Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Surrender Adventure of a Life Time-SOUTH AFRICA pt 4 "The Practice"

This entire trip was sprinkled with the most synchronicity of experiences. For example, before I left I had a performance at the Blue Room in Kansas City. Greg Carroll CEO of the American Jazz Museum told be to get in touch with a contact he had at a company called "ESP AFRIKA". The contact was Rashid Lombard. I emailed this man before I left but had received no response back. When I asked Mzwai of Novalis if he knew him, Mzwai said "I went to school with Rashid". He set up a meeting with the company and I left my CD's for consideration to be a performer at the next Cape Town Jazz Festival March 30th 2012. 

Another experience of synchronicity is a book I was given by my dear friend Amy Brown. The name of the book is called "The Presence Process" by author Michael Brown who is from, where else, South Africa. The book anchors itself on deep breathing and integrating (as way of healing) emotional pain. Jane and I had many moments of having to breath deeply as we witnessed the most incredible love and passion amid poverty that is still not even the worst on the continent. In fact immigrants from other parts of the African continent come to Cape Town to end up living in what we would consider deplorable conditions. Some how no matter what, when you look in the eyes of some of the people living in conditions of racism and poverty you could always find a light.

Riversonderend (RSE)
Two hours Northeast of Cape Town is a town with a population of 5,500 people called Riviersonderend or RSE for short. There is a literally a wall that divides the town's black and white residents. The wall is painted with social graffiti with words of inspiration, encouragement and a message to get tested for HIV/AIDS. In the town is a woman named Liti (Lee-dee). Her son John has created a foundation that serves the people of this part of town to support Youth development, Social Entrepreneurship and Environmental Sustainability.  John lives in Cape Town, but when he comes into RSE, the youth he has worked with gather around Liti's home. He is a sign of hope. 

In the black side of town many adults have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and there is a high degree of alcoholism. A significant number of children have developmental challenges due to mothers who drink while pregnant. The white side of town are comprised mainly of retired white South Africans. They own the businesses in the town and would like to find a way to "integrate" but they don't want to be exposed to the crime and illness that has become associated with the black or coloured South Africans. There is a distinction between being a Black or Coloured South African. You are coloured if you are not white, BUT you cannot be affiliated with a tribe.

There are some whites in the town that recognize that the illness and drugs in the black community is not a "black" thing. Part of the grant that enabled this trip through The Light Center, aided in endeavors to bridge the Black and White divide. Some of the Black grandmothers (aka "gogo's)  in the town have begun sewing and knitting projects to sell. They are excellent quality. While we were there  a White business woman in the town who is also master quilter agreed to teach the Gogo's how to quilt and will help them sell them in her shop. 

My most memorable moment while hanging out in RSE,was when I was walking through the town, If you walk slowly it takes 25 minutes to get from one end of town to the other. I spoke aloud, "God I don't know what is mine to do here but I am willing to do your will. So I just began singing aloud walking down the street. I came across a young girl named Monique. She had me sing Spirit Is Alive over and over, each time we ran into a new group of children. I sang it 3 times on the street in the same manner as if I were on a stage. I also took the time to get to know their goals and dreams. One high school freshman told me he wanted to be a lawyer but his teacher told him that he was hopeless. I told him to tell his teacher that "Bukeka from America said that you are not hopeless and that you can be a lawyer". 

On Friday the clinic dispenses free medication to AIDS patients and I sang I'll Light a Candle in Your Name to those waiting in lobby while several of them were brought to tears. 


Blikkiesdorp (pronounced Blick-ees-dorp)
Bernadette is a woman about 5 foot with the power and a voice for justice that equals that of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is the voice of Blikkiesdorp a settlement that was created to take the homeless and squatters off the street prior to the 2010 World Cup Soccer Championship that was held in Cape Town. The people living in Blikkies were forcibly removed and given tin shacks to live in. Sound familiar (Aparthied-this time separation by class.) The Novalis Institute was asked by the Mayor of Cape town to help with this eye soar of Cape Town. 

During our visit to Blikkies, there was talk of a possible outbreak of Meningitis. Bernadette uses her cell phone to negotiate with government officials to draw attention to this crisis. She shares with us that the nearby hospital wants nothing to do with people from Blikkies. She takes her daughter to the hospital frequently to help her with respiratory problems developed from the metal in which her house is made of. One day Bern (her nickname) stated that she sat in the emergency waiting room and 5 people died right in front of her. 

The sentiment is that the government does little to help with sick and elderly in hopes that the now 21,000 residents of Blikkies will simply die off. Children play on swing sets with no swings that are built on top of a hard rock surfaced ground. Electricity runs through the units but there is no running water inside the "units". One outdoor toilette is made available for very 4 dwellings. 

