Remembering Johnny Clegg

In my life I’ve only met three famous people.

I met Ron Paul once in passing when I was nineteen or twenty years old. I don’t think we had an actual conversation and I don’t remember getting a personal impression of him one way or the other. I include him here mainly for completeness.

I met Douglas Adams at a book signing when I was ten years old, maybe as old as eleven. He was very abrupt and kind of a jerk to me even though he wasn’t that busy, which was kind of a shame because I was a huge Hitchhiker’s Guide fan in grade school and had gone in there expecting that meeting him was going to be the greatest thing ever. I suppose this is why they say not to meet your heroes.

But the third story is a very nice one, so when I saw today that Reddit has a question asking people, “Which celebrity did you meet and found they were much kinder/ruder than you expected?” it’s the one I shared there. It occurs to me that it will probably be lost in a sea of responses and no one will read it, so I thought since I’d typed it out anyway I’d add it here as well.

Over twenty-five years ago, my girlfriend at the time was a huge Johnny Clegg fan. Even though he would fill stadiums in his native South Africa, and in Europe, he was totally unknown in the U.S.

He did a North America tour and of course we had to go. So we get to this mid-sized venue and the place is just empty, like maybe one hundred of us were in the audience total. But he and his band did a fantastic show, with as much energy as if they were playing for a full house at Wembley Stadium rather than for a few rows at a theater in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

After the show a few of us went up to the stage and waited, to see whether he’d come out. He did, and when he saw there only like ten of us he said, “You know what? Just come to the hotel bar where I’m staying and I’ll meet you there.”

So we went over and a short while later he came down, and spent two hours regaling us with stories of the fight against Apartheid and what it was like to be a father (referred to his kid as the “Clegglet”, which cracked us up). And then at the end he picked up our whole bar tab. (I know that sounds like an “and then everyone in the store applauded” ending, but that’s what happened.)

Anyway, best celebrity ever: kind, gentle, and yet such strength. I was genuinely sad last year when I heard he passed on, especially since I’m sure he still had so much more to give.

Please Join Me In Helping Hawa Akther Jui

This is not a conventional blog post for me, and those who are disturbed by accounts of severe domestic violence may find it unsettling.

Most people who pursue a degree through eLearning end up having to overcome some sort of adversity to get to graduation. But for most of us that means trying to balance work, family, and study. Sure, that’s a challenge, but it’s nothing compared to the story of Hawa Akther Jui. She’s a young woman in Bangladesh who, like many, decided that she wanted to take advantage of higher education. But her husband, who was working abroad, disapproved of her ambition. She defied him, continuing with her education anyway. On his return to Bangladesh he blindfolded her, gagged her, restrained her right arm, and cut off all of the fingers on her right hand.

He has been arrested for this horrible crime and is likely to be punished severely. Ms. Akther has said she has no desire to have anything more to do with him. But this is not his story, it’s hers.

It’s said that who you are isn’t determined by what happens to you, but instead by how you respond to what happens to you. And Ms. Akther’s response to this is that she is more determined than ever to complete her education. Her right hand cannot be repaired — her husband and one of his relatives ensured this by discarding her fingers so that by the time her family could recover them it was too late for them to be reattached. But she has been been relearning how to write, saying, “I have now started practising writing with my left hand. I want to see how far I can go. I never imagined that my fingers would be chopped off like this because of my studies.”

I’ve never met Hawa Akther Jui, nor even heard of her before I read the BBC article and other articles about what happened to her. But I feel drawn to try to help her, if possible. I expect that she has medical, educational, and living expenses, and I am willing to contribute $100 to help defray them. If you’re reading this, and you would like to help also, please contact me by email to I have the contact information for the Bangladesh-based BBC reporter who interviewed her, and would send her the money through him. In the event that Ms. Akther does not need or want any money raised, I would instead donate it to the Asian University for Women, also located in Bangladesh.

No one should have to face this sort of thing, particularly not as a consequence for trying to improve one’s lot in life. If you would like to help, even just to send a little, please get in touch. I’ll be sure to post updates so that everyone who helps finds out what happens.