Monday in a Picture – Black Girls Global Exchange

Last week, the dreams and desires of a fellow PCV were actualized. In Swazi Spring 2017 (August-September), Dawnita saw a documentary about a girls step team from Baltimore, Maryland. She was moved by documentary, and shared that she wanted to do a documentary screening for the girls in her community.

She had conversations with folks from Baltimore, her hometown. They assembled a team and began working on bringing an idea to fruition. What if Black girls from this step team in Baltimore could connect with Black girls from South Africa and Swaziland? What if the image of their international contemporaries was formed by more than the media? Black Girls Global Exchange (BGGE) was born. More than fifteen high school girls and chaperones from Baltimore journeyed to South Africa and met up with high school girls from Manzini (Swaziland) and Soweto (South Africa). Together, they explored Soweto (and shared dance moves). The girls enjoyed a week of intercultural exchange as they tried new cuisine, shared stories, and completed service projects side by side. I was fortunate to be one of many photographers capturing the events.

On Thursday, girls from all over Swaziland joined the BGGE participants in central Swaziland for a screening of the documentary and a symposium. It was beautiful and emotional. It was surreal at times watching the girls truly and fully embrace the sentiment that we are much more alike than we are different. As the BGGE participants marched into the conference room for symposium, they were indistinguishable. Girls from Manzini and Baltimore wore matching outfits as they led chants of “B-G-G-E”. The energy was electrifying.

During the symposium, a light lunch was served. Two BGGE mentors from Baltimore, who are professional chefs, joined Swazi chefs in the kitchen to prepare a delightful experience highlighting American and Swazi foods. Shrimp and grits (an American favorite) was served alongside chicken feet, pap, and Swazi cornbread (all Swazi favorites).

While the symposium featured many powerful moments, I’d like to highlight two. During the panel discussion (pictured above), BGGE participants from Baltimore and Manzini discussed what they had learned from nearly a week of intentional cultural exchange. The girls shared how they connected on the challenges they face in their respective homes. Gender based violence and inequality is problem in Swaziland and America. HIV plagues both nations with so many infected and affected. At another point in the symposium, the participants from Manzini closed a presentation with a beautiful song. The lyrics hit me as tears fell. “Shine your light–Be the light–We, Black girls; we gotta stick together”. As the lyrics repeated, the stage began to fill with the BGGE participants from Baltimore and other girls. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen during my time in Swaziland. The Black Girls Global Exchange is the epitome of Black girl magic.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

P.S. – Below are more pictures highlighting the Black Girls Global Exchange.

Correction (8 April 2018): There were 4 middle school girls from Baltimore, Maryland, in addition to the high school participants.

The lyrics from the moving song (during the symposium) were: “Show the light…give them life…we black girls…let’s work together.” It was written and arranged by BGGE Swazi Ambassador Nosfiso Magagula, 17 years old.

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Monday in a Picture – Imali 

It’s said that the best things in life are free. For the things that have cost attached, there’s some form of currency. In Swaziland, cash is king. While some people have bank accounts and access to credit cards, this is not super common especially in more rural parts of the country. 

Swaziland’s currency is known as the lilangeni (pronounced lee-lon-gay-knee) for a singular unit, while multiple units are called emalangeni (pronounced eh-mah-lon-gay-knee). Prices in emalangeni would be expressed as E10 for something costing ten emalangeni

Swaziland’s Central Bank has authorized two different currencies to be used in the country. In addition to the emalangeni, the South African rand is also used. While both currency’s notes are used indiscriminately, rand coins are rarely accepted outside of border communities. The emalangeni and rand both come in note denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200. Both currencies also use different colors for the different denominations. While all South African rand notes feature a picture of former president, Nelson Mandela, Swaziland’s emalangeni notes feature King Mswati III. Prior to Mswati’s ascension to the throne, Swazi notes featured King Sobhuza. 

In the picture above, there are current notes (of 20 unit denomination) from Swaziland, South Africa, and United States. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – Imali (pronounced ee-mah-lee) means money. 

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Monday in a Picture – Uyatsandza kugijima

Happy Halloween! 

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I would have considered myself a fairly active person. I maneuvered the streets of DC on bike. Twice a week, I would join the greatest November Project tribe in the world for an early morning (running-oriented) workout. Although I ran with those wonderful folks, I never really considered myself a runner. A cyclist? Sure. But a runner? Not I. 

There is major opportunity here to be sedentary, which is tempting with many movies and television shows on my hard drive that I haven’t seen yet. There have been glimmers of hope as I have seen others riding bikes in my community. The thing is that I currently don’t have a bike. While I’m hoping that this changes soon, I have a desire and the energy to be active now.

Enter community runs. I’m not particularly fast or good at it, but I try to go out at least once a week for a run. I’ve found that this does a few things. First, it gets out all of that built up energy. Strangely, the more that I run, the more that want to run. Second, it allows me to explore new parts of my community and make maps of it (with my GPS watch). It helps that the watch tells me to move and posts my efforts to Strava. Lastly, it gives me the opportunity to meet and see various community members while they meet and see me. Some people have even commented when they see me, “Uyatsandza kugijima!“, or “you like to run!” I smile and laugh. I don’t know if I would classify running as something that I like, but I don’t hate anymore. I’ve even thought about signing up for one of those races. A 10K or half marathon, maybe? Because why not? 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – I just want to say #GoBlue and #HowBoutThemCowboys! It was a sweet rivalry weekend.