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It took me 5 miles to run to all the statues of women of historical importance in NYC. There are only 5. I have no idea how long it would’ve taken me to run to the ones of men because there are 150 of them.

I’m fascinated by the question of what that does to the imagination, the psyche of one half of the population when all around places of importance – street names, buildings, statues – are named after men. It’s the same issue of representation that is sorely lacking on TV and in film. And, of course, goes beyond gender and into race and ethnicity too.
Rebecca Solnit’s City of Women maps out what the subway stops of NYC could be like if they were named after women who did great things here. I’d love to be able to run from Mary J Blige up in the Bronx to Billie Jean King in Queens. And I’d relish every mile.
Here’s the route I ran, if you’re in NYC and would like to do it too:
– Start at Bryant Park, at the end closest to the NY Public Library main branch. Just across from the Bryant Park Grill, where you’ll see Gertrude Stein seated in a Buddhist position.
– Head down 40th St and cross over 6th Ave. Make a left when you hit Broadway, and on 39th st, you’ll see Golda Meir Square on your right. It may be under construction, so you’ll have to look hard to find the bust of Israel’s first female prime minister, Golda Meir.
– Make your way north towards Broadway and run all the way up towards 72nd Street. Run west to Riverside Drive where you’ll see Eleanor Roosevelt, humanitarian and longest-running First Lady in US history.
– Head straight up Riverside Dr for just over a mile until you hit 93rd street, and you’ll find Joan of Arc, the first statue of a female to be put up in NYC, in 1915.
– Run east towards Amsterdam Ave, and carry on for 2.1 miles along it, ’til you hit 123rd St. Continue on 123rd, and turn right down St Nicholas, where you’ll find abolitionist Harriet Tubman, or Moses, as she was fondly known, on 122nd.
Celebrate the fantastic women in this world by popping over to Sylvia’s for some comfort food!

One of the magical things about living in NYC is that on an ordinary Wednesday night you can sit in an audience and hear one of contemporary jazz’s great musicians. Not play his instrument – no, that you can experience any place the musician may be touring. But sit in the audience and hear said musician share the story of his life – the story of his love of the very style and shape of music he has come to be known for playing.
I walked into the Great Hall last night, well aware of the way Wynton Marsalis has with a trumpet – having become the first jazz composer to win the Pulitzer Prize and notching up Grammy wins for both jazz and classical work. What I wasn’t aware of is his skill as an orator, as a story-teller. He took us back to the mid 60s when he grew up – telling us what he sees when he thinks back to that time. A huge presence in his life, like for many, has been his mother. But, as he’ll tell you over and over, in rhythmic, poetic fashion – naturally – you ain’t never seen no-one like Delores. Not on TV, not in the movies.  When she’d tell you something, you’d listen, because she knew what she was talking about, he told us.
She taught him the basics of life, those fundamentals that are always under attack but always come back around, just like the mighty Mississippi River, near where he grew up.
Don’t be greedy.
Don’t steal.
Look people in the eye.
Be quiet, listen, they have something of value to say too.
Don’t eat that last piece.
Hold your head up high and be for real.
Marsalis strung together anecdotes, as if arranging notes in a performance piece. They relayed how his mother physically helped instill jazz in his heart. She took him and his siblings to the symphony, even though she didn’t want to be there – the same symphony he would go on to play in. But beyond that, her very essence moulded the man he became and the music he would go on to play.
So many times I felt myself hmmm‘ing in much the same way I would if I heard a song I liked. One time his mother took him and his brothers to a parade; he was 8, they were 4 and 5. As he held onto the hand of his 5-year-old brother, he could see his mother was taking some strain in carrying the younger sibling. After he’d repeatedly asked if he could help, she said to him: “The weight of something depends on how you feel about carrying it.” HMMM!
She taught him about the most important thing in life – your spirit. “The spirit is ephemeral. It’s omnipotent and transcendent. This I have seen, and this I believe. And that’s jazz,” he said.
Delores passed away last year, bringing her words into sharper focus for Marsalis. He spoke about how she understood how easy it was for the meanings of things to erode, how fast the mind can adjust to the absurd and the mediocre, and to rally against that. Pertinent words for these crazy times. Take care of your spirit and your soul, he learned from her. Jazz — music — expands the soul, and that’s what we can learn from Marsalis.
“She told me, your soul was actually the biggest part of your person. But it occupies a small space. And that space grew when it connected with other people’s souls. And I was just a boy — but I heard her,” he said, wiping away the tears.
And I heard him.

 

 

 

