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ALD Baltimore 2018 Flyer

Come to African Liberation Day 2018 in Baltimore!


The Maryland Council of Elders joins with Baba Charlie Dugger in calling the entire Baltimore and Maryland area Pan-Afrikan Community to come to this year’s African Liberation Day Weekend activities, Friday, May 25 and Saturday, May 26.

The first day will include a series of Symposium panels, starting at 11:00 AM, at the New Shiloh Baptist Church, 2100 Monroe Street, in Baltimore City. Panels will deal with topics such as Women’s Issues, Youth Issues, the Adversaries of our Community and Solutions from the Vanguard and the Grassroots.

The second day will be the Rally in Lafayette Square Park at Lafayette and Calhoun Streets, from 12 noon to 6:00 PM. Speakers, Afrikan-Centered Entertainment and Vendors will be featured.

This year’s African Liberation Day Weekend is dedicated to the memory of Honored Ancestor Baba Kaki McQueen, a beloved and prominent artist and drummer of the Community who passed on to the Ancestors late last year.

Baba Charlie Dugger has sponsored this annual event for decades, and now the Maryland Council of Elders has joined him in promoting and supporting this weekend.

For more information, please contact the Maryland Council of Elders by email at marylandcouncilofelders@gmail.com or by phone at (443) 253-2643.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pan Afrikan Town Hall April 14 2018 Thomas Ruffin 1

Maryland’s April 14, 2018 Pan Afrikan Town Hall

On Saturday, April 14, the second Pan-African Town Hall Meeting of 2018 was held at the historic Arch Social Club, located in the Penn-North neighborhood of West Baltimore. The Town Hall Meetings were originally started in Maryland in 2007 by the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus to bring the grassroots Afrikan-Descendant community in Maryland together, hear their concerns, share SRDC’s plan for establishing the Diaspora’s voice in the international arena, and establish a representative delegation from the state of Maryland that would include Representatives (from whom might come Diaspora Representatives to conferences of world bodies such as the African Union), Observers (who would take the place of Representatives in the event they are unable to continue) and a Council of Elders. Other states where this plan has been put into motion follow a similar procedure, holding their own Pan African Town Hall Meetings as they are able.

From 2007 to 2016, the Maryland SRDC held Town Hall Meetings at a rate of approximately one or two per year. In the year 2017, SRDC picked up the pace in Maryland, holding five between June and December. At the December Town Hall, a Maryland Council of Elders (MCOE) was nominated and confirmed. In 2018, there have been two Town Hall Meetings held, the April 14 session being the second. They are now co-sponsored by SRDC and the MCOE, with the MCOE’s chair, Baba Rafiki Morris, presiding over the sessions.

The April 14 meeting invited several speakers to make presentations. Bro. Dayvon Love of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS) spoke about the recent legislative effort around a Comprehensive Crime Bill which was largely defeated by opposition from activist organizations and the Legislative Black Caucus (though the Democratic Party leadership was able to “sneak” some key provisions into an unrelated expungement bill). Bro. Thomas Ruffin of the International Coalition of Black Lawyers also spoke about the Crime Bill, but also about the need to increase the pressure on local legislators and politicians to force them to enact policies that benefit the community instead of injuring it. Rev. Dr. Mankekolo Mahlangu spoke about her experience as an activist and freedom fighter in /south Africa in opposition to the apartheid regime and gave a tribute to recent Ancestor Winnie Mandela. And Baba Mukasa Dada (Willie Ricks) spoke about the history of revolutionary resistance.

This was perhaps the most successful Town Hall Meeting in the 11 years in which SRDC has worked to organize in Maryland, with members of a variety of neighborhood, civic and revolutionary organizations in attendance. This article will provide details on the presentation about the Maryland Crime Bill by Bro. Dayvon Love of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), and perspectives on taking control of local and state legislative politics by Bro. Thomas Ruffin of the International Association of Black Lawyers and the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Progressive Change.

Bro. Dayvon Love, Director of Public Policy, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS)

“We are a grassroots think tank that explicitly advocates for the interests of Black people in the political arena.

“I’ll just talk a little bit about our fight against the Crime Bill … and I’ll talk a little bit about the work with the Baltimore City Youth Fund.

“In terms of the Crime Bill, this past summer, there was an effort in Annapolis, and a lot of our legislative work takes place in Annapolis. There was an effort in Annapolis in response to the high homicide rate in 2017 to develop this comprehensive package on crime. And one of the things we know throughout history, particularly in the 80’s and 90’s, is that the typical response to crime was to increase the length of time that folks are incarcerated, throw more people in jail. And we have essentially a couple of decades of data that shows that just throwing people in jail not only doesn’t solve the problem, but actually makes things worse.

“And we anticipated that there were going to be a bunch of ‘tough on crime’ measures that would come down through the political establishment and leadership, and so we knew that one of our legislative priorities this session was to fight back against any type of ‘tough on crime’ policies, particularly those kind of policies that focused on mass incarceration.”

The Original Comprehensive Crime Bill: SB 122

“So, what ended up happening, the session began, the Governor introduced three pieces of legislation. One piece of legislation increased mandatory minimums from five years for a crime of violence with a gun … to a mandatory ten, and wanted to increase the maximums from 20 to 40. He also introduced a piece of legislation that made it so that juveniles were automatically charged as adults for a series of crimes. And he also introduced a piece of legislation that had what were called ‘gang statutes’. So, attempting to throw more time on folks who they thought were affiliated with a gang.”

The Promotion of the Crime Bill through the Maryland Senate

“So what ended up happening, we have a Republican Governor, but our Legislature, State Senate and House of Delegates, are controlled by the Democrats. So you have [Thomas V.] ‘Mike’ Miller who is in charge of the State Senate and you have Speaker Michael Busch who is in charge of the House of Delegates.  What happened on the Senate side was that Bobby Zirkin, who was the chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee — he is a Democrat who represents the area of Baltimore County that is Pikesville-Owings Mills. What he did was he took pieces of the Governor’s packet and mixed a bunch of other measures in. Measures that he thought might make folks like us and other organizations satisfied. So he included funding for programs like Safe Streets. But he combined that with some of the measures around increasing mandatory minimums. And so Zirkin created this bill that was Senate Bill 122. So the Governor supported it after they pieced it together. It was pieced together in a back room.

“So, every bill has to have a hearing when it comes from the Legislature. What [Senator Zirkin] did was that, after the Governor’s bills were heard, he took an unrelated bill — so Senate Bill 122, when it came into the Legislature, was a completely different bill. What he did was, he amended the bill to change the name and change what it did, so that by the time it got to the Senate floor, it was this Comprehensive Crime Bill. So we didn’t get a chance to actually speak out against the bill. We spoke out against the Governor’s bills, but he manipulated the procedure in such a way that we didn’t get an opportunity to testify against this particular bill. It flew off the Senate floor quickly, and so then it was in the House.”

Criticisms of SB 122

“So, there are a couple of problems I want to outline in terms of how we should address crime. Because, the thing that we kept getting was, if this isn’t the way then what is the way? And so, there are a couple of things that we put forward. One of the things was, we said, if you talk to a police officer, most police officers know who the people are that are driving by [and shooting]. The issue is that the police department is inept and corrupt in terms of their ability to actually get good charges on the people that folks know are committing violence in our communities. And as many of you are aware of the Gun Trace Task Force, they founded that unit within the police department that was robbing people, planting guns on people, selling drugs. And so, a part of what we said was, if you really want to address violence, you have to address the police and the ways in which, in many ways, they increase crime, contribute to it, and have a police force that can actually make people feel confident that witnesses will be protected. So those are the two things that we said, that plus investments in things like Safe Streets, community-based anti-violence programs.

“So our argument was, if you’re serious about addressing crime, those are the things that we should do. The other problem is [with] increasing mandatory minimums from five years to ten. What we argued was that increasing those sentences, you’re not going to get the people [who are] doing violence. You’re going to get the people on the periphery. The people that just happen to get caught up. And those are the folks that are better served outside of prison, outside of incarceration.

“So that was the big push in our criticism as to why this crime package was problematic. And again, what Zirkin preserved in his version was the increase in mandatory minimums from five years to ten, and increasing maximums from 20 to 40.”

SB 122 Meets Opposition in the House of Delegates

“So it got over to the House. It went through an arduous committee process. The Black Caucus — for those who don’t know, Maryland is a third Black — we have out of the almost 200 representatives, we have about 55 representatives. So there is a pretty substantial Black Caucus. To the Black Caucus’ credit, they took an official stance against the Crime Bill. And when they took an official stance against the Crime Bill, the Latino Caucus followed suit and took a stance against the Crime Bill. And so that functionally killed the Crime Bill in the House. So it was a big victory. It was one of the few times the Black Caucus used its power in order to do something in the interest of Black folks. We look forward to working with the Black Caucus in the future to cultivate that power.”

Democrats Sneak Pieces of SB 122 through the House

“What the leadership did was that this was the Thursday of the week before Session. The Democratic Party leadership had a closed-door meeting with the Black Caucus, trying to force them to change their vote. Fortunately the Caucus stood strong, and decided not to change their vote. So what the leadership did was that they took a piece of the mandatory minimums provisions in the bill that we killed, put it in an unrelated expungement bill, so the piece about increasing mandatory minimums from five years to ten years, they amended it onto an unrelated bill on the floor of the House and rushed it through, all in the same day. So there were legislators who who had not even read the updated bill because they just pushed it so quickly.”

Pushing Back Against the House Maneuver

“And so, we’re going to approach some lawyers to try, because one of the things is that we think they’ve violated the Maryland Constitution. You’re not supposed to be able to amend a bill on the floor in a way that makes it different than how it comes into the Committee. So we’re going to try to have some litigation, at least to let the leadership know that they just can’t change bills around.

“So overall, we were successful in stopping Senate Bill 122 but they were able to get that one piece and provision in there. We were able to stop the increase in the maximums. But I think it was a really good show of of force and power of the Black Caucus in the Legislature which typically they don’t use very often. But it just goes to show the kind of power that they have.”

The Baltimore City Youth Fund

“Quickly, on to the Baltimore City Youth Fund: the Youth Fund was voted in, by the voters, in November of 2016. Three percent of the City’s budget goes into a fund specifically for children and youth that amounts to about $12 million a year. Adam Jackson, who is the CEO of LBS, was the co-chair of the Task Force. The Task Force outlined the framework, because the voters who voted on the Youth Fund voted on its existence, but there wasn’t a specific structure that went along with it. So the Task Force was responsible for developing the structure by which the Youth Fund would be produced.

“We were very clear that we wanted these dollars to go to organizations that traditionally don’t get the dollars. One of the things that we’ve been very big critics of is the Nonprofit Industrial Complex in this town and the way that the White-led big-box nonprofits suck up all the money and create a dynamic where, unfortunately, a lot of folks that are doing the work don’t have the resources to sustain the work at a level that can properly serve our communities. So we just had a series of design sessions. We’re going to be in the process of recruiting folks in the community that are going to be a part of the process of making decisions about where money goes.

“And a Request For Proposals will be going out towards the end of May. The onboarding of residents for making decisions about the Fund will happen around June. Decisions about the resources will be made towards the middle to end of July. And money will start flowing in the fall.

“So those are the two major efforts that we’ve been working on.”

Questions and Answers

Q: How does LBS determine organizations to receive funds through the Youth Fund?

A: “A part of what the task force decided was, you have a lot of folks that are typically in the position of making decisions that are like non-profit professionals, people whose credentials come from whatever academic schooling they went through. Or their relationships to the corporate sector. What’s very explicit in the task force is that people who are making decisions about money are people that are practitioners, people that are in close proximity to the community, people that have immersed themselves in the community in such a way that they have an understanding of the assets and strengths that exist in the community and in the neighborhoods. So that’s the general frame that we’re looking at. Trying to challenge the way in which folks who have good ideas, who have been around for a while, people who understand the community … get shut out of the process. So that’s the overarching piece, but we’re still in the process of, and we’ll probably have it by the time the RFP comes out, we’ll have point by point, exactly what those criteria will be.”

Q: Why is the community so involved with Crime Bills but they don’t go to the root of the community? What about those of us who are seniors or others who are afraid of crime? Why not build a new police station at Pennsylvania and North Avenues to clear the criminal element from the very corner where this establishment, the Arch Social Club, is struggling to survive and thrive? Victims of murder, assault and home invasion are being overlooked. Problems that cause people to go to jail are not being dealt with. What about the “little person” who is a victim of crime and who is afraid to testify against criminals?

A: “Three things. The first is that when Martin O’Malley was elected mayor and there was a time of unprecedented violence, he ran on a tough-on-crime approach. Part of the problem wasn’t to address crime. The problem was that politically, he was giving our community two choices: more police or less police. So a big part of what we’ve advocated for are community-based anti-violence programs where you take people that were formerly involved in that, people who are credible messengers, and have them be at the front line in terms of resolving a lot of conflicts. I’ve been involved with a lot of young people who have been engaged in violence, but it wasn’t people who were hardened criminals. These are people that don’t have the networks, they don’t have the support system necessary to be able to address those conflicts before they escalate into what they become. And you just have a lot of young folks that don’t have mentorship, don’t have people in their lives. … So this isn’t to excuse folks who engage in those acts of violence but I think there’s one piece of it where police should be like the last resort. And a part of why it was important for us to do the Youth Fund work is to direct resources to people that will be better at getting people from committing these acts of violence. Safe Streets and other programs like that.

“So that’s one piece. Another piece is that, you mentioned witness protection. I testified in front of the [Legislative] Committee, saying that increased resources to witness protection would go a long way. So when I talk to police officers off the record, the thing that all of them consistently say is that, if they could just get witnesses to go to the [witness] stand [and testify], they would be able to put away a lot of the people they know are committing the murders. When I talk to the legislators about investment in witness protection, what they say to me is ‘Dayvon, that’s just a political fight that I don’t know that we can win.’ And of course, my response back to them is, ‘Well, if you’re serious about addressing violence, that’s part of the fight that has to be made.’ And they’re talking about dollars. Dollars that go to witness protection. … This year, the city of Baltimore is going to break half a billion dollars in investment in public safety. So to me, there’s no reason you can’t take some of that $500 million and put it towards witness protection so that you can get the folks who are actually committing the crimes.

