We'd like to recommend a book for those interested: Simon Schama's Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution. Here's a video - Schama discussing this huge, terribly obscured chapter of Black American & U.S. history, with staff of Google. This history is growing serious legs.
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.
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...
After five years living in the Balkans, and longer if I count Italy and France, there are a few things I know about Europe and Kosovo, and even more I remember about that area and the rest of former Yugoslavia. I recall one particular orientation in Pristina; one of those sessions most, if not all, international civilian mission staff have endured. Usually I actually liked them for the information we learned on the people we would work with and the regions into which we were sent. Yet in much the same way media are reporting Kosovo/Kosova and the Balkans today, in this seminar in Pristina in 2000 we were briefed on the Kosovar Albanians and on the Kosovo Serbs, yet not one word about Kosovo's Roma. So, of course I asked. After all, we were in Kosovo to work with the Roma, too. I've written about Europe's Romani citizens before on this blog and will do so again, but I'll repeat myself - the Roma, the Rom, Romani, etc., are Europe's largest ethnic minority population, whom many outsiders still call "Gypsies". In all the public discourse and reporting on Kosovo, and even on the Balkans and Europe overall, why are the Roma still almost always excluded? More powerful than anything I can offer is Sani Rifati's own firsthand account of his birthplace, along with this link to a powerful, if a bit dated, related report. When I think of my time in Kosovo (and elsewhere in the Balkans) in my mind's eye I see the pregnant woman IDP ("internally displaced person") with two school-age kids. I remember the long, narrow storage container which was "home" to several unrelated families. I remember the refugee day center in Macedonia, near Skopje: Kosovo Roma refugees sitting, waiting for so-called 'third-country refugee resettlement' invitations that never arrived. As human beings wherever we are, all of us can and, hopefully, will do far better, for each other and consequently for ourselves.
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 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.
The issues and actions haunting Jena, Louisiana today were well-established and defined as long ago as 1835, and even earlier. The problem is that since that time, now more than 170 years gone, U.S. society has steadfastly refused to deal fairly and honestly with those issues. This brings all of us to the town center of Jena, and elsewhere. I'm referring to the 1835 publication of Alexis de Tocqueville's thoughts and observations of the USA in "Democracy in America". The book continues to be read, lauded and digested in the US and globally, so could it be that no one is readingChapter 18? Titled: THE PRESENT AND PROBABLE FUTURE CONDITION OF THE THREE RACES THAT INHABIT THE TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES. The "three races" de Tocqueville writes about are Native Americans, Black Americans, and White Americans. Also look for this section, "Situation of the Black Population in the United States and Dangers with which its Presence threatens the Whites." For people who have read Chapter 18, where is the feedback and public critique? How about shock, disgust, outrage and serious response?? The French writer wrote published this in 1835; it's now 2007.
"The Indians will perish in the same isolated condition in which they have lived, but the destiny of the Negroes is in some measure interwoven with that of the Europeans. These two races are fastened to each other without intermingling; and they are alike unable to separate entirely or to combine. The most formidable of all the ills that threaten the future of the Union arises from the presence of a black population upon its territory; and in contemplating the cause of the present embarrassments, or the future dangers of the United States, the observer is invariably led to this as a primary fact. ..."
Our society and perhaps especially our "free press"/news-cum-gossip media, still insists on speaking of Jena, nooses hung in trees, abuse, rape and murder of women of colour, of education, poverty and affirmative action, HIV and AIDS, incarceration and the death penalty, in a vacuum, as though in 170 years none of us has read let alone dissected Alexis de Tocqueville's much-revered words. His unambiguous views and observations of Black and Native Americans remain today in bold contrast to his admiration for and affirmation of a white, and whites-only, America.
Finished reading retired soldier Stan Goff's article which asks if the U.S. is becoming fascist. It's quite detailed. He even writes about the U.S. military recruiting, inadvertently or otherwise, straight-up white supremacist racists. Goff concludes: "They are not Arabs who are painting Aryan Nations graffiti on the shattered walls of Baghdad."Can you imagine?? Along with everything else Iraqi people have been forced to go through and to subject themselves to, to endure. Goff's last line made me recall a local train ride from Sisak to Zagreb, in Croatia. One afternoon I noticed something written on the gray stone wall at one station where the train always stops along the way. Unusually, what I saw not only was written in large, bold letters, but in perfect English. It caught me by surprise. It was the "N" word. In the middle of Croatia.
Right after, I wrote an official report to the international human rights mission in which I worked. No one ever responded. Two weeks later I again rode the train. Someone had painted over the N word. This was a relief and I'm glad someone did. And yet even that doesn't alter the fact the word had been there, and that I and many others witnessed it. That someone had thought about this, then gone and very deliberately taken paint and written this foreign word - the "N" word - in huge letters on a gray stone public wall facing every passing train. And they'd written it in perfect English.
Someday I shall remember which station it was, in which community. I wondered then and still it comes back. Who wrote it, and why? I was the only Black person for miles around. I never saw another Black person in that area, nor on the Sisak-Zaghreb train. Why that particular spot? Had someone written it for me to see? Was it written because of me? I'll never really know.