Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Play Football

We drove past a group of ten hand-holding pairs of very small children in Hazeldene Avenue. Like us, they were on their way to the Mitchells Plain Grade R Football Festival. Unlike us, they marched in teeny tiny gumboots, holding vuvuzelas. It took them about ten minutes to walk the remaining block, corralled by two teachers who shoved their little bodies away from the street when they veered a little too far to the right of the pavement. Watching the seven minute games of five on five (everyone must get a turn), I learnt some lessons about playing football. I am not entirely convinced of their legitimacy, but since I'm all for learning from community, even the four and five year old members of that community, I'll share them anyway. In no particular order of importance:

Number one: Travel in packs. Do not spread out over the playing area (in this case half of a basketball court). Rather, run as closely to the other players as possible and cling to them when you feel you are falling behind. In most cases, the ball is moving in a circular orbit around the centre of the pitch so it is fine to be the last one in the line because soon the ball will come back to you. 

Number two: When the ball bounces and it goes over your head, which is to be expected since heads are hardly a metre above the ground, wave your hands up to stop the ball like you would bat a balloon. Preferably do this with a number of other players so that your strength is combined and you can hold the ball above your heads together as you run around in circles. 

Number three: Score whenever you can. The ball must enter the miniature goal. It does not really matter if it is your team's or the other team's because the people on the sides of the pitch will cheer regardless and you will be able to do a victory wiggle-dance and your friends in the stands will make a noise on their vuvuzelas. 

Number four: Shaking hands is overrated. It is much better to hug and pat the other players. This can be done at any time of the game and is allowed to interfere with the normal course of play. The ball will still be there when the hugging and patting ceremonies are completed.

Number five: Follow the ball at all costs. It does not matter if the ball has escaped the bounds of the pitch, this does not mean that play must cease. If it goes under a spectator's chair you must feel free to play between the spectator's legs, alternately, you can ask for the the spectator to assist. Momentum must be maintained at all times, so there is no need to stop if the ball has been momentarily lost. Continue running and bouncing around the other players until the ball is found and reenters play. 

Number six: Distractions are welcome. Should a fun song start playing over the PA system, it is fine to abandon the ball and dance (even if you are the only one on the pitch doing so). It is better to do this with a friend so that you can hold hands and swing around and dance together. Do not worry if the rest of the players run the ball into your path; they will play around you and might join in before returning to the ball. 

Number seven: The game does not start still you start playing. If the ref throws the ball down but you are not ready or do not know what to do, just stand around until you are confident. Eventually something will click and you'll realise you must run after the ball, and then you must go go go. But before then, you won't be in anyone's way and are bothering no one, so just relax and stare off into space for inspiration. 

My director and I sat for an hour, transfixed, as one team after the other tumbled down the stands and over each other onto the pitch. They fell, they rolled, they ran with their hands waving in the hair and followed instructions like only a troupe of kiddies can. It was ah-sum. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

White Guilt v White Privilege

YOH, if there's one thing we South Africans like to do at elections it's to talk about race. It's inevitable really, when every analysis of what's whatting includes something regarding racial demographics. Most relevant to my experience of race-related chit-chats is what's said about white privilege, and particularly about white liberals, and you better hope you're not one of those, or if you are, bless: you must just write a blog where you can be as polemical as all the other white liberals and drown out their squealing with your own...

May the polemic begin!!

In 2004, I gave up on white guilt. For the first time in my life I built a meaningful friendship with a black man my own age who described himself as poor. Sure, I'd had a ton of black friends before this, even one or two black romances, but I'd never really spent much time with someone who didn't roll in the same socio-economic circles as me. And now I did. And in that contrast, suddenly I seemed very white, and very rich in comparison. My teenage mind could hardly compute this all. I'd gone from thinking race was totes not a thing because the black people I hung out with had the same clothes and phones and house as me. 'Poor Black People' had always seemed to me to be someones who existed as a stereotype Out There. Now suddenly, I was chilling out with a dude who took public transport (say whaaat?!), who didn't have a toilet in his house (I was confused more than anything else; surely a toilet is just part and parcel of a house?) and who didn't have money to do things like go to the Spur and roam around Cavendish with the rest of us cool kids.

My teeny-bopper self shifted.

