Africans


I watched a fascinating discussion on Sunday afternoon on a program on BBC World called “The World Debate”. The panel, which was made up of Carl Bernstein, the award winning journalist who helped uncover the Watergate scandal; Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of the internet giant Google; Dan Gilbert, a Harvard Psychologist; Queen Noor of Jordan and the Ugandan journalist and broadcaster, Andrew Mwenda, discussed the role and influence of the “New Media”, via the IT revolution, specifically the dissemination of information and the pros and cons associated with this democratization of journalism.

What I found interesting was how the old guard and protectors of the status quo, embodied by the views of Bernstein and Gilbert, were openly condescending and somewhat alarmist in their opinions concerning what they referred to as the “citizen journalism” via the internet. Berin, Queen Noor and Mwenda were more understanding and supportive of the value and need of alternative voices, who aren’t “trained or schooled” at some recognized institution for journalism and therefore don’t hold the standard eurocentric prejudices, but in many ways provide a more realistic, personal and honest view of events in their environment. 

As I listened to the discussion I came to realise once again the power of the internet in sharing information (especially real time events), views, beliefs and opinions among people throughout the round corners of the world. We have all heard the adages: “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword and Knowledge is Power”. This is truer today than any time in the history of humankind and whomever controls knowledge, and more importantly the access to knowledge, as well as controls the pen (or today the keystrokes), is the master (or chief manipulator) of reality. This is why regimes such as China and Myanmar have such strict controls on their populations access to the information highway. This is why during periods of civil strife and unrest in countries such as Pakistan and Kenya, access to certain sites such as Youtube by their citizens, which may show videos of the brutality of the regime against those protesting for their political and human rights, are shut down. This is why the Bernsteins and Gilberts are fearful of the “New Media”, because the power to shape ideas, beliefs, values (and henceforth culture)… and the power to control (and restrict) information and knowledge, are no longer in the hands of the elite or a select few with common interests to maintain and perpetuate the status quo. This rise of the “New Media” is much more than a democratization of information sharing, it is more of a revolution in “people participation”.  

It is this participation, or the potential of the power of this participation, which makes the blogosphere in general and the “Afrosphere” in particular such a potent force. It brings people together who would have never had the opportunity to connect before and through these relationships, we have the ability to expand our focus, influence and experiences. Through blogging, I have been able to communicate with many people throughout the world. People I have never met face to face and most likely, never will. People from different countries, as well as a variety of political, religious, economic, cultural and social backgrounds, beliefs, values and opinions.

This gathering of people of African descent — whether born in the U.S. or Africa or elsewhere, whether descendants of slaves or free men, whether rich or indigent –this gathering arises out of a need for self-determination and a history of forced subordination and removed relativity to an abstract outsider. We face each other under a banner of survivalist solidarity because regardless of our differences — whether they be our sexualities, our disabilities, our religions or our interests — we are viewed as one. What jerks at one of us sends tremors through all of us. So we need to understand each other.”  From the Mission Statement of the Afrospear, written by Sylvia.

Powerful! The above statement is truly a call for those of African descent throughout the world, who have the ability to utilize the “New Media”, to come together for the advancement of our people, regardless of our “isms” ! It is a challenge to revolutionize our way of thinking, and rise to the higher and uncharted territory of focusing on the value in our different perspectives. We need to do away with the mindset that because we are all not of, and/or from, the same social or economic class, political beliefs (or affiliations), religious or spiritual sects, continent, country, tribe, ‘hood, gender, sexual orientation etc., that we can demonize, dehumanize, disrespect, define and declare who belongs to our community and who does not. We need to do away with egotistical and self-righteous declarations that those who do not think, believe or live like us… are not with us… they are against us. We need to do away with intellectual tribalism… which like Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone and most recently Kenya… leads only to our communal genocide. The only requirement is that one is sincerely working for the benefit and advancement of people of African descent, whether in the local, national, international and/or virtual arena.

