In the last few weeks, the Black Lives Matter movement became omnipresent once again. The many forms of systematic racism have led to way too many deaths over years and decades, not only in the US, but all over the world. The continuous violent murders of women, children and people of color in my home country, South Africa, leave me with a heavy heart and a deep sense of responsibility to raise my voice. I always felt that I communicate best through my songs. When I sing, I am able to see the world in a clearer light and find the courage to speak up.
I have something to say and I will go back to the oldest and purest form of storytelling to do so. For the next few weeks, I will be sharing „stories around the fireplace“, embedded into my project badams53 - a series of songs that are stripped down to guitar and voice. Join me and hear my message to the world: Don’t be afraid. Now is the time to take a stand. You decide what you will tell your children, when asked about what you did in the struggle of a generation.
I Love His Ghost - A poem
I have a friend,
he still exists somewhere in that war torn vessel.
Sometimes his ghost comes forth from the back of his mind
and I glimpse his smile.
When my friend laughs,
it could feel like there is nothing else happening in the universe,
so free is his joy, that it need not echo off the existence of other things.
My friend has a big heart,
so big that one or more people could rest their heads there at one time.
My friend has a soul and it is a mansion built on intentions so pure,
one could swear it was made of water.
My friend can love.
His love is so that it is like a river that feeds the ocean of love
endlessly without any doubt.
My friend is vulnerable, his mind has been cut
by the blade of shame, its poisonous steel
Scars that outweigh everything else that his heart desires.
My friend is proud.
So proud that he will break his back under the weight of these scars.
My friend is afraid.
So afraid that he cannot bear to make known to me his shame.
My friend is leaving me slowly and I did not notice.
My friend is lonely, he walks a journey forced
upon him by myriad circumstances out of his control.
My friend returns and he is empty,
there is only a ghost of the one I know.
My friend has eyes that reflect my helplessness.
I say goodbye to my friend
He lives between many worlds now.
To honour him, I love the ghost that is there.
I sing his songs and I love his ghost.
What would Bob Dylan say?
What I am about to share with you is not an isolated incident. It is just one of the many encounters with the police I have had in my life.
This happened in July 2019, on my way back from Suttgart, Germany. Together with one of my best friends, I had been to a festival that included Bob Dylan in its line up. After a perfect weekend spent, our trains took off in different directions and I was looking forward to getting home to my family, leaving the city in high spirits.
In Lindau (still Germany), I had to change trains and moved quickly, as I only had a few minutes to catch my connection, when I was stopped by 6 men. They were all dressed in ordinary clothes, just like me, but it didn’t take long for one of them to flash me his badge. Must this now really happen again, I thought to myself, as I watched the crowd around me rush past. Taking a deep breath I calmly asked them what I could do for them. The questions that followed were nothing new to me:
Where was I going?
Where was I born?
Did I have the necessary papers to identify myself?
Was I here legally?
Had I concealed any drugs or weapons?
I answered all of their questions in a calm manner, knowing already that I would miss my train. That I would have to tell my kids I would not make it home in time. The policemen proceeded to search me - EVERY INCH of me. I had to take off my shoes, they looked through the lining of my pants and jacket, put their fingers into my hair, looked inside every crevice in my wallet and went through my personal belongings in my bag, without warrant.
I so badly wanted to say something, but my lips were frozen. Due to a natural fear of the police that is inherent to the color of my skin, I said nothing. I felt naked and ashamed as people passing were looking on, not wanting to see what was happening. They probably saw a criminal in me, with my 'Bullet For My Valentine‘ hat, my 'Wu-Tang‘ hoody and 'Chuck Taylors‘, though there were at least 15 other men dressed similarly. Some of them most probably knew that it was because of nothing other than the color of my skin, that I was standing there.
Eventually they pulled the Bobby D. ticket out of my pants and by doing so, ripped it apart. One of the officers, whose shame I sensed, tried for some small talk, asking me how the concert was. I look him straight in the eye, my lips forming no words, yet communicating so much. While I watched the train I was supposed to be on depart, I couldn’t help but wonder what Bob Dylan would say about this. When they finally let go of me, I walked on, trying to hold my head high, but feeling belittled to the core. Once again I had been reminded how things are for me. How this was just one more amongst countless incidents in which I was picked on and harassed by the police, just because of the color of my skin.
As I sat there waiting for the next connecting train, I realized that the concert ticket, which I had promised to my son, was as torn as my spirit.