Blikkie means "tin". Bern and her husband Ashey were given a computer and uses social media to bring light to the blight is Blikkiesdorp and uses that media as a weapon pointed at the government to shame them into creating change. On some levels that seems to be working. She will stress over and over that they are not interested in relying on the government, but the government should be aware that they are not willing to be put away and left to die.


On the very day I left Cape Town, I spent a short time working with Robin Goff and care givers of individuals working with orphan children. During my portion of the presentation I introduced the group to EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or tapping, which flowed well from Robin's work of healing touch. They tapped to my song "I Am Worthy of Love". 

They affirmed "I love myself unconditionally" and "It's OK for me to receive." Bea Juris who works at Novalis and overseas programs for OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) closed the day by reminding them that they are worthy and presented many of the workers with certificates of appreciation for the incredible work they do with children and youth.

In Closing....

My trip to South was the most amazing experience of my life. I have been noticeably transformed at depth. As I continued to practice being in the present moment and deep breathing through it all it aided me in dealing with the dichotomy of circumstances that make up South Africa. With all their challenges South Africa leads the world in environmental sustainability efforts.

I returned on Thanksgiving day. When I turned on the television Friday morning it was Black Friday and the news depicted shoppers rushing into Target and talk of "pepper spray". Immediately I shut the television off trying not to go into a place a judgement, which was not difficult to do. 

Part of my shift in perception is that there are many many worldviews from where ever we happen to be on the planet. Somewhere in between insane greed and abject poverty lies a sea of humanity willing to give, produce, work, and celebrate the gift of being alive on a planet that is rich in substance, beauty and wonder. 

With that, happy holidays, take NOTHING for granted and spend more time just being. Take time to practice deep breathing and simply take time to simply BE.

Love and Laughter

Videos and Images from RSE

A FUNNY moment of driving towards RSE and being faced by a herd of cattle "Oh my goodness". 

Singing with kids at Liti's house The Universe is Calling and Guiermo singing Spirit is Alive while listening to the recording.

The Gogo's Sew

Garden along roadside

Solar energy panels on government housing

Social graffiti on the wall dividing RSE

Videos and Images from Blikkies

Asheleen who is in and out of hospital for respiratory problems

This YouTube clip is a South African group of classical singers visiting Blikkies to inspire and uplift. Many people who find out about Blikkiesdorp come to see for themselves and are moved to offer help and inspiration to the people that live there. 

Final performing arts presentations on 11/20/11in Cape Town

Presentation by Solami and Mbuthi of a mother whose son has been shot and confined to a wheel chair. The son starts to drink and wants to die. The mother tries to inspire him and tells him to listen to a song by Bukeka and he begins to walk again. (Song: I'll Light a Candle in Your Name) WOW! How honoring was that? Totally. They wanted it to be a surprise.
Nomkhita and Aht performances

Above: Fezeka Choir Singing South African National Anthem, Below: Last day with caregivers at Novalis


Young lady attending Jane's workshop that is demonstrating her vocal skills. Her favorite artist is country star Carrie Underwood.

Group Pic at Jane's Youth workshop

Bea Juris and Jane Simmons touring through Blikkes

From left to right Billy Domingo, me, and Mzawi at espAFRIKA next to Cape Town Jazz Festival Poster

Fron left to right Sive Msolo, Me, Mzwandile and Mandisi at Bush Community Radio 89.5

Penguin Bay...Yes there are penguins in South Africa

 Cape Point...where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet

Novalis Founder, Ralph Shepherd, Novalis Director Anna-Lise Bure, Unity of the Hills in Austin, Tx, the lovely Maura Fallon and the woman who made it all happen, Executive Director of The Light Center Robin Goff, ( 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Surrender Adventure of a Life Time-SOUTH AFRICA pt 3 "The Choir"

Each day we seemed to end with the words "this was an amazing day". Before leaving for South Africa I was told that the Fezeka High School Choir wanted to learn the song that Rick Bacus and I wrote called "I'll Light a Candle in Your Name". When I played a YouTube link of them singing, I was amazed by their talent and their story.

Fezeka is located in a township of Cape Town called "Guguletu". When you think of the word "township", we're not talking country club. In South Africa a township refers to underdeveloped urban areas that were created during Apartheid in which blacks and non-whites were forcibly evicted from their homes to live in shelters often made out of metal. Guguletu is one of those townships.

In the YouTube link, I noticed that the school looked more like a prison than a school. The director of the choir mentioned in the video that arts and natural sciences was not part of the standard school curriculum. I was told that this is still the case in 2011 as these subjects are not directly related to what a person needs in order to have a regular job.