I am not so naive to believe that all people of African descent will agree, get along with each other or come together for the greater good of the community. It won’t happen! I am resigned to the fact that it will never happen! Selfishness and self-centered interests are chief among the reasons which makes this impossible. I have already seen it within the Afrosphere and Afrospear, how differences in beliefs and opinions, as well as self-interests, have caused very smart and committed Black people to refuse and/or decide that they cannot… will not… work with other very smart and committed Black people.

However… this does not prevent me (and others) from working to create a “new deal” among us. To be a part of, connected to and add our collective voice to the variety of other Afrocentric/Black individuals, cells, conglomerations and collectives out in the AfroSphere. I am indeed hopeful because I have also seen the potential and practice of the power of the “New Media” in the past successes of the Afrosphere surrounding the issues of the Jena 6, Kenneth Foster and Shaquanda Cotton. Furthermore. I have foreseen the potential power of the Afrosphere spurring the future successes that are to come, regarding issues such as BET, Dunbar Village, Darfur and even the election a person of African descent as the President of the United States of America.        

 

In 1998 when I was planning my pilgrimage to West Africa, I was warned against visiting Mauritania. It was explained to me that slavery against the “Black” African population was still practised there by the “White” Arabs and I could therefore put my self at risk. The fear was not so much my abduction and enslavement, but certainly blatant discrimination in a hostile environment where I would have no protection by (or from) the law. Needless to say, I avoided Mauritania.  

I subsequently read a book by Samuel Cotton entitled: Silent Terror: A Journey into Contemporary African Slavery”. Published in 1999, it highlighted his research into the dynamics of modern day slavery in Mauritania and Sudan. I recently read “Slave: My True Story” by Mende Nazer, a horrifying autobiography of her 1993 abduction and enslavement in Sudan at age 12, and her flight to freedom 7 years later while working for a Sudanese diplomat in London England.

I have also read a number of articles on the issue of child slavery in West Africa today. While the system of slavery in Mauritania and Sudan is based primarily on historical and traditional social systems, the phenomenon of child slavery in West African countries is based on poverty. Parents sell their children into slavery for a few dollars and false promises that they will only be working part-time, taken care of and sent to school. It’s ironic that I had visited Ghana during my pilgrimage and toured a number of the slave castles along the coast. I even visited the slave castle in the Kormance Region, where it is very likely that my ancestor(s) were housed before being shipped off to Jamaica as slaves. Today, Ghana is one of the West African countries that has a serious problem with child slavery.   

I would like to share an indepth report from last month on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website (CBC.ca), concerning this issues of modern day slavery and child trafficking in West Africa. The link is here. There are links to the 3 articles penned by David Gutnick which discusses these topics in detail. You will also find links to previous CBC articles and other resource materials about modern day slavery. 

Here is a another link to a case study and other articles by the BBC World Service pertaining to Article 4 of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Freedom From Slavery”

The challenge now becomes: “now that we know, what are we going to do or can do about it?”  Suggestions are welcomed.              

They always operated within the realm of darkness. Whether it was under the cover of the darkness of night or during a bright sunny day under the darkness of hate… their ultimate goal was to spread the darkness of fear.

They would seize upon their Black prey like a pack of hyenas with an insatiable thirst for blood. His only crime: being a human being… or more accurately… acting like a human being. This would never do. Whites were human beings. Blacks were… if not animals, they were somewhere in-between… but certainly not human beings. Not equal to Whites. Maybe 3/4 humans…but that ultimately was for God to decide on “Judgment Day” when we all get to heaven. Until then… the White mob would decide on what would become “Judgment Day” for the Black man here on earth. 

So they would set upon the Black man with clubs, stones and bricks. He was beaten, whipped, kicked, punched, dragged and spat upon to an “inch of his life”. They purposely made sure that death wouldn’t come so easy… or quickly. He would be dragged mercilessly, all the while crying and begging for his life, to a tree which would be furnished with a rope. Sometimes he would be stripped naked. Most times he would be immersed in coal oil. Every time he would be hung on the tree.

