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Kenya Diaspora Conference Coming to Atlanta, Georgia June 24 – 25

Kenya Diaspora Conference Coming to Atlanta, Georgia June 24 – 25

AKDOi Kenyan Diaspora Conference June 24-25 Atlanta Logo 1The Association of Kenya Diaspora Organizations, Inc. (AKDOi, http://akdoi.org) is sponsoring the 2016 Kenya Diaspora Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on June 24 and 25.

Georgia Institute of Technology
North Ave NW
Atlanta, GA 30332

Friday, June 24, 2016 at 8:30 AM - Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 6:00 PM (EDT)

About the Diaspora Conference
Preamble

The role of the Kenyan Diaspora in the country’s economic, political and social development has expanded exponentially over the years as more Kenyans migrate over the years. Figuratively the Diaspora is referred to as 48th County for its economic contribution to the country. It is also the most affluent “County” as measured by the annual remittances that is attributable to the Diaspora. According to available data from The Central Bank of Kenya, Diaspora remittances have more than Quadrupled over the last ten years from US $ 338 Million (KSH 25 Billion) in 2004 to US $ 1.43 Billion (KSH 107 Billion) in 2014 https://www.centralbank.go.ke/index.php/diaspora-remittances?yr=2004 . This economic impact is expected to grow exponentially over the years. So the Diaspora’s economic impact on the country cannot be overstated and will continue to be a major driver of economic activity for the foreseeable future. The Diaspora remittances have surpassed tourism as the main source of foreign exchange and serve as a critical buffer in preserving the country’s balance of trade. Ours is to build on our collective wherewithal and establish a solid foundation upon which we can partner to further advance our common economic, political and social interests. The 2016 Kenya Diaspora Conference in Atlanta, GA provides the Kenyan Diaspora the platform to do just that. Our theme is “Bridging the gap – Diaspora’s Mission.”

AKDOi Kenyan Diaspora Conference June 24-25 Atlanta GAWe are expecting an attendance of over 400 people including leading businesspersons and government officials from many different backgrounds in the United States and Kenya, providing individuals and businesses with a unique opportunity to build relationships with representatives from various industries and government entities.

Conference subject matter summary

Our plan is to increase our engagement between the Kenyan Diaspora community in the United States, American and Kenyan Businesses and the U.S. and Kenyan governments; strengthen trade and investment opportunities between the U.S. and Africa in a variety of sectors, not limited to -manufacturing, infrastructure, financial services, education, agriculture and technology.. In addition, you will also have the opportunity to create partnerships, and play a pivotal role in forming initiatives that would advance our common welfare and contribute to the region’s development.

We will also highlight  Youth and Women issues; Health & Disability; Technology; the democratization of the Diaspora and its representation at all pertinent levels of government through Diaspora voter registration and voting in the 2017 general elections and beyond as well as a functional Diaspora Policy.

The Conference will officially start at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) on Friday, June 24 at 8:30 AM and conclude on Saturday, June 25 at 5:00 PM. Both days’ events will be attended by County governors and National government officials from Kenya, officials from the United States Development Agency (USAID), influential think tank groups, leaders of both U.S. private and public sectors as well as prominent media persons delivering keynote speeches and remarks. Throughout the Conference participants will also attend networking events and meetings with prominent leaders and government officials.

 AKDOi would be honored by your participation at our Conference as we work towards continuing to build the economic, social and political empowerment of the Kenyan Diaspora.AKDOi Logo 1

For the Agenda / Issues, click here.
For speaker information, please click here
For the schedule of events/program, please click here.

                     Contact the Organizer

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Pan African Global Trade Conference & Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) Summit: Coming in September 2016

Pan African Global Trade Conference & Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) Summit: Coming in September 2016

PABTC Logo 2016The Annual Pan African Global Trade and Investment Conference is designed to establish a U.S. based public/private coalition to develop and implement policies and strategies for multilateral economic development and foreign direct investment between the African Continent, the African Diaspora and the United States. For additional information contact:

Al Washington
Conference Coordinator
(626) 243-3614, (626) 381-9697
alwash9727@aol.com
alwashington@africa-usa.org

Conference Schedule*

*The final schedule for the 2016 Pan African Global Trade and Investment Conference is currently being developed. Additional information will be provided as the dates, locations topics and speakers are confirmed. Contact the conference coordinator Al Washington at (626) 243-3614 if you are interested in participating as a speaker or panelist.

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS & PANELISTS

Richard Petty, President and CEO, Okra Restaurant and Hospitality Group, Inc. founded his Company in 1994 in San Francisco, California. He re-organized the Company in 2009 under the Jobs Act and filed an Regulation D 506(C) with the SEC in 2013. The company is EB5 certified in the State of California, and has already created more than twenty five jobs for his food service operations to date. An Award Winning Executive Chef/Author, with 28 years in the hospitality industry. Mr. Petty has managed some of the best restaurants and hotels in California. Mr. Petty brings extensive expertise of food service and systems to the company. He has worked for world class chefs, Bradley Ogden, Stephen Simmons and Wolfgang Puck and Patrick Clark. He is a graduate of the prestigious California Culinary Academy. Member EB5USADIRECT.COM , Member DEALFLOW.COM

Kim Poole, Founding Fellow & Soul-Fusion Teaching Artist of the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), USA EAST will facilitate the first Pan African Art & Culture component of the 2016 Pan African Global Trade and Investment Conference. TAI’s Pan African Art and Culture component will include performances, exhibits and brain trust breakout sessions designed to develop the overall plan for NOMAD, a Mobile Touring Village of Pan African Art and Culture. NOMAD is being designed and introduced to the conference to preserve and promote African art and culture and encourage pilgrimages to Africa every five years for people of African descent living in the diaspora.

Dr. Letitia Wright – As America’s Crowd Funding Strategist, she teaches workshops for Los Angeles Small Business Administration, Las Vegas Nevada Small Business Administration, California’s SBDC’s, Dallas Start-Up Week, Maui Start-Up Week, and Oahu Start-Up Week. Formerly a current guest blogger for crowd funding sites she has the fastest growing crowd funding education platform in America. She has been listed in the Top 100 Crowd Funding Experts list for the last 3 years and has helped clients raise over $750,000 collectively. 

Gwendolyn Patrick, MBA, Founding Board Chair/CFO and Chief Strategic Business Development Officer of ABC&D International Consulting Group Corp (NV). Ms Patrick has more than 27 yrs. executive experience with Fortune 100 Multi-National Corporations, County Governments, Non-Profit Corporations, Federal Budget Title Programs and the SBA. ABC&DAdvanced Business Capital & Development–a private international consulting firm, provides specialized services in Finance, Marketing, Strategic Planning and Business Development, including extensive capabilities in competitor intelligence, industry/market trade research including economic analysis of current and future emerging markets.  Ms. Patrick recently established the USA-GHANA Project Feasibility & Trade Institute, a non-profit and NGO alliance group member of diversified industry partners that facilitate US based global development projects and investments in West Africa. 

Ricardo Tjada is the Managing Director of Vnesto Capital a global investment banking firm with clients in North America, Latin America, South East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. In 2007 Vnesto Capital was selected by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to be a Loan Originator in their Enterprise Development Network. Mr. Tejada‘s 10 years of business experience has spanned advisory responsibilities within the Fortune 100, his own ventures, and extensive involvement with Southern California’s entrepreneurial community. Vnesto Capital provides public works financing solutions in the industries of Healthcare, Energy, Infrastructure projects and Waste and Water Treatment. Vnesto Capital also arranges corporate financial guarantees for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors.

George Swain, Managing Principal of George Swain Investments, an Investment Advisory and Investment Management company providing services to both high net worth individuals and institutional pension plans. These services provide for the monitoring, active management and advice of the client’s investment accounts/portfolios. George Swain, a registered investment advisor, has been in the Investment management business since 1988, providing advisory services since 2001. George Swain Investments offers a variety of investment management and advisory services. Clients are comprised of individuals of high net worth, business entities, corporations, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, and pension and profit sharing plans.

Shaun Randolph is Founder & CEO of Deo V. Development & Investments. Mr. Randolph has spent his professional career developing businesses, products and services that cater to serving working class communities and families. He serves in several capacities spanning across the social enterprise, financial services and alternative investments fields. He is also the creator of online alternative investment platforms, His areas of expertise include Investment Strategy & Organization, Fund Development, Social Enterprise Implementation, Investment Income, Strategic Partnerships and Sustainability.

Keidi Awadu is a multi-disciplined producer within a wide spectrum of technology fields with nearly 5 decades of experience in the entertainment industry, journalism, broadcasting, electronics and technology. Mr. Awadu was an early adopter of ICT, an IP media pioneer and a consistent advocate for community development through mastery of emerging technologies. He is engaged a daily two-hour radio broadcast centered upon the theme of Culturally Conscious Communications that has encompassed specialized programming such as Tech Talk, Future Talk, Mastering Monetization, a spectrum of business related series, health advocacy that features some of the leading voices on healthy living and an amazing convergence called “Africa Rising”. His aim is always to present solutions-based media programming and to provide real options by which his audience can take control of their lives, realize the advantages of our age and create a pathway toward inter-generational wealth that will empower their children and future generations.

Dr. Salim Faraji, the founding Executive Director of the MAIS Africa Program at Concordia University Irvine, has established a Masters in International Studies in Ghana and recently traveled to Namibia to lay the foundation for the MAIS Africa program there as well. He is also an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He completed his M.A. and Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University. He is a member of the International Society for Nubian Studies and specializes in early Christian history, Africana and Africanist historiography, Coptic Studies and the Sudanic, Napatan, Meroitic and Medieval periods of Nubian history. He has presented papers on Africa’s Tripartite Free Trade Agreement and Aquaculture and Food Security in Ghana, West Africa at the 2nd and 3rd Annual Pan African Global Trade and Investment Conference.  Dr. Faraji has served as Vice President of Building Libraries for Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing libraries and literary resources for rural villages in Northern Ghana. He is one of a handful of Nubiologists in the United States and is the author of the The Roots of Nubian Christianity Uncovered: The Triumph of the Last Pharaoh.  He is also a contributor to the Encyclopedia of African Religion and the Oxford Dictionary of African Biography.

Dr. David Horne is a tenured full professor of Critical Thinking and African History, and is the former chair of the Pan African Studies Department at Cal State University Northridge. He also teaches graduate public policy and introductory political analysis, and is the graduate advisor for the department. He is the original Executive Director of the California African American Political Institute at CSU Northridge, the former Executive Director of the revised California African American Political and Economic Institute at California State University, Dominguez Hills and the founding Director of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC). Currently, he is the Director of the Pan African Public Policy Institute housed in the department of Pan African Studies at Cal State Northridge, and the Co-Founder and political consultant to the Council of Black Political Organizations” (COBPO).

Carson Community Center

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Spokes 1

Spokes of the Wheel: Building a Pan-Afrikan Cooperative Coalition in Maryland

Spokes 1On Friday, January 29, 2016, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) hosted a discussion designed to encourage a more cooperative atmosphere among the Pan-Afrikan organizations in Baltimore, Maryland.  The event was named “Spokes of the Wheel” to describe a pictorial representation of how a variety of organizations with different missions, specialties and personalities might bring those qualities together into a Cooperative Coalition and this help make their work more effective for the community.

The event was held at the downtown Baltimore building of The Real News Network (TRNN), a non-profit, viewer-supported daily video-news and documentary service based in Baltimore, Maryland and Toronto, Canada. The event sponsor who made the venue available to SRDC for the event was Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), a Pan-Afrikan grassroots think-tank based in Baltimore which hosts monthly Malcolm X Talks such as this one on Thursday and Friday evenings.

In attendance were representatives of several organizations whose statements are included below: local grassroots organizations, think tanks, revolutionary organizations, arts collectives, organizations with financial plans, spiritual organizations, as well as international organizations such as SRDC. Each organization present introduced itself, described its mission and spoke about the need to develop a Cooperative Coalition such as the one being discussed this day.

“We do need to get past the point where we talk about how we need to come together but we don’t actually do it”, said Bro. Cliff, Maryland State Facilitator of SRDC.  “Too many times, we see that and we hear that, and we say it to each other.  ‘Black people have to come together.’  And yet, the next year, we’re just as fragmented as we were the year before.” The idea is to find ways in which these organizations can function in a spirit of teamwork to achieve the overall goal of freedom and uplift for Afrikan people.

Lady Brianne, resident poet and one of the Cultural Curators of LBS, welcomed the audience to the event: “We are a policy think tank here in Baltimore, and we’re doing a lot of work, particularly now with the legislative session, around reform of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR). … One of the things we always need is support, whether it’s phone banking or going out to Annapolis with us, so I’m hoping you all can stay connected with us.  So I just wanted to welcome you all here tonight. …”

Seba Heru-Ka Anu of spiritual organization Ta Nefer Ankh officiated a Libation/Tambiko ceremony.

A brief discussion was held on the definition of the Afrikan Diaspora and the need for people of Afrikan descent in Afrika and the Diaspora to come together and, more importantly, to organize. SRDC’s specific proposal is the establishment of a Pan-Afrikan Cooperative Coalition that would include a broad spectrum of organizations.

Organizational Introductory Statements

Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS)
Bro. Lawrence Grandpre, Director of Research

LBS Logo 1LBS is a think tank that does research and develops policies in service to the Pan-Afrikan struggle. Right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation Cato Institute and Rand Corporation do similar work in service to corporate and right-wing interests, providing talking points to political leaders.

LBS was developed primarily at Towson University with debate teams there along with community activists such as Dayvon Love, Adam Jackson and Debra Murray.  LVS has traveled across the country and introduced a debate style that developed from Afrikan-centered traditions, using that to help direct policy discourse and influenced by such historic intellectuals as Dr. Naim Akbar and Dr. Marimba Ani.  LBS sees itself as “a too, for a larger movement of liberation for Afrikan people”, and notes among its accomplishments several regular programs such as the Summer Debate Camps, held at Morgan State University and Coppin State University, and the Marshall Eddie Conway Liberation Institute.

LBS regularly travels to Annapolis to lobby for changes in Maryland state legislation such as the Law LBS Lawrence Grandpre Jan 29Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), which us seen as granting unreasonable levels of protection for police against criminal prosecution for acts of misconduct, harassment, brutality and other forms of corruption and oppressive tactics.  LBS is challenging the structure that “allows them to have no accountability for any of their actions … to force them to respect us.”  LBS uses “the power of the community instead of waiting for the Department of Justice” to come and save us or for “the police to learn to respect us.”

Ujima Peoples Progress Party (UPP)
Bro. Obasi, co-founder and spokesperson

UPP Logo 1UPP is a political party that is working to obtain ballot status “to challenge the state apparatus in the streets as well as the ballot. … We know that voting doesn’t solve our problems. We know that Afrikan people never got anything from voting.  Everything we got, we got with blood and we got it in the streets.

“We cannot have this conversation without talking about capitalism. We can’t have this conversation without talking about White Power.  And we can’t have this discussion without talking about imperialism.  Because all of it is interconnected.

“How we got started was, myself and a couple of my comrades are Pan Afrikan Internationalists. We believe that Afrika should be free and everybody should know their history.  We believe in a united Afrika, under the leadership of the working class, because it’s the workers that produce the wealth.  Bankers don’t produce the wealth, no stockbrokers, it’s the workers that produce the wealth.  We believe Afrika should be free and all the resources should be kept among Afrikans.

“So we have to ask ourselves: how do we free Afrika when we’re not in Afrika?  How do we fight imperialism?  Organization is our best weapon.  We have to have organization.  At the same time, until we destroy capitalism – because capitalism has to be destroyed – you can’t truly practice your culture, you can’t truly practice your spirituality under the rule of another people.  Let’s just keep it real.  It’s time for all the other discussions that some people want us to have, it’s time to eliminate that.  Because you can’t do these things if you have no power.

“Our job [as UPP] is we have to create liberated territory wherever we find ourselves in the world. UPP Bro Obasi Jan 29Wherever we find ourselves in the world, our job is to control that ground … to reduce the influence of the state … the bureaucracy that’s causing all these atrocities.  We have to directly challenge the state.  We have to have all kinds of organizations.  We have to have these spiritual organizations.  We have to have these cultural and economic organizations. … Kwame Nkrumah said that neocolonialism is the last phase of imperialism. … White Power in Black Face, White Power in Business Face, the people who look like us, but serve the purpose of our enemies. … Barack Obama has us thinking that we’re making some progress, when we’re making no progress.  I think it was Malcolm X who said the Republicans put the knife in six inches, and the Democrats pull it out three and they talk about progress.  Well, Afrikans are free people, so when we talk about progress, we’ve got to talk about our progress in proximity to us getting free. … We’ve got to challenge them as well as in the streets; we’ve got to go to that electoral arena to challenge them.

“It’s cool to get voted in, but our job is to use that electoral process as an organizing and mobilizing tool, because all of us [here at this meeting] might have a little more awareness, but the masses of the people are at the polls. We have to create our own institutions to contend with the ruling class.  Our people’s loyalty to these [established] institutions is fickle.  We only have these institutions because we don’t have our own.

“We’ve got to get 10,000 registered voters to sign a petition so that we can get on the ballot. We want to go into our own communities.  Those people in Lexington Market are our people.  It’s going to be those young folks that are going to make that change.

“We’ve got to get 10,000 registered voters to sign the petition, get on the ballot and make history, and we can go in our own communities, run our own candidates and we can challenge these jokers and ‘shiny Negroes’ … because this is not a theoretical question. They’re murdering us.  We have a right to live just like everybody else.  And we’re not going to get it unless we get off our tails and fight.

“We have to create organizations, and this event right here, this is a real critical question right now. If organization is our best weapon, just imagine a bunch or organizations!

“They say it’s radical. We say it’s common sense to create your own institutions to assert your needs.  Even outside of elections, you’re going to see us in the streets, because politics is more than just voting.  You’ve got to be in the streets.  ‘Uhuru’ means ‘Freedom’.  It’s how we greet each other.  So I say ‘Uhuru Sasa.’  Freedom Now.”

Dr. Ken Morgan
UPP Faculty Advisor, Coppin State University

“Nnamdi Lumumba, State Coordinator for UPP, is running as an Independent in the Seventh Councilmanic District. We can’t affiliate as a Party [until UPP obtains the 10,000 signatures to get ballot access], but he is running as an Independent on the platform of the Ujima Peoples Progress Party. … We meet on Wednesdays.  We do mean business.  We have theory and we have practice, but the bottom line is, we must struggle to make it happen.”

Working, Organizing, Making A Nation (W.O.M.A.N.)
Prepared Statement

WOMAN Organization Logo 1The following statement comes from the written literature of W.O.M.A.N.: “On January 15, 2009 W.O.M.A.N. officially began functioning as an organizing body. The plan to unite kindred organizations has been a key component from its inception as well as keying in on the active social engagement of all participating organizations comprising W.O.M.A.N. From inception, W.O.M.A.N. has been on the move to display practical unity for our community and not be content with empty, intellectual sound-bites of unity.

