Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign Summary Report on the Second UN Meeting for People of African Descent: Geneva, Switzerland November 23-24, 2017

Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign
Summary Report on Second UN Meeting for People of African Descent
Geneva, Switzerland November 23-24, 2017

This report was compiled in January 2018 by Tomiko Shine; Cultural Anthropologist and Founding Director of Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC)

APP-HRC

Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign was established as a response to the mammoth numbers of peoples of African descent, the black bodies of men and women serving draconian sentences in prisons across North America. The over 1000 prisons across North America are an extension of the thousands plantations scattered across the Southern part of the nation during institutionalized slavery. Thus, the many black bodies imprisoned in some form over the last 500 years are the descendants of the enslaved Africans who were born, lived, and died on plantations.

APP-HRC works to have these descendants released, returned, and reunited with their families with the little time they have left on this earth. As a result its organizational philosophy is shaped by a human rights paradigm that designates these imprisoned African descendants as human.

UN International DECADE for People of African Descent 2015-2024

The United Nations declaring 2015-2024 as a decade for people of African descent is very important and timely. Proceeding this decade, the historical lived experience of black families in America has aided in explaining their prescribed roles and narratives in American culture as analyzed in articles such as “Lens of Blackness” by anthropologist Tomiko Shine. Likewise the decade becomes important to dialogue, brainstorm, and implement activities that introduce change from an international, national, and local level.

DEVELOPMENT

Housing

My analysis from discussions by NGOs in North America or across the Diaspora highlights gentrification and displacement of refugees as similar to the historical migrations that have occurred with African Americans over centuries and is an extension of the continued instability of the black family.

Thus within a context of racialized historical poverty and socio-economic political deficits low income African Americans in metropolitan cities such as Washington DC, Baltimore MD, Richmond VA, Harlem New York, etc are the first to lose or be evicted from housing.

Poverty

Many testimonies spoke to the poverty those of African descent remain in after centuries of colonialism/slavery and thirty plus generations later. Thus you have countries like Haiti, Congo, and North America where generations of African children are born, growing up, and passing on poverty to the next generation. With the crushing blow of the Trans Atlantic slave trade and the extracting of human, mineral, and land resources in countries mostly inhabited by black bodies; the suffering has been great and the return very little or none for those black bodies scattered across the Diaspora. This historical trajectory is meticulously told in Edward Baptist’s book, “The Other Half Has Never Been Told”.

In North America one of the most powerful, richest, and technologically advanced nations in the world has throughout its different principalities

African Americans with little or no ownership of housing/land, high illiteracy, food/book deserts, and poor health care. In a 2016 report whites have a net worth of 81 times greater than blacks. In Washington DC, whites have a net worth of $284,000 compared to blacks at $3,500; and Hispanics a net worth of $13,500.

This report later speaks to these spaces as “Cities of Trauma”.

Labor

Lack of jobs, training, and apprenticeships were mentioned as contributing to unstable communities/families and negative behaviors that impact peoples of color immediate space and future surroundings. The socio-poli-econ constructs called ghettos within Johannesburg, Ferguson, Brazil, and New Orleans only serve to maintain the growing enormous wealth disparities between “blacks” and “whites”. It also paradoxically places generational wealth and servitude along two polarizing lines. 500 years later peoples of African descent for the most part remain and are directed to jobs of servitude, incarceration, or social service jobs not requiring college level or technologically advanced understanding.

RECOGNITION

Education was central to the discussion under Recognition. When the enslaved was first released from the labor camps of the plantations, illiteracy for the former was over 80%; but within 100 years the same population once enslaved for centuries was over 80% literate in the dawning of the 20th century. Unfortunately in 2017 and surprisingly following the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and affirmative Action, people of African descent and the issue of literacy has again become according to acclaimed author Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu; “the civil rights issue of our time.”

Cities like Baltimore have literacy rates for 4th graders at 14%, and in Washington DC 8th graders with literate rates of 30%; it continues with similar numbers with highly concentrated African Americans across North America. In addition these same inner cities are closing schools due to various reasons such as: low performance, attendance, etc. In addition, at the height there were 150 Black bookstores during the 1970s, now that number as of 2017 is 70 African American bookstores in North America.

JUSTICE

Whether it was in Paris, South Carolina, or Canada it is a fact and cultural practice of societies across the world that black bodies are in someway always contained, confined, or imprisoned.

For example the International NGO; Food for the Poor in December 2017 was able through contributions to aid 261 non-violent prisoners in being released from prisons in countries like Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti, and Honduras. All arrests were for minor crimes, one categorized as economic crimes due to poverty, misunderstandings, or poor application of the law that sent many of them who are parents away from their families months to years at a time. Similar to Ferguson and Baltimore, historically impoverished cities majority peoples of African descent can end up spending large amounts of time and money within the criminal justice system.

Many of the men and women are in for crimes they did not commit or could have been handled with better alternatives from day one. Appallingly 1 in 3 black male babies born in North America will end up in jail or prison during their lifetime. This over incarceration of long sentences has led to women and men of African descent being held in prisons for 30, 40, 50, and even 60 plus years’; thus a future crisis of elderly prisoners by an increase of 400% will occur in North America by 2030. As a result today 2-3 generations of black men and women of the same family can be found in prisons, thus entering the era of generational incarceration.

Women/mothers of African descent within the last decade have become part of the growing crisis of mass/over incarceration. It is not unusual for the majority of these women to enter the prison pipeline through domestic violence or poverty. Thus, with over 80% of the women mothers, the black family on its last leg and no longer a family, but merely a survival unit scattered across the judicial system in parts.

REPARATIONS

The ideal of reparations is seen as a path under Development for people of African descent across the Diaspora. Most of the poli-socio-econ- problems of people of African descent can be traced back to slavery/colonialism. As author [Hillary] Beckles points out; “the objective of reparations … is to establish conditions for a just and reconciled future.” Reparations are a possible vehicle to change not only the current narrative of historical racial oppression and inequality, but give new identity to generations now and to come.

WEEKEND SPECIAL MEETING; RACIAL STEREOTYPES (Nov 25-26th)

After the Regional DECADE Meeting a weekend meeting was held by the UN Working Group of People of African Descent at the Palais Wilson.

As the history of racial stereotypes and language was discussed it was obvious that recent acts of white supremacists are nothing new and in fact are part of a racial lineage put in place centuries ago. In 2008, with the election of President Obama, it correlated with the rise of white supremacy behaviors such as an increase in gun purchase and hate crimes. Prior to this major event, the election, years before, the Census bureau made the announcement that the white collective would be a minority by 2040. Thus these combinations of events would result in the ultimate white backlash; a Trump administration was the response from the white collective to black progress culminating in a new group of young whites subconsciously acting out the culture of white supremacy.

Examples of the latter situation are as follows: Dylan Roof after the 2015 Charleston shooting of nine African Americans at the historic church Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church; was quoted as saying…”they are taking our women”.

August 2017, in New Hampshire a group of white teens were stopped by a neighbor when attempting to lynch an 8 year old biracial boy by placing a rope around his neck and tying it to a tree. August 2017, Heather Heyer was mowed over by a young white male who rammed his car into a crowd of 20 anti racist protesters killing her instantly.

In May 2017, African American male student Richard Collins just days away from graduating from Bowie college was killed by a young white male student on the University of MD College Park campus while waiting at the bus stop at night to go back to campus. December 2017, a young white male stabbed the African American man whom he and his white mother had lived with since he was 5 years old. As his “stepfather” lay dying taking his last breath he posted the video to Snapchat so his friends could watch; reciting “I did it, I kill him.”

In the 2009 Book “Blood and Politics” author Leonard Zeskind gives an historical cultural trajectory of the rise of white supremacy through organized efforts such as the KKK and other groups. He forecast in 2009 that with the browning of the nation, low birth rates by the white collective, the election of Obama; fear would set in. He describes the future with the following “….Producing in decades to come, the next generations of activists who would seek to establish a white nation-state, with definable economic, political, and racial borders out of the wreckage they hope to create of the United States. Some will kill and bomb and shoot their supposed racial enemies. Some will run for elected office and win. They will fight for local (white) control. Failing a complete victory, they will continue the cultural battle over symbols from the past and the history of the future.”

On Wednesday, January 3, 2018 author and historian Linda Gordan was interviewed by NPR in regards to her newly released book” The Second Coming of the KKK and the American Political Tradition“. In the interview and in her book she emphasizes any upward mobility demonstrated by blacks trying to establish citizenship in America was and is still met with white supremacy behavior and acts. She mentioned white supremacy groups are not declining with the onset of the Millennial Alt-Right and the only hope so far rests with the grassroots resistance groups in dismantling white supremacy.

DECADE (REMEMBRANCE)

In establishing the UN International Decade for People of African Descent three themes were isolated as affecting those of African descent across the globe both historically and currently. They are RECOGNITION, JUSTICE, and DEVELOPMENT. REMEMBRANCE should also be added as a needed platform and theme to recognize, bring justice, and help develop collective people of African descent.

Why REMEMBRANCE? For the people of African descent across the diaspora their story is also scattered and remains in parts; before they can begin to recognize self, obtain justice, and develop their nations; they must remember who they were, so they can understand why they are today and become a restored people of African Descent for the future. REMEMBRANCE is of grave importance to the “white collective” of the western world because the lack of remembering causes collective amnesia which supports the continuation of the status quo and white privilege; and the subordination of the black collective and their continued poverty in every sphere of life activity.

With that North America as well as other countries that have profited off of the currency of black bodies must learn to live with the memories of slavery and colonialism until they actually become memories. This is a twofold process, thus the nation would have to change systematically they way it interacts with people of African descent. Likewise the past actually becomes the past while preparing one for the future. American culture must begin to create and open spaces of lived memory that sets people free to live for the future.

ISSUES OF 21ST and 22nd CENTURY FOR PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT

ETHNOCIDE

In 1947 W.E.B. Dubois delivered an appeal in collaboration with the NAACP to the United Nations. In 1951 the Civil Rights Congress delivered to the United Nations entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Crime Against the Negro People“. Both of these appeals would highlight many examples of private and public lynchings in the United States, disenfranchisement of blacks, severe health inequalities, and police brutality. 67 years later in November 2014 a youth group of activists out of Chicago would deliver a shadow report under the same name “We Charge Genocide“. The report at the time was motivated by the resurgence of public brutality and police killings of black men in Chicago and across the States.

Whereas genocide is a systematic destruction of the literal physical body; ethnocide is defined as “killing social cultures through the killing of individual souls”, thus ethnocide is a part of a broader genocidal process.” Likewise it is the means and not the end that differentiate between ethnocide and genocide. UNESCO defines ethnocide as “denying the ethnic group the right to enjoy, develop and transmit its own culture and language, whether collectively or individually, thus it is a massive violation of human rights and the group’s cultural identity.” French Ethnologist Robert Jaulin who redefined the concept in 1970 places emphasis on the means and not the end based on his own anthropological field work. In his words, “… genocide assassinates the people in their body, while ethnocide kills them in their spirit.”

One can review the history of those of African descent and see due to major epic interruptions to their way of life and world view they never had the opportunity to transmit their culture or develop their cultural identity for the better as a collective in any way. This can be seen in the chart in Randall’s book “Dying While Black“. The chart looks at the

Black Health/Health Care Experience 1607 to 2006

Period                        Duration             Experience
1607 to 1864             258 years             Chattel Slavery, Slave Health Deficit Begins
1865 to 1964             100 years             Legal “Jim Crow” Segregation
1965 to 1979             15 years               Affirmation Action Era
1980 to 1996             17 years               Racial Re-entrenchment Era
1997 to 2006             10 years               Active Work on Eliminating Health Inequalities
FUTURE-????

Anyone looking at this chart can predict the lived experience of people of African descent in the Americas; and in fact it would be horrific for any human being to endure, and near impossible for any family to survive and thrive. Thus as a result in this type of cultural context; freedom and peace becomes an illusive experience in life, but for some only obtained through death.

