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SRDC Liberia Library Book Initiative Public Letter

SRDC Liberia Library Book Initiative Public Letter

July, 2018

Dear Friends and Associates,

The South Carolina branch of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) is embarking on a project to help establish a public library in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa. We have endeavored to collect book donations, create a working inventory and database, and ship books to Liberia. The key to the success of this type of project is a good and dedicated ‘on the ground’ partner with a proven track record. We have that in SEHWAH, a local and international Liberian organization. The Director of SEHWAH, the Hon. Ms. Louise W. McMillan-Siaway, was the Assistant Minister for Culture (Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism) under the former Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration. Ms. McMillan-Siaway is working closely with the current Liberian government to obtain a proper space and furnishings for the library.

“In America there is a public library in every community. How many public libraries are there in Africa? Every day there are new books coming out and new ideas being discussed. But these new books and ideas don’t reach Africa and we are being left behind.”
-George Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, West Africa

This initiative though absolutely necessary, is not without its challenges. Still, SRDC considers it a major responsibility and is excited to be the pioneering element of this project. Public libraries are essential in the process of providing citizens access to knowledge. It is certain that a well-stocked public library will have a positive impact on Liberian literacy and development. For this reason, we are taking a grassroots approach and are reaching out to you to donate and/or purchase books to donate. Grassroots interest and involvement is a way to ensure that the library is solidly developed, sustainable, accessible and well-used.

SUBJECTS NEEDED
History (World History/African History/African American History/Caribbean History/History of Blacks in Europe, etc.); Political Science; English (Grammar/Writing); Music; Arts; Literature/Novels; Geography; Education; Math; Finance; Banking; International Trade; Health; Hygiene; Wellness; Science; Ecology; Medicine; Nursing; Farming; Gardening; Agriculture; Animal Husbandry; Law; Business; Computer Technology; Construction and Building Technology; Electrical; Plumbing; Engineering; Electronics; Photography; and Children/Young Adult books.

We will accept “For Dummies” book titles (e.g., Digital Photography for Dummies).
See link for list of titles: https://www.dummies.com/store/All-Titles.html

GUIDELINES
•We seek gently used books – books that are in good condition.
•Books or novels that have “explicit” sexual content (pornography) will NOT be accepted and/or shipped to Liberia.
•Books that evangelize/proselytize/promote a particular religion will NOT be accepted and/or shipped to Liberia, unless we can determine historical value.
•Books will be accepted through December 31, 2018.
•Please send a listing of all books, along with your name, organization, email address and contact phone number to the email address listed below.
•Pack books carefully and deliver or mail to our warehouse:

Mr. Joseph Palmer
901B Long Point Road
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone: 843.452.4880
Email: ProjectLiberiaLibrary@gmail.com

In the future, we will need to set up a Board in order to oversee the development and supervision of staff and interns for the library; to create a proper atmosphere and establish methods to measure and maintain the progress of the library. Contact us with any questions or concerns. We will keep all of our book donors posted on all developments pertaining to the library (so please send us the list of books you are donating as well as your name and contact information).

Monetary donations in any amount can be made via PayPal at www.yaaba.org. YAABA is our 501c(3) charitable partner organization. Any donated funds will be used to defray costs and materials needed to ship the books to Liberia.

Please remember, A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life, so kindly assist us by becoming a benefactor of this important initiative.

Sincerely,
Joseph Palmer
Facilitator
SRDC – South Carolina
www.srdcinternational.org

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Pan Afrikan Town Hall April 14 2018 Thomas Ruffin 1

Maryland’s April 14, 2018 Pan Afrikan Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Original Comprehensive Crime Bill: SB 122

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

The Promotion of the Crime Bill through the Maryland Senate

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

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

Criticisms of SB 122

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

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

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

SB 122 Meets Opposition in the House of Delegates

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

Democrats Sneak Pieces of SB 122 through the House

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

Pushing Back Against the House Maneuver

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

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

The Baltimore City Youth Fund

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

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

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

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

Questions and Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We Forgive Everybody”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginning to Take Control of the Local Politics in Our Community

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

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

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

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

Campaign Contributions: Legalized Bribery

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

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

Unified Power

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

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

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TAI Artizen AUC Sarah Amira TAI Anita TAI Yasir Kim

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

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

By Kim Poole, Teaching Artist Institute

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

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

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

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TAI Artizen Gambia Adama Barrow and Kim Poole

The New Gambia Invites the “Art of Possibility”

His Excellency President Adama Barrow and Sis. Kim Poole.

by Kim Poole, Founder, Teaching Artist Institute

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

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

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

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

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

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20180224_172658

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baba Rafiki Morris, Mama Maisha Washington.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama Tomiko Shine and Baba Tyronne Morton address the audience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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APPHRC UN IDPAD 1

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

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

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

APP-HRC

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

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

UN International DECADE for People of African Descent 2015-2024

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

DEVELOPMENT

Housing

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

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

Poverty

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

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

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

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

Labor

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

RECOGNITION

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

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

JUSTICE

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

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

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

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

REPARATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DECADE (REMEMBRANCE)

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

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

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

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

ETHNOCIDE

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

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

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

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

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

CITIES of TRAUMA

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

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

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

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

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

GLOBAL PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RECOMMENDATIONS (DECADE 2018-2024)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Events Across the Diaspora

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

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

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

2019- 3rd Regional UN International Decade Meeting.

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Charge Genocide. 2014. Delivered to United Nations.

Chicago Illinois.

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

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

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

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Teaching Artist Institute Announces the 2018 TAI Fellowship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now Therefore”

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

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

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

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

“What’s Africa Got to Do with Me?”

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

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

“Support Your Local Sheriff”

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

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

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

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

The Harm We Cause to Ourselves

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

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

Agent Orange

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

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

The man is crazy.

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

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

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

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

A United Afrika

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

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

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

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

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The Chair of the African Union Commission Meets The Diaspora

The Chair of the African Union Commission Meets The Diaspora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions from the Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Statement of Sis. Iman Hameen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Africa Policy Forum on Famine in Africa

The Africa Policy Forum on Famine in Africa

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally posted on KUUMBAReport Online (http://kuumbareport.com).

Africa Policy Forum on Famine
Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 8:30 AM
US Capitol Visitors Center
Washington, DC

Congress Member Karen Bass (Democrat from Southern California) holds regular Africa Policy Forum events during the Congressional Session.  At these events, experts in various fields important to the uplift of Afrika are assembled to discuss issues from war to famine to economic development.  Often, these events seem to reflect more of an “official Washington” viewpoint on US-Africa issues, but the access granted to regular citizens to these events creates opportunities for Pan-Afrikan activists to learn about the efforts to deal with crises on the Continent as well as the plans of business and governmental players to promote US, capitalist and other Western policies in Afrika that may or may not serve Afrikan interests.  At the very least, when one attends these events, an opportunity comes later in the discussion to participate in the question-and-answer session (the “Q & A”), which allows one to prepare and ask the occasional Impudent Question.  Often, the Impudent Question goes unanswered, but sometimes it gives the participants an opportunity to demonstrate their depth of understanding of the current and historical issues impacting upon Afrika and Afrikan People.

On Tuesday, April 4, forty-nine years to the day after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most prominent members of the Historical Afrikan Diaspora (descendants of Afrikans who had been captured from Afrika and kidnapped into slavery in the United States and around the world) in history, an Africa Policy Forum on Famine was held.  This was the second such Forum of the year; the Forum on Doing Business with the US for Africa, held February 28, may be the subject of a brief article in the near future.

The Forum Panelists
The Forum featured the following speakers [with information from the Africa Policy Forum Biographies of Participants]:

Dr. Monde Muyangwa
Director, Africa Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
At the Wilson Center, Dr. Muyangwa leads programs that analyze and offer practical, actionable policy options addressing some of Africa’s most critical issues.  Previously, she served as Academic Dean and Professor of Civil-Military Relations at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.  She served as Director of Research and Vice President for Research and Policy at the National Summit on Africa, and Director of International Education Programs at New Mexico Highlands University.  She serves on the Board of Trustees at Freedom House, and previously was an advisory Council member of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.  She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration and Economics from the University of Zambia.  She was a Rhodes Scholar, a Wingate Scholar, and the University of Zambia Valedictory Speaker for her class. 

General William E. “Kip” Ward
President, Sentel Corporation
Former Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)
A retired Army General Officer, General Ward was the inaugural Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), where he successfully established the nation’s newest and uniquely positioned interagency geographic command responsible for for all US defense and security activities on the African Continent and its Island Nations with staff representatives from State, Commerce, Treasury, Homeland Security and other US Cabinet Departments and Agencies.  Prior to commanding AFRICOM where his visionary leadership promoted the value of forging relationships, creating partnerships, enhancing regional cooperation and the importance of sustained security engagement in pursuing US national interests, he was the Deputy Commander, United States European Command, responsible for the Command’s day-to-day activities.

He is a decorated combat veteran and holds a B.A. Degree in Political Science from Morgan State University in Baltimore and a Master of Arts Degree in Political Science from the Pennsylvania State University.  A Master Paratrooper, he is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, Fort Benning, Georgia, the US Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.  General Ward was an assistant professor, Department of Social Sciences, teaching political science and public policy at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Selected by then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as the United States Security Coordinator, Israel-Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, General Ward was praised by Democrats and Republicans for bringing a degree of fairness and equity to his work.  He has held other Army, Joint and Combined command and staff assignments over a 40-plus year career including NATO Force Commander in Bosnia, Commander 25th Infantry Division and Vice Director for Operations, J-3, The Joint Staff, during the September 2001 terror attacks.  In the Pentagon, he was at the center of determining and carrying out the US government’s defense and interagency response actions to the attack.  He has commanded every level from platoon as a Lieutenant to geographic command as a General.