“W.O.M.A.N. views its mission as an economic/social calling to address the economic disunity of Black Nationalist, Pan-Afrikanist, Afrikan-Centered groups and organizations. Being progressive, aggressive and practical, W.O.M.A.N. wills itself to foment a fresh model of economic and social organizing. Thus by leading the way for grassroots efforts into the 21st century we unite theory with practice for high achievement. Our mission includes the pooling of funds and energies designed to (1) Fundraise and solicit funds to carry forth our noble purpose; (2) Illustrate the practice of Ujamaa as the model to learn from; (3) Support or create informational services to schools, community organizations and other non profit entities; and (4) Support or create networking capacities for organizations that serve youth, seniors and those with special needs.”

Ta Nefer Ankh
Seba Heru-Ka Anu, Founder and Director

Ta Nefer Ankh Logo PNG1“Our organization is a national organization founded in 1992. We pattern ourselves after the Honorable Marcus Garvey and the Honorable Malcolm X as a nationalist Pan-Afrikanist organization, but following also, leaders like Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannon and others who also called for a cultural context in which we organize ourselves, and so our community as we define it in Ta Nefer Ankh is an Afrikan-centered community.  What we focus on is mainly creating community.  One of the things that I recognized over the years is that we have political organizations, and that politics ideology does not necessarily define how we do what we do in a cultural context.  In other words, even though we can be a Pan-Afrikanist and a nationalist it doesn’t define how you eat, how you interact with one another, how you engage in relationships with one another, and as Cheikh Anta Diop pointed out to us, that we really needed to connect with the cultural context.  So we’re an Afrikan-centered organization that expresses itself from the Kemetic perspective.  Why Kemet?  Kemet is the first writing Afrikan civilization.  It’s not the oldest.  It’s the third oldest Afrikan civilization.  But it was the first writing. And as the first writing civilization, we’re able to go to Kemet and actually read from our Ancestors exactly how they defined their society, how their society worked, and for me as a person whose background is in Cultural Anthropology, which I love, because it asks the question, why and how did you do it.  So, when you ask our Ancestors, for example, how did you come together and create the civilization that you did, how did you create community, they actually have a model.  And so, we base ourselves on the Kemetic model.  We’re not exclusive in the sense that we don’t promote anything else – we promote all Afrikan society – but we look at Kemet as the model upon which we build.  So we invite folks to come with us and actually do building.

“You asked this question about folks coming together and reasons to come together. Our primary reason to come together is to improve the way of life, improve our quality of life.  Not only should it improve your Ta Nefer Ankh Seba Heru Jan 29quality of life, but it should answer all of the challenges that you have.  So, by coming together as a community, [this] allows us to have unity.  It allows us to generate the kind of infrastructure that we need: organizations, institutions.  Out of these organizations and institutions we can promote programs and practices, protocols that we need, that a community needs in order to operate. …

“Our headquarters is here in Baltimore.  We have the Cultural Center on Liberty Road.  You can get some information on us at taneferankh.com.  I’m the national leader, so I teach our communities across the country.  I also travel across the country, recruiting folks to create community, because it’s important that we have community.  We’re talking about creating Afrika where we are.

“The Black Agenda Organization is similar to the wheel, the spoked wheel that you talk about. We have organizations across the country and around the world that actually espouse the Black Agenda, so that would be a common denominator upon which we can come together and organize with each other.  And therefore we see the Black Agenda as that nexus that will enable us to connect with each other.  So, essentially, we’re saying the same thing.

“Black Forum is a weekly event featuring presenters addressing topics relative to the Black Agenda and the Black Power Movement.”

Teaching Artist Institute (TAI)
Bro. Infinity Excalibur, TAI Fellow

“In the beginning was the Heart-Drum.
With this vibration we gave rhythm to the world.
On this beat we Sing Life.
We are the Rhythm People.”

Bro. Infinity will be teaching poetry and short-writings within the Fellowship. “We are going to travel the Diaspora, teaching various artistries and variations of each of our specialties. … We’re going to go to Black nations across the world, teaching, sharing, learning from them, they learn from us.  It’s going to be collective.  It’s going to be responsible.”

Sis. Kim Poole, Founder, TAI

TAI Logo 1“In a lot of ways, the Drum is the only thing that we can trust. We’ve been told so many things about who we are, what’s been stolen, what the history says, what it doesn’t, but the one thing that’s undeniable across every people, everywhere, that are melanated, is the beat of that Drum.  I don’t care if you go to the service on Sunday or over to Brazil, they’ve got Rhythm People.  Just start beating that Drum and you’ll see who you are.  You’ll see where your alliances run.  And so, we’ve used that as an opportunity to create a sense of unity that in a lot of ways has been lost through ideology.

“So I’m a Soul-Fusion Teaching Artist, and music is what I trust. Art and culture is what in a lot of ways re-Afrikanized me, even got me interested in what that would mean, what that would look like.  And I know that it’s the first pillar of societal development, culture.  And so we have to ask ourselves, what language are we speaking?  I don’t speak Igbo.  I don’t speak Yoruba.  I don’t speak Kiswahili.  But the one thing that we can speak is the beat of this Drum.  And if we can all use that as a tool to see eye to eye, I think, honestly, that that’s the best chance we have at creating a coalition that works.

“It means coming together on one accord, and being able to communicate in ways that both parties TAI Kim Poole Jan 29understand. And it’s the Rhythm Resolution.  That’s where the Teaching Artist Institute comes in.  Because we want to teach you how to use art as a way of knowing, as a pedagogy.  How can you be innovative?  How can you be creative?  We want to teach you how to use the traditional media of music, poetry, short-writing that Bro. Infinity talked about, that spoken-word, that call-and-response.  It’s the artist community that needs to be at the core of development.  The reason the artist needs to be at the center of the community is because they have that innovation, and they remember who we are, even if only inherently.

“The Teaching Artist Institute has four goals. The first is to train artists and artisans as educators of socially-engaged art.  So, making sure that you’re conscious of that responsibility and understand your influence.  The second goal is to establish and maintain a Teaching Artist Collective.  We don’t support each other enough. ‘I don’t believe what you believe; you’re not Black enough for me; Oh my God Sis, you look too “hood” for our collective over here, we’re a collective of fine things, we go to Afrika, we do trips and we’re Ambassadors.’ We allow classism, and it’s amazing how many ways we’ve learned to divide each other from each other and perpetuate that lesson.  So we need a Collective; people who say, ‘In spite of my class, in spite of my belief system, one thing I know for certain is that I am vested in the perpetual development of my people, and I am willing to use my way of knowing towards that goal, to support that goal.’

“Our third goal is advocating cross-cultural communication and mutual understanding through art. A lot of my art is the pages of my diary. … We need to find ways to express who we are. … Though I’ll [still occasionally] write those songs that help me to release [any emotional baggage], I know that it’s very important to use my art as a tool for development.

“And last, to create a platform for Teaching Artist expression. The fact is, the people that usually ‘get’ it, they never get a loud enough bullhorn to say what they get. Because they stop before they ever get started.  And it’s time for us to be more strategic about how we get into decision-making rooms.  It’s time for us to realize that art can get into any sector, and you need to use your art, whatever it may be, to bring those artists to the room, to bring them to the mic, to give them an opportunity to spread their message.

“So, what is a Teaching Artist? A Teaching Artist is one that recognizes and understands the influential nature of their art.  They use this to promote a value system or a subject matter as an entity in and of itself or as a tool integrated into another discipline.  So we’ll do that in many ways with all of our fellow Teaching Artists this year, but one way that the Teaching Artist Institute is going to do that this year is to support the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus.”

Organization of All Afrikan Unity-Black Panther Cadre
Statement from Baba Ade Oba Tokunbo, Founder and Chairman

OAAUBPC Ade Logo 1The following statement had been prepared by OAAU-BPC Founder Baba Ade Oba Tokunbo: “As of June of this year, the concept of Pan-Afrikanism will be celebrating its 116th anniversary since Henry Sylvester Williams coined the term.  Many Afrikan people in the Motherland, in the Western Hemisphere, in Asia, in Europe and in the South Pacific have an interest in or identify with each other as Black people, as Afrikan people.  They are paying attention to what is going on not only in Afrika, but also amongst Afrikans around the world and in the United States. They are in the Andaman Islands, they are in Papua New Guinea, they are in Vanuatu, they are in Conakry or New Caledonia, they are in Palau and elsewhere.  The idea and the sentiment of Pan Afrikanism is alive and strong in these communities.

“The African Union has taken the initiative to acknowledge the existence of the Diaspora and the role of the Diaspora in promoting the concept of Pan-Afrikanism. Sisters and Brothers throughout the Continent acknowledge this, and are mindful of us here.  We have to take advantage of this.  This is why the Town Hall initiative gives us the opportunity to build across the Black communities of this nation.  Then we will have the opportunity to be represented at the AU, and we can bring issues that the current generation of activists are concerned about.  This is why we have to come together to mobilize, educate and organize the masses of our people here, so we can have a representative voice.”

Souls of Life Society
Bro. King Obadele, Founder and Chairman

Souls of Life Society Full Logo E“Energy we are, and energy we shall return, when we depart from this which returns to dust. Each one of you, you’re a vessel.  Each one of you carries a spirit within you.

“We have connected with the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus for several years now, because of the vibration that they hold true, which is to recognize that it’s time for change and for us to take action. The Souls of Life Society as you see here, ‘through the power bestowed by God and man,’ a lot of people have a lot in mind of believing so many different things.  Souls of Life Society has come together so that we can come under the understanding that life and love is the most important thing that there is about our living.  So you can look at this and say ‘through the power bestowed from within to do what must be done.’  Our organization harmonizes the unity needed for Black organizations to thrive so that humanity can survive.  We are the original man and woman of the earth and the founders of civilization.  We are the melanated ones.  Within us [is] the true blueprint of humanity, but that would mean that you are more than human. The plan against your greater good was and is to dehumanize you.  Yet, this is the crux of an amazing truth you have yet to accept collectively, which is, you are more than human. Spirit you all are.

“I have been traveling since 1991 to different organizations throughout Baltimore City, observing Bro King 2organisms and organizations to see what causes them to tick.  What I’ve discovered is that we have common ground, which is life and love, but we have to identify that common ground of life and love through re-communing with spirit.  Living thought speaks to each and every one of us.  Your Ancestors are waiting for you to activate the love that has brought you to now.  Do not let religiosity and dogma continue to separate you from who you are.  Everything vibrates and everything has a frequency.  We must begin collectively to speak the same language.  That is truth, harmony, order, righteousness, reciprocity, balance, justice, compassion, propriety, respect and consideration.

“Malcolm said it best when he said that, and this is what I picked up from him, they do not speak a language that, when you come to them in peace, they understand you. That was his belief.  I understand that.  But the thing is for us to overstand that we are more than anybody could possibly imagine we are. But we have to accept that that is true.  We are the original man and woman of the earth and the founders of civilization which means that we are the leaders.  The blueprint is already within us.  The earth itself is awaiting us to awaken.

“My organization, the Souls of Life Society, the acronym is S-O-L-S. The only thing that’s missing is U.  So, if you would be so kind as to look up the website, soulsoflifesociety.org, click it and hook up with us.  Because it’s time for the change to come strong.  We have to understand that, in speaking the language amongst ourselves of what is known as the virtues of Ma’at, which is an ancient Kemet practice, we will better realign with ourselves and with what needs to be done in order to bring the transformation that is needed amongst us as a community, amongst us as a world.  I’ve been with the Brave Men’s Society, the Egbe. … They speak an Afrikan cosmology that speaks of Iwa Pele, which explains very clearly the issues which have happened with our Black community and why there is so much division amongst us.  Come to the website.  Come check us out at the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus so that we can make things happen.”

Pan Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM)
Bro. Anani Kulu Fatiu

PLM Logo 1“I’m a part of the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement that’s located here in Baltimore.  My name is Anani Kulu Fatiu. …

“What we have here today, which I embrace, a lot of what was stated was, the Pan-Afrikan Coalition and coming together. This is not new for Afrikan people.  This is how we lived on the Continent.  We were always demonstrating what Pan-Afrikanism was and what it is.  And that’s how we were able to develop such great nations and civilizations that the Baba has mentioned.

“… We’re dealing with the harmful effects of [White Supremacy], and we’re trying to figure out how we can all come together and merge and make a dynamic push, to push us in our natural way of how we lived as Afrikan people, prior to any invasions, prior to anything.

“I also facilitate a study class, every Sunday from 2 to 4:30, which is the Beginning Study Class, which is PLM Bro Anani Jan 29everything that a lot of people have mentioned about what they know about their Afrikanity; some people have never even heard of this.  This is very new to a lot of people.  That being Black, and being from Baltimore, West Baltimore to be exact, is pretty much the only thing that they identify with, or being from New York, and so forth, all over the place, not knowing how to get to your center.  So I teach the Beginning Study Class, so we start all the way from the base level.  We’re going to start having a dialog, conversations and then we get into the great literature of our scholars to move us along.  We don’t [just] talk it, though.  We become it and we demonstrate it.

“So I love everything that was said. I’m enjoying everything that’s said.  I love it.  It’s good.  I love the energy that I see out here.  I love being part of my organization.”

The Earth Center
Bro. Nehez Meniooh, Director, Healer, Teacher, Initiate of the M’Tam Schools

“The message I’m here to deliver is a lot bigger than the young man you see in front of you. The Earth Center is the unified form of the temples and the norms of the existing Kemetic Culture.  Because like the Brother before me had just mentioned, a lot of people don’t understand about their identity as what we call Black People of the world.  And that’s because our enslaver has given us the education for what our identity is about.  And because of that misunderstanding, because of that miseducation, today we think that the greatness, the education, the profound wisdom that built these empires that we’re calling ancient today, that built the empires that the Elder introduced at the beginning of the lectures, we’re told today that they’re all dead.  We’re told today that the languages are dead, the hieroglyphs are just to be studied in books and for us to try to recover, but the truth of the matter is that those are still alive.  Those are still alive, being kept in secret societies throughout rural Afrika, throughout traditional Afrika.

“Three thousand years ago, when the priesthood and the pharaohnic throne made the decision that they Earth Center Bro Nehez Jan 29would change the way that they would keep the culture, instead of in its glory and in its greatness that we see in the Nile Valley, they decided, since the invaders were just not going to give up, to take it underground and keep it secret. And that’s when they took it into the huts and they took it into what, for us, with our education, we look at it and say those people need help, those people are hungry, those people are impoverished.  But those people are keeping the greatest knowledge that this world has known.  And the Earth Center is the first mission of those temples that has been sent out to the Diaspora, to the world, to give you a chance to reconnect with the identity that’s coursing through your veins.

“Because the blood in everyone’s veins in here is very, very old. It’s not yours.  You got it from your father, you got it from your mother.  They got it from their father, they got it from their mother.  And it goes all the way back to those same civilizations that we’re looking at and we’re talking about and we’re studying.  It’s all there inside of us, waiting to be awakened.

“The Earth Center represents that movement.  It’s an organization that was started by a Dogon High Priest.  His name is Prophet Master Naba Lamoussa Morodenibig.  He was originally born in the country of Burkina Faso, West Afrika.  I know a lot of our Pan-Afrikan students in the room know the Kingdom of Burkina Faso from Thomas Sankara.  He did a lot of very great work for us trying to reclaim our identity from what the French colonizers did in his country.

“The Prophet Naba started his education in the traditions. He is a Dogon, so he went through the Dogon Mystery Schools.  He is a Kemetic High Priest.  He continued to go through the initiations.  And when he had the chance, he pleaded with his Elders in the initiation and his royalty to come out into the Diaspora and let the Diaspora know we’re still here, that the traditions are still here.

“We have three branches in this organization. We have a publishing branch, which we call Firefly Productions.  We write books, we write magazines, journals; we have slowly been starting to distribute them around the Baltimore area.  You might see our free publication called The Sunnyside floating around.  We also present some of the treasures that have been kept in the Kemetic Culture, such as the Great Book of Divine Ordinances, which is the original set of commandments our Ancestors followed; the original Map of the Sky that you find on the ceiling of the Temple of [Hathor at] Dendera [Egypt]; the original calendar our Ancestors used of thirteen months and ten days; all of that we have available through the publishing company.

“We also have the M’Tam School of Initiation, M’Tam School of Kemetic Philosophy and Spirituality. Because if we are to recover, it’s going to have to start with education.  If we’ve only been educated by our enslavers, then we can’t wonder why we just seem to not be able to organize.  Because it’s values that put people together. … A good idea might get us all to run one way, but as soon as that chain behind us pulls us back, then we won’t be able to stay together.  So it has to start with our education, and it has to start with an education that comes specifically from our Ancestors and not from the ones who are enslaving the world.

“And the third branch of the organization is the Ankhasta Natural Healing. And that is the network of traditional healers and priests throughout Afrika, mainly West Afrika, who are preserving and protecting the traditional medicinal knowledge and making those recipes available to the Diaspora, who are suffering in our hell, because we’ve been educated by the destroyer.

“So, this organization is split into three branches but even beyond that we do a lot of work. … But one of the things we do that I do want to mention is, every year we take a trip home, so that what we teach the students in the class, what we’re telling the Diaspora – that this culture is still existing, that this culture is still your legacy to be reclaimed, your legacy to awaken in yourself – we take you into the culture so that you can see for yourself, because we don’t believe in belief. You have to know. You have to study. Whatever beliefs you have about the way the earth functions, that’s fine, that’s your business … but at some point, if you want to recover, you have to be educated.  You have to hold that belief loose enough that if common sense tells you that just doesn’t fit anymore, you have to be able to evolve.

“So once a year, we take our students, we take friends, we take guests on a spiritual pilgrimage to go into the culture. The last pilgrimage we took, the royalty in the city called Sia, which is in the western part of Burkina Faso, one of the kings there said ‘Please, take this message to the Diaspora.  Let them know, the way that we live, they see us living in huts, they see us living in dirty clothes, they see us living with nature, that’s a choice.  We don’t want to live in the machine.  We don’t want to live and be a part of the destruction.  We’d rather live and stay next to nature and stay next to the Divine.  Let them know that’s a choice.  But also let them know that everything they saw from the past, nothing has been lost, and it’s here if they’re willing to come and get it.’

“So that is what the Earth Center is representing.  We will have a lecture March 19 at Tehuti’s [Wisdom] Bookstore.  We will be opening up the doors of initiation at the end of March.  You can check our website, www.theearthinstitute.org, and I thank everybody for their ears.”