CITIES of TRAUMA

The aforementioned history rests upon a current crisis across North America; Cities of Trauma. In North America the majority of African Americans are segregated to just 10- 15 major metropolitan cities; Detroit, MI, Jackson, MS, Birmingham, AL, Baltimore, MD, New Orleans, LA, Flint, MI, Savannah, GA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, etc…it is the norm for these cities to be plagued with high levels of poverty, over policing, over incarceration, teen pregnancy, broken families, intra violence, poor education, etc. These residents that live in Cities of Trauma unbeknownst to many of them are the result of over 30 generations of being contained within a cultural system of white supremacy and institutional racism.

From brutal slavery, centuries of sexual violence against the enslaved African women and incestuous relationships as mentioned in Edward Baptiste’s book; “The Other Half Has Never Been Told” has evolved into lasting detrimental mental and emotional effects on women of African descent across the nation.

This type of societal definition for any group becomes a traumatic experience just trying to live. Thus we have examples of Kalief Browder from New York who is imprisoned in 2010 at the age of 16 for 3 years because he and his family could not afford bail. He is released in June 2015 only a year later to commit suicide by hanging himself in his family’s home while his mother sits downstairs. 16 months later his mother Vernitta Browder dies from a series of heart attacks in one day.

Same city, Eric Gardner dies while being arrested by police and placed in an illegal chokehold in broad daylight in public. He left behind 6 children. 3 years later in January 2018 his oldest daughter Erica Gardner follows him in death leaving behind two small children, her son born in August 2017 was named after her father. Based on the groundbreaking work on Native Americans by Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart; both families are victims of historical trauma; an experience so relentless that it is not possible to avoid being born into it and dying in it.

Historical trauma is referred to as an emotional and psychological wounding of an individual or generation proceeded by a traumatic experience or event. If historical trauma is not dealt with and placed within the time and space of the past it can be transmitted transgenerationally from parent to child. For people of African descent in the Americas and across the Diaspora within the culture of white supremacy according to some this transmission has occurred over the last 30 generations of black bodies. In other words the trauma, the past has not been dealt with or changed and like an open wound it remains.

GLOBAL PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

As discussions continue about mass incarceration and prison reform within North America even with crime rates decreasing, there is a new concern of epic consequences for the future of people of African descent over the next 100 years. Unwilling to mesh out reparatory justice or change the racial structure that holds black bodies, this colonial/slave lineage will continue. As over incarceration increases in mass numbers, so has the economic gain of countries around the globe. Research reveals soaring numbers of incarceration of black bodies from historically impoverished countries like Haiti, Jamaica, South Africa, Cameroon, etc. Even when the country is historically wealthy like America, Europe, or Australia the increasing numbers of brown and black bodies incarcerated reveal resurgence of mass incarceration; but on a global scale.

A country like Australia is at its highest with 40,000 young people on any day with a parent in jail. The majority of those incarcerated are the Indigenous population with an increase along with women up by 77%, it is estimated about 60% are mothers. In a recent news article currently 1,000 children are incarcerated every night in that country and that number will double by 2025 to 2,000 if change is not implemented to dismantle the racialized structural social context of the Indigenous. In South Africa it has been moved by social justice activists to decrease their high numbers of black bodies incarcerated within a prison population of 157,000. As of March 2017, 41,427 prisoners were without beds. Cameroon’s 78 prisons set to hold 15,000 inmates hold double that amount and most await trial.

Another example is Haiti in places like Jacmel prison which is notorious for overcrowding and holding Haitians for prolonged periods in pre trial detention. Haiti’s National Penitentiary built for 1,200 on any day has upwards of 4,000 plus Haitians in its prison cells; meaning the prison is over 400% capacity. Haiti has a prison population of about 10,000.

In accordance with the current plight of immigrants and refugees a recent article “The Double Punishment for Black Undocumented Immigrants” highlights that although only 7 percent of non-citizens in the U.S. are black, they make up 20 percent of those facing deportation on criminal grounds. Research suggests that because black people in the United States are more likely to be stopped, arrested, and incarcerated, black immigrants may be disproportionately vulnerable to deportation. The US president’s 2018 budget calls for a daily detainee population to 51,000, a 25% increase over last year. Even as incarceration prison rates drop, the immigration detained population continues to rise setting the path for mass incarceration of foreign born Africans and their families on a mass scale.

Despite the overcrowding of black bodies in prisons around the globe, historical poverty, and a social political construct that leads to crime; global mass incarceration doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. In fact these variables poverty, illiteracy, racialized laws/policies are the formula used to predict how many prisons will be built. Countries continue to direct millions and billions of dollars toward the building of new prisons instead of releasing prisoners back to their families. In Haiti a new prison was completed in 2016 with monies of 1 million dollars. In a recent article it is predicted in North America that in 2017 dividends of more than $430 million will be paid out by the two major private prison companies. Prison investors could see an additional $50 million paid out in dividend earnings. In Guyana the solution in dealing with prison overcrowding was a contract of $3.5 billion to build a new wing to the Mazuruni Prison.

In Alabama a bill is in place for a $350 million bond to build three new prisons. In Noblesville, Indiana in 2007 they opened a $28.5 million juvenile detention center. When sentencing guidelines changed it sent more of the youth home to their families as a result the jail lay empty, so officials decided to convert it to a women’s prison. Now according to local authorities a second expansion will be needed in about 10 years thus agreeing to spend $25.5 million to expand the Government and Judicial Center and $13.1 million to add jail cells. In September 2017 in Baltimore City a new juvenile detention was built at a cost of $20 million. The irony of this in January 2018; the first day back to school for Baltimore city children after the Christmas holiday found them in schools with no heat. As a result several schools where closed for days to get heat for the children, mostly of African descent.

Instead of countries spending these massive amounts of monies to change the conditions and lived experience of their citizens they continue to contain, confine, and imprison the future of Africa and its descendants.

RECOMMENDATIONS (DECADE 2018-2024)

DECADE – resources/monetary support to civil society towards Recognition, Justice, Development

DECADE – Member States take a more active supportive role during DECADE.

DECADE – Annual meetings/consultations to be held with NGOs/civil society during last 7 years of Decade with Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

RECOGNITION – Mount global campaign highlighting the gifts of African children.

RECOGNITION – Encourage Member States to cross implement African history from primary to college level curriculums.

RECOGNITION/DEVELOPMENT – Member States in Africa and the Caribbean must mount a massive educational, technological, and agricultural campaign for its growing youth population for future DEVELOPMENT.

DEVELOPMENT – Reparations (reorganization) of distribution of wealth must be administered via monetary and land resources in North America.

DEVELOPMENT – Haiti (a decade for Haiti/ UN safe space for Haitians)

DEVELOPMENT – Reparations- all member states that benefited from the commerce of black bodies now 500 years and 30+ generations later must now administer reparatory justice in the form of action plans for the descendants of the enslaved.

DEVELOPMENT – Immediate attention to the Indigenous (a UN Commission/Space for Indigenous; i.e. Australia/Aborigines, Canada/Indigenous, America/Native Americans recognizes the cultural spiritual context) for preserving and protecting their culture.

JUSTICE – Judicial policies/laws must be reassessed and revamped via a racial equity lens as it connects to poverty, illiteracy, and criminality amongst peoples of African descent.

JUSTICE – Women of African Descent who are mothers jail/prison must be the last resort so children are not growing up without parents … Social/economic alternatives must be applied.

JUSTICE – Indigenous peoples i.e. Australia, Canada, Native Americans should have separate justice systems/courts

JUSTICE – Establish UN interagency/working groups collaboratively working within the DECADE to aggressively counter the world growth of imprisoned black and brown bodies.

Report/collect data on the rapid growth of the global prison industrial complex and detention/imprisonment of black and brown bodies.

Report on the constant separation and instability of the African family as a result of slavery/colonialism, lynchings, migrations, racialized policies/laws, and mass/generational incarceration as historical variables layered within the culture of white supremacy.

Upcoming Events Across the Diaspora

2018 March 8-11th- International Decade for People of African Descent Summit, Georgetown, Guyana.

2018 July 17-19th — 3rd Annual Spirit of Peace Conference; Role of Culture in Sustainable Development. New York City, New York.

2019 August- 400 Years Later Reclaiming the Children of Africa in the Diaspora through; Remembrance, Recognition, Justice, and Development, Petersburg, Virginia.

2019- 3rd Regional UN International Decade Meeting.

References

Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. 2014.

Beckles, Hillary. Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide. University of West Indies Press. 2013.

Berry, Mary Francis. My Face is Black is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations. 2005.

Braveheart, Maria Yellowhorse. Wakiksuyapi: Carrying the Historical Trauma of the Lakota. 2000.

Civil Rights Congress. We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People. 1951. Delivered to United Nations

Clark, Doug Bock. Why is the US Trying to Remake the World’s Prisons. Buzzfeed.May 28, 2017.

Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK and the American Political Tradition. 2017.

Jaulin, Robert. La Paix Blanche, Introduction a l’ethnocide. Paris, Editions du Seuil. 1970.

Randall, Vernilla, JD. Dying While Black. City: Seven Principles Press. 2006.

Shine, Tomiko. The Lens of Blackness: An Anthro-Political Perspective. Journal of Pan African Studies. 2013.

We Charge Genocide. 2014. Delivered to United Nations.

Chicago Illinois.

Winbush, Raymond. Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations. Amistad Haper Collins Publishers.2003.

Zeskind, Leonard. Blood and Politics; The History of The White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. New York. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 2009.

This report was compiled in January 2018 by Tomiko Shine; Cultural Anthropologist and Founding Director of Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC)

 

Teaching Artist Institute Announces the TAI Fellowship Program

FELLOW%20FINAL

The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) is announcing its TAI Fellowship Program for 2018.

TAI was founded in December 2015 by Baltimore, Maryland-area Soul-Fusion Teaching Artist Sis. Kim Poole.  TAI has grown into an international force in support of Art for Social Transformation due to her visionary leadership.

The following PDF document describes the TAI Fellowship, including an Introduction and Overview, the Vision Statement (“Art as a way of life”), the Mission Statement, the Goals of the TAI Fellowship, the Benefits of participation and the Definition of a Teaching Artist.

Brief introductions to several current TAI Fellows and their work in Cuba, Ghana, Nigeria and Cleveland Ohio, Los Angeles California, and Baltimore Maryland are included.

When the document finishes loading, navigate through the pages by positioning the cursor on the document and clicking the arrow buttons in the lower left corner.

Become a TAI Fellow, develop your art and travel the world!

 

 

On Resolutions and Moving from “Whereas” to “Now Therefore”

People seem to love making “New Year’s Resolutions”.  Actually, the Ancient Afrikan (Kemitic) Calendar says this is actually the middle of the year 6258 (I may be off by a year or two).  So, they are actually “Mid-Year Resolutions”.

I had originally titled this piece “2018: Writer’s Block”.  I had started this post intending to explain my absence from these pages over the last month or so.  I was going to explain it as a simple consequence of “holiday blues” or “winter doldrums”, but perhaps a better explanation can be made by comparing it to the overall malaise that has afflicted many in the United States and, I suspect, the world in general, fatigue.

This fatigue is what often happens when one is stuck on a merry-go-round of unrelenting drama, as so often has happened in the US of late because of the rather unprecedented (un-Presidented?) political freak show going on in Washington, DC, and its impact on our level of compassion and commitment to communities around the world that are struggling.  It can cause one to grow so fatigued at the constant media drumbeat of near-apocalyptic political news (especially on the major cable networks like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC) that one simply grows tired of hearing it all and decides to bury one’s head in the proverbial sand just to obtain some relief.  Much of that has led me to refrain from repeating analyses I’ve already made several times on this site, and it has similarly led others to simply shut down and cease all involvement in politics or activism.  We are reduced to a bunch of complainers who rail against the evils of “the system” but, when challenged to offer a solution, we fall silent.

I’m reminded of one night when I was driving home and happened to be listening to the radio.  On the air at the time was a show called “Night Talk”, hosted by legendary Black-Talk Radio host Bob Law.  Someone called in to complain about the pressing issue of the day.  Suddenly, Baba Bob Law interrupted him with, “And now therefore?”  The caller fell silent.  The host explained, “Too many times people call my show and complain about how things are without offering any ideas for solutions, a ‘now therefore’, or ‘this is what we’re going to do about it’.  And I’m not going to allow that anymore.”  The caller had nothing to say in response, so Baba Bob Law ended the conversation and lectured the entire listening audience for about an hour on our collective failure to move from complaint to response.  And he was absolutely right.