“And then lastly, one of the things in Annapolis, you’re dealing with legislators [for whom] being in Penn-North is foreign to them, so they don’t really understand the dynamics. And so one of the things we try to explain to them is that we’re all concerned about crime and violence. Increasing the time a person has to spend in jail from five to ten, that doesn’t deter crime. What that does is, it produces more people that are exposed to the criminal element [in prison] longer. What the studies suggest is that the certainty of getting charged, arrested and incarcerated is a bigger deterrent to crime than the length of your sentence. So you can say that you’re going to get 15 years. that’s less of a deterrent than the certainty of getting caught. So one of the things we said to the Committee and to the Legislature is, if you really want to address crime, then you have to address the police ability to get the folks that are committing the crimes. And to be honest, what we said to them was, increasing the sentence is a political ploy to get the White folks in the County to feel good without actually addressing the problem.

“And one other thing I also want to note. The first quarter of this year, from [the first quarter of] 2017 … homicides are down 30%. And that’s important, because what’s going to happen is, the Legislature is going to try to claim credit for it [when crime goes down]. So it’s really important for people to know that the efforts that a lot of people in this room are engaged in are the efforts that are actually having an impact, not the efforts that the leadership is going to try to take credit for.”

Q: With regard to the strategy of the passage and resistance to the Crime Bill and the political strategy of developing programs to stop crime and prevent our children from becoming cannon fodder on the streets, how do you envision a “clean” way to ensure that our children are employed and have a vision of a future beyond what exists now? Especially since the oppressor does not want to discuss that? With some 50% of 18 to 24 year old Afrikan American males in Baltimore unemployed, how do we prevent that reality that our oppressors don’t want to discuss and is the real driver of crime? What kinds of programs, besides Safe Streets, are you talking about for our children?

A: “Two things. One, to the political part of the question. One of the adamant supporters of the Crime Bill was the Greater Baltimore Committee [GBC]. For those who don’t know, that’s the collection of corporate White power in Baltimore City. It’s interesting, because earlier last summer, we were fighting the City Council, [which was] trying to push through a bill where just the possession of a firearm gave you a mandatory one year [imprisonment]. That’s coming from the GBC. The GBC has their eye, as many people know, on gentrification. And the homicide rate last year, for them, was an inconvenience in terms of their efforts at trying to gentrify parts of Baltimore City. So that’s a big reason as to why it became such a big issue. What that also speaks to, to your point in terms of a comprehensive look at the problem, the GBC has been an opponent of major efforts around employing Black folks, and has been a major barrier in terms of sharing economic power.

“An example of that is that it took the [April 2015] Uprising [after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody] for them to even begin to discuss things like expungement for a lot of people that had criminal records. And one of the big barriers to getting gainfully employed is having that record. Nicole [Mundell] is the Executive Director of Our For Justice, who works directly with folks who have been through the criminal justice system, and who has worked for years to try to get the Legislature to consider expunging records. You think about someone who did something when they were in their teens, now they’re in their 40’s, still have this record and can’t get a job. And the GBC, it took the Uprising for them to even start discussing it, but expungement legislation is extremely hard to get passed down in Annapolis, because a lot of those lawmakers see that ‘those are criminals; why are we giving criminals another chance?’, instead of understanding that a lot of people who have records, if you think about what the Department of Justice, what a bunch of organizations have found, is that a lot of people get pushed through the criminal justice system and have a record, just because the police were over-policing. So really getting them to understand that is a big piece of it, dealing with folks that have criminal records.

“In terms of the larger picture, I think it’s really about sharing economic power. And taking it. Which is a much bigger and larger fight. … And that’s why we did the Youth Fund, it’s a small example of taking resources and being able to control them and invest them in our community. Our hope is that we can take that model and it can be in other processes, other government agencies. So that, say, with [the Department of] Housing and Community Development, there are a lot of issues with Park Heights and the slots money, so taking that process and putting it there. Our hope is that this process will become a means by which other agencies will have to be able to spend money in a way that [resources] will actually get to the community.”

Q: Even with expungement, there will still be gaps in a person’s employment that will lead to questions from employers, so the discrimination will continue. Second, we have to get through the issues of relationships with legislators and lobbyists. Third, we need to address the underlying traumas, the “adverse child experiences” between the ages of 2 to 7 years, as well as traumas to families and family systems. Groups like the Center For Urban Families (CFUF) are also working to deal with these issues as progressive 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations that are [often excluded from the Nonprofit Industrial Complex and are] looking for funding. Who are you looking at partnering with and directing resources to in order to change the paradigm?

Q: How about the traditional Black Cultural Organizations like the Eubie Blake Cultural Center, the Great Blacks In Wax (GBOW) Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which have been underfunded in this “separate-but-equal” government infrastructure in Maryland? Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) had to sue because of unequal funding. Cultural organizations have also been denied millions of dollars in bond money every hear from the city and the state that has gone to the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Science Center, etc. Cultural tourism is a big part of economic development, particularly for the Black community to the extent that we can build up our cultural institutions and create jobs and economic opportunities, something many of us would be interested in working with you on through the task force and associated committees, as well as having you work with us in our efforts. Have you looked at a pathway for gifted and talented Black students in this city to pursue to actualize their talent through Black Cultural Organizations like /eubie Blake, Reginald F. Lewis and Great Blacks In Wax? There isn’t currently a pathway for students who are not coming out of the School for the Arts to actualize and realize their talents.

A: “In terms of the specific pathways, one of the things I’d be interested in talking to you further about, one of the things that happened at the beginning of the [Legislative] Session is that the Baltimore City delegation will look at capital improvement projects. On the budget, the governor usually gives delegations a certain amount of capital dollars for infrastructure development. Actually, in the 2017 or 2016 Session, I began to notice that they would have [funding for] Walters [Art Gallery], B&O [Railroad Museum], and Black institutions were absent from that list, and in fact there were some legislators that actually brought it up. So I met with the Director of Planning around that question. There’s a Sista that works in the Department of Planning. She and I have talked about, maybe next year, looking at how we can make sure things like Eubie Blake, Arena Players and others are in that list of entities that get capital improvement projects. Unfortunately, how it works is kind of an insider system, so the people who know who to talk to and have folks inside the legislative process automatically get stuff put on the list that get capital dollars. But I think it’s certainly something to explore, probably in the summertime, to establish a group of folks to look at what capital needs there are so we can go early to our legislators and have them put those things on the queue.”

Q: About the Crime Bill, the parole system in Maryland is really messed up. As you look at amending crime legislation, you also have to look at parole, because people can’t qualify for parole because of some of those felony convictions. The other issue is the “Ban The Box” legislation. It should also be part of the reform effort because you can’t even get an interview if you have to check that box that you’ve been incarcerated.

Q: How would you compare your work to that of the Lowndes County Freedom Party in terms of getting things done?

A: “I’m finishing a book where I’m talking about Ella Baker’s style of organizing. And one of the things that we encounter in our work is that we have two major paradigms: the Industrial Areas Foundation, more of a Saul Orlinsky-based organizing, and what we call the Ella Baker paradigm of organizing. One of the differences is that we, because of our relationships to folks in our community, identify strengths, identify institutions and organizations that are already currently doing work, and our methodology is to connect with folks that are doing work and to have our specific lane in the realm of Policy. So to that extent we’re different in the sense that we’ve picked a particular lane … in terms of addressing public policy, but we borrow a lot in terms of the idea of building connections and relationships to organizations that are in our community that already exist, not feeling the need to create new organizations all the time. But try to connect the folks that are already doing work and to build power based on the strength that already exists in our community as a way to expand to larger communities. So, that’s the 90-second version of a question that takes a long time to answer.

“I’ll give you an email address and a phone number. Email is info@lbsbaltimore.com; that’s the best way to get us. Our phone number is 443-838-3773.”

Bro. Thomas Ruffin, International Association of Black Lawyers and Maryland Coalition for Justice and Progressive Change

“I’m one of the members of the board of directors of the International Association of Black Lawyers, and I’m the legal counsel for a small group that’s called the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Progressive Change. One of your friends and colleagues, Rev. Annie Chambers, is the Chairperson for the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Progressive Change, over in East Baltimore. And I certainly appreciate the gathering of the Pan Afrikan Town Hall Meeting … and also the work of the Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, and what Dayvon had to say.

“And one thing I want to disagree with Dayvon is, while he was putting a wonderful analysis over the struggle against the Maryland Comprehensive Crime Bill and the effort that changes it from Senate Bill 122 to a watered down version, what I believe to be Senate Bill 101, I want to say that we failed. I truly want to say that we failed. And I don’t want to talk about it as though we can live with the failure.

“What I want us to think about is this: In about 28 to 37 years, the majority of the people inn this country will be non-White people. In other words, White people, of European descent, will then be a minority compared to all the other races gathered together in this society. However, the genocide that’s being worked on us right now is such that, when we acquire the majority in terms of numbers in the population, we still won’t be in control of this society. White capitalist supremacy will be running it, and they mean to keep running it.

“Let me add on to that. If we think smartly about how we’re going to address that, and over the next 28 to 37 years we figure out how we’re going to oust White capitalist supremacy from being in power in this society, quite frankly, the way we’ve been so horribly oppressed and miseducated, we wouldn’t know how to run this society or its governance. I’m just being frank.

“Now, let me add on to that. If, in the next 28 to 37 years, we figured out all of that, that is, how to get rid of these devils, how to run the society, the economy, the health care system, how to provide for our well-being, how to provide for our uplift, these White capitalist supremacists wouldn’t stay here and be under our rulership. They will leave and go elsewhere.

“And so, then we have this other problem. Right now, the federal government — I’m not talking about the state government and municipal government, but the federal government in this society — has a debt of $21 trillion. In about 28 to 37 years, that debt could be double. It could be more than that. So, I’m actually estimating that it would be probably about $40 trillion, making a conservative estimate. So let’s say we oust them. We take control. We know how to manage the society, that is, how to govern. We know how to do it where they have failed us, or actually deliberately succeeded in oppressing us. We can turn that around. We would still be in trouble with this enormous debt that that they or some other society in the world would demand be repaid because they would be the holders of the debt. They would be the creditors.

“In other words, we would still be under their yoke, and — we were talking about South Africa. The society in South Africa, when they overthrew apartheid White supremacy, two things changed in that process. Just before that took place, the White people dismantled their nuclear weapons. In other words, they anticipated our taking control. So they did not want us to have nuclear weapons. And there’s a lot of different ways that can be interpreted but I’m just going to keep it to that one, because all this stuff they said that they thought that a new society ought to be cleansed of the evil of nuclear weapons didn’t apply to them when they were running the society, so I’m just saying they made sure we wouldn’t have nuclear weapons.

“Number two, the debt that they amassed in oppressing us stayed in place when we took over. That’s going to be our circumstance unless we figure out how to deal with it.

“Now, how can we deal with that, how can we figure it out, when they deliberately underfund our four historically Black universities in this state, and we argue about ‘well, why in the world are we freeing Black men who are thugs in prison?’, while they keep us divided so those men, who ain’t Black politically speaking, they get locked up, and then we get divided in our society between different groups that are struggling with each other, in competition for wealth and power, while they [White capitalist supremacists] maintain [the] wealth and power?

“So what I’m trying to say is … what we’re dealing with here, we’ve rhetorically described many times as genocide. But the truth is, that’s exactly what it is. In this state, there are about six million people. Twenty-nine percent of those people in this state are Black people of Afrikan descent. But we make up 71% of people in Maryland state prisons. See, that doesn’t make any sense. And when they talk about being tough in crime and tough on gun violence, let me add on to this.

“First of all, the greatest threat by way of killing in this society, when you take out warfare and you take out abortion … is suicide. It’s not ‘Black-on-Black crime’. It’s not even murder. As a matter of fact, when you break down suicide, the greatest threat in this society by way of killing is White male suicide. More White men each year kille themselves than all the homicides in the society put together. Yet, they come together smartly in oppressing us to aim us at fighting crime, which means fighting us, but they don’t address this White male suicide problem.” [Editor’s note: We looked up the official death statistics in the United States, and sure enough, the number of suicides is three times the number of murders in the United States every year.]

“As a matter of fact, just think about it. … If Dayvon was the Speaker of the House, and I was the President of the Senate, and the Governor started talking to us, I’d say ‘You know what we’re going to do? What we’re going to do is, we’re going to have a prophylactic, so whenever a man loses his wife to divorce, or loses his children in a child custody battle, or whenever he is about to lose all of his wealth through a financial collapse or the loss of his business, that man … is going to be put in a mental health facility for two months for observation. That’s going to be a prophylactic against suicide. Because we have a horrible problem in this state with male suicide. And by and large, most of the people who will be locked up … will be White men.  See, we don’t talk like that, but they do. They literally do.

“In that Senate Bill 122, [we say], ‘should we really fight against something like that? That’s fighting crime, and crime is right here on the street.’ Everybody’s seen it; people nodding on that heroin. If we came in here and parked our cars, we’re hoping our cars are still intact. We can go all through that. And, like I said, they are not, politically speaking, Black. But Governor Hogan ain’t Black. … Tom Miller ain’t Black. … These people never will prescribe an answer for our problems. This lady [in the audience] rhetorically said, we have to answer our problems ourselves. I’m saying for real, we literally have to answer our problems ourselves or these problems will beset us until the end of time. And that’s what’s prescribed for us, for us to suffer like this until the end of time.

