This will be one of my last blog posts before Tuesday's U.S. presidential election. Borrowing from our sisters over at Document the Silenceblog (on violence against women of colour), I feel the need to quote my Caribbean-American lesbian sister, Audre Lorde: “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” You said a mouthful, Audre.
Like myself, writer/activist Barbara Smith and many, many others who (through our people's spiritual, physical and political evolution rather than random, superficial "change") over and over again, daily - cumulatively - over three long centuries in & of what is now the U.S.A., the veteran and former Democratic congresswoman from Georgia, CYNTHIA MCKINNEY, is yet another Black American woman who not only has understood, intuitively & explicitly, but repeatedly - so often virtually fearlessly - has ACTED UPON this deep mantra on (social) environmental- and self-knowledge. This evolution and regular willingness to take action in spite of fear are just part of the experiences and ethnic/cultural characteristics of Black Americans, and of Black American women in particular, that have been ridiculed, censored and 'disappeared' in the course of this 2006-2008 U.S. presidential election cycle. Martin Luther King affirmed, "We shall overcome." And yet, noting the endemic sexism toward Black women over three centuries (not one election cycle) of the Black Liberation Movement that is native to what is now the USA (as well as in the current presidential selection process), it is entirely possible that Dr. King may have got this phrase from someone else, much like "I HAVE A DREAM" actually came from the lips & mind of Mississippi native daughter FANNIE LOU HAMER. In addition to being a member of the Black ethnic population of the USA, Mrs. Hamer was not MALE, and like most Black Americans, nor did she have a PhD or any kind of college/university degree. And yet she was an eloquent, timeless, courageous and effective leader. Unlike almost all of his Movement Sisters whom I will call the "Movement Women Elders" and the "Movement Young Sistas," Dr. King is consciously and constantly remembered, enshrined, re-enshrined and re-interpreted, even as hundreds and thousands of incredible Black American women remain obscured and unknown, and too often even ridiculed, derided, discounted, and finally left behind; most often quite deliberately. In this context it's worth noting that this contempt and disrespect which Black American women encounter comes from all around us: from White women & men alike (regardless of nationality), from people coming from other countries & societies, from more than a few Black men, again of varying ethnic & national backgrounds, and, most sadly and most intimately, often from some of our own sister Black women whether of U.S. or other backgrounds. Some of us know exactly whom I'm talking about. And yet, in spite of the course of Election 2008, following this most historic 2008 U.S. Green Party presidential ticket of CYNTHIA MCKINNEY AND ROSA CLEMENTE, the obscurity, derision and media whiteout will NOT be the enduring characteristics of this campaign nor of these two sistas and all the People who are choosing to support them at the polls on Tuesday, 4 November. (Power to the People 2008 - www.runcynthiarun.org) This dual candidacy not just of two women (which is significant), not only of two women who both arewomen of colour, but more precisely and most historically both areAfrodescendant Women of the Americas, is at least three (3) centuries overdue for the Black people of what today is the United States of the Americas (i.e., Black Americans) and for all the Afrodescendants of the Americas. It is also high time that on Tuesday, November 4 (as opposed to an essentially empty promise to "some day" vote for someone like ourselves (another Black woman, another Black American woman) in a non-specific, non-existent future) seemingly discounted but significant numbers of Black women voters will actively choose to put ourselves first, go to the polls and vote for ourselves. The 2008 U.S. presidential election is time for everyone to vote in favour of our own most deeply held values (as opposed to a common "logic" of voting the lesser of various "evils"). For more and more of us, our values - no matter how much money a candidate raises or how he smiles and speaks in chosen tones - do NOT include either so-called "Clean Coal" (i.e., Mountaintop Decapitation/Removal) or "nuclear power" (i.e., Uranium Mining, Uranium tailings, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, massive amounts of lethal, radioactive nuclear waste, groundwater contamination, radiation - including contamination of the Navajo Nation (and other Indigenous communities) and uranium miners suffering from uranium-induced cancer). The original quote about needing to exploit coal & nuclear power was made by the 2008 Democratic candidate.
In 2008, simply by choosing to work together, Cynthia McKinney, Rosa Clemente and the U.S. Green Party have modeled for us all that not only is it better, it's now imperative (to quote Rosa), for us to run for office, participate in society, to vote, and also to speak.
