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?”  

 

I recently watched 2 classic movie’s… one that I had never seen before, A Gentleman’s Agreement and one of my all time favourites, Do The Right Thing. Both deal with the subject of racism, but in certainly different ways. They were both ground breaking and hard hitting films which deals with issues surrounding the practice and effects of discrimination and prejudice, and what is striking is that they were made 42 years apart.  

A Gentleman’s Agreement was made in 1947 and directed by Elia Kazan. It’s the story of a writer at a “progressive” New York based magazine who decides to pass himself off as Jewish, so as to do an article on anti-Semitism in America. He experiences not only the blatant effects of racism, such as being denied jobs and access to public accommodations, as well as his son being verbally attacked, but he comes to discovers the more subtle forms of racism such as the telling of jokes and the discomfort of his presence in certain social circles. The film also explores the issues of self-hate behaviours and attitudes to how supposedly “good” people can and do contribute to the perpetuation of racism in small ways in their everyday lives.

The title of the film is to signify the “gentleman’s agreement”, which his fiancée informs him is “understood” among home owners in her upscale neighbourhood, that they won’t sell to Jews. I must say I was surprised that such a film was made in 1947, which tackled such complex issues in such a real way. It went on to win numerous awards including 3 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress.

I consider Do The Right Thing a masterpiece. From the opening dance sequence to Public Enemy’s protest anthem “Fight the Power” by Rosie Perez during the opening credits… to the trash can through the window… to the last scene where Mookie get’s paid by Sal, this film takes one on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. The multitude of characters with distinct personalities and motivations, “colours” the dynamics of this film in such a way I have never seen repeated.

I hadn’t watched this film in years but I am still blown away by the way Spike Lee delves into the issues of blatant and subtle effects of racism; the valuing of white property over the lives of the Black community in general and the life of a Black man in particular; economic self reliance; self-hate and self-respect; personal and community responsibility; the reasoning and consequence of protest; family loyalties and cross cultural allegiances; the significance of the polar messages of Malcolm and Martin which permeate through the film; etc…. I could go on and on. This is the type of movie where you can get something different (and more) out of it, every time you watch it. Released in 1989, it also won a number of awards but garnered only 2 Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.

Both films are very different in their approach and style in how they deal with a similar topic with complex issues. Both are worth seeing or seeing again.

 

Here are some of the jewels from Africa that has enriched my life:

My favourite online African magazine, The African Executive. Here are 2 of this month’s articles that may be of interest:   

Tribalism in Africa: A Western Creation? 

Is Democracy Working in Africa? 

Blogs:

Africa Beat: political and economic development by an Afro-optimist;

Blog Africa: wide variety of African blogs; 

Le Pangolin: French blogger from Senegal;

Ore’s Notes: Nigerian woman living in Lagos;

Poefrika: a weblog of creative African-inspired writing; 

What an African Woman Thinks: one of my favourites. This blogger in Kenya really personalizes the fears and aspirations of those who are currently experiencing the events in that country. A must read!

Books:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Why Are We So Blest both by Ayi Kwei Armah

Weep Not, Child by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

God’s Bit’s of Wood by Sembene Ousmane

Death and the King’s Horsemen; Madmen and Specialists. Both are by Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka

Long Walk To Freedom. The autobiography of Nelson Mandela

The Wretched Of The Earth by Frantz Fanon

Civilization and Barbarism by Cheikh Anta Diop

West Africa Traditional Religion by T.N.O. Quarcoopome  

Music:

Femi Kuti: Nigerian Afrobeat and Jazz artist.

Angelique Kidjo: Beninese singer and songwriter who performs a variety of afrostyles.

Salif Keita: Albino Malian singer and songwriter with a sweet voice that fits well with his buoyant beats. 

Youssou N’Dour: Senegalese musician who is a modern day Griot.

Miriam Makeba: South African singer, actress, anti-Apartheid activist who was at one time married to Stokley Carmichael.

Hugh Masekela: South Africa Jazz composer and musician, known for his skillz on the trumpet.

Interactive

A Day in the Life of Africa: On February 28th 2002, 100 photojournalists captured the essense of Africa in a 24 hour period. Enter the Gallery at this site and click on each of the 10 Timezones to enjoy some of the magnificent photos.This effort was to raise funds and awareness of the AIDS-HIV crisis on the continent. A photo book is available for sale with proceeds going to Africa AIDS Education Fund.      

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.  

 

I wanted to do this post last week but I was just too busy with doing “da life thang” to blog. I was inspired to get it done after reading this post by brotherpeacemaker: The “N” Word.

The Queen-Mother informed me of a news story she saw that in the southern U.S., they are using the term “Canadian” as a code word to refer to Black people. It replaces the publicly unacceptable term “nigger”. Huh!? Apparently in 2003, after a prosecutor in Houston, Texas got a double manslaughter conviction, his boss sent out a congratulatory email to the whole office, commenting that the conviction and stiff sentence was secured although the jury had some “Canadians” who were feeling sorry for the defendant. There were no people from Canada on the jury but there were some African Americans. There was also a story of a Black store clerk who kept overhearing patrons complaining that they were always being served by the “Canadian”. She didn’t know who they were talking about and finally asked a co-worker, who was this “Canadian” she kept hearing about? She was enlightened that it was her and it was a new code word for “nigger”. But why the term: “Canadian”… because Canadians aren’t Americans… they’re “outsiders!” See news story here.   

I have also been made aware that another code word for us Black people is “Mondays”. Why “Mondays”? Because people usually don’t like Mondays! I was mistaken to believe this was just an American phenomenon. I was telling a friend who lives in Toronto, Canada about this and she told me of an incident she recently had on the subway. She was standing and holding on to a pole on the train with 4 other white people who knew each other, when one of the guys started talking about “Mondays”. She didn’t know what he was referring to, but she thought it was strange because it wasn’t a Monday. She stated that one of the white women with them gave her a “look” and she felt strange, so she moved.  She later came to realize they were referring to her.    

WOW! It makes me wonder what other new age references and/or derogatory terms they have for “us”? Ignorance is never bliss! 

“Tell me why I don’t like Mondays…. I want to shoot the whole day down.” The Boomtown Rats.   

 

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. 

(more…)

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