By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
During my transcendent six-week adventure to Uganda I had only two authentically unpleasant experiences in this beautiful East African Republic; I got my cell phone stolen at a nightclub during my second week. I took my eye off of it for less than a minute and it was gone. For slippery petty thieves in Uganda (and there are more than a few) smartphones apparently are a hot commodity.
As bad as getting jacked for my cell phone was (it’s a massive logistical headache for many reasons of course) I think the most unpleasant debacle for me was the trashing of my white on white, classic Nike Air Force Ones (AF1’s), during a damn goat race.
Let me explain.
I was originally told about the goat races of Munyonyo by my colleague Anne Awori, General Manager of the American Chamber of Commerce in Uganda. Awori, a native Ugandan assured me the goat races annual charity event was the social event of the year for Uganda.
So, I was like dope, I’m in.
But, as the date for the heralded goat races event approached the VIP tickets Awori and I thought we were going to get fell through. A quick scramble for another source of gratis tickets ensued and of course it was another new colleague, the incredibly well-connected Simon Kaheru, an executive at Coca Cola who came through.
I saved a fresh pair of linen trousers for just such an occasion, along with the aforementioned AF1’s. In the immortal words of MC Lyte is was, “funky fresh dressed to impress ready to party.”
Unfortunately, for me we are in the midst of one of the rainy seasons in Uganda. Typically, the downpours never last very long, then the sun pops back out and all is right with the world again. But, on this particular day (Oct. 10) the rain just kept coming for most of the morning until about noon. By the afternoon the rain had stopped. However, the grounds where the goat races were held on the banks of majestic Lake Victoria were a muddy mess. Like many of the other goat revelers I tried my best to tip through the muck, but to no avail; my Nikes were trash.
Here’s the point of this story.
The goat races eerily reminded me of the revelry attached to the Preakness Stakes back in Baltimore. Because when it rains the infield at Pimlico is a muddy mosh pit of debauchery. It wasn’t quite that bad at the goat races at Munyonyo, but like the Preakness there were a whole lot of dressed up drunk White people in attendance (that’s right, even in Uganda!)
My Pimlico Deja vu got me thinking about some of the other similarities between Baltimore and Kampala. In this column, my first dispatch from Uganda highlighted the Boda Boda boys, the motorbike daredevils who remind me of the legendary 12 O’Clock Boyz of Baltimore.
Both cities also have burgeoning business communities, thriving music and culture scenes. And both cities struggle with rampant poverty.
But, one drastic difference between Baltimore and Kampala; the Ugandan capital doesn’t have to grapple with the ubiquitous specter of violence and murder, which is literally suffocating many of Baltimore’s residents to death.
There are no gunshots at night. I’ve been on the streets of Kampala every single day I’ve been in this city of 1.5 million and I haven’t witnessed one argument, nobody raising their voices in anger. In a city with maybe the worst traffic on earth, comparable to Shanghai, China or Bombay, India I haven’t witnessed one argument over the copious incidents of insane driving; no fist fights, middle fingers or other manifestations of road rage.
I’ve been in several Kampala nightclubs, packed to the gills with people bumping into each other left and right. No pushing, no shoving, no fights, not even a dirty look. Forget about some ignorant a– dude shootin’ the club up, to paraphrase Talib Kweli.
Young Black men in Kampala don’t live with the constant fear of violence or homicide. They just live.
Tragically, for young Black men in Baltimore, nothing could be further from the truth.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.