We do this much too often.  We complain about the way things are and expect someone else to figure out the solution, and as a result we spend all our time complaining and never responding or building or solving anything, adding to our feeling of helplessness.  Of course, this is what the enemies want.

We’ve posted articles on some of the machinations that have occurred in the Afrikan Continent, from preemptive war in the name of “anti-terrorism” to efforts by large agencies like USAID to hand control over Afrika’s food supply to major agricultural giants such as Monsanto, Cargill and Syngenta.  We’ve looked at the most egregious incidents of police brutality across the country, and even at some of the violence that has been perpetrated against police officers in apparent retaliation.  We’ve looked at incidents in our own communities in which some of us feed on the rest of us through violence and other crime.  We’ve examined the flying circus that is the current presidential administration of Donald J. Trump.  And we’ve highlighted efforts to organize people in grassroots Afrikan-descendant communities, especially in our home state of Maryland. 

These are all ongoing issues which have been analyzed, discussed, argued and even agonized about on Web sites, Facebook posts and in emails and chat rooms around the world.  But after a while, one has to move from passive analysis to involved, proactive action.

“Now Therefore”

When Congress, state legislatures, city councils, the African Union or the United Nations want to say something and state an opinion, a Resolution (not the “New Year’s” or “Mid-Year’s” kind) is passed. Resolutions start off with a series of “whereas” statements, specific arguments, sometimes a paragraph long, that describe the current situation that is being addressed. Sometimes these “whereas” statements can go on for several pages as paragraph piles upon paragraph in an effort to paint a full picture of the issue being confronted.

But ultimately, the Resolution moves on from the “whereas” statements to the “now therefore” announcements. These are the equivalent of “now here’s what we’re gonna do about this” in diplomacy-speak.

And it is at that point that one’s analysis of the situation is often reduced to repetition of what was already said ad nauseam, on this site, in emails, in Facebook posts, and in the words of other, more qualified and able analysts from other Web sites and media outlets.

In the cases of many of these issues, we have reached that point.  In some cases, we’ve been at that point for a long time, but we simply have refused to acknowledge it, because to do so would require us to act based on our analysis.

“What’s Africa Got to Do with Me?”

The articles we’ve posted over the last several years from the Africa Policy Forum events sponsored by California Congress member Karen Bass have discussed a number of critical issues across the Afrikan Continent, including Boko Haram, famine, ebola, and efforts by American businesses to build bridges to Afrikan nations.  American influence has not always been constructive, however, as our research has shown that some of the initiatives by the US government have drawn suspicion of actually being efforts to undermine the independence of Afrikan farmers through the introduction of genetically-modified patented seeds and neoliberal economic models that enrich agricultural and financial corporations at the expense of the people of Afrika.

Many of us turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to these issues, in part because of the vast distance between our local neighborhoods and these Afrikan nations, in part because we have been conditioned by our national leaders in the Diaspora to disregard or discount that fact that the people of Afrika are our family.  So, the beginning of our “now therefore” is to learn and to re-connect with our Afrikan heritage.  Modern technology has actually made this journey more accessible, with the increased popularity of genetic-research products such as Ancestry and 23 And Me.  Once this connection is made, our next move involves acting as though we recognize the family from which we came and learning the history of our ancestral home, a history that is far more complex, and more accomplished, than our oppressors want us to realize.

“Support Your Local Sheriff”

Just because the cases have not been given as much attention and notoriety as those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner does not mean the carnage has ceased.  Even in the case of Eric Garner, the tragedy is not over, as his daughter Erica Garner, who became a tireless activist in search for justice for her father despite having children of her own and suffering from a heart condition, recently succumbed to a massive heart attack.  Are we to believe that her father’s senseless murder by New York police officers was not a contributing factor to this latest tragedy?  Are we to accept that her passing was just “collateral damage” based on her existing health challenges as some of the more heartless would have us believe?  One only need ask the surviving family members of any of the victims of police brutality to know better.  One only has to ask Sis. Towanda Jones, who has organized a protest every Wednesday for years since her brother, Tyrone West, was killed by a Baltimore police officer, to know better.

The activist organization Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), which has lobbied in Annapolis for years to force changes to the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), has educated the public about the 10-day period during which police officers are able to delay surrendering to investigative officials after a deadly shooting, a provision which has outraged anti-police corruption advocates.  LBS can also tell you about the undue influence of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in ensuring that this provision is maintained, above the objections of citizens in Town Hall meetings.

We see the corruption that compromises the mission of the police departments of the United States.  But we remain stuck in the “whereas” because of our confusion.  This is in part because too many of us still do not see the contradictions of policing: the historical connection to slave patrols that signaled the beginnings of the modern-day police department, and the current acts of obstruction by police organizations against any oversight of their actions.  As a result, not only do we bend over backwards to avoid offending police even as we criticize them, we sometimes are willing to swallow the analysis of the law-enforcement community whole, without any critique or analysis.

LBS’s Bro. Dayvon Love, Bro. Lawrence Grandpre, Bro. Adam Jackson, Sis. Nadirah Smith and other activists are working to increase our understanding of these issues and have organized pressure on state of Maryland officials through bus trips to Annapolis to confront state legislators, as well as informational “teach-in” style events to explain the issues to the public.  Their “whereas” is to arm our communities with the information they will need to determine how our “whereas” can be expressed.  But we need to make the commitment, again, to act on what we learn.

The Harm We Cause to Ourselves

We wring our hands about crime in our communities.  Some of the misguided among us criticize the police-brutality activists because they “don’t speak up about Black-on-Black crime.”  Aside from the fact that there is no more “Black-on-Black” crime than “White-on-White” crime (which no one talks about), the fact is, these activists do speak out on the crime in our own communities, and many who are working on the healing and security of their communities, like COR’s Bro. Munir Bahar, who has organized marches through many of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods and is presently mentoring youth and building security forces in the Collington neighborhood, and Mama Victory Swift of Our Victorious City (whose son, Victorious, was murdered on March 26 of last year in the Mondawmin area of Baltimore), who is presently engaged in reaching out to other victims of crime across the city.

These people are moving from the “whereas” to the “now therefore” in their communities.  When are we going to join them?

Agent Orange

In the case of the Trump administration, there seems to be a new development every day, providing fresh new material upon which to comment, from Trump’s waffling on key planks in his political agenda to the latest official to be fired from the White House, from the most recent developments in the Special Counsel’s investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion to the latest efforts by the Trump team and members of the House and Senate to impugn or even derail the investigation, from the latest tell-all book about the rampant dysfunction in the White House and evidence of Trump’s alleged childlike tendencies to Trump’s own insistence that he is “like, a very smart person” and “a stable genius”, from Trump’s saber-rattling trash-talk toward North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to assertions that Trump lacks the mental fitness to even serve as president of the United States.

But after a while, one reaches a point of overload, at least in terms of the urge to comment and analyze something that the evidence has already made excruciatingly clear and intuitively obvious to the casual observer:

The man is crazy.

After a while, one reaches a point where the only important question is: What are we going to do about it (Now, therefore)?

We’ve been going through the “whereas” of our dealings with the Trump administration for about a year now.  We’ve tried in vain to analyze this administration to make sense of the senseless.  Much of this is because of the model being presented to us by the United States’ so-called political leaders: Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who once called Trump “a kook” who is “unfit to hold public office” and who now openly condemns anyone who dares refer to Trump as “a kook” or someone “unfit to hold public office”.  Officials like Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai, who rammed through the imminent destruction of Net Neutrality on a strict 3-2 party-line vote despite the overwhelming opposition of the people, or the United States Congress and Senate, which passed a tax-break-for-the-rich bill which they know will gore the ox of the very citizens who voted them into office in the hope of no longer being the “forgotten Americans”.  These people have given us a model of leaders who disparage their leaders as unfit, then drop to their knees in spineless fealty to the power of those same leaders.  We learn to whine and complain but do nothing because we see a model of limp-wristed hypocrisy in the country’s political leadership, and we feel we have no choice but to cave to the “you can’t fight City Hall” mentality.  We find ourselves stuck in a feckless, powerless “whereas” feedback loop.

But the “whereas” part of this particular Resolution is pretty much over.  There may be some important update to share sometime in the near future, but for the most part we all know what we are dealing with.

There are grassroots political organizations that hold teach-ins about administration policies and congressional activities.  There are organizing meetings, rallies, marches and think-tanks that meet regularly.  If voting is your thing, then vote.  If you believe that voting has been reduced to choosing between “bad” and “worse” and you refuse to play that game, then work to build grassroots organizations.  If there isn’t an organization that supports that which you hold dear, then build it yourself.  But do something.  Move from the “whereas” to the “now therefore” in your political life.

A United Afrika

There are a number of organizations that are working to organize people of Afrikan descent.  Some of them are large, established groups that are led by notable activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton.  Others are more “radical” Pan-Afrikanist organizations like the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM) that push forward without the advantage of having major national figures in leadership.  Some operate strictly in the United States as political or civil-rights organizations, while still others seek to bring the entire Afrikan Diaspora together and re-unify it with our Brothers and Sisters in Afrika, like the Pan African Federalist Movement (PAFM) and the All-Afrikan Peoples Revolutionary Party (A-APRP).  But these organizations are there for us to work with in moving from the “whereas” to the “now therefore”, many of which you may have never heard of.

I work with an organization called the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, or SRDC.  We have chapters in Maryland, Tennessee, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington State, with allies in Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, the US Virgin Islands, the French Caribbean island nation of Guadeloupe, several countries in Central America, and The Netherlands.  Numerically, our organization is still small, and organizing the people on the ground where we live can be difficult, but most organizations start out that way and struggle for years before an explosion of activity and popularity hits.  We have chosen that path because of our mission to take the voice of the Diaspora to the World Stage, our focus on the grassroots community and a “bottom-up” organizing philosophy that is inconsistent with most “top-down” organizations.

As with any effective international grassroots organization, local organizing is still a key component.  This is why SRDC focuses on the local Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meeting as a way to bring the local grassroots community out to lift up and organize its voice.  We develop a Pan-Afrikan Agenda that comes from the concerns of the local community members who attend.  We nominate and seat a Community Council of Elders.  We nominate Representatives who are charged to take the local community’s Pan-Afrikan Agenda to national and international meetings when the opportunity arises.  And we seek ways to build Cooperative Coalitions between organizations such as the ones I mentioned above, because as our enemies and historic oppressors assault our community on several fronts simultaneously and in a coordinated manner, we must build a response that is multi-faceted, coordinated, cooperative, simultaneous and strategic, bringing together the artists, spiritual leaders, businesses, scientists, Elders, revolutionaries, state-builders, prison activists, educators, community activists, legal warriors and Pan-Afrikan Media.  In Maryland, that work is proceeding and is expected to start achieving concrete results this year, with the leadership and guidance of a committed, proactive Grassroots Community Council of Elders.

You may not like the mission, strategy or tactics of one or more of these organizations.  You may not like any of them.  In that case, determine your vision, how you see yourself contributing to the cause of truth and justice, and create an organization of your own.  The key is, do something.  Move from your “whereas” to your “now therefore”.

Baba Bob Law would be proud of you.

The Chair of the African Union Commission Meets The Diaspora

The African Union Mission in Georgetown, Northwest Washington, DC, was the location for a special event, the meeting of the Chair of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, with members of the African Diaspora on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. The event was emceed by Mr. Melvin Foote, president of the Constituency For Africa (CFA), a Washington, DC-based lobbying organization that seeks to influence United States policy in favor of constructive objectives for the United States as well as the Continent and people of Africa.

Also present at the meeting was the current African Union Ambassador to the United States, Madame Ambassador Arikana Chimbori-Quao, and several other local and regional advocates for members of the African Immigrant Community in the United States. The audience included a number of members of that Community, as well as Afrikan-American Pan-Afrikan activists who had gathered here to learn more about the AUC Chair’s positions on African development, the African Union’s relations with the United States, the role the Diaspora can play in lifting Africa up, and how the African Descendant populations, particularly Afrikan-Americans, can not only contribute more effectively to the development of the African Continent but also gain, at last, that Seat At The Table in the African Union’s
Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) and Pan-African Parliament.

Mr. Foote began the event with an introduction of himself and a statement.

