I awake at 3:30 am and the first thing I do after standing up is hit this keyboard. It has been a grueling three weeks since I got back here from Pittsburgh. Bread and butter work has dominated my existence. I have done some work for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago(SAIC), again with Korean Language and subtitling with Tony Jones, President of the School. Not as difficult as it sounds. It was an enhancement of a piece I did with 3to1 Studios, back in May. There were three additions produced, 2 were shot the week I returned, then some post work and now it is in Korea for the Winter recruitment drive there at 3:35 am Chicago time today. Yes I was up making sure the DVD had a signature from the Hotel delivery this morning.
At the same time I have been doing work for EbonyJet.com on their great new website. I edited and enhanced a great interview with President Bill Clinton about his African projects. It went up yesterday. The interview was conducted in Dar Es Salaam, my favorite East African city.
I lived in Dar for about 6 months back in the mid-70s. This was during my African adventures. I was not looking for my roots, I was looking for meaning, I already knew who I was and the rich historical and cultural legacy I was born of. I got out of the 60s alive, sane and made it to Africa. Not bad, I guess.
The Clinton interview brought up memories of working out on the beach with some of the guys from Nantambu Bomani's Goju Karate group. The names escape me but I do remember one guy, "Pookie." I see their faces but that name, Pookie, how could I forget. They were younger than I was then, just kids. Barely older than my youngest son now. They were members of Umkhonto We Sizwe, MK, "Spear of the Nation." They were part of the military arm of the African National Congress. I always wonder if they all made it.
That was in 1975, during the years of Julius Nyerere. Mwalimu, as he was affectionately known, made Tanzania host and benefactor to many of the Liberation Movement back then. Dar Es Salaam on any day would see the leadership of these movements walking it's street. Some mornings I would see Mwalimu calmly walking along the beach when I would go running if I stayed in town to hear Africa 70. People gave him his space and the Moranguzi(Tanzanian secret service) was seldom in sight at those times.
Part of this MK group was headed for training in other countries. Some stayed to return to South Africa to engage in the guerilla war. These guys had been banned and were on the run for their activities at the ages of 14-18. They were child soldiers by choice, with conscious political commitment. Some of these kids would walk to Tanzania from South Africa back in those days. There was no other way.
Every report on battles and attacks at by the apartheid forces an ANC camps and outposts in Botswana or elsewhere caused me worry about these particular guys.
In the interview, Clinton talks about the image of America in the interview and how that image remains pretty much intact in parts of Africa.
As I spent moments between everything else I am doing, cleaning the audio up for the Clinton interview, I suddenly stumbled over the other film I was researching before I worked on The World of Nat King Cole and then skirted the edge of the Dante Black hole and got sucked in.
It is a film I will revisit, It was called "From a Distance" and then was changed to reflect the Pink Floyd song, "Us and Them: The American Image Abroad." I was out of the country when 911 happened and I started the film 5 days after with interviews with people I knew in London and Paris. I was interested in how the image of America had evolved since the Spanish American War, what some call the rise of American Imperialism. No one wanted to know when I got back to the US in November 2001. So, by January 2002, I was back in East Africa teaching a class of broadcast journalists about digital cinema processes in Zanzibar for the Zanzibar International Film Festival. I then came back to Chicago and caught the vapors of the Dotcom bust. Dante was no where on my radar. Not a speck of interest. Amazing how one's life can suddenly be dominated by a project.
Nat King Cole lead me back to a childhood experience and like Cole, Dante is Chicago history. I like Chicago history. The history of a city is a tale of it's interactions and development, the meeting of peoples, cultures and ideologies. I know this city better than any city and I know cities. I investigate them, I walk them, leap in and swim in them.
It is a long way from MK to Dante, but still, Dante discoveries continue to make themselves known to me.