I realised that there was a difference between the resources that black and white people historically had access to in this country, and still do. My immediate response was to feel guilty. Huge HUGE guilt. It was my people who had made it this way. My grandparents and great-grandparents and their parents and parents. Somehow I had done this to my friend. I felt terrible. And I was angry. How could my family have let this happen? Why didn't they do something to stop it? Why did all my white neighbours just retreat into their Victorian homes with the big Oak trees in the front garden for all those years and not do anything? Anger and guilt cycled and cycled.

Now, human relationships don't exist in odd little vacuums, at least those that go beneath superficial engagement don't, so these feelings seeped into my friendship. I wanted to apologise, to repent, to halt the resentment. And then I realised that my friend didn't want my apologies, that he didn't resent me. I'm paraphrasing here, because the letter he wrote me is tucked away safe in my little wooden box of treasures at home, but he told me to get over this white guilt of mine. He told me that I didn't make him poor, and that it wasn't helping our friendship that I treated him like the victim of my crime. That I needed to get over myself.

And BOOM, my teeny-bopper self shifted again.

I'd indulged in my own self-pity really, for far too long. I don't think I ever told him how grateful I was that he wrote me that letter and that he gave me a second chance. It's not that I felt that I was absolved now, that this one man had cleansed me of my sins, it's just that I realised that those feelings weren't helpful. They weren't helpful to me, and they certainly weren't helpful in my relationship with him. If I was going to move on, if we were going to move on, I needed to leave the guilt behind.

But there was still something though. The sense of injustice didn't disappear. I didn't cause the barriers that blocked him from success in his life, but I was and I continue to be part of a system that benefits from those barriers. I imagine an athletic track, with two lanes. In one lane I crouch, ready and waiting to launch into my sprint, and in the other lane crouches my friend. We've trained for this race, worked tirelessly. Had that thick burning feeling in our throats when you go for an early morning run in the cold. So we're standing there, in our two lanes. Except in his lane, someone, not me, but someone has put up hurdles. The gun signals the start of the race and off we go. We're sprinting, and sprinting. Every few seconds his pace adjust to jump over the hurdles, whereas me, I just run. By the first corner I have a slight lead, by the end of the race, I win hands-down. I didn't put his hurdles there, but I benefited from them.

And that's how I figured out what white privilege is. Now, obviously both privilege and unprivilege are intersectional: gender, ablebodiedness, language, class, whatevs, all count as hurdles and not. But that's a chat for another time. My point is just, or rather my question is just: what the hell do you do when you realise that you're winning not only because you trained hard, but also because they are hurdles in the other person's track? There's this issue related to affirmative action in university applications, about how some black students feel like because of race-based admisssions policies people will always wonder whether it was their skin colour or their ability that got them there. Honestly, white students should be asking themselves the same question: was it their training/ability or their skin colour/lack of hurdles that got them there? But to link to my question posed above, I don't think questioning is enough really. I believe that you need to work actively to remove the hurdles from the other person's lane, in whichever which way you can, including voting in ways which may benefit them, and not you. Otherwise your race is not a just one.

And this is where it all ties back to elections. As a holder of white privilege, I believe that I need to vote in such a way that does not support my privilege. I need to make an active decision to stay away from parties that I believe support the structures in which white privilege can continue to be nurtured. And here's the important bit: me, as an individual, gets to choose the party that I think best fits that description. Whether it's about land redistribution, or service-delivery, or youth wage subsidies: I need to weigh it all up in my head and figure out what I think is the best way to move the hurdles. My intention needs to be to achieve justice, and my intention needs to be matched with research and critical thought.

Look, I don't give a shit who someone votes for, I give a shit about why. If they believe that the ANC is the best way to achieve justice, then VIVA your vote. If someone else believes that the DA does the same, then VIVA that. There is always going to be dissension when it comes to the relative merits and faults of each party so I'm not going to get all heated up if someone comes to a different conclusion to me about which party it is that's best placed to achieve social justice. I'm going to get heated up if people vote to protect their own privilege.

And blah blah I know all the critiques against virtue ethics and how intention means nadda in comparison to action and usually I'd agree. But honestly, in a country like ours where so much is fuelled by what people believe and what they hope for, and what they dream about achieving, having good intentions is not totally worthless. Ours is a country of aspiration, and I care about what people aspire to achieve. And I believe that if we share a set of aspirations, then those freaking hurdles will be that much easier to move.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I am not ok about voting tomorrow

I am not ok about voting tomorrow.

There. I said it; I am anxious and I am cross.

I am going to vote because I believe in democracy and I want to recognise the labour and pain it took to get us to this point.