Black Running Organization
Bro. Isa Olufemi

BRO Logo“There’s a lot of talk about coming together but it never really happens, so the Black Running Organization is here to fill that void. The charge to everyone who’s standing is for you to come and join us at our Unity Run every Sunday at Druid Hill Park.  You don’t have to come every Sunday, but we expect to see you this year, before June. … And it’s not just for the Brothers; it’s for the Sisters too.  What we do is not about competition.  Competition is not part of it at all.  It’s for all skill levels and it’s all about unity.  It’s a practical illustration of unity.

“So if you ever come to Druid Hill Park or you ever come to one of our programs, and you see us, you’ll seeBRO Bro Isa Jan 29 a whole bunch of Black people together, unified, running.  And it’s very practical, it’s very simple.  That’s what we do.  If we’re all talking about culture, we’re all talking about this war that we’re in with our oppressors, then we must understand that we have to train physically.  Whether you’re a man, woman, child, Elder, whatever.  Baba Ade [founder and chairman of OAAU-BPC], who’s in his sixties, was out running with us.  We’re not about the lecture. … We just want to see you come out and run with us.  So if you do see us and you do have the ability and to run and you don’t come out, then we can’t organize because we’re not doing what we know we must do.  The program I’m inviting you all out to – Black people only – every Sunday, 10:00 in the morning, by the basketball courts in Druid Hill Park.  If you come to that event, then we’ll extend the invitation to our other events.  Our slogan is ‘Let’s Grow’, that means together we develop our natural processes.  Those natural processes are Black people being amongst Black people and using running as a platform to organize.  So, as always, Let’s Grow.”

The Need for a Cooperative Coalition
Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus
Bro. Cliff,
Maryland State Facilitator, SRDC

SRDC Logo Official 2013“There’s an old slogan that says, ‘Think globally, act locally.’ And essentially, what our organization is attempting to do is build a means to reach out to and harness the grassroots voice of our Diaspora on the local level, then move that to the national level, and then move that to the global level.  We start off with grassroots local organizations like ours right here.  I’m the Maryland State Facilitator, so the organization that we have here, essentially operates here in the state of Maryland.  We have Facilitators in other states – not every other state – but we want them in every state plus [Washington] DC.  We’ve got a long way to go before we get there.

“What would happen is, the local organizations would call public meetings, much like this, preferably much bigger, in which we ask you two things: What are the key issues that we need to take out of here to the national level and then to the international level, which is the first question; and the second question is Who would you want to have represent our voice from the state of Maryland on the national stage and on the world stage?

“I can explain all the details of that but it will probably have to be in our next event where we give you the details of what SRDC’s plan is. But the ultimate idea is to come up with a delegation of twenty elected representatives to essentially take the voice of 300 million people of Afrikan descent around the entire world to organizations like the African Union, the United Nations, the latest Pan-Afrikan Congress, the World Social Forum, what-have-you.

“How do you elect 20 people out of 300 million? The way we will do it is we will start at the local level.  We would elect two representatives from this state.  Those representatives would get together with the elected representatives from other states in a National Summit.  We hold them every year.  We’ve held them for [more than] the last seven years.  And at that National Summit, those representatives who were elected in their states would get together and they would essentially determine who is the Dream Team of, let’s say, three or four.  The three or four best of that group to take the combined agendas of all the states that sent representatives to the National Summit and to take that to the world stage.  In a nutshell, that’s basically how it works.  So it’s grassroots local organizations, community Town Hall Meetings.  We’re going to have one later this year.  We’ll have more informational sessions, maybe here, maybe a few other places to explain that further, then ultimately we’re going to have that community Town Hall Meeting [in Maryland].  Then we would have the National [Summit].  Then ultimately we’d have a Full Diaspora Summit [of all the National Summits around the world] which would determine what the overall Pan-Afrikan Agenda would be from the United States, from Canada, from Brazil, South America, Europe, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, on and on and on, and they would take that to the African Union.

“All of these plans [in Afrikan Diaspora communities around the world] aren’t fully developed yet, but then we aren’t fully developed yet.  But you’ve got to start somewhere.  And that’s what we’re doing.

“Now, if the African Union suddenly decided they don’t want to listen to us, we can take it to the United Nations, who are currently recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent from 2015 to 2024.  So if they want to put some serious teeth into it, eventually we can put pressure on them to listen to us also.  So there are any number of ways that this can be applied; our current objective is to get that voice in the African Union, because, and I’ll explain this the next time we meet, they have invited us to do so. Some of them are trying to [renege] on it, but we’re not going to let them.

“So that’s basically what our organization does. Now, the reason we asked for this gathering is that we’ve recognized that we can’t do this just with our own organization all by itself.  We need to bring in the Earth Center, we need to bring in PLM, we need to bring in W.O.M.A.N., we need to bring in Teaching Artist Institute.  We need to bring in Black Running Organization, so when we’ve got to run from or after somebody, we can do it.  We need to bring in LBS because at some point or another, we’ve got to be able to march up to the halls of power and say, ‘Here’s what our Think Tank has come up with, here’s what our organizations have told us we need to put together, and dammit, we’re gonna get it.’  And we need to bring all of these organizations together in order to do that.

“So we’ve got people dating back hundreds of years [Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King] who have been telling us [that we need to organize]. And we need to find a way that we can finally organize our organizations so we can heed this call.  We need to understand the divisions in our community; [they] don’t need to become walls that we build up against each other.  We’re not all the same.  If we’re going to separate ourselves from each other because we’re not the same, then we’re never going to get organized.”
Spokes Jan 29 Audience

 

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Soul Fusion Teaching Artist Kim Poole and the Teaching Artist Institute: Bringing the Diaspora Together through the Arts

Soul Fusion Teaching Artist Kim Poole and the Teaching Artist Institute: Bringing the Diaspora Together through the Arts

 

Baltimore’s best kept secret has never been louder. The statuesque soul fusion teacher artist, Ms. Kim Poole, has emerged from Baltimore’s underground music scene with a commanding presence. Her powerful sultry vocals and soul stirring storylines empowers women globally to celebrate their resilience and engage in cross-cultural communication thru music. Influenced by the musical styles of Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, and Nina Simone and supported by her five piece band, her eclectic blend of Soul, R&B, Jazz, & the Blues together create what she refers to as soul fusion. Her professed “old soul” brings a refreshingly original, yet familiar energy to the stage in performances and a unique edu-tainment method to her “music is a tool” workshops. Promoting cultural heritage, self-awareness and love of community through interactive performances and workshops, Ms. Kim Poole is changing the face of music worldwide and leading the teacher artist movement in her own right.

–from the Kim Poole Music Website, http://www.kimpoolemusic.com/

Ms. Kim Poole has coined the term “Soul Fusion Teaching Artist” to describe her focus, and the term is most appropriate.  But she is not only a Teaching Artist, she is also a community activist who uses her art, music, as an organizing tool.  Through her Teaching Artist Workshops and the Teaching Artist Institute which was officially founded in 2015, she is spreading the understanding of the healing and empowering nature of the arts to established and aspiring artists to ensure that their craft enriches not only their careers but also the communities they serve.  Ms. Poole is affiliated with the Maryland Organization of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus.  Thanks to Ms. Kim Poole, the discipline we all know as “The Arts” is assuming its rightful place as one of the critical Spokes of the Wheel of Pan-Afrikan Unity and Uplift.

More from her website:

TEACHING ARTIST WORKSHOPS
MISSION: “Music saves lives, I’m singin’ for my life”

What is a Teaching Artist in the Kim Poole Experience?

A teaching artist is one that recognizes and understands the influential nature of their art and uses it to promote a value system or subject matter as an entity in and of itself or as tool integrated into another discipline. A teaching artist is a way of thinking, being and an approach to engaging others in expression.

Kim Poole, “A Teaching Artist”

“As a singer songwriter, I am just as passionate about live performance as I am composing a composition”, Ms. Poole says.  “However, it is the development of composition, melody and lyrics that has inspired me to become a Teaching Artist.  Many songs that I write are just the pages of my diary Kim Poole 1and personal artistic expression.  However, increasingly I use music as a more purposeful tool of empowerment and peacebuilding for a global audience.  Throughout my artistic development, I have learned from the lyrics of a musical lineage that serves as the soundtrack to my life.  These artists and their songs are the inspiration behind the teaching artist component of my craft today.

“With my art comes a level of responsibility because music is sublime. Through the Kim Poole Experience I realize that music is the most powerful tool for empowerment and peacebuilding because it’s the only force in existence that can teach or heal someone without their knowledge or consent.  Music is an education for the soul.  Walt Disney said ‘I would rather entertain and hope you learned something.’

“However, I would rather aim to teach and hope you were entertained because Music saves lives, I’m singin for my life.”

-Teaching Artist Workshop Offerings –

MUSIC AS A TOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
MUSIC AS THERAPY
MUSIC AND WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT
MUSIC FOR PEACEBUILDING & CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Do you want music integrated into your lesson plan, professional development team building, or creative communication platform etc., Let’s Do it!

THE TEACHING ARTIST INSTITUTE 

In December of 2015, the Teaching Artist Institute was launched with a Retreat that was held at Coppin State University.  Artists and activists from Maryland and across the United States met for the two-day session that featured workshops, discussions, demonstrations and video links with artists in Nigeria.  With connections throughout the Afrikan Diaspora, the Teaching Artist Institute and Soul-Fusion Teaching Artist Kim Poole are poised to make their contribution and leave their mark on the global effort to bring healing, knowledge and uplift to Afrikan people and to the world at large.  For Ms. Kim Poole and her groundbreaking Teaching Artist Institute, the sky truly is the limit.

 

 

 

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GADS 2015 Chilengi and Delegation

The Global Africa Diaspora Convention 2015

GADS 2015 Chilengi and DelegationSetting the Stage for Increased Diaspora Cooperation with the African Union
November 27, 2015

“[T]he Economic, Social and Cultural Council [is] the organ that deals with civil society in the African Union.  They deal with non-state actors. … Your presence here is like a seat at the table, so I want to thank the Economic, Social and Cultural Council for making that happen.”  Dr. Jinmi Adisa, the Director of the Citizens and Diaspora Organizations Directorate (CIDO) of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) welcomed Pan-African activists from Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia to the Global Africa Diaspora Convention that was held from November 19 – 22 in Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. Adisa and his immediate supervisor, Dr. Joseph Chilengi, the Presiding Officer of ECOSOCC, had come to the Baltimore-Washington area to participate in a series of meetings and discussions designed to introduce African Descendants and Continental Africans to the AU’s efforts to connect with the 300 million-plus people of African descent who live around the world outside the Continent of Africa.

After a Welcome Reception that was held on the evening of Thursday, November 19 at the African Union Mission in Washington, DC, the venue changed to the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center in East Baltimore for two days of plenary sessions and breakout conferences that were centered around specific aspects of African Diaspora involvement with the AU, including women, youth, the nature of the African Diaspora, research, academics, business, economics, culture and the arts.

The weekend was capped by an Interfaith Service at Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC on Sunday, November 22.  The weekend was organized by the African Union ECOSOCC Special Adviser on Relations with the Diaspora, Ms. Evelyn Joe.

For those who might have felt the African Union had no interest in engaging with the African Diaspora, including African-Americans and other African Descendants around the world, this Convention was a welcome reminder of the invitation the AU issued in 2006 for the Diaspora to become involved in “the building of the African Union.”  This weekend should serve as a springboard for several initiatives being promoted by African Diaspora organizations for economic development and grassroots representation for the Diaspora in the AU.  Dr. Chilengi stressed, “the Diaspora as a region needs to put in place your framework mechanisms for ensuring that you play your role insofar as The Africa We Want is concerned. … We need the skills and the resources of the Diaspora.”

Below,  we include the opening statements by Dr. Adisa and Dr. Chilengi.  The summary of this article appears on the website http://www.bmoreblack.com, and the full article also appears on the website KUUMBAReport Online (http://kuumbareport.com).

Friday, November 20, 2015
Morning Session

Dr. Jinmi Adisa
Director, Citizens Directorate (CIDO) of the African Union ECOSOCC

“The African Union says it’s people-centered.  But then, if it’s so, we must listen to them.  So actually, the whole purpose of this is to come and listen.  And then, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council and its various organs, that’s the organ that deals with civil society in the African Union.  They deal with non-state actors. … One of the fundamental things you can be assured is that whatever you say here, whatever you agree … will be taken directly. … It will go to ECOSOCC, they will examine it and make their recommendations. … Your presence here is like a seat at the table, so I want to thank the Economic, Social and Cultural Council for making that happen.  I want to thank Ms. Evelyn Joe.  She is the Special Adviser here and I think she has gone to a lot of effort. … In the process of doing it, of course, we clash, but that’s to come together and make something good, and I think in the end she’s got it right, and I want to commend her enterprise and zeal in making this happen.

Dr. Chilengi (left) and Dr. Adisa (right).

Dr. Chilengi (left) and Dr. Adisa (right).

“I’m also very glad to be here to see some very important people, like some of my icons like [President of the World African Diaspora Union] Professor [Leonard] Jeffries here. … There was a visit to Addis Ababa in which he gave us some documents that we’re trying to put together [for] a Diaspora Library so that those of us who are walking free and doing things and going to school and making noise can understand the sacrifice that people like Professor Jeffries have put in to get us where we are.  I want to acknowledge Professor Jeffries.  [He is] an inspiration to me.  I look up to people like him. 

“I get a lot of criticisms.  That’s the nature of my job.  I’m supposed to deal with the Diaspora.  And I say where is it coming from?  From our people, yes.  I could do better.  I’m not perfect.  I make mistakes, like everybody else.  Whenever I see a criticism coming from somebody like Professor Jeffries, I say ‘This is serious’. …

“Be rest assured that all your sacrifices and efforts [are appreciated].  In your family, you have to fight.  But that is because we are family.  We have a sating that if two brothers sit under a tree to discuss family matters and they come out laughing they are not telling the truth to themselves.”

Dr. Joseph Chilengi
Presiding Officer, African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC)

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

“I grew up in an African way and I spent a lot of time with my grandfather and grandmother, and they shared with me a lot of things.  And the poem and the ways that were expressed a few minutes ago [a very spiritual and emotional poetry, spoken-word and dance performance by Baltimore-based cultural artists], by our colleagues in front of us here … I’ve never known myself to be strong, but I made myself strong today.  I think that is a first step of courage, because such situations usually break me down.  I think that I need to ask you that we acknowledge and appreciate the message that was given today. …

GADS 2015 Friday Cultural Performance 1“I think also that it’s a great honor to come and sit with ourselves here as Africans and share our impressions, our potential direction and our potential challenges and out potential solutions to what Africa wants to be.  The slogan now on the Continent is ‘The Africa We Want’.  And the Africa we want shall be defined by ourselves, determined by ourselves, driven by ourselves and delivered to generations to come and to ourselves by ourselves.

“This, therefore, means that all of us here, including yourselves, are diplomats of the African Union, you are ambassadors of the Union in your own selves, individually, collectively, institutionally, and also through collaboration with other stakeholders.  Because you have to tell the African story of the Africa you want.  You need to determine the aspects of the Africa you want, you need to deliver to Africa and Africans the Africa You Want, and no one else can tell the story for us.  We have to tell the story.

“And this story is toward the Agenda 2063.  Agenda 2063 is a framework mechanism in which we are saying as Africans, fifty years from now, this is the Africa we want.  In terms of its transport network, in terms of its energy sufficiency and capacity, in terms of human resources movement, in terms of its operations in science, technology and space, in terms of a governance framework, in terms of human rights process, in terms of overall human rights and the Human Development Index of all Africa.  It is within this Agenda 2063 that the aspirations of the Diaspora are also situated.  In 2012, we met in Sandton [South Africa, for the 2012 Diaspora Summit], I recognize a few faces.  A colleague seated here, I can never forget your face.  And a few others.  We met in Sandton.  [Several of] our Ministers and our Heads of States joined us and came out with a Declaration, which legally recognizes the Diaspora as a region of the African Continent wherever every African is situated.  And that is the Declaration that brought into place the Sixth Region of Africa.  So the Sixth Region of Africa is the African Diaspora Region.  We are all aware we have ECOWAS, the West African Community, we have SADC, we have the East African Community, we have North African Community and … five [regions] constitute the African Continent in terms of political configuration.  But the Sixth Region of Africa is the Diaspora.

“… the Sixth Region of Africa is the African Diaspora Region.”
– Dr. Joseph Chilengi

“What does this entail?  It means the Diaspora as a region needs to put in place your framework mechanisms for ensuring that you play your role inasfar as The Africa We Want is concerned.  It’s not an Africa of criticism.  It’s an Africa of aspirations.  An Africa that has acknowledged, and that has identified the limitations we have now in all spheres of human endeavor, and decided to define in each sphere the direction we want to take and where we want to go, and you have to be part of this aspiration.  But most important and most critical is this: that you are not in Africa.  You are outside the boundaries of Africa.  And therefore, if you are outside the African boundaries, then you need to defend Africa’s interests.  You need to defend Africa’s interests.  You are the first frontline soldiers in Europe, in America, in Asia, in Australia, in the Middle East.  You are the first line soldiers.  If you get defeated here, we get defeated in Africa.  And hence, we travel kilometers. … [T]he reason we’re coming here, leaving everything behind, is because of the importance we attach to you. … You have an important role to define and influence [the] American Senate, to influence the American Administration, the Australian, the European Union, that their policies and programs, the way they see Africa is not the way you understand it.  You are the chief advisers in your spaces because you understand Africa better than they do.

GADS 2015 R Stevenson and Chilengi

Elder Rufus Stevenson and Dr. Chilengi.

“In order to be an effective diplomat, an ambassador of Africa, we then need to sharpen out engagement skills.  The way we engage will determine our results. Africa has been known to be a ‘Dark Continent’, but Africa is awakening.  In the Africa We Want, we make it very clear now.  Some of you are aware that Africa was in Valetta [the Summit on Migration in Valetta, Malta, November 11-12].  Before we were in Valetta, me, Dr. Adisa and others were in Brussels.  Before the heads of state were going to the Migration Summit in Valetta, we discussed with our European colleagues and we told them the truth of the situation and the challenges.  My country, Zambia, for example, hosted 1.2 million refugees.  We didn’t press a button or assignment yo get heads of state to come and discuss that.  We used our obligation within international law, human rights law and refugee law to respond to that. Kenya is currently hosting millions of refugees. Tanzania did more than a million refugees, as many other countries in Africa.  And we advised them.  We’ve got the experience.  We’ve gone through it.  Listen to us.  They didn’t listen.  The following policy of the Continent has officially changed: Anything that is not of interest to Africa, we say no.