With less than a month to go, I'd really like to know whether or not my former colleagues of the OSCE - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - have a plan in place (on invitation of the U.S. government, of course) to send a full-fledged mission to monitor next month's U.S. presidential election. I figure that, like me, most folks anywhere can honestly say they have never lived through a set of circumstances to match what is going on today in the United States and the rest of the world. As I see it, much of this contagious turmoil and heartache could have - would have - been averted had only someone cared, paid attention and taken effective regulatory and legal action in years past. That includes back in 2000 when professionals of conscience like Atlanta Legal Aid Society Home Defense attorney Bill Brennan and others made crystal clear the extent of U.S. financial institutions' merciless and ultimately self-destructive attempts to exploit and extort the U.S.'s most vulnerable populations: people of colour, women, the elderly; in short, the poor, near-poor and working poor. A related concern is that, come November 4, we very well could witness a third consecutive chapter of the political equivalent of what is now boiling over financially. That is to say we stand to witness the same, grave problems in the conduct of the 2008 U.S. presidential election as the whole world saw, first in 2000 and yet again in 2004. An excellent documentary American Blackout explains clearly what happened in both elections as well as the efforts and work of then-Democratic congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. (As I've blogged before, Cynthia is now the U.S. Green Party's presidential candidate and I plan to vote for her.)
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.
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.
My thank-you to John Edwards and family, and everyone who worked so long and hard on this campaign. It will have been one for the history books.
As the Edwards campaign notified the press today, one news commentator noted that the U.S. "has never elected a populist."
As Americans that's nothing to brag about; in fact, it is our collective loss. How many Americans still would prefer that people tell us what some of us would like to hear? Things like we - the 'collective we' - can go right on self-centered and selfish, while simultaneously claiming to be king of the global hill. But our more and more frankenstein-like creation has little if any remaining sense of being one society. And that's just here in the US, let alone how we relate to the "outside world" which many of us can't find on a map let alone know.
It was late last year when a Southern scholar-friend of mine tried to school me about the USA. He said our country would not have any truck with a populist. I really didn't want to believe it.
Someone famous once said something like: There is no hell like the one we create for ourselves.
As the candidate said last night in New Hampshire, I too am on the John Edwards grassroots campaign bandwagon right through my ancestral South Carolina, called "the Black Primary", and the other 47, right up to the Democratic Party convention next August in Denver. John Edwards all along has been addressing what's touching, and crushing, the majority of Americans, middle- and working-class/working-poor and poor. I scoffed when I read a Washington Post headline quoting George Bush saying how 'good' the economy looked. I was wondering what planet he was visiting or what he'd been ingesting. That was only about ten days ago. Now Bush has backtracked, acknowledging there are issues with the economy, and today CNN (MSM - mainstream media) reports we're in a recession since the final quarter of 2007. I hear all the candidates. I'm supporting John Edwards.
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
The 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver marks a mere forty (40) years since Fannie Lou Hamer became the first post-Reconstruction Black American official delegate of a U.S. national political party convention. So many other things about the 1968 Democratic National Convention have been allowed to overshadow this historic fact for Black Americans. Virtually no one mentions this or the fact that Hamer was the first woman ever to be a political convention delegate from her state of Mississippi. This is all poetic justice but perhaps especially the latter, yet what good is justice when few heed and respect it, or keep the flame alive?
We live in a time when there's a tangible sense of sleepwalking in U.S. society. 2008 is the anniversary of Mrs. Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party finally gaining official inclusion in the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. This was a culmination of fights and of sacrifices made by Mrs. Hamer and thousands more, fights we've been told and once believed were truly over. Yet August of 2007 came and went with no mention of it being the 45th anniversary of the same woman's courageous though initially unsuccessful struggle to register to vote in her state and in her country. That day was the31 August 1962. Forty-five years later, no news, no mention, no national commemoration.
History hasn't given up on us, yet. 2009 is the 45th anniversary of Mrs. Hamer's historic and moving speech to an otherwise oblivious credentials committee at the 1964 Democratic convention in Atlantic City. This was the convention where the president of the United States, Mr. Johnson, as delegated to Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, maneuvered into obscurity Mrs. Hamer and the human rights issues she and others had come to AC to represent. This is where she gave the speech in which she said "... I question America."
"... All of this [intimidation, beatings, sexual humiliation]is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens. And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?"
Mrs. Hamer has been in my mind a lot lately, leading me to compare days not so long ago with today. Back then I was a child yet forced to negotiate an early comprehension of my people's collective resolve to march and protest, to die and risk injury against the kinds of violation I had yet to feel. In those years I eagerly learned the names and independence dates of anglophone African countries. Looking back I doubt my Nigerian and and Kenyan and Ghanaian homologues learned enough, if anything, about me. I can only wonder what Miss Fannie might think and what she'd dare say about the Democrats now aspiring to be president; a field of candidates with no one really like Mrs. Hamer. But today in the Americas, we're sleepwalking through so many issues.