John Prendergast
Founding Director, the Enough Project and Co-Founder, The Sentry
Mr. Prendergast is a human rights activist and New York Times best-selling author who has focused on peace in Africa for over thirty years.  He is the Founding Director of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity.  With actor George Clooney, he also founded The Sentry, a new investigative initiative focused on dismantling the networks financing conflict and atrocities.  He has worked for the Clinton White House, the State Department, two Members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the US Institute of Peace.  He has been a Big Brother for three decades, as well as a youth counselor and a basketball coach.  He is the author or co-author of ten books.  He also co-founded the Satellite Sentinel Project, which used satellite imagery to spotlight mass atrocities.  With several NBA stars, he launched the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program to fund schools in Darfuri refugee camps.  He also created Enough’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, highlighting the issue of conflict minerals, and its student arm the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative.  He also runs Not On Our Watch, the organization founded by actor-activists Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt and George Clooney.  Mr. Prendergast has been awarded six honorary doctorates.  He has been a visiting professor at Yale Law School, Stanford University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, and others.  He has appeared in five episodes of 60 Minutes, for which the team won an Emmy award, and helped create African stories for two episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  He has also traveled to Africa with NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s Nightline, PBS’s NewsHour, CNN’s Inside Africa, and news outlets and magazines Newsweek and The Daily Beast.  He also appears in the motion picture “The Good Lie”, starring Reese Witherspoon and Emmanuel Jai, as well as documentaries including Merci Congo, When Elephants Fight, Blood in the Mobile, Sand and Sorrow, Darfur Now, 3 Points and War Child.

Jon C. Brause
Director, Washington Office, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
Jon Brause is the Director of the Washington Office of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).  In this role, he oversees WFP’s relationships with its major partners in the US government and represents WFP in dialog with US-based organizations interested in reducing hunger and poverty worldwide.  He came to WFP after  22-year career at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.  He has also served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Relief, Stabilization, and Development in the National Security Council, and as the Director of the Office of Program, Policy and Management at USAID.  As Senior Policy Advisor to USAID Administrator Andrew S. Natsios, Mr. Brause monitored humanitarian and developmental policy with a focus on Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.  During his tenure in the Office of Food for Peace, Mr. Brause managed all aspects of US government food aid programming for humanitarian activities worldwide.

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The Africa Policy Forum on Famine

We include here most of the full transcript of the discussion (to the degree that we were able to successfully transcribe all of the comments), with some of the points of the speakers highlighted for emphasis.  The full comments of all the speakers will give an idea of their individual perspectives, however.  For example, General Ward, though he has had a distinguished career in military security, regularly spoke of the need for development as well as security based on his experience in northern Nigeria with AFRICOM.  Mr. Brause spoke much about the impact of the raw numbers of people at risk and seemed focused on ways to bring relief to suffering populations.  And Mr. Prendergast seemed keenly aware of how the legacy of colonialism and exploitation of Afrika, by corrupt leaders, neo-colonial interests and international opportunists such as weapons manufacturers and money-launderers, had escaped much-deserved culpability for the current state of affairs in Afrika’s crisis zones.  Meanwhile, Dr. Muyangwa was working the entire time to maintain control of the flow of conversation to ensure everyone had an opportunity to ask questions, and gave an in-depth summary of the discussion at the end of the event.  All of them acknowledged that it is the Afrikan people in the affected countries that are actually taking the lead in responding to the crisis, even as the international community seems to be often falling down on the job.

CONGRESS MEMBER KAREN BASS:
Karen Bass 2Good morning everyone.  I’m Congresswoman Karen Bass.  I want to welcome everyone here for the second Africa Policy Forum that we’ve had this year.  Normally when we have these Forums we’ve focused on looking at business and economic opportunities and how to promote US-Africa relations but this time we’re gathered for a topic that has become of increasing concern.  This is a critical topic in that it has been said in the United Nations that we have potentially the worst humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded.  The potential of 20 million people facing famine in four countries.  Today we’re going to talk about three of the countries, the countries on the Continent, which is not to ignore Yemen, but we are going to focus on the African Continent today.  And this is with the backdrop of a new Administration that is suggesting a 30% cut in foreign assistance.  I would think that, at this point in time, where we have the opportunity to prevent a horrible tragedy, we know that famine has already been declared in South Sudan, but it could obviously get far worse, but we have an opportunity for our country to step up like we did in the Ebola Crisis and rally the entire world, but unfortunately at this point in time, we seem to be going in the opposite direction.  I will tell you though, that from the point of view of Congress, last week we had a hearing in the House of Representatives of the full Foreign Affairs Committee, and Democrats and Republicans were both united in a concern that you can’t cut a foreign assistance budget by 30%.  Later today there will be a meeting amongst Democrats to discuss the famine, and it seems to me that the most critical thing that we could be doing at this point in time is to raise public awareness and public outcry at the beginning, before this crisis really expands.  So that is our topic today, and before I introduce our moderator, I would like to call up one of the leaders in the Democratic Caucus, one of the leaders in the House of Representatives, someone who everyone knows, who led the fight around HIV.  please welcome Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

CONGRESS MEMBER BARBARA LEE:
Well, good morning.  First of all, let me thank our ranking member, Congresswoman Karen Bass, for doing such a phenomenal job, on so many issues, such as relates to the continent.  Whether it’s training, whether it’s foreign assistance, whether it’s health care, education, whether it’s the AU, whether it’s the United Nations, she has been on point on each and every issue, and so I want to thank her for continuing to beat the drum to make sure that Africa is a priority in our foreign policy.  We thank all of our panelists for being here, and thank you for your vigilance, for your expertise and for sharing with us what you know, but also what we need to do, and finally I’ll just say I’m on the Subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee which funds our foreign assistance, and Congresswoman Bass, and Meeks, myself, and also Republicans, we have forwarded a letter to the Appropriations Committee for emergency funding for the famine, and we’ll see where that goes, but believe you me, we are working right now to make sure that we target resources so that we can mitigate against so many people dying of starvation.  So thank you again and thanks so much for your continuing support for the Continent and for your expertise and for being here, for supporting Congresswoman Karen Bass because these forums are extremely important in terms of public awareness and in terms of giving us strategies on where we need to go as Members of Congress.  Thank you again.

CONGRESS MEMBER KAREN BASS:
We’re very lucky to have Barbara Lee sit on the Foreign Ops Committee, as she mentioned, that’s Appropriations.  She’s got the purse strings and knowing that somebody of that leadership has the purse strings, I think we’re in a good position.  We also are circulating a letter amongst Members of Congress, to emphasize the significance of the funding.  So we’re going to begin our program now, and I’d like to introduce our Moderator for the morning, Dr. Monde Muyangwa, the Director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and I might mention that, in that budget, the Wilson Center was actually zeroed out.  So, one of many issues that we will push back hard on to make sure that does not happen.

General Discussions of the Crisis

DR. MONDE MUYANGWA:
Good morning everyone.  I want to thank Congress Member Bass for focusing on this very important issue.  It’s been neglected for quite a while now, so it’s good to see that we’re finally paying some attention to this issue.  And as you mentioned, what we hope to get out of the discussion this morning is increased awareness of the crisis.  But also, a better understanding of the problem, its nature, its scope, the causes and drivers of the crisis, government and other measures in response to the crisis, and what can be done in the short term to address the famine and to save lives and in the long term to better ensure food security and avert recurring drought and famine. 

We have three excellent speakers for this morning.  I’ll introduce them very briefly.  Our first speaker will be Mr. Jon Brause, who is the director of the World Food Programme, the Washington Liaison Office.  He will be followed by General William “Kip” Ward, who is the C.O.O. and President of Sentel Corporation, who will speak to us about Northeast Nigeria.  And he will be followed by Jon Prendergast, who is the Founding Director of Enough, who will speak to us on South Sudan.  We have asked each of our speakers to offer initial remarks of about five to six minutes.  Our kickoff speaker will be Mr. Jon Brause, who we’ve asked to give an overview of the crisis and to touch a little bit on Somalia.  Mr. Brause, your five minutes start now.

“So how is it now, less than 2 years after the world ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, that we have, in fact, the largest crisis since World War II, and maybe the largest humanitarian crisis in the last hundred years?”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

JON BRAUSE:
Thank you.  Thanks to Congresswoman Bass and Congresswoman Lee for their welcome and it’s a great pleasure to be here and to have the World Food Programme be able to speak to you today.  Just a little bit of background; the World Food Programme was founded on the vision of presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.  And they had a vision after World War II that the world needed help to be stabilized in areas that were struggling through weather related problems or other crises.  They knew that the United States and other countries had the capacity to help out.  So just as my founding comment, think that that was the vision back just after World War II.  And then I’ll take you to 2015 in September when the international community got together and finalized and ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, and those were the goals that stated ‘we can end poverty, we can end hunger, we can educate every child’.  These were all things that the world said we could do in 2015; we have the capabilities, we just need the will to get it done.  And that was that we could do those things by 2030. 