The Black man, barely conscious and now numb due to the shock of all the trauma, would remember the sermon he had heard in church on what was now to become his last Sunday morning. The sufferings of a “White” Jesus would return to his mind and he would try to identify and sooth his soul that like HIM, he was bearing his cross. Like HIM he was innocent of any crime. Like HIM he was being led like “a lamb to the slaughter”. BUT as he takes his last breaths… as he looks through his swollen eyes into the hate filled souls, see the crooked smiles and hear the shouts and jeers of the citizens of the realm of darkness… there is a stirring in his soul… a moment of clarity of his mind… that he is not “White” like his beloved Jesus. No… he is a Black man. This is not a religious experience… a crucifixion to save the world. No… this is a terrible injustice. This is a lynching.    

Some of the perpetrators would cut off body parts for souvenirs… ears, toes, fingers. Pictures would be taken. If some thought and planning had gone into the event, a picnic, a barbeque with other festivities would take place. Then he would be set ablaze. A human torch. A beacon of light in the realm of darkness. 

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I find reading the discussions of Obama here and over at thefreeslave quite amusing. Since his win in Iowa (and he is predicted to win today in New Hampshire), and surge in the polls, there is a renewed (or maybe it just more focussed and serious) debate of whether his nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate or even win of the Presidency would be advantageous for African-Americans. As an outsider here in Canada looking through the window of America, this is my take on some of the issues in the discussions surrounding Obama, voting and “Revolution American Style”. 

In general, I have always been amazed of how much African-Americans have primarily thrown all their eggs into the basket of the Democratic Party. I shake my head at the emotionally charged and irrational polarization between Blacks who support the Democratic and Republican Party, signified by the back and forth name-calling which I have observed, which has only benefited the “divide and conquer” strategy of the dominant society well. Even within the Afrosphere, I have seen Black bloggers, some of our brightest and best, who self-label themselves as “progressives”, quit working coalitions with other Black bloggers, because they didn’t want to be associated with those who identify themselves as Republicans! Ridiculous and shameful! 

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Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

 

 

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

It took me a while to be able to sit down and formulate the topic for this month’s carnival topic, but here it is. I wanted come up with something positive to reflect upon, in relation for both the out-going and the upcoming year. Most of us have just come through the Thanksgiving festivities and are now gearing up for the holiday season and new year.

I read a lot of different materials. I read a lot of blogs also…. and there is a dominant  undercurrent of negativity (I know some would call it: controversy) in the media, whether it is print or visual, and especially in the most popular blogs. But it’s understandable because controversy and negativity sells. It get’s the attention. That’s the way our societal mentality has developed…. so we are subconsciously and consciously programmed to focus on the bad…. the negative…. the so-called controversial. So I ain’t mad at yah! However I would like to end the year by asking us here to flip the script, stop drinking the koolaid for a moment, clear our minds and refocus our perspective, and seriously reflect on what are some of the things we are thankful for in 2007, and what are we hopeful for in 2008? What are the achievements in 2007 you are most proud of and what do you hope to achieve in 2008? It can be either personal, as a community you identify with or both…. and please don’t take it as you’re making some sort of new year’s resolution. That’s not the point of this exercise.

Please have the link to your post submitted by next Tuesday 11 December  at Afrospear@hotmail.com, and the carnival date will be Thursday 13 December.

Here is my submission.

People,

African-Americans are at a critical point in time. They need to address conditions and circumstances that are preventing them from existing as a free and independent people. In order for them to do this there are many factors they should prepare to embrace. The first one is God and spirituality which will inspire them to want to atone, unite and organize to address conditions in society and this onslaught of racial attacks. The second is numbers. Blacks need to show a force of millions of their people preparing to fight for freedom, justice and equality. That is why the Black Church and the Five Phase Plan will play a crucial role in this movement for respect and reparations.

