I first met Hugh Masekela in June 2005. He had just finished an electrifying set at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn. We, who seemed like all of New York, were floating en masse toward our respective roadways, trains and taxis, his melodies still swirling in the backs of our ears. A smaller crowd was gathering around the VIP tent entrance, and I saw him—a man whose personality always outmeasured his stature. Greeting everyone as if they were old friends. Looking you square in the eye and disarming you with laughter so warm you thought you were old friends, too. No handshakes, only hugs.
My friend and I inched closer, hoping to say hello, when someone waved us to the front of the line. “Where are you from?” boomed Mr. Masekela. I told him Rwanda and Uganda. And he began to tell me about all the beautiful children he met during his recent visit to East Africa.