Mzandile (Mzawi for short) from Novalis was our escort to the high school and explained to us that the children were taking their year-end school exams (our winter is their summer). When we pulled up to the school it was just as I remembered from the video, an open yard surrounded by 3 brick buildings lined with classrooms. Some broken glass and a few kids kicking ball before the next class started. Everyone had on uniforms just as they did in the video.

Commonly before sharing our names we were introduced as "our guest from America". Robin Jane and I were escorted around to different classrooms and introduced to students. Finally we made it to the classroom where we would meet the choir. There we met a few students that work with Mzawi in youth theatrical programs, Aht, Mbuhti and Nomkhita. Then slowly but surely the choir members began to walk in. It appeared the director had been spending some time rounding them up (end of the school can imagine). Soon everyone was present and the Mr. Tsewu gave a few words of introduction and then we began working on the song.

These kids learned so quickly. I would show them one time and they would have it down. I assigned a solo part to a young lady named Nolufefe. She was very shy but very confident as well. There was one note she was unsure of and another member of the choir offered to sing it with her. It was easy to tell that she was slightly disheartened.

It was Wednesday (Day 2) and many times Mr. Tsewu and Mzwai would discuss things in Xhosa with a mixture of English. We (the Americans) were lost. What was being discussed is the fact that we would be performing at Fezeka School's end of the year school party, which was on Friday. Thank God for fast learners. The rehearsal went so well, they wanted to learn another song so I taught them the title track to my current CD "Spirit is Alive". All I had to say to them was "do a three part harmony on the chorus" and they had it down easily. It was incredible.

After the rehearsal Mzwai gave us a tour of the Guguletu township. One of the sites is a monument dedicated to a group of seven young men that were murdered on March 3rd 1986 by apartheid security forces. They were each shot in the head along with multiple gunshot wounds. Another monument is for a girl named Amy Biehl. She was a student who had a huge heart for women in South Africa. On a Fulbright Fellowship she left for South Africa to attend University of Western Cape. She worked with leaders in organizations such as the African National Congress and other groups wanting a democratic and free South Africa.

So passionate about her work she didn't concern herself much with the color of her skin. One night she was murdered during a political mob rally by four men who were later convicted of the crime. A memorial in her honor stands in the Guguletu township where the killing took place and a foundation was established in her name. Surrounding these monuments were homes that in many cases were smaller than my modest living room and kitchen. I have several friends whose living rooms would equal 3 houses in Guguletu.

During rehearsal Robin Goff pointed out the lyric "I'll say a prayer that you are blessed beyond appearances" emphasizing the point that no matter what the outer conditions appear to be that a prayer would be made focusing the blessing. As we continued to ride through the township I looked at the housing conditions. These are the homes of the very talented students that I would be singing with. They truly are a blessing despite the conditions they live in which we see as impoverished or even hopeless.

The day of the performance arrived. Outside the community center was a dance and drumming group called Marimba who would later perform for the school party. I was interviewed by a local newspaper, the students gave a preview of their work to parents in an exhibit hall and then the concert and performing artists section was up. Spirit is Alive was the opening number and I'll Light a Candle in Your Name would be the finale'. Nolufefe came up to me and said "Bukeka I want to sing it by myself, but please don't tell my teacher". I told her I would tell him, but she begged be not to.

On Spirit Is Alive, the crowd went nuts. I was feeling like I had serious rock star status in front of a crowd of about 200 people. The other acts were comprised of students from Fezeka and they were so talented. There was modern dance, a short play about a family from Zimbabwe moving to Cape Town "where there are jobs man", and an African dance and drumming troop.

When we came to the finale' I asked "Fefe" if she was ready and she said "READY". We performed the song and got a standing ovation. We were only on Day 4 of our trip and we (the Americans) ended it by saying "this was an amazing day".

The video that introduced me to the Fezeka High School Choir

Choir Rehearsing I'll Light a Candle In Your Name
Monument of the Guguletu Seven

The Amy Biehl Monument (The Amy Biehl Foundation)

Some of the housing in Guguletu

Spirit is Alive with Fezeka Choir

The Marimba Dance Troop

I'll Light a Candle in Your Name (feat. Nolufee Mazokwana-send her some love on facebook and tell her to stay in school)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Surrender Adventure of a life time SOUTH AFRICA pt.2 The Annointing

After recovering from having difficulty breathing, the next day was like a breath of fresh air in every way. Now that I could inhale the air without a challenge, the flowers, the trees, and the occasional rain seemed even more beautiful than the day before.