Mr. Melvin Foote, event emcee, President of the Constituency for Africa (CFA)

“Good evening. … This is a day the Lord has made for the Diaspora and we should be celebrating. … My name is Mel Foote. I’m the president of the Constituency For Africa. CFA is a Washington, DC-based organization that works to educate Americans about Africa, improve cooperation and coordination among various organizations, groups and businesses that work on African issues, we work to
unify the African Diaspora, and our end product is we work to shape United States policy toward Africa. Since we’re in America, we should be shaping US policy toward Africa in a way that supports the African Union.

“It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Constituency For Africa and the African Diaspora to welcome to Washington the Chairman of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat.

“Mr. Chairman, the Diaspora worldwide and in the United States has much to offer Africa. In the United States alone, there are over 50 million who are Diasporan. This includes African Americans whose Ancestors were brought to these shores 400 years ago as slaves, to provide the free labor that enabled the country to develop into the power that it is today. There are also African immigrants from countries across the Continent who now rank as the best educated of all the immigrant populations in this country.

“According to the World Bank, the African immigrant community remits more than $35 billion to the Continent each year, a larger amount than all the Foreign Direct Investment that the Continent receives currently. There’s also a large [immigrant community of] Afro Latinos, and those from the Caribbean.

“There are many areas where the African Union and the Diaspora community can work together and cooperate. One clear area that we can jointly work together on is increasing direct and indirect investment in Africa and on economic and business development. Mr. Chairman, you will be pleased to know that the technological ability of the Diaspora in these United States in the areas of health care,
education, business development, agriculture production, computers and sciences, roads and infrastructure construction, and many other areas, which if effectively tapped can be a valuable resource for Africa, as the Continent addresses the growing demands of citizens and the developing challenge of facing the rapidly expanding next generation on the Continent.

“Sir, if properly engaged, we in the Diaspora can also be much more helpful to Africa in lobbying the United States government, and to ensure that Africa is dealt with in a fair and equitable manner. That’s very important Sir. The Diaspora can really access the United States government to give a better hand to Africa.

“Though we are very proud to call ourselves Americans and very much want the United States to win – we want our country to win, we want America to win – but we are also proud of our African heritage, and we want Mother Africa to win also. That’s why they call us African Americans. We love Africa and we love America.

“I must tell you, Mr. Chairman, while we in the Diaspora have this great potential, we are also very much challenged by the lack of unity and spirit of cooperation among us. We are deeply divided, fragmented, and even antagonistic toward one another. We often spend inordinate amounts of our time attending to nonsense issues such as Who is an African and who is not an African. Q’uest que c’est?

“I guess the real question is: Are you an African because you were born in Africa? Or are you an African because Africa is born in you?

“We certainly look forward, Mr. Chairman, to your clarification on the definition of the African Diaspora, and how you envision that we can work together in a more unified manner.

“We certainly look forward to hearing from you, Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, as you engage us on issues concerning Africa and the Diaspora. In addition to hearing your thoughts on a range of issues on Africa involving economic development, democracy and governance, and social and political development, we are especially eager to hear your thoughts, Mr. Chairman, on how we in the Diaspora can best work with the African Union to address and resolve issues in Africa and to and to work toward a more harmonious union of African people, worldwide.

“Mr. Chairman, the African Union has sent us a great Ambassador to Washington. We are very pleased with Ambassador Arikana Chimbori-Quao. We don’t want her ever to go. …”

Mr. Mamadou Samba, Director, Washington, DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs

“Washington, DC has the only Office of African Affairs in the United States, and we have a mandate to serve the African community here. There are about 16 to 18 thousand African immigrants in Washington, DC, and about 112,000 in the Washington Metropolitan Area, and about 1.7 million in the United States. So you can see the importance of our office, which is now ten years old. The office was created in 2006 after the community galvanized to ask for the city to create a body that supports the African immigrants and makes sure that when they do come to the United States they have a structure to help navigate and have access to services and resources. Our work is done in partnership with the Commission on African Affairs, which is 15 dynamic African leaders that serve as advisers to the office, to the Mayor and the Council on issues that impact the African community.

“Our services are divided into five or six areas where we provide services. One of them is Constituent Services. Any time somebody walks into our office and says ‘I just moved to the city, I don’t have a place to go, I’m looking for a job,’ our office provides those services. Our African Community Grant is another one. As of today, we’ve funded a total of $120,000 to African nonprofit organizations.  The program provides cultural services to African community members. One of them is Konkouran West African Dance Company, which is the only traditional African dance company in Washington, DC. They’ve been here for 30 years. And because of our funding, they’re able to stay in DC and not move to Maryland, and nobody should go to Maryland, everyone should stay in DC [laughs]. …

“Our capacity building program is another area where we provide training and support [for] the capacity of non-profit organizations. …

“Other programs are also there, but I just wanted to highlight our Youth Engagement Program, where every year in July … we host a Young African Convention Summit [for] African community members to come in and talk about community engagement and volunteerism and what we can do to impact positive change in our community here. I’d like to officially extend an invitation to our next year Summit, which is on July 13th, to come and participate and talk to our community members.

“After the Summit every year, we host our very famous Mandela Day of Service. In case you didn’t know, we are the only city in the United States that has a Mandela Day of Service, where every year we follow Mandela’s legacy, and go out and volunteer in changing our community.

“And this is what our office is all about. … This is what the African Diaspora is all about. … The Ethiopian community is about 46%.  We have the Nigerian community, Ghana, Cameroon and Kenya, and they spend a lot of time trying to find out who makes the best Jolof Rice. Of course, we know Senegal makes the best, because Jolof is in Senegal [laughs]. …

“We surveyed about 238 Africans. And it was found that 64% of them identified discrimination as the number one barrier to finding employment. 50% of them find lack of work experience was the second barrier. And personal and financial reasons was the third barrier to why Africans are having trouble finding employment. Here in Washington, DC, if you get into a cab it’s probably an Ethiopian [who is driving it]. More than likely, a Master’s or Ph.D. but he’s driving a cab. This is the reason why the past few weeks Washington, DC has, as a result of our survey, created a task force to address credentialing issues of African immigrants in the United States, so
that those who are doctors in Nigeria, if they want to practice here, we identify what are the credentialing issues that could be adopted here. Or if they are practitioners in whatever field, when they come here they can work in their field. …”

Mr. Kende Oregba, Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on African Affairs

“Africa is my fatherland. Nigeria is my country. … My goal as Chairman is to have a unified voice for all the Africans in the state of Maryland. For Diasporans … If we all come together as one, with one voice, there’s a lot that we can achieve together. … We have to come together as Diasporans both in cultural, education and businesses to unify and do things in common. That is my goal, and that is what I come here to do.”

Mr. Alhousseynou “Al” Ba, President and Chief Execiutive Officer of One-Africa Group

“Africans and African-Americans need to help each other … using technology. That’s why we built this social media application. We are thankful to have a champion like Ms. Arikana. … She really unites us. …” (introducing the AU Ambassador, Ms. Arikana Chimbori-Quao of Zimbabwe)

Madame Ambassador Arikana Chimbori-Quao, African Union Ambassador to the United States

“Good evening everyone. Thank you for coming. It’s a weekday, and I know you have all been to work and yet you found time to come in and spend some time with our very own Chair of the African Union.

“I have to say this is a very important day, for me, for all of us, also for the Chair also for the Chair and his team with which he has been traveling, believe it or not, these past two weeks, from one country to the other, putting out fires across the Continent. I picked him up from the airport this morning at 6:30, and we’ve been at it since then. … They flew all night. And at one point even contemplated moving [rescheduling] the event again [it had originally been scheduled for the summer but was rescheduled because of problems coordinating with the Trump administration — Editor] and he said ‘No.’ He said ‘If you cancel any other meeting you can cancel all of them, but not the Diaspora.’

“I have talked, I have preached, I’ve jumped up and down, I’ve climbed to the tallest mountain, and proclaimed who the African Diaspora are. All people of African descent living outside of Africa. Today I say, you asked, you complained, and I promised you I would deliver. Without further ado, and I know Brother Mel has said everything I could possibly say, please give a resounding welcome to our own Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat.”

His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission (AUC)

[He delivered his address in French. The following transcript is from the point where we were able to access audio of the English translation of his speech, a few moments in.]

“The world has become a real global village and each one of us, even thousands of miles away, can act and interact with others.

“Everything that is expected of you, at a time when the Continent is developing, and despite all the challenges that the Continent is facing, I can reassure you that Africa is on the move, and it wants to walk together with all its children, wherever they are.

“You can be useful to yourselves and to your Mother Continent, first of all by organizing yourselves; all the societies that succeed are societies that organized themselves. You need unity, you need to work together, for the same objective.

“On the Continent, it has become the order of the day that Africa should speak with one voice. So in the Diaspora also, you should speak with one voice. When you are united, when you speak with one voice, you are going to show your force and your capacity, your capacity to change, to change the daily lot which is that of women, youth, and the lesser young ones in Africa.

“The Diaspora, particularly the Diaspora in the United States, is the outcome of a struggle, a major struggle with the first ones who became aware, who have broken the fetters and the chains, who despite the violence have shown the way and have paved the way.

“The Black movement, the liberation movement of the Black man on the Continent has been inspired by the great men who were born and have grown up in these conditions outside of Africa. This is something which is extraordinary and we can never forget that.

“I believe we’re at the time when everyone today since the liberation of the Continent, we can really achieve big things for our Continent. We rely a lot on you. But you also can rely on us. We have the conviction, the deep conviction, that things have to change, that things have to be fair in this world, and I believe we have the necessary resources. We have the knowledge, we have the know-how.  We have the conviction. And we have the historical reference. It is just [that] we have to sit down and work. We cannot allow ourselves to be digressed or diverted. We are a third of mankind, those who live on the African Continent and those who live across the
world.

“So we can change the world into a more humane and human world. Because we ourselves, we have suffered injustice. So we can change the world to become more human, more interdependent, and I believe that we have references. … I think we have a reference.  Mandela has nothing to envy from any prophets. He himself was a prophet. His capacity to transcend, despite all the sufferings he had been through, he is a monument, he is an icon. And in all his works, we have to look at the future. Forget the past and look to the future. Africa is very often projected through negative images. Yes, we have problems like everywhere in the world. But we have hope. … [A populace that is] courageous, enterprising, which is trying to build this future. So all our Brothers and Sisters across the world have to contribute to the emergence of this Continent. Because potentialities exist, it is your Motherland, which will welcome you at any time, those who want to return to Africa can do so, those who want to export their knowledge, their investments, the doors are open.

“Migration, which is a phenomenon that is affecting the African Continent, all of these are maybe, for a given circumstance, due to drought, famine and others, because this is not an adventure where people just have to die and drown in the ocean. This capital, and particularly those who live in the United States, which itself is a country of migrants by essence. … This is a country of different origins, of
different colors, and there is that will to live together. So, dear Sisters and Brothers … I don’t need to make speeches. I simply want to tell you that we expect a lot from you. But as I said, you can also count on us, and have expectations. We need to organize ourselves.  We on the Continent are trying to do what we can. We need your assistance, your contribution, your innovations, and we can help you
organize yourselves into a structure so that you can develop and to make your Brothers and Sisters benefit from your experience in life.

“The Diaspora is important, and as you know, in the history of peoples, and I know in the African Diaspora, there are people contributing billions of dollars every year through their work and many families depend on the remittances and the many communities develop through the contributions of the Diaspora. This is an extraordinary contribution. And history will retain that the best organized people
are the ones that succeed. One cent or one dollar is something, and when you think in terms of a million inhabitants, then it becomes [a] significant amount. We can make investments, we can change the life of people. So dear Brothers and Sisters, apart from the emotional feelings, we need a scientific approach. An organization, an awareness, so that together, we can change life on this Continent. I can reassure you that in the African Union, the Commission, we have taken an oath that we are going to carry out our duties and to ensure that things will change. …”

Questions from the Audience

Mr. Foote called on several audience members to pose questions.

Q: Former US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield asked, “What in terms of your engagement with the US government over the
next few days are the goals you would like to achieve?”

