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Dr Martin Okeke MIR France

Tribute to Dr. Chukwuma Martin Okeke, President of MIR France and Champion of Reparations

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, June 19th, Dr. Chukwuma Martin Okeke, President of the Mouvement International pour Reparation (MIR) in France, passed on to the Honored Ancestors.  While much has been made of the struggle for Reparations in the United States, with prominent writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates dressing down the United States Congress in a public hearing on the date of the celebration of the emancipation of the last enslaved Afrikans in Texas, known as “Juneteenth”, and with groups such as American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) advocating for Reparations for Afrikan-Americans, there has been an international movement for the cause as far away as the Caribbean, Europe and Afrika going on for many years.  One of the more prominent international organizations is MIR, and Dr. Okeke has been its driving force.  Below, we present tributes from two stalwart fighters for the cause from across the waters, Dr. Makeda Kandake of MIR from Guadeloupe in the Eastern Caribbean, and Dr. Barryl Biekman of the African Union African Diaspora Sixth Region (AUADS) Europe, a Pan-Afrikan Diaspora organization based primarily in The Netherlands.

Message of Tribute and Brief Biography from Dr. Makeda Kandake, MIR-Caribbean

“Death is a garment that everyone will wear”

by Dr. Makeda Kandake
Mouvement International pour Reparation (MIR)-Guadeloupe

Hotep to All!

On this day of celebration June tenth (Freedom Day or Emancipation Day), all these words that celebrate FREEDOM, Dr. Chukwuma Martin Okeke, President of MIR France, faithfully departed from us, to a place of Eternal Honor with the Ancestors.

First-rate humanist, affable and combative at the same time, he presided over the destiny of MIR France, with conviction and force, so that Reparations be granted to the descendants of deported Africans. A Man of science that he was, he was the inventor of a process now widely used by the French industry.

We spoke at length during my stay in Paris in March 2019, and little by little, during our discussion, hope illuminated his face, bringing out with strength the goodness that lived in him. Although the intensity was short, at each recurrence, joy enameled him, his face.

He would not have liked us to be devastated, however my mind is numbed by sorrow. As far as I’m concerned, I lost a friend, an ear, a support.

Thank you, dear Brother Martin, for the trust you have shown in me, and the honor you have given me by making me the International Representative of MIR France in the 6th region of Africa, the Diaspora.

Dear Brother Martin, you have now returned to the very select courtyard of glorious and luminous Ancestors.

My organization SRDC in the USA is paying tribute to you on its website, and the presidents of sister organizations have almost all shown up to pay tribute to you.


Brief Biography by Dr. Makeda Kandake

He was an engineer specializing in the analysis of wear and aging of materials. He was one of the founders of an engineering school in Lyon, the 3rd largest city in France (ENIS). He arrived at the age of 20 in France following the Biafra war that was raging in his home country of Nigeria without knowing a word of French. He worked tirelessly to catch up with others and continue his studies, in which he brilliantly succeeded. He was a very beautiful person with great humanity. Always listening attentively to others and with great humility. Rich in, and yet thirsty for knowledge. He was like all beautiful people — curious about the essentials. He fought to bring the issue of Reparations to the highest level in France, and was never stingy with advice on the issue. He dreamed of meeting all the good people who were fighting for Justice for Africans and African descendants.

He never failed to ask me to thank the sister organizations that had chosen to accept MIR France in their group and really hoped to meet the leaders of these organizations, such as the Professor David Horne from SRDC, David Commissiong from CPAN, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante and Professor Ama Mazama from Afrocentricity International. He enjoyed talking about Dr. Barryl Biekman, Malaak Shabazz, Dowoti Desir and many others. In short, he was a beautiful soul.

His transition is painful for us who stay here, but finally brought him rest from the ordeal of the illness that finally took him from us. June 19, International Day of Liberty (Juneteenth’s Day), is the date he has chosen for his ultimate trip to the Great Freedom to be with the Honored Ancestors. It only remains for us to thank him for his many contributions against the injustices towards our community and his sustained fight for the Reparations of the Trafficking and Slavery recognized as being Crimes against Humanity, and that we must tear up by all means the vestiges of slavery and exploitation. To his family we say to always cherish his memory and once again we bow respectfully to his memory. Thank you Friend, have a good trip to Honored Eternity and may the land where you rest be forever sweet and light.