But I don't want to vote. I look at the list of people and parties that want my black cross, and none of them deserve it.

We have this amazing freedom, this unbelievable opportunity to do democracy. We get to vote and together we change things and shift things and we can create a government of our own design. We. Us. It's almost overwhelming when you think about.

And yet, our choices don't do justice to that freedom. Our choices don't do justice to us as citizens. We deserve better. We didn't go through all that we did and we don't still wade through all of the challenges of a society in transition to be handed a ballot paper that fills us with despair.

In fact I'm not cross, I'm livid.

I have to make a choice tomorrow, between parties who I believe are all wanting in some way.
And maybe it's unfair and ridiculous and idealistic of me to demand that there be a good option.
Maybe that's politics.
Maybe all we do is pick the best out of a bad lot.
Maybe that's it.

Make a cross next to the face you find least offensive.
Congratulations; you are free.

I don't think it's ok. And I don't think we should be ok about it. I'm torn up. I'm upset. I'm sad and I'm angry and I don't know what to do. I'm not ok with any of the choices I have.

Perhaps I have no right to complain. After all, I didn't make any attempt to support someone's face who isn't on the ballot. Perhaps my civic duty extends beyond being aware and being committed to voting, perhaps my duty extends to finding someone I can believe in, and pushing them as far I can push.

I'm not a politician, and I'd be fairly useless at politics. I'm a dreamer and an optimist and I just want to do something meaningful and beautiful with the vote that I've been given. And I feel like tomorrow I'm going to go to the polls and I'm going to waste my freedom.

I'm going to take my right to vote and I'm going to desecrate it.

That's how I feel.

But I will be there. I will be there because I believe that while now our freedom may be overshadowed by injustice and indifference, it won't always be that way. And perhaps what my freedom requires me to do this election is to be hopeful. To wait and to watch and to stay stretched up and active. Because maybe next time, there'll be a face that I like. And then my freedom must be warm and ready.

But I'll say it again because I need to say it;
I am not ok about voting tomorrow.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Advice for Applicants

In a break from my usual ramblings, I thought that it might be time for me to say something vaguely useful.

Part of my job requires me to read applications from students wanting to participate on the programme for which I work. I get a huge batch of applications to read, usually in the space of a few days. At the end of it all, I need to rank the students and justify why I've either accepted, waitlisted or blackballed them. Over the years, I've developed somewhat of a sense of what makes a good application, so I thought I'd share that here. Take it or leave it etc etc. Quick note, my applicants are all American, so this advice is probably more relevant to them, although the principles might be a little more universal.

Here goes, in no particular order of importance.

1. Anecdotes are great, IF they're relevant
When I'm reading through lists of accomplishments and dry essays, coming across a little story offers a nice reprieve, and recaptures my attention. However, if I can't connect the story to the question you're answering, I just get confused. You may be using a metaphor that to you seems abundantly clear but I wasn't there and I can't always connect the dots. You may also be reusing an anecdote that you used for an application that was kind of sort of similar to this one: I can smell it, it's lazy, don't do it! Use anecdotes, but make sure that their meaning is clear, that they are relevant to this application, and that they serve to reinforce what you're saying elsewhere.

2. Don't just list experiences, explain why they're meaningful
It always surprises me how much stuff a 20 year old can squeeze into their life. You've volunteered, you've travelled, you've taken interesting courses, you've lost yourself, found yourself, reimagined yourself and now here you are. Thing is, a huge list of experiences doesn't prove anything. My dad complained this weekend (and I'm paraphrasing here) that some people may have had 20 years management experience, but they're still terrible managers. If you don't learn from experience, it really is fairly meaningless. So write about what you've learnt, and include a mix of knowledge, skills and values.

3. Know what makes you unique, and what doesn't
It amazes me, it really does, the number of North Americans who have volunteered in South America. School trips, church trips, family trips, Spring Break trips: if you've been to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador or Guatemala, I promise you you're not the only one. (Not forgetting Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and India.) What might standout is if you wrote that you'd taken the cost of your airfare and invested it in an Ecuadorian start-up and spent the summer monitoring the stock market while doing a holiday job, the earnings of which you added to your investment. What would definitely standout is if you wrote that you spent your summer working at MacDonald's. If you wrote that, I promise you, I would not forgot your application. Everything else about you will ping that much more. When it comes to ranking you in relation to your peers, I'll know exactly who you are.