“Heads of state went to Spain in numbers two weeks ago and they were told ‘We’ll give you so many billions of euros and you need to do this and this’ and we said ‘Keep your money.’  And our response at that Summit was a resounding ‘No’ to the proposals that were made by the European Union.  What we said was: ‘We’ve got the experience in dealing with refugees.  Come to us and we’ll give you guidance.  Don’t give us money.  We’ve got the brains, and our brain is our major resource.’  That is the way Africa is moving. Africa is moving in a direction that some of you may not know.  Our children have been crossing dangerous waters into European space, at all costs.  We don’t like it.  Because, and we have always told the Europeans and other West African countries, every day they sing like Europe is heaven, America is heaven.  I tell them, if it is heaven, I’d want to go to heaven at any cost.  There are pastors here.  And if it’s going to heaven, I’d do anything I can do to reach heaven, just like you aspire to reach heaven.  If you begin to indoctrinate our young children that Europe is heaven … tell them the hope that is in Africa.  That the train they are seeing here is also coming to Africa. Ethiopia is one such country I have seen. … Africa has signed an agreement with China to develop a fast train network from Cairo [Egypt] to Cape Town [South Africa].  It was signed last year in August.  And Ethiopia has come out. Egypt will soon come out. Nigeria will come out. Zambia will come out.  Everyone will come out. South Africa has already come out. Kenya will come out.  In the end, we will have a connectivity within Africa using the same train.  That’s what our children want.

“We are working within our Agenda 2063 to address our energy deficiencies.  The amount of development in Africa does not match our energy capacity.  We are working on the Inga Dam [actually two hydroelectric dams connected to one of the largest waterfalls in the world, Inga Falls, located in the western Democratic Republic of the Congo, 140 miles southwest of Kinshasa].  It produces two million milliliters of water per day.  And therefore it can [produce] sufficient energy capacity for Africa and the entire Europe and America.  We already signed an agreement to have that energy hub come up in Africa. 

“Within Agenda 2063, we have said ‘No’ to aid and conditionalities.  We have told all partners that want to engage with Africa that the issue of aid and conditionalities belongs in the dustbin.  If you want to engage with Africa, you go for mutual accountability.  Give us money if you so wish, but when you get natural resources also from Africa, we want to know what you are using them for.  If you get coltan from DRC, let’s make sure they’re not making the guns to send back to DRC [to kill us with].  If you’re getting our timber, make sure that that timber is not being used in order to come back and exterminate life in Africa.  So we have set the agenda straightforward.  And the message they’ll be getting is that Africa has become stubborn, and please accept we are now becoming stubborn.  Because we know what we are doing.

“We are finding it difficult for us in every space.  We have the minerals.  We have the natural resources.  We’ve been bossed.  They took it in the past.  We benefited nothing.  Now our eyes are open.  We know that our generation is [aware], our children and our grandchildren.  We are now saying, ‘These minerals are not for anyone else.  They are for us.  If you give us conditions … we go to China.’ China is a good buddy.  Yeah, we don’t talk for a long time. … We are not interested in sitting with people who tell us, ‘You know, your human rights, and wah, wah, wah, wah. …’  First, we know people need water.  When they have it, that is their right.  People need roads.  When they have it, that is their right.  And those of you that have been to Africa now, every country that you go to, every country in Africa is a construction site.  It is a construction site!  My son, who recently came to Lusaka [Zambian capital city] from school, when he arrived in Lusaka said ‘Wow, Daddy!  Wow!’  I said ‘This is what we are doing for you.  This is Africa.’  The roads are being done, everywhere. … This is Africa.  We are moving.

“… what needs to be done is to seek to achieve the Diaspora Initiative.”

“So all these are situated within Agenda 2063.  Now, there are five Legacy Projects that are made for you. … We are just coming from a [Zambian] Diaspora conference organized by my government in my country.  And they have just issued [a directive] – you know, we are a copper mining country – one of the biggest mines of the state, don’t sell shares to anyone outside of Africa.  So, all of those shares have been offered through the Stock Exchange only to be sold to Zambians and Zambians in the Diaspora. … 

“So that is the Africa we are working on.  And this Africa we have to work on cannot be done with us only inside the Continent.  You are critical players. … You know, we are changing. … We want to move.  Problem is we don’t have time.  We don’t have time.  I don’t have time myself to want to sit with the European leadership … for the whole day.  No, I want to go and sit with China for thirty minutes and … the road is being done in my country.  And therefore we need the skills and the resources of the Diaspora.  We need them.  There has been an argument that the remittances are more than the foreign direct investment.  Yes, but those are private remittances.  We need investment from the Diaspora.  Investment that will grow the economy.  You have grown your families.  You have built homes I know.  You have brought in vendors, I know.  Now, can you build their factories where they are going to work?  So we need the resources.  We need the skills.

“That is why Dr. Adisa is here. … Did he share about the Africa Diaspora Corps?  Volunteer Corps, focusing on the youth.  That the son of Professor Jeffries, who is here, if he’s studying medicine at Johns Hopkins University, when he stands for internship let him come to Africa, in a hospital in Africa.  And when they are in Africa, opportunities will come up.  They will love it.  They will love Africa, they won’t want to come back.  Let the new generation come and look after the Africa We Want.  Because it was meant for them.  The focus is on the youth.

“And therefore the resource base is on the youth.  The focus is on the youth.  I’ll be meeting some colleagues from the White House. … They do a Nelson Mandela Fellowship [here]. … So after their fellowship where do they go?  You send them to Africa, they go to sleep.  We don’t want that.  Can we discuss some way to use that talent?  When they learn those leadership skills, we want them to enter the African Union, ECOSOCC, Pan African Parliament, the Commission for Human Rights, CIDO. … So we want those skills, and several other things.

“If I wanted to talk, I’d talk for the whole day.  But since I came a long way, I have to throw a challenge to you, and to ourselves.  What is it that remains to be done?  Now, in order to enter you into the future of our Continent that we want.  Those of you who are following foreign policy, everywhere we go, we are taking all international positions, [and] we are defeating them.  That is our strategy. … We are fifty-some countries in the United Nations in New York.  When you add China there, and you add Russia there, we become a good strong voice.

“So what needs to be done is to seek to achieve the Diaspora Initiative.  We need to operationalize it.  It has been on paper, two-three years now.  We can’t be leaving things on paper for such a long time.  That is not the Africa approach we have now.  Now we are in a hurry.  Don’t slow us down.  This Africa Diaspora Initiative is your Initiative.  It is our Initiative.  It cannot be done by us alone.  We need to join forces with you.  Let’s move quickly and operationalize the African Diaspora Initiative. 

“And let’s shift the paradigm of African Diaspora participation in African economic growth.  Your politics are economic politics.  Economic politics, that’s what we want to hear from you.  So the paradigm shift remains with you.  But it requires a lot of organizational capacities. Africa is not a small country. Africa is diverse, from Arab to Francophone, to Anglophone, to Bantuphone, to Afrophone, to whatever phones we have, Africa is diverse.  And therefore it requires the organizational capacity.  These structures which you have … can we work to strengthen them, so that they can respond to the challenges of Agenda 2063?  And 10 to 15 years from now, 50 years from now, watch Africa, how it’s moving.  Forget about the negative stories you are hearing.  Just watch the development aspects of Africa.  You will be amazed, I’m telling you.  If you go to Ethiopia, there is no foreign bank in Ethiopia, you know that. … If you go to Kenya, same.  So we are slowly taking control of the situation.  And when we close the African space … where will the other banks go?  They have to [go] back to where they come from, or they play our game inside Africa.  I thank you so much.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Africa Braintrust 2015: The Keynote Speeches

Africa Braintrust 2015: The Keynote Speeches

Photos from Phone 481

This article originally appeared on the Website KUUMBAReport Online (http://kuumbareport.com).  Reprinted with permission from the Website Administrator.

The Africa Braintrust was held on Friday, September 18, the closing day of the 2015 Congressional Black Caucus week of meetings, addresses and panels. The annual Braintrust, sponsored by a variety of corporate and organizational donors and organized by US Congress Member Karen Bass (Democrat from Southern California), includes a variety of panel discussions that focus on US policy toward the Continent of Africa, as well as discussion of many of the challenges that still face the Continent. The discussions usually center on issues of economic development, peace and Security, the rule of law and health concerns on the Continent. In this article, we will share with you the remarks made by the two featured Keynote Speakers, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield (morning keynote) and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice (afternoon keynote).

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Morning Keynote

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a member of the Career Foreign Service, was sworn in on August 6, 2013 as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau on African Affairs. In this capacity, she leads the bureau in the Department of State focused on the development and management of US policy toward Sub Saharan Africa. Prior to this appointment, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (2012-2013) for the State Department.

Her 32-year Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia (2008-2010), and foreign postings in Switzerland (at the US Mission to the United Nations), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. In addition to the Bureau of Human Resources, her Washington postings include the Bureau of African Affairs (2006-2008), where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (2004-2006) where she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Prior to joining the Department of State, she taught Political Science at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. (from the brief bio in the Africa Braintrust Program)

Photos from Phone 480

We entered the hall while Ms. Greenfield (pictured, right) was already delivering her speech, but the following represent what we were able to hear of her statement. At the time of our arrival, she was remarking on President Obama’s trip to Kenya and to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which she said primarily served the important purpose of giving business people “the opportunity to see Africa at its best.”

He was the “first US President to address the African Union. … If you were in that room you felt the heartbeats of every person in that room as he walked onto that stage, and then the excitement as he delivered his historic speech.”

“I am very optimistic about Africa’s future and the opportunities that are being presented to us as we move forward. President Obama said while we were in Nairobi, ‘Africa is on the move.’ That’s my new motto. Africa is on the move. Now we must focus on what we must do, together, all of you, to keep Africa moving forward. … Africa’s population in the coming decades will double to 2 billion people, and many of them will be under the age of 18. This beings great opportunities but it also provides significant challenges that we will all have to face.”

She praised YALI (the Young African Leaders Initiative) for building leadership skills in young Africans. “If they are not encouraged to lead for good, they will lead for bad.” On charges that “we were brainwashing them to be supporters of the US”, she responded “Who was questioning what Boko Haram was doing to the young people across the Continent of Africa? Who was talking to ISIL to find out what they are doing to support young people across Africa to lead for bad? So we have to give young people the tools they need, the skills they require, the resources they require to lead for good on the Continent of Africa.”

She listed several goals the US has for sustaining progress and generating new opportunities in Afrika: Promote strong democratic institutions with free and fair elections; Increase economic growth and trade; and Build peace and security. She expounded on several more specific subjects:

Democratic institutions: She mentioned the “success” of Nigeria’s presidential election because people voted and candidates respected the results. “President Jonathan surprised us … and he will go down in history and leave a legacy across Africa for that decision.” Still, she pointed out that there are still presidents who refuse to leave office, such as in Burundi, and coups against elected leaders as happened in Burkina Faso. President Obama has stated that civil society organizations (CSOs) play “a critical role” in maintaining democracy, and that governments need to allow CSOs to function in Africa.

Health Infrastructure: “Not just to deal with Ebola … Malaria [and] HIV” but to deal with all the health issues the people struggle with. Much is not known about what happened to people aside from Ebola as the fight against Ebola was moving forward. She promoted the idea of “an African CDC”. Two weeks ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Liberia Ebola-free “but we have to remain ever vigilant.”

Economic growth, trade and development: “We want to diversify and expand US-Africa trade”, so Africans can get more of their goods to market. “AGOA [Africa Growth and Opportunity Act] is at the heart of our strategy for increasing US-Africa trade and investment.” She also promoted the Power Africa Initiative.

Peace and Security: Ambassador Greenfield made note of Al Shabbab (Somalia), the Lords Resistance Army (Uganda) And Boko Haram (Nigeria) as well as “millions of South Sudanese suffering from crises of their own leaders’ creation.” She expressed guarded hope that South Sudan’s leaders will abide by a recent peace agreement.

She concluded, “There’s a role for all of us, for all of you, in working for peace and prosperity for the Continent, and for enabling those young Africans to propel Africa forward, so that their children will have peace and prosperity in the future. Thank you very much.”

SUSAN E. RICE
National Security Advisor
Afternoon Keynote

From January 2009 until assuming the role of National Security Advisor in July 2013, Ambassador Rice served as the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. Under Ambassador Rice’s leadership, the US Mission to the United Nations helped win the stiffest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, supported interventions in Libya and Cote D’Ivoire, helped build the referendum on the independence of South Sudan, worked to reform the UN Human Rights Council and helped rebuild a strong basis for international cooperation, among other accomplishments.

Prior to serving as US Permanent Representative to the UN, she served as Senior Advisor for National Security Affairs on the Obama for America Campaign. She later served on the Advisory Board for the Obama-Biden Transition and as co-chair of its policy working group on national security. From 2002-2009, she was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where she focused on US foreign policy, transnational security threats, weak states, global poverty and development.

From 1997 to 2001, she was the US Assistant Secretary of State fort African Affairs, when she formulated and implemented US policy for 48 countries in Sub Saharan Africa and oversaw the development of 43 US Embassies and more than 5,000 US Foreign Service national employees. From 1995-1997, she served as Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton and as Senior Director of African Affairs at the National Security Council of the White House. From 1993-1995, she served as the Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping on the National Security Council staff. Previously, she was a management consultant with McKinsey and Company and also served on numerous boards, including the National Democratic Institute and the US Fund for UNICEF. (from the brief bio in the Africa Braintrust Program)Photos from Phone 532

Congress Member Karen Bass (pictured, left, at the table) introduced Ms. Rice (pictured, left, at the podium) as “a woman of distinction.” Ms. Rice’s talk concentrated on the issues of economic growth, peace and security, building the health infrastructure and training future African leaders. Her speech is detailed below.

Ms. Rice thanked Congress Member Bass, Rep. Butterfield and the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). She paid special tribute to the late Congressman Donald Payne, “Mr. Africa, [who] reinvent America’s relationship to the Continent.” Through his leadership, she “saw first-hand the power of the CBC’s unwavering insistence that Africa receive the same consideration as any other region of the world.” She credited Ms. Bass and the CBC for helping to build “a bipartisan consensus that gets things done for Africa, from fighting apartheid to supporting PEPFAR, from confronting the genocide in Darfur and easing the suffering of the people of South Sudan to tackling the Ebola crisis in West Africa. So when President Obama made his fourth visit to Sub Saharan Africa this summer, and a first ever by a sitting American President to Kenya, to Ethiopia and to the African Union, he was grateful to be joined by 16 members of the CBC.

“And everywhere he went, he met inspiring Africans working for change in their communities, sometimes against incredible odds. They were entrepreneurs bringing solar panels to villages not connected to the electrical grid, so the families have light to read by. They are women participating in the civic life of their country and fighting for the right of girls to be educated. They’re religions leaders opposing radical ideologies and standing up for the peaceful teachings of Islam. In President Obama the people of Africa and everyone here today have a leader who understands, in his words and I quote, ‘Africa’s rise is not just important for Africa. It’s important for the entire world.’ As he made clear, none of our major challenges globally, curbing climate change, promoting inclusive economic growth, ending violent extremism, can be met without the voices and contributions of one billion Africans. That’s why, when President Obama hosted the first ever African Leaders’ Summit, here in Washington last summer, he focused on strengthening our partnerships across the Continent to achieve our shared goals for the future. No longer do we view Africa through the prism of poverty and crisis. We see Africa for what it is, a dynamic diverse region, brimming with economic potential and boundless possibility. Africans are driving their own development, building their own capacity to feed and care for their people, and doing more to prevent and resolve African conflicts. Accordingly, the United States has stepped up our commitments to Africa across the board.

“Yet, at the same time as we all know, serious challenges threaten to undermine Africa’s progress. In his remarks to the African Union, President Obama said that, quite, ‘The most urgent task facing Africa today, and for decades ahead, is to create opportunity for this next generation.’ Today I’d like to speak about the steps we’re taking in partnership with Africa, to help create that opportunity by spurring economic growth that is inclusive, by fostering development, advancing peace and stability, and investing in Africa’s future.

Economic Growth

“First, we’re fully committed to driving economic growth across Africa. As President Obama declared in Kenya, ‘Africa is on the move.’ Poverty rates are going down. The middle class is growing. From Ethiopia to Cote D’Ivoire to Mozambique, Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world. But we haven’t fully tapped this potential. Trade between Africa and the United States is far below where it should be. In 2013, total trade between the US and all 49 countries of Sub Saharan Africa was only a little larger than our trade with The Netherlands. So we’re taking steps to increase trade and investment with Africa, which supports jobs and growth in all of our countries. One of the most effective tools we have in this mission is AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. I confess this is a piece of legislation close to my heart. I was deeply involved in the original passage of AGOA and I want to thank Congress Member Bass and the CBC for backing the ten year renewal that Congress passed this summer. This strong evidence of America’s long term commitment to Africa will help spur sustained investment in the next ten years and well beyond. And American businesses are eager to invest in Africa. The first US-Africa Business Forum, held last year, was such a success, generating $33 billion in new commitments, that President Obama announced a second Forum to be held here next year. Through our Doing Business in Africa Campaign, we’re working across the government to make it easier for American companies to strengthen their commercial ties to Africa, and through Trade Africa, we’re working with African governments to improve the business environment and remove barriers to trade. With Power Africa, we’ve made a game changing commitment to double access to electricity across Sub Saharan Africa. Expanding access to power is one of the first ways we can support African businesses, which in turn unlocks more growth and more trade. Bit this isn’t like just flipping a switch. Power plants and electrical infrastructure take time to build and bring online. Like all bold ideas, successive administrations will have to carry this project forward. We’re well on our way with new Power Africa projects slated to generate more than 20,000 megawatts of electricity. We’re bringing down barriers to greater investment in Africa’s energy sector, and have already facilitated deals that will create an estimated four million new power connections. Entrepreneurship is the spark igniting Africa’s growth, and we’re directly supporting Africa’s dynamic entrepreneurs, nurturing their ideas, and connecting them to resources. At this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit, in Nairobi, President Obama announced more than $1 billion in new funding from the US government and the private sector to support entrepreneurs, much of it focused on Africa. Beyond that, we’re investing in women and young people, and entrepreneurs who have the hardest time accessing financing and business networks.

“Second, a commitment to maximizing commitment and delivery results is essential to this Administration’s approach to development. In Africa, too many people, as you well know, still live in extreme poverty, eking out meager livings with their bare hands and sheer determination. Empowering Africa’s most vulnerable is a cornerstone of our commitment to the region. President Obama’s consistent focus has been on helping our development partners become self-sufficient. Today, African countries are setting their own priorities. We build our programs around African plans.

“And even as we continue to provide generous humanitarian relief in Africa and around the world, we move far beyond simply responding to the latest crisis. For example, we’re helping more than 40 African countries build their resistance to climate change now, before vulnerable communities have to face its worst impacts. Through President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative, we’re making sure smallholder farmers can both deed their families and sell their harvests at market. Since 2010, we’ve invested more than $5.5 billion to improve food security in Africa and other regions. In the past year, Feed the Future has helped nearly 2.5 million African farmers raise their incomes by using new technologies and mans management practices. Our nutrition programs have helped nearly 9 million African children get the nourishment they need to grow and thrive. And we hope to see Feed the Future institutionalized so that it continues to transform lives after President Obama leaves office.”