Message of Tribute from Dr. Barryl Biekman, AUADS Europe

Dr. Barryl Biekman of African Union African Diaspora Sixth Region (AUADS) Europe, a Pan-Afrikan Diaspora organization operating out of The Netherlands, issued a brief message of condolence and tribute:

Indeed with the transition of Dr. Okeke we have lost a Great Pan African Hero.

In 2007 he was at the forefront of the setting up and organizational development of the AUADS Europe and a GREAT supporter of the SRDC.

With his transition we have lost a GREAT fighter for the implementation of the 20 AU ECOSOCC seats for the Diaspora.

Dr. Martin Okeke I applaud for you and thank for all of your dedication; all that has been achieved because of your empowerment and strong belief.

Sister Makeda, SRDC & MIR families please receive my deepest condolences.

May his soul rest in Peace.

Sister Barryl.

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Ambassador Quao 1

African Union Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao Discusses the Berlin Conference

Among the many public statements made by African Union Ambassador to the United States Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao was a very informative and spirited discussion of the lingering impact of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, in which the European colonial powers divided up the Continent of Afrika for their own purposes, at the expense of the people of Afrika. The obvious explanations for the disunity and confusion that still exist on the Mother Continent, as well as in the Global Afrikan Diaspora, can be found in the multiple languages, spiritualities and currency systems that continue to control much day-to-day life in the Afrikan World, none of which were created and developed by Afrikan people but were instead imposed on the Continent to reinforce the control of the colonial powers. Dr. Chihombori-Quao effectively dissects the original Berlin Conference, as well as many of the controls still imposed on the Continent by colonial forces, and discusses the need for Afrikan people of the Continent and the Diaspora to unify if we are to regain control of our ancestral home.  (Note that this video starts about four minutes into her discussion, so please rewind it to the beginning to see the entire video.)

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African Union Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao on Building the “Afrika that We Want”

Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Dr. Liziwe Masiela; Dr. Kankoe Assiongbon; Dr. Chieke Ihejirika; AU Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao; Prof. Jamila White; Dr. Marikis Alvarez.

Delaware State University hosted the DSU-APRM Pan African Development Conference, “Mobilizing the 6th Region of Africa” on April 10-12 . Co-hosted by the African Peer Review Mechanism, known as “Africa’s self-assessment for good governance”, and the Center for Global Africa at Delaware State University, the Conference concentrated on topics ranging from reshaping Afrikan and Diaspora images, narratives and relationships to development opportunities with APRM member countries and the role of APRM in mobilizing the Sixth Region of Afrika, as the Diaspora was unofficially named in 2003 when the African Union initially launched its Diaspora Initiative.

Prof. Ezrah Aharone.

This first Pan Afrikan Development Conference at Delaware State University essentially announces the Center for Global Africa (CGA) to the public. This initiative was conceptualized by Delaware State University Professor Ezrah Aharone and was promoted in large part by Professor Aharone, Professor Akwasi Osei and Professor Leandra Casson Marshall.

“While Pan African gatherings are not unusual,” Prof. Aharone writes in his introduction to attendees,

“this conference uniquely coincides with the 400-year mark (1619-2019) of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the United States. Along with the importance of understanding our interlocking interests and the global complexities of this period, we at Delaware State University understand the subsequent 21st-century responsibility of Diasporan Africans to now structurally devise and apply our collective intellect and ideals toward institutional collaborations for global and sustainable African progress, as this conference aims to facilitate through our Center for Global Africa (CGA).

“Further unique, the CGA’s establishment aligns with the African Union’s (AU) policy to designate Africans in the Diaspora as the ‘Sixth Region.’ So to contribute to Africa’s ‘Renaissance and Revitalization’ as recently declared by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the CGA’s mission is to mobilize Sixth Region resources and expertise through HBCU initiatives that are faculty and student-driven, solution-oriented, development-centered, and revenue-generating in ways that will be mutually beneficial to Africa and the Diaspora.