Don't want to work at MacDonalds? Well no one does. But you'll learn about workers' rights, about minimum wage. When I worked in fast food I learnt about drug addiction from a colleague who spent every night's earnings on narcotics, I learnt about mental health from a colleague who went on to commit suicide, I learnt about racism from a manager who treated the black kitchen staff with disdain and disgust. (As a side-note, I also got my first job because the director of the company had worked for that exact franchise. We didn't talk about my academic transcripts in my interview, but about how I had stuck it out there so long, and about the challenges you encounter when trying to manage hungry people.) Look, you don't actually have to work at MacDonalds, my point is just: find alternative ways to have the experiences that grad schools, fellowships, internships etc want.

4. If you aren't into it, I'm not into you
A lot of you apply for everything. Even the things that don't interest you. Well, surprise, I can read when this programme really isn't your number one. If you can't find something in the programme that really gets your heart pumping, you may be better off spending that time applying for something else that does. If you aren't sincere in your interest, your reader is just going to be bemused. It's a waste of your time, and it's a waste of my time.

5. If you're asked to offer an opinion, offer it
Ok, this is an important one so listen up. Usually in an application you're given an article to respond to, or a topic to write about it. I can tell you with absolute confidence, that 99% of you choose the safe, sitting on the fence option. I know that it's a gamble to get radical, but if nothing else, you'll show your reader that you have the ability to take on a challenge, and that you have the courage to take risks. Whether it's affirmative action, climate change, the Middle East or obesity: say something. Be well-informed, be respectful, be robust and open to critique, but for the sake of your reader's sanity: say something. If you are pro, be pro. If you are anti, be anti. If you summarize the arguments on both sides, your essay looks like everyone else's.

Remember: whoever reads your application is not an idiot. They will have read the article or response piece too, and while they have their own opinions, they will (hopefully) be intelligent and sensitive enough to appreciate a good argument even if it contradicts their own. And they will get bored, so so bored, if they have to read a hundred of the exact same responses, and they will be excited, so so excited, if they come across one golden application that goes "I understand the nuances and complexities of the situation, and the competing arguments that are at play here, but I have to say..."

6. Don't be afraid to have values
I'm not particularly religious, but when an applicant talks about the religious values that drive their life, I respect that. Similarly, when someone talks about feminism, or black consciousness, or social justice having a profound influence on their life and guiding their action, I respect that. Having a set of values shows that you've given at least some thought to the bigger picture of life. You have managed to abstract from individual experiences and have found a framework or thread that guides it all. Perhaps it's an erroneous assumption, it's definitely mostly a subconscious one, but when I read someone articulate some values, I do kind of fill in the gaps and assume that in addition to all the good values embedded in Islam/Feminism/Buddhism that this applicant must also have integrity and value for their fellow humans etc etc. It doesn't need to be about religion or politics, you don't need to become an activist overnight, but talk about a philosophy that's important to your family, or to your sports team. You just need to show that have something beneath the surface, you're not just a high-achieving automaton.

7. Know whether you need to be specific, or vague
Some applications want you to articulate a ten-point, five-year plan to world domination. Some applications want you to be flexible and open to what the experience has to offer you. Read up on the programme, speak to people who've done it before, speak to a programme coordinator (I can speak for myself when I say I'm happy to give advice to potential applicants, but over the last three years only two have approached me) and figure out which camp the programme falls into.

8. Proofread
You're not writing a blog post, you're applying for something presumably fairly important. Check your spelling and grammar and formatting. If you've copy-pasted, make sure there is no duplication in other parts of the application, and no references to other applications. Get someone to read through the application before you send it, this will help with Point 1 too. Usually it doesn't blackball you, but it really annoys your reader and doesn't earn you any gold stars.

End of lecture.

I could go on for a while but this post is already long. If I gave a sparknotes version I'd say:
A successful application is one that stands out, not necessarily because of a list of achievements (you don't need to be a genius to succeed at every internship), but because the applicant shows originality, self-awareness, potential for intelligent engagement, and knows the programme to which they're applying. I guess that's it.

Good Luck!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Act. Learn. Repeat.

I arrived in the last five minutes of a session that seemed to be about attitudes; the facilitator spoke a lot about inner strength and power so I assume it had something to with self awareness, consciousness, et ceteraness. The group of 30ish students were not engaged. They held their own conversations, bundled in collectives of three or four. The facilitator needed to shout to get her message across, sometimes they listened. Covering the walls were body maps; each student had drawn themselves, emphasising the important components of their identity. "God forgives, I don't" was the motto draped across the body closest to me. Most of the pictures had some reference to life on the margins, and the carefully scrawled lettering indicated a marginal education.

