April 8-9 mark the first-ever India-Africa Forum Summit. Might the Summit include any component addressing human trafficking and undocumented (i.e., illegal) immigration coming from the Asian subcontinent into East and Southern Africa?? India and the African Union each has its own summit website. From India's website:
"India and Africa have a historic relationship and this has grown into a sustainable partnership. From our struggle against colonialism and apartheid, we have emerged to jointly accept the challenges of a globalising world. Whether we have to deal with threats to international peace and security, the threat from international terrorism or the scourge of poverty, we believe that India and Africa traverse the same path, share the same values and cherish the same dreams."
The AU's description seems decidedly less sentimental: "The Africa-India Forum Summit is intended to consider the modalities to strengthen the cooperation ties between the two partners in the areas of Economic; Political; Science, Technology, Research and Development; Social Development and Capacity Building; Tourism; Infrastructure, Energy and Environment and Media and Communication. The Africa – India Forum Summit aims also at adopting harmonized and comprehensive framework to reinforce the regional cooperation in a wide rage of fields as support to the already existing bilateral cooperation between African countries and India. The Forum would also be an occasion for the sharing and exchange of good practices in harnessing resources from the Diaspora."
"Harnessing resources from the Diaspora." The African Union wants to learn from Indians how to "tap into" its diaspora. Would the diaspora targetted for harnessing be the new one of the past 20-40 years or the far older and much larger one which was expelled and sold away to foreign lands during the slave trades? Thinking of the "historic relationship" between South Asia and Africa (including India before the Partition), it would seem far more logical, not to mention just, that Africa and India (and now Pakistan) would begin by collaborating to do something for the immediate and long-term benefit of the Siddi or Sheedi people and other African-Descendant populations in Asia and South Asia, and in India and Pakistan in particular, whose presence in Asia was created by and who survived the Indian Ocean Slave Trade.
Since his accession to the French presidency, I seem to have lost track of the times when to hear Nicolas Sarkozy speak is to re-affirm that truth indeed is stranger than fiction. It's likely that for most of his listeners who were present on 26 July 2007, in an auditorium of Senegal's Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, this was another one of those days.
Nicolas Sarkozy's original discours in Dakar was in French, but as this event is so important, it was also important to share it as well in English. I'm sure there must be other language translations out there. We will look for them in order to post them. Now, a group of mostly African intellectuals has recently published a French-language response to Mr. Sarkozy. The edited volume is L'Afrique Repond a Sarkozy: Contre le discours de Dakar (Editions Philippe Rey, Paris, 2008) - "Africa Responds to [Nicolas] Sarkozy: Against the Dakar Discourse." Luckily for we Afrodescendants of the Americas (or "Negroes of the diaspora," as book editor Makhily Gassama quite oddly refers to us), the book includes a contribution by our Haitian writer-sister Kettly Mars. The following is an unofficial translation of Sarkozy's speech which is posted at the blog Dionysius Stoned. A thank you to DS, and certainly to the party or parties who made this original translation.
ADDRESS BY MR NICOLAS SARKOZY, PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHEIKH ANTA DIOP, DAKAR, SENEGAL, ON 26 JULY 2007
Ladies and gentlemen
Allow me first of all, to thank the Senegalese Government and people for their warm welcome. Allow me to thank the University of Dakar that allows me for the first time to address myself to the elite of the youth of Africa in the capacity of President of the French Republic.
I have come to talk to you with the frankness and sincerity that one owes to friends that one appreciates and respects. I appreciate and respect Africa and the Africans.
Between Senegal and France history has woven ties of a friendship that no one can undo. This friendship is strong and sincere. It is for this reason that I wanted to address, from Dakar, the fraternal greeting of France to all of Africa...
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.
From Cuba this week, at age 81, Fidel Castro announced his retirement. As a child in the late 50s, early 60s, I remember the feeling if not every political detail, of the way Cuba's "surprise" revolution shifted forever the power relationship between one tiny Caribbean island nation and the United States. What probably stands out most is remnants of the terrible sense of dread during the so-called Cuban missile crisis. In school back then we had regular "civil defense" drills. In my safe and pleasant all-Black elementary school we watched film clips of white children climbing under and croutching beneath their school desks. Now forty, fifty years later I ponder all those decades, the years and lifetimes (including my own) of so much missed opportunity for us, the people of the Americas to know each other. Most of us hardly do, if at all. This is especially true from the side of the people of the United States whose gaze in the 20th century, and now continuing into the 21st, only briefly and rarely focused on our region and our 'cousins' (particularly for Black and Native people) who are our neighbors. We particularly and very deliberately ignore Cuba. The ninety miles from there to Miami feels more like nine-thousand. The official U.S. political playbook says Fidel Castro - and by extension all of Cuba - is 'off limits' and to be villified. Yet unlike many Americans, Cubans are able to access education, literacy and health care beyond what the people of the U.S. are led to expect as achievable for a nation of Cuba's size and history. And what of Afro Cubans? What was their lot in Cuban history, and their status since 1960?
Came across an interesting article from nearly a year ago: author Yvonne Bynoe's Black America After Jim Crow: Still Feels Like Segregation, published on AlterNet. (They have good stuff and deserve your consideration of $upport.)
