Katrina Information Network has a list of 29 thingsyou can do right now to assist the displaced and victimised citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. They have some beautiful New Orleans local music on their site. More soon.
In London in September or October 2004 this writer spoke on the panel, "Alliances We Need to Fight Racism" at the European Social Forum (Malmo, Sweden Sept. 2008). I participated as a member of the network Alliance of People of African Descent in Europe. Now, veteran Florida Member of Congress Alcee Hastings, who is Black American (and certainly likely, as most Black Americans are, a Euro descendant himself), has announced a hearing by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, or CSCE, a commission of the U.S. Congress. Mr. Hastings is CSCE chair. "The State of (In)visible Black Europe: Race, Rights, and Politics" will be held Tuesday, 29 April, at 10AM in Rayburn House Office Building. "The hearing will focus on the challenges and opportunities faced by the more than 5 million members of Europe's Black population amidst reported increases in hate crimes and discrimination, anti-immigration and national identity debates, and growing security concerns. The impact of recently introduced anti-discrimination laws and diversity initiatives aimed at ensuring and protecting equal rights for a population many do not know exists will also be discussed. ..." Invited participants are Dr. Philomena Essedof Antioch University, author of the book, Everyday Racism: Reports from Women of Two Cultures (1990), and member of Netherlands' Equal Treatment Commission; (UK) Guardian newspaper columnist Gary Younge; Joe Frans, vice chair of the UN Working Group on People of African Descent and former member of Swedish Parliament; Dr. Allison Blakely, Afro-European author and historian at Boston University; Dr. Clarence Lusane, international race politics author and faculty member at American University; and Afro-German actor Boris Kodjoe. Logically, Marian's Blog is very interested in this hearing and its outcomes. One hard look at the disenfranchised, excluded political condition of the people of the city of majority-Black Washington, DC, with NO VOTE in the very same U.S. Senate and House of Representatives where this hearing's being held, reveals a painful irony. Europe isn't the only place where Black people are ignored, disempowered, and treated as invisible.
Aime Cesaire est mort aujourd'hui. Aime Cesaire has died today. We awoke to this news, 17 April 2008. He made it to age 94. The Martiniquan poet, novelist, playwright and former mayor of Fort de France and member of French parliament was the last living member of the Cesaire-Damas-Senghor trio credited for inspiring the international Negritude movement. I certainly respect it though up to now in key ways, Negritude, rather than being truly universal, seems to me shaped by clearly masculinist claims. This reminds me of 2003 in Paris and a very curious and ultimately aborted attempt at an intellectual public encounter with a very self-absorbed young chap named Harlem Desir. Where, in the francophone (and other) Caribbean-African-European picture, is Black North America (women and men) permitted to fit?Negritude may have spread long before Hurricane Katrina but it came long after la Louisiane and New Orleans and Congo Square. Then last week my friend Marilyn Sephocle, la martiniquaise, and I saw each other for the first time in years. Me, francophone American; a francophone Black American and Black American woman. She, Caribbean and antillaise, citoyenne of France - a citizen of Europe through Europe's hold on its final outposts in the Americas. More than three decades ago, living in France, they called me guadeloupienne though my first time in Guadeloupe did not come till 1994. Our working group, "exiled" from Haiti, arrived by night at Pointe-a-Pitre airport where "outsiders" like me stood, waiting, in the "Non-EU" immigration line. I regret that I never met Monsieur Cesaire. Now for me along with others the task becomes to re-examine what came before and what we have inherited, while finding our way home from here.
Not being there, I feel I'm missing out as Italia prepares to vote - again - on tomorrow and Monday. (Can't the U.S. take the hint about weekend elections?) Italy's current election situation seems sooo eerily deja-vu, like we've been here before, which, in a very real sense, we have, and like it hasn't been that long ago, which it has not. Sunday's choices for prime minister are Walter Veltroniof the Partito Democratico, and a resort to the immediate past in the form of already two-time former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (a billionaire also known as Italy's third-richest man and formerly the richest). Last fall Berlusconi morphed his Forza Italia party (named for the football - soccer - club he owns) into a new political party called Popolo della Liberta or the "People of Freedom" party. Back in January 1994 in her short essay, "Recent Italian Politics", in Z magazine, writer Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio described Berlusconi's first term as PM:
"... the new government is in the hands of a person who came into politics only about a year ago, leads a party named after the national soccer league, and has more experience in manipulating the media than in being prime minister. The result is a situation in which, if you are a woman in politics, you need to either declare war to abortion or be a dictators' daughter to get in the news; the "family" is back under the supervision of a Catholic ministry; and the space for open discussion on cultural diversity has been dramatically reduced.
The bold section is marked by yours truly. That reference to a "dictator['s] daughter" probably is about politician and self-declared fascist Alessandra Mussolini, who is Il Duce Benito Mussolini's granddaughter and film diva Sophia Loren's niece. I'm still learning what really goes on politically in my 'other home' though I am not looking forward to another Berlusconi term in office in order to find out.
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.
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.
In recognition of our colonised status, people around the world can help by taking a symbolic break from even uttering the words "Washington" and "Washington, DC." Leave our name out of conversation and put a blank space in print. Besides the general public, those encouraged to promote, observe and abide by the boycott should include bloggers, teachers and professors, clergymembers, tourists and tour guides, travel agents, economists, journalists, scientists, activists and politicians. To do so will send a powerful message in contrast to the real lack of power of our city's mostly Black and mostly Black women residents. Washington, the city, always has been about far more than national and international politics and tourism.