A: “We have an annual meeting which is held one year in Washington and one year in Addis Ababa on peace and security issues, governance, investments, trade and development. There is a new American administration and it will be our first official meeting tomorrow [November 16]. We have come with an open mind and we hope to continue in that dynamic approach which has governed the relations between the United States and Africa. We are an important Continent. Looking at its population, its resources, and its geopolitical position. And I believe it is in the interest of the United States to work with us. We have agreements on trade and investment and we hope that this will continue in a spirit where we will find ourselves in a ‘win-win’ situation. The situation, like, for example, the Climate Ex-
change, which is important for countries in Africa which [are] victims of droughts, disasters, the fight against terrorism, but since Africa has also become a theater for these terrorist activities, we hope that we are going to do something. We want to give more impetus to AGOA [the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which was touted by the Clinton and Obama administrations as a means to improve trade with Afrika — Editor]. And we are a Continent of a lot of possibilities, and which, obviously, gives a lot of possibilities for investments. So we hope that in the discussions with the United States, we should be able to enhance our cooperation and this is our concern and these are issues we are going to raise tomorrow.”

Q: An audience member from Cameroon asked, “What is the role of African youth in your Agenda and what place do they have in decision-making?”

Q: The director of an organization called the International Youth Leadership Institute asked, “On behalf of the African youth, what role can travel play in bridging the gap between the Continent and Diaspora? What are your thoughts on youth in decision-making and helping to bridge the gap?”

A: “The issue of youth and I say that today for more than 60% of the population, on a Continent of more than 1.2 billion inhabitants, 60% of which are youth and are very important. Therefore we need to educate and organize the youth so that they can play the role of transforming the Continent. And it is fore this reason that this year, the theme for the year in the African Union is How to harness the demographic dividend by investing in youth. It’s a very crucial theme and within the framework of the reforms that have been initiated, the institutions of the African Union are trying to think of how to have … youth in the African institutions so that they can be involved in the management of the decision-making on the Continent. And this is something which is very logical, since they are the majority and logically speaking the majority should have [its place].”

Q: An audience member asked on behalf of UNESCO about the AUC’s interest in digital documentation of countries’ heritage, or what he referred to as “Digital Repatriations … digital transformation the cultural heritage of different countries in Africa.”

A: “The issue of the availability of the digital repatriation – If you have any proposal, put it in writing and you can give it to the Ambassador here; she will convey it. …”

Q: Baba Akbar Muhammad asked, “After living in Africa for twelve years, I lecture and talk on Africa. And one of the questions I get from our youth [involves] a serious discussion about Dual citizenship for those in the Diaspora. And I’d like to suggest and would like to know from you, would the African Union at upcoming meetings discuss it so we can talk to the young people who are asking that question?”

Q: Another audience member asked, “How can a truly enabling environment be created to make the relocation and integration of Diasporans sustainable and impactful on the Continent?”

A: “The Diaspora and the Continent – I believe there are reciprocal responsibilities. I was saying, you can expect from us and we also expect from you. We want to create the necessary conditions for those that want to return where they can find favorable conditions which are conducive. We want to encourage investment from the Diaspora. We need the expertise, the know-how, of the brains in the Diaspora, in the different parts of the world. And some are at the highest level and they can make the Continent benefit from their knowledge, from their know-how. We are the “mother”, and we need to establish the conditions. We are ready to discuss with the
Diaspora, wherever they are so that their living conditions, their mobility, their problems are taken into account. So, there are common interests and so we need to work together. So it is not by chance that they are thinking that the Diaspora is the Sixth Region of Africa.  So it is important that I say to organize the Diaspora, that the Diaspora should organize itself, and you will have them in the decision-making organs [and be] considered as the Sixth Region. It all depends on the organization, that they are the stakeholders in the decision-making.

“Now, what environment should we make for the Diaspora? Well, the conditions are necessary for all possible investments, and also to have the possibility of getting land, either for cultural development and investment, these are all possible. We can approach and engage the various Member States, and this forms an integral part of the population of the Continent.

“The issue of nationality because the question was raised, ‘Who is African and who is not’. For us all people who have an African lineage … We need to remove barriers between countries to allow for free movement of persons and goods [with an] African passport for the officials, diplomatic services, we are going to give them to businessmen, to students, so that we can have an African passport, and that will enable people to travel from, let’s say up to the Cape and, oh, from Goree Island too. … So this mobility will allow people to know each other better and to work together for the Continent.

“We have ambitions for this Continent, which has been the victim of a lot of foreign interference, but as you are aware, we are hopeful in the daily struggle. And I thank you. …”

Q: What can we in the Diaspora do to help the situation in Zimbabwe and what is happening across Africa? What can we do that would be helpful?

A: “Thank you [for that question]. How can the Diaspora be useful, particularly with what is happening on the Continent. I think we can move from the smallest to the biggest thing and issue. To send a school book or a note book to to a village from somebody in the Diaspora is, I think, a thing that is highly appreciated. To invest one million dollars in a business in Zimbabwe which is rich, is an important action [and we must create] the necessary conditions for that. I am not saying that in a charitable way, just to go and help people; it does not work. I think we should give the possibility to people to at least fend for themselves. But knowledge, know-how,
investment. We need to create the necessary conditions for people to be trained so that they can stand on their feet. The Diaspora has that advantage. They have people who have acquired knowledge, extraordinary know-how, in health, education, energy, business, in agriculture. So, this is what I call the wealth of the Continent. … People have capital and sometimes they don’t know what to do with it.
… With $5,000 you can do business in Africa. … You can do small things and big things and see what the Diaspora can contribute.”

Q: Another audience member asked, “What is your strategy to make the world more humane?”

A: “How to make the world more human? People who have gone through certain experiences and are capable of conveying a different method … I give the example of Nelson Mandela. With all the difficulties and problems he went through, we needed a man like him to say ‘We need transcend the situation, we need to forgive, we need to build our country’ … The people who have done this, they are capable of transforming the world.

“In respect of legality between men and women, we say everybody is equal. [In some places] we have discrimination … Because of your name or the color of your skin, there is discrimination. … Many of the Diaspora do go through this in certain regions. So we need to develop … A peaceful philosophy that, by conviction, you can change and make the world more human. …

“I spoke of a world [that is] more human, which does not take into account the rank or the color of the skin of the person. I thank you.”

At this time, Mr. Foote began to move to the next agenda item, a proclamation from the World Council of Mayors. However, an urgent request was made for an Elder to pose an important question. Elder Nabeela Uqdah chose to defer her comments on reparations and repatriation due to time constraints.  Thus the floor was yielded to Sis. Iman Hameen, Facilitator Emeritus (2006 – 2012) of the New York Organization of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC).   Her comments, given with permission from Elders and which included some of Elder Nabeela Uqdah’s questions and ideas, were perhaps the most important of the entire evening.

The Statement of Sis. Iman Hameen

“To His Excellency Chairman Mahamat, Distinguished Heads of State, The Honorable AU Ambassador Quao, The Honorable Mel Foote, the steadfast organizers of this event, and all Esteemed Members of the audience, I must first ask my Elders, may I speak? … Thank you.

“I could greet you in an African language but which one do I choose? There are anywhere from 1500-2000 different African, native and tribal languages. Should it be Zulu or Ewe? Kiswahili or Amharic? Should it be the language of Mozambique or respectfully, a native language of the people of Chad, or how about Ebonics? Because we have not decided on ONE mandatory, official African language, FOR NOW, I must speak in the language of a colonizer, which brings me to my first of three points.  Please indulge me; it has taken 400 years for me to get here.

“Briefly, I come to you in earnest and with a strong sense of urgency to push the conversation and debate. We must organize as ONE body, with ONE AIM and ONE DESTINY as a Union of African States be it as a republic or federation. We must unite as ONE, with one president, one strong united defense and one currency. We must have a national African plebiscite and referendum to move this agenda forward.

“Point #2: As such, we declare that you must direct your eyes, minds and hearts to the deplorable plight of the so-called African Americans. I am specifically talking about the surviving descendants or ascendants, if you will, of kidnapped Africans who were brought to the United States via human trafficking. We, the SURVIVORS of the MAAFA are being destroyed in the United States. We are targeted for annihilation and genocide EVERYDAY. The time has come and history dictates a mass return of our people to Africa but where in Africa do we go? We are not Ghanaians, Liberians, Azanians, Libyans, Nigerians nor Ethiopians, etc. We are a HOMELESS, LANDLESS people. We cannot claim an island, state or one African country as our own like the Caribbeans or Diasporan Continental Africans can. We need our own designated, sovereign land within a united Africa so that we can heal, develop, prosper and help to unite Africa. We ask for LAND that we can call our own sovereign land so that we can return as transplanted Africans with all of our skills, talents and resources, with our weaknesses and strengths. We are due reparations from the US and Africa and we have a right to Repatriation. We ask you, Chairman Mahamat to take our plight to the other members of the African Union expeditiously.

“Point #3: We have contributed endlessly and faithfully to the discussions, forums, conventions, declarations, protests, financial interests, wars and whims of Africa and yet we are NOT at the table. We are NOT on the agenda in any concrete and equal way. Within the AU’s call for a Sixth Region, we are still overlooked. We have followed all protocols and filed all necessary applications. And we have yet to be officially recognized. Not merely, as Diasporans, but as a special, separate group of African people who live in the United States. When will we be granted, not only observer status but VOTING status as members of the African Union? WE BELONG AT THE TABLE! If not now, WHEN?

“In closing, to reiterate, these are urgent matters of grave importance that must be treated with even more urgency. We ask to be on the AU agenda. REPARATIONS are due to us. We ask for sovereign land within a united Africa, we ask for voting status at the ECOSOCC table, and we ask that the AU aid us in returning home. We are a NATION WITHIN A NATION and we want to come home now (maintenant). Chairman Mahamet, the task is now in your hands – take our plight to your fellow members of the AU. Thank you.

“Sincerely,
Iman Uqdah Hameen, an anxious citizen of the Union of African States …”

After this important statement, which it should be noted did not receive a direct answer even though her statement was met by repeated applause from the audience, the presentation by Ms. Mary Thomas of the World Conference of Mayors was made to the AUC Chairman, and the event was officially closed.

 

 

JUSTICE INITIATIVE: Should America be Deporting Domestic Violent White Males?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This commentary was written by Heather Gray, a white woman from the Atlanta area and the founder of Justice Initiative, on October 3, in the aftermath of the massacre at the country music festival in Las Vegas by 64-year-old whacked-out millionaire-turned-mass-murderer Stephen Paddock, who as of this writing has killed 59 people and wounded over 500 more before taking his own life in a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel as police closed in on him.  As she notes below, she received a number of comments in response to her commentary.  In case you missed it, we are sharing it with you at this time.  Ms. Gray has allowed us to reprint several of her commentaries, as they often pertain to issues of racial justice and the struggle against white supremacy.

Note: I have begun to receive many comments about this editorial and am sending it out one more time. I think many of us in America are wanting to address this issue both of white violence and white supremacy. It is way past time for all of us to honor the other and begin to teach in our schools and in our communities overall the sad history of European violence and white supremacy so that we can move beyond this. We have kept it under the radar screen for far too long even though it faces us promptly every single day! I welcome your comments and suggestions for community action and literature overall.

Peace,

Should America be Deporting Domestic Violent White Males?
Now there’s a good idea but nobody would want them!
Violent “white” American males are the problem in America as they have killed far more Americans than any other male group. Yet, just imagine the press and comments from Donald Trump if Las Vegas killer Stephen Paddock had been a black male or a Mexican male or a Middle Eastern male or a Muslim male. Under those circumstances, I can just hear Trump saying, “See, I told you so! We need to control them or get rid of them!” So the question remains, when is the press, and especially Donald Trump and his supporters, going to acknowledge that this was a violent crime by a “white” male and that it is “white” American males who are far more dangerous than any other male group in the United States. Is it not time for white males in America who are concerned about the violence by other white males to begin addressing this issue?  I think it is way past time for some action by white males themselves and the white community overall.Yet, Paddock had all these guns and used an “automatic” weapon to kill 59 people and injure more than 500 now suffering individuals. And Paddock’s use of an “automatic” weapon for this killing spree was the first ever in an American massacre! And no authorities knew he had a sizable compilation of weapons? And/or there was no surveillance of him? That, in itself, is a tragedy. 

