.

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Listen to Truth in silence.

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Ssssssssssssh

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Listen.

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Feel faith.

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Sssssssssh

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Let Love approach you.

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Wait again.

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Behold.

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Behold the Light.

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Filling you up.

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Flooding you with joy.

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Quieting you with shalom.

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Be lifted by resurrection living hope.

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Be strengthened by the joy of life.

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Selah.

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Shalom.

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Go in peace.

Copyright Siki Dlanga

Happy 53rd Birthday Michelle Obama 

Surely God is a black woman. 🙆🏾Thank you Michelle Obama for your humility, your class, your dignity, your strength, your brilliant mind, your unsurpassed self-control, your perfect smile, your footsteps that are always perfect, your hands that are always in the right place. For the way you put your hands together like an African when you say thank you, for your perfect wisdom, for your careful words, for your dresses, for speaking about how unfriendly and unwelcoming museums are to black people. Seriously, I thought I can’t believe that another black person feels the same way, even more so, a black woman faraway across the ocean! Like… Thank you! For saying “When they go low, we go high.” For always staying up and being impossible to pull down, for being beyond reach and yet like a lady we love and know. For carrying the face of beauty even when the world is ugly. For being the meaning of a black woman everywhere. For being so cool. For raising the most beautiful girls. For modeling the most beautiful first family we have ever seen. For your mom who raised you and gave birth to you today. Lastly for giving Obama that famous killer black woman side-eye at the Nelson Mandela Memorial. Like..seriously Michelle…Thank you! 

 

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