Spring in Washington means more than cherry blossoms. Throughout April, Washington, DC -- or at least some of us -- will recognise the 146th anniversary of the abolition of Black enslavement in the District of Columbia which took place Wednesday, 16 April 1862. Here's the rub: annual ceremonies marking DC emancipation were held from 1866 till 1901, but then nothing all the way up to 2002. What happened after 1901? This date of the end of enslavement, though incredibly significant, wasn't even an official local holiday until 2005. So much for marking major passages in U.S. history. So to honour the beginning of real freedom for so many people right there in the U.S. capital, Marian's Blog has a new spin-off featuring the District of Columbia Emancipation Act of 1862. The office of the mayor of Washington has an online calendar listing most of this year's events remembering the mid-19th century emancipation of a people who lived then, and still do, in the shadow of the Capitol, the Congress, the White House and Supreme Court of the United States, in Washington, DC.
It's just days after the "Ides of March" - the date when the emperor Giulio Cesare was assassinated in Rome. In English we call him Julius Caesar. In English we also have a saying about March, that it "comes in like a lion," and "goes out like a lamb." We also talk casually about something called "March madness." Does anyone know where that started? I don't know its origin but looking at U.S. foreign policy in the past nine years the idea of "madness" in March seems worth another look. I was part of a group at the Salzburg Seminar in Austria in March 1999, when on the first or second evening we got word that the NATO bombing of Belgrade had begun. Four years later and it was Baghdad. Is there method to madness in March?
As so many consumer and exchange economies teeter on the brink, here's a fascinating index that could prove more useful to more people. Many of us are in the same time familiar with, yet put off by, words and terms like "GNP", "GDP", and "economic indicator." For over a decade a group called Redefining Progress has been working on what they call the "GPI" - the genuine progress indicator.
"... The GPI starts with the same personal consumption data that the GDP is based on, but then makes some crucial distinctions. It adjusts for factors such as income distribution, adds factors such as the value of household and volunteer work, and subtracts factors such as the costs of crime and pollution. Because the GDP and the GPI are both measured in monetary terms, they can be compared on the same scale. ..." - Redefining Progress
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga and putatively re-elected second-term president Mwai Kibaki finally reached an accomodation for the country's political divide and the death and violence it wrought. I was excited to see BBC live coverage of the opening of Kenya's parliament for the first time since the December election and its aftermath. Everyone who loves Kenya, Africa - and the diasporic African world - wants this political accomodation to hold.
And yet at the height of the violence in Kenya in January I remembered how Asian Indians and Europeans continue to dominate Kenya's economy. I recalled a conversation I had with an African leader a few years back. This elected leader reminded me of the landmine issue of land distribution vs. need for land reform in six countries that were colonised by Great Britain in east and southern Africa. I do remember on the list were South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe -and Kenya. I'm wondering if Tanzania and Uganda were the other two on the list...
Meanwhile, The Economist has a cover story on "The New Colonialism" in Africa, referring to China and India. Reuters has a Feb 2008 interview about this with Hungarian-born billionaire financier George Soros:
"...European nations' scramble for resources, from slaves to diamonds and gold, led them to subjugate Africa's peoples under colonialism. After independence swept the continent in the 1950s and 1960s, they often supported corrupt and dictatorial regimes.
Over the last decade, amid concern over minerals funding wars from Angola to Democratic Republic of Congo, Western governments and multinationals have largely accepted the need for accountability and transparency in extractive industries.
But India and China, which are pumping billions of dollars of loans and investment into Africa, have not, Soros said. ..."
Today I am writing to remember and honour Thomas Gudger, father of my maternal grandmother and her three brothers. I never met any of my grandmother's brothers. Thomas Gudger died on this day in March 1913, in a place called Chanute in the U.S. state of Kansas. One day he went to his job in the local cement plant and this act of responsibility ended his life. He was 34 but already a widower with four children. He'd lost my great grandmother, his wife, in childbirth in Tennessee, yet he made an heroic effort to keep his family together and give them a better life. As Black Appalachian people, my great grandfather (called mulatto but whose family was tri-racial - Black American/African, American Indian and white/European), his maternal uncle (also "mulatto") and other family members, moved to Chanute in 1911 or 1912 from their Tennessee-North Carolina mountain home. Less than twenty four hours after my grandfather's death, crushed to death at his job, the local newspaper published the front page story: Thomas Gudger, colored, killed; four little children left without parents. The article, which eventually I will transcribe, states uncategorically no one was present at the time of the "accident." At the same time, curiously, this statement wasn't a quote attributed to any official such as, say, local police. The article contains no comments from any local authorities. Is it also coincidence the headline and article seem to read like a warning? Was it intended as a warning to other Blacks who might attempt to settle and work in this part of southeast Kansas? I think of renowned photographer Gordon Parks whose family, in the same general period of the early 1900s, fled southeast Kansas and its anti-Black racism. For the rest of my life I will wonder how many Black Americans, over decades and centuries, have lost their lives; how many of our loved ones have been murdered in our country, the USA, with total impunity and with continued anonymity for the perpetrators and the places that enabled, even rewarded, them. Much more often than our society thusfar has acknowledged our family members lost their lives for what we now call racially motivated reasons. We love you always, Grandpa Gudger.
I'm guessing that New York politico turned radio host Chris Owens has just had his story of the week - of the year - handed to him for his new show Black Politics w/ Chris Owens. And Eliot Spitzer effectively may have just handed New York State's governorship to Lieutenant Gov. David Paterson. I saw Mr. Paterson at the DNC's Fall meeting in Virginia. Most of us who might be at all interested (in the current gov's self-inflicted wounds) are now hearing plenty of news on Mr. Spitzer's amazingly self-destructive (and maybe addictive) hiring of a... sex worker ... while on a visit to Washington, DC. And on Valentine's Eve no less. Media are reporting Spitzer was a regular customer of a prostitution ring whose scope is international. Some of our thoughts go to Silda Wall who happens to be Spitzer's wife. This stunning, sad -and illegal - fiasco has layers enough to rival Shakespeare. Sorry to say, in some ways it all feels like driving past a crash. Unlike an accident, in this case there seems little constructive that observers can do. Today New York Times is calling on Spitzer to step down. Just goes to show, when it comes to some types of 'guy behaviour', 2008 is not 1968; it's not even 1998.
Be sure to check today's radio show,Black Politics with Chris Owens. Starts 11AM U.S. Eastern time Saturdays. Executive Producers are Logan Nakyanzi Pollard and Stephen Davis. Chris composed the show's music. The show's produced in New York City. Listen at Air Americavia computer if you can't hear it by radio.
Hillary Clinton has won Texas, OhioandRhode Island Democratic primaries. And if folks want to talk about total numbers of delegates picked by the voters, whydoesn't the will of Democratic voters inFlorida and Michigan count? Granted Barack Obama's name wasn't on the ballot in Florida - make thatMichigan. Will the Democratic Party let stand the earlier decision to exclude all the delegates Senator Clinton would have won in those two states? What's up with that? Meanwhile John McCain is now officially the GOP's presidential candidate.