Health Systems

“Of course, no one can succeed if they’re too sick to work. So with our partners, we’ve developed country-led plans to build mobile health systems, and to reduce several preventable diseases. We’re helping mothers and children become healthier, and making labor and delivery safer. And we’ve been slowly making progress against HIV and AIDS, bringing us within striking distance of an AIDS-free generation. Together with more than 45 countries, we wrote a mobile health security agenda to improve our ability to prevent and contain … epidemics like Ebola. Think back to this time last year, when Ebola was spiraling out of control, weak health systems buckling under the strain. But thanks to the heroism of all the responders on the ground, the leadership of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the American support to galvanize a massive international response, we have brought the disease under control. As of last week, there were only five cases, and we will not stop until we get to zero.

Peace and Security

“In our interconnected age, outbreaks of diseases, or violence, or instability are no longer local concerns. They threaten entire regions, and undermine global economic security. So the third area I want to discuss is how we’re advancing peace and stability across Africa. I was honored to be President Obama’s personal representative at the joyous independence celebrations in Juba, South Sudan just over four years ago. So for me, like so many of us, South Sudan’s return to violence has been heart-wrenching. That’s why President Obama convened an urgent summit with regional leaders in Ethiopia when he was there in July. And in no small part due to President Obama’s personal leadership, shortly after that meeting, regional leaders finally united behind a draft peace agreement. A few weeks later, South Sudan’s leaders signed the agreement. This is an essential first step. But the true test will bow be in how President Kiir, Riek Machar and their backers prove or disprove their commitment to peace. At long last, they must prioritize the needs of the South Sudanese people, almost half of whom are dependent on international aid for survival … and as they do, the United States stands ready to help the people of South Sudan achieve the lasting peace they deserve.

“In Darfur, the war crimes continue. We’re working to end the horrible conflict by strengthening our positioned parties and building a national dialog that could, if implemented, improve the way Sudan is governed.

“In Burundi, we’re working with our partners to dispense assistance, and supporting efforts by the East African Community, the African Union and the United Nations to broker an end to the crisis.

“The United States and the international community are uniting today in responding to the crisis in Burkina Faso. The junta should step aside and allow preparations for October elections to resume immediately. The United States stands squarely with the people of Burkina Faso, in rejecting this threat to their democratic progress for which they have worked so hard.  We are reviewing our assistance to Burkina Faso in light of evolving events.  [The junta in Burkina Faso recently vowed to pressure from the AU and announced it would relinquish power to allow the election process to continue — Ed.]

“Under President Obama the United States has significantly increased our efforts to bolster peacekeeping capacity in Africa. In the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, we’re committing more than $100 million a year, for the next several years, to help our partners with all their capabilities, including … medical expertise, to deploy rapid response forces to prevent conflicts and save lives. We are facing down the growing terrorist threat. In Somalia, we continue to provide training, equipment … to support the African Union’s mission to root our Al Shabbab and strengthen Somalia’s security institutions. In the fight against Boko Haram, we’re increasingly providing specialized advisers, training, equipment and intelligence support to Nigeria and its regional neighbors. We’re providing wildlife tracking, yes, to preserve Africa’s ecology, but also to shut down domestic flows of money to terrorist networks. And critically, we’re working with governments and community leaders to counter violent extremism before the radicalization to violence can occur.

“In Nigeria, Niger and Chad we’re increasing civilian security and building resilient communities targeted by Boko Haram. We’re supporting African civilians in Mali to support reconciliation and mitigate conflict, particularly in isolated communities. And we’re working with governments to responsibly address legitimate grievances that terrorists might exploit. As in Ethiopia, where American legal advisers are training police and lawyers to better uphold the rule of law.

Investing in Africa’s People

“Finally, I want to highlight our unprecedented investment in the future of Africa and its greatest asset, its people. Nothing captures our commitment better than President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI. YALI offers emerging leaders on government, business and civil society from across Africa, the chance to develop their skills, and connect with their peers, both in Africa and the United States. Since 2010, the YALI network had grown to more than 145,000 members, from every African nation. By the end of this year, YALI regional leadership centers will be open in Nairobi, Accra, Dakar, and Pretoria. We’ve established practical training tools, courses on public speaking, networking, how to launch a startup, that are accessible online. And next year, we’re expanding the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which brings young Africans to train at American universities. We’ll double the number of African fellows from 500 to 1,000, and begin sending young Americans to Africa, strengthening the connections between us.

“Even as we prepare the next generation to take up the mantle of leadership, we’re striving to ensure they inherit societies that are more free, more fair, and more just. Societies that provide opportunity for all of Africa’s people, So we champion democracy, good governance, peaceful and regular transfers of power, active civil societies, and a robust free press. Not because we have all the answers, but because healthy democracies are consistently more peaceful, and more stable. They are the strongest partners, and the best able to provide for their people. We highlight the damage corruption is inflicting on the Continent because Africa’s potential will never be fulfilled if the elites are skimming off the top or leaders cling to power while they rob the people for personal gain. And each time President Obama made that point on his latest trip, he was met with rousing applause.

“The United States speaks out on behalf of Africa’s daughters and their right to grow up without being forced into early marriages, without being mutilated, without being abused.

“We speak out for our African LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] brothers and sisters, and their right to equal treatment under the law.

“We speak out for Africa’s minorities, and the right to worship freely, and pursue their dreams. We make clear that every government has the responsibility to protect the human rights and the safety of all its people. And that when traditions say that some groups should be excluded, or targeted, or oppressed, then those traditions are wrong, and they have no place in the 21st Century. They do nothing but hold societies back.

“So our investment in Africa’s future is both immediate and enduring. We’re expanding our trade and investment, [laying] the groundwork for deeper cooperation for years to come. … [S]ustainable development solutions that reduce hunger and combat health challenges, while spurring the broad-based economic growth that can eradicate extreme poverty. We’re taking steps to bolster our shared security, today and tomorrow. We’re supporting Africa’s youth and challenging Africa’s leaders to govern with an eye to the future. ‘Africa’s rise is not just important for Africa. It’s important for the entire world.’ Those are President Obama’s words, and that’s something all of you have known for quite some time. Today, after four Presidential trips to the region, an historic summit with almost 50 African leaders here in Washington, signature economic and development initiatives, that are opening doors for more people across the Continent, many others now know it too.

“We have more work to do. More work to end old mindsets and address entrenched challenges, both in Africa and here at home. But this much is clear. Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States is redefining the way we engage with Africa. Not as a paternalistic nation, but as permanent, equal partners.

“And I know that partnership will continue to benefit from the support, the wisdom and the good will of everyone here, for many, many years to come. Thank you all.”

Overall Reflections on the Africa Braintrust Keynotes

Both Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Ambassador Rice echoed predictably similar sentiments in their remarks. Since they both are academicians with ties to prestigious institutions such as Bucknell and think tanks such as McKinsey and Brookings, they both have had accomplished careers in international circles, especially through their shared experiences in the Foreign Service, and they both have been career diplomats in service to Presidents Clinton and Obama, this should not be surprising. This should also give us pause to acknowledge their accomplishments but also to view their perspectives with at least a reasonably critical eye because of the fact that they come from places of academic connection to the powers that be. In other words, we take much of their commentary as reflective of a true concern for Africa and her people, but at the same time recognize that their perspective remains centered on US interests as opposed to what is necessarily best for Afrikan people, particularly those at the level of the “grassroots”.

Both Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Ambassador Rice extolled the virtues of YALI as an important tool for ensuring that, as Ms. Greenfield put it, “give young people the tools they need, the skills they require, the resources they require to lead for good on the Continent of Africa.” Her answer to suspicions that YALI would be used to “brainwash” Africa’s next generation of leaders was to ask, “Who was questioning what Boko Haram was doing to the young people across the Continent of Africa? Who was talking to ISIL to find out what they are doing to support young people across Africa to lead for bad?”, as though comparing US intentions to those of known terrorist organizations, as opposed to those of more people-centered revolutionary organizations, would be convincing. She had stated in her speech that African people will “lead for bad” if they are not encouraged (presumably by the US) to “lead for good”. This brings the question as to what is considered “good” in the eyes of a nation which has waged an unprovoked war in Iraq, a nation which has launched an attack on Libya under the cover of United Nations Resolutions (which, if one reads them, did not sanction the launching of NATO cruise missiles into Tripoli and Sirte), a nation which has with those two attacks on Iraq and Libya unleashed ISIL and Boko Haram on Asia and Africa. There are indeed those who are suspicious of the intentions behind YALI, and those suspicions will only be allayed through the example of a more altruistic attitude toward Africa from the US than has been demonstrated until now. YALI has the potential to develop truly representative, people-centered leaders in Afrika, but only if the commitment to true democracy is not trumped by self-serving US interests, as too often turns out to be the case. In short, the “jury is still out” on YALI; we will have to observe and analyze the results of this program as it proceeds and do what can be done from the civil society level to ensure that YALI itself is not used to “brainwash” the next generation of Afrikan leaders into “service to the West”, as many revolutionary Pan-Afrikanist activists and commentators already fear may be happening.

Both speakers strongly endorse AGOA and insist that it will lead to greater development for Africa, though the history of US trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP, or as columnist Thom Hartmann calls it, the Southern Hemisphere-Asia Free Trade Agreement or “SHAFTA”) makes one suspicious, and the fact that AGOA is not a trade agreement but is instead a unilateral trade policy of the US (in other words, “take it or leave it” to Afrika) makes one even more skeptical, especially in light of the concerns of environmentalists and labor activists about the facilitation of resource extraction and the corporate-friendly standards that could easily lead to the abuse of the rights of workers and are apparently built into AGOA. We’ve been researching and writing an article on AGOA (“Much Ado About AGOA”) which will, admittedly belatedly, appear on this site soon. And finally, there is the Feed the Future Initiative, which bears a disturbing resemblance to earlier programs in Latin America (which led to USAID being expelled from Bolivia) and India (which apparently has led to the corporatization of India’s cotton crop and tens of thousands of Indian farmer suicides). For our discussion of the history of similar efforts (that, like Feed the Future, also involved USAID and its partners in the biotech agribusiness industry, see our article Seeds of Suspicion).

We agree that the scourge of terrorism must be defeated in Afrika, but we also must recognize the role the United States itself played in facilitating the rise of organizations such as ISIL (the destabilization of Iraq and the resultant “liberation” of Iraq’s weapons which ultimately fell into the hands of ISIL) and Boko Haram (which obtained much of its weaponry as a result of the US-led NATO attack on Libya and the “liberation” of those weapons; see our story “Who Is Boko Haram?” on this web site). Amid the continuing effort to establish AFRICOM on Afrikan soil, and suspicions in some circles that anecdotes of terrorist organizational activity in North Africa may have been used as an excuse to establish more and more US military bases in Afrika and around the world under the “War On Terror”, we also must be watchful to ensure that US foreign policy does not involve a secret (or not-so-secret) plan to engage in a 21st Century “Scramble for Afrika” to counteract East Asian influence and to feed an increasingly hungry corporate power structure that still relies on the energy and land resources of others (especially Afrika) for its survival and continued growth.

We will also feature articles in the coming weeks from the panel discussions that were held during the Africa Braintrust, on Health and Healthcare Infrastructure in Africa, US-Africa Trade Relations, and Elections and Governance in Africa. At these panel discussions, participants occasionally voiced similar concerns, and members of the audience were provided the opportunity, though limited by time, to ask some pointed questions to the panelists, some of which were actually answered. Be sure to check this site for updates over the next few weeks from the Africa Braintrust.

 

 

 

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Seeds of Suspicion 1

Seeds of Suspicion: Feed the Future, Afrika and Genetically-Modified Foods

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

Feed the Future, the current plan to combat hunger in Afrika, is being led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  It is based on the concept that hunger is a yield problem to be solved by increasing Food Security (the establishment of a secure food supply, often by US or corporate interests) as opposed to an access problem that should be solved by improving Food Sovereignty (the people’s right to access and control of their own food).  In its effort to increase food yields, USAID has historically worked closely with biotech agribusiness corporations such as Monsanto to push genetically modified, corporate-patented foods on farmers and an often unwitting populace.  Is this the future we all want for Afrika?

Seeds of Suspicion 1THE RABBIT HOLE: Seeds of Suspicion

On September 26, 2014, the Africa Braintrust event was held at the John Wilson Convention Center in Washington, DC.  The annual event, organized by United States Congress member Karen Bass (D-California), brings together a variety of speakers and panels to discuss issues of interest to Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.  This year’s event centered around the August USA-Africa Summit, in which President Barack Obama met with 50 Afrikan heads of state to discuss USA-Afrika relations.

In earlier posts, we reported on the keynote address by former US Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the first of three panels that were held at the session, and the keynote address by Dr. Rajiv “Raj” Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Dr. Shah began his address by commenting about the continuing Ebola crisis, then discussed two signature USAID programs: Feed the Future and Power Africa.  Last year, we attended a Congressional Policy Breakfast about Power Africa and the Electrify Africa Act, and we wrote about that session for this Web Site, including many of the concerns raised by community activists and concerned Afrikans about access to power in rural areas, questions of who primarily benefited from Power Africa and the potential environmental and human rights consequences.

Here, we will spend some time on USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.  The stated aims are laudable: increasing the crop yields of rural farmers so the populace can eat instead of starving, so that children can play and go to school instead of wasting away through malnutrition, and so that countries can effectively feed their people instead of waging oppression and war over scarce resources.  But the picture is far more complicated than that.  The journey we will undertake here will delve into USAID’s checkered past in Latin America, examine the agency’s ties with major multinational biotech and agribusiness corporations, take a look at the concerns surrounding genetically modified (GM) food, scrutinize the issue of patents and food sovereignty (which is different from “food security”), and ask the question: Is this the Future we want for Afrika?

What Dr. Rajiv Shah of USAID Says About Feed the Future

First, here are the words of Dr. Rajiv Shah at the 2014 Africa Braintrust event as he touted USAID’s Feed the Future initiative:

“The first [of USAID’s current signature programs] is Feed the Future, and when Rajiv Shah USAID 1President Obama took office, he really made this the top developmental priority.  The slide you’re looking at is a picture of an Ethiopian farmer and daughter collecting the harvest.  In Ethiopia today, through Feed the Future, we’re working with DuPont and a host of local farming cooperatives to increase the farm yields for 35,000 maize farmers and their families.  Today, as a part of our Feed the Future partnership, the government has liberalized its seed sector, has refined the way it protects private capital investments, has offered licenses and engaged foreign investors, and has built upon the innovation labs that were set up across American colleges and universities.  Now, we measure the results of these efforts through legitimate and widespread household surveys, and we now know that as a result of this program in Ethiopia, public and private, Ethiopia has driven down the rate of hunger, of poverty, of stunting, which is an expression of malnutrition in children that robs them of their future, and has increased the rate of reduction of poverty and malnutrition three times in just the last two and a half years.  That’s an extraordinary achievement, and as a result 160,000 children today who would have been hungry are now laughing, learning, playing, going to school, and not because we’re handing out more American food, but because we’re helping their farmers, mostly women, improve the productivity from their own labor and their own ingenuity.  That kind of story is playing out in Ethiopia, but also in 14 other countries in Sub Saharan Africa.  It’s playing out across more than 200 companies that have committed more than $10 billion of private investments.  It’s playing out in the African Union that has reaffirmed this year is the year of agriculture for Africa, and has put into place a set of leadership commitments and policy reforms, and it plays out at a global level in last week’s announcement of global hunger levels that have come down by more than 40 million individuals, almost all of whom are in Sub Saharan Africa over the last three or four years.

“Today, as a part of our Feed the Future partnership, the government has liberalized its seed sector, has refined the way it protects private capital investments, has offered licenses and engaged foreign investors, and has built upon the innovation labs that were set up across American colleges and universities.”
– Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID

“These are extraordinary successes and gains, and I just want to note and thank the United States Congress and its leaders, including Representative [Karen] Bass, for introducing, on a bipartisan basis in both the House and the Senate, Feed the Future legislation that will authorize this program into law and ensure that we can stick with it, using this model of development to continue to drive down hunger and poverty and drive up agricultural investment and growth for decades to come.  So I would like to take this moment to ask for your support for Feed the Future, and that you support Representative Bass and that you support the bipartisan members of the House and Senate that are going to try to make this happen, we hope, in the Lame Duck Session this year, because I think it’s telling that our political leaders, at a time that, sometimes, is a little fractured and a little partisan, can come together to support this kind of an effort, executed to this level of excellence.   So thank you for your leadership, Representative Bass. …”

We thank Rep. Bass for her continued commitment to bring information to her constituents and to concerned Afrikans and Afrikan Diasporans.  Her Africa Braintrust event provides an opportunity for us to learn about the analysis and plans of a number of activists, scholars and government officials from the United States and Afrika.  That being stated, it is necessary for us to now compare the words of Dr. Shah to what others around the world have said, what the corporate partners of USAID have said and done, the warnings of food activists and farmers’ advocates, and what the implications will be for Afrika as the next frontier (target?) of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.  We will reference and quote a number of articles, statements and Web Sites during our journey, and we include the locations of these articles, analyses and statements so you can look them up for yourself, and perhaps dig even deeper down the rabbit hole.

What Latin American Activists Say: USAID’s influence in Latin America & The Caribbean

An article dated July 21, 2012, titled ALBA Expels USAID from Member Countries (http://alethonews.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/alba-expels-usaid-from-member-countries/), translated by Rachael Boothroyd for the Web Site http://venezuelaanalysis.com, reported on the Resolution from the Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) for the immediate withdrawal of USAID from member countries of the alliance.  The Resolution goes as follows:

On behalf of the Chancellors of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, on June 21st 2012.

Given the open interference of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the internal politics of the ALBA countries, under the excuse of “planning and administering economic and humanitarian assistance for the whole world outside of the United States,” financing non-governmental organizations and actions and projects designed to destabilise the legitimate governments which do not share their common interests.

Knowing the evidence brought to light by the declassified documents of the North American State Department in which the financing of organisations and political parties in opposition to ALBA countries is made evident, in a clear and shameless interference in the internal political processes of each nation.

Given that this intervention of a foreign country in the internal politics of a country is contrary to the internal legislation of each nation.

On the understanding that in the majority of ALBA countries, USAID, through its different organisations and disguises, acts in an illegal manner with impunity, without possessing a legal framework to support this action, and illegally financing the media, political leaders and non-governmental organisations, amongst others.

On the understanding that through these financing programmes they are supporting NGOs which promote all kind of fundamentalism in order to conspire and limit the legal authority of our states, and in many cases, widely loot our natural resources on territory which they claim to control at their own free will.

Conscious of the fact that our countries do not need any kind of external financing for the maintenance of our democracies, which are consolidated through the will of the Latin American and Caribbean people, in the same way that we do not need organisations in the charge of foreign powers which, in practice, usurp and weaken the presence of state organisms and prevent them from developing the role that corresponds to them in the economic and social arena of our populations.