Ok, I thought, tough crowd. There were only two women in the group, they sat together in front of a pillar. I was nervous, it was hot. Really hot. Today is one of those Cape Town days when the cooling wind abandons the city and you sit in your car with the windows down and the fan on, leaning forward so that your shirt doesn't get all warmly wet and stick to your back. The guys in the room all wore jeans, most of them hoodies and zip-up tops. I knew it would be pointless to ask them to de-hood, so they sat as a barely conscious audience, settled in their sweaty seats, beyond distraction. My session today was one hour, not two, I had my crayons and my newsprint paper, I took a deep breath...

At the end of the session, I shook my head at myself.

The students, in their hoodies and big shoes, had kind of been ok. Maybe more than ok on reflection. I had to repeat the instructions for the first activity multiple times, upside-down and inside-out and in as many different ways as I could think. But they'd done it. Every last one of them. And they'd shared in the big group what they had written and drawn. I won't lie, I was more than somewhat surprised. The point of the session is to teach them an alternate pedagogy, as a tool to approach their experience as learners, not just participants. I had to explain to them that classrooms and textbooks and teachers are not their only avenues into education. And I think they appreciated knowing that they can be an expert, and can get a 'A', on the experiences that they can claim as learning moments.

I forget sometimes, that I went to good schools, that my education affirmed me, it empowered me. I forget that for some people, for a lot of people, education can do just the opposite. It can prove to them how little they know, and how often they fail. Formal education at least. I don't think I'd realised that before today, not really. I've read the literature, hells, I've even written a Masters Degree on knowledge and knowing and its intersections with identity. And I've sat in I don't know how many shitty classrooms, surrounded by shitty textbooks that treat children as idiots, not learners, but it's never really sunk in. I've always known that education does not equal intelligence, but being able to see something shift in the group today somehow made that nugget of knowledge more real.

"So Step one...?" I asked them.
"ACTION!" They shouted back. I laughed; I wasn't expecting such an enthusiastic response.
Ok, I thought, I'll play along. I wound my hand up like a baseball player about to pitch a ball and threw out a "and Step two?"
"STEP THREE?" I'm really into it now.
"And what. the hell. is the point. of learning. without mo-o-o-o-o-re...?"
For a moment it's awesome. For a moment they forget that they're sitting there all cool and hooded up. For a moment they all applaud themselves. I guess it was in that moment, that action, that I learnt what I did today.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Writing the train, not riding it

I am spending my Saturday night becoming proficient in "Transit-Oriented Development". It's a fairly intuitive concept really; transport acts as a catalyst for social and economic development. More vroom-vroom, more ching-ching. More specifically, more feet on the ground in "corridors", more bums on seats on trains, and more wheels on the bus going round and round, translates to more ching-ching.

While wading through city policy is always a treat, I've quite appreciated the fact that some of the writers of the strategies and plans that get the CoCT stamp are mostly coherent and don't split too many infinitives. So it hasn't been wholly unpleasant. However, I am left with a troubling question as I gaze on the articles and budgets and maps lying next to me on my bed: do any of these writers actually put their own feet on the ground, their own bum on a train, their own packet of NikNaks on the bus seat next to them? Now, I'm not talking about doing fieldwork, because pretty much any old person can take a clipboard to Khayelitsha, talk to a bunch of people, count a few activities, and retreat to their office satisfied that they have a good picture of what's happening on the ground because hells they were just there. So no, I'm not talking about fieldwork. I'm talking about life.

See, there are things you notice as you go about your day to day, that you don't notice when you have a fieldwork mandate. You can go to the rank in town and ask commuters ten questions about their journey, and you'll probably get some juicy information. But what you might not hear is the resigned sigh of the woman in front of you walking up the stairs that take you from the bus terminus at the Grand Parade, over Strand Street and to the taxis on top of the station. You might not see as she lifts her ankle every few steps and shakes her foot gently, maybe even pulling her sandal away from her swollen ankle for a second or two.

You could set up camp with the Metro police block outside the Goodhope Centre and ask the taxi drivers questions as they come to a stop. But if you're not on the van you won't see how the drivers signal to one another as they drive, how they call and sms, how they send messages through the gaaitjies. You won't see how they know about that roadblock, how they swap drivers outside Dart Motors in Woodstock or even the BP after the bridge. You won't hear how the commuters complain when the taxi is redirected past Cape Tech and round past District Six to avoid the flashing lights.