1. When African-Americans decide to engage in this effort, they will realize they should go through a process to solve differences among their people and prepare to carry on these actions until they receive justice in the form of reparations. They need to atone to make themselves better people in their own eyes and commit to organizing with the purpose of addressing racism, disparities and inequities, and demanding respect and reparations.

2. Blacks should realize that it is of the ut-most importance for them to identify themselves as they see fit. They should not continue to let others name them and dictate their destination. Blacks should know that they can name themselves according to their land of origin, culture and existence. African-Americans should know different terms that have been put forth to identify them, such as Afro Descendents of Slaves, Descendents of Black African Slaves, Indigenous African-Americans, Moors and African Spiritual Beings, among other names. We should learn what it would mean for us to claim an identity for ourselves and move accordingly. This would be a signal to the world that we are claiming our independence. We should not continue to identify ourselves as others see fit.

All groups who claim blacks should call themselves one of these names have good reasons. But there is one name that will give African-Americans a right to land and all forms of reparative measures to recover their heritage, relieve themselves of the mental anguish they suffer from due to 500 years of extreme prejudice or (PTSS) and build cities complete with an infrastructure. Blacks can undergo this task by holding a Plebiscite for Sovereignty, which is a national vote among black folks in America.

3. Blacks need to form a Reparations Union to create a power base to carry out a massive campaign for reparations. It would enable them to address the rise in racial attacks in a strong, united and ever lasting group effort. Instead of the usual manner in which a few folks who normally show up call on thousands to conduct one day protest. It would direct them to put pressure on the government and big corporations that will stimulate real and lasting change. It would enable them to carry out national boycotts, marches and protest that would last for weeks and months and years if necessary, to force policy makers and institutions in this country to respect them. And most important of all, the formation of this union would get others to think twice before they violate African-Americans and their constitutional and civil rights because they would know the union will fight hard to make them accountable for their actions. This would strengthen the Plebiscite and the black condition in America.

4. Blacks need to form a constituency among themselves to label and suggest solutions to solve crimes of slavery, segregation and discrimination, that have a lasting impact. This would be a Reparations Tribunal where African-Americans would place their findings before the public to determine what remedies are most suitable to repair the damages done to their people.

5. Blacks should work with Whites, Jews and others who have enslaved and or exploited them in a Truth and Reconciliation Process to elaborate on findings of the Tribunal and to disclose all others areas where they have been damaged and victims of injustice. This would signal the bearing of human beings to make up for past atrocities and to facilitate a healing between blacks and those who have caused them great pain and suffering. This is the way to bring justice to Black people and reconnect the different races in America in the spirit of God as various peoples with an understanding and degree of tolerance and respect for one another.

In memory of our ancestors,

Brotha Pruitt
Reparations Leader and Chairman
Committee for African American Reparations (CAAR)
Reparations Union Lobbying Association (RULA)

http://hometown.aol.com/blk2day/myhomepage/index.html

I remember watching a couple of the Sherlock Holmes movies when I was a kid. I never thought much of them as the story lines didn’t really hold my interest, plus they were shown in “black and white”. I do remember though the line Sherlock Holmes gave his sidekick, Dr. Watson when he was ready to solve the case and explain how he came to his conclusions. He made it all seem so obvious after he proclaimed: “elementary my dear Watson, elementary,” and then broke it all down. I would wonder why Watson, being a learn-ed “Doctor”, hadn’t figured it out also and would ask the detective dumb questions. hmmmmm

This week another Dr. Watson garnered media attention, not for asking dumb questions, but for making “dumb” comments. Dr. James Watson, biologist, geneticist, Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and 1962 Nobel laureate in science, made some controversial statements regarding “Race” in an interview he gave to The Sunday Times. The interviewer shared these beliefs of Dr. Watson’s in the article:

“He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.   

