This is my Nkgonne (brother) Sabata-mpho Mokae...he was my host for my 1st trip to Africa as a part of the Northern Cape writers festival in Kimberley South Afrika, in 2015.
We met in Harlem, New York a few months before I flew over...he was here in Iowa for a Writers conference and quick tour of some of the "famous" american cities. I met him at Penn Station and took the subway uptown to Harlem. We hit it off immediately, sharing our life's journey to date over lunch and then a tour of Black Harlem. We went to Langston Hughes House, past where James Baldwin lived, to the Audubon Ballroom, and the corner of 125 and Lenox where Baba Malcolm preached, past the Lenox Lounge, through Marcus Garvey Park and to the Apollo Theater, where we took this pic.
I remember when he reached up to grab my hand after I hugged him, I cringed inside; and only stopped yanking my hand away when the lil voice said, “maybe you're the one with the problem?” I left my hand in his, took a few pics and continue on our tour.
I landed in Joburg in early February 2015 with my manager Jowhari Trahan met sistren Gontse Waa Chaane for a quick tour and then another 2 hour flight to Kimberley.
Sabata and a group of fellow poets and writers met us at the airport and after welcoming embraces, we headed into town. They dropped us at the hotel to clean up and rest for a bit before the welcome ceremony later that evening.
The place was filled to the rim with people from all over South Afrika who had come to see some of their greatest Literary giants and the invited international guests. Sabata appeared out of the crowd with his always smile and swept us away to meet everyone. He took my hand as we walked and lead me into the crowd. Before I could react, the lil voice reminded me again, "maybe you're the one with a problem?" I looked up and realized all the men held hands as they walked, talked and greeted each other. I readjusted my hand and mindset inside Sabata's and went on to hold hands with elders and fellow poets throughout the evening. I read my poem "41 Times" to a wonderful standing ovation and a surprising invitation to close out the 1st poetry session the following evening.
I arrived at the Mayibuye Center super nervous after hearing the internationally celebrated group of poetry elders I would be following on stage. My set was kool, the room of 400 plus people gave me some good vibrations, but as I was leaving the stage the host insisted, "brodah...Sabata tells us you have written your first poem in Afrika, we must hear it." The roar of claps quenched my attempts at convincing him it was only a few words I had jotted down that might become a poem.
I knew what the poem was about, or at least where it was headed. It began as I sat that first night listening to the Afrikan Poets read their work, there are well over 10 different tongues including the flat rhythmless afrikaans and english of the colonizers. Each had a music that was so familiar and strange all at once, like that song on the tip of ur tongue you cannot recall. I felt like I could almost overstand them, but each time the words fell just short of my ears. It was a torturing swirl of anger and joy and angst and longing and belonging whipping me back and forth, like a coconut tree in the hurricane's breath. I looked up from the page with tear flooding my eyes to see the entire room in tears, every-fucking-one was crying. It brought a long wailing cry from the center of my chest that wobbled my legs and made my head feel like it would pop.
From the circle of elders Baba Ntuli and Baba Materra came up to me and embraced me with hugs, kisses and whispers into my ears, 'welcome home son...we have never forgotten you son...we love you son." Baba Materra, wiped the sweat and tears from my face and unto his; twice. I collapsed and had to be leaded from the stage.
Driving back to the hotel Sabata revealed the meaning of the Mayibuye Center, Mayibuye is a word used during the struggle against Apartheid...it means bring Afrika back! That night I lay in bed giving thanks through tears, I was the first in my bloodline in over 400 years to step on African dirt and the feeling was magical. But more importantly, I had been given a new prospective on manhood, on my manhood. I was the one with the problem! Holding hands with my western, white man, poisoned mind meant weakness, momma's boy, soft, punk, pussy...faggot!
Nothing in the warm hands and embraces of love I felt from Sabata, those elders and so many other men said diminished manhood. I have never felt more complete as a Black Man; shit, as a Man in my 50 years. Black Men, Brodahs we been duped, bamboozled, conned...that macho, duel at dawn, men don’t cry fuckery, is not ours. Vomit that shit up...and remember your Roots. I LOVE YOU!!! ~IYABA~ https://www.iyabarts.com/blog