 

Should Trump include on his banning list and priorities the deportation of American white domestic terrorist males? Now, there’s a unique idea, except for the fact that nobody would want them! But where would he send them? Whites in British prisons, both convicts and debtors overall, were, for example, sent to the Britain’s American, Australian and other colonies in the 18th and 19th centuries with Georgia being a debtors colony. But I can’t imagine any country in today’s world wanting to increase their violent American white male population. Can you?­

The other problem is that the American white males and those in police departments invariably are inappropriately acquitted of the most outrageous and heinous crimes, primarily against people of color,  and are not placed in jail as they should be for the safety of all of us. But, nevertheless, most can be identified. This is, in fact, a major issue. Too many white males are acquitted for acts of violence that virtually any other male of color, or those not belonging to a main-stream American religion, would be penalized. In addition to the acts of violence, these inequities in the court system, or the so-called justice system, have to end.   

 
I know that deportation of violent white males is not realistic but we do need to explore ways to better control guns and address the violent tendencies of white males in America.  White males need to become accountable. Finally, American whites overall need to end this insane white supremacist mindset and, with compassion, acknowledge the beauty, profound cultures and humanity of all human beings on the face of the earth.  

Puerto Rico and The Caribbean Suffer, US Agencies Struggle, Trump Stumbles

On Friday September 29, San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz took to the major media in a desperate bid to alert the outside world that a humanitarian crisis on the scale of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was unfolding in her country.

She described the “horror in the streets” of her destroyed city and went on air “begging” the American people and the rest of the world to “save us from dying”.

As a result of Hurricane Maria’s direct hit on the island on September 20, hospitals face weeks without power, the cities, including San Juan, could be without electricity for months, and the devastation in the island country/US territory could take years to repair.

According to CNN, Lt. Gen Jeffrey Buchanan, who was appointed to lead the military effort to render aid in Puerto Rico, stated that 10,000 personnel, including Air Force, Navy and Army medical facilities, planes and helicopters, were being brought to the disaster area, but that more were needed.  Meanwhile, reports circulated on all major media that goods and supplies at the port could not be distributed to the suffering people because of a lack of drivers for the trucks needed to deliver them and the impassibility of many of the roads.

As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bureaucracy was busy demanding that Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens, make requests and applications for assistance by Internet and phone in spite of the complete lack of phone or Internet service, US president Donald J. Trump went on one of his classic and clueless Twitter sprees,

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”

“Results of recovery efforts will speak much louder than complaints by San Juan Mayor. Doing everything we can to help great people of PR!”

“such poor leadership ability … not able to get their workers to help.”

“They want everything to be done for them,”

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican pop stars are chipping in to assist.  Ramon Luis Ayala, better known as Daddy Yankee, donated $100,000 to the Food Bank of Puerto Rico which fed thousands of families in the village of Toa Baja, according to a CNN article.  After Jennifer Lopez announced the donation of $1 million from her Las Vegas show to the humanitarian effort, Daddy Yankee responded by increasing his pledge of support to match it.  And hip hop artist Pitbull sent his private jet to take cancer patients stranded at the local hospital to locations where they could receive life-saving treatments.

Certainly, by the time this is read, many more celebrities will have made public announcements of donations to the cause of Puerto Rican relief as well as private, anonymous ones, as the US government continues to make a public show of ineffectiveness and, some say, heartlessness in the statements the president continues to make about Mayor Cruz and any other officials who question or criticize his administration’s response.

In the meantime, territories such as the US Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe and other places devastated by Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria continue to struggle to recover from perhaps the most violent storm season in recorded history.

Maryland Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meeting Set for Saturday, October 14

In response to some requests we received from the community, the Maryland Organizing Committee of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) is holding its fourth Pan-Afrikan Town Hall on Saturday, October 14 from 3 pm to 6 pm at the historic Arch Social Club (2426 Pennsylvania Avenue, the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues). This Town Hall will be in preparation for our National Summit in Nashville, Tennessee the following weekend. At the October 14 Town Hall, we plan to accomplish the following:

(1) a quick review and update, as needed, of the Pan-Afrikan Agenda that was developed and discussed at the June 24, August 12 and September 16 Town Hall Meetings;
(2) nomination of a Community Council of Elders for the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community;
(3) nomination of candidates to run for Representatives of the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community, who will take our Pan-Afrikan Agenda to national and, perhaps, international meetings;
(4) discuss the building of a Pan-Afrikan Cooperative Coalition to help create a climate of cooperation between the Pan-Afrikan organizations in Maryland; and
(5) discuss recent events and future plans for moving our work forward.

We hope to see you at the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to contact us at (443) 865-2723 or cliff@kuumbareport.com.

Our Frustrating, Maddening Obsession

“The thing to do is to get organized.  Stay separated and you will be exploited, you will be robbed, you will be killed.  Get organized and you compel the world to respect you.”
–The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey

The above statement is, in my opinion, perhaps the most profound comment I’ve ever heard or read from The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).  More profound than “Africa for the Africans, those at home and those abroad.”  More relevant than “Up you mighty race; you can accomplish what you will.”  This is because while those other two statements are iconic in their own way, they are pronouncements that were designed to inspire, whereas that first quote is an analysis and a prescription for people of Afrikan Descent to free ourselves from bondage and oppression, and, unfortunately, one which too many of us continue to ignore.  Too often, we rail against the discriminations and deprivations to which Afrikan people are subjected, but we also repeat, ad nauseam, the very behaviors of disunity that ensure that those discriminations and deprivations will continue without any comprehensive and effective challenge from us.  Why are we so often obsessed with the empty behavior of complaint coupled with rejection of any organized and cooperative plan to put our collective misery to an end?

It has been stated that “division is a monster.”  Division is indeed a monster.  We have been “divided and conquered” from the day a Conquistador saw that when we were separated from our communities we could be more easily taken away from our homes and consigned to enslavement.  It was used to keep our enslaved Ancestors as compliant as possible, it was used to instill fear in our communities post-Reconstruction, it was used to destroy our organizations from the UNIA to the Panthers and beyond.  It is used today to keep us divided.   Our communities do need to organize themselves, as so many of us have stated repeatedly.  So, what is it that keeps that organization from happening?  Why are so many of us so quick to dismiss and reject those among us who are working to build the Black Unity we all claim to want?

I’ve written about that before, on this web site.  Specifically, here, here, here and here, among other places.  The problems seem to be that (1) when the call is put out to our organizations and activists to come together and work to build coalitions with input from the community, too many of us insist that it’s impossible, and so we don’t even try; (2) too many of our organizations and activists seem to want to be involved in work that only we control, and not even work where we would share the effort, input and reward; (3) we too often dismiss as illegitimate those whose analysis of the situation of Afrikan people doesn’t completely agree with ours, when what we should really be assessing is the sincerity and commitment of the activists to work on listening to each other and getting something done for our people; (4) even when we express vocal support for an effort, when the time comes to actually support it, putting our money, our effort  or just our attention where our mouths are if by nothing more than coming to a meeting of the community to participate in building an agenda and determining a collective course of action, we too often “forget” about the meeting just as it approaches, and thus fail to even come to see whether the effort is legitimate or not, and sometimes the entire effort dies on the vine because of a perceived (or maybe actual) lack of interest.

As a case in point, the Maryland Organizing Committee of the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora organization Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, an organization to which I belong, has held three Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meetings in Baltimore, Maryland to date which, quite frankly, should have gotten much more response than they have gotten so far, if for no other reason than people should at least be curious enough to see what the plan is and to offer their ideas for improving it.  How can one dismiss a plan when they haven’t even taken the time to engage the planners or even see what the plan actually is?  Especially when the planners are asking the community of activists, organizers and “just plain folks” to come and offer their thoughts, ideas and critiques so that a truly participatory, cooperative and complete strategy can be developed, and especially since our elected officials have so consistently failed us?  If you don’t trust elected officials, religious leaders and big corporations, fine.  I don’t either.  But that seems to leave us, the activists, organizers and “people on the ground”. And when we try to bring us out to collectively and cooperatively formulate a strategy, the call is too often ignored or rejected outright without so much as a discussion.  Even when the suggestion on the table is for us to build a Cooperative Coalition among the different entities in our community that do care about what is happening, from the business, art, spiritual, media, education, revolutionary, scientific, grassroots and other communities, in which all of these organizations are empowered to pursue justice the way they do best, but in coordination and cooperation with each other so that what we all do is done in a way that we help each other instead of competing against each other.  And then, after rejecting even that idea, we go back to the old, comfortable jacket of raging against elected officials and blaming them for all our problems.  Didn’t we conclude that ages ago?

But no doubt, there are people who, if they read this commentary all the way through, will have already dismissed even this grassroots-based Pan-Afrikan Cooperative-Coalition idea as a pipe dream, or as lacking in proper analysis.  Well, if there’s something lacking, why not improve it by informing it with your own ideas?  Why not engage in some form of dialog instead of telling us that our ideas suck and are unworthy of implementation?  None of us knows everything, least of all me.  But if we continue to simply dismiss each other and then scream about how un-unified we are, at that point we need to look in the mirror.  If everyone has to agree with you top-to-bottom for there to be anything close to unity, then there will be no unity.  EVER.

I apologize if I seem to be ranting, but this is far more frustrating than it needs to be, and in many ways it’s our own collective fault.  Our organization has been struggling with this since 2007 in Maryland, and we’ve just now gotten to the point where some organizations and activists are starting to learn what we are about and engaging with us.  Lots of organizations with few resources fold up in less time than we’ve been pushing this huge rock up the hill.  But we haven’t given up on trying to engage our community, though it gets frustrating to hear all the outrage about what is happening to us but then get little more than ridicule or dismissal when an attempt is made to bring us together and seek solutions together, especially when that dismissal and ridicule are often coming from people who have not one clue as to what we are about.  Let’s get away from the knee-jerk cynicism and get back to talking to each other instead of at each other.  That’s where real community lies, and that’s how we can rally our forces and win the battle for truth and justice.

Peace and Power,
Bro. Cliff
KUUMBAReport
Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus

JUSTICE INITIATIVE on “The First 9-11”

“This will surely be the last time I speak to you. Magallanes Radio will be silenced, and the reassuring tone of my voice will not reach you. It doesn’t matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be with you. At the least, your memory of me will be that of a man who was loyal to the country. … I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other people will be able to transcend this sad and bitter moment, when treason tries to force itself upon us. … I’m sure that my sacrifice will not be in vain … It will be a moral lesson that will punish the felony, cowardice, and treason [of the Armed Forces].”
–the last broadcast of President Salvador Allende, Sept. 11, 1973

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week marked the 44th anniversary of what is called, by people who know history, “The Other 9-11” or “The First 9-11”, as Heather Gray of the Atlanta-based organization Justice Initiative calls it.  Below, we share two of Justice Initiative’s releases, which include commentaries by Heather Gray, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein.  For even more background, we invite you to check out an archived issue of our newsletter, KUUMBAReport, “The ‘Other’ 9-11”.

JUSTICE INITIATIVE on Chile: The First 9/11 
 
Heather Gray

As September 11, 2017 is upon us, millions around the world and in the U.S. will invoke the September 11, 2001 tragedy at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Simultaneously, for many there will also be the recollection of the CIA coup in Chile on September 11, 1973, when Chilean President Salvador Allende was assassinated. And yes, this had to do with the economic desires of corporate America along with its U.S. government support.

 
With Trump as president we are once again faced with the prospect to diluting programs that have been in place since the New Deal to benefit the masses. We are now faced with the threat of the stark economic policies of neoliberalism, or its more bleak form of the structural adjustment market-driven model, being thrust down our throats. This is thanks to, for one, the likes of the leader in the House of Representatives, the former GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and his radical economic “go it alone” Ayn Rand philosophy. 
 
Ryan and others have wanted to dismantle the last vestiges of the New Deal in its current form. It’s also what Milton Friedman, of the University of Chicago’s School of Economics, wanted which is that his market-driven policies be imposed on the American people. The right wing on the whole is likely pleased that the United States might finally be the victim of these failed and tragic economic policies that they’ve forced on developing countries where the wealthy benefit and no one else. It’s a home-coming and not a pleasant one. This is also accentuated now with the presidency of Donald Trump.
 