The Novalis Center was expecting us for a morning meeting with a minister who was interested in meeting us and learning more about the center itself. Bishop Themba KaZulu was there with his deacons ready with questions and comments about his vision. It didn't take long to tell that this man was very direct, very clear, and expected for the rest of us to reflect that back to him. When someone in the meeting would use a particular word, he could very well want clarification as to what that word meant to person using it. It was a demonstration of seeking clarity that I truly appreciated.

As we sat around the table each person introduced themselves. When it became my turn I stated my name explaining that was I still learning how to pronounce it. The Bishop interupted my explaination of my presence there with the question "Excuse me, but how did you get that name?" I told him about my parents being involved in the civil rights movement and that many African Americans in the 60's were changing their names from what they called "slave" names to African names. I told him and his party that I had also met several people from Africa and that at 6 I wanted an African name and I chose Bukeka.

He along with his deacons were smiling and stunned as well. This was a pivital moment for me because I had come to expect that type of response from people here at home and I wondered what would be the response here. The Bishop asked me if I knew the meaning of my name and I told him what I understood; that it meant beautiful and was connected with being a princess.

He said to me that I did not know the true meaning of my name but by the time I left South Africa  I would. He went on to say that this name is very special and in my innocense to have chosen such a name at such a young age it could have only been an annointing from God. The deacons continued to smile and one shared how he thought this was amazing and incredible and now my life had come full circle. That's when the first streams of tears began to flow.

I tend to pronounce my name with a long A sound in the middle (Bu-Kay-Kah). It's really a short A that is rather enlongated when spoken (Bu-Keh...Kah). It means "indescribable beauty, adorned, so beautiful its hard to take your eyes away"

From that point he began to tell us what additions we would be making to our current agenda. He said to me "You will sing at my church on Sunday". He then told Rev. Jane Simmons, that she would speak. That is the moment when Jane was stunned, and we all had a laugh of support for her. She said she would do 15 minutes and then the Bishop told Robin Goff she would speak for the other 15 minutes. We were all very happy to be part of his vision.

The Bishop said that his service begins right at 10am and last for exactly 2 hours letting out by noon. Now if you've ever been to a traditional Black Christian church you're saying to yourself "yeah right". This is a Black Penecostal type church service (in AFRICA). As expected we were out by 1pm and the time flew by as the minister preached, and the choir sang many, many times over again. It was wonderful.

During the service the minister was laying hands on people. It was not like laying on of hands to heal an affliction but more of an annointing. I heard a voice in my head that said "go". So I went and stood there with several others waiting their turn. Sometimes he placed his hands on their forehead, or the back of their head. When he came to me after putting oil in his hands he grabbabed my hands and held them tightly as he preached his words. When I returned to my seat I knew on some level I understood every word he was saying.

After church we went to the ministers house and had dinner. When I was a child my mother loved to play a song by South African artist Miriam Makeba called Pata Pata which I loved. I wanted to sing this song, but I was nervous about saying the words correctly so I asked for help. The dinner turned into a party.

When we retured to our rooms for a nap, I held my hands together and fell asleep them claps together. I felt so at peace with my life and everything in it. I wondered why he grabbed my hands. It is only now in this moment that I asked myself  what do I do with my hands that are so important. The answer is "I write". I write to tell this story that feels as if it is a bridge of some sort that fosters an understandng between and among cultures and beliefs.

The other thing I do with my hands is receive. I receive the love and abundance in all the ways the Universe has to offer.  On the final day of my trip which I will give more detail on later, Robin and  I worked with caregivers at Novalis. I had them open their arms and say "it's ok for me to receive". Which has also been a good lesson for me and a tough message to hear for ourselves as we saw so many with appears to be so little.

Jane and I left for our trip to South Africa prepared to give as much as we could as well as knowing we woud recieve so much more. But I don't think either one of us were prepared for the unconditional outpouring of love and appreciation that we received from everyone we came in contact with.

Here are clips one of Miriam Makeba singing the Pata Pata song and other clips of Bishop Thema KaZulu.

MIRIAM MAKEBA 3/4/1932 to 11/8/2008. In the 1960s she was the first artist from Africa to popularize African music in the U.S. and around the world. People called here "Mama Africa" and she was best known for the song "Pata Pata", first recorded in 1957 and released in the U.S. in 1967. On November 9th 2008, she became ill while taking part in a concert. The concert was being held near Italy. Makeba suffered a heart attack after singing her hit song "Pata Pata"and was pronounced dead at the hospital. She was a singer and human rights activist until her death. 

Bishop Zulu's Church-Antioch Ministry

Bishop Zulu with Deacons and friends

Pata  Pata at Bishop Zulu's house