You can ask someone about how hot the trains get, but if you don't sit there sweating and stuck to the seat you may not realise just how unpleasant it is. And you may not know that when people complain about getting wet it's because the road outside Retreat Station floods when it rains and there's a man standing near the taxis who talks about getting a license to sell Old Brown Sherry because he'll make his millions here, he promises you. If you've never felt the pang of panic when you're at Salt River Station running over the bridge to connect to the Ottery train, never felt the push and pull of the sometimes desperate bodies around you, you may not realise that the sequencing of the trains is just not right, and it means that the woman in front of me who sighs at all the stairs must now stop her sighing and run and push and do what she can to get to her train before it goes. The Metrorail trains never run on time, you may hear. But unless you're there, you may not understand the depth of what it might mean to be late. You might not get just how important it might be to bold that bit in your policy document.

Maybe anthropology rubbed off on me more than I wanted it to, but I just don't think that people who don't use public transport should be legislating about it. It's not that they don't come up with usable ideas, They do. They write lovely policies and strategies to help things go vroom. But I think they miss something. I read a stagnancy and staleness in these policies that show just how un-public the writers are. I guess you have to be well-educated to work for government. I guess that means you have a good job. I guess that means you have a nice car. But does your education give you the right to mandate policy for infrastructure that you will never use? That you will never experience? To be honest, I don't know. I have no education when it comes to Transit-Oriented Development and I respect the writers who do; they have some good ideas. It's just that those good ideas are not necessary complete ideas. Yeah, I think that's what I'm saying.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Frogs in a fire

The room we sat in was painted a peachy pink. There was a man and a fridge to my right, a woman sitting on the desk behind me, and nine others squished in a rough circle between the standing fan and the door. The door led to the kitchen, where plastic bowls of porridge walked from the one side of the room to the other in an endless cycle of feeding. When we left, the children in the room outside lay in neat rows with their little legs and arms splayed like a frog's. I assume that the porridge was for them.

We were there, from our respective organisations, to help this centre conceptualise a programme for unemployed youth. I balanced my notepad and my backpack on my lap, and tried not to spill water out of the thick amber glass clenched between my knees.

(As happens at these kinds of events, it turns out the host knew the man three seats to my right.
"I know your brother!" He exclaimed initially, and hardly had to lean forward to extend his hand.
"Yes!" The man replied.
"Yes!" The host chorused in reply.
"But it wasn't my brother, it was me." The shaking hands paused. Laughter burst out and met the peachy pink walls.
"You're right, you're right, I was at Pen Tech and you at UCT?"
"Yes, YES!"
More laughter, more hand-shaking.
"We have a story to tell," the host tells us all, "HAH, we have a story to tell!" The man three seats right of me smacks his knee, the host smiles and smiles.)

We start talking first about who constitutes youth, then the challenges they face and the potential they hold within them. We talk about ambitions and aspirations, and how to build a programme that builds on hope, not despondency. The older participants lament: in the 1980s, the youth had something to fight for, to live for. They had a cause. The younger participants, we do what we do when the older ones talk: we look down, we listen, we try to create a memory from which to draw thought. And we wait, patiently, for the lament to pass.

Values and visions only get you so far, so we shift to talking programmatic design. Structure, resources, programme participants. We set up timelines, we make the commitments we can. I'll work on the budget and help with costing. It's a good meeting, a productive one. We had the chat about youth and about change, and used it to inform a programme idea. It's a seed at most, but it will be nurtured and it will grow, and will offer opportunity for existing potential to flourish.

The man three seats to the right of me sent me a poem this morning. His nephew died in a gang shootout last night, and he wrote him a poem to say good bye.

"Ooh I wish this day was never gonna come
Ooh how I wish that I will never hear these words
Ooh how I wish that I will never see this scene
Ooh how I wish that I will never have to say I told you so..."

We spoke just yesterday about creating options for youth. About building an environment that enables them to live a life that won't get them killed. We spoke in a room painted a peachy pink, next door to a room filled with well-fed frog children. Part of me feels that our words are now ash, seared and burnt and destroyed by a bullet, but they're not. Not really. They feel more like a fire that needs to rage and burn into being a change. Before the frog children grow-up.