We resolve to:

Request that the heads of state and the government of the states who are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives from their countries, due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, June 21st 2012.

Signed by: The government of the Pluri-national state of Bolivia, The government of the Republic of Cuba, The government of the Republic of Ecuador, The government of the Commonwealth of Dominica, The government of the Republic of Nicaragua, The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Why did ALBA make such a statement?  Surely, USAID doesn’t use its status as a global “humanitarian” agency (Isn’t “International Development” their last name?)USAID Logo 1 cannot be attempting to destabilize legitimate governments, can they?  Well, perhaps we need more information and testimony, such as the following article from the Web Site http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/ALBA-Strongly-Condemns-USAID-Plot-in-Cuba-20140808-0043.html, published August 8, 2014, titled The member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of Our America (ALBA) demanded the United States cease its subversive actions against Cuba.  Here is an excerpt:

The statement released this Thursday follows revelations about the recruitment and employment of young Latin American people since 2009 in a bid to convert contemporary Cubans into “agents of change” and promote political dissent on the island.

The U.S. based agency Associated Press revealed on Sunday that the U.S. agency for International Development (USAID) sent a group of young people from Costa Rica, Venezuela and Peru to Cuba under the guise of carrying out health and social projects, when in reality their main goal was to find and encourage anti-government activists.

In the text, ALBA expressed its “indignation”, describing the project as “immoral”.

“The ALBA condemns this new plan against Cuba, and demands and end to the subversive, illegal actions partly covered by the U.S. government, that violate the sovereignty and right of the Cuban people to self-determination.” added the communiqué.

“The countries of ALBA express their deep solidarity with the Cuban Republic and demand the United States respect the Cuban people’s will in continuing to improve its economic and social model, as well as the consolidation of its democracy, without any external interferences.”

An analysis of USAID’s objectives in Latin America was presented last month in an article on the Web Site http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/USAIDin-Latin-America-More-Than-Just-Aid-20141027-0055.html, USAID in Latin America: More Than Just Aid, published 27 October 2014, which said, in part:

After being expelled from numerous Latin American countries for dubious activity, the United States organization USAID has developed a reputation of an organization that while providing aid is also developing ways to undermine governments in a number of the continent’s countries.

According to their website, USAID’s mission is “furthering America’s interests, while improving lives in the developing world.” However in practice, they may well be furthering the United States interests, but not by improving lives in the developing world but by supporting the activities of groups that are opposed to democratically elected governments.

The most recent damning revelations are that the agency not only had attempted to create a twitter style social media network in Cuba to undermine the government, but on top of this an Obama administration program secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change in order to overthrow Castro’s government, which the United States has been trying to do for over 50 years now, with no success.

After it was revealed that USAID had been interfering in Cuba, the House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz said, “That is not what USAID should be doing … USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

The USAID operations in Latin America, which are overseen by what is known as the “Office of Transition Initiatives” (OTI), is a way for the U.S. to promote its interests through soft power. The U.S. calls these projects aiding in “transition”, whereas in reality it is nothing but meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. They work with many different NGOs and private companies, all under the guise of providing aid to developing nations.

USAID have engaged in activities to undermine democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Haiti and interfered in Brazil, Ecuador and most likely other nations. …

But not only is USAID’s image tattered in many parts of Latin America, it is also held in suspicion among several activists in Ayiti (Haiti). A report critical of USAID, which was released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), was detailed in the April 3, 2013 article New Report on U.S. Aid to Haiti Finds “Troubling” Lack of Transparency, Effectiveness (http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/new-report-on-us-aid-to-haiti-finds-troubling-lack-of-transparency-effectiveness).  Among the article’s revelations:

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) identifies significant problems with the delivery of U.S. aid in Haiti and finds an overall lack of transparency on how the billions of dollars obligated for U.S. assistance to Haiti are being used. The report, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti,” by CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston and Senior Associate for International Policy Alexander Main, examines the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to Haiti, how it is being administered, to what extent it is adhering to the “USAID Forward” reform agenda and what steps can be taken to ensure its more effective and transparent delivery.

“Billions in U.S. aid money are going to Haiti with little transparency to ensure that it is being used effectively,” paper co-author Jake Johnston said. “The situation for many people in post-quake Haiti is especially daunting, but for USAID it has been business as usual. No care has been taken to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being best utilized in Haiti.”

The report notes that the few audits and evaluations of USAID’s programs in Haiti since the earthquake present a “troubling picture of the manner in which U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts have been conducted so far.” Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors.

The paper shows that of the $1.15 billion in contracts and grants awarded since the 2010 earthquake, over half went to the top 10 recipients of global USAID awards, with the largest recipient being the for-profit company Chemonics International Inc., the single largest recipient of USAID funds worldwide aside from the World Bank and U.N. Meanwhile, just 0.7 percent of USAID awards have gone directly to Haitian businesses or organizations. …

The paper notes that despite USAID’s “Forward” reform agenda, the agency has blocked disclosure of additional information, including through Freedom of Information Act requests. …

“Without transparency, not only is it impossible for U.S. taxpayers to know what is being done with their money, but the Haitian government and the Haitian people have little opportunity to ensure that U.S.-funded projects actually assist Haiti in rebuilding and dealing with ongoing urgent humanitarian needs,” paper co-author Alex Main said.

So, there is evidence that USAID has acted, in the recent past, to undermine governments in Latin America, and that many of those governments have expelled USAID employees as a result.  There are also reports of a lack of transparency as to how funds are spent in countries, such as Ayiti (Haiti), where USAID has purportedly acted in a humanitarian capacity.  What has that to do with Feed the Future, and why should we assume that USAID will act in a similar fashion in Afrika?

What Food Activists Say: USAID’s Support of GMOs

Another troubling aspect of USAID’s practices over the years has been the agency’s consistent support of corporations that are engaged in the promotion of genetically modified (GM, or GMO for “genetically modified organism”) food, which goes back over a decade.  An October 2002 report by Greenpeace (http://greenpeace.co/uk) titled USAID and GM Food Aid, states, among other things:

In August 2002, Andrew Natsios of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) accused environmental groups of endangering the lives of millions of people in southern Africa by encouraging local governments to reject genetically modified (GM) food aid. Mr. Natsios said, “They can play these games with Europeans, who have full stomachs, but it is revolting and despicable to see them do so when the lives of Africans are at stake.” He added, “The Bush administration is not going to sit there and let these groups kill millions of poor people in southern Africa through their ideological campaign.”

In fact, the cynical manipulators of the famine in Africa are the US government, USAID and the GM industry. They are using the current situation to force the introduction of GM crops on countries desperate for food aid. There are numerous sources of non-GM aid available around the world, including the USA. Using these sources is the best way to both feed people and maintain their dignity, yet the US has made a clear policy decision to only supply GM contaminated aid from US suppliers. Aid agencies, the EU and UK Government all believe that best practice in emergency aid is to provide support to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in the form of cash, so that it can buy grain from the quickest and most cost effective sources. The only organisation that thinks otherwise is USAID. US policy thus impedes aid from generating maximum benefit.

It is clear that the current program of aid donation is the latest twist in a crude 10-year marketing campaign, led by USAID and designed to facilitate the introduction of US-developed GM crops into Africa. …

The simple fact is that USAID has chosen to supply GM maize as food aid, even though there are numerous grain companies in the USA from whom they could supply certified non-GM grain. …

During negotiations on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, part of a UN sponsored international agreement to control the movement of GM crops around the world, African countries made it clear that they did not want to become a test site or dumping ground for unwanted GM food. Yet this now seems to be the case. Indeed, in comments largely ignored at the time, the UK Chief Scientist Professor David King said that the Bush Administration’s efforts to force GM foods into Africa in the form of food aid is “a massive human experiment.  Professor King questioned the morality of the Administration’s desire to introduce GM into African countries, where people are facing starvation in the coming months. …

USAID has become increasingly frustrated over countries not taking GM contaminated aid – a US official was quoted as saying, “beggars can’t be choosers.” USAID clearly states, however, that among other things its role is to “integrate GM into local food systems” and “spread agricultural technology through regions of Africa.” US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Johannesburg, “In the face of famine, several governments in southern Africa have prevented critical US food assistance from being distributed to the hungry by rejecting GM corn which has been eaten safely around the world since 1995.” …

There is much more to this article, including an analysis of how the US’s specific means of delivering aid makes this result not only possible, but likely, as well as USAID’s connections with global agribusiness and biotech corporations and its efforts to further the opening of markets (“trade liberalization”) and the enforcement of patents, hardly an aid imperative.  The whole article can be found at the Web Site www.greenpeace.co.uk.

There is more still to this part of the story, which we will cover in more detail when our journey takes us to India.  But now, we wish to share with you the words of an executive of Monsanto, one of the largest biotech and agribusiness corporations in the world and a major corporate partner of USAID.  Monsanto is quite proud of its role in pushing GMO food on the world, primarily through its proprietary hybridized seeds.  These seeds have been marketed to farmers in the United States, India and other parts of the world.  While Monsanto claims these “magic seeds” have brought nothing but benefit to farmers around the world, many of the farmers themselves have quite a different tale to tell.  But first, the words of this Monsanto executive, which makes it clear that USAID has been an enthusiastic backer of GMO food and biotechnology for quite some time, and that they enjoy a rather cozy relationship with USAID.

What Monsanto Says: The Promise of GMO Foods

Monsanto Logo 1Following are excerpts from a statement of Mr. Gerald Steiner, Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, Monsanto Company, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, July 20, 2010, which was posted on Monsanto’s Web Site, http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/feed-the-future-initiative.aspx:

Thank you for inviting me to testify today on a vital new initiative, Feed the Future (www.feedthefuture.gov), which provides a framework for addressing one of our planet’s great needs, and great opportunities – the use of more productive and sustainable agricultural development to reduce hunger and poverty. 

Our company has made a three-pronged commitment to improve sustainable agriculture: We will do our part to help farmers double yields in our core crops of corn, cotton and soybeans between 2000 and 2030, while producing each bushel or bale with one-third fewer resources in aggregate (such as land, water and energy). And, just as importantly, in so doing we will help farmers to earn more and improve the lives of their families and rural communities. 

… Our cornerstone strategy is to actively engage and seek collaboration from a wide range of partners in the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society. 

… USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, when introducing Feed the Future to the Chicago Council Symposium on Agriculture and Security in May, asked for private-sector input. “Tell us what countries and donors can do to reduce constraints on business operations,” he said. “And please explore with us whether our tools to encourage investment . . . would help you make the commitment to invest greater resources in these specific value chains and countries.” …

… At Monsanto, we develop improved seed through advanced breeding as well as biotechnology. 

… Cutting-edge science and technology is built into the seed itself, which can be planted by an African farmer using a hoe, or an American farmer using sophisticated machinery. …

… These require systems approaches that begin with improved seeds, access to fertilizer and extension training, and end with functioning markets. What we need in order to effectively contribute – as noted in the Feed the Future Guide and implied in Dr. Shah’s question – are enabling business environments. 

That includes policies that provide predictability, such as reliable, science-based regulatory systems, as well as laws that protect the fruits of our research and development and the ability to fairly compete in the marketplace. … 

I am encouraged by Feed the Future’s endorsement of business- enabling policies, and by its support for public-private partnerships. … Monsanto is engaged in a variety of public- private partnerships in markets around the world. …

… we are equally focused on public- private partnerships that help farmers access and use agricultural technology to produce more abundant crops, while using fewer resources. One of these is Project Sunshine, a partnership with the government of the Indian state of Gujarat and local NGOs, which has helped thousands of subsistence farmers to increase corn yields and break the cycle of poverty. …

Farmers who planted hybrids doubled, or even tripled their corn yield – and, as a result, doubled or tripled their income. Those who accepted free seed and inputs in 2008 were able to purchase them at minimal cost the following year. By 2010, Project Sunshine generated additional farm income of $27 million, improving living standards and increasing spending power so that families can afford to educate their children. …

Again, these are Mr. Steiner’s own words.  Monsanto is clearly quite proud of its work in the development and promotion of GMO foods and its relationship with USAID.  Mr. Steiner’s mention of Project Sunshine is also important, for it is the subject of a case in the Gujarat State of India that we will examine in a few minutes.

What Food Activists Say: Monsanto’s Plans for Control of India’s Food and Farmer Suicides

Mr. Steiner’s statement above extols the benefits of GMO seeds for the farmers of India, but as we have already stated, numerous voices are saying something entirely different.  We will quote parts of some of the articles below and will simply refer to others, with their Web addresses included so you can read the articles in their entirety.

A Daily Mail article by Andrew Malone (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1082559/The-GM-genocide-Thousands-Indian-farmers-committing-suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html) helped tell the world about The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops with this opening statement:

When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it’s even WORSE than he feared.

Sourcewatch (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Monsanto_in_India) released a report, Monsanto in India, which goes into more detail about the crisis of farmer suicides.  Here is part of that article:

Farmers in India are finding that the “biotechnology revolution” is having a devastating effect on their crop lands and personal debt levels. “In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved” says Vandana Shiva, leader of the movement to oust Monsanto from India in her 2004 article The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation. “As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness. As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. …”

UPDATE: “Since 1997, 182,936 Indian farmers have taken their lives and the numbers continue to rise. According to a recent study by the National Crime Records Bureau, 46 Indian farmers kill themselves every day – that is roughly one suicide every 30 minutes – an alarming statistic in a country where agriculture is the economic mainstay“.

Yet even this number may be underestimated. According to P. Sainath, rural affairs editor of The Hindu, “the states where these [figures] are gathered leave out thousands from the definition of ‘farmer’ and, thus, massage the numbers downward. For instance, women farmers are not normally accepted as farmers (by custom, land is almost never in their names). They do the bulk of work in agriculture – but are just ‘farmers’ wives’.” This classification enables governments to exclude countless women farmer suicides. They will be recorded as suicide deaths – but not as ‘farmers’ suicides’. Likewise, many other groups, too, have been excluded from that list.”

This has been called a genocide. Says the Deccan Herald, “Bt cotton requiring more water than hybrid cotton, was knowingly promoted so as to allow the seed industry to make profits. What happens to the farmers as a result was nobody’s concern. And never was. … Strange, the country has already jumped into the second phase of green revolution without first drawing a balance sheet of the first phase of the technology era. Such an approach will only worsen the crisis, and force more farmers to commit suicide or abandon their farms. As a result, India is sure to witness the worst environmental displacement the world has known and this will be in the field of agriculture.”

Others have also written extensively on Monsanto’s GMO seeds and their implication in the wave of farmer suicides in India.  An article on Global Research (http://www.globalresearch.ca/killer-seeds-the-devastating-impacts-of-monsanto-s-genetically-modified-seeds-in-india/28629) titled KILLER SEEDS: The Devastating Impacts of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Seeds in India by Iqbal Ahmed, January 12, 2012, states:

Monsanto’s operation in India illustrates monopolization and manipulation of the market economy, tradition, technology, and misgovernance. The world’s largest producer of genetically engineered seeds has been selling genetically modified (GM) in India for the last decade to benefit the Indian farmers – or so the company claims.

Prominent physicist, food and farmers’ activist and 1993 Right Livelihood Award winner Dr. Vandana Shiva (founder of Navdanya http://www.navdanya.org/) has Vandana Shiva 1authored more than 20 books and 500 papers in leading scientific and technical journals.  One of them, available on http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-seeds-of-suicide-how-monsanto-destroys-farming/5329947, is The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming (Global Research, March 13, 2014 and Asian Age and Global Research, April 5, 2013), which goes into detail to allege that

Monsanto’s talk of ‘technology’ tries to hide its real objectives of control over seed where genetic engineering is a means to control seed.

Tony Cartalucci, a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”, wrote an article for Global Research on March 14, 2014 (http://www.globalresearch.ca/gmo-agribusiness-in-india-grassroots-action-against-monsanto-cargill-sygenta/5373420) titled GMO Agribusiness in India: Grassroots Action against Monsanto, Cargill, Sygenta, Grassroots Activism Builds Wall Against Western Imperialism.

Also from Global Research, Colin Todhunter wrote an article on June 20, 2014 titled Criminalising Dissent in India against GMOs and Monsanto (http://www.globalresearch.ca/criminalising-dissent-in-india-against-gmos-and-monsanto/5387779).

There have been some victories, however small, for farmers and food activists in Indian courts and government agencies.  The Project Sunshine seeds that Monsanto executive Steiner was touting in his statement above, for example, were withdrawn from the project in 2012, as the following article from DNA India, Sun no longer shines on GM maize seeds (http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-sun-no-longer-shines-on-gm-maize-seeds-1681371, April 27, 2012) explains:

Gujarat government on Thursday withdrew propriety seeds of multinational company (MNC) Monsanto from ongoing Project Sunshine of the government. Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and anti-GM lobby hailed the move.

“We cannot let our food security be compromised by giving unusual leverages to MNCs,” said Prabhakar Kelkar, national president – Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). Talking at a press meet in the city on Thursday, he said that the move is the first step towards ensuring food security in the country.

Popularly known after its brand name ‘Prabal’, Monsanto seeds are double-crossed hybrid of maize that was being distributed to tribal farmers of Gujarat under Project Sunshine. …

Speaking on the issue, agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani said that government was purchasing Monsanto seeds to be given to ‘Project Sunshine’ farmers, but it has now stopped doing so. …

Earlier, use of Prabal seeds by government in Project Sunshine invited criticism from BKS, scientists and NGOs. … It is also alleged that authorities selected the seeds despite adverse opinion of agriculture scientists.

Another article apparently sought to clarify the issue, however, by stating that the Gujarat government did not “ban” the seeds; it only ceased distributing them.  The article Gujarat says ‘no’ to ban on distribution of Monsanto hybrid maize seed (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/gujarat-says-no-to-ban-on-distribution-of-monsanto-hybrid-maize-seed/article3386089.ece) is excerpted below:

Despite opposition from various quarters, including the agricultural experts and the farmers’ organisations, the Gujarat government has refused to impose a total ban on distribution of the Monsanto hybrid maize seed named “Prabal” to the farmers in the State, particularly the tribal agriculturists. …

“The State government does not distribute seeds, it only certifies for distribution, and therefore there is no question of stopping the distribution,” the official said. He said the State government had not taken any decision to “ban” the distribution of Monsanto seeds, but it had only decided to allow distribution of other varieties of seeds also along with Prabal if farmers chose it.

The State government had been distributing Prabal, the hybrid maize seeds developed by the American multi-national company Monsanto, to the tribal farmers since 2008. The agricultural scientists and experts, however, maintain that Prabal, which required more water and fertilizers than other varieties and needed deep soil, was not suitable for the usually dry and rain-fed areas like Gujarat, and particularly for the poor tribal farmers.