Friedman’s probably smiling from his grave. Contrary to all the hype, neoliberalism is a failed system throughout the world leading to inequities, environmental degradation and starvation. As Filipino economist Walden Bello said of Friedman, “Indeed, there is probably no more appropriate inscription for Friedman’s gravestone than what William Shakespeare wrote in “Julius Caesar”:  ‘The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.'”

Milton Friedman 
Ironically, the two tragedies of the September 11, 1973 assassination of Allende and the September 11, 2001 World Trade building disaster are not totally unrelated. In fact, the consequences of these disasters are immense in terms of the implementation of American economic and ideological domestic and foreign policy.
What are neoliberal or structural adjustment economic policies? These are Global North v Global South distinctions on the whole: “neoliberalism” is referred to market-driven draconian economic model in the “developed” Global North; “structural adjustment” refers to the same market-driven draconian model but with distinct policies being enforced, if money is loaned, by the world’s banking system in the so-called “developing” or Global South. The requirements are austere and restrictive than what’s yet appeared in the “developed” economies, although Paul Ryan and others want to change that in the U.S. The imposition of structural adjustment on “developing” countries has made them essentially without protections and vulnerable to vulture capitalists.
 
Market-driven means that the market will solve our problems – place no restraints on the market because as an entity it will determine what’s needed in terms of products and consumption and everyone will benefit as a result, economically and otherwise. Yet, it’s a farce!
 
Neoliberalism, or its more austere structural adjustment model, was ultimately enshrined as the leading paradigm in the policy guidelines of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In fact, to receive loans, countries were required to curtail government programs that offer services to the people that are then privatized or ended altogether; tariffs that had wisely been in place to protect local business ventures were required to be lifted; and the country was generally required to provide the opportunity for foreign investment in their country, perhaps of land ownership, resource extraction and control of large scale business ventures by foreign interests.
 
The policies have never created a level playing field. The West’s corporate leaders have dominated as a consequence and while corporate capitalists have thrived, thanks to the World Bank and IMF, many of the poor have starved and been driven deeper into poverty. We saw this in Mexico after the passage of NAFTA as well as among workers in the United States with virtually no protection of worker rights and unions and, for the first time, under NAFTA, foreigners could own land in Mexico. This forced many Mexican farmers off the land coupled with the dumping of cheap, largely unhealthy produce, such as corn, on the Mexican market, again thanks to NAFTA.
 
Similarly, Paul Ryan’s philosophy is that you’re on your own essentially and to shrink the government programs altogether to insure that you don’t get help and/or to privatize everything. This brings efficiency they say. It would also finally put the nail in the coffin of the New Deal policies. Ryan apparently wants to complete the process except for the military. Who will benefit? Certainly not the 99%!
 
Friedman knew his neoliberal policies would essentially throw out the popular New Deal programs and that there was no way this would pass the U.S. Congress in the 1970’s.  He instead needed another country and most likely a crisis to test his neoliberal policies. Chile was it.
 
Allende was a socialist and a friend of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. When he became the Chilean president in 1970, he immediately began to restructure the economy with admirable socialist initiatives to advance opportunities for the Chilean masses. For example, his sweeping policies included the nationalization of some large-scale industries such as cooper mining and banking; he took under the auspices of the Chilean government the educational system, the health care system, and offered a free milk program for poor children; he was engaged in land reform and the raising of the minimum wage for Chilean workers. (And you’re right – some of this sounds like our own New Deal under President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s that, as mentioned, conservatives have always wanted to dismantle.)

Salvador Allende
At the time Allende took office, the three major American corporations in Chile were ITT and two American cooper-mining companies Anaconda and Kennecott. ITT owned 70% of the Chilean Telephone Company and funded the right-wing newspaper El Mercurio. They were not pleased with Allende and by all accounts complained to the American government and had, with US government knowledge, given money to Allende’s opponents. There are also reports that ITT channeled money to the CIA to help dismantle the Allende government.
 
Yes, we would certainly call this U.S. interference in another country’s government!!!
 
Allende’s threat? It was apparently independence from the United States and offering a new democratic alternative in the region.
Allende also obviously thought Chile was a sovereign nation, but Henry Kissinger (Nixon’s Secretary of State) and the U.S. corporate investors in Chile thought otherwise.
Allende’s policies infuriated Kissinger, who, by all accounts, gave the CIA the green light to get rid of Allende. But Allende also alienated some of the Chilean middle class and some Christian groups who saw his policies of empowering the poor as a threat or as a Cuban style authoritarian state.
 
So Allende was assassinated, became a martyr, and what followed was devastating for Chileans on the whole as thousands of Chileans became “disappeared” and activists were killed or tortured – tortured, I am told, to cleanse them of their collective “social contract” mindset.
 
In the coup, thousands of Chileans were taken to the Chilean Stadium in Santiago where many were immediately killed or tortured.
 
One was the renowned folklorist and guitarist, Victor Jara, who was also a political activist and a member of the Communist Party. Jara was inspired by the folk songs of Chile and other South American countries. Under Allende, he was one of the artists who created the “Nueva Cancion Chilena” revolution of popular music.
 
At the stadium, where he had performed many times, his ribs were broken by his captors, and his fingers broken as well, to prevent him from playing his guitar. His captors then mocked him by suggesting he play the guitar and he responded by “defiantly” singing part of “Venceremos” (We Will Win). He was then shot 44 times by a machine gun and his body thrown into the streets of a shantytown in Santiago.

At the Chilean stadium when Victor Jara was killed on September 16, 1973 
In 1977, I was in the office of MIT professor, Dale Runge, in Boston, who had been in the Peace Corps in Chile before the coup and had known Jara. While sitting at his desk, he cried as he described what happened. Also a guitarist, Dale had frequently played with Jara and learned from him.
Victor Jara singing in Chile 

Just prior to his death, Jara had written the following, almost as if he envisioned his fate – here’s some of the verse:

 
My guitar is not for the rich no,
nothing like that.
My song is of the ladder
we are building to reach the stars.
For a song has meaning
when it beats in the veins
of a man who will die singing,
truthfully singing his song.
 
There is no way a discussion about Chile in 1973 can be recalled without referring to Naomi Klein’s excellent book, the “Shock Doctrine“. Shocks to countries, says Klein, offer a vacuum for “disaster capitalists” to sweep in for the kill to change and control what and how they want for their benefit. In her book she describes how on September 12, 1973 – the day after the Allende assassination – young economists in Chile had on their desks documents drafted by the Chicago School of Economics on neoliberal policies for Chile. Actually, these Chilean graduates of the Chicago School, known as the “Chicago boys”, under the tutelage of their neoliberal godfather Milton Friedman, were already well informed about the market-driven economic model.
 
These Chicago “boys” imposed the new policies with a vengeance, which was coupled with the ruthless and murderous Pinochet dictatorship. As Bello said, so much for “political freedom going hand-in-hand with free markets.” Yet, Friedman called it the “Chilean miracle.”
Bello, who was a graduate student in Chile around this time, has also noted, after Pinochet’s 17 years of terror, that “Chile was indeed radically transformed…for the worse“. He said further that:
 
Chile was the guinea pig of a free market paradigm that was foisted on other third world countries beginning in the early 1980’s through the agency of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  Some 90 developing and post-socialist economies were eventually subjected to free-market, “structural adjustment.”
 
Structural adjustment policies (SAPs), which set the stage for the accelerated globalization of developing country economies during the 1990’s, created the same poverty, inequality, and environmental crisis in most countries that free-market policies did in Chile, minus the moderate growth of the post-Friedman-Pinochet phase.  As the World Bank chief economist for Africa admitted, “We did not think the human costs of these programs could be so great, and the economic gains so slow in coming.”  So discredited were SAPs that the World Bank and IMF soon changed their names to “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers” in the late 1990’s. (Bello, 2006)
 
When, on September 11, 2001, the planes struck the World Trade Center Towers, it’s important to note that they struck at the symbolic heart of the American capitalist system. We lost thousands of innocent workers in this tragic event. It’s also important to note that a plane flew into the Pentagon on the same day, which is the heart of the U.S. military that essentially protects America’s foreign economic ventures and its corporate capitalists. The targets were incredibly symbolic of American imperial arrogance that has tragically destroyed countless countries, communities, families, individuals and environments throughout the world.
 
As writer Chalmers Johnson would say, the attack on September 11, 2001 would be “blowback” time. He noted that there was only so much that others in the world can take of arrogant economic and aggressively violent U.S. foreign and military behavior.
 
Was the 9/11 tragedy in New York a ploy for a U.S. on-going war in the Middle East to then destabilize it for easier exploitation by the west and to advance the military industrial complex? This question is on-going.
 
In fact, the aftermath of 9/11 has resulted in significant and costly wars in the Middle East by the U.S. which, coupled with the disastrous deregulation of the banking system, for one, and the economic disaster in 2008, has led to a perfect crisis for the likes of the Friedman neoliberal/structural adjustment followers, like Paul Ryan, to impose their draconian policies on Americans. The situation is the perfect “shock”, as per Naomi Klein, for these disaster capitalists in America to sweep in and create even more havoc then they have already in the U.S. and for them to gain at the people’s expense. This is similar to Chile in 1973 minus the bloody coup in America itself.
 
It’s way past time that we all begin to develop concrete ideas for another economic system than what we have now. As Marxist economist Richard Wolff told me, in an interview a few years ago, since the Occupy Movement Americans now have in their mindset the 1% versus the 99%. There is a concrete understanding of the dreadful inequities in this U.S. capitalist economy. He said it is now much easier to talk about economic systems that we simply were denied during the Cold War and after the Cold War as well. The Cold War system set the tone for the dialogue. Yet, finally we had a prominent socialist, Bernie Sanders, running for the presidency in 2016 and actually more of an open dialogue. Now, that is progress!!! It’s way past time for a change!!!
 
References:

Walden Bello, “Eye of the Hurricane: Milton Friedman and the Global South” (2006) Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF)
 
 

Note: I had first written an article about 9/11 in Chile for Counterpunch in 2012. The above article has been updated. Heather Gray

JUSTICE INITIATIVE: Chile Was Not Saved by Milton Friedman

Note: This week, on September 11, 2017,  I sent out an article entitled “Chile: First 9/11″ regarding the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile and the assassination of the Chilean president Salvador Allende. In the article, I did not go into the details about what happened in Chile years after the assassination; the installation of the dictator, Augusto Pinochet, as president; and the largely disastrous results of attempting to implement the U.S. directed neoliberal economic plan to privatize virtually everything in Chile.  Below are two articles about the aftermath of the Allende assassination. One by Noam Chomsky, written in 1994, with more details about the Chilean coup in 1973; and a later article, in 2010, by Naomi Klein, about the devastating impact of the economic neoliberalism on the Chilean people.

As we explore economic systems in America and as Trump and others are also wanting to privatize virtually everything, in their economic neoliberal style in America, such as education, healthcare, social security, etc., we should take heed and learn lessons from happened, for one, in Chile. Chomsky and Klein, in particular, refer to the importance of the democratic “public sphere” funded largely by “nationalized” institutions, as Allende had planned for his country. As Klein notes below:

…. (in Chile) by the early 80s, Pinochet’s Friedman-prescribed policies had caused rapid de-industrialisation, a tenfold increase in unemployment and an explosion of distinctly unstable shantytowns. They also led to a crisis of corruption and debt so severe that, in 1982, Pinochet was forced to fire his key Chicago Boy advisers and nationalise several of the large deregulated financial institutions. (Sound familiar?)

Peace,

Heather Gray
Justice Initiative
September 13, 2017 

Chile

Noam Chomsky
Henry Kissinger said in his eulogy: “The world is a better place, a safer place, because of Richard Nixon.” I’m sure he was thinking of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. But let’s focus on one place that wasn’t mentioned in all the media hoopla – Chile – and see how it’s a “better, safer place.” In early September 1970, Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile in a democratic election. What were his politics?

He was basically a social democrat, very much of the European type. He was calling for minor redistribution of wealth, to help the poor. (Chile was a very inegalitarian society.) Allende was a doctor, and one of the things he did was to institute a free milk program for half a million very poor, malnourished children. He called for nationalization of major industries like copper mining, and for a policy of international independence – meaning that Chile wouldn’t simply subordinate itself to the US, but would take more of an independent path.   

Was the election he won free and democratic?  