“To this end, we applaud and recognize the value of APRM which is a specialized agency of the AU, on whose behalf we largely gather today. The purpose is to exchange ideas that will productively contribute and expand APRM’s unparalleled work to evaluate the proficiencies of governance and socioeconomic conditions of African nations, with the objective to make recommendations for governments to implement as a means to catalyze 21st-century innovations and development of African nations.”

The full Conference consisted of an opening VIP reception on Wednesday, April 10; four panel discussions on Thursday, April 11, followed by an evening reception; and closed sessions on Friday, April 12. We were able to make the drive to Dover, Delaware, the location of Delaware State University, for the Thursday sessions, where most of the public discussion took place.

The Conference was notable for its varied selection of important speakers. Of course, being an Historically Black College/University (HBCU) and the institution at which the Center for Global Africa was founded, Delaware State professors served on the various panels. Prof. Ezrah Aharone, Dean Michael Casson, Prof. Leandra Casson-Marshall, Prof. Akwasi Osei, Dr. Vincent Fondong, Dr. Cherese Winstead, Dr. Kankoe Assiongbon and Dr. Maneesh Pandeya all made important contributions to the Thursday panels. Prof. Eddy Maloka and Prof. Ibrahim Gambari of APRM, Prof. Donna Patterson, Dr. Marshall Stevenson and Dr. Virginie Zoumenou of University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), Dr. Chieke Ohejirika of Lincoln University and Prof. Jamila White of Morgan State University were among the academics from other institutions and organizations who provided key insights and analysis.

Mr. Thomas McClary; Dr. Marshall Stevenson; Mr. Milton Allimadi; Prof. Maneesh Pandeya.

South African attorney Tumi Dlamani, Zemenay Lakew of APRM and New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Liziwe Masiela of APRM, and His Excellency Khayar Ouman Defallah of APRM-Chad were among other important speakers.

Perhaps the best known panelists were former Major League Baseball manager Dusty Baker; Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool & The Gang, who is partnering with Mr. Baker in Kool-Baker Energy to provide sustainable energy in Afrika; Thomas McClary, founder of the Commodores, who spoke about cultural exchanges between the Diaspora and the Mother Continent; and African Union Ambassador to the United States, The Honorable Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao.

Dean Michael Casson; Mr. Dusty Baker; Minister Khayar Oumar Defallah and his interpreter; Prof. Leandra Casson Marshall.

As perhaps the most prominent (and for many Afrikan Diasporans, the only) voice to consistently speak out on behalf of the unification of Afrika and her Scattered Children in the Diaspora, Madame Ambassador Quao’s comments on the key topic of mobilizing the Sixth Region of Afrika are included below, pretty much in their entirety.

One of the African Union’s major catch-phrases over the last several years has been “The Africa We Want”. Here, Ambassador Quao describes the AU’s current plan for how we in the Diaspora can help build it.

“Once again we are here to talk about matters of the village. There are issues in our village, and I appreciate the opportunity for us to come together as members of the village to address the issues together.

“With what I know of the issues that are keeping us together, difficulties that we are having as Afrikan Diaspora, Continental Diaspora, and Afrikan Diaspora as Afrikan Americans. I know many of us have tried to go home, to make a difference. And many of us have come back, because the conditions on the ground were not conducive to what we wanted to offer. I used to take doctors on medical missions, and you end up with a surgeon treating infections and sore throats. Because that’s all they could do. The country did not have the facilities they needed to do what they do best.

“Now, there are other reasons why some of us have gone home and come back. And I’m going to hit this nail by the head, because it’s something we must speak to. When we go to Afrika, as Continental Afrikans, who’ve been-to – in my husband’s country of Ghana, we call these people like me “been-to’s”; I’ve been to America, I’ve been to Britain, been-to’s – we’ve got issues. We go back home with an attitude. We think just because we’ve been-to, we know more than the ones at home. That attitude has got to change. And it’s one of the reasons that many people are not making it when the been-to’s go back.

“We also have Afrikan Americans, who go to Afrika thinking ‘I’m going to tell the Afrikans, I know more than the Afrikans.’ That’s where you are wrong, because Afrikans have a lot to teach you too. So there is a need for an attