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Back in the day, in my former life I was a working actor. Looking back at my life to that time so long ago, it does seem like it was a former life. I am certainly a much different person than back then.

Anywayzzz… when I was making my living as an actor in Toronto Canada, the experience was fulfilling in many ways, but it was mainly very frustrating. When it came to film and television roles, they were primarily U.S. based productions, so all the main characters were already cast with American actors. My first few years were working as an “extra” … basically in non-descript roles making up the background scenery. It was grueling work and somewhat demeaning. I remember many times when as an “extra”, I had to wait off to the side during meal breaks until the lead characters and the crew had eaten, before we were allowed to get our lunch and/or dinner (i.e. leftovers) from the meal table. After some time I was able to get an agent and I got cast in “better” roles in these productions. As a Black actor, I was primarily offered the role of “Black thug on the right”, or “Black thug on the left” … or if I was really fortunate, I got cast as “Black thug in the middle” , who got arrested by the lead “white” cop character and got to say a variation of the line: “hey man… I didn’t do nuttin!” After a number of these roles, my sense of self-respect couldn’t handle it, so I told my agent I wasn’t going to do them anymore and to try to get me auditions for roles that were not “race” specific. I think I went on 2 auditions after that before the agent dropped me.

When it came to theatre productions, things were a little better. There was certainly more “artistic-license” taken by producers and directors when it came to “non-traditional” casting. I played a variety of roles in numerous productions. I was given the opportunity to play “Benvolio” in a summer stock production of Romeo and Juliet. It was a fantastic experience and it led to an audition for the artistic director of the Stratford Festival. This festival is the premiere Shakespearean festival in Canada and it is world renown. I had known a couple of my peers… and I literally mean two Black actors, who had been cast in minor roles at the festival. However they were cast as background figures, non-speaking roles… “spear carrier on the right” or “servant on the left”. As a part of the festival’s training program, both were given the opportunity to “understudy” minor roles. From conversations with these friends about their experiences, it was obvious (to me at least) that the festival only hired Black actors (and other “actors of colour”) in an effort to appear to be inclusive, so as to ward off any criticism that they were racist or discriminatory in their casting.

So I decided that instead of doing a “standard” audition where I would recite a monologue and then stroke the artistic director’s ego and claim how it had always been my lifelong dream to work with him and be a part of the festival, no matter how small the role, and that I would be forever grateful and in his debt for the opportunity… I decided to put him on the spot and ask him why I should want to work at the festival? What was the advantage for me? What role(s) did he have in mind for me? I informed him it wouldn’t be worth it to me, to go there and play insignificant background roles. Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed. He gave me an exasperated lecture on the importance of respecting the auditioning process and “paying my dues” . He then ended the audition. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get an invite to work at Stratford… but strangely I felt a certain amount of pride for my stance.

I then made the decision to do low budget independent films and theatrical production dealing with social issues, primarily those relating to the Black and African community. I also worked with a collective of Black artists doing our own productions. However it became increasingly difficult to work on a continuous basis as there wasn’t much community support and the government funding for what was termed “non-traditional productions”, went primarily to “white” film production and theatre companies that had submitted proposals to do “ethnic-based” productions. I worked for a couple of these companies and found that they were very eurocentric in their perspectives on social issues, as well as blatantly condescending and patronizing in their ethnic-based” productions. Although I worked for approximately another year or so in the arts before I decided to do something else, my most rewarding efforts during this period were the productions I did with other “artists of colour”. I didn’t feel like I was a slave to the whims and self-promoting generosity of “white” producers and directors.

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I watched another heart-wrenching documentary on the genocide in Darfur. Titled “On Our Watch”, it was featured on PBS Frontline. It’s unbelievable that this atrocity is still occurring in 2008 and the leaders of our world community cannot muster the “will” to impress upon Sudan that it must stop this genocide. The documentary touched on some of the reasons why there is such a failure to act… the most vital being oil. It’s paradoxical that there are those who believe that Iraq was invaded because of it’s oil fields, while Sudan is left to continue it’s policy of genocide because of it’s oil fields.