(In Washington, an image of DC native son the late Marvin Gaye shows up only in a vodka advert. U.S. Capitol with "don't walk" sign. Photos property Marian's Blog)
In fact, DC's reality remains hidden: a majority-Black American city with a buried yet deeply rooted history (and identity) as the former capital of the U.S. interstate slave trade. People live here, and for many years the majority of Washington's citizens have been Black Americans; or at least we have been the vast majority until the very recent past. Washington as a majority Black city has always been subjugated and segregated. We have been and are under attack. In spite of the presence of international organizations and the embassies of nations around the world, little news of the real DCand our status seems to get out, even and especially among journalists. Along comes a film to break the silence: CHOCOLATE CITY, a documentary by filmmakers Ellie Walton and Sam Wild. Just as they would have bought Black Americans' ancestors as slaves, property developers have bought my town and the local population is being forced out using means that are mostly foul. CC focuses on the displacement and dispersal of the community of 400 families who lived in public housing called Arthur Capper Homes. The film has two de facto "stars", Arthur Capper resident Debra Frazier and Anu Yadav, a performance artist of South Asian origin. The two form unlikely yet complementary poles in the moving narrative. A quickly built official website for Chocolate Cityis down now seems to be back up after having received so many hits it temporarily exceeded its bandwidth. I'm also pointing readers to Jennifer Tchinnosian's 6 Feb 2008 reviewin George Washington University's student paper, the Daily Colonial, a name which is wholly a propos.
I am in shock. Following a typical U.S. newscast two or three days ago, I suppose I was 'lucky' simply to have learned that there had been a terrible arson attack on civilians taking refuge in a church in Kenya. The American newscaster, in her or his all-knowing obliviousness to the name of the place where this had occurred, did not bother to share that information. (Could they not pronounce Eldoret?) It was only a day later, talking with my husband, that I learned this atrocity had taken hold right there in Eldoret. Eldoret, that quaint, rather raw, frontier-like town in the Rift Valley hills. Where Phyllis and Kip Keino, the Olympic runner, had their children's home and a farm to feed them, and a running camp for world-class athletes. Dusty Eldoret. A town with its own home in my heart, my life and my memory. Where so many people from so many countries converged with hope and energy, in 2002-2003; with plans and schemes and no shortage of rumours; with a controlled confusion as Somali men and women leaders, and a few "pretenders", along with the ubiquitous envoys of "the international community", took up temporary residence in theHotel Sirikwaas they tried to negotiate peace. It was there on my kencell, seated in the car, parked on the Sirikwa lot that I learned I would be a grandmother for the first time. Now carnage and terror are the shameful news from Eldoret and Kenya. As last Thursday's election approached, from somewhere not quite in the back of my mind I re-visited being at thefinal political rally on Lamu the very day before the historic December 2002 race. Mwai Kibaki won. I cannot believe Kenya's brave electorate of 2002 ever bargained for the violence unleashed upon them today. Back then we braced for election violence that never came. Until now. Five years ago, during and after the polling, Kenya fairly bloomed, as joyful and optimistic and filled with peace as it's turned ravaged and traumatised and bloodthirsty today. I have many words yet no words, except to say to Kibaki and Odinga, for the sake of all Kenya and all who love her, stop this violence.
Looking back at the tampered 2000 and 2004 U.S. elections from today, Tuesday, January 1st, 2008, it is crystal clear we now are down to the wire for democracy in America. No joke, folks. We need John Edwards for president as a veteranprogressiveelectedleader. Edwards is also the only Democrat in the primaries with close-up, personal life experience recognizing and fighting the down-and-dirty neo-Confederate political culture that now - with the help of their allies up North and out west - has been spread to the whole USA. Bottom line, if you're anywhere in or near Iowa, or able to go there to help out, please help call and get out Iowa's local voters for John Edwards. Donations from U.S. citizens also are most welcome at his site. Happy new year, everybody!! www.johnedwards.com
Whatever else Martin King III may need for his new venture, you have to give him credit him for excellent timing. King has announced he is ready to take up his father's fight against poverty. No one else with a stature that approaches his and that of his family is doing anything as ambitious or potentially far-reaching. The elder son of Martin and Coretta Scott King has produced a powerful documentary, in which he travels the USA to carry on his parents' legacy. On Wednesday, 24 October, King's foundation, Realizing the Dream, and Baby Boomer-orientedAmerican Life TV put on an impeccable premiere for King's new documentary, Poverty in America. Also taking part in the film's Wednesday evening premiere was American Life TV journalist (and Kentucky native), Nick Clooney. Clooney is better known to some as the brother of the inimitable vocalist Rosemary, and father to actor George. King reminded premiere guests that 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the historic yet nearly still-born Poor People's Campaign. Martin L. King, Jr. begun that Campaign, giving his life virtually on its maiden voyage. In the first week of April 1968 King, Jr. and scores of others committed to the Civil Rights Movement went to Memphis, in west Tennessee, to support that city's striking sanitation (aka "garbage") workers. With Dr. King's world-changing assassination the Poor People's Campaign not only began in Memphis, it was pretty much cut down there. Poverty in America is narrated by longtime King family friend and Movement veteran Andrew Young. Almost a third of Americans are poor or barely surviving on low-incomes and pretty minimal government benefits.
In person, and in the documentary Wednesday night, King III sounded almost eerily like his dad. His final assertion in the documentary: "We can build a society where everyone gets a fair chance to succeed, despite the circumstances of thir birth. That's what my father fought for, and that's what I'll fight for." Well, God bless him. Seeing the (opposite) direction the U.S. has steadfastly travelled the past four decades, MLK III has the anti-poverty territory pretty well to himself. I've posted my photos of the premiere to my Flickr website.