So how is it now, less than 2 years after the world ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, that we have, in fact, the largest crisis since World War II, and maybe the largest humanitarian crisis in the last hundred years?  We have over a hundred million people who are going to need emergency food assistance this year.  We have 60 to 70 million people who are displaced, either internally or refugees in other countries.  And as the Congresswoman said, we have 20 million people in the world today who are facing famine.  In four countries.  Three in Africa, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, and then of course there’s Yemen.  But that 20 million people, you have to put it in perspective.  That is more than the number of people in the state of Virginia, and the state of Maryland, and the District of Columbia combined.  Plenty more than that.  So it’s a huge number of people who are at risk, and we need to start to take action to do something about it. 

So then the issue is, what is famine?  Why do we need a declaration of famine?  Well, famine is actually a very late statement.  It means that we’ve missed the boat to a certain extent.  People have already started dying.  And the criteria technicians use, if you will, to determine when a famine is taking place are three.  Two people out of every 10,000 are dying every day.  That’s one criterion.  More than 30% of the children under 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition.  And then the third is that 20% of the households in any region are extremely food insecure, short of food and at risk of starvation.  So just to put that two deaths in 10,000 every day into perspective, if your kids go to a high school in Maryland or Virginia, the average population or student body is about 2,500 kids.  So that means, in that school, if it were having a famine, that one child, one student, every two days, would be dying.  So your kid would be coming home and saying ‘Billy died today’.  And then two days later, another child would die.  It’s a massive number of people.  Don’t let two in 10,000 throw you that it’s some abstract, it’s a real tangible number of people dying every day.  And of course, it’s not just food.  We have to be very clear that food is very important but if you don’t have clean water, if you don’t have medical care, if you don’t have sanitation facilities, disease will actually overtake hunger.  The people will die not from hunger necessarily but from vulnerability to disease.  So it will take on many different faces and it’s not just one of food.

“So how did we get here?  Why are we now facing this crisis?  Well, I have to say, to some extent, we watched it happen.”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

So how did we get here?  Why are we now facing this crisis?  Well, I have to say, to some extent, we watched it happen.  Last year, and John will probably talk about this, South Sudan was on the brink of a famine, but it wasn’t declared.  But it was terrible.  The situation was horrific even last year.  In Somalia, they’ve had three consecutive years of bad rains, so even though their governance has improved — and it’s one of the points we want to make, where there is governance, you have a much better chance of addressing the root causes of famine — but Somalia’s had three consecutive years of bad rain, so in may of the cases, in all of the cases, weather is a factor.  But unfortunately, the big driver for all of these famines is conflict.  And the difference for conflict, a drought will disrupt productivity, everybody can understand that, but if you’re not suffering from conflict, if it’s just a drought, then there are means for the international community, for the governments to engage and to help the people who are in the drought affected areas.  In the case of conflict, everything is disrupted.  Markets are disrupted, agriculture is [disrupted], trade is interrupted, jobs and livelihoods are all interrupted.  So the whole system fails.  And in the case of three of the countries, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen in particular, less so in Somalia, we in the World Food Programme have a tremendously difficult time, as does the rest of the international humanitarian community, to access the people in need. 

So the big issue for us now is how can we get access, how can we improve security for these three countries?  We need massive amounts of resources.  I’m almost hesitant to say how much we need.  For the four countries, just for food, until the end of the year, we need about 2.6 billion dollars.  It’s a massive amount of money, and then our colleagues in UNICEF, in the NGO’s, all of the other organizations that are doing great work, need additional resources as well, but in fact it is something that the world can do, that the world can provide if it wants to. 

So let me just summarize; I just want to say why does it matter to the U.S.?  We know that in the press these days, there has been some question as to whether or not it’s worthwhile investing in these things.  Why have foreign assistance?  It’s just doing things over there.  It’s not helping the United States.  And I think that’s wrong.  First of all, the United States has always been the leader in the provision of humanitarian assistance around the world.  It’s something we’ve done not just since World War II but we’ve done it even before that.  The United States just has it ingrained: we help people.  But we also have to realize that helping people stabilizes countries.  That’s what it does.  It’s good for the world economy if countries are stable.  When we saw the world food crisis in 2008, the world reacted because countries were being destabilized by a shortage of food.  And then of course, and this is something the General will probably talk about, three of the four countries are home to global terrorism organizations.  When you have countries that are destabilized, they in fact are a great environment for radicalism.  So it’s something we need; there are a variety of reasons it’s important for the United States.  And I’ll close by saying, I just don’t think President Eisenhower and President Kennedy were wrong when they established the World Food Programme.  The reasons why they did it then are just as valid today.  Thank you very much.

GENERAL WILLIAM “KIP” WARD:
Thank you Dr. Muyangwa.  And I’d also like to thank Congresswomen Bass and Lee for their support for these fora and for highlighting the importance of these issues to citizens of the United States.  I’m probably a strange bedfellow here with respect to being on this panel, talking about famine and food insecurity in my role as the first commander of the United States’ Africa Command.  But it is precisely that role that makes my being here, if not from an expert perspective, then from a perspective of what it means to the United States of America, what it means to our national interests, and what it means to local stability. 

“[W]e are in the scenario now, where on any given day, four out of six children malnourished, two out of 10 dying daily, those are examples of the inability to address such a devastating problem.”
–General William “Kip” Ward, former commander of AFRICOM

General William Kip WardAs Jon pointed out and as was mentioned in the opening remarks by Congresswoman Bass, famine, food insecurity, is probably the hugest driver to security issues in most countries.  And, as we look at Nigeria, the northeastern part of that great, great nation, up until about seven years ago, Borno could feed Nigeria.  And now, we see the huge level of devastation, famine, death, caused because of what has gone on with respect to the fight against Boko Haram.  as Jon pointed out, the drivers of famine can be controlled if you have an environment that allows other things to occur.  The delivery of aid, infrastructure that allows the movement of persons, the ability of organizations to come in and do things that will contribute to providing a degree of stability that would otherwise not be the case.  For the last seven years, northeast Nigeria has not been able to see those things occur, because of the efforts by the Nigerian government that began towards the end of the Jonathan Administration and have continued now with the Buhari Administration to address and defeat the Boko Haram that has been so devastating to northeast Nigeria.  And because of the activity in that part of the nation, it not only impacts Nigeria, it impacts the entire region.  And when you have the displacement of — the numbers vary, low side 2 million, up to 8 million people in various stages that have migrated to 140-plus displacement centers, with varied means of addressing the crises of 1-food, 2-water, 3-sanitation, but other drivers of instability, lack of education, I call it the lack of any hope, who are constantly being threatened by what goes on as the eradication efforts occur, or the efforts to defeat the terrorism go on, it then bodes ill for any progress to be made.  So therefore, we are in the scenario now, where on any given day, and as Jon pointed out, four out of six children malnourished, two out of 10 dying daily, those are examples of the inability to address such a devastating problem.  When the Nigerian armed forces mounted their sustained effort to defeat Boko Haram, going into the Zambezi Forest, disrupting the sanctuary if you will, that caused the surrounding environs in the northeast of Nigeria to then become even more threatened by the threat of the fighters of Boko Haram.  You then have that coupled with the dynamic of a split within Boko Haram, where they then begin to compete with each other to see who could become the most ruthless, brutal, as they ravaged the land there in the northeast and in the surrounding areas.  And the victims in all of that are the people.  And so, even as there are attempts being made, and to a substantial degree, successful attempts, to stop terrorism by Boko Haram, it is creating these other effects that have absolutely devastating impacts on the people.  And therein [I am here] today to address this notion of malnutrition, famine.  The biggest drivers of famine — insecurity and the inability to work the land that was once theirs, and to raise crops and livestock which are the lifeblood.  There are currently estimated to be 8.5 million people in Nigeria, northeast Nigeria, that require some type of assistance, and there are categories, phases that the IPC [Integrated Food Security Phase Classification–Editor] has put there, but when you get to category 3 [crisis], 4 [emergency] and 5 [famine] — 3 is severe level, and that regards 5 million people, and again, these displacement camps that are now spread in major cities, if you look at Borno [State], Maiduguri, and Aba, the two major cities, part of the problem lies in the fact that the folks who have been displaced, the internally displaced persons, don’t just go to those camps.  Even with their limited mobility, they are also amongst the population, which has virtually no ability to assist in providing food and other necessary resources to help combat the conditions that exist.  Lack of economic activity, inability of relief organizations to provide relief aid, inability of other organizations to promote activities that will help address the impacts of lack of water, and other things.  These are the factors that have contributed to what goes on in northeast Nigeria.  The root of it all is the fight against Boko Haram.  And I’ll stop there.

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
Thanks to all the organizers, Congresswoman Bass, Congresswoman Lee, Congressman Meeks, for your continuing leadership on African issues.  Your voices and those of your colleagues in these days are more needed than ever.  What seems like the big discovery these days is that famines are man-made, as opposed to nature-driven.  But this description, I think, is far too vague.  It lays no accountability at the feet of which men are making these famines.  And in the case of South Sudan, the most immediate cause lies in the tactics used by the senior officials in the South Sudan military and amongst the principal rebel movement in the way that they’re carrying out the current civil war.  Government and rebel forces attack civilian targets much more frequently than they attack each other.  They target the means of survival of civilian populations who are deemed to be unsupportive of those forces.  In particular and most damaging, and this is the case in a number of places where food insecurity is raging today, they raid cattle, in areas where cows represent the inherited savings, basically the 401(k)’s, basically the means of exchange, locally.  Massive cattle raids result in almost complete and utter impoverishment of entire communities, and they unleash cycles of revenge attacks that poison relations between neighbors and entire ethnic groups.  The government of South Sudan has also concentrated recent attacks on areas where agricultural production traditionally fed large parts of South Sudan, not only resulting in massive human displacement, but also devastating local grain production which leads to hyper-inflation of food prices, making food inaccessible to vast swaths of the civilian population.

