We're tracking Hurricane Gustavwhich many say could be worse than Hurricane Katrina almost exactly three years ago. New Orleans is now under a mandatory evacuation order, this time around providing bus transport for its residents without cars. Gustav has left Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, etc. into the Gulf of Mexico, headed for the U.S. coast, in particular New Orleans.
Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney's running mate Rosa Clemente did a very informative interview earlier today with Kojo Nnamdi of WAMU-fm (part of American University). Great interview, Rosa. You can hear it online here. It seemed a bit strange when Clemente referenced history of the Young Lords political party and compared them to the Black Panthers. Nnamdi said most people were more familiar with the Panthers. I'm thinking this would depend on whom you talk with. Was Kojo being disingenuous? Also about the radio call-in from a Black American man who pointed out, accurately, the gulf of historical difference between Barack Obama's identity in and toward the U.S. (and the U.S. toward him) and that of the entire indigenous U.S. Black population, i.e. Black Americans.) Meanwhile, not only is Kojo Nnamdi himself "Black," he's a native of Guyana, and I'm happy for him. Guyana's a fascinating case. It's a South American country yet historically, culturally and demographically, identifies greatly with the societies and countries of the Black, English-speaking Caribbean. As a child of Guyana's Afrodescendant, Caribbean-identified people, is it that Kojo isn't really that familiar with the history of the Young Lords? Maybe or maybe not. In the end of all this, there's as much historical, cultural, geographic and blood heritage difference between Barack Obama and Black Americans as there is between Mr. Obama and the Afro-Guyanese.Ain't nothing really 'easy' or 'user-friendly' about the histories, peoples and realities of the Americas, especially we Black folks.In a more honest, transparent world Kojo could reflect a bit on this, think of his family, country and sub-region of his origin and its peoples, as distinct as the Black Americans, and then go and do a truly informative radio show on all the above.
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.
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. ..."
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. ...
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.
In Minneapolis in the late 80s or early 90s, along with two other persons of colour (Vincent who is Dalit and a U.S. Latina lady from St. Paul whose name I don't immediately recall), I initiated an "emergency" panel made up of the three of us to engage and question the Brazilian pedagogist, Paulo Freire. Interestingly, Mr. Freire's wife also sat in on the panel, next to her spouse, but I think she listened. Freire is the author of the classic, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The occasion was the afternoon session of an all-day adult literacy conference and the venue may have been Augsburg College. Vincent, the Mexican American lady and myself appeared to be the only persons of colour in attendance. Or at least that's the way the whole thing came off, which is why I proposed to the organisers the change in the scheduled afternoon session which eventually was accepted. Fast forward. 21 June of this year Washington Post (finally) ran a front-page article on the ongoing suffering still inflicted by society upon the Dalit people of India. For years I've wanted to discuss this with people like Deepak Chopra, Ravi Shankar, Sonia Gandhi (who is italiana, by the way), and all the "shris", yogis and yoginis running around Europe and the U.S. A couple of years ago I learned from a young Asian Indian woman living in the US that "desi" is a term by which some Indians and other south Asians prefer to call themselves these days. In certain circles - Silicon Valley par exemple - people from India have become quite "popular", along with yoga, the domestically infamous H1B U.S. immigration visas and 'outsourcing' of all kinds of formerly domestic consumer services, to places most of us never will see.