I remember seeing my first Ai Weiwei installation in person. It was his collection of porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern and it was a sight to behold. It gave me my first sense of the scope and scale in which the Chinese artist works. His latest exhibition, in New York, is no less as ambitious.
It’s called Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, and features site-specific works dealing with the theme of migration and people moving across borders and space. The two largest pieces of the public art showing (which also celebrates the 40th anniversary of New York’s Public Art Fund) are located in Central Park and in Washington Square Park. They encourage you to walk through them, to look up and around, and consider the implications of your own movement being limited or restricted.
This theme is timely, even if it the refugee crisis may not necessarily still be headline news. Displacement of people, how they are or are not welcomed in other countries and what it means to be citizens, of one country or many, are issues worth talking about. For this reason, I’ve liked seeing these pieces across the city – whether it’s the giant pieces or the smaller portraits hanging from lamp-posts of well-known immigrants, like Marlene Dietrich or Alfred Einstein.
As K’naan raps in The Hamilton Mixtape version of Immigrants (We Get the Job Done):
“You can be an immigrant without risking your lives /
Or crossing these borders with thrifty supplies /
All you got to do
Is see the world through new eyes.”
Seeking to see the world through new eyes is a laudable aim, but when it doesn’t happen on an every-day basis, art is so important for this. It’s one of the reasons I was so moved by the virtual reality piece Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki made that debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and for which the filmmaking duo will receive an honorary Oscar. Their short film Carne y Arena took me deep into my own prejudice, to the point where when I, placed in the scenario of crossing the Mexican border, was asked to get down by a policeman, I shook my head no. I was in a made-up world, based on fact, yes, but my mind told me there was no way he was talking to me; that I would never be in that situation. When his gun was directed straight on in my face, I found myself scrambling to the floor. I hope to never be in that kind of situation, but it showed me that I still hold some perhaps discriminatory ideas about what being a refugee really means. It’s powerful to feel with new eyes too.
The exhibition will run until February next year. In the meantime, here’s my episode of The Rundown dedicated to Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.

Jet-setted out to Miami for a hot minute to cover the BET Hip Hop Awards. Hosted for a second year by DJ Khaled, this time with his little protege Asahd by his side. 11-months old and that kid has more of a following than I could ever hope to accrue in all the years I have on him. It’s those cheeks I tell you! It was also the first time the awards took place in Miami, aka 305, aka Sunshine State, aka Khaled’s adopted home and the place that gave the super producer his big break into the industry.

[Photo: Jeff Daly/BET Networks]

“It’s my second time hosting the awards, and I asked them, ‘man, if you ever decide to move to another city, I would love for it to be in Miami,’ nahmean? Now it’s in Miami, and it’s such a blessing, nahmean!” he said, on the red carpet. Khaled, as host and 9-time nominee, along with Cardi B and Kendrick Lamar, had quite the night. But not quite as big as Cardi B. She took home Hustler of the Year, Single of the Year and Best New Artist prizes. The 24-year-old is riding the wave of her success – having become the first female rapper to top the Billboard 100 chart since Lauryn Hill back in 1998.
[Photo: Jeff Daly/BET Networks]
She also performed the track that’s had people asking more questions about the ex-stripper turned reality star turned rapper – Bodak Yellow. That track has become ubiquitous. Taking to the stage in a massive fur coat, she gave a shoutout to her Bronx upbringing through the barber and bodega shopfronts used as her backdrop.
Gucci Mane and Khaled also performed, as well as Florida’s most well-known talents like T-Pain and Flo Rida, but the performances that had me most excited were the Cyphers, especially the all-female one featuring Kash Doll, Leikeli47, Tokyo Jetz and my favourite rapper at the moment, Rapsody – and her Africa-flag-bearing jacket. Cardi B may be getting all the big-name kudos, but Rapsody’s second album, Laila’s Wisdom is full of that let-it-settle greatness. She spits lines that have you thinking about them way after you’ve heard them and others that are instant punches. Witness: “Influenced by many, but I’m a whole new star. There’s levels to this, but I’m a whole new floor.” She’s been in the game for a while, but it seems the time is right for a little more recognition and a lot more respect for Marlanna Evans. At least the time seems right to celebrate women in hip hop however they choose to be.

I’m so late to this party. So late that I not only missed a stand-out moment in contemporary TV-watching, but I missed out on doing a story about it. As the US correspondent for Eyewitness News back home in South Africa, it’s my job to stay on top of the entertainment news here, as well as big US stories (you could say Trump has kept me pretty busy). But I also specialize in sharing any strides South Africans, and Africans to a larger degree, here in NYC and the US are making. So if someone is nominated for an International Emmy, as Thuso Mbedu was earlier this week, then I’m on it.
Having just watched – finally, yes, we’ve established I’m late to this era-hopping party – the Black Mirror episode,  San Junipero, the same one that just recently scored the Emmy for Outstanding Made for TV Movie and also Outstanding Writing for Charlie Brooker. As soon as I started it though – crushing on the ’80s soundtrack and luscious costumes that Gugu Mbatha-Raw wore – I felt a sense of familiarity. I’d seen the magical place of San Junipero before. There’s only so much you can do to dress down the 12 Apostles in Cape Town – once you’ve seen them, you’d recognize that mountain range anywhere.

The episode deserves all the adulation it received when it first aired in October last year. The pop tracks, the Clint Mansell electro compositions, the progressive yet tear-inducing story-line. I don’t proclaim to keep up with everything that happens in pop culture – just trying to stay on top of new movies and music is hard, yet fun, enough. But the fact Cape Town was the center of this fictional technology-assisted afterlife was a story I should have picked up on in the moments after the episode won its award. A win for San Junipero is a win for Cape Town! Plus Mbatha-Raw is half South African (I interviewed her a few years back, pre-Beyond the Lights era). And so is Mackenzie Davis, who acts alongside her in the episode. They both relished being in South Africa for the 14 day shoot.
Anyway, what’s passed on has passed on. Besides, I believe that things happen when they need to – a song, a movie, a piece of art comes into our lives when it’s meant to, becoming discovered to us at the time it needed to. Or at least I like to believe that, when I’m not being hard on myself (which is, you know, most of the time).  I think it’s a sign I need to get to Cape Town, where I used to live, again soon. At the very least, it’s a sign that I now have a whole new playlist to keep me entertained.
I particularly like that Brooker came up with the idea to incorporate Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth while out running.