“We Forgive Everybody”

“So let me go on, because I just want to be clear. When Dayvon said that the Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle were observing what the Maryland General Assembly might do before the General Session started, and then they saw all these Crime Bills and saw them flip up, where were the two members we know to be Black in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee? One was running for County Executive in Prince Georges County, and the other I believe is running for State Attorney General. Victor Ramirez — well, I call him Black — he’s running for State Attorney General. Anthony Muse is running for County Executive. And when they are running for a high ranking position in the police state, they’re not serving us. But even if they are … they should have been mobilizing, at the least, the Black and Hispanic Caucus against this. See, that’s where we fail. The Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle are in there fighting against this. They should have had more and we should have been there. … They should have brought us in, and we should have been chasing them down to be there. We ignore Annapolis every single year, and it’s only three months. We ignore it like it’s way away. I’ve seen people in Baltimore march at Town Hall over a problem that’s only resolved in Annapolis. And it doesn’t make sense. I’ve seen us get flipped by these fakes who are in the Black Caucus, whether it’s local or statewide — same thing happens nationally — and we keep getting flipped. And we act like that’s not the problem. No. It’s a serious problem. So, let me just take us to what I’ve passed out.”

Bro. Thomas now referred to a listing of the votes in the House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate on Senate Bill 101, which was the parts of the original Comprehensive Crime Bill (Senate Bill 122) that were repackagedand finally passed in the Maryland Legislature.

“If you look at it, the first page is the vote on Senate Bill 101. If I’m not mistaken, Senate Bill 122, the Comprehensive Crime Bill, ultimately became Senate Bill 101. That was a watered down version of what Dayvon was talking about earlier. And what Dayvon talked about earlier, he didn’t even touch on it. This thing is so dastardly, this is what they wanted to do. … They wanted to outlaw drug treatment for those who are locked up for a violent crime. Now, I want to get this straight. I beat you because I’m a heroin addict. I’m a fool on heroin. I’ve skipped ever being Black. I beat you. You survive. … I’ve got five years. For that whole five years, I’m in prison, and I don’t get drug treatment. I don’t even get diagnosed to see if I have a drug problem. And I’m walking in, asking for heroin. I’m looking for fentanyl. I’m begging for Vicodin. And you’re beat in bed. And they don’t address, what you say, the root cause of the problem. No, no, no, they ain’t doing that! … That piece of shit [bill] was just what it was, a piece of shit, and we got divided over their piece of shit, rather than planning for what we ought to put through the Legislature. And if the poor folk [in the House and the Senate] won’t put it through, we get them another job [by voting them out]. See, we don’t operate on that. We forgive everybody. Anthony Muse, Victor Ramirez, Catherine Pugh. We forgive everybody, and they mean evil to us.

“I’m going to be real clear. The Lieutenant Governor, we grew up together. We went to John Carroll High School together. He’s a wonderful Brother. Boyd Rutherford is a wonderful Brother. Now, I’ve said that. He and my brother were close friends, and by that and by our relationship, we became close friends. But — I’m not talking about him being a Republican, I’m not talking about him being Lieutenant Governor — I’m saying when he does not oppose the genocide directed against us, he’s no longer politically Black. Why do we forgive everybody? And they mean evil and genocide to us. That doesn’t make sense.

“How can we lift ourselves up when Coppin State is an inferior third-class university? Not because the talent’s not there, because it’s not funded. They put all the money — that’s supposed to go to Coppin State, Morgan State, Maryland Eastern Shore and Bowie State University — in College Park. And to University of Maryland Baltimore County. I mean, that school actually had a competitive basketball team. Towson University. University of Baltimore. How in the world have they got all the money, it’s always with White people, and we’re still loving White people so much we’re trying to give our money to them? And that’s what we do. We give our money to them.”

Bro. Thomas distributed a listing of the recent votes in the Senate and the House of Delegates on Senate Bill 101, the watered-down version of the original Maryland Comprehensive Crime Bill, SB 122. “These are the people who voted against us, the ones who voted ‘Yea’ for the Crime Bill. This is the House of Delegates. Now, [Dayvon] was right. The Black Caucus in the House of Delegates basically turned [against the Crime Bill]. Why? Because they were on the job. Why? Because the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Progressive Change was on the job. Why? Because the Prince Georges County NAACP was on the job. If the whole Black Nation was on the job the [watered-down Crime Bill] wouldn’t have passed. … It wouldn’t have passed if we were about our work, but we’re not about our work. And that’s a horrible problem. So, let me lay out, basically, how I suggest we get about our work. I’m going to use Baltimore as the framework.”

Beginning to Take Control of the Local Politics in Our Community

“There are six legislative districts in Baltimore. Each legislative district should have a team, under the leadership of whatever it is. It could be this, our ‘Pan-Afrikan Medallion’ [pointing at the Spokes of the Wheel diagram], our Council of Elders, but it’s got to be competent. Each district should have at least 20 to 30 people, but it should have a few hundred. And what they do is watch Annapolis.

“House of Delegates, District 41. Angela Gibson, Samuel Rosenberg and Bilal Ali. There should be a team of people who do nothing but watch them and the Senator from that district. And before January starts, we should be imparting to them, in writing, what our legislative agenda is. And make it clear that they do not depart from that agenda. We can’t do that without unity. So when we talk about unity, there’s a meaning for unity and when we don’t have the meaning behind that unity, sometimes we fail. Sometimes we have the meaning, and then you run up to [someone like me who says], ‘I’m trying to make money as a lawyer. I don’t have time for that.’ … Okay, when we run up against that kind of handkerchief-head we’ve got a problem. And if I don’t understand that the wellbeing of the Black Nation provides for my prosperity — similarly, if the Black Nation doesn’t realize that if I’m working hard, like Dayvon and the Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle are working, and the Black Nation doesn’t patronize me — when we’ve got that kind of backwardness, we’re failing ourselves.

“So, let’s look at District 41. Samuel Rosenberg; he doesn’t serve us, and I’m not saying that because he’s White. … We need to target Rosenberg to get another job. Similarly, Nathaniel Oaks in the Senate. He did resign, good enough. … We need to think on what Black man, or what Black woman, who is well-educated, dedicated to our wellbeing to the utmost, who can serve excellently in the Senate and follow our agenda. Jill Carter is a candidate. … Jill is extraordinary, but is she the one? There are thousands of people out here, and we’re going to start with her and just stop with her? No. Say if I … want to run, [but] you all never scrutinized me or came to me and said ‘Thomas, we want you to run’, you all hadn’t come to that and I just sought that for my [interests], you don’t know whether I’m doing that for my career uplift or whether I’m doing it for the wellbeing of the Black Nation. … So, Rosenberg needs another job, and we need to scrutinize Bilal Ali and Angela Gibson. … [District] 44A, we look at the same thing. Did Keith Haynes [or Curt Anderson] do enough for us? So, if he is a handkerchief-head, we get him another job. And that takes planning.

“There are six districts. Each district should have at least 30 working in unity. Not one group from one organization. All the organizations come in. That means you may even get the conservative-minded Black folks. But they’ve got to be dedicated absolutely for our uplift. They have to be radically for our uplift. They can be conservative, but radically for our uplift. … Also, we’ve got to have people who are going to study. I mean, study the legislature and the legislative process. …”

Campaign Contributions: Legalized Bribery

“[Baltimore City and Prince George’s County] are the two counties where we have a substantial majority. I mean, a kick-butt majority. But we don’t run either Baltimore City or Prince George’s County, not now, not ever, and we don’t run the agenda for the people who represent Baltimore City or Prince George’s County, not now and not ever. We have to change that. And that takes a long-term plan.

“[Senator Robert Zirkin, sponsor of the Maryland Comprehensive Crime Bill] received donations from 2,446 people, from about $50 to about $6,000. We don’t do that. Let me get this clear. If we don’t engage in ‘legalized bribery’ of these people, we lose. Bobby Zirkin was not flipping because that White Jewish community and the rest of White capitalist supremacy in that county were well behind just what Dayvon was saying — a program to exploit us for their satisfaction and wellbeing. We offer no defense, and we will never offer a defense, if we’re not engaged. … Don’t do it illegally. Understand that a campaign contribution is a bribe. You never use that word when you’re talking to a public official; then it becomes illegal. You never say, ‘I’m giving you this so you’ve got to do this.’ You never do that. What you do is you go to their meetings. We have to go to all these Delegates and Senators and tell them what our agenda is. We take one person from each of our districts and say ‘This is what we’re doing.’ … And we don ‘t go with 18 people. We go with two or three. And we rotate around. And we do the work. If you do the work, it begins to show.”

Unified Power

“And when the handkerchief-head doctors, lawyers, preachers, congregations and other business folk follow along, and when the community, that part that is not so dysfunctional that it cannot operate for its wellbeing, follows along, we begin to amass unified power that can rock and roll in Annapolis, when it’s only three months and one week. We do not work that three months and one week. White capitalist supremacy does. Because we don’t do that, we lose.”

Bro. Thomas reiterated his admonition that “you don’t trust people who have betrayed you before” in charging that most of our Black elected officials have, in effect, been White elected officials due to their failure to implement a Black Community-based agenda. “We have to do that in Baltimore here with the Mayor and the City Council. … When the Mayor is talking about giving beaucoup crazy money to Amazon, and nothing to us, we need to tell [her] we’ve got a problem. … We’ve got the same problem in DC. … These people have sold us out so mightily that we are sinking in our own failure. That stops when we unify smartly. Not just unify. … That stops when we’re not just smart but we unify, and that stops when the unity and being smart is on a smart program and agenda.”

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Hello from the Other Side: Rhythm People Coalition Represents the African Diaspora at the African Union’s First Pan African Writers Conference

Kim Poole at right, with Kelley Settles (third from left), Anita Diop (fourth from left), Teaching Artists and African Union Commissioners.

By Kim Poole, Teaching Artist Institute

ACCRA, Ghana – The first of its kind, African Union’s Pan African Writers Conference, under the theme “Promoting African Literature and Reading: The Role of African Writer in Embracing African Identity, Shared Values and Integration,” was held on March 7th – 9th, 2018 under the auspices of the AU’s organ on Social Affairs. With writers, professors, publishing houses and governmental bodies present from each member state across the continent in overwhelming numbers, organizational members of the Rhythm People Coalition (RPC) served as much needed representation from the African Diaspora. Under the leadership of Professor Anita M. Diop, Founder of the African Roots and Heritage Foundation based in Detroit, Michigan USA, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus founded by Dr. David Horne of Los Angeles, California USA, the Institution of Financial Unity founded by Angela Sayles of Cleveland, Ohio USA, and the Teaching Artist Institute based in Washington D.C. USA, the Rhythm People Coalition served the Diaspora well. The Diaspora was well received and because of that Professor Anita M Diop was duly elected to serve on the first Bureau for the AU Pan African Writers Conference representing the Sixth Region.

Professor Diop began her presentation with a ground-breaking exposition on the role of African women writers and the importance of promoting narratives depicting African women, such as art activist Katherine Dunham, who she vividly describes in her book Katherine Dunham: An African American Cultural Icon. Ending her address with an ode to the cultural impact of the recent Black Panther superhero film, she continued by asking participants to pledge to the ideals of the mystical African Country portrayed therein by declaring “Wakanda Forever.”

On day two of the conference a special presentation was offered by sister organization and leader of the Rhythm People Coalition, the Teaching Artist Institute entitled “We Are the Rhythm People.” Embodying the “We Are the Rhythm People” Campaign, Soul-Fusion Performer and Teaching Artist Kim Poole sang a proud rendition of “Hello” by Adele with words that in many ways outline the seldom-found communication between Global Africans. This much needed break in the conference agenda included a video of the Rhythm Resolution description, highlighting an urgent need to establish cultural exchange programs, global observation days and funding streams to support such efforts. Using Rhythm as a symbol of the universal connection of Pan Africans, Sis. Poole ended by chanting out to the crowd with the roaring declaration and oath of the Rhythm People Campaign, stating that “beyond geographic location, language, class, tribe, in the beginning was heart drum, with this vibration we gave rhythm to the world, on this beat we sing life, We Are the Rhythm People.” Indeed, the Rhythm People Coalition’s impact has demonstrated the necessity for Diaspora based organizations and perspectives in African centered initiatives.

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TAI Artizen Gambia Adama Barrow and Kim Poole

The New Gambia Invites the “Art of Possibility”

His Excellency President Adama Barrow and Sis. Kim Poole.

by Kim Poole, Founder, Teaching Artist Institute

Nestled along the Atlantic coast and bound by Senegal is the next frontier of creativity and innovation. On March 3rd 2018 the “New Gambia;” as coined by the current Barrow administration, officially adopted the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) as lead partner in development and implementation of a five-year master planning in Art for Social Transformation for the country. The five-year master planning tool will use the core tenets of civic engagement, governmental transparency, cultural diplomacy, and symbolic landscape study to stimulate sustainable development in areas collectively identified by Gambian stakeholders as major developmental priorities.

According to His Excellency President Adama Barrow, the [emerging economy] is “fertile ground for sustainable development and surrounded by fresh water from the river…With 87% of our food imported and so many of our youth unemployed, with the proper infrastructure we could grow our own rice and employ our youth too. We need to change the culture of agriculture.” This is a very different development approach from that of former President Yaya Jammeh, who ruled the country for 22 years as a dictatorship until voted out of office in December of 2016. As the conversation continues, it is apparent that President Barrow understands both art and culture beyond just the aesthetic value.

The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), an organization dedicated to utilizing art culture as an approach to innovative community development, acknowledges that society is improved as a result of its ability to creatively process conflict and is preparing to address the “culture of agriculture” mentioned by President Barrow and many potential areas of growth in the Gambia. The Washington, D.C.-based organization, under the fiscal sponsorship of Jah Kente International, is currently in operation in Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Jamaica and throughout the USA where founder Kim Poole resides. Poole says “the ‘Imagineering’ team is stocked with stakeholders from every sector who are prepared to give artists a seat at decision making tables for the sake of Gambia and future countries. This is an opportunity for our young organization to make a real difference and prove ourselves.” Slated to begin work on July 1, 2018, the five-year plan will ultimately produce an entire arts and cultural district focused on innovation, mixed use facilities and preservation.