For decades I've been having "frank and candid" conversations, personal and public, with Black folks from around the world outside the USA, as well as with my folks here at home. I agree with much but not all of what Bynoe writes. I remember a surreal moment in the Kenyan government representative's speech at the U.S. 4th of July diplomatic event in Nairobi a few years ago. Johnnie Carson, a Black American, was ambassador. But I'll save this for another time.
"What has not occurred are frank and candid conversations between native Black Americans and immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean that aim to update the public face of "Black America." These dialogues would first need to acknowledge the unique cultures and histories of the various groups, while forging relationships based on our shared interests and challenges in this country as people of African descent." - writer Yvonne Bynoe
It's Black History Month, folks. Today, renegade though it may be to some, my focus is on the peculiarities I'm observing in this 2008 U.S. presidential election season. I'll begin with a fact that may not be obvious to some observers, and the farther one is from the U.S. and our history the less obvious this fact will be. Let's call it Fact 1:
Come November, U.S. voters, after well over two centuries, still will not elect to the presidency a Black person who is the descendant of "we the people" who were enslaved not long ago in the U.S.A. These descendants are the Black American people, the group of Blacks whom Kenyan historian Ali Mazrui somehow has come to deem "undefinable" or "unmentionable", or who somehow should not be singled out n view of our long historical existence, lest in some way we might be seen as an "elite." That is his term, not mine. The other side of this issue is the current possibilitiy of electing someone to become the first Black president of a country - in this case the United States - but a person who in fact does not come from the indigenous Black population of said country. We'll call this Fact 2. Or as Mr. Mazrui informed all of us during the January symposium which was supposed to be about Blacks and abolition of the U.S. slave trade, the United States may beat Kenya by electing the first "Luo" president. Apparently Luois the name of the Kenyan ethnic group Barack Obama's late father belonged to. Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga is a Luo also, hence the inside joke, though not to Americans in general or to Black Americans in particular. ...
When I think of the Arab League usually I think of Somalia. I recall the League's presence and involvement in the 2002-2004 Somali peace talks in Eldoret and Mbagathi, Kenya. If you have real access to BBC TV, and not what I can only regard as the mostly pandering, mind-numbing soap opera, real estate and auction fare still being passed off as BBC America, make sure you catch the Doha Debates' segment on Sudan's genocide in Darfur. This originally aired on BBC 26-27 January 2008. The segment focuses on the Arab world's relationship to the Government of Sudan and its genocide in Darfur. I'd never before seen this series. It was taped in Qatar with a studio audience of maybe sixty, several of whom also asked a few questions of the panel aloud. The motion debated was "This House believes Arab governments couldn't care less about Darfur."
The Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conference ends tomorrow, Saturday. Monday, Oct 1st, I plan to attend "A New Challenge to the Congressional Black Caucus", my former boss Major Owens'Library of Congress think-tank panel on the CBC and his forthcoming book, The Peacock Elite: A Subjective Case Study of the Congressional Black Caucus. I'm interested in the results of Mr. Owens' opinion survey that he's asked his former colleagues - Black Caucus members (Members of U.S. Congress) to complete. Monday's panel includes current Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Los Angeles, California); former CBC members, Oakland (Cali) Mayor Ron Dellums and attorney Louis Stokes; author and Univ. of Maryland political science prof Ron Walters; and author Michael Eric Dyson, now on faculty at Georgetown University. I have not yet seen results of the congressional opinion survey, though I'm certain we'll hear more on Monday. Since retiring last January after 24 years representing Central Brooklyn, NY's 11th congressional district, Mr. Owens is now a distinguished visiting scholar in the Library of Congress's Kluge Center.
It feels like everyone meets in September. The annual CBC - Congressional Black Caucus - Legislative Conference is underway through Saturday. Looking at the conference dates apparently the traditionalSunday morning prayer breakfast may no longer be fully included, though it's popular and is taking place. Black women's groups are hosting international meetings on two continents, opening the same day, with one in Europe, Vienna, Austria, and the other in America, in Washington, DC. In Washington, along with the Constituency for Africa, the National Council of Negro Women hosted a half-day panel of women from several regions of the African world. "Empowering Women of Political Power in the African Diaspora" took place Thursday at NCNW's historic brownstone building in downtown DC. Strangely, and hardly by accident, although Washington still remains a majority-Black American city, the National Council of Negro Women is the only Black American organisation which owns a building in downtown DC (a not-so-tiny fact in itself worthy of enquiry). Moderator was Cynthia Colas, director of NCNW's International Development Center while Dorothy Height, NCNW's venerable Chair, President Emerita and resident doyenne, presided. Among presenters were African Union ambassador to the USA, Her Excellency Amina Salum Ali, U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson of California, Zakiya Wadada, exec. dir. of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (Caribbean), and the Hon. Halima Mohamed Mamuya, Member of Parliament, Tanzania, East Africa. So many talented women and too many to list, but more are named here. In Austria (Arnold Schwarzenegger's home country) the Black women's group AFRA and its director, Beatrice Achaleke, host the three-day Congress of Black European Women, the first congress of its type. Co-sponsored by Austria's parliamentary president Barbara Prammer, the meeting was planned as part of the EU's 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. (Possibly for all save Europe's colonial populace in the Americas???) Anyway. Here's a news story on Thursday's Congress opening. Last week I e-interviewedYvette Jarvis in Athens. In 2000 Jarvis became Greece's first Black elected official as a member of Athens City Council. Currently she is special advisor on immigration to the city's mayor.