There is lots of blame to go around for this failure to act, from the U.N; the U.S. (which has taken a hardline and imposed strict economic sanctions on Sudan, but could obviously do more… see here); the European Community, The Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Iran, The African Union, The Arab League and China… to name just a few of the major players. Let’s not forget about the Afrosphere, which could do much more to advocate for the people of Darfur. If half as much energy, focus and commitment was utilized by bloggers of African descent to organize, petition and demand action to stop the genocide in Darfur, as was generated to support the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, there would be more pressure on our leaders, both community and political, to address this issue. If we don’t show we care by taking action, they certainly won’t! For some of us, it will be a historic achievement to have a black face in the White House… while for others, it’s a historic achievement to survive the day without being raped, tortured or killed… and being able to have one meal for the day. Let me give a “dap and a big up!” to Yobachi over at BlackPerspectives.net, who has been constant in his commitment on keeping Darfur an issue in the Afrosphere.

Below are links to the PBS Frontline documentary and other informative sites on Darfur. There are also links on these sites giving you the opportunity to get involved in stopping the genocide.

  1. On Our Watch
  2. sudanreeves.org
  3. Eyes on Darfur
  4. Save Darfur
  5. Save Darfur: Partner Campaigns

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Recently I have been contemplating if the church has any real significant and positive influence on the world today, especially in the beliefs and actions of western society in particular. There was a time when Christian ideology, through the church was very influential (good and bad) in shaping political, social, cultural and even personal beliefs and viewpoints. I would argued that today this influence is not as great as it was say… even 30 years ago.

I read an analytical report on The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life website which somewhat dealt with this issue, from an interesting point of reference. This article entitled: “Science in America: Religious Beliefs and Public Attitudes”, discussed the findings of a survey which concluded that “when scientific evidence and long-held religious beliefs come into direct conflict, many Americans reject science.” 

According to the authours of the report, American society has a unique dichotomy in that on one hand, it is the most religious of the advanced industrial democracies, while on the other hand, it’s leadership in scientific research and application has been instrumental in making it a powerful nation. This has… not surprisingly… created some conflict between faith and science on societal beliefs, particularly on controversial issues such as evolution, homosexuality and global warming. The report primarily looked at the influence of religion and science on these three topics in American society.

The report contended that a close reading of the survey shows that large majorities of the American public respect science and scientists, but where scientific evidence and long-held religious belief come into direct conflict, “many Americans reject science in favor of the teachings of their faith tradition.” However, surprisingly today such areas of explicit differences are not common. 

It was interesting to compare the beliefs of Black and White Christians (specifically Evangelicals) on the above three issues, as well as secularists, Conservatives, Moderates, Liberals, college and high school graduates. The results were not as straightforward and/or obvious as one would be expect. There are definite mixtures and combinations of scientific and religious influences which run through even strong held beliefs and opinions.

The report does not necessarily answer my original question on whether the church, Christianity and religion in general is a positive driving force on western society, but it does offer some insight on what motivates beliefs and therefore actions… which can have obvious implications in areas such as the formulation of government statutes and public policies. 

Don’t ask: “Why does God allow this to happen?”

Pray: “God… give me the wisdom and strength to do what I must to stop this from happening?”  

 

As I have been following the current news events out of Africa, it is disturbing to see all the images of chaos, death, disease, greed, genocide and corruption. Is that all there is or is that only what is being fed to us? I have always believed that western society’s (and the global) view of those of African descent starts, is influenced and perpetuated by these negative media images from the Motherland. I also believe that these images have an effect on how “we” see ourselves here in the Diaspora.

Africa is indeed resource rich. However, despite the dismal news reports and negative images, Africa has much more to offer the world other than it’s material resources, that is being raped and stolen for the benefit of former neocolonial regimes and to enrich their propped up African overseers! One of the resources we don’t utilize enough as people of African descent, are the many voices that are available to be “mined” for our benefit. There are cultural, political, econimic, artistic, literary and spiritual gems of experiences, knowledge, beliefs, values, insights and opinions, which are available to help bring clarity and strength to our being. The continent is rich in books, films, magazines, music, websites and blogs, etc., which are the invaluable jewels that their best and brightest have to offer the world.  

For this month’s carnival, let’s share and exchange some of the priceless resources from the Motherland that have enriched and brought joy to our lives. Create a post on your page with African based web links, as well as book, music, magazine, movie and blog lists, etc., and submit a link to Afrospear@hotmail.com by this Sunday 10th February. I will compile the links and publish the carnival on Monday the 11th. 