This is not the first or only time the “good doctor” has made controversial statements, especially regarding race. During a lecture tour in 2000 he hypothesized that there were scientific links between skin colour and sexual prowess, specifically that “dark-skinned people have stronger libidos”. He has also hypothesized that if you could detect babies with “gay genes” pre-natally, women should then have the right to abort the baby “because women want to have grandchildren, period.” He also agreed with what he refers to as the “unpopular but by no means unfounded” theory of ex-Harvard president Larry Summers, who lectured that the low representation of tenured female scientists at universities might be due to, among other things, “the innate differences between the sexes”. Due to the furor caused by his latest comments, he has had to cancel a book tour, scheduled lectures and he has also been suspended from his administrative duties at the Laboratory.

So here’s the deal. I believe the issue isn’t so much with the statements he made…. but that he made them publicly! He simply stated what is the widely held belief among those in the dominant “white” society. It is not the first time (nor the last) that science has been utilized to assert the inferiority of the so-called “Black Race”. Scientists are forever coming up with hypotheses and theories either contending that “whites” and/or “Europeans” and their culture is superior to everyone elses, or that “Blacks” and/or “Africans” and their culture are inferior to all others. However, because it is no longer “socially acceptable” nor “politically correct” to make such assertions publicly, “the rule” now is to do it within private (i.e. where Black people aren’t allowed) confines of the backrooms, the social clubs, the boardrooms, the executive offices… hell even in the bathroom…. but never, never out in the open and certainly not to the media! If you break this rule…. you are on your own!

Dr. Watson has made the usual apologies, claimed the statements don’t reflect what he meant, “and there is no scientific basis for such a belief.” Interestingly he also stated: “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said.”

“Elementary my dear Watson, elementary…. you’re a racist.”  

I have never been a strong supporter for the call for reparations. I find that I expend enough energy just trying to get what I am currently entitled to, while I am struggling to hold on to what little I already have. Therefore I have not been really interested in fighting to get an apology and/or monetary compensation from “white” people for the past and current atrocities, injustices and other consequences that stem from slavery.

However, I recently received an interesting email which got me thinking more about this issue. It was from Brother Pruitt, who is the Reparations Leader and Chairman for the Committee for African American Reparations (CAAR) and the Reparations Union Lobbying Association. On his website he states:

“African-Americans should form a Reparations Union creating a power base in the tradition of lobbying and special interest groups that will consist of rich, middle class and poor blacks in addition to community conscious whites, jews and others who would like to see blacks win reparations and attain equality. This would enable African-Americans to announce the need for a congressional hearing to address the ills in society that exist because of slavery, segregation, institutional racism and discrimination. African-Americans owe it to themselves and their ancestors to expose politics and people responsible for maintaining corruption perpetuating unethical activity.”

From what I understood from his email and website, reparations is just one component, but a significant part of the overall healing and empowering process we need to go through as a community. 

What are your views on the issue of reparations? Is it a worthy cause or just a waste of time and energy? Will monetary compensation address the injustices and atrocities of the past in any significant way…. or will it lead to what Biggie Smalls once warned: “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems”? Is reparations only an issue for those in the Diaspora or should those on the African continent demand reparations also from Europeans and Arabs for the theft of human and natural resources and the continuing effects of colonialism?

Please have the link to your post submitted by Sunday 04 November at Afrospear@hotmail.com, and the carnival date will be Monday 05 November.

It’s thanksgiving here in Canada, which spurred me to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for. Here are 10 things I came up with:

  1. I thank God for His Son Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for me.

  2. I thank God for my life.

  3. I thank God for my wife.

  4. I thank God for my son.

  5. I thank God for my family.

  6. I thank God for all the people he has brought into my life…. the good, the bad and the indifferent. I have learnt from them all.

  7. I thank God for all that he has provided for me and my family materially and financially.

  8. I thank God for my health.

  9. I thank God that I live in Canada.

  10. I thank God that I don’t live in Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Israel or The U.S.A.  

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