Miss Cole, a Los Angeles native, is studying at the University of Western Cape near Cape Town, South Africa. The information below was taken from her blog.
I want to discuss something that occurred during our tour of Langa, a Black suburb of Cape Town.

Mike, our driver, took us to an area behind the neighborhood church. There stood a gated area with a large field of grass, and a few trees. He turned toward us, and asked what we thought this area might be reserved for?

Seeing that it was undeveloped, I guessed that it might be protected land–like a mini forest or sacred park of some sort. Mike stated that it was sacred indeed, but not for the purposes of protecting the trees.

He then began to tell us something traditional–and admirable–about growing up in his hometown. His people still maintain a rites of passage tradition for young men in their township. Of course, the specifics of this milestone rite in their lives he kept discreet.

Although he did not disclose forbidden details with us, he did explain the purpose of this ritual experience. When a young man comes of age, he leaves his home and his parents, to come to this sacred land with other young men who are coming of age. There, he must stay for a few days and learn those elements that make up a man–strength, accountability, responsibility independence, honor, loyalty.

His teachers are other men from his village, and the anecdotes they share become examples of what to do, and what not to do, how to live, and how not to live and, most important, what it means to be honorable.

There, on that green field, a transformation occurs. A boy evolves into a man, and returns home as such.

What takes place there, he may not speak of and upon his return home. It is evident that he is mature and ready for the obstacles that life presents. The official circumcision of the young man also takes place during this period.

While listening to Mike explain the protection and purpose of this reserved space, I could not help but admire that his culture did not conform and moderate this tradition to fit into the modern scope of things in anyway. Since my arrival in South Africa, I noticed the respect and mannerisms that many of the young men seem to possess. Could this be an explanation to my observation?

In America, young Black males lack such a rite-of-passage to aid them in coming to terms with the new load of responsibility, accountability and loyalty that should come with becoming a man. My girlfriends have joked that they are forced to deal with “boys,” even at an institution of higher learning where they expected to encounter “men.” In other words, age in America, does not necessarily mean experience or maturity. Here in Langa, however, expectations are high. A boy’s life has an expiration date, and his manhood is guaranteed, so long as he emerges from these green pastures.

And that is beautiful to me.