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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It appears that another white celebrity has stepped in some dog doo-doo” (I crack myself up sometimes…lol), over using the N-word during a tirade. Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman got caught making offensive remarks on an audio taped phone conversation he was having with his son, who is dating a Black woman. Below is a part of the transcript:

I don’t care if she’s a Mexican, a whore or whatever. It’s not because she’s black, it’s because we use the word nigger sometimes here. I’m not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I’ve worked for for 30 years because some fucking nigger heard us say nigger and turned us in to the Enquirer magazine. Our career is over! I’m not taking that chance at all! Never in life! Never! Never! If Lyssa [Dog's daughter] was dating a nigger, we would all say ‘fuck you!’ And you know that. If Lyssa brought a black guy home ya da da… it’s not that they’re black, it’s none of that. It’s that we use the word nigger. We don’t mean you fucking scum nigger without a soul. We don’t mean that shit. But America would think we mean that. And we’re not taking a chance on losing everything we got over a racial slur because our son goes with a girl like that. I can’t do that Tucker. You can’t expect Gary, Bonnie, Cecily, all them young kids to [garbled] because ‘I’m in love for 7 months’ – fuck that! So, I’ll help you get another job but you can not work here unless you break up with her and she’s out of your life. I can’t handle that shit. I got ‘em in the parking lot trying to record us. I got that girl saying she’s gonna wear a recorder…”

Now for the obvious. Duane issued an apology, stated that he is not a racist, proclaimed his love and respect for Black people, met with his spiritual adviser Rev. Tim Storey (who he was quick to point out is Black), and contacted the Rev. Al Sharp[tongue] to “make things right again”. A&E network has also suspended the show for the foreseeable future season and hopes that Duane continues the “healing process” that he has begun.

I started thinking about this whole ordeal and I came to the conclusion that Duane is playing this all wrong. I think he would have been much better served if he had contacted Nas, who is about to release an album entitled “Nigger” on December 11th. Nas states: “Right now, we’re on a whole new movement. We’re taking power [away] from that word.” Duane could have then claimed that he is now committed to this “new movement” and is in collaboration with the rapper to take power away from the N-word. He and Michael Richards (Kramer from the t.v. show Seinfeld), could then go on tour with Nas after he drops his new CD. They can dub it: “Save the N-word Tour“. Paris Hilton, who also had her own “nigger” moment, could also jump on board. She claims to be seeking to do something meaningful with her life after her stint in jail. Duane, Mikey and Paris could be the opening acts and start the show off by reprising their “nigger” laced tirades. 

I then began to brainstorm (which is not necessarily a good thing) what else this “new movement” by Nas, Duane, Mikey and Paris could do to take the power away from the N-word. Then it hit me… it was an epiphany…. an enlightenment! Why not start a petition to lobby the government…. no…. lobby the United Nations to declare a “NIGGER DAY” !?  Let’s have one day, every year, right around the world…. let’s say…. March 1st…. right after Black History Month…. when we can call each other “nigger” without any repercussions. Regardless if you are black, white, yellow, red or brown, male or female, young or old….. on NIGGER DAY we can all call each other “nigger” or use it anyway we like in a sentence or conversation. Politicians, religious leaders, celebrities, media personalities, comedians, business leaders, scientists, professors, Nobel laureates…. right down to your boss, co-workers, your landlord, cab drivers, etc., would be free to unburden themselves and say what is really on their mind with no fear of reprisal for that one day.      

Think of it…. if we had a NIGGER DAY, then Duane could have waited until that day to go into his tirade and there would be no problem. I could show up at work in the morning and greet my boss (who is white) with “Good Morning nigger” and he could shake my hand and pat me on the head and respond truthfully, without any apprehension: “No you’re my nigger…. in fact you’re the only nigger here“. Then we can all have a good laugh and slap each other on the back as we go get coffee. That person at work, church, school, etc., who you just don’t like or maybe you do like, well you can “nigger” them all day long… for a whole 24 hours! Over time, after a few years, we’ll all get “niggered” out and the word won’t be a big deal anymore…. the power will truly be taken away from that word.

This “new movement” of Nas, Duane, Mikey and Paris can lead us to that glorious day, NIGGER DAY, that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dreamed about and died for. That day when we let the freedom to use the word “Nigger” anytime and anywhere ring. When we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the new Negro spirituals: “nigga dis, nigga dat; nigga you and nigga me; u mah nigga; die nigga die; nigga, nigga, nigga”!!!  