Then, in July 2013, an appeals court and India’s Intellectual Property Appellate Board rejected two patent applications from Monsanto for varieties of their GMO seed, as reported in the July 15, 2013 Nation of Change article Monsanto’s Patent Appeal Rejected by Indian Government, Saving Farmers, Food and Lives by Christina Sarich (http://www.nationofchange.org/monsanto-s-patent-appeal-rejected-indian-government-saving-farmers-food-and-lives-1373891665):

Part of the reason Monsanto was not able to pass their patents is because the 1970 Patent Act excluded patents in agriculture and medicine. The act had to be amended when India signed the World Trade Agreement (including sections covering Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights). Strong sections of the Act, like ‘what are not inventions’ in clause 3 and the especially 3d, ‘excludes as inventions the mere discovery of any new property or new use for a known substance,’ were key in Monsanto’s refusal. It was this same clause that kept the Novartis pharmaceutical company from patenting a known cancer-curing drug. They tried to challenge this in the Supreme Court of India, but lost. Many are saying that what the Novartis case is to our global Right to Health, the new refusal of Monsanto’s patents are the same Right to Seed and Right to Livelihood for farmers.

There are supposedly 27,000 farmers who have committed acts similar to a farmer in Bhiwandi taluka, India, who consumed pesticide after his crops failed miserably due to draught and increased debts to companies like Monsanto. Farmers have been petitioning the Indian government to help lift them out of poverty. While not every farmer blames Monsanto directly, the majority of these farmer suicides happen in the cotton belt, where Monsanto controls 95% of the cotton seed supply with Bt cotton. The costs of the seeds jumped more than 8,000% with the introduction of Bt cotton. …

Monsanto’s attempts to patent further seeds and bankrupt entire generations of farmers and their families that have successfully farmed for centuries have been halted – at least in India – for now.

What Monsanto Says II: No Connection Between GMO and Indian Farmer Suicides

Monsanto, of course, denies any connection between their GMO seeds and the farmer suicides in India.  On the Monsanto Web Site (http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/india-farmer-suicides.aspx), a number of statements designed to give the corporation’s side of this and other controversies can be found.  In the piece titled Is Bt or GMO Cotton the Reason for Indian Farmer Suicides, Monsanto makes the following contentions (among others):

Farming in rural India brings with it a set of systemic and social issues that can lead to hopelessness among farmers and an unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides. Significant research has documented the problem is complex and disproved the claim that GMO crops are the leading cause. …

The international community has conducted several studies to identify the reasons for the unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides in India over the last three decades. For example:

A 2008 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found indebtedness among Indian farmers can be linked to numerous causes, including a lack of reliable credit, changes in government policies, cropping patterns, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, and even shifts in the crops planted on the farm.

The Council for Social Development’s (CSD) June 2012 study, Socio-Economic Impact assessment of Bt Cotton in India, identified the key reasons leading to farmer suicides as lack of irrigation facilities, unavailability of timely credit and fluctuating cotton prices over the years. …

Despite claims by those who oppose GMO crops, research also demonstrates there is no link between Indian farmer suicides and the planting of GMO cotton.

Farmer suicides in India have been a problem for nearly three decades – starting well before the first GM crop (biotech or Bt cotton) was introduced in 2002. …

One contention that is not answered is that the problems with irrigation and resistance to pests might have been triggered by the need for larger volumes of water for Monsanto’s GMO crops in areas where irrigation was not available as well as increasing resistance of pests when they adapted to the GMO varieties and the new pesticides that were required to ensure their cultivation.  Also not mentioned was the “shifts in the crops planted” from cycling through different crops, as farmers have done for centuries before the advent of industrial farming, to “monocropping” to conform with the demands of factory (industrial) farming, as is promoted and practiced in many corporate agricultural environments.

“Terminator” Seeds and “Terminator” Courts: Threatening the Right to Save Seeds?

There has also been discussion about the several-thousand-year-old practice of seed saving, and the degree to which this age-old agricultural tradition is being threatened by the patenting of seeds by corporations like Monsanto.  Allegations of the development of a “Terminator” seed that produces sterile or non-viable offspring (to require farmers to buy seed every year instead of recycling the seeds from a previous planting) have been categorically denied by Monsanto (despite their acquisition in 2006 of a company that was conducting experiments in this very same technology), but Monsanto jealously guards its seed by patenting it, and then threatening farmers who try to save their seed (instead of buying it again from Monsanto) with lawsuits.  An article on the Web Site http://thirdworldtraveler.com, Terminator Seeds Threaten an End to Farming by Hope Shand and Pat Mooney (rafiusa@rafi.org, www.rafi.ca), Earth Island Journal, Fall, 1998, noted that

In March 1998, Delta & Pine Land Co. and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they had received a US patent on a new genetic technology designed to prevent unauthorized seed-saving by farmers.

The patented technology enables a seed company to genetically alter seed so that the plants that grow from it are sterile; farmers cannot use their seeds. The patent is broad applying to plants and seeds of all species including both transgenic (genetically engineered) and conventionally-bred seeds. The developers of the new technology say that their technique to prevent seed-saving is still in the product development stage, and is now being tested on cotton and tobacco. They hope to have a product on the market sometime after the year 2000.

Monsanto was implicated in this as well, based on its attempt to buy Delta & Pine Land in 1998 (which failed) and its ultimate success in acquiring that company around 2006.  Monsanto, however, has denied that it has any intentions to develop and market “Terminator” seed technology.  Again, from the Monsanto Web Site (http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/terminator-seeds.aspx), Myth: Monsanto Sells Terminator Seeds:

Fact: Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “Terminator” – seeds. Sharing the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment, with no plans or research that would violate this commitment.

Perhaps this is true, and perhaps Monsanto has stood by the commitment it says it made to “smallholder farmers” in 1999 to not pursue “Terminator” technology in its seeds.  Monsanto does, however, publicly defend its practice of prosecuting farmers who attempt to save their seeds, again from their Web Site, http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx, Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?

When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy from us. More than 275,000 farmers a year buy seed under these agreements in the United States. Other seed companies sell their seed under similar provisions. They understand the basic simplicity of the agreement, which is that a business must be paid for its product. The vast majority of farmers understand and appreciate our research and are willing to pay for our inventions and the value they provide. They don’t think it’s fair that some farmers don’t pay.

A very small percentage of farmers do not honor this agreement. Monsanto does become aware, through our own actions or through third-parties, of individuals who are suspected of violating our patents and agreements. …

Whether the farmer settles right away, or the case settles during or through trial, the proceeds are donated to youth leadership initiatives including scholarship programs.

Also, from the Monsanto Web Site, http://www.monsanto.com/food-inc/pages/seed-saving-and-legal-activities.aspx, Seed Saving and Legal Activities:

In agriculture plants and seeds with enhanced traits or genetics may be patent protected. This is true in the U.S. for plant varieties as well as biotech innovations.  Monsanto is one of many seed companies that patent their innovations.  Growers who purchase our patented seeds sign a Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement — an agreement that specifically addresses the obligations of both the grower and Monsanto and governs the use of the harvested crop.  The agreement specifically states that the grower will not save or sell the seeds from their harvest for further planting, breeding or cultivation.

The United States Supreme Court seems to agree with Monsanto in this regard.  On the Web Site of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, GEN News Highlights, May 13, 2013 (http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/breaking-news-unanimous-supreme-court-upholds-monsanto-seed-rights/81248358/) appears the story Unanimous Supreme Court Upholds Monsanto Seed Rights.  It reports on a case between Monsanto and an Indiana farmer over the saving of soybean seed.

The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously sided with Monsanto’s right to enforce its patents for genetically modified soybean seed beyond their initial sale, over objections from a 75-year-old Indiana farmer who used multiple generations of the seed.

So, we have established USAID’s links with Monsanto and other biotech agribusiness corporations.  We have seen how this alliance has been used to promote the use of GMO seeds in India.  We have seen how farmers in India have in many instances suffered because of the imposition of GMO seeds.  We have also read the words of Monsanto’s executives as they explained their denial of any connection between their GMO seed and farmer suicides, as well as their stated willingness to take legal action against farmers, even poor farmers, who rely upon time-honored practices such as saving seeds.  We have also taken a look at USAID’s record in Latin America and Ayiti, one which has inspired distrust in many corners of South America and the Caribbean.  And we have read the words of both Dr. Shah of USAID and of Mr. Steiner of Monsanto regarding the plans for Feed the Future, especially in Afrika.  So, what are the implications of all this?  Should Pan-Afrikanists, Afrikan Internationalists, Black Nationalists, progressives of all races and nationalities and people who just plain like to engage in such revolutionary acts as the eating of food be concerned, and why?

Implications for Afrika

Land Grab NC Black Farmer 1Paula Crossfield wrote a piece on http://civileats.com/2009/08/06/will-obama-let-the-usaid-genetically-modified-trojan-horse-ride-again/ (August 6, 2009) titled Food Security in Africa: Will Obama let USAID’s Genetically Modified Trojan Horse Ride Again?, which began with an August 5, 2009 visit to Kenya by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Representatives Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) and Nita M. Lowey (D-NY):

While the group was there on a broad platform to discuss economic development in Africa, including food security issues, the delegation took the opportunity yesterday afternoon to visit the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) lab, which is best known for unsuccessfully trying to produce a genetically modified, virus-resistant sweet potato under a US-led program. The trip to KARI highlights the poor vision the United States currently holds on furthering food security in Africa.

Historically, the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the US and other countries has primarily profited patent-holding companies, while creating farmer dependence on the chemical fertilizers and pesticides produced by a few US corporations, used to the detriment of human health, soil quality and the environment. The failed sweet potato project at the KARI lab was a product of a public-private partnership between Monsanto, KARI and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal organization responsible for most US non-military foreign aid. USAID is not shy about their desire to promote biotechnology, and have been working towards furthering a GMO agenda abroad since 1991, when it launched the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP). According to this in-depth research article by the organization GRAIN, the ABSP sought to “identify suitable crops in various countries and use them as Trojan Horses to provide a solid platform for the introduction of other GM crops.”

In Kenya, that crop was the sweet potato — the focus of the USAID-funded Kenya Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program, which sought for fourteen years at KARI, at a cost of $6 million, to create and bring it to market before the partnering groups abandoned the project. …

The point … is to show how a tangled consortium (these are just some of the groups), funded by taxpayer dollars via USAID, seeks to further the aims of biotech abroad, especially in Africa, where Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia were singled out and have been the testing grounds for this strategy.

The obvious beneficiaries of such international development are the handful of corporations which own the patents and the technology, and which produce the herbicides and pesticides required by the use of such seeds. … Africans … have a right to be worried — they can look to India to see what a future relying solely on biotech seeds could look like, where a depleted water table, poisoned waterways and farmer suicides have been the result of the first Green Revolution. …

After painting the picture of a corporate-influenced, GMO-friendly food aid regime being promoted by USAID, Ms. Crossfield goes on to suggest a better alternative based on a major report that was researched, compiled and released in 2009 by a team made up of hundreds of scientists and policymakers and which strongly recommended a locally-based, more sustainable means of fighting world hunger and improving food security (physical and economic access to food, whether self-determined or imposed upon a community) while maintaining a nation’s food sovereignty (the right of a community to control their own access to food and the standards their food must meet – more on that later):

But instead of tired solutions that are not working, we need a paradigm shift, says Dr. Hans Herren, who has worked in Nairobi for 27 years and was co-chair of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report. The IAASTD report [pdf] was sponsored by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and represented four years of work by 400 scientists. …

Biotechnology is a reductionist pipe dream which is overly dependent on waning resources. By contrast, the IAASTD looked at agro-ecological solutions that focused on agricultural resilience. Agriculture according to the IAASTD requires multifaceted, local solutions. While biotechnology has been promising drought tolerance and higher yields for years without delivering, there are real answers available now — like drought tolerant varieties, suited to certain areas, which are naturally bred; science that focuses on building the quality of the soil and the capacity for that soil to hold more water; or push and pull solutions that deal with pests naturally by attracting beneficial insects or planting compatible species that act as decoys for those pests.

… In light of what we now know about USAID, and the fact that there are biotech friendly advisers like Technology and Science Advisor to [then-Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton Nina Fedoroff and Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rajiv Shah in the administration, it is not hard to assume how those monies might be used. But President Obama should significantly change our policy if he wants to truly help the continent he says he cares so much about.

Obama administration: Study the IAASTD. If there is any hope for a better food system in Africa and the U.S., we must first accept that what is being practiced now is not sustainable, and begin to start the process of making it so. – See more at: http://civileats.com/2009/08/06/will-obama-let-the-usaid-genetically-modified-trojan-horse-ride-again/#sthash.ZWCaX21q.dpuf

Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zurich, Institute of Integrative Biology, Zurich, Switzerland, wrote The IAASTD report and some of its fallout – a personal note (http://www.inesglobal.com/_News/iaastd.html), to describe her experience as part of the group that had put together the IAASTD report:

The paradigm of industrial agriculture was maximizing profits from land by focusing on one factor only: productivity – the increase of yields literally at any costs. With the help of chemicals and cheap oil, cheap food was brought to many in the industrialized world and has brought unimaginable profits to the chemical and oil companies. This came at the expense of the health of humans and the environment, the costs of which were never factored into the economic equation in any meaningful way. The price was paid by all, including those who never profited from cheap food in the first place which for most humans constitutes fundamental injustice in itself. With today’s world population split deeply into a very affluent part in the industrialized world where many people eat themselves to death and an impoverished part where many people starve to death and live under the most appalling conditions ever, a shift in the obviously dysfunctional agricultural and food production paradigm has become paramount for global peace and justice. Exactly what went wrong and how we can improve on it was to be learned from the biggest ever review of global agricultural food production and the underlying causes for continued and growing hunger and starvation: the International Assessment of Knowledge, Science and Technology, or IAASTD for short.

The IAASTD was a multi-stakeholder process consisting of governmental and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, producers, consumers, the science community and multiple international agencies involved in the agricultural and rural development sectors. The expected outputs were critical, in-depth global and sub-global assessments of local and institutional knowledge and experiences. The participants had to create plausible scenarios for the future based on the past events and existing trends in population growth, climate change to mention just a few. ‘What if’ questions had to be developed and answered to the best of the current existing knowledge that would allow the implications of different technological options to be explored and understood. The aim was to inform processes of future planning and thinking as to what may happen as the world continues to develop over the next 30-50 years. The process lasted 3 years and involved over 400 experts and over 100 countries. The intergovernmental process ensured ownership by governments, while the Integrated Bureau allowed the full range of stakeholders to meet as a single body for constructive exchanges and consensus building. More information on the details of the process can be found on the IAASTD website (http://inesglobal.com/_News/iaastd.html).  Now, from the above said, it was clear right from the start that this process would be hard, very hard – tough truths would have to be faced and it was to be expected that those who profited and continue to profit from the existing situation would have to swallow some bitter pills. Well, as it turned out too bitter for some.

Thus, those with vested interests were able to exert influence over even the IAASTD report, though not enough to significantly blunt the report’s conclusions.

A few paragraphs above, we mentioned two terms that are often confused with each other: food security and food sovereignty.  “Food security” is often used by officials like Dr. Shah of USAID when describing a “foreign-aid” process in which the US or its corporate partners deliver food aid to a starving populace, akin to “giving a man a fish” on a massive scale.  Seeds that are “owned” by major agribusinesses are given, or sold, to poor farmers, who then plant the seeds, sometimes without question, based on the promises of greater crop yields and a resultant easier life.  But these farmers do not decide what seeds to plant; the corporations make that decision, often in their laboratories, a decision that becomes clear when the farmers try to “save” their seeds and find themselves prosecuted for it in local or international courts.  What these officials will not talk about is “food soverignty”, in which the people in the community take ownership in decifing what seed will be planted, how it will be done, and whether they will save their seed or not.  Farmers’ rights afvocates and food activists will usually speak of “food sovereignty”, which is much more self-determinative, akin to a community “learning to fish”.

Here is how a couple of Web sites define the terms and explain the difference between food security and food sovereignty.  The first is from http://globalfoodpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/food-security-vs-food-sovereignty/.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Food sovereignty is a broader concept. According to the 2007 Declaration of Nyéléni, food sovereignty encompasses “The right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies. Food sovereignty means the primacy of people’s and community’s rights to food and food production, over trade concerns.” Food sovereignty is thus embedded in larger questions of social justice and the rights of farmers and indigenous communities to control their own futures and make their own decisions.

From http://www.coffeekids.org/food-sovereignty-vs-food-security-is-there-a-difference/:

Food security and food sovereignty, although often used interchangeably, are considerably different concepts. Food security, a much more widely understood notion, refers to communities with access to food. NGOs that work with food security projects often work with a community to meet its food needs, denoting that it currently lacks the quantity and quality of food necessary to sustain community members. Food security does not necessarily stipulate what types of food are provided or whether or not that food is local or brought in from other regions, and it does not always require the direct involvement of the community to attain and administer that food (e.g., disaster-relief situations in which food arrives from outside sources). Food sovereignty, on the other hand, is slightly more specific and elicits certain guidelines that food security does not explicitly mention. Food sovereignty puts ownership of food systems into the hands of the communities themselves. It involves a sustainable, long-term process in which a community can establish its own food systems and produce its own local products without being subject to fluctuating international markets or dependent on external sources for the acquisition of seeds. Food sovereignty takes into account the cultural and social, political, geographical and environmental context of the community in order to develop an appropriate plan of action to address the community’s particular problems and needs.

So, what is at stake here is Afrika’s right to food sovereignty; whether it will be sacrificed so that corporations and superpowers can make the claim of having “saved the world” in the name of food security while fattening the pockets of the corporate CEO’s and shareholders.  What’s at stake is the ability of the farmers of Afrika to make decisions as to whether their food will be organic, conventional or GMO; whether they will control their own farming practices or whether they will be controlled by either foreign organizations like USAID or multinational corporations like Monsanto; whether traditional farming and agricultural practices that have sustained communities for centuries or millennia will be lost forever as corporations and their governmental allies work to bring into play yet another massive land grab based on the ruination of farmers through the economic pressures brought on by introduction of GMO food, that simple looking little “magic seed” which is really a Seed of Suspicion that might just raise the curtain on another disappearing act for the rights of the world’s peoples to feed themselves on their terms.  This battle has already played out in India, to disastrous effect for many poor farmers there.  Latin America and the Caribbean have perhaps avoided that Land Grab Ethiopia 4crisis but have suffered in other ways as their governments have been undermined and their leaders toppled.  Afrika suffered under a Scramble once before, at the time of the enslavement of millions of her Sons and Daughters in the Americas, Europe and Arabia.  Open your eyes and see the latest Scramble, this one for Afrika’s land and resources, one that has, in fact, already been going on for centuries through the extractive industries (gold, diamonds, coltan and other minerals) and more recently through the acquisition of farmers’ lands for the use by foreign and corporate interests for food export or for the growing of biofuels.  The latest theater is the Scramble for Control of Afrika’s Food, one that appears to be hiding behind initiatives like Feed the Future.