This future “no drive zone” is positioning itself as one of the hallmarks of what the New Gambia will represent, celebrating a diverse buy-in from both grassroots and grass tops communities. The first phase of five-year master plan implementation will be announced by President Barrow himself at the opening ceremony of the Second International Conference on Art for Social Transformation entitled ARTIZEN, taking place July 14th and 15th 2018 in the capital city of Banjul.

It is apparent that this bite size country has a huge appetite for progress and is setting a new standard for the role of artists in community development on the world stage.

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First Maryland Pan-Afrikan Town Hall of 2018 Highlights the Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign

The first Maryland Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meeting of 2018 was held at the Arch Social Club in the Penn-North neighborhood in Baltimore on Saturday, February 24. The event was called by the newly-seated Maryland Council of Elders and was co-sponsored by the Council, the Arch Social Club and the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC).

The Council was spoken for by its current Chair, Baba Rafiki Morris, its Co-Chair, Mama Maisha Washington, and Baba Ade Oba Tokunbo, the three of whom sat at the head table and directly addressed the audience.

After a Tambiko (Libation) by guest officiant Mama Abena was given in recognition of the Ancestors using contemporary and ancient Afrikan traditions, the meeting proceeded to a discussion of the Council’s priority items for the year 2018.

The Council’s overarching mandate, which the Council had chosen for itself after its confirmation and seating at the December 2, 2017 Town Hall Meeting, was to find a way to break through the barriers to the building of unity among Pan-Afrikan organizers and grassroots community members. In support of the building of this larger unity, the Council has identified four main projects it is embracing for the year:

  • African Liberation Day, May 25-26. Baba Charlie Dugger has held an annual event in Harlem Park over the ALD Weekend, which has generally been referred to as “Africa Day”. Until this year, Baba Charlie has led this effort largely on his own, directing other committed activists, artists and workers in the community to assist him in bringing his Day in the Park to a successful conclusion every year. But is has been determined that, if the event is to become even more significant to our community, Baba Charlie will need more assistance from the rest of us. The Council would like to expand this into a weekend of discussions, cultural events and planning sessions so that African Liberation Day can more effectively return to its more activistic Pan-Afrikan roots.
  • A Day of Appreciation for the Elders of the Community. Baba Ade has proposed a day on which a special event can be held to celebrate the Elders of the Community, which would be held over the Autumnal Equinox.
  • A series of Town Hall Meetings, which the Council proposes to refer to as “People’s Assemblies”, in which the Council would establish specific presentations and discussions to be held. The Assemblies would occur approximately every two months; thus future Assemblies will be scheduled for April, June, August, October and December.
  • The 2018 National Summit of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC), the co-conveners of the Assemblies. This year, the National Summit will be held in Baltimore, Maryland over the weekend of November 16-18. Locations have yet to be established, but should be determined sometime in March or early April.

This particular Town Hall Meeting, or People’s Assembly, provided the opportunity for the attending public to be introduced to the members of the Maryland Council of Elders:

  • Baba Rafiki Morris (Chair)
  • Mama Maisha Washington (Co-Chair)
  • Rev. Mothermarci Bowyer-Barron (Co-Chair)
  • Baba Yahya Shabazz (Treasurer)
  • Baba Leslie “Kenyatta” Howard (Program Director)
  • Baba David Murphy (Media, Communications and Promotions)
  • Baba Ade Oba Tokunbo (Elders Recognition Program Director)
  • Baba Ishaka-Ra-Hannibal-El
  • Baba Sankofa Knox

Baba Rafiki Morris, Mama Maisha Washington.

Other contributors include Mama Victory Swift, Baba Charlie Dugger, Sis. Ujimma Masani, Sis. Ertha Harris, Baba Julius McAllister, Sis. Kim Poole and Dr. Ken Morgan, all of whom have contributed to meetings of the Elders Council and of sub-committees of the Council.

A number of community members took the time to ask questions and propose ideas and directions for the Assemblies to take.

APP-HRC’s Presentation: Aging People in Prison, Inter-Generational Oppression and Cities of Trauma

The event’s special guests were Mama Tomiko Shine and Baba Tyronne Morton of the Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC). They had attended the United Nations’ Regional Meeting of the Working Group of Experts for People of African Descent in Geneva, Switzerland in November 2017, where they made presentations about the situation of people who have been consigned to grow old, and in some cases live out their lives, in prisons, especially in the United States. Mama Tomiko made two presentations, and Baba Tryonne made one.  Toward the end of Baba Tyronne’s impassioned speech, the moderators attempted to cut his microphone, but the attendees in the assembly hall heard his words nonetheless.  Their Report on their work and on the Regional Meeting can be found here.

Mama Tomiko, in her remarks at the Town Hall Meeting, noted how Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, first elected President of an independent Ghana in 1959, ”saw the United Nations Organization as providing the most effective forum and machinery for small countries like Ghana to exert some measure of influence for peace and progress in the world … [and] saw the world body as a tool in the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, and apartheid but also as a medium for social and economic development dedicated to raising the standard of living of all people, in particular countries of the Third World” (from Nkrumah’s Foreign Policy 1951-1966, The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah).

She also quoted Ancestor Malcolm X, who had stated that ”as soon as we lift it above civil rights to the level of human rights, the problem becomes internationalized; all of those who belong to the United Nations automatically can take sides with us and help us in condemning, at least charging, Uncle Sam with violation of our human rights.” (1964 interview in Cairo after the Organization of African Unity Conference)
Mama Tomiko Shine, Baba Tyronne Morton.

Mama Tomiko made reference to those places where the oppression felt by Afrikan people and people of Afrikan Descent had gone on for so long that the oppression could be considered to be “inter-generational”, and that, as a result, the cities where this condition predominates can be defined as Cities of Trauma in Afrika and the Diaspora. Some (but certainly not all) examples of such cities include Baltimore, Maryland; Kinshasa, DR Congo; Richmond, Virginia; Gary, Indiana; Detroit/Flint, Michigan; Port-Au-Prince, Haiti; Jacksonville, Florida; Monrovia, Liberia; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Anacostia, Washington DC; Holmes County in Mississippi; Lome, Togo; Wilcox, Alabama; Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire; and Camden, New Jersey.

Mama Tomiko Shine and Baba Tyronne Morton address the audience.

She also pointed pout some of the challenges that tend to stand in the way of the advancement and uplift of Afrikan people: Poor Leadership, Illiteracy, Poverty, Incarceration, Lack of organization, Technological illiteracy, Underdeveloped Identities and behaviors and a basic lack of unity (which has often been described as the “Willie Lynch” or “Crabs in a Barrel” mentality).

Among the possible solutions to the issue of disunity, according to Mama Tomiko, are Institution Building (family, education, housing, food, economic, property/land); understanding the issues that impact on our ability to build these institutions and how to deal with them (through books such as Dr. Amos Wilson’s Blueprint for Black Power and Les Leopold’s Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice); making connections between the Diaspora and Afrika through travel (which would require all of us to obtain and keep a current passport); recognizing those efforts being made on the Afrikan Continent to connect with the Diaspora in the spirit of Pan African Movement and Repatriation (such as Ghana’s Joseph Project, which has made land available for Afrikan Diasporans to settle ion the Motherland); Youth Leadership Development (as discussed in works such as the Re-Awakening of the African Mind by Dr. Asa Hilliard); and overcoming our fixation with labels when they serve little purpose other than to divide us as a people, as often happens when the debate over what we call ourselves (Negro, Black, African/American or Afrikan) occurs.

Mama Tomiko suggests embracing the principles of Kwanzaa’s Nguzo Saba (Umoja-Unity, Kujichagulia-Self Determination, Ujima-Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamaa-Cooperative Economics, Nia-Purpose, Kuumba-Creativity, and Imani-Faith) a “pathway to Afrikan thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.”

We hope to have more events at which APP-HRC and others who are doing similar excellent work on behalf of Afrikan people can share their information with the people. We anticipate that the future People’s Assemblies will present the opportunity for much important information to be shared, and for real strategies to be developed that will assist our people in organizing for our own uplift.

A key component of the uplift of Afrikan people and the building of unity will be a change of attitude from many of our organizers, activists and would-be leaders. The inability of many of us to reject the organizational arrogance that leads us to insist that our way is “the only way” has often allowed this chronic lack if unity to continue. Instead, we need to realize that the only “only way” is one that embraces all of our major strategies together, developed in a cooperative way and executed in a strategic manner.

The following videos (which may need a few minutes to load, depending on your browser) from the United Nations Regional Meeting for People of African Descent in Geneva, Switzerland feature Mama Tomiko, Baba Tyronne and other participants at the Regional Meeting.  The first video includes two statements from Mama Tomiko.  The second video features Baba Tyronne’s impassioned speech, in which the moderator appeared to attempt to shut off the microphone before he was able to complete his statement (though the attendees heard Baba Tyronne nonetheless).  The third video includes statements from a variety of other Afrikans and Afrikan Diasporans who attended the Regional Meeting and that bolstered the overall concerns of the people of Afrikan Descent in attendance.  The videos can also be found at the KUUMBAReport Web site Online at http://kuumbareport.com/2018/02/28/2272/.

 

 

 

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Teaching Artist Institute Announces the 2018 TAI Tour to Ghana


The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), under the visionary leadership of Founding Fellow Sis. Kim Poole, is sponsoring its 2018 TAI Tour to Ghana, slated to embark in early March.  Anyone interested in participating in this TAI Tour is encouraged to contact the Teaching Artist Institute (see the PDF brochure below) as soon as possible, as spaces are expected to be limited.  A number of Teaching Artists from the United States, Ghana and several Diaspora nations are participating in a variety of workshops, discussion groups and performances as part of the annual celebration of Ghana’s independence and Ghana Music Week.

The TAI Tour is described in the following two PDF documents. They may take a minute or so to load, since they are several pages in length and include a number of photographs that describe the activities as well as introduce you to the Tour Participants and operators.

The following PDF document describes much of what you can expect from this TAI Tour, including a brief introduction to Sis. Kelley Settles, your TAI Tour Guide; schedule for the Tour; application, immunization, financial and visa requirements; responsibilities of participants and tour operators; and payment coupons.  More information on the Teaching Artist Fellowship, which participates in the TAI Tours, can be found in this companion post.

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Also included in this article is the Report on the 2017 TAI Tour to Ghana, featuring some of the events that occurred during the 2017 Tour and brief biographies of the 2017 TAI Tour participants.

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Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign Report on the UN Meeting for People of African Descent, November 2017

Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign
Summary Report on Second UN Meeting for People of African Descent
Geneva, Switzerland November 23-24, 2017

This report was compiled in January 2018 by Tomiko Shine; Cultural Anthropologist and Founding Director of Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC)

APP-HRC

Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign was established as a response to the mammoth numbers of peoples of African descent, the black bodies of men and women serving draconian sentences in prisons across North America. The over 1000 prisons across North America are an extension of the thousands plantations scattered across the Southern part of the nation during institutionalized slavery. Thus, the many black bodies imprisoned in some form over the last 500 years are the descendants of the enslaved Africans who were born, lived, and died on plantations.

APP-HRC works to have these descendants released, returned, and reunited with their families with the little time they have left on this earth. As a result its organizational philosophy is shaped by a human rights paradigm that designates these imprisoned African descendants as human.

UN International DECADE for People of African Descent 2015-2024

The United Nations declaring 2015-2024 as a decade for people of African descent is very important and timely. Proceeding this decade, the historical lived experience of black families in America has aided in explaining their prescribed roles and narratives in American culture as analyzed in articles such as “Lens of Blackness” by anthropologist Tomiko Shine. Likewise the decade becomes important to dialogue, brainstorm, and implement activities that introduce change from an international, national, and local level.

DEVELOPMENT

Housing

My analysis from discussions by NGOs in North America or across the Diaspora highlights gentrification and displacement of refugees as similar to the historical migrations that have occurred with African Americans over centuries and is an extension of the continued instability of the black family.

Thus within a context of racialized historical poverty and socio-economic political deficits low income African Americans in metropolitan cities such as Washington DC, Baltimore MD, Richmond VA, Harlem New York, etc are the first to lose or be evicted from housing.

Poverty

Many testimonies spoke to the poverty those of African descent remain in after centuries of colonialism/slavery and thirty plus generations later. Thus you have countries like Haiti, Congo, and North America where generations of African children are born, growing up, and passing on poverty to the next generation. With the crushing blow of the Trans Atlantic slave trade and the extracting of human, mineral, and land resources in countries mostly inhabited by black bodies; the suffering has been great and the return very little or none for those black bodies scattered across the Diaspora. This historical trajectory is meticulously told in Edward Baptist’s book, “The Other Half Has Never Been Told”.

In North America one of the most powerful, richest, and technologically advanced nations in the world has throughout its different principalities

African Americans with little or no ownership of housing/land, high illiteracy, food/book deserts, and poor health care. In a 2016 report whites have a net worth of 81 times greater than blacks. In Washington DC, whites have a net worth of $284,000 compared to blacks at $3,500; and Hispanics a net worth of $13,500.

This report later speaks to these spaces as “Cities of Trauma”.

Labor

Lack of jobs, training, and apprenticeships were mentioned as contributing to unstable communities/families and negative behaviors that impact peoples of color immediate space and future surroundings. The socio-poli-econ constructs called ghettos within Johannesburg, Ferguson, Brazil, and New Orleans only serve to maintain the growing enormous wealth disparities between “blacks” and “whites”. It also paradoxically places generational wealth and servitude along two polarizing lines. 500 years later peoples of African descent for the most part remain and are directed to jobs of servitude, incarceration, or social service jobs not requiring college level or technologically advanced understanding.

