10 December 2005

Urban Youth Conference

Baobab Urban Youth Conference 2005 was held this week here in Cape Town and it was an event like no other that I have attended. Firstly I must say that youth and young people are so vague terms in this world where everyone tries to look like a teenager, so I was not quite sure what to expect. Youth was more in its original meaning of teenagers and under twenties in the event, which made me feel very old, but I believe one can learn everywhere if so wants.

Event started with opening speech from the Shamiel X, the organiser and the person to know if you are in Cape Town. Some other speeches were also heard, including one from Lee from Yfm, one of the strong women of African radio broadcasting, video messages from both blastmaster KRS-one and Chuck D of Public Enemy and finally a few strong words from M1 from Dead Prez who was participating in the event and who still mispronounces Uhuru, a Swahili freedom chant that he is so keen on.
Needles to say that I was quietly listening, especially the message from Chuck D. That was a great moment.

After the opening we all went into the panel discussion sessions. There were different rooms such as media, Hip Hop, NGO:s, Government and corporate. Every room had handful of experts, who were answering the questions and sharing their views. Every session was organised twice so that everyone could attend two of them and I started of with media room, which was quite typical media discussion about the ethics of commercial media and how community media can do things more freely. It was interesting because it was in South African context, so although the questions would have been the same that I am used to, many of the answers differed a lot.

Another discussion was about Hip Hop. Young people mainly asking different questions from the panel that was consisted of some of the great names of SA rap such as Ready D from the POC, Emil from the Black Noise and Shame from Godessa and they answered as they could. And they did well. Actually I must say that they made more sense than many other rap people do ever in their lives. Even I felt good about the future of hip hop for a while which in itself is a rare occasion. Both of the sessions that I participated went well and were very informative I thought.

The drama had taken place in a session that I was not in. Apparently in the first Hip Hop panel also M1 from Dead Prez was talking and he started to talk about their ideas of "pimping the system". Emil from Black Noise had, and this is all hearsay but it is heard from the participants, said that it might just be the last thing that SA needs as there is well enough trouble with crime as it is. I must say that I appreciate the strive for Pan-Africanism by Dead Prez and the idea, that they are Africans in America, but I wish that they would not act so much like Americans in Africa.

Emil from Black Noise came across as one of the clearest minds in the conversation. Their music is good as well so I give them my full support - as if that would make much difference.

During the course of the day we also had an excursion to the District 6 museum. District 6 was an area where many of the so called black and coloured people lived still in the early sixties but which then was torn down by the racist apartheid regime and people were forced to move kilometres away to the townships that were then created such as Mitchell's Plain, Langa and Gugulethu amongst others. District 6 itself is right in the heart of Cape Town with the most wonderful views both to the sea and on the Table Mountain. I did not need to be reminded about the horrors and evils of apartheid, but I was. I suppose we all should, just so that it would never happen again anywhere in the world.

I spend almost all of the day with my friend Shaqir and we did not go to the evening jam where Dead Prez and some local bands were performing partly because of the transportation problem and partly because it seemed like a teenage event.

The whole day was great. It was very positive experience to see the raw energy and ideas that young people were having. It was positive experience that this kind of event was organised and that the local artist gave their full support and even some from overseas wanted to give their time for this. I learned quite a bit and not only the fact, that I am not part of the youth anymore.

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