There is much more to look at here.  We won’t be able to do it in this article, which is already much longer than a “usual” blog piece.  We hope we have been able to keep your attention.  We hope we have been able to share some valuable information.  As stated above, the links to the articles should give you the opportunity to dig even deeper if you so choose.  One final link we’d like to share is to an article by Colkin Todhunter, GMO Agribusiness and the Destructive Nature of Global Capitalism (http://www.globalresearch.ca/gmo-agribusiness-and-the-destructive-nature-of-global-capitalism/5323232), which carries the discussion into a scathing critique of the entire capitalist system.  Perhaps that is a rabbit hole to be explored at a later time.
 

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Spokes of the Wheel General Graphic

Why Are We Still Disorganized?

Spokes of the Wheel General GraphicThis piece originally appeared on the KUUMBAReport Online Web Site (http://kuumbareport.com) and was initially written as an email to two Elders who have often bemoaned the lack of unity that we as African people have demonstrated over these many generations since the Ma’afa (a Twi word meaning “great disaster”, used by Pan-Afrikan historians and activists to describe the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Arab Slave Trade, the Scramble for Africa and the suffering African people have endured as a result).  I meant it as a helpful response to their question (which was probably rhetorical anyway) about why our people continue to act in such a self-destructive manner, refusing to hear the words of our knowledgeable Elders and instead preferring the siren song of the corporate interests who wish to keep us subjugated as compliant consumers and labor lackeys to keep the wheels of their industry moving.  When my email was returned to me with the message “the recipient is only accepting mail from specific email addresses”, it became clear to me that, while the message was meant to be distributed broadly so that all could hear the wisdom of their words, they did not themselves wish to hear the words of the rest of us.  In other words, this was to be a one-way discussion.  And, apparently (and unfortunately), the only answer they wished to see or hear was the rest of us unifying under their leadership.

I’ve encountered a number of wise and well-meaning activists and organizers, such as these respected Elders, who have taken this view, that they are the ones with the answers and all others should simply follow their banner.  The organization I belong to, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC), is a coalition-based organization that realizes that such an approach will often fail to attract allies who already have ideas and organizations of their own.  SRDC has attempted to form cooperative partnerships with other organizations whose response was simply “join under us and then we will work together.”  These partnerships failed to materialize because we could not subordinate our mission to someone else’s, but we were willing to work side-by-side with other organizations in areas of shared interest, an offer which has often been refused.  Our various organizations’ utter failure to work together in such a unified and cooperative manner (despite our avowed reverence for the principles of Kwanzaa, specifically Unity–Umoja–and Collective Work and Responsibility–Ujima) actually underlines the primary reason why the words of our enemies carry so much more weight than do our own with our own people. 

I’m not saying that the Elder’s complaint was without merit; quite the contrary.  He is absolutely right: our grassroots communities easily and readily swallow the brainwashing and propaganda that is fed to them by the powers that be.  Where I differ with the Elder is in his seeming surprise and bewilderment as to the reason why this is happening.  It is not because of some magic spell that has been cast over our people.  It is not because of some myth of intellectual or moral inferiority that right-wingers try to sell us.  It is not even so much because of Western “tricknology”, though it is a tool that is used to deliver the poisonous messages our enemies feed us.  It is because, as much as anything else, of our own inability, or refusal, as self-styled “leaders”, to actively model the unity and cooperation we want the masses to practice to lift our communities up. 

The messages with which our communities are bombarded–Look out for Number One, Individual Freedom, Personal Responsibility, I Gotta Get Mine–have profoundly influenced us, and not for the better.  While it took military coups d’état and the imposition of military dictatorships to turn communities in Latin American countries and even villages against each other, the unraveling of the fabric of our Village was accomplished more through a coup d’esprit–the conquest of our spirit through a combination of drugs, deprivation, fear and propaganda.  The major entertainment media (which often masquerade as news) and the corporate interests that control them were able to pull off this stunt in a way that was well-coordinated and affected our collective psyche across the board.  This is largely because of the fact that they are well organized in spite of belonging to different organizations and corporations.  While they all have their specific organizational interests (mainly profit), they all agree on the basic narrative to feed to our people, and thus their message is well crafted, organized and unified.  They often sit on each others’ Boards of Directors and, though they may be competitors in many ways, they have learned to support each other in a variety of projects.  Even going back in history, we see this level of cooperation.  At the Berlin Conference, supposedly-competing countries “cooperated” to divide Mother Africa up so that each of them was given control of specific, resource-rich sectors of our ancestral home, knowing that they would all benefit at our collective expense.  This spirit of cooperation would ultimately serve them well in the two World Wars, when first Otto Von Bismarck, then Adolf Hitler and the Axis Powers, decided to attempt to conquer all of Europe for themselves.  The countries of Europe, including the United States and Russia in World War II, not only cooperated militarily, they also worked together to develop and implement the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe.  Thus, our historical oppressors from the United States and Europe have been practicing “Ujima” (Collective Work and  Responsibility) and “Umoja” (Unity) for hundreds of years before we even mouthed the words. 

We as African people do no such thing.  With the exception of the occasional slave revolt, civil-rights march  or presidential election, we seem unable to truly come  together and cooperate on anything without our own self-interested aims derailing our efforts.  (The African Union is trying to provide an example of cooperation among member states, but that project, much like the Organization of African Unity which it replaced, is being challenged as well, from inside and from outside the organization.)  Our different organizations are still involved in the “me-first” game and no other strategy is acceptable.  To us, unity seems possible only through conquest and the absorption of other groups’ members.  If people do not join our organization and follow our specific organizational agenda, we assume that they do not wish to work with us and that they are against Pan-African Unity. 

This, our refusal to even work in cooperation with each other while our enemies have been doing so for generations, is the main reason why our message goes unheeded by the masses of our people.  We are so busy competing with, contradicting and fighting ourselves that our messages of liberation and uplift sound jumbled and self-contradictory; why should anyone listen to us talking about unity when we all fight amongst ourselves?  The corporations, while they do compete with each other for the biggest share of the profits, are at least selling us, by and large, the same thing, and have agreed to use their common media outlets
to send us the same basic message of what we should call ourselves and what dreams we should seek to attain.  Our ironically self-described Pan-Afrikan organizations, however, disagree on what we should call ourselves, what our relationship should be to Africa and what is best for us as a people, and they all seem to insist that they alone are the path to our psychological, economic and political freedom and that all others must join them and them alone.

The fact is that our different organizations are not going to join each other.  You may have no interest in “joining” my organization, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus or SRDC (not that I’m insisting that you do) because you want to continue to build your organization, and I don’t have the time or energy to join other organizations because I’m quite busy with more than enough unpaid work helping to build SRDC. 

However, this need not be a major problem or an impediment to our organizing efforts.  While we in SRDC are still focused on building our organization and establishing a means to bring the voice of the Grassroots Communities of the African Diaspora to the World Stage (be that through the African Union, World Social Forum or other vehicles), we also recognize that, while our different organizations are not ready to join each other, they can, and must, find a way to work together cooperatively for the education, mobilization and general uplift of African people, as the corporations of our adversaries do in their effort to strengthen their control over us.  
          
I have been reaching out, on behalf of SRDC, to other organizations that have shown an interest in working cooperatively.  I’ve concentrated my efforts in the area near where I live, and as a result I’ve gotten a few interested responses from some of the Continental African organizations in the Washington DC area, even though many of them would tell you that their perspective on who the African Diaspora is (that the Diaspora is primarily Continental Africans who emigrated from the Mother Continent to the West) are often quite different from that of SRDC and of African Descendants in general (that the Diaspora includes all people of African descent who live outside the African Continent).  Still, if there is a way for Continental Africans and African Descendants to engage in constructive planning so that we can eventually develop a narrative of Diaspora Unity instead of the individualistic disunity and thoughtless consumerism that our adversaries teach us, I hope to be a part of that planning process.  I don’t expect these organizations to join SRDC, but my hope is that they will agree to work alongside us to reach out to, organize and galvanize the African Diaspora so that the aims of all our organizations can be attained.  

If this sounds like an acceptable arrangement, I am prepared to hear from you so that we can make plans to move all of our people forward.  Just leave a comment here, or send an email to cliff@kuubareport.com.

Peace and Power,
Bro. Cliff

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Dr Barryl Biekman 1

Dr. Barryl Biekman Speaks at the Launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent

Dr Barryl Biekman 1On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, the United Nations held a special event at UN Headquarters in New York City to officially launch the International Decade for People of African Descent.  The ten-year observance, from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2024, has been billed by the UN as an opportunity to concentrate on issues of racism and racial discrimination faced by people of Afrikan descent around the world under the theme of “People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development”.  Dr. Barryl Biekman, a Surinamese-born Afrikan Diaspora organizer living in The Netherlands, is the chairperson of the African Union-African Diaspora Sixth Region (AUADS), an Afrikan Diaspora Civil Society organization that is working to organize Afrikan Diasporans in Europe.  She was chosen by the President of the UN General Assembly, His Excellency Sam Kutesa, to give an introductory speech on behalf of Afrikan Diaspora Civil Society.  This is the text of her speech.

Statement by
Dr. Barryl A. Biekman, 
Civil Society Speaker
Launching the International Decade for People of African Descent
United Nations
New York
December 10, 2014

Mr. President, Excellencies, Honoured Guests, Representatives of the African Families and Civil Society,

I bring you greetings from the members of Tiye International, The African European Women’s Movement “Sophiedela”, the Platform of the Dutch Slavery Past, the Global Coalition for the International Decade for People of African Descent and the world wide Civil Society grassroots African families on this historical moment of the launching of the International Decade for People of African descent.International Decade for People of African Descent Logo

[The Global Coalition for the International Decade for People of African Descent is established to provide global peoples activism and support for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent as proclaimed by the United Nations for the period 2015-2024 based on the principles of Recognition, Justice and Development.]

Mr. President,

We support the International Decade for People of African descent and it’s Mandate to follow the recommendations pertaining to the DDPA [Durban Declaration and Plan of Action – Editor] from the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR), as well as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

It must be reminded here that the decision to have the International Decade did not come as a gift from heaven. It came only because of a long struggle by Pan Africanist supported by those civil society organizations who were committed to the implementation of the DDPA and finally because of the hard working involvement of the Working Group of Experts on People of African descent, not to forget the support of the African Group and the great majority of member states of the United Nations. A special thanks therefore goes to the African countries for their role in defending the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and to the African Union to declare African Diaspora worldwide family as their 6th region.

The launching of the Decade today is a great victory for the cause of justice with the strong reaffirmation of and call for the full and effective implementation of the DDPA. We hope that the implementation of the Decade should put a final end to the opposition against, undermining of and false promotion regarding the Durban follow-up process which we have regularly witnessed since the successful World Conference Against Racism in 2001.

At the center of the demands during the World Conference Against Racism, by African people and in diaspora under the leadership of the 12th December Reparation Movement and many other Pan African Reparation Coalitions, was the declaration of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, colonialism and apartheid asDr Barryl Biekman 2 crimes against humanity. In fact it was the longest and most depraved crime against humanity ever.. which lasted for more than three centuries as had been declared by the United Nations including the republic Suriname by its Permanent Delegation, ambassador Udenhout in 2001. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, colonialism and apartheid destroyed the development of Africa and enriched Europe and the European colonists in the Americas. It established the system of racism & racial discrimination, to be specific Afrophobia, that effects and has its impact what the African people and in diaspora experience until today.

Mr. President,

Really, we have reasons to be glad with the establishment of the Decade. But we have reasons to be disappointed too. Because despite of the adoption of the Programme of Activities by the General Assembly last month, powerful State actors, including those who boycotted the 2009 Durban Review Conference and the 2011 commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the DDPA, continue their efforts to render the DDPA impotent. We deplore the nine votes cast against and 42 abstentions cast, but salute the 121 votes in favor of the resolution on actions against racism and comprehensive implementation of the DDPA, which the third committee of the General Assembly approved on November 26th. At the same time we are bewildered that abstaining countries succeeded to delete a paragraph from the G77 draft resolution, which had the support of the majority of countries and which stated: “Commends the constructive role played by non-governmental organizations in participating in the Durban follow-up mechanisms and the Human Rights Council, which has greatly contributed to the development of the Programme of Activities and the preparation for the International Decade.”

Mr. President, Truth has the inherent power to produce the promised effects.

The full and irrevocable recognition by all countries that the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, colonialism and apartheid was a crime against humanity is necessary for the credibility of the Decade. Without that we have reason to doubt the sincerity of states to restore the rights of people of African descent during the Decade. It is why I on behalf of the African descent worldwide families challenge all national state parliaments and governments to officially recognize and declare the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity as some countries have already done. We call on all the countries who organized, participated in and profited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the hard slave labour by the kidnapped African ancestors to present their sincere apologies as the first step and I challenge all governments and parliaments concerned, to act on this urgent matter.

“I on behalf of the African descent worldwide families challenge all national state parliaments and governments to officially recognize and declare the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity as some countries have already done.”

We strongly welcome the efforts by Caribbean governments & states to place the issue of Reparations on the International Agenda. For the African descendants families the adopted theme of the Decade, “Recognition, Justice, Development”, is Dr Barryl Biekman 4for us synonymous with the Repairing of the damage, which must become the overall concept of the Decade. Reparations is not limited to material repair, but something more fundamental relating to restoring every aspect of the rights of people of African descent.

Mr. President,

We therefore invite all Member States, as proposed by the Global Coalition for the International Decade for People of African Descent, to recognize and honour the Decade as the “Reparation Decade”.

We believe that the right of People of African descent to learn about their rights as enshrined in the DDPA and other Human Rights instruments must be assured during the Decade. The Decade must become a framework to address the concentration of misery and disadvantages which people of African descent face everywhere they live: poverty, racial discrimination and lack of access to human rights & their institutions, high rates of unemployment and imprisonment, vulnerability to violence and lack of access to justice, lack of access to good education, healthcare, housing, multiple forms of discrimination, and political and economic marginalization and stigmatization.

As educators and scholars across the racial divide agree that (a) the primary purpose of education is to uplift and enhance the lives of all individuals (b) it must be the right type of education that engenders positive identity, self-esteem, self-confidence including love, respect and appreciation for one’s history and culture. We therefore call for adapting both formal and informal education for students of African descent and others so that that it no longer marginalizes and relegates Africa and Africans to periphery of anything important, but for most that our next African generations can say: “I’m not afraid, because of the color of my skin, to be an African … I’m proud to be an African.”

Mr. President,

We have seen the situation faced by people of African descent around the world grow more and more precarious, and we seek urgent and concrete results from the International Decade. African Diaspora Civil Society grassroots organizations cannot afford to leave any members of the African Diaspora and African Civil Society around the world behind. Every forum, every workshop, every review and assessment, every planning session and every on-the-ground implementation project must closely involve representatives from Civil Society and the grassroots communities. And we cannot stress enough the importance of always including women, girls and young male adults, the future generation, on an equal basis. To leave them behind would be as to leave our hearts and souls, our very selves, behind as well.

“Every forum, every workshop, every review and assessment, every planning session and every on-the-ground implementation project must closely involve representatives from Civil Society and the grassroots communities.”

When an African American man is strangled to death by the police on the streets of New York we the people of African descent feel the same that we cannot breathe. We add our voices in solidarity with all those demonstrating to demand justice for the victims of racially based police brutality. This situation makes it clear that institutionalized racism is still alive and that the campaigns against all forms of multiple racism & racial profiling as well the symbolic & psychological violence

Protests of "Black Pete" in the Netherlands

Protests of “Black Pete” in the Netherlands

situation in different countries must be intensified. Whether the ‘Black Pete figure’ in the yearly Dutch Santa Claus culture historical tradition is just a problem in the Netherlands because of the revival of stereotype of African (black) people or interlinked to similar historical cultural tradition, stereotypical language like some people continue to call us ’nigger’ & racist situations in other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.

Mr. President

On behalf of the world wide African diaspora families I invite all of you to join hands with us for the implementation of the Programme of Activities in the spirit of “Recognition, Justice and Development.” Because this Decade requires the committed support and involvement of all: international, regional, national, sectors of society, stakeholders and people of good will in the world.

I invite you all to make this “Reparation Decade” a great success.

I thank you Mr. President

 

 

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Nova Scotia Town Hall

Nova Scotia Town Hall

“Remember the Ant”: Town Hall Meeting Makes History

North Preston, Nova Scotia, Canada
In recognition of the United Nations declaring 2011, the “International Year for People of African Descent”, on August 22, 2011 at the North Preston Recreation and Community Centre, the African Nova Scotian Community made history by being the first in Canada to elect a council of Elders and unanimously voted to form a Nova Scotia Chapter of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC).  “By being the first to form a Chapter of the SRDC in Canada and by extension, our province is the sole representative voice thus far to accept the African Union’s invitation to participate.”  Remarks Allen, the Nova Scotia SRDC Facilitator.  This particular town hall is the result of a series of “Remember the Ant” Town Halls that took place earlier. The first was held in Africville, during the annual Africville Reunion and festival, which each year honours the historic Black Community that was destroyed and displaced the residents through so-called “urban renewal” in the 1960’s.
The second Town Hall: “Remember the Ant” , was held during the annual Sydney Days of Action, Wednesday, August 3rd, at the Menelik Hall.  SRDC is a direct response to the African Union (AU) invitation to partipate collectively in the affairs of the AU.  The AU is an organization that links together 55 of 56 countries on the African continent and is intended to create a common voice for African people in international affairs. Until recently, representation in the African Union was limited to African people living on the continent. The estimated 350 million Africa-descended people living in the worldwide Diaspora were excluded. But the African Union now wants to reach further. In addition to the five regions of the continent, the Union aims to create a “sixth region”: the worldwide Diaspora. 
For Horne (the International Facilitator for SRDC) the creation of the sixth region is an acknowledgement of the affinities and commonalities that have endured among African people, wherever they happen to live in the present. “You aren’t an African because you were born in Africa,” he tells the town hall audience. “You’re African because Africa was born in you.” The sixth region initiative, is offering the Diaspora an official role in the African Union and promises to create a venue large and inclusive enough for African people to come together and plot a better, collective future.  At this point, the sixth region is only an invitation. It remains to be accepted, Horne explains, “And that means, organizing ourselves to present ourselves and represent ourselves.” Canada is one of many countries with a significant African Diaspora, and the sixth region initiative calls for African Canadians to decide if they want to be included.
Allen hopes that the African Nova Scotian community will play a leading role amid the Canadian-based Diaspora. Recognizing Nova Scotia as the one of the first homes of African People in the country now called Canada, and the African  residents of the province as the “elders” of the overall African Canadian population.

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