Not entirely, because there were major efforts to disrupt it, mainly by the US. It wasn’t the flrst time the US had done that. For example, our government intervened massively to prevent Allende from winning the preceding election, in 1964. In fact, when the Church Committee investigated years later, they discovered that the US spent more money per capita to get the candidate it favored elected in Chile in 1964 than was spent by both candidates (Johnson and Goldwater) in the 1964 election in the US!

Similar measures were undertaken in 1970 to try to prevent a free and democratic election. There was a huge amount of black propaganda about how if Allende won, mothers would be sending their children off to Russia to become slaves – stuff like that. The US also threatened to destroy the economy, which it could – and did – do.

Nevertheless, Allende won. A few days after his victory, Nixon called in CIA Director Richard Helms, Kissinger and others for a meeting on Chile. Can you describe what happened?  

As Helms reported in his notes, there were two points of view. The “soft line” was, in Nixon’s words, to “make the economy scream.” The “hard line” was simply to aim for a military coup.

Our ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry, who was a Kennedy liberal type, was given the job of implementing the “soft line.” Here’s how he described his task: “to do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.” That was the soft line.

There was a massive destabilization and disinformation campaign. The CIA planted stories in El Mercurio [Chile’s most prominent paper] and fomented labor unrest and strikes.  

They really pulled out the stops on this one. Later, when the military coup finally came [in September, 1973] and the government was overthrown – and thousands of people were being imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered – the economic aid which had been canceled immediately began to flow again. As a reward for the military junta’s achievement in reversing Chilean democracy, the US gave massive support to the new government.

Our ambassador to Chile brought up the question of torture to Kissinger. Kissinger rebuked him sharply – saying something like, Don’t give me any of those political science lectures. We don’t care about torture – we care about important things. Then he explained what the important things were.

Kissinger said he was concerned that the success of social democracy in Chile would be contagious. It would infect southern Europe – southern Italy, for example – and would lead to the possible success of what was then called Eurocommunism (meaning that Communist parties would hook up with social democratic parties in a united front).

Actually, the Kremlin was just as much opposed to Eurocommunism as Kissinger was, but this gives you a very clear picture of what the domino theory is all about. Even Kissinger, mad as he is, didn’t believe that Chilean armies were going to descend on Rome. It wasn’t going to be that kind of an influence. He was worried that successful economic development, where the economy produces benefits for the general population – not just profits for private corporations – would have a contagious effect.

In those comments, Kissinger revealed the basic story of US foreign policy for decades. 
You see that pattern repeating itself in Nicaragua in the 1980s.  

Everywhere. The same was true in Vietnam, in Cuba, in Guatemala, in Greece. That’s always the worry – the threat of a good example.

Kissinger also said, again speaking about Chile, “I don’t see why we should have to stand by and let a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” 
As the Economist put it, we should make sure that policy is insulated from politics. If people are irresponsible, they should just be cut out of the system.

In recent years, Chile’s economic growth rate has been heralded in the press.  

Chile’s economy isn’t doing badly, but it’s based almost entirely on exports – fruit, copper and so on – and thus is very vulnerable to world markets.

There was a really funny pair of stories yesterday. The New York Times had one about how everyone in Chile is so happy and satisfied with the political system that nobody’s paying much attention to the upcoming election.

But the London Financial Times (which is the world’s most influential business paper, and hardly radical) took exactly the opposite tack. They cited polls that showed that 75% of the population was very “disgruntled” with the political system (which allows no options). 
There is indeed apathy about the election, but that’s a reflection of the breakdown of Chile’s social structure. Chile was a very vibrant, lively, democratic society for many, many years – into the early 1970s. Then, through a reign of fascist terror, it was essentially depoliticized. The breakdown of social relations is pretty striking. People work alone, and just try to fend for themselves. The retreat into individualism and personal gain is the basis for the political apathy.

Nathaniel Nash wrote the Times’ Chile story. He said that many Chileans have painful memories of Salvador Allende’s fiery speeches, which led to the coup in which thousands of people were killed [including Allende]. Notice that they don’t have painful memories of the torture, of the fascist terror – just of Allende’s speeches as a popular candidate.

Milton Friedman did not save Chile

3 March 2010

 

Ever since deregulation caused a worldwide economic meltdown in September ’08 and everyone became a Keynesian again, it hasn’t been easy to be a fanatical follower of the late economist Milton Friedman. So widely discredited is his brand of free-market fundamentalism that his admirers have become increasingly desperate to claim ideological victories, however far fetched.
 
A particularly distasteful case in point. Just two days after Chile was struck by a devastating earthquake, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens informed his readers that Milton Friedman’s “spirit was surely hovering protectively over Chile” because, “thanks largely to him, the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse … It’s not by chance that Chileans were living in houses of brick – and Haitians in houses of straw -when the wolf arrived to try to blow them down.”
 
According to Stephens, the radical free-market policies prescribed to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet by Milton Friedman and his infamous “Chicago Boys” are the reason Chile is a prosperous nation with “some of the world’s strictest building codes.”
 
There is one rather large problem with this theory: Chile’s modern seismic building code, drafted to resist earthquakes, was adopted in 1972. That year is enormously significant because it was one year before Pinochet seized power in a bloody US-backed coup. That means that if one person deserves credit for the law, it is not Friedman, or Pinochet, but Salvador Allende, Chile’s democratically elected socialist president. (In truth many Chileans deserve credit, since the laws were a response to a history of quakes, and the first law was adopted in the 1930s).
 
It does seem significant, however, that the law was enacted even in the midst of a crippling economic embargo (“make the economy scream” Richard Nixon famously growled after Allende won the 1970 elections). The code was later updated in the 90s, well after Pinochet and the Chicago Boys were finally out of power and democracy was restored.
 
Little wonder: as Paul Krugman points out, Friedman was ambivalent about building codes, seeing them as yet another infringement on capitalist freedom.
 
As for the argument that Friedmanite policies are the reason Chileans live in “houses of brick” instead of “straw”, it’s clear that Stephens knows nothing of pre-coup Chile. The Chile of the 1960s had the best health and education systems on the continent, as well as a vibrant industrial sector and a rapidly expanding middle class. Chileans believed in their state, which is why they elected Allende to take the project even further.
 
After the coup and the death of Allende, Pinochet and his Chicago Boys did their best to dismantle Chile’s public sphere, auctioning off state enterprises and slashing financial and trade regulations. Enormous wealth was created in this period but at a terrible cost: by the early 80s, Pinochet’s Friedman-prescribed policies had caused rapid de-industrialisation, a tenfold increase in unemployment and an explosion of distinctly unstable shantytowns. They also led to a crisis of corruption and debt so severe that, in 1982, Pinochet was forced to fire his key Chicago Boy advisers and nationalise several of the large deregulated financial institutions. (Sound familiar?)
 
Fortunately, the Chicago Boys did not manage to undo everything Allende accomplished. The national copper company, Codelco, remained in state hands, pumping wealth into public coffers and preventing the Chicago Boys from tanking Chile’s economy completely. They also never got around to trashing Allende’s tough building code, an ideological oversight for which we should all be grateful.
 
Thanks to CEPR for tracking down the origins of Chile’s building code.
 

Idle Insights on Irma

I heard today that two friends of mine, who are members of Pan-Afrikan organizations we work with and who live in Guadeloupe and the US Virgin Islands, have weathered Hurricane Irma and are all right.  Still, it’s terrible that they and their Sisters and Brothers in the Caribbean have to endure this kind of disaster, especially with Hurricane Jose coming up next as a Category 4 (at least) and seeing little chance of escape.  As the people of Florida scramble to evacuate and hold their collective breath, they can see in the carnage that Irma has already left in its wake that which awaits them if they take this storm lightly and fail to take advantage of the mobility the people of the Caribbean did not have.

One thing that I’ve been hearing is that the effects of this storm in specific areas of the Caribbean could last much longer than those from Hurricane Harvey in Houston.  Suddenly the unfortunate people of coastal and southern Texas are looking like they managed to avoid the worst of this hurricane season, even with the disaster they have been forced to endure, with many billions of dollars in property damage and, worse yet, the loss of lives.  And it’s really a cruel twist of fate that much worse seems to be happening now in the Caribbean, before we can even catch a breath from Hurricane Harvey.

I’ve heard people talking on television about a total information blackout on some of the islands being battered by Hurricane Irma because of a loss of all communications (some people may not even know that Jose is coming next), perhaps months without even having access to power, and years to come close to fully recovering in the most heavily damaged areas.  I also heard, as my friend in Guadeloupe mentioned Thursday, that Antigua and Barbuda were 95% destroyed. At least major parts of Puerto Rico could be without power for up to six months, plus the US territory’s current bankruptcy will make assistance from FEMA difficult. The British Virgin Islands are likely to get some assistance from the United Kingdom and the US Virgin Islands expect some assistance from the US National Guard, but there are others who are not so connected but are just as badly damaged, and they are forced to plead to organizations like the Red Cross for help. Frankly, I don’t know how someone comes back from all this.  But a way needs to be found.  And we need to begin to develop a way to respond that does not depend on the colonial powers.

All day, as I’ve watched the news reports and done other unrelated chores in my house, I’ve had the same song going through my head: Jamiroquai’s “When You Gonna Learn?” from 1993, which was one of several songs that London-based group did about the coming price to be paid for so-called “modern civilization’s” disregard for the earth’s environment. 

Have you heard the news today?
People right across the world
Are pledging they will play the game
Victims of the modern world
Circumstance has brought us here
Armageddon’s come too near
Foresight is the only key
To save our children’s destiny
The consequences are so grave
The hypocrites, we are their slaves
So my friend. to stop the end
On each other we depend.

When that album was released (Jamiroquai’s first), the liner notes warned that if people didn’t wake up in 10 to 20 years, the worst was in store. Well, here we are. And I’m sure that some folks (mainly Climate Change deniers who want to “Drill Baby Drill”) will continue to insist that the occurrence of these multiple superstorms (the first time they’ve ever recorded two Category 4 hurricanes in the same season, and it looks like we actually have three in a row now!) has nothing to do with Climate Change.

Have you heard the news today?
Money’s on the menu at my favorite restaurant
Don’t talk about quantity
There’s no fish left in the sea
Greedy men have slaughtered all the life there ever was
And you’d better play it nature’s way
She will take it all away
Don’t try to tell me you know more than her ’bout right from wrong
You’ve upset the balance man
Done the only thing you can
Now my life is in your hands

While most of us are probably at a loss at this moment as far as what we each can do personally, perhaps some sort of collective response will be able to come from whatever sense of community we can draw from.  This is one reason why it’s so important for us to come together in social groups, spiritual groups and community organizations.  This is the importance of groups like the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP), Working-Organizing-Making-A-Nation (WOMAN), the Organization of All Afrikan Unity-Black Panther Cadre (OAAU-BPC), the Million Woman March Universal Movement, the World African Diaspora Union (WADU), Reality Speaks/Solvivaz Nation, and of course, the organization I work with, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC).  Such organizations provide us with the diversity of ideas while maintaining the unity of purpose that can bring to light solutions to even the most formidable adversaries and catastrophes we may face.  Each of them has the capacity to develop important solutions to this current disaster, as they have for so  many other challenges we have faced over the years.  Imagine what could be accomplished if these organizations are ever able to all work together, in cooperation and coordination with each other?  There might be no challenge they could not overcome, perhaps not even this one.

Our Community currently lacks the ability to mount any kind of response to crises that impact us as a people.  This is one capacity that we will have to develop.  It’s time for our Pan-Afrikan organizations to get to work on devising at least a policy on what we will do to not only ensure our immediate Community is able to survive disasters such as these, but also how we will be able to respond, together, to the immense needs of the people after such a disaster has struck.

Mountain high and river deep,
Wake this world up from its sleep,
Get my Momma on her feet.
The greedy men will fade away,
Mother Earth will have her say,
Know it’s gonna be okay.

I call on all our organizations, especially the one I work with, to get to work on building the spirit of cooperation with each other that will bring us the ability to mount a meaningful response to all the disasters, natural and man-made, that beset the Pan-Afrikan Community.  We are disproportionately impacted by these types of disasters, and what we are able to do may become a model for vulnerable communities everywhere.

And for those who are still in the path of these monster storms, STAY SAFE.

Bro. Cliff