“What seems like the big discovery these days is that famines are man-made, as opposed to nature-driven.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

But destroying the means of food production is only one part of the equation that causes famine.  Look, if the South Sudan government allowed humanitarian organizations unfettered access to the survivors of these attacks, which include at this point over 3 million people who have been rendered homeless by the kinds of war tactics that have occurred, then the aid agencies would be able to prevent a famine from occurring.  You wouldn’t see the 3, 4, 5 cycles John Prendergast Enough 2hammering the people of South Sudan today.  But instead, the government has obstructed access by these organizations in a number of ways, by learning some of the tactics from the Sudan government who they fought for decades, as have the rebels, thus resulting in these huge pockets of populations, including tens of thousands of children today, who have received little to no assistance at the very height of their need.
 
And let’s be clear: if the only response to the images we’re going to be seeing with increased frequency is the humanitarian one, and the structural causes of this cycle of famine in South Sudan and other places are not addressed, then the cycle of famine will begin again next year, and the year after that.  Yes, the world must do, and will do, because of the efforts of people in this room, all that it can to treat these humanitarian symptoms of the emergency, but there’s also an opportunity when there’s this kind of attention that has drawn all of you into this room this morning, to finally begin to address the root causes of some of these crises.  Now in South Sudan today, the war crimes that are committed that help lead directly to famine, these war crimes actually pay.  There’s no accountability for the atrocities and the looting of state resources and even of humanitarian assistance, and there’s no accountability for the famine that results from it.  Billions in our taxpayer dollars have supported peacekeeping forces and humanitarian assistance already.  We’ve got to keep doing that, and double down on it, in this time of need for the people of South Sudan.  And one peace process after another has tried to break the cycle of violence.

“Nothing attempts to thwart the driving force of the mayhem, which in our view is the kleptocrats who have hijacked the government for their personal enrichment, and have carried out war tactics that have led directly to the famine.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

But nothing, unfortunately — and this is a bizarre aspect of international policy — nothing attempts to thwart the driving force of the mayhem, which in our view is the kleptocrats who have hijacked the government in Juba [Sudan’s capital city–Editor] for their personal enrichment, and have carried out war tactics that have led directly to the famine.  Our new initiative — it’s called the Sentry — has conducted an investigation into the wealth accumulated by leading officials in South Sudan, who oversaw the military offensives in 2015 in Unity State that contributed directly to the current famine.  We found that immediate family members of these officials are enjoying luxurious lifestyles abroad, live in lavish estates, with millions and millions of dollars moving through the international financial system in US dollars, while the situation of the civilian population in South Sudan continues to deteriorate.  Essentially, we’re working on a series of follow-up reports to the one we did last September that connect the state looting directly to the famine and the ongoing conflict, and the perverse incentives that exist for these governments to commit these kinds of atrocities in order to stay in power, and without any consequence whatsoever for their actions.  The looting machine, in fact, continues apace, not slowed down even by the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people starving to death.  There’s been no meaningful effort to counter the networks that benefit financially and politically from conflict, from instability, from the absence of the rule of law, and even from famine.  The international community needs to help make war costlier than peace, for government and rebel leaders and their international facilitators, because it isn’t just folks on the ground; there are many people in the international and financial system who are benefiting from South Sudan’s misery.  Those facilitators and enablers need to be the subject of investigations as well.  Choking the illicit financial flows of those folks that are responsible for this famine is the key point of leverage for giving peace an actual chance in South Sudan, because these stolen assets are the one point of vulnerability that the leading officials have.  Their stolen assets are off-shored and laundered through the international financial system in us dollars.  That gives the United States Treasury Department jurisdiction over crimes committed with US currency.  And you see houses, you see cars, you see stuffed bank accounts, all of these manifestations of this criminal activity that is being moved through the international financial system.  So I think the most promising policy approach for creating accountability in context of war and famine would combine creative Anti-Money-Laundering measures that we have honed since 9-11, combine those AML measures with targeted sanctions aimed at freezing those willing to commit mass atrocities, including those that undertook these offensives in 2015 and 2016 that led directly to famine, so you focus on freezing those leading officials out of the international financial system.  That should be the objective.  That would provide leverage to the international community’s efforts to bring folks to the negotiating table to create a real environment for a peace deal.  A steep price needs to be paid for creating famine, and for benefiting from war.

“It’s the South Sudanese that are leading the efforts to respond to the famine.  It’s the South Sudanese, courageously, who are responding to the human rights abuses.  It’s the South Sudanese struggling for independent freedom of the press, freedom of association, all of the basic fundamental rights that they fought and died for, for decades, to have the newest country in the world.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

Even while the world responds to the famine, it’s time for us to address root causes and make those responsible pay for those crimes.  And let’s be clear about this; thousands and thousands of South Sudanese — a trip we just took confirmed this to me yet again — it’s the South Sudanese that are leading the efforts to respond to the famine.  It’s the South Sudanese, courageously, who are responding to the human rights abuses.  It’s the South Sudanese struggling for independent freedom of the press, freedom of association, all of the basic fundamental rights that they fought and died for, for decades, to have the newest country in the world. … The US Congress can, and should, take the lead in supporting solidarity and getting resources to those folks on the ground who are struggling to turn their situation around, just as many have in other countries around Africa.  the South Africans led the anti-apartheid effort, the Mozambicans rebuilt their country, the Sierra Leoneans, the Liberians, all these different countries have demonstrated that it is possible to turn things around.  South Sudan is literally at its low point right now.  It has hit rock-bottom.  But it’s the South Sudanese who can bring it back, just like we’ve seen in other places.  But it’s our role to provide solidarity and support to those efforts to turn things around.  Thank you.

DR. MUNYANGWA:
Jon, do you mind saying a few words about Somalia?

JON BRAUSE:
Sure.  I think Somalia is a really good country to look at because it had a famine back in 2011.  It was the last, actually, sort of documented famine the world faced.  And just looking over the reports, as many as 250,000 people died.  And if you look at the drivers at the time, which was, of course, conflict, but there was also an associated drought in the Horn of Africa, but it was a situation where really, the war and the lack of governance made it hard for the Jon Brause USAID 1international community to respond, so we had a situation where most of the NGO’s, most of the UN agencies couldn’t be permanently present in the country, and yet they had to plan and mobilize resources to try to get assistance to the people who needed it.  Today it’s a completely different story.  While there is still Al Shabab in parts of Somalia, the government — there is a government now, and the government has the capacity to represent its people.  It represents its people, it has a capital, it has security in parts of the country where there can now be a presence for the international community, so you have a situation where the government is leading the response to the crisis, and the government knows how it wants to respond and help its people.  And this is just a sea change from what it was in 2011.  Now I don’t want to take away from the fact that access is still hard to get in 25% of the country, or 25% of the population that need assistance, but it’s much, much different today than it was in 2011, and it’s all because, in contrast to what John was saying, when you have a government that really wants to help the people — and no government’s perfect, we all know that — but when you have a government that does want to help, and creates that environment, and leads — because it’s always the government that needs to lead — then the international community can step in behind, and provide the support that’s necessary.

How can we prevent more people from dying?

DR. MUYANGWA:
I think our three speakers touched on a number of issues, talking about the causes of the famine and the food insecurity in these countries, talking about root causes, talking about how conflict and insecurity have exacerbated the situation, but I think what we’re all left with from all three presentations is the sense of the scale and scope and the utter devastation that can result from this unless we come together, Africans and the international community, to address this challenge.  As I listened to the numbers, the need for urgent food assistance, 5.1 million in Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia.

Before I get to the causes, I’d like to ask each of our speakers to reflect on the current situations in their own countries.  Obviously, we need to begin the business of trying to save as many lives as possible.  I cannot even begin to imagine the millions of lives that are at stake.  So to each of you, as you look at South Sudan, as you look at Nigeria, and as you look at Somalia, what is the one intervention, that we could have right now, to stop the deaths from accumulating?  In the very immediate instance, what can we do to prevent more people from dying and prevent famine and the current insecurity from getting any worse than it is today?  So John, I’ll start with you first in South Sudan, and then I’ll come in to General Ward and then to Jon.

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
Well, I’m going to try to answer that question and pretend I’m only giving you one thing, but [that task is] too awesome.  Because you have to preface it by saying that [what is needed is] a total, full-court, 120-percent global effort to provide humanitarian assistance, to demand access in all three of these African countries, and press and push.  Shabab has openings now in Somalia, some would argue, to allow access that they didn’t before.  The reason why 250,000 people died in Somalia in 2011 was because Shabab didn’t provide access.  If there was access, they would have been able to receive assistance.  There is an uncertainty now, because they’ve lost a lot, internally within Somalia, Shabab did, because of how they dealt with populations under their control, and because a lot of their fighters now are from areas that are hardest hit, so there is a familial interest at some level, so we’ve got incredible opportunities on the humanitarian front that need to be pressed and pushed. 

In the context of counter-terrorism efforts in Somalia and Nigeria, one has to see that this humanitarian response is essential.  If our long-term counter-terrorism efforts are going to succeed, these basic human needs need to be first and foremost. … Even if you’re solely driven by national security interests, and you’re sitting somewhere in this town, let’s try 1600 Pennsylvania [Avenue], and you just are interested in national security, there is a national security argument for providing increased humanitarian assistance in Nigeria.

