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Jean Grae is a super talented rapper form Cape Town who has become really well known in the states for her collaborations with Talib Kweli. I first heard of her on the track “Black Girl Pain” from Talib’s Beautiful Struggle cd years ago. Her verse was beautiful but confusing as hell to me at the time. She was dropping names of people and places I had never heard of before and now I understand why.

She was naming most of the major townships in Cape Town, “Manenburg, Gugulethu where you’d just be blessed to get through,” “I do this for lavender hills for Khayelitsha.” 

Anywho, I have been blessed with the opportunity to volunteer every week with kids ranging from age 2 to 15 in the largest township in Cape Town(pictured above is the informal settlement community of Enkanini in Khayelitsha). This settlement is where over 10,000 black and colored South Africans live with no real structural homes, running water, or electricity for the most part. It is a barren environment that is known to breed alcoholics, drug dealers and addicts, violent criminals, and the superbly intelligent, artistic, warm, and curious children I get to see every Wednesday.

For those who are not familiar, under the Apartheid government, racial segregation was institutionalized through The Group Areas Act which assigned blacks and non-whites to the most under developed sections of the city, leaving only whites the privileges of living in Cape Town’s finest neighborhoods. The areas where these non-whites were moved to became generally known as townships, and is where millions of black and colored South Africans live today. I’m sure some of us can recognize the similarities… Shame.

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