RECOGNITION

Education was central to the discussion under Recognition. When the enslaved was first released from the labor camps of the plantations, illiteracy for the former was over 80%; but within 100 years the same population once enslaved for centuries was over 80% literate in the dawning of the 20th century. Unfortunately in 2017 and surprisingly following the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and affirmative Action, people of African descent and the issue of literacy has again become according to acclaimed author Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu; “the civil rights issue of our time.”

Cities like Baltimore have literacy rates for 4th graders at 14%, and in Washington DC 8th graders with literate rates of 30%; it continues with similar numbers with highly concentrated African Americans across North America. In addition these same inner cities are closing schools due to various reasons such as: low performance, attendance, etc. In addition, at the height there were 150 Black bookstores during the 1970s, now that number as of 2017 is 70 African American bookstores in North America.

JUSTICE

Whether it was in Paris, South Carolina, or Canada it is a fact and cultural practice of societies across the world that black bodies are in someway always contained, confined, or imprisoned.

For example the International NGO; Food for the Poor in December 2017 was able through contributions to aid 261 non-violent prisoners in being released from prisons in countries like Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti, and Honduras. All arrests were for minor crimes, one categorized as economic crimes due to poverty, misunderstandings, or poor application of the law that sent many of them who are parents away from their families months to years at a time. Similar to Ferguson and Baltimore, historically impoverished cities majority peoples of African descent can end up spending large amounts of time and money within the criminal justice system.

Many of the men and women are in for crimes they did not commit or could have been handled with better alternatives from day one. Appallingly 1 in 3 black male babies born in North America will end up in jail or prison during their lifetime. This over incarceration of long sentences has led to women and men of African descent being held in prisons for 30, 40, 50, and even 60 plus years’; thus a future crisis of elderly prisoners by an increase of 400% will occur in North America by 2030. As a result today 2-3 generations of black men and women of the same family can be found in prisons, thus entering the era of generational incarceration.

Women/mothers of African descent within the last decade have become part of the growing crisis of mass/over incarceration. It is not unusual for the majority of these women to enter the prison pipeline through domestic violence or poverty. Thus, with over 80% of the women mothers, the black family on its last leg and no longer a family, but merely a survival unit scattered across the judicial system in parts.

REPARATIONS

The ideal of reparations is seen as a path under Development for people of African descent across the Diaspora. Most of the poli-socio-econ- problems of people of African descent can be traced back to slavery/colonialism. As author [Hillary] Beckles points out; “the objective of reparations … is to establish conditions for a just and reconciled future.” Reparations are a possible vehicle to change not only the current narrative of historical racial oppression and inequality, but give new identity to generations now and to come.

WEEKEND SPECIAL MEETING; RACIAL STEREOTYPES (Nov 25-26th)

After the Regional DECADE Meeting a weekend meeting was held by the UN Working Group of People of African Descent at the Palais Wilson.

As the history of racial stereotypes and language was discussed it was obvious that recent acts of white supremacists are nothing new and in fact are part of a racial lineage put in place centuries ago. In 2008, with the election of President Obama, it correlated with the rise of white supremacy behaviors such as an increase in gun purchase and hate crimes. Prior to this major event, the election, years before, the Census bureau made the announcement that the white collective would be a minority by 2040. Thus these combinations of events would result in the ultimate white backlash; a Trump administration was the response from the white collective to black progress culminating in a new group of young whites subconsciously acting out the culture of white supremacy.

Examples of the latter situation are as follows: Dylan Roof after the 2015 Charleston shooting of nine African Americans at the historic church Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church; was quoted as saying…”they are taking our women”.

August 2017, in New Hampshire a group of white teens were stopped by a neighbor when attempting to lynch an 8 year old biracial boy by placing a rope around his neck and tying it to a tree. August 2017, Heather Heyer was mowed over by a young white male who rammed his car into a crowd of 20 anti racist protesters killing her instantly.

In May 2017, African American male student Richard Collins just days away from graduating from Bowie college was killed by a young white male student on the University of MD College Park campus while waiting at the bus stop at night to go back to campus. December 2017, a young white male stabbed the African American man whom he and his white mother had lived with since he was 5 years old. As his “stepfather” lay dying taking his last breath he posted the video to Snapchat so his friends could watch; reciting “I did it, I kill him.”

In the 2009 Book “Blood and Politics” author Leonard Zeskind gives an historical cultural trajectory of the rise of white supremacy through organized efforts such as the KKK and other groups. He forecast in 2009 that with the browning of the nation, low birth rates by the white collective, the election of Obama; fear would set in. He describes the future with the following “….Producing in decades to come, the next generations of activists who would seek to establish a white nation-state, with definable economic, political, and racial borders out of the wreckage they hope to create of the United States. Some will kill and bomb and shoot their supposed racial enemies. Some will run for elected office and win. They will fight for local (white) control. Failing a complete victory, they will continue the cultural battle over symbols from the past and the history of the future.”

On Wednesday, January 3, 2018 author and historian Linda Gordan was interviewed by NPR in regards to her newly released book” The Second Coming of the KKK and the American Political Tradition”. In the interview and in her book she emphasizes any upward mobility demonstrated by blacks trying to establish citizenship in America was and is still met with white supremacy behavior and acts. She mentioned white supremacy groups are not declining with the onset of the Millennial Alt-Right and the only hope so far rests with the grassroots resistance groups in dismantling white supremacy.

DECADE (REMEMBRANCE)

In establishing the UN International Decade for People of African Descent three themes were isolated as affecting those of African descent across the globe both historically and currently. They are RECOGNITION, JUSTICE, and DEVELOPMENT. REMEMBRANCE should also be added as a needed platform and theme to recognize, bring justice, and help develop collective people of African descent.

Why REMEMBRANCE? For the people of African descent across the diaspora their story is also scattered and remains in parts; before they can begin to recognize self, obtain justice, and develop their nations; they must remember who they were, so they can understand why they are today and become a restored people of African Descent for the future. REMEMBRANCE is of grave importance to the “white collective” of the western world because the lack of remembering causes collective amnesia which supports the continuation of the status quo and white privilege; and the subordination of the black collective and their continued poverty in every sphere of life activity.

With that North America as well as other countries that have profited off of the currency of black bodies must learn to live with the memories of slavery and colonialism until they actually become memories. This is a twofold process, thus the nation would have to change systematically they way it interacts with people of African descent. Likewise the past actually becomes the past while preparing one for the future. American culture must begin to create and open spaces of lived memory that sets people free to live for the future.

ISSUES OF 21ST and 22nd CENTURY FOR PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT

ETHNOCIDE

In 1947 W.E.B. Dubois delivered an appeal in collaboration with the NAACP to the United Nations. In 1951 the Civil Rights Congress delivered to the United Nations entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Crime Against the Negro People”. Both of these appeals would highlight many examples of private and public lynchings in the United States, disenfranchisement of blacks, severe health inequalities, and police brutality. 67 years later in November 2014 a youth group of activists out of Chicago would deliver a shadow report under the same name “We Charge Genocide”. The report at the time was motivated by the resurgence of public brutality and police killings of black men in Chicago and across the States.

Whereas genocide is a systematic destruction of the literal physical body; ethnocide is defined as “killing social cultures through the killing of individual souls”, thus ethnocide is a part of a broader genocidal process.” Likewise it is the means and not the end that differentiate between ethnocide and genocide. UNESCO defines ethnocide as “denying the ethnic group the right to enjoy, develop and transmit its own culture and language, whether collectively or individually, thus it is a massive violation of human rights and the group’s cultural identity.” French Ethnologist Robert Jaulin who redefined the concept in 1970 places emphasis on the means and not the end based on his own anthropological field work. In his words, “… genocide assassinates the people in their body, while ethnocide kills them in their spirit.”

One can review the history of those of African descent and see due to major epic interruptions to their way of life and world view they never had the opportunity to transmit their culture or develop their cultural identity for the better as a collective in any way. This can be seen in the chart in Randall’s book “Dying While Black”. The chart looks at the

Black Health/Health Care Experience 1607 to 2006
Period                   Duration                  Experience
1607 to 1864          258 years                    Chattel Slavery, Slave Health Deficit Begins
1865 to 1964          100 years                    Legal “Jim Crow” Segregation
1965 to 1979           15 years                      Affirmation Action Era
1980 to 1996          17 years                      Racial Re-entrenchment Era
1997 to 2006         10 years                      Active Work on Eliminating Health Inequalities
FUTURE-????

Anyone looking at this chart can predict the lived experience of people of African descent in the Americas; and in fact it would be horrific for any human being to endure, and near impossible for any family to survive and thrive. Thus as a result in this type of cultural context; freedom and peace becomes an illusive experience in life, but for some only obtained through death.

CITIES of TRAUMA

The aforementioned history rests upon a current crisis across North America; Cities of Trauma. In North America the majority of African Americans are segregated to just 10- 15 major metropolitan cities; Detroit, MI, Jackson, MS, Birmingham, AL, Baltimore, MD, New Orleans, LA, Flint, MI, Savannah, GA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, etc…it is the norm for these cities to be plagued with high levels of poverty, over policing, over incarceration, teen pregnancy, broken families, intra violence, poor education, etc. These residents that live in Cities of Trauma unbeknownst to many of them are the result of over 30 generations of being contained within a cultural system of white supremacy and institutional racism.

From brutal slavery, centuries of sexual violence against the enslaved African women and incestuous relationships as mentioned in Edward Baptiste’s book; “The Other Half Has Never Been Told” has evolved into lasting detrimental mental and emotional effects on women of African descent across the nation.

This type of societal definition for any group becomes a traumatic experience just trying to live. Thus we have examples of Kalief Browder from New York who is imprisoned in 2010 at the age of 16 for 3 years because he and his family could not afford bail. He is released in June 2015 only a year later to commit suicide by hanging himself in his family’s home while his mother sits downstairs. 16 months later his mother Vernitta Browder dies from a series of heart attacks in one day.

Same city, Eric Gardner dies while being arrested by police and placed in an illegal chokehold in broad daylight in public. He left behind 6 children. 3 years later in January 2018 his oldest daughter Erica Gardner follows him in death leaving behind two small children, her son born in August 2017 was named after her father. Based on the groundbreaking work on Native Americans by Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart; both families are victims of historical trauma; an experience so relentless that it is not possible to avoid being born into it and dying in it.

Historical trauma is referred to as an emotional and psychological wounding of an individual or generation proceeded by a traumatic experience or event. If historical trauma is not dealt with and placed within the time and space of the past it can be transmitted transgenerationally from parent to child. For people of African descent in the Americas and across the Diaspora within the culture of white supremacy according to some this transmission has occurred over the last 30 generations of black bodies. In other words the trauma, the past has not been dealt with or changed and like an open wound it remains.

GLOBAL PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

As discussions continue about mass incarceration and prison reform within North America even with crime rates decreasing, there is a new concern of epic consequences for the future of people of African descent over the next 100 years. Unwilling to mesh out reparatory justice or change the racial structure that holds black bodies, this colonial/slave lineage will continue. As over incarceration increases in mass numbers, so has the economic gain of countries around the globe. Research reveals soaring numbers of incarceration of black bodies from historically impoverished countries like Haiti, Jamaica, South Africa, Cameroon, etc. Even when the country is historically wealthy like America, Europe, or Australia the increasing numbers of brown and black bodies incarcerated reveal resurgence of mass incarceration; but on a global scale.

A country like Australia is at its highest with 40,000 young people on any day with a parent in jail. The majority of those incarcerated are the Indigenous population with an increase along with women up by 77%, it is estimated about 60% are mothers. In a recent news article currently 1,000 children are incarcerated every night in that country and that number will double by 2025 to 2,000 if change is not implemented to dismantle the racialized structural social context of the Indigenous. In South Africa it has been moved by social justice activists to decrease their high numbers of black bodies incarcerated within a prison population of 157,000. As of March 2017, 41,427 prisoners were without beds. Cameroon’s 78 prisons set to hold 15,000 inmates hold double that amount and most await trial.

Another example is Haiti in places like Jacmel prison which is notorious for overcrowding and holding Haitians for prolonged periods in pre trial detention. Haiti’s National Penitentiary built for 1,200 on any day has upwards of 4,000 plus Haitians in its prison cells; meaning the prison is over 400% capacity. Haiti has a prison population of about 10,000.

In accordance with the current plight of immigrants and refugees a recent article “The Double Punishment for Black Undocumented Immigrants” highlights that although only 7 percent of non-citizens in the U.S. are black, they make up 20 percent of those facing deportation on criminal grounds. Research suggests that because black people in the United States are more likely to be stopped, arrested, and incarcerated, black immigrants may be disproportionately vulnerable to deportation. The US president’s 2018 budget calls for a daily detainee population to 51,000, a 25% increase over last year. Even as incarceration prison rates drop, the immigration detained population continues to rise setting the path for mass incarceration of foreign born Africans and their families on a mass scale.

Despite the overcrowding of black bodies in prisons around the globe, historical poverty, and a social political construct that leads to crime; global mass incarceration doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. In fact these variables poverty, illiteracy, racialized laws/policies are the formula used to predict how many prisons will be built. Countries continue to direct millions and billions of dollars toward the building of new prisons instead of releasing prisoners back to their families. In Haiti a new prison was completed in 2016 with monies of 1 million dollars. In a recent article it is predicted in North America that in 2017 dividends of more than $430 million will be paid out by the two major private prison companies. Prison investors could see an additional $50 million paid out in dividend earnings. In Guyana the solution in dealing with prison overcrowding was a contract of $3.5 billion to build a new wing to the Mazuruni Prison.

In Alabama a bill is in place for a $350 million bond to build three new prisons. In Noblesville, Indiana in 2007 they opened a $28.5 million juvenile detention center. When sentencing guidelines changed it sent more of the youth home to their families as a result the jail lay empty, so officials decided to convert it to a women’s prison. Now according to local authorities a second expansion will be needed in about 10 years thus agreeing to spend $25.5 million to expand the Government and Judicial Center and $13.1 million to add jail cells. In September 2017 in Baltimore City a new juvenile detention was built at a cost of $20 million. The irony of this in January 2018; the first day back to school for Baltimore city children after the Christmas holiday found them in schools with no heat. As a result several schools where closed for days to get heat for the children, mostly of African descent.