“Right now, the international peace efforts, region-led, internationally-supported peace efforts in South Sudan, are largely in shambles.”
–Jon Prendergast, Enough Project

Let’s get to South Sudan, then.  We’ve already said we’ve got to assert the humanitarian effort.  We support that, and I would refer to Jon on specifics about how to do it.  But I do believe, fundamentally, when we talk about conflict-driven famine, and then don’t have a credible international peace effort, then, what are we doing?  Because, right now, the international peace efforts, region-led, internationally-supported peace efforts in South Sudan, are largely in shambles.  There are all kind of competing possibilities that President [Salva] Kiir has announced, a national dialog that is completely inconclusive and controlled by the government — we’ve seen this in many places around Africa — it’s not a credible process, in the view of people who want to see an inclusive peace effort.  And the IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development–Editor] process, which has been driving peace efforts since 1993 in South Sudan, in [the] north-south [conflict] and to the present, that effort has really been compromised, including some countries within IGAD saying ‘I don’t know if we should even continue because we’re so divided’.  So, we need a coming-together, United Nations, African Union, IGAD, South Sudanese, on a revitalized peace effort.  The situation has changed dramatically since the war began in 2013; where it was basically a bi-polar, two-party war, we now have multiple entities who have joined the fray.  We don’t want to see it devolve into a Somalia-1991 sort of situation where you’ve got this internationally-resourced effort to save the elements of the peace effort that already exists that are very solid and address some of the things that are not dealt with in that peace deal. 

And then I would say, to give leverage to that.  Because it is meaningless to go and [try to influence] other people in the middle of a war when you have no leverage, when you cannot address their fundamental core interests.  We have spent far too much energy and time diplomatically in this country, going around the world, telling people what their interests are, but then not affecting [anything].  So I would say that, if you want to create some leverage from the United States and others who care about peace in South Sudan, then you’ve got to get at what the core vulnerabilities are of these leaders.  And as I’ve said, it is in the way that they are off-shoring the money that they’re looting from the fairly rich in natural resources state that South Sudan is, and then you start to go after that money, and then you start to get people’s attention.  So I’m sorry, that’s a multi-layered answer, but there are solutions, that’s what I really, really want to say, and it isn’t just sending food and medicine, no one would argue that; there are multiple aspects of a comprehensive approach that could, in fact, address the core problems in all three of the countries we’re dealing with here.

GENERAL WARD:
Thanks.  I probably won’t be as extensive as John was with respect to the ingredients.  To be sure, to say what single thing would cause an impact, positive impact on the scenario, is very difficult.  But there is something I think, and that is resources.  When I say ‘resources’, there’s a plethora of resources that I’m talking about.  To be sure, it includes the ‘stuff’ that the people need, and that’s an array of things, food, clean water, medicine, etc.  There is a requirement that the government takes its proper role to care for its people.  And in the case of Nigeria, to be sure, that’s happening today.  It’s happening the way it hadn’t happened [before].  For example, when you look at what’s going on in the northeast of Nigeria as this counter-insurgency, this fight, is now being waged, you see — it may not be at the level that will solve the problem — but it’s certainly addressing the problem, because you see military units, but also some civilian organizations, supported by international relief organizations, that are addressing the problem in ways that they had not before.  So, how to make the resources matter?  Well, you need more of them.  You talk about sovereignty.  Nations have to control their borders.  That’s done through security forces, some uniformed, [some] civilian, but nations have to control their borders.  So that’s a component of this.  And we see that being addressed in some pretty substantial ways in Nigeria. …

“There are over 180 displacement centers of various sorts, various categories, in northeast Nigeria.  Less than 10 percent of them have all they need to take care of the people that are in those locations.”
–General William “Kip” Ward

You will never erase all conflict.  But you have to cause conflict to be controlled such that other things can occur, other things have the ability to occur … the ability of local folks to do what makes sense for them where they live.  I mentioned there are over 180 displacement centers of various sorts, various categories, in northeast Nigeria.  Less than 10 percent of them have all they need to take care of the people that are in those locations.  And I talked about the fact that even many of the internally displaced persons aren’t in these centers; they are now mixed amongst the populations of the various towns, villages, etc., where they find some refuge.  There’s even one location, the Capital Nigeria map with provinces and capital citiesRoad, the Chinese built this road in northern Nigeria, a road that was going someplace, and I’m not certain where the road was going but it just stopped in the middle of the desert, because of the conflict.  But that road had become like a rallying ground, where folks would come together.  That road at least provides access for relief to occur.  And so you build infrastructure, infrastructure that will allow those things that need to be delivered to be delivered, you provide an environment that is more rather than less secure, a government that is paying attention with respect to what it’s doing to care for its people.  And then resources that are provided, and we all have a role in that, the international community to be sure, assets that can then allow the delivery of those resources where they’re required.  And [when] all those things come together, it will help provide for a more secure environment.  We all have a stake in it, including the United States of America, to increase that stability.  When you look at Nigeria, you look at the most populous nation on the Continent, up until a few years ago the largest GDP on the Continent, currently, the largest population of displaced persons, so we have a stake in that, in making it happen.  And so, resources is the thing.  It really has multiple components.

JON BRAUSE:
Thanks.  I’ll take a slightly different tack.  I think, if you look at the three countries in Africa that are facing famine, and you unpack it a bit, there’s not one of those countries, absent conflict, that would ever be in this situation.  So if you have to say ‘what is the number one issue’, it’s the fact that conflict is holding the countries back.  South Sudan, ironically, probably of the three, it has the greatest potential, I mean, it’s just [got] unimaginable natural wealth, including agriculture. There’s no end to what could be produced in South Sudan.

“There’s not one of those countries, absent conflict, that would ever be in this situation. … the people of Africa, the people of these three countries, are already the leaders in the response.  They’re not waiting.”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

So, it’s just the fact that the governance and therefore the conflict in those three countries needs to be constantly improved, focusing on the people, because the people of Africa, the people of these three countries, are already, as John said, the leaders in the response.  They’re not waiting.  They’re incredibly entrepreneurial, they’re communal, they take care of each other, but with conflict, it’s all pushed out the window.   So I have to say we need to address the conflict, as John said again, the general ‘but’, I think the international community needs to stand ready to assist where and when it can.  And right now, to the resource point, we don’t have that capacity.  So even where we can get in, even where access is available, we are cutting rations, we are not able to fully support the people, therefore we’re not fully able to support stability.  Where that little pocket of stability is, we can’t support it.  So I would say let’s do work on the conflict, but the international community should try to step forward and make sure that we can help where help can take place.

Questions from the Audience (the “Q & A”)

Q: [from an Ambassador from Mali] What is expected to be done, in this time of budget cuts, for countries outside the ones discussed today but are in the Sahel region that are also enduring potential crises requiring humanitarian assistance as acknowledged by the World Food Programme as representing over 8 million people who are under threat of famine such as The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Cameroon?  In Mali in particular [the questioner’s home country], conflict has displaced people inside and outside the country, and the north of Mali is generally difficult even in peacetime.

JON BRAUSE:
If I could address the Ambassador’s question, and thank you for asking because, as I mentioned at the beginning of my statement, there are 100 million people who are going to need emergency food assistance, not just 20 million in famine-stricken countries, and we see a bit of donor distraction.  They focus on what’s burning brightest.  And of course, we have Syria in the background right now.  There’s great resource drag going in certain directions.  And yet, Sahel Region Map 2when you think about it, [there are] opportunities in places like Mali and Niger, where you have governance, where you have the opportunity to invest, and actually those donor dollars go so much farther there than they do in the famine countries.  If you’re going through a famine, you’re spending huge money just to save lives.  You’re not building that capacity for better development, for empowering the people, all the things you say you want, or the donor community says it wants, we’re not investing in that.  And so we’re seeing a double-whammy.  The resources are going to the places where they’re needed of course, to the famines, but they’re not going, there’s no significant amount of money being invested at a time when these other countries can just do such great work.  So we continue to advocate for Mali, for Niger, for other countries throughout Africa, so that they’re not forgotten, but it’s a very tough battle these days.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: At this point, we were able to pose our Impudent Question.  In this instance, we were somewhat pleasantly surprised that the respondents, particularly Mr. Prendergast, showed an understanding of the “root causes” he had mentioned earlier, and which had inspired the question we posed.]

Q: Regarding root causes, are there enough people in positions of power who are willing to take a serious look at the real root causes from slavery, colonialism, imposition of language, religion, monetary systems and country boundaries that Africans did not choose, current resource extraction and Western-directed military incursions [such as the attack on Libya that led to the loss of the African Union’s main benefactor and freed up weapons now in the hands of Boko Haram] as causative factors in the current situation in these countries and in the Continent in general?  And will enough thought be given to current solutions [African-driven and -owned food sovereignty versus Western-imposed food security] to prevent situations such as the BT cotton crisis in India, that resulted from introduction by the US and the West of genetically-modified cotton in India and that led to thousands of Indian farmer suicides, so that agriculture ‘solutions’ for Africa do not lead to similarly-disastrous outcomes?

