Earl Mentor of Ocean View: poet, hip-hop artist and youth developer
The quiet gentle mien of Earl Mentor, solo-artist and poet from Ocean View, belie the difficulties he has overcome growing up in an area beset by social problems but also alive with potential and talent.
29 year old Earl has been active in the music industry since 1994 when he joined Arts Vibrations Incorporated 2, an NGO started by Alvin Castro that works to uplift the youth of Ocean View. Although not from a musical family, Earl started writing music and poetry at a young age. Essentially he is a story teller, exposing the social ills within his community through his poetry and rapping about the positives. For the past two years he has been the Senior Music and Cultural Co-ordinator for eMzantsi with the mandate to bring different cultures together and to break down racial and cultural barriers in the South Peninsula.
Born and bred in Ocean View, Earl became involved with a very “negative” group which led him to experiment with drugs and become involved in gangs, a lifestyle that lasted for three years and which came to an abrupt end with the death of his best friend in 1998 through drugs and gangsterism. This was a major turning point in Earl’s life, after which he turned his talents and potential to help uplift the youth of his community and surrounds. An intensive 3-month stint at the Chrysalis Academy in Tokai with its military-style discipline further stimulated his decision to make a change – in his life and in the lives of the youth of his community.
Earl started the 783 hip-hop movement in Ocean View (783 being the area telephone code for Ocean View) under the auspices of Arts Vibrations with the help of friends, bringing his music and his experiences into play to draw the young people of his community into positive and life enhancing activities. There are now about 60 active members including drummers, bass guitarists and brass players, the youngest member being 12 years of age and the oldest in his early thirties. Earl says that any artist wishing to develop his skills can join the movement. He and his three fellow facilitators also act as councilors and life-skills teachers, having received training from the PYE Youth Emporium in engaging youth in creativity.
Asked about the problems the group faces, Earl responded that a lack of resources prevents the young people from taking part in the many competitions held “over the mountain”(as we in the Scenic South tend to view the rest of Cape Town!). Earl also laments the fact that the huge pool of talent and potential in Ocean View is to a large extent untapped and unsupported, the people of his community being overwhelmed by joblessness, poverty and despair. In the face of so much negativity, it is hard to sustain momentum and enthusiasm. However, Earl believes in remaining positive and enthusiastic. Despite the fact that many of his friends have urged him to leave Ocean View, he says his work there is not yet finished and that he is emotionally attached to the community that to a certain extent forged the man he has become.
Earl commends the Ocean View Police who have been holding soccer tournaments in the village as part of their “soccer versus drugs and crime” campaign. “The youth of Ocean View also need to take the initiative. Their voices are not being heard and they are not pulling together enough. We need to have leaders who think out of the box, who dare to do things differently. We have a multi-purpose centre that is not being used to its full capacity and South African champs in badminton and volleyball who at times practice elsewhere – not in Ocean View.” Asked about his dreams for the future, Earl replied that he would like to form his own production and theatre company. “Ocean View has good outdoor and indoor areas for theatre. We can use theatre as a tool for liberation.”
Earl has put together three manuscripts of his poetry: Cape Flats Karma 2007, Cape Flats Prophet – Biography of a Coloured Seed and My Images manifested off Creative Thought. He has also produced two independent albums – community stories about growing up in ocean View and its surrounds.
To see Earl in action and to hear the message he spreads watch his video on http://youtu.be/WJoiN7td-UI
And for more about ocean View and its residents see
Two poems written by Earl follow:
Council houses, houses pain like a melanoma joints
With no hope for the future negative believe anoints
On the mentality we adapt from a life we live
& On a journey with tunnel vision attached since birth
We’re cursed tucked in a hazard apartheid system created
Control by higher powers a system that couldn’t be debated
Now we live a life triggered easily to go insane
Taking life of your fellow man killer thoughts in the brain
I’m seeking fame so that I can change the mindsets that burns
Bringing my truth to a boil out of heated tension they’ll learn
That we’re robbed from the ability to be the best we can be
But walk this life with no hope towards a cemetery
Which is rich with the potential that’s been planted in us
But never grown we lost the Faith..So in GOD I trust
Ocean View shaky ground the foundation’s tense
4 Corners represents ghost town, massionettes (council homes), 7sisters,
Good neighbors, good fence
Erosion spoils the mind, confusion, trial tribulations
Struggles inferno burned-out mountainous regions
Filled with the desire to make a difference, for instance
My passion’s label destroyed I’m neglected like rusted-tins
Saved by a higher-power I do things when I’m inspired
Guided full of fire this work I live it, recycled
Invested so much I feel like an accountant without numbers
A mountaineer climbing up to reach my destiny but without a compass
I’m stationed neutral without emotions, commotion negativity fights with my passion
To make a difference, obstacles I’m facing, within a mind full of pollution
My positivity like a comrade runs miles for me, clearly
My end point stop before the line that states destiny
There’s so much to see, for example my fulfillment given to humanity from Thee,
Spiritually my journey sets off immaculately
That’s fulfillment my reasons for doing what I’m destined to do, that’s doing what I do passionately
Thank You LORD…devil’s intention bothers me! But not failing what I’m set out to do most definitely!