News


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.        

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?”  

On Thursday 08th February, LAPD Officer Randal Simmons was killed in the line of duty. He was a member of a SWAT unit and was responding to an occurrence where a mentally disturbed man had already killed three of his family members. Another officer James Veenstra was also critically wounded. The gunman was eventually killed by other officers.

Officer Simmons, who was 51 years old, is survived by his wife, two teenage children, parents and three sisters. He was also an ordained minister and led the children’s outreach services at his church. This ministry served about 1500 children every weekend in poor L.A. neighbourhoods with food, toys, gospel CDs, bible lessons, puppet shows and games. 

We usually hear (and highlight) the negative things the police are involved with as it relates to our community. Lets not forget those who are positive role models and heroes in life… as well as in death. Say a prayer for his family and colleagues… and also the family of the gunman, Edwin Rivera.  

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.

 

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 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.”  

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