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A Journey to the South: Phase 1

23 February 2017

Before computers in the mid-80s, black and disabled teenager Leroy F Moore Jr. was very interested in the welfare of people with disabilities in South Africa. At that time, Leroy tried to write a paper on the disability subject but due to lack of accessible public info, the paper ended up only being two pages. That is when he knew that he had to visit South Africa. His research was later enhanced by the advent of computers and the internet.

Fast forward to 2007, Leroy started the organization Krip-Hop Nation – an international network of Hip-Hop artists and other musicians with disabilities. A 2009 interview with the South Africa Disabled Musicians Association again stirred up the deep seated need to visit South Africa.

Between 2013 and 2014, Krip-Hop Nation came close to travelling to South Africa. Leroy met Phumlani Banda, aka Wakomagic, from the Zululand Gospel Choir based in Richards Bay, two hours north of Durban. After exchanging ideas on a song collaboration for people with disabilities, they planned to meet in South Africa to record the song.

Also on the cards was the concept of putting out a book of disabled musicians in Africa and the US who were linked to the Krip-Hop Nation network. The first concept of this book came up in a decision between disabled Hip-Hop artists/poets from Zimbabwe and the U.S.; R.E. Spect from Zimbabwe, Keith Jones and Leroy F. Moore Jr. (from the U.S.) who agreed in 2012 that it would be a showcase of not only song lyrics and poems, but also visual arts, pictures, interviews and other aspects.

Now the above book concept of 2012 is set to come to life as part of the A Journey to the South Tour that was conceived and undertaken in December 2016 when Leroy met Simon Manda on Facebook back in 2014. Simon lives in South Africa and is the cofounder of THISABILITY, a South African newspaper covering the disabled community.

Simon invited Leroy to submit articles for publication back in 2013 to articulate how Krip-Hop Na-tion was linking up and working with African artists. In 2014, an attempt by Krip-Hop Nation and THISABILITY to work on an international disability arts festival almost came to fruition. Unfortunately, the dream was never realized due to funding constraints.

Simon and Leroy kept in contact and they both reprogrammed the international disability arts festival idea to a tour around South Africa to interview and profile creatives with disabilities. They put up crowdfunding calls that enabled Leroy to make an early bird ticket of $400 from New York to Johannesburg!

More funding came through from a grant by Arts and Culture Trust under the Nedbank Arts Affinity. On December 3rd, 2016 at 8:30am, Leroy landed on South African soil! The dream had been realized. On the first encounter, it was all hugs and a sit-down to plan the tour. The day was the International Day for Persons with Disabilities and already there was a schedule to watch a musical play that evening in Durban. The play, In Blood, featured a crew of 100 actors with disabilities and it marked the start of this epic journey.

The rest of the schedule panned out as follows;

4th to 11th December 2016: Jhb, PTA and surrounds
12th to 15th December 2016: Durban
16th to 20th December 2016: East London
21st December 2016: Port Elizabeth
22nd to 26th December 2016: Cape Town
26th to 28th December 2016; Jhb, PTA and surrounds

As Simon & Leroy went through a rough draft of 70 profiles spread across the cities above, they realized that there was a lot of time needed hence a second phase planned to start in August 2017 and possibly one month per year thereafter until the realization of profiling urban and rural profiles across South Africa and beyond.

The book of profiles will be a collection of Simon and Leroy’s experiences on the road in South Africa interviewing artists with disabilities with bios, pictures, artistic pieces from visual arts to song lyrics and poems. Also there are interviews from artists in different African countries along with Krip-Hop artists from Africa to America that were building blocks for The Journey to The South Tour. To redress the alienation and marginalisation of creatives with disabilities from mainstream media and socio-economic platforms, THISABILITY Newspaper and Krip Hop Nation mooted an idea of profiling and documenting creatives with the aim of linking them to various empowering networks.

So far, the dream is unraveling and as the project looks for more funding; many creatives will realize international exposure through documentaries, books and linkages to new markets.

By Leroy F. Moore & Simon Manda