Instead of countries spending these massive amounts of monies to change the conditions and lived experience of their citizens they continue to contain, confine, and imprison the future of Africa and its descendants.

RECOMMENDATIONS (DECADE 2018-2024)

DECADE – resources/monetary support to civil society towards Recognition, Justice, Development

DECADE – Member States take a more active supportive role during DECADE.

DECADE – Annual meetings/consultations to be held with NGOs/civil society during last 7 years of Decade with Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

RECOGNITION – Mount global campaign highlighting the gifts of African children.

RECOGNITION – Encourage Member States to cross implement African history from primary to college level curriculums.

RECOGNITION/DEVELOPMENT – Member States in Africa and the Caribbean must mount a massive educational, technological, and agricultural campaign for its growing youth population for future DEVELOPMENT.

DEVELOPMENT – Reparations (reorganization) of distribution of wealth must be administered via monetary and land resources in North America.

DEVELOPMENT – Haiti (a decade for Haiti/ UN safe space for Haitians)

DEVELOPMENT – Reparations- all member states that benefited from the commerce of black bodies now 500 years and 30+ generations later must now administer reparatory justice in the form of action plans for the descendants of the enslaved.

DEVELOPMENT – Immediate attention to the Indigenous (a UN Commission/Space for Indigenous; i.e. Australia/Aborigines, Canada/Indigenous, America/Native Americans recognizes the cultural spiritual context) for preserving and protecting their culture.

JUSTICE – Judicial policies/laws must be reassessed and revamped via a racial equity lens as it connects to poverty, illiteracy, and criminality amongst peoples of African descent.

JUSTICE – Women of African Descent who are mothers jail/prison must be the last resort so children are not growing up without parents … Social/economic alternatives must be applied.

JUSTICE – Indigenous peoples i.e. Australia, Canada, Native Americans should have separate justice systems/courts

JUSTICE – Establish UN interagency/working groups collaboratively working within the DECADE to aggressively counter the world growth of imprisoned black and brown bodies.

Report/collect data on the rapid growth of the global prison industrial complex and detention/imprisonment of black and brown bodies.

Report on the constant separation and instability of the African family as a result of slavery/colonialism, lynchings, migrations, racialized policies/laws, and mass/generational incarceration as historical variables layered within the culture of white supremacy.

Upcoming Events Across the Diaspora

2018 March 8-11th- International Decade for People of African Descent Summit, Georgetown, Guyana.

2018 July 17-19th — 3rd Annual Spirit of Peace Conference; Role of Culture in Sustainable Development. New York City, New York.

2019 August- 400 Years Later Reclaiming the Children of Africa in the Diaspora through; Remembrance, Recognition, Justice, and Development, Petersburg, Virginia.

2019- 3rd Regional UN International Decade Meeting.

References

Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. 2014.

Beckles, Hillary. Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide. University of West Indies Press. 2013.

Berry, Mary Francis. My Face is Black is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations. 2005.

Braveheart, Maria Yellowhorse. Wakiksuyapi: Carrying the Historical Trauma of the Lakota. 2000.

Civil Rights Congress. We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People. 1951. Delivered to United Nations

Clark, Doug Bock. Why is the US Trying to Remake the World’s Prisons. Buzzfeed.May 28, 2017.

Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK and the American Political Tradition. 2017.

Jaulin, Robert. La Paix Blanche, Introduction a l’ethnocide. Paris, Editions du Seuil. 1970.

Randall, Vernilla, JD. Dying While Black. City: Seven Principles Press. 2006.

Shine, Tomiko. The Lens of Blackness: An Anthro-Political Perspective. Journal of Pan African Studies. 2013.

We Charge Genocide. 2014. Delivered to United Nations.

Chicago Illinois.

Winbush, Raymond. Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations. Amistad Haper Collins Publishers.2003.

Zeskind, Leonard. Blood and Politics; The History of The White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. New York. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 2009.

This report was compiled in January 2018 by Tomiko Shine; Cultural Anthropologist and Founding Director of Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC)

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Teaching Artist Institute Announces the 2018 TAI Fellowship

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The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) is announcing its TAI Fellowship Program for 2018.

TAI was founded in December 2015 by Baltimore, Maryland-area Soul-Fusion Teaching Artist Sis. Kim Poole. TAI has grown into an international force in support of Art for Social Transformation due to her visionary leadership.

The above PDF document describes the TAI Fellowship, including an Introduction and Overview, the Vision Statement (“Art as a way of life”), the Mission Statement, the Goals of the TAI Fellowship, the Benefits of participation and the Definition of a Teaching Artist.

Brief introductions to several current TAI Fellows and their work in Cuba, Ghana, Nigeria and Cleveland Ohio, Los Angeles California, and Baltimore Maryland are included.

When the document finishes loading, navigate through the pages by positioning the cursor on the document and clicking the arrow buttons in the lower left corner.

Become a TAI Fellow, develop your art and travel the world!

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On Resolutions and Moving from “Whereas” to “Now Therefore”

This article originally appeared on the Web site KUUMBAReport Online (http://kuumbareport.com).

People seem to love making “New Year’s Resolutions”. Actually, the Ancient Afrikan (Kemitic) Calendar says this is actually the middle of the year 6258 (I may be off by a year or two). So, they are actually “Mid-Year Resolutions”.
I had originally titled this piece “2018: Writer’s Block”. I had started this post intending to explain my absence from these pages over the last month or so. I was going to explain it as a simple consequence of “holiday blues” or “winter doldrums”, but perhaps a better explanation can be made by comparing it to the overall malaise that has afflicted many in the United States and, I suspect, the world in general, fatigue.

This fatigue is what often happens when one is stuck on a merry-go-round of unrelenting drama, as so often has happened in the US of late because of the rather unprecedented (un-Presidented?) political freak show going on in Washington, DC, and its impact on our level of compassion and commitment to communities around the world that are struggling. It can cause one to grow so fatigued at the constant media drumbeat of near-apocalyptic political news (especially on the major cable networks like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC) that one simply grows tired of hearing it all and decides to bury one’s head in the proverbial sand just to obtain some relief. Much of that has led me to refrain from repeating analyses I’ve already made several times on this site, and it has similarly led others to simply shut down and cease all involvement in politics or activism. We are reduced to a bunch of complainers who rail against the evils of “the system” but, when challenged to offer a solution, we fall silent.

I’m reminded of one night when I was driving home and happened to be listening to the radio. On the air at the time was a show called “Night Talk”, hosted by legendary Black-Talk Radio host Bob Law. Someone called in to complain about the pressing issue of the day. Suddenly, Baba Bob Law interrupted him with, “And now therefore?” The caller fell silent. The host explained, “Too many times people call my show and complain about how things are without offering any ideas for solutions, a ‘now therefore’, or ‘this is what we’re going to do about it’. And I’m not going to allow that anymore.” The caller had nothing to say in response, so Baba Bob Law ended the conversation and lectured the entire listening audience for about an hour on our collective failure to move from complaint to response. And he was absolutely right.

We do this much too often. We complain about the way things are and expect someone else to figure out the solution, and as a result we spend all our time complaining and never responding or building or solving anything, adding to our feeling of helplessness. Of course, this is what the enemies want.

We’ve posted articles on some of the machinations that have occurred in the Afrikan Continent, from preemptive war in the name of “anti-terrorism” to efforts by large agencies like USAID to hand control over Afrika’s food supply to major agricultural giants such as Monsanto, Cargill and Syngenta. We’ve looked at the most egregious incidents of police brutality across the country, and even at some of the violence that has been perpetrated against police officers in apparent retaliation. We’ve looked at incidents in our own communities in which some of us feed on the rest of us through violence and other crime. We’ve examined the flying circus that is the current presidential administration of Donald J. Trump. And we’ve highlighted efforts to organize people in grassroots Afrikan-descendant communities, especially in our home state of Maryland.

These are all ongoing issues which have been analyzed, discussed, argued and even agonized about on Web sites, Facebook posts and in emails and chat rooms around the world. But after a while, one has to move from passive analysis to involved, proactive action.

“Now Therefore”

When Congress, state legislatures, city councils, the African Union or the United Nations want to say something and state an opinion, a Resolution (not the “New Year’s” or “Mid-Year’s” kind) is passed. Resolutions start off with a series of “whereas” statements, specific arguments, sometimes a paragraph long, that describe the current situation that is being addressed. Sometimes these “whereas” statements can go on for several pages as paragraph piles upon paragraph in an effort to paint a full picture of the issue being confronted.

But ultimately, the Resolution moves on from the “whereas” statements to the “now therefore” announcements. These are the equivalent of “now here’s what we’re gonna do about this” in diplomacy-speak.

And it is at that point that one’s analysis of the situation is often reduced to repetition of what was already said ad nauseam, on this site, in emails, in Facebook posts, and in the words of other, more qualified and able analysts from other Web sites and media outlets.

In the cases of many of these issues, we have reached that point. In some cases, we’ve been at that point for a long time, but we simply have refused to acknowledge it, because to do so would require us to act based on our analysis.

“What’s Africa Got to Do with Me?”

The articles we’ve posted over the last several years from the Africa Policy Forum events sponsored by California Congress member Karen Bass have discussed a number of critical issues across the Afrikan Continent, including Boko Haram, famine, ebola, and efforts by American businesses to build bridges to Afrikan nations. American influence has not always been constructive, however, as our research has shown that some of the initiatives by the US government have drawn suspicion of actually being efforts to undermine the independence of Afrikan farmers through the introduction of genetically-modified patented seeds and neoliberal economic models that enrich agricultural and financial corporations at the expense of the people of Afrika.

Many of us turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to these issues, in part because of the vast distance between our local neighborhoods and these Afrikan nations, in part because we have been conditioned by our national leaders in the Diaspora to disregard or discount that fact that the people of Afrika are our family. So, the beginning of our “now therefore” is to learn and to re-connect with our Afrikan heritage. Modern technology has actually made this journey more accessible, with the increased popularity of genetic-research products such as Ancestry and 23 And Me. Once this connection is made, our next move involves acting as though we recognize the family from which we came and learning the history of our ancestral home, a history that is far more complex, and more accomplished, than our oppressors want us to realize.

“Support Your Local Sheriff”

Just because the cases have not been given as much attention and notoriety as those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner does not mean the carnage has ceased. Even in the case of Eric Garner, the tragedy is not over, as his daughter Erica Garner, who became a tireless activist in search for justice for her father despite having children of her own and suffering from a heart condition, recently succumbed to a massive heart attack. Are we to believe that her father’s senseless murder by New York police officers was not a contributing factor to this latest tragedy? Are we to accept that her passing was just “collateral damage” based on her existing health challenges as some of the more heartless would have us believe? One only need ask the surviving family members of any of the victims of police brutality to know better. One only has to ask Sis. Towanda Jones, who has organized a protest every Wednesday for years since her brother, Tyrone West, was killed by a Baltimore police officer, to know better.

The activist organization Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), which has lobbied in Annapolis for years to force changes to the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), has educated the public about the 10-day period during which police officers are able to delay surrendering to investigative officials after a deadly shooting, a provision which has outraged anti-police corruption advocates. LBS can also tell you about the undue influence of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in ensuring that this provision is maintained, above the objections of citizens in Town Hall meetings.

We see the corruption that compromises the mission of the police departments of the United States. But we remain stuck in the “whereas” because of our confusion. This is in part because too many of us still do not see the contradictions of policing: the historical connection to slave patrols that signaled the beginnings of the modern-day police department, and the current acts of obstruction by police organizations against any oversight of their actions. As a result, not only do we bend over backwards to avoid offending police even as we criticize them, we sometimes are willing to swallow the analysis of the law-enforcement community whole, without any critique or analysis.

LBS’s Bro. Dayvon Love, Bro. Lawrence Grandpre, Bro. Adam Jackson, Sis. Nadirah Smith and other activists are working to increase our understanding of these issues and have organized pressure on state of Maryland officials through bus trips to Annapolis to confront state legislators, as well as informational “teach-in” style events to explain the issues to the public. Their “whereas” is to arm our communities with the information they will need to determine how our “whereas” can be expressed. But we need to make the commitment, again, to act on what we learn.

The Harm We Cause to Ourselves

We wring our hands about crime in our communities. Some of the misguided among us criticize the police-brutality activists because they “don’t speak up about Black-on-Black crime.” Aside from the fact that there is no more “Black-on-Black” crime than “White-on-White” crime (which no one talks about), the fact is, these activists do speak out on the crime in our own communities, and many who are working on the healing and security of their communities, like COR’s Bro. Munir Bahar, who has organized marches through many of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods and is presently mentoring youth and building security forces in the Collington neighborhood, and Mama Victory Swift of Our Victorious City (whose son, Victorious, was murdered on March 26 of last year in the Mondawmin area of Baltimore), who is presently engaged in reaching out to other victims of crime across the city.

These people are moving from the “whereas” to the “now therefore” in their communities. When are we going to join them?

Agent Orange

In the case of the Trump administration, there seems to be a new development every day, providing fresh new material upon which to comment, from Trump’s waffling on key planks in his political agenda to the latest official to be fired from the White House, from the most recent developments in the Special Counsel’s investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion to the latest efforts by the Trump team and members of the House and Senate to impugn or even derail the investigation, from the latest tell-all book about the rampant dysfunction in the White House and evidence of Trump’s alleged childlike tendencies to Trump’s own insistence that he is “like, a very smart person” and “a stable genius”, from Trump’s saber-rattling trash-talk toward North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to assertions that Trump lacks the mental fitness to even serve as president of the United States.

But after a while, one reaches a point of overload, at least in terms of the urge to comment and analyze something that the evidence has already made excruciatingly clear and intuitively obvious to the casual observer:

The man is crazy.

