It's about 1:30pm in the township of Alexandra. A huge swath of land dotted by hundred of "informal settlements" (essentially shacks) and beautiful brown faces of every hue. It's an almost entirely black area of Johannesburg. This type of racial segregation along economic lines a holdover from South Africa's history of colonialism and apartheid. Alex is isolated in its poverty but rich in culture, fashion, and resilience and this reminds me of home. The music coming from underneath the tin roof of the neighborhood barber reminds me of summer nights in Northeast, DC or an afternoon in Brooklyn, NY. Kids run freely, playing games and teaching each other the newest dances and I am reminded of the universal joy children share. Running with no shoes around dirt streets, chasing each other between the laundry drying outside, and rapping the latest Nicki Minaj lyrics with abandon. This is the next generation of South Africa. These kids are not defined by poverty or their isolation in the township. These kids are not deterred by the vestiges of racism that still contaminate South African society. They are children- wild, free and resilient- as all kids are.
This is our guide. Her name is Tsegofatso Ingrid Mogale. She is a radiant bundle of giggles, happily tracking down her friends for me to meet. She knows the twists and turns of alleyways like the back of her hand and she confidently strolls behind houses and under laundry letting me take a peek into her world.
When I ask her what she thinks of America she tells me:
"It's a beautiful place. It's got a lot of history. The food looks great."
I can easily say the same of your country, Tsegofatso.
Thank you Tsegofatso. You showed me your home and now I'll show its beauty to the world.
Enjoy the journey!