JUNE 2 :: TOUR SOWETO/VISIT LESEDI CULTURAL VILLAGE
The SMU men's basketball tour contined in South Africa with trip to Soweto and the Lesedi Cultural Village on Monday. Soweto is the hometown of Nobel Prize Winners Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The area has many monuments commemorating the struggle against Apartheid and still has the long-time homes of Mandela and Tutu. The group visited to Lesedi Cultural Village for dinner included an experience of the tribal lifestyles, traditional dancing, and music. The squad started the day with class presentations in the dining area at the hotel.
While touring Soweto, the team visited the Freedom Charter, which is similar to the Bill of Rights in the United States; the Hector Pieterson Memorial, which is in memory of one of the first students to die in the uprising against Apartheid; and the homes of Mandela and Tutu, which grew up in the same neighborhood. Below are some links to information about the Soweto area and the memorials.
On Tuesday, the Mustangs will go on a safari at Pilanesberg National Park near Sun City.
Journal Entry - June 2
"Mall and Ball"
When friends and colleagues heard that I would be teaching an inter-term class (Anthropology 3314, Peoples of Africa) for the students on the men's basketball team, the responses generally fell into one of two categories. People who know how much I like to travel said I'd have a great time. The other reaction went something like this: "You're going to do an intensive class for athletes and half of it will be in Africa?? You're nuts. It can't be done."
Wrong. It is working and I am having a wonderful time. In the eight days of class at SMU prior to our departure, my students logged 25 hours of class time, took two quizzes, did oral presentations and a midterm exam. I pushed them, and I pushed myself because I knew the more they absorbed prior to leaving, the richer the experience once we got there. Our Senegalese players revealed much about their culture during class, and discussions were lively. Although it was a grueling schedule of class and practice for the team, by the time we got on the bus to leave everyone had a grip on the geography of Africa and knew something about the political, economic, and social forces that have shaped the history of the continent. I admit I was surprised at how much they had accomplished, but I am learning that students who are used to being coached can be very easy to teach.
Now that we are here, the learning and cultural exchange continues. A dense textbook chapter on colonial French West African history came to life during an impromptu lecture by one of our hosts as we ate lunch next to the Senegal River in St. Louis. Going with Papa, Bamba, and Mouhammad to meet their families conveyed more about family values in Senegal than any lecture I could have prepared. And there is no substitute for sharing a family meal when it comes to travel experience. Here in South Africa, all our players are in a strange land, and new lessons unfold with each day here. As we ride in the bus from our hotel to practice and other destinations, the contrast between the comfortable neighborhoods of Johannesburg and the poverty of the "informal housing" on the outskirts of the city is profound. The visible economic disparities provide a perfect opening for learning about South Africa's complicated history. And through it all, the sound of several languages being spoken at one time is eye-opening for those who grew up on the debate about bilingualism in the U.S.
I made my first trip to Africa before any of our players were born. It sometimes took a month to get a letter in Benin in 1983. Here in Johannesburg, I can check my email in the hotel lobby. I was amazed at the proliferation of cell phones in Dakar since my last visit about ten years ago. Basketball is also a relatively new interest for some African nations, fed in part perhaps by the communications revolution. It is uplifting to see people from many different social circumstances finding a common interest in a game they love. Fortunately, I've been able to get some much needed remedial education in basketball 101 from some highly qualified sources.
While watching the coaches and players do a clinic with kids in Johannesburg recently, I reflected that such an event could not have taken place twenty years ago under apartheid. Vicki Hill and I listen to news and read every newspaper we can find, and it's clear that the social re-engineering South Africa has undertaken since 1994 is not an easy process. Yet it is happening, and it gives me hope for the future.
So, much is changing, as it always has in Africa. Yet some things are familiar--the hospitality, the wonderful food, the energy of the people, and the joy of learning. I'm pleased to see my students taking advantage of the opportunity to learn more about this wonderful place. I'm also reminded of what a difference motivation, leadership, and self-discipline make in academic success.
I'll probably start using the term "student-athlete" more when I get back.
Blog Entry - June 2
"Soweto and Lesedi"
Soweto stands for South West Township of Johannesburg. It is basically the ghetto where all the black people were pushed years ago. It is sad to see some of the living conditions of the people here - tin homes placed right next to each other and outhouses..... Soweto has the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize Winners lived - Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived on the same block! That is amazing. What those two men did for the black people of South Africa, and black people all over, is truly magnificent.
We toured a museum that housed the story of the civil rights fight in 1976. It reminded me a lot of the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis with tremendous black and white pictures that tell dynamic stories of the struggles of the black people. The most telling picture was of Hector Pieterson, a 13 year old boy who was shot dead, being carried by another boy with Hector's sister running by his side. You could see the anguish on their faces as Hector laid limp in the boy's arms as blood was running out of his mouth. Hector symbolized the fight of the young children against white supremacy. The march by the young students was started because they were being forced to learn Afrikaans, a new language that was developed by the Europeans that moved into South Africa. Since SA had many different Europeans living there they developed this new language called Afrikaans and they wanted to force the black people to learn it and utilize it. This is when the young people decided to organize a demonstration and march. It was meant to be peaceful. You can see pictures of the march with kids smiling and laughing. When the young people approached the area where the police were located the police started throwing rocks and ended up opening fire on the youths. That is when Hector was shot and killed. Powerful stuff, just like in Memphis.
After the museum we had a terrific lunch with a lot of laughs. The food has been terrific here and the service pleasant. Since everyone speaks English it is easy to communicate with the waiters and waitresses.
We took and hour bus ride to some beautiful hills that reminded me of Colorado. This is where the Lesedi Village is located. We got to see the history of several different tribes and their villages. We saw their huts and dress, their weapons, the way they prepared food and many of their traditions, including how they danced. Our players and my family got on the dance floor and danced, too. I owe my son $20 because I had to bride him to get out there. One of the main lessons our team picked up from Lesedi was the man with the most cattle had the most wives!!! Cattle represented wealth and that attracted the women!
We then enjoyed a traditional meal including crocodile and ostrich! I passed on the croc and ate some ostrich!
I am back at the hotel and getting ready for another action packed day tomorrow. We head out for a Safari in the morning then we practice in the late afternoon. Plus, tomorrow is Kelly's birthday.