After a while, one reaches a point where the only important question is: What are we going to do about it (Now, therefore)?

We’ve been going through the “whereas” of our dealings with the Trump administration for about a year now. We’ve tried in vain to analyze this administration to make sense of the senseless. Much of this is because of the model being presented to us by the United States’ so-called political leaders: Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who once called Trump “a kook” who is “unfit to hold public office” and who now openly condemns anyone who dares refer to Trump as “a kook” or someone “unfit to hold public office”. Officials like Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai, who rammed through the imminent destruction of Net Neutrality on a strict 3-2 party-line vote despite the overwhelming opposition of the people, or the United States Congress and Senate, which passed a tax-break-for-the-rich bill which they know will gore the ox of the very citizens who voted them into office in the hope of no longer being the “forgotten Americans”. These people have given us a model of leaders who disparage their leaders as unfit, then drop to their knees in spineless fealty to the power of those same leaders. We learn to whine and complain but do nothing because we see a model of limp-wristed hypocrisy in the country’s political leadership, and we feel we have no choice but to cave to the “you can’t fight City Hall” mentality. We find ourselves stuck in a feckless, powerless “whereas” feedback loop.

But the “whereas” part of this particular Resolution is pretty much over. There may be some important update to share sometime in the near future, but for the most part we all know what we are dealing with.

There are grassroots political organizations that hold teach-ins about administration policies and congressional activities. There are organizing meetings, rallies, marches and think-tanks that meet regularly. If voting is your thing, then vote. If you believe that voting has been reduced to choosing between “bad” and “worse” and you refuse to play that game, then work to build grassroots organizations. If there isn’t an organization that supports that which you hold dear, then build it yourself. But do something. Move from the “whereas” to the “now therefore” in your political life.

A United Afrika

There are a number of organizations that are working to organize people of Afrikan descent. Some of them are large, established groups that are led by notable activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton. Others are more “radical” Pan-Afrikanist organizations like the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM) that push forward without the advantage of having major national figures in leadership. Some operate strictly in the United States as political or civil-rights organizations, while still others seek to bring the entire Afrikan Diaspora together and re-unify it with our Brothers and Sisters in Afrika, like the Pan African Federalist Movement (PAFM) and the All-Afrikan Peoples Revolutionary Party (A-APRP). But these organizations are there for us to work with in moving from the “whereas” to the “now therefore”, many of which you may have never heard of.

I work with an organization called the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, or SRDC. We have chapters in Maryland, Tennessee, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington State, with allies in Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, the US Virgin Islands, the French Caribbean island nation of Guadeloupe, several countries in Central America, and The Netherlands. Numerically, our organization is still small, and organizing the people on the ground where we live can be difficult, but most organizations start out that way and struggle for years before an explosion of activity and popularity hits. We have chosen that path because of our mission to take the voice of the Diaspora to the World Stage, our focus on the grassroots community and a “bottom-up” organizing philosophy that is inconsistent with most “top-down” organizations.

As with any effective international grassroots organization, local organizing is still a key component. This is why SRDC focuses on the local Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meeting as a way to bring the local grassroots community out to lift up and organize its voice. We develop a Pan-Afrikan Agenda that comes from the concerns of the local community members who attend. We nominate and seat a Community Council of Elders. We nominate Representatives who are charged to take the local community’s Pan-Afrikan Agenda to national and international meetings when the opportunity arises. And we seek ways to build Cooperative Coalitions between organizations such as the ones I mentioned above, because as our enemies and historic oppressors assault our community on several fronts simultaneously and in a coordinated manner, we must build a response that is multi-faceted, coordinated, cooperative, simultaneous and strategic, bringing together the artists, spiritual leaders, businesses, scientists, Elders, revolutionaries, state-builders, prison activists, educators, community activists, legal warriors and Pan-Afrikan Media. In Maryland, that work is proceeding and is expected to start achieving concrete results this year, with the leadership and guidance of a committed, proactive Grassroots Community Council of Elders.

You may not like the mission, strategy or tactics of one or more of these organizations. You may not like any of them. In that case, determine your vision, how you see yourself contributing to the cause of truth and justice, and create an organization of your own. The key is, do something. Move from your “whereas” to your “now therefore”.
Baba Bob Law would be proud of you.

Posted in SRDC News0 Comments

The Chair of the African Union Commission Meets The Diaspora

The Chair of the African Union Commission Meets The Diaspora

[NOTE: This article originally appeared on the Website http://kuumbareport.com.]

The African Union Mission in Georgetown, Northwest Washington, DC, was the location for a special event, the meeting of the Chair of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, with members of the African Diaspora on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. The event was emceed by Mr. Melvin Foote, president of the Constituency For Africa (CFA), a Washington, DC-based lobbying organization that seeks to influence United States policy in favor of constructive objectives for the United States as well as the Continent and people of Africa.  Also present at the meeting was the current African Union Ambassador to the United States, Madame Ambassador Arikana Chimbori-Quao, and several other local and regional advocates for members of the African Immigrant Community in the United States. The audience included a number of members of that Community, as well as Afrikan-American Pan-Afrikan activists who had gathered here to learn more about the AUC Chair’s positions on African development, the African Union’s relations with the United States, the role the Diaspora can play in lifting Africa up, and how the African Descendant populations, particularly Afrikan-Americans, can not only contribute more effectively to the development of the African Continent but also gain, at last, that Seat At The Table in the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) and Pan-African Parliament.  Indeed, the most compelling statement of the event was perhaps delivered at the end, by Sis. Iman Hameen, a descendant of Afrikans who were captured from the Mother Continent and forcibly taken to the shores of the ?Americas over four centuries ago.

Mr. Foote began the event with an introduction of himself and a statement.

Mr. Melvin Foote, event emcee, President of the Constituency for Africa (CFA)

“Good evening. … This is a day the Lord has made for the Diaspora and we should be celebrating. … My name is Mel Foote. I’m the president of the Constituency For Africa. CFA is a Washington, DC-based organization that works to educate Americans about Africa, improve cooperation and coordination among various organizations, groups and businesses that work on African issues, we work to unify the African Diaspora, and our end product is we work to shape United States policy toward Africa. Since we’re in America, we should be shaping US policy toward Africa in a way that supports the African Union.

“It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Constituency For Africa and the African Diaspora to welcome to Washington the Chairman of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat.

“Mr. Chairman, the Diaspora worldwide and in the United States has much to offer Africa. In the United States alone, there are over 50 million who are Diasporan. This includes African Americans whose Ancestors were brought to these shores 400 years ago as slaves, to provide the free labor that enabled the country to develop into the power that it is today. There are also African immigrants from countries across the Continent who now rank as the best educated of all the immigrant populations in this country.

“According to the World Bank, the African immigrant community remits more than $35 billion to the Continent each year, a larger amount than all the Foreign Direct Investment that the Continent receives currently. There’s also a large [immigrant community of] Afro Latinos, and those from the Caribbean.

“There are many areas where the African Union and the Diaspora community can work together and cooperate. One clear area that we can jointly work together on is increasing direct and indirect investment in Africa and on economic and business development. Mr. Chairman, you will be pleased to know that the technological ability of the Diaspora in these United States in the areas of health care, education, business development, agriculture production, computers and sciences, roads and infrastructure construction, and many other areas, which if effectively tapped can be a valuable resource for Africa, as the Continent addresses the growing demands of citizens and the developing challenge of facing the rapidly expanding next generation on the Continent.

“Sir, if properly engaged, we in the Diaspora can also be much more helpful to Africa in lobbying the United States government, and to ensure that Africa is dealt with in a fair and equitable manner. That’s very important Sir. The Diaspora can really access the United States government to give a better hand to Africa.

“Though we are very proud to call ourselves Americans and very much want the United States to win – we want our country to win, we want America to win – but we are also proud of our African heritage, and we want Mother Africa to win also. That’s why they call us African Americans. We love Africa and we love America.

“I must tell you, Mr. Chairman, while we in the Diaspora have this great potential, we are also very much challenged by the lack of unity and spirit of cooperation among us. We are deeply divided, fragmented, and even antagonistic toward one another. We often spend inordinate amounts of our time attending to nonsense issues such as Who is an African and who is not an African. Q’uest que c’est?

“I guess the real question is: Are you an African because you were born in Africa? Or are you an African because Africa is born in you?

“We certainly look forward, Mr. Chairman, to your clarification on the definition of the African Diaspora, and how you envision that we can work together in a more unified manner.

“We certainly look forward to hearing from you, Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, as you engage us on issues concerning Africa and the Diaspora. In addition to hearing your thoughts on a range of issues on Africa involving economic development, democracy and governance, and social and political development, we are especially eager to hear your thoughts, Mr. Chairman, on how we in the Diaspora can best work with the African Union to address and resolve issues in Africa and to and to work toward a more harmonious union of African people, worldwide.

“Mr. Chairman, the African Union has sent us a great Ambassador to Washington. We are very pleased with Ambassador Arikana Chimbori-Quao. We don’t want her ever to go. …”

Mr. Mamadou Samba, Director, Washington, DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs

“Washington, DC has the only Office of African Affairs in the United States, and we have a mandate to serve the African community here. There are about 16 to 18 thousand African immigrants in Washington, DC, and about 112,000 in the Washington Metropolitan Area, and about 1.7 million in the United States. So you can see the importance of our office, which is now ten years old. The office was created in 2006 after the community galvanized to ask for the city to create a body that supports the African immigrants and makes sure that when they do come to the United States they have a structure to help navigate and have access to services and resources. Our work is done in partnership with the Commission on African Affairs, which is 15 dynamic African leaders that serve as advisers to the office, to the Mayor and the Council on issues that impact the African community.

“Our services are divided into five or six areas where we provide services. One of them is Constituent Services. Any time somebody walks into our office and says ‘I just moved to the city, I don’t have a place to go, I’m looking for a job,’ our office provides those services. Our African Community Grant is another one. As of today, we’ve funded a total of $120,000 to African nonprofit organizations.  The program provides cultural services to African community members. One of them is Konkouran West African Dance Company, which is the only traditional African dance company in Washington, DC. They’ve been here for 30 years. And because of our funding, they’re able to stay in DC and not move to Maryland, and nobody should go to Maryland, everyone should stay in DC [laughs]. …

“Our capacity building program is another area where we provide training and support [for] the capacity of non-profit organizations. …

“Other programs are also there, but I just wanted to highlight our Youth Engagement Program, where every year in July … we host a Young African Convention Summit [for] African community members to come in and talk about community engagement and volunteerism and what we can do to impact positive change in our community here. I’d like to officially extend an invitation to our next year Summit, which is on July 13th, to come and participate and talk to our community members.

“After the Summit every year, we host our very famous Mandela Day of Service. In case you didn’t know, we are the only city in the United States that has a Mandela Day of Service, where every year we follow Mandela’s legacy, and go out and volunteer in changing our community.

“And this is what our office is all about. … This is what the African Diaspora is all about. … The Ethiopian community is about 46%.  We have the Nigerian community, Ghana, Cameroon and Kenya, and they spend a lot of time trying to find out who makes the best Jolof Rice. Of course, we know Senegal makes the best, because Jolof is in Senegal [laughs]. …

“We surveyed about 238 Africans. And it was found that 64% of them identified discrimination as the number one barrier to finding employment. 50% of them find lack of work experience was the second barrier. And personal and financial reasons was the third barrier to why Africans are having trouble finding employment. Here in Washington, DC, if you get into a cab it’s probably an Ethiopian [who is driving it]. More than likely, a Master’s or Ph.D. but he’s driving a cab. This is the reason why the past few weeks Washington, DC has, as a result of our survey, created a task force to address credentialing issues of African immigrants in the United States, so that those who are doctors in Nigeria, if they want to practice here, we identify what are the credentialing issues that could be adopted here. Or if they are practitioners in whatever field, when they come here they can work in their field. …”

Mr. Kende Oregba, Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on African Affairs

“Africa is my fatherland. Nigeria is my country. … My goal as Chairman is to have a unified voice for all the Africans in the state of Maryland. For Diasporans … If we all come together as one, with one voice, there’s a lot that we can achieve together. … We have to come together as Diasporans both in cultural, education and businesses to unify and do things in common. That is my goal, and that is what I come here to do.”

Mr. Alhousseynou “Al” Ba, President and Chief Execiutive Officer of One-Africa Group

“Africans and African-Americans need to help each other … using technology. That’s why we built this social media application. We are thankful to have a champion like Ms. Arikana. … She really unites us. …” (introducing the AU Ambassador, Ms. Arikana Chimbori-Quao of Zimbabwe)

Madame Ambassador Arikana Chimbori-Quao, African Union Ambassador to the United States

“Good evening everyone. Thank you for coming. It’s a weekday, and I know you have all been to work and yet you found time to come in and spend some time with our very own Chair of the African Union.

“I have to say this is a very important day, for me, for all of us, also for the Chair also for the Chair and his team with which he has been traveling, believe it or not, these past two weeks, from one country to the other, putting out fires across the Continent. I picked him up from the airport this morning at 6:30, and we’ve been at it since then. … They flew all night. And at one point even contemplated moving [rescheduling] the event again [it had originally been scheduled for the summer but was rescheduled because of problems coordinating with the Trump administration — Editor] and he said ‘No.’ He said ‘If you cancel any other meeting you can cancel all of them, but not the Diaspora.’

“I have talked, I have preached, I’ve jumped up and down, I’ve climbed to the tallest mountain, and proclaimed who the African Diaspora are. All people of African descent living outside of Africa. Today I say, you asked, you complained, and I promised you I would deliver. Without further ado, and I know Brother Mel has said everything I could possibly say, please give a resounding welcome to our own Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat.”

His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission (AUC)

[He delivered his address in French. The following transcript is from the point where we were able to access audio of the English translation of his speech, a few moments in.]

“The world has become a real global village and each one of us, even thousands of miles away, can act and interact with others.