 

During my pilgrimage to West Africa in 1997, I visited a number of slave castles along the coast. There were 3 things which I found most troubling but were a constant in these castles. One was the smell in the cells were the slaves were kept. You could still smell the stench of despair after all these centuries. The second were the pits where rebellious and troublesome slaves were thrown in to starve to death. In some castles, the church or chapel was built right above these pits! The third and most disturbing was that in all these castles, the soldiers quarters were right above the women cells. There was usually a staircase leading down into the cell area where these white soldiers would descend to choose their Black female victims for the night. When I visited the slave castle in the region of Ghana where Jamaicans came from, a unrighteous rage welled up in me as I stood in the soldiers quarters and pondered if I had a female ancestor who’s mind, body and soul was violated in these quarters. This rage turned into an unfamiliar but deep sorrow as I considered that this would be one of many violations…. here in this castle, then on the ship as it crossed the middle passage and then on the plantation in Jamaica. I wept.

I dated a woman from Liberia. She was living there during the civil war, during the time before and after Charles Taylor was president. She related to me a couple of her experiences of being raped. The first time was at the start of the conflict. She was around 10 years old when one of the boy soldiers, from her village whom she had grown up with, raped her in front of her family…. in front of her father, mother, sisters and brothers. She remembers the scream of her father’s anguish as he was forced to watch at gunpoint the violation of his daughter. She also related a story of similar incident when another soldier, a grown man, had abducted her and taken her to his hut to rape her. The local commander at the time, had ordered that his men were not to rape the women. Someone told the commander that this soldier had abducted her and he came, released her before she was raped and killed this soldier in front of her. I sensed that there were other times that she was raped…. but she didn’t talk about them… and I didn’t ask. She did tell me of her sister who was abducted off the streets of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. She was brought to a compound where Charles Taylor, who had an affinity for light-skinned women, would come and rape these women with his henchmen when he pleased. As she related these and other stories to me, that rage and deep sorrow which I had felt before, would come over me. At times when this woman whom I loved, trembled and cried as she slept, I could only imagine that she was reliving the violations of her mind, body and soul. I wept.    

Rape has constantly been used as a weapon to degrade and dehumanize Black women…. women of African descent. In a much broader sense, it is an attack…. a degradation and dehumanization against all of us…. and both White and Black men are guilty of these atrocities! I am not going to try to understand or psychoanalyze what would lead six white people (3 men and 3 women) to kidnap a 20 year-old Black woman…. rape, torture and force her to eat rat, dog and human feces for more than a week (The Case of Megan Williams). I cannot even fathom why four Black teenagers…. young men…. would rape, sodomize and then at gunpoint, force a Black woman to have sex with her son. They terrorized and then attempted to kill this woman and her son…. all the while recording the event on a cell phone camera (Dunbar Village Case).

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12 

It would be easy to dismiss these perpetrators by referring to them as “animals”, or as “inhuman”. But they aren’t animals…. they aren’t inhuman! First, I have never heard of any animal species treating one another in this way. Secondly, these are human beings who have consciously decided and took steps to treat another human being is this way. For them to so easily violate the mind, body and soul of these Black women….. is much more than a “sickness” that can be attributed to our society. It is spiritual wickedness. These atrocities are happening all over the world, right now, to our Black women…. to our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, nieces and even grandmothers…. and it has to stop! As Black men, we should feel rage, deep sorrow, shame and weep that the mind, body and soul of the women of our community are being violated in these ways! We Black men, who are both the primary perpetrators and protectors of our community, have to take it upon ourselves to stop it and stop allowing it to happen!                           

So today, Thursday November 1st 2007, those within the Afrosphere are blogging for justice. We are blogging to protect Black women and their families from the horrors of rape. We are blogging to raise public awareness about the Megan Williams and Dunbar Village cases. We are making a call for action:

  1. Sign a petition in support of Megan Williams
  2. Donate to the Megan Williams Trust Fund
  3. March against hate and in support of Megan Williams in Charleston, West Virginia on November 3rd  
  4. Donate to the Dunbar Village Victim’s Assistance Fund 

To read other posts that blogged for justice on this topic, follow the link here.             

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.

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