“In the midst of famine watch the scramble for the contracts and how the ugly underbelly, again, of international investing, how that fuels violence, and you see this replicated in a number of countries around Africa, still to this day.  And you see that the countries where conflict and violence is most endemic and most resistant to efforts to try to resolve those issues, at the core, I would argue, in most of those places, is unchecked greed.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
The historical context of the scramble for African resources — that we read in history books about the colonial era as if it all ended there — sort of like in this country, for some people, the perception is that, after slavery ended, what’s the problem?  Not understanding Jim Crow, lynching, all the rest of it that occurred as part of the legacy.  Similarly, there is a resounding legacy of that colonial era where violent, illegal extraction of Africa’s extraordinary wealth was a principal driver for the motivations of the European colonial powers.  Similarly today, in a number of African countries, South Sudan is a microcosm of that, that the scramble for resources — in the case of South Sudan it’s primarily oil but the next one is gold, watch this one unfold — in the midst of famine watch the scramble for the contracts and how the ugly underbelly, again, of international investing, how that fuels violence, and you see this replicated in a number of countries around Africa, still to this day.  And you see that the countries where conflict and violence is most endemic and most resistant to efforts, whether local or regional or international, efforts to try to resolve those issues, at the core, I would argue, in most of those places, is unchecked greed.  It’s that confluence of corruption and violence that is driving the emergencies, and I think we can make long, academic, well-sourced assessments of that statement for all three of our countries in Africa today, the underlying rot of corruption and the use of state violence to ensure the continuation of patterns of violent extraction of resources.  And the difficulty in addressing those patterns through peace processes and other approaches, counter-terrorism efforts and other things, if you’re not getting at the core issue of kleptocracy and the hijacking of state institutions so that the judicial systems are undermined, because having the rule of law would mean that the folks who are extracting those resources would actually be the ones being investigated and brought to justice.  Having proper security services that protect the borders, as General Ward said, and are responsible for human security, rather in some of these countries, those are the agents of this accord or policy of extraction of resources.  So, unless we address that fundamental issue, that root cause, we’re going to just keep seeing these emergencies in certain African countries.  Other African countries have figured it out.  They’ve worked through it.  It’s not impossible.  There’s good governance in many, many countries in Africa.  There are lots of extraordinary, positive success stories throughout Africa, of countries overcoming that colonial legacy and turning things around, politically, economically.  Works in progress all over, but dramatic, in my view.  But there are a subset of countries that are still in this cycle that is very similar to what that cycle was during the colonial period.  And it’s all about abject greed and the lack of any accountability for a small group of people in each of these countries who have hijacked the state institutions for their own personal benefit, with international collaborators — banks, lawyers, accountants, shipping companies, arms dealers — those are the kleptocratic networks that we’ve got to address if we want to stop these cycles from continuing.

GENERAL WARD:
I’ve been getting at the notion of those things that are sustainable, as well as those things that are done because you have a committed group of leaders that are looking at an overarching approach.  The landscape, I believe, is positive.  It’s not perfect but it’s positive.  If I go back ten years ago, as we stood up the United States Africa Command as an example, as an example, where it was very plain and apparent that decisions that were ever made, were made as they took into account a range of things that were important for taking care of people.  Including, to be sure, what was my primary focus, and I undertook that with the full understanding that that wasn’t enough in and of itself.  It also required a healthy dose of what I call development, across economic sectors, across agricultural sectors, that could lead to the things that the people needed for themselves that they participated in, from manufacturing to energy, that enabled a society to sustain itself, and a commitment to it as well as an investment in it.  And it also took what I used to term governance, good governance.  At least governance that was more effective as opposed to less effective, taking in all of the [issues] that we’ve talked about here.  From corruption to providing services in remote locations and those things.  And I say that the realization of the importance of that comingling of work, I think, is increasingly recognized by leaders.  People sure understand it.  And if the leaders are to remain in power, then they too have to do things that reflect their understanding of it so that they can demonstrate to their people that they are in fact working on their behalf.  And so, is it possible?  Is there a commitment?  Can it be sustainable?  Yes, but only when and if you have a secure environment, more or less — won’t be perfect but more or less — when you have things being developed in a way that the people who are living there see themselves as benefiting from what’s going on in their homeland, in their area, in their geography, and governance that’s more effective rather than less effective, representing the interests of its people.

“Is it possible?  Is there a commitment?  Can it be sustainable?  Yes, but only when and if you have a secure environment, more or less — won’t be perfect but more or less — when you have things being developed in a way that the people who are living there see themselves as benefiting from what’s going on in their homeland …”
–General William “Kip” Ward

Q: [from Dr. Malcolm Beech, president of the National Business League and the African Business League of America] How can the US encourage building capacity and capability in African businesses for in-country food processing, and how can the us HBCU’s [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] help?

JON BRAUSE:
I’m going to point you to the Feed the Future Initiative that the last Administration put so much effort into and it was really focused on doing just what you’re talking about.  It’s not the response, it’s not waiting until you have a problem, it’s how do you enhance the capacity of African nations to not only produce more food but to process more food, to develop their markets.  What are the key actions of each of those countries and regions where you tweak a little bit, with a little bit of resources, and actually have tremendous impact?  It’s a wonderful program, and I do hope it continues.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: We noticed here that Mr. Brause made reference to Feed the Future, a program sponsored in large part by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID.  While we liked the bulk of his analysis of famine in Afrika and the issues that needed to be considered, this was the one comment he made during the entire event with which we had some serious issues.  The fact that he worked for 22 years at USAID, in positions of increasing responsibility and policy influence, makes the comment unsurprising, especially as he demonstrates a real concern for the people on whose behalf he speaks, and he no doubt sees the programs promoted by USAID to be on the whole, if not in total, beneficial for struggling populations around the world.  Our research on the agency for KUUMBAReport Online, while certainly leading to a similar conclusion that those working for USAID share a commitment to improving the lot of disadvantaged communities, has also, however, led us to conclude that several of its initiatives are flawed at best, and at worst, have led to disastrous consequences for a number of the communities it was designed to help, largely due to the influence of some of the same corporate opportunists Mr. Prendergast refers to in his earlier comments.

Several years ago, when we first started attending the Africa Policy Forum events, we were introduced to the Feed the Future program and did some background research on the track record of USAID and its projects in different parts of the world.  Somewhat alarmingly for us, we found that USAID had assisted in the promotion of the very BT cotton that ultimately led to the Indian farmer suicides, and the agency had run into resistance from several Latin American countries who did not want genetically-modified crops from Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations introduced in their countries.  Feed the Future was reputed to be promoting Water Resistant Maize for Africa (WEMA), which was also connected to agribusiness corporations such as Cargill, Syngenta and Monsanto, as an answer to the problems of crop yields in northern Afrika, despite the assertions by food sovereignty activists that the real problem is not so much yields as it is access to the food that is available and is already being grown.  Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations’ insistence on selling farmers patented, genetically-modified seeds that cannot be recycled, either by science (so-called “terminator seed technology” which has not been verified) or by law (lawsuits by agribusiness against farmers who attempted to recycle their seeds instead of buying the next generation from them), helped lead to the inability of Indian farmers to raise their crops sustainably, and, combined with the unexpectedly-high amounts of water and pesticides needed (despite industry claims to the opposite), the Indian farmers largely went bankrupt and committed suicide because they could no longer pay their debts.

That these same corporations were again attempting to promote patented, genetically-modified seed, this time most notably maize (corn), in Afrika through USAID’s Feed the Future Program, has raised concerns that this same pattern would repeat itself as part of the age-old Scramble for Afrika’s Resources which many Pan-Afrikan and food activists have warned about for years and to which Mr. Prendergast referred in this very Forum.  Thus, we remain skeptical about the Feed the Future program and whether it will truly lead to sustainable agriculture in Afrika, controlled by Afrikans, or whether it will usher in another era of corporate control of food in the Mother Continent, which would sacrifice long-term food sovereignty with Afrikan farmer and grassroots control for short-term food security with Western and corporate control of Afrika’s food.  See the articles “USAID, According To USAID”, “Seeds of Suspicion”, “Is There A Plot To Take Over Afrika’s Food Supply?”, and related posts on the website KUUMBAReport Online, http://kuumbareport.com, which in turn will link you with source articles and documents, for more information.]

Q: [from Ms. Rosemary Segero, President of Segeros International Group, which focuses on agriculture]  Here we are talking about famine, the UN is talking about fighting poverty, World Bank is talking about end of poverty, and we are here talking about root of problems of famine.  Why is it that the conflicts are still in Africa, as much as people are fighting to eat, we have big companies there, doing mining, making money, there are big companies there, getting oil, selling oil.  Why can’t you tell these big companies, especially  to General Ward — happy to see you again — how can we work on this, to make sure there is no conflict in Africa … I’m into security like you, General, we go from head of state to head of state to fight the crime-fight, conflict, before we come to famine. … The head of states, they fight [and get into conflict], so, unless we fight that, we are going to be coming here every day, to the World Bank, the UN and the Sustainable Development Goals.  What can we do from here?  Don’t call us next year to talk about famine.  We want that answer now. 

GENERAL WARD:
Let me just briefly talk to the issue of minimizing vulnerability [to conflict] and how it could be addressed over time.  And what the long lasting guarantor of little conflict is.  And it comes with economic and social development.  And you may say that’s kind of strange, a general talking about the importance of development, but it’s exactly that.  When you have populations that are more or less satisfied where they are because they have the ability, mothers and fathers, can take care of their children, can feed them, can educate them, can house them, can be less afraid when they are out walking to the store and doing whatever … that society is less susceptible to conflict.  And so, when it comes to how we address that notion of international affairs, work, and, to the point of Congresswoman Lee, our international affairs budget, if you look at the programs administered by USAID, these are amounts of monies that aren’t a lot, but they produce huge returns on the investment over time.