“Everything that is expected of you, at a time when the Continent is developing, and despite all the challenges that the Continent is facing, I can reassure you that Africa is on the move, and it wants to walk together with all its children, wherever they are.

“You can be useful to yourselves and to your Mother Continent, first of all by organizing yourselves; all the societies that succeed are societies that organized themselves. You need unity, you need to work together, for the same objective.

“On the Continent, it has become the order of the day that Africa should speak with one voice. So in the Diaspora also, you should speak with one voice. When you are united, when you speak with one voice, you are going to show your force and your capacity, your capacity to change, to change the daily lot which is that of women, youth, and the lesser young ones in Africa.

“The Diaspora, particularly the Diaspora in the United States, is the outcome of a struggle, a major struggle with the first ones who became aware, who have broken the fetters and the chains, who despite the violence have shown the way and have paved the way.

“The Black movement, the liberation movement of the Black man on the Continent has been inspired by the great men who were born and have grown up in these conditions outside of Africa. This is something which is extraordinary and we can never forget that.

“I believe we’re at the time when everyone today since the liberation of the Continent, we can really achieve big things for our Continent. We rely a lot on you. But you also can rely on us. We have the conviction, the deep conviction, that things have to change, that things have to be fair in this world, and I believe we have the necessary resources. We have the knowledge, we have the know-how.  We have the conviction. And we have the historical reference. It is just [that] we have to sit down and work. We cannot allow ourselves to be digressed or diverted. We are a third of mankind, those who live on the African Continent and those who live across the world.

“So we can change the world into a more humane and human world. Because we ourselves, we have suffered injustice. So we can change the world to become more human, more interdependent, and I believe that we have references. … I think we have a reference.  Mandela has nothing to envy from any prophets. He himself was a prophet. His capacity to transcend, despite all the sufferings he had been through, he is a monument, he is an icon. And in all his works, we have to look at the future. Forget the past and look to the future. Africa is very often projected through negative images. Yes, we have problems like everywhere in the world. But we have hope. … [A populace that is] courageous, enterprising, which is trying to build this future. So all our Brothers and Sisters across the world have to contribute to the emergence of this Continent. Because potentialities exist, it is your Motherland, which will welcome you at any time, those who want to return to Africa can do so, those who want to export their knowledge, their investments, the doors are open. …

“Migration, which is a phenomenon that is affecting the African Continent, all of these are maybe, for a given circumstance, due to drought, famine and others, because this is not an adventure where people just have to die and drown in the ocean. This capital, and particularly those who live in the United States, which itself is a country of migrants by essence. … This is a country of different origins, of different colors, and there is that will to live together. So, dear Sisters and Brothers … I don’t need to make speeches. I simply want to tell you that we expect a lot from you. But as I said, you can also count on us, and have expectations. We need to organize ourselves.  We on the Continent are trying to do what we can. We need your assistance, your contribution, your innovations, and we can help you
organize yourselves into a structure so that you can develop and to make your Brothers and Sisters benefit from your experience in life.

“The Diaspora is important, and as you know, in the history of peoples, and I know in the African Diaspora, there are people contributing billions of dollars every year through their work and many families depend on the remittances and the many communities develop through the contributions of the Diaspora. This is an extraordinary contribution. And history will retain that the best organized people are the ones that succeed. One cent or one dollar is something, and when you think in terms of a million inhabitants, then it becomes [a] significant amount. We can make investments, we can change the life of people. So dear Brothers and Sisters, apart from the emotional feelings, we need a scientific approach. An organization, an awareness, so that together, we can change life on this Continent. I can reassure you that in the African Union, the Commission, we have taken an oath that we are going to carry out our duties and to ensure that things will change. …”

Questions from the Audience

Mr. Foote called on several audience members to pose questions.

Q: Former US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield asked, “What in terms of your engagement with the US government over the next few days are the goals you would like to achieve?”

A: “We have an annual meeting which is held one year in Washington and one year in Addis Ababa on peace and security issues, governance, investments, trade and development. There is a new American administration and it will be our first official meeting tomorrow [November 16]. We have come with an open mind and we hope to continue in that dynamic approach which has governed the relations between the United States and Africa. We are an important Continent. Looking at its population, its resources, and its geopolitical position. And I believe it is in the interest of the United States to work with us. We have agreements on trade and investment and we hope that this will continue in a spirit where we will find ourselves in a ‘win-win’ situation. The situation, like, for example, the Climate Ex-
change, which is important for countries in Africa which [are] victims of droughts, disasters, the fight against terrorism, but since Africa has also become a theater for these terrorist activities, we hope that we are going to do something. We want to give more impetus to AGOA [the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which was touted by the Clinton and Obama administrations as a means to improve trade with Afrika — Editor]. And we are a Continent of a lot of possibilities, and which, obviously, gives a lot of possibilities for investments. So we hope that in the discussions with the United States, we should be able to enhance our cooperation and this is our concern and these are issues we are going to raise tomorrow.”

Q: An audience member from Cameroon asked, “What is the role of African youth in your Agenda and what place do they have in decision-making?”

Q: The director of an organization called the International Youth Leadership Institute asked, “On behalf of the African youth, what role can travel play in bridging the gap between the Continent and Diaspora? What are your thoughts on youth in decision-making and helping to bridge the gap?”

A: “The issue of youth and I say that today for more than 60% of the population, on a Continent of more than 1.2 billion inhabitants, 60% of which are youth and are very important. Therefore we need to educate and organize the youth so that they can play the role of transforming the Continent. And it is fore this reason that this year, the theme for the year in the African Union is How to harness the demographic dividend by investing in youth. It’s a very crucial theme and within the framework of the reforms that have been initiated, the institutions of the African Union are trying to think of how to have … youth in the African institutions so that they can be involved in the management of the decision-making on the Continent. And this is something which is very logical, since they are the majority and logically speaking the majority should have [its place].”

Q: An audience member asked on behalf of UNESCO about the AUC’s interest in digital documentation of countries’ heritage, or what he referred to as “Digital Repatriations … digital transformation the cultural heritage of different countries in Africa.”

A: “The issue of the availability of the digital repatriation – If you have any proposal, put it in writing and you can give it to the Ambassador here; she will convey it. …”

Q: Baba Akbar Muhammad asked, “After living in Africa for twelve years, I lecture and talk on Africa. And one of the questions I get from our youth [involves] a serious discussion about Dual citizenship for those in the Diaspora. And I’d like to suggest and would like to know from you, would the African Union at upcoming meetings discuss it so we can talk to the young people who are asking that question?”

Q: Another audience member asked, “How can a truly enabling environment be created to make the relocation and integration of Diasporans sustainable and impactful on the Continent?”

A: “The Diaspora and the Continent – I believe there are reciprocal responsibilities. I was saying, you can expect from us and we also expect from you. We want to create the necessary conditions for those that want to return where they can find favorable conditions which are conducive. We want to encourage investment from the Diaspora. We need the expertise, the know-how, of the brains in the Diaspora, in the different parts of the world. And some are at the highest level and they can make the Continent benefit from their knowledge, from their know-how. We are the “mother”, and we need to establish the conditions. We are ready to discuss with the Diaspora, wherever they are so that their living conditions, their mobility, their problems are taken into account. So, there are common interests and so we need to work together. So it is not by chance that they are thinking that the Diaspora is the Sixth Region of Africa.  So it is important that I say to organize the Diaspora, that the Diaspora should organize itself, and you will have them in the decision-making organs [and be] considered as the Sixth Region. It all depends on the organization, that they are the stakeholders in the decision-making.

“Now, what environment should we make for the Diaspora? Well, the conditions are necessary for all possible investments, and also to have the possibility of getting land, either for cultural development and investment, these are all possible. We can approach and engage the various Member States, and this forms an integral part of the population of the Continent.

“The issue of nationality because the question was raised, ‘Who is African and who is not’. For us all people who have an African lineage … We need to remove barriers between countries to allow for free movement of persons and goods [with an] African passport for the officials, diplomatic services, we are going to give them to businessmen, to students, so that we can have an African passport, and that will enable people to travel from, let’s say up to the Cape and, oh, from Goree Island too. … So this mobility will allow people to know each other better and to work together for the Continent.

“We have ambitions for this Continent, which has been the victim of a lot of foreign interference, but as you are aware, we are hopeful in the daily struggle. And I thank you. …”

Q: What can we in the Diaspora do to help the situation in Zimbabwe and what is happening across Africa? What can we do that would be helpful?

A: “Thank you [for that question]. How can the Diaspora be useful, particularly with what is happening on the Continent. I think we can move from the smallest to the biggest thing and issue. To send a school book or a note book to to a village from somebody in the Diaspora is, I think, a thing that is highly appreciated. To invest one million dollars in a business in Zimbabwe which is rich, is an important action [and we must create] the necessary conditions for that. I am not saying that in a charitable way, just to go and help people; it does not work. I think we should give the possibility to people to at least fend for themselves. But knowledge, know-how, investment. We need to create the necessary conditions for people to be trained so that they can stand on their feet. The Diaspora has that advantage. They have people who have acquired knowledge, extraordinary know-how, in health, education, energy, business, in agriculture. So, this is what I call the wealth of the Continent. … People have capital and sometimes they don’t know what to do with it. … With $5,000 you can do business in Africa. … You can do small things and big things and see what the Diaspora can contribute.

Q: Another audience member asked, “What is your strategy to make the world more humane?”

A: “How to make the world more human? People who have gone through certain experiences and are capable of conveying a different method … I give the example of Nelson Mandela. With all the difficulties and problems he went through, we needed a man like him to say ‘We need transcend the situation, we need to forgive, we need to build our country’ … The people who have done this, they are capable of transforming the world.

“In respect of legality between men and women, we say everybody is equal. [In some places] we have discrimination … Because of your name or the color of your skin, there is discrimination. … Many of the Diaspora do go through this in certain regions. So we need to develop … A peaceful philosophy that, by conviction, you can change and make the world more human. …

“I spoke of a world [that is] more human, which does not take into account the rank or the color of the skin of the person. I thank you.”

At this time, Mr. Foote began to move to the next agenda item, a proclamation from the World Council of Mayors. However, an urgent request was made for an Elder to pose an important question.  Elder Nabeela Uqdah chose to defer her comments on reparations and repatriation due to time constraints.  Thus the floor was yielded to Sis. Iman Hameen, Facilitator Emeritus (2006 – 2012) of the New York Organization of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC).  Her comments, given with permission from Elders and which included some of Elder Nabeela Uqdah’s questions and ideas, were perhaps the most important of the entire evening.

The Statement of Sis. Iman Hameen

“To His Excellency Chairman Mahamat, Distinguished Heads of State, The Honorable AU Ambassador Quao, The Honorable Mel Foote, the steadfast organizers of this event, and all Esteemed Members of the audience, I must first ask my Elders, may I speak? … Thank you.

“I could greet you in an African language but which one do I choose? There are anywhere from 1500-2000 different African, native and tribal languages. Should it be Zulu or Ewe? Kiswahili or Amharic? Should it be the language of Mozambique or respectfully, a native language of the people of Chad, or how about Ebonics? Because we have not decided on ONE mandatory, official African language, FOR NOW, I must speak in the language of a colonizer, which brings me to my first of three points.  Please indulge me; it has taken 400 years for me to get here.

“Briefly, I come to you in earnest and with a strong sense of urgency to push the conversation and debate. We must organize as ONE body, with ONE AIM and ONE DESTINY as a Union of African States be it as a republic or federation. We must unite as ONE, with one president, one strong united defense and one currency. We must have a national African plebiscite and referendum to move this agenda forward.

“Point #2: As such, we declare that you must direct your eyes, minds and hearts to the deplorable plight of the so-called African Americans. I am specifically talking about the surviving descendants or ascendants, if you will, of kidnapped Africans who were brought to the United States via human trafficking. We, the SURVIVORS of the MAAFA are being destroyed in the United States. We are targeted for annihilation and genocide EVERYDAY. The time has come and history dictates a mass return of our people to Africa but where in Africa do we go? We are not Ghanaians, Liberians, Azanians, Libyans, Nigerians nor Ethiopians, etc. We are a HOMELESS, LANDLESS people. We cannot claim an island, state or one African country as our own like the Caribbeans or Diasporan Continental Africans can. We need our own designated, sovereign land within a united Africa so that we can heal, develop, prosper and help to unite Africa. We ask for LAND that we can call our own sovereign land so that we can return as transplanted Africans with all of our skills, talents and resources, with our weaknesses and strengths. We are due reparations from the US and Africa and we have a right to Repatriation. We ask you, Chairman Mahamat to take our plight to the other members of the African Union expeditiously.

“Point #3: We have contributed endlessly and faithfully to the discussions, forums, conventions, declarations, protests, financial interests, wars and whims of Africa and yet we are NOT at the table. We are NOT on the agenda in any concrete and equal way. Within the AU’s call for a Sixth Region, we are still overlooked. We have followed all protocols and filed all necessary applications. And we have yet to be officially recognized. Not merely, as Diasporans, but as a special, separate group of African people who live in the United States. When will we be granted, not only observer status but VOTING status as members of the African Union? WE BELONG AT THE TABLE! If not now, WHEN?

“In closing, to reiterate, these are urgent matters of grave importance that must be treated with even more urgency. We ask to be on the AU agenda. REPARATIONS are due to us. We ask for sovereign land within a united Africa, we ask for voting status at the ECOSOCC table, and we ask that the AU aid us in returning home. We are a NATION WITHIN A NATION and we want to come home now (maintenant). Chairman Mahamat, the task is now in your hands – take our plight to your fellow members of the AU. Thank you.

“Sincerely,
Iman Uqdah Hameen, an anxious citizen of the Union of African States …”

After this important statement, which it should be noted did not receive a direct answer even though her statement was met by repeated applause from the audience, the presentation by Ms. Mary Thomas of the World Conference of Mayors was made to the AUC Chairman, and the event was officially closed.

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