Published: Aug 13, 2012 06:05 PM
Modified: Aug 14, 2012 05:28 PM
I woke up this morning disoriented. I hazily sifted through the items on my nightstand, looking for my watch. It was 10:06 a.m. I’d slept in.
Usually, by this hour, I have already eaten breakfast, exercised and started my day. Strange. I noticed that, despite the hour, it was pitch black outside. Furthermore, my bed was missing its mosquito net. I was either in a new time-zone, or hallucinating from my malaria medication. A small voice whisked me back to reality.
It was my 3-year old Justice. He was curled up in bed next to me. My restless fidgeting had awakened him. I smiled. I was back home, in Durham.
This past month has been the longest I’ve spent away from home since Justice was born. I was performing, lecturing and working in communities in three countries that I had never been to before: Brazil, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. During my travels, I spent time in several amazing cities, and took note of some of the elements that made them special. Here is a list of cool things from each city that I think would be awesome to see in Durham. 1. Nairobi, Kenya: Support local music through public transportation.
The bulk of Kenya’s public transportation system is made up of minibuses called matatu. Often packed well beyond capacity, matatu are sources for fresh local music. In fact, I heard a more diverse selection of Kenyan music on the matatu, than I did in the clubs and music venues of Nairobi.
I think Durham’s DATA bus and Bull City Connecter would get more traffic if we adopted this model. Could you imagine getting picked up from a Durham bus stop, and hearing the best of our local musicians serenading the passengers? In Nairobi, different matatu featured different styles of music. We could do the same, with various routes featuring genres from jazz to indie rock. Passengers could purchase mixes at the bus station, where DATA would split revenue with the artists. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a good idea. 2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Create an open, outdoor, public music space.
My favorite night in Rio was spent in Salvador Square – a public space downtown that attracts an eclectic group of local and international musicians and community members. There were vendors selling beer out of coolers, and a well-lit stage open for the taking. There, I led an hour-long impromptu cypher alongside drummer Apple Juice Kid.
Durham needs this. Wouldn’t it be cool if the skate park, or CCB plaza became a magnet for musicians to hang, drink and jam? No permit required, no curfew or sound restrictions – just a drum circle, vocalist, beat boxer and audience. I think that would transform downtown, adding a musical spark to our growing artsy scene. 3. Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo: Host a youth-led festival.
In Goma, I was working with an incredible community organization called Yole!Africa at their seventh annual Salaam Kivu International Film Festival (SKIFF). I participated in 10 days of film screenings, dance competitions, workshops, and performances featuring, and lead by, Goma youth.
We’re no strangers to awesome festivals in Durham with Bimbe, Full Frame, American Dance, Centerfest, Eno and others. However, none of these festivals solicit creative contributions from Durham youth, on a large scale. At SKIFF I was blown away by the power of youth-driven innovation. It was just as transformative for the youth as it was for the city of Goma. 4. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Airport yoga
Travel is exhausting. At one point, on the way from Brazil to Kenya, I experienced a grueling 72-hour period, where I boarded three red-eye flights in a row. Being cramped in tiny-seats for hours can be detrimental to your health. On the way home from Congo, during a long layover in Ethiopia my colleague Apple Juice Kid did something amazing. He started with a standing tree, shifted into a downward dog, then elevated into a full head-stand for five breaths. He did this in the middle of the terminal, surrounded by gawking travelers just before we boarded the plane home.
RDU International is a gorgeous airport, full of conveniences like admiral’s clubs, prayer rooms, and the like. But I don’t think they have a yoga room – yet. What better way to alleviate the stress of travel, than elevating your ch’i?
Durham is definitely a cool city but there’s always room to get cooler. I hope City Hall has a suggestion box.