“When you do things to invest in the well-being of a child, when you invest in the ability of a woman to raise her society, that has long lasting impacts in a positive way.  And it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. … But you need to create the environment for that to happen.  And that’s why the security aspect of that is also important. “
–General William “Kip” Ward

To get to the question regarding women and children, when you do things to invest in the well-being of a child, when you invest in the ability of a woman to raise her society, that has long lasting impacts in a positive way.  And it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.  And so I would say that this notion of the long-term guarantor of reduced conflict is when you have developed societies, that is a big contributor for [reduction of the risk of] conflict.  And you do it in a way that has meaning for a people where they are, in their geography, by doing things that matter to them, advancing their ability to care for themselves where they are, and that’s why this notion of development in its varying forms, from health to education to food, is so important when it comes to long-term stability.  But you need to create the environment for that to happen.  And that’s why the security aspect of that is also important.  But the long-term guarantor is, indeed, that development component.

Q: [from Bread for the World’s Office of Pan African Engagement and Spiritual Outreach] Can you speak more to the issues of women’s empowerment, and particularly to this vulnerable community of women and children, especially regarding the root causes of the lack of women’s empowerment?  Also, how could the faith community be more effective on the ground in terms of dealing with the root causes, addressing the famine and beyond?

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
Just a quick cherry-picking of a few things to talk about building peace capacities.  We have a confluence of events in which two of the major multilateral organizations in the world that have focused on peace in Africa, are partially or John Prendergast Enough 1fully focused on peace in Africa, have new leadership.  the United Nations has a new Secretary General, who has expressed a real commitment to investing UN resources into peacemaking, and mediation.  We have a new African Union leader who, as well, has said that peace is a fundamental priority, and can put a team together that makes that happen.  And then, the local level, so that’s the international and the continental level, then there’s the local level. … So, that question about the religious component, the faith component, of support for local peace efforts I think is really important. … In South Sudan today, and looking back at the legacy of conflict over the last 30 years, churches have played a fundamentally important role over time in reconciliation efforts between communities, sometimes very successfully, sometimes not successful at all.  But that effort to build local constituencies for peace should [include] a fundamental building block [which] ought to be the South Sudan Council of Churches and the church leaders at the grassroots level, who in most cases have an interest in peace and not conflict and who have an interest in reconciliation.  And I think that is true certainly of the cross-line efforts of some of the leaders.  Islamic and Christian leaders in Nigeria have been some of the bright spots over the last ten years in  northern Nigeria, and in Somalia, you have a number of the imams who have at the local level played a role at the community level in mediation and peacemaking.  So, supporting, highlighting, giving resources to and acting in solidarity with those kinds of efforts, combined with resource and capacity-building for the AU and UN peace efforts, is I think, the kind of strategy that is needed today.

Q: [from Baba Tamiru, Little Ethiopia Magazine] How do we deal with corrupt and selfish leaders who insist on clinging to power, and how much are the leaders in the US Congress involving the Diasporas, which are not very powerful but which are sending remittances to their home countries, sometimes in large numbers?

Q: [from a self-professed ‘pacifist’] would you consider the kleptocrats in South Sudan to be a legitimate government?  If not, what is the military capability of the South Sudanese and rebel forces, and could the UN make a case for removing the government from power as perhaps the most direct way of solving the problem?

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
I guess I would start with the principle that probably is subscribed to by most of the folks in here, which is that people have to decide their own leadership, and it really isn’t the role of outsiders to be determining the direction of who, in fact, is running other countries.  Gambia is a fascinating model now, it has pretty unique circumstances.  It’s not remotely what we have in South Sudan today.  And there are different sets of interests involved in that effort by the region to see a democratic transition in the country.  A remarkable success story, a positive story … but hard to see the parallels to South Sudan.  In terms of the UN taking a more assertive or proactive role in some form of alteration of the current governing structure, I just think, kind of being rooted in the present moment, and the realpolitik of the South Sudan states 1present moment where the US is pulling back from peacekeeping operations, I mean, I can’t wait to see how these debates and discussions unfold as to how the United States pulls the chair of the Security Council here in New York, where they say they’re going to have some kind of a debate about human rights, and I’m frightened to hear that.  And real fundamental questions about peacekeeping operations, which, of course, in the hands of a responsible discussion, is important.  You’ve got to keep trying to improve these peacekeeping operations so they can have some kind of relevance to the future of these countries but I think often, what we’re seeing now is questions that are designed to justify a massive pull-back.  So the idea that the UN is going to be the engine of what would be, in effect, an invasion, overthrowing the government, I just don’t think that’s in the realm of reality.  I think there are also a lot of ideas out there about building a trusteeship or other forms of that kind of an idea that there would be some kind of an internationalization of governance for some period of time in South Sudan.  I think those are completely unrealistic as well in this present moment.  Who’s going to shoot their way into that system?  And so, the real question, the responsible question, is, I think — reasonable people can differ — is how can you even the playing field in South Sudan a little more, so that guys with the biggest guns don’t dominate that place for the foreseeable future?  And I look at historical precedent, where in the South African situation, the apartheid situation, where international pressure, in the context of the anti-apartheid efforts and the extraordinary efforts on the ground that the South Africans waged was a critically important ingredient in the overall transformation, very similar to the blood diamonds wars in West Africa … [it] wasn’t the panacea in the early 2000’s, but it removed, or it dramatically reduced the gasoline.  International gasoline was being poured on those domestic fires, in three different countries within a couple of years in these places, those being Sierra Leone, Liberia and even in Angola you saw it, and led to these active wars.  And we were able to have some sort of active transformation in at least two of these countries.  Angola, lagging behind, is still an authoritarian state.  So, there are solutions that are short of some kind of international military response that is never going to come.  And I think, in this case, it’s addressing those economic roots of the problem which is one of the central parts of what outsiders can do to begin to create a situation where on the ground, negotiations between the relevant stakeholders in the future of countries like South Sudan can have a chance at determining their own future.

“The responsible question is … is how can you even the playing field in South Sudan a little more, so that guys with the biggest guns don’t dominate that place for the foreseeable future?”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

Q: [from Sis. N’deye Ba of Senegal, from Act 4 Accountability, on the web at www.act4accountability.com] I pose this question not only to the panelists but also to anyone in the audience who is willing to have a larger conversation about it, perhaps after the event.  What can we as the Diaspora do?  What are some actionable items that we can do to assist in any way that we can, aside from just sending money back home as I’m sure a lot of us do?  There is a large population of recent college graduates who want to help but just don’t know how.  So I’d really appreciate any advice that you can share on that.

Q: [from Mr. Lawrence Friedman, economic development policy advocate for Africa over the last 25 years] I’d like to comment on economic development in providing long-term stability with mitigating enterprises.  And I don’t think we’ve done enough.  Maybe this humanitarian crisis that we’re in now will, maybe, lead to a change in policy.  If you look at where transformative pockets are active in Africa, you have to look at China, the Brits … they’re building railroads in Kenya, railroads in Ethiopia which I was on, railroads in Nigeria.  We’re not doing that.  This gives people jobs.  This gives people economic development.  This gives people hope for the future.  In northeast Nigeria, I remember the Lake Chop Basin Commission and I remember I’m advocating a program to refurbish the lake.  Bring water into the lake which would improve the economic development.  So I know everybody’s doing everything for the humanitarian crisis, but could this not be a period where we change the Western policy of the EU and the West and invest billions of dollars in infrastructure the way the Chinese are doing?  Long term loans, low interest.  The previous Administration didn’t want to have anything to do with that.  Maybe this Administration will change.  The president of our country and the president of China are meeting. … but I see this as an opportunity in the midst of a crisis to actually develop a positive, long-term policy which we have not done for many, many years.

GENERAL WARD:
I think without question, the activity that we’ve seen on the Continent of Africa by other nations, from China to Russia to Brazil to India, not classifying them one way or the other but the fact that they are there and involved in substantial ways with respect to infrastructure, major policies and programs that have implications for other things to occur, from energy to manufacturing, the involvement of our government in that is clearly not what we see by other governments.  Our models look different.  Our private enterprise, our private business sector has a role to play also.  And so I believe a part of that dynamic, and it is causing it such that our private business sector feels as if it too has a stake, a role, and, like any private business, it’s in their interest to be on the Continent to do these things as well.  And so, from my perspective, a policy and overarching long-term approach that is taken that promotes development, infrastructure, business, local entrepreneurship, investment are all things that would lead to an environment that would be less susceptible to conflict, and thus, obviously, I think in the best interests of the United States of America.  So, I agree, it makes sense, and we aren’t doing what other nations do, and not that we have to do exactly what other nations do.  It’s not my point.  But doing the things that America does do well, we grow business.  We know how to do that.  We have to have an environment on the Continent that is conducive to that.  And so, a degree of security is important.  So that has to be there as well.  But that’s not all that’s required, and so these other things, from infrastructure to empowering locals, business entrepreneurs, supporting those of various means, be it our various banking programs, be it our various programs that are traditionally sponsored by USAID.  We talk about the World Food Programme as an example.  There’s another program out there, I believe it’s called Markets Too, that’s operating in Nigeria, which is aligned with the 2010 Feed the Future program, about 60 million dollars.  Not a lot of money, but doing some fantastic work, that’s also potentially threatened.  And this is about protecting local Nigerian agricultural development, for themselves as well as export farming.  Those are things that will make a difference over the long term in my estimation.

Q: What can we do to support the widows in Africa?  reports from the UN are saying that in some areas of the Continent, 45-50% of the population are widows.

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
I’ll just quickly say that it’s not my area of expertise, but certainly I have seen over the course of 30 years including working in and visiting Africa, quite a progression in the international and local aid efforts, writ large, focusing more and more on vulnerable groups and, of course, women who have lost their spouses, children — unaccompanied minors they call them — children who have lost their parents, have been increasingly targeted in the responses, with not just humanitarian assistance but the kind of assistance that helps create potential livelihoods for their future, and so I think there’s been increasing investment, all of it, at least in the United States, put at risk by this new budget that’s been forwarded by the White House, but certainly, from where we were in the 80’s to where we are now, I think there’s been a great deal of better understanding, better targeting and more resources going to vulnerable communities in those local areas.  A very general comment, but I think it’s important to note that there has been some progress.

GENERAL WARD:
And I would certainly support that.  I don’t have the answer, but I know that whatever we do that supports widows and women in the society is a wise investment.  It’s something important to do.  We ought to be looking at ways that we can do more.  I’ve seen in too many places globally, from the Balkans to the middle east to the Continent of Africa, women who were empowered, either because they had been subject to some catastrophic event, loss of loved ones, their children, their spouses, who were then empowered to make a difference in their society, and they do it.

Summary of the Discussion

DR. MUYANGWA:
it really hits you in the face about the food insecurity situation that is unfolding globally and on the Continent: 20 million people impacted by famine, perhaps the largest crisis since the founding of the UN in 1945. 

Dr Monde Muyangwa 1One is also struck by the tepid response of the international community to the crisis, which is one of the reasons why I’m thankful to see all of you here. … We need to draw more attention to this issue.  As of today only 10% of the required 4.4 billion dollars has been raised to address this issue.  Now, one could say, maybe this is an awareness issue.  If it is let’s go on and keep raising that awareness.  One could argue that it’s a question of fatigue amongst those who provide the resources.  One could also argue that it is a continuing dialog, a debate that we’ve had for many, many years about just how important Africa is to all of us, and we see this playing out in the budget priorities that are being proposed. 

In terms of the immediate addressing of the situation to minimize the loss of lives, I heard the speakers address a number of issues, one of which was the issue of access, physical access to the people who need help the most.  That we need to do a better job of that.  But i think the second definition of that that was alluded to but not really addressed in depth has to do with the restrictions that some of these governments are placing on that access.  That issue needs to be addressed and we need to put more pressure on these governments to allow that access.  But also just to increase resources to allow us to reach the people who need the help the most.  I also heard from different quarters in the Q&A about tapping more and empowering more of the African respondents who are on the ground and actually working in their communities, identifying them, and seeing how we can give them a little bit more to be able to do more of the work they are already doing in their space. 

I thought that we really had a powerful discussion about the causes and drivers of this conflict, of the famine and the food insecurities in these countries.  And all of our speakers spoke to the fact that this crisis consists of man-made factors but also natural factors, a drought that’s overlaid with conflict, mostly a man-made problem, but also some of the choices that various African leaders have made that contributed to the crisis.  Amongst those, we’ve heard how governance and leadership matter.  And one of the things that I think we need to look squarely in the face, and for this I’ll look to my African Brothers and Sisters, is that … African governments and leaders have to take even more responsibilities for what their neighbors are doing on the governance front.  It’s the lack of inclusive governance as we’ve heard, the lack of government that’s accountable to its people, government that’s stealing resources blind from their people, even as these crises unfold.  That is something that, squarely, African leaders ought to address more, that’s part of the problem here.  Governance also matters, we’ve heard, in another way, in that, having a government in Somalia, the entry points for addressing the crisis in Somalia are very different than those that we have in South Sudan, than those that we had in Somalia in 2011 in part because we now have a government in place that’s trying to address the issues.  Unfortunately, the government in South Sudan, as we’ve heard, has not been very helpful in that space.

“Nine of 16 United Nations peacekeeping missions are in Africa.  that’s nine peacekeeping missions too many.”
–Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Wilson Center

On the long-term solutions on the governance front, I’m struck by the number of people who talked governance here and the number of times the governance issue came up in the audience.  From my perspective, I think that one of the issues that we need to look at from the Washington perspective has been the declining budgets for inclusive governance and democracy within the US budget.  And this is not to point the finger at any one Administration.  But this budget has been declining, starting in the Bush Administration years, coming through to the Obama years, and as I heard every single one of our speakers here touch on the issue of governance and why it’s important, and so investing in that space is clearly something that we’re going to have to look at, and directing more resources to that issue is something that we need to take a look at. 

We heard about all three African countries [discussed today], that the famine and food insecurity has been driven by conflict.  Nine of 16 United Nations peacekeeping missions are in Africa.  that’s nine peacekeeping missions too many.  And so, the point that was made earlier on, about [how] we need to figure out a way of minimizing Africa’s fragility, of minimizing Africa’s risk to conflict, that cannot be overstated.  Look at the three case studies that we have looked at today.  Underpinning those is the role that conflict has played in leading us to this situation that we are in today.  So that’s something else that we need to look at.

I was happy to hear the General talk about [how] security was important but we need to do more than just security.  We need to achieve a better balance between security and investment in development.  That’s what’s going to get us to the long-term picture that we’re looking at, of more food-secure African countries.

From a personal perspective, we haven’t yet articulated an Africa policy, the current Administration has not.  But what I hear from the speakers, and I hear from all of you, is that, even as we look at the budget of this country and our short-term or national interests, that we not lose sight of the long-term picture.  That we not let security dictate how we engage and invest and develop relationships with other parts of the world.  This is going to be an especially important thing to Africa, where we know that we have some serious security concerns, but as John said, security should not be the only lens through which we look at how we engage with Africa. … looking beyond security, and looking beyond the here-and-now, to focus on the long term of what we would like US-Africa relations to be like in another 20, 30 years or so, and how we get there.

There was a question that was raised about long-term food sustainability.  That has to be what we focus on.  Even as we address the famine here today, our long-term initiatives, our long-term objectives really ought to be about how do we engender long-term food security in Africa that’s African-owned and African-driven.  So, as we look at our programs, as we look at our policies, how are we embedding that into those policies to ensure that that’s exactly what we’re pushing for over the long term?

“[O]ur long-term objectives really ought to be about how do we engender long-term food security in Africa that’s African-owned and African-driven.”
–Dr. Monde Munyangwa, Wilson Center

And then, as I conclude my summary … two points.  One was made by our last question here on ensuring that vulnerable populations are accounted for, as we work on addressing the immediate famine and food insecurity by also trying to work on long-term food security and sustainability.  I think these are key issues that we need to interrogate as we build policies, as we build programs, as we build initiatives.  And then the final point was about the role of the African Diaspora.  Africa has one of the most active Diasporas in this country.  But I fear that we don’t take advantage of that Diaspora to the extent that we could, to actually do a whole lot more for and with the Continent.  I know a lot of organizations are already tapping into that Diaspora, but I think there is more that could be done, and so how do we put our heads together to figure out, how do we energize that Diaspora and include it and embed it even more in the work that we are doing, whether it’s at the policy level, whether it’s independent initiatives of their undertaking, or whether it’s engaging in official Africa here as represented in Washington?

So, some really, really good and powerful takeaways for all of us as we think more about how we can actually go from where we are today to more action that’s required to change and alleviate the situation in the countries that we’ve been talking about.

Please join me in thanking our speakers.

CLOSING REMARKS BY CONGRESS MEMBER KAREN BASS:
This was just very, very informative. … And I want everyone to know, this is not just a one time thing.  I don’t want anybody to think that we’re going to forget this and move on to another issue.  But I would like to ask the panel to continue to assist us as Congress to continue to figure out how to respond to this, and of course, most notable for me is understanding the role that conflict plays.  You added a whole other dimension … in terms of talking about the money that is leaving the country, resources, and Monde, you mentioned one of the last questions about the Karen Bass 1Diaspora, I do think that one of our next moves should be to have another event similar to this that focuses on the Diaspora, and I was speaking in the back with a representative from the Somalian Embassy, because I think, in terms of raising public awareness within Congress, it’s also about raising public awareness within our country, the fact that African immigrants are some of the most educated immigrants and the role they play, not just with remittances, but also conducting business in their home countries, and the significant leadership role that they should play now, as we address this crisis.  And so, I want everyone to know that we will continue, this will not be our last event, and we look for all of your input as to how we should proceed.  We just can’t sit back and say that 20 million people are at risk for starvation, and our country is not going to play a role that we have played historically.  Again, I go back to a comment that I made in the beginning.  I think that the role we played around Ebola, in terms of galvanizing and mobilizing the entire world to address the crisis, that at one point, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] talked about a million people dying, and it was nowhere near that because … the world acted, the world responded, and stamped it out before it got completely out of control and I think that’s exactly what we need to do now.  But, again, one of the most significant points that each panelist made over and over again is that yes, we have to address the crisis today, but it would be extremely short-sighted if we didn’t have a more in-depth, long-term response, because, given our world, the level of technology, science, all of the advancement, we should not be sitting in the 21st Century, even talking about famine.  Thank you very much.

“We should not be sitting in the 21st Century, even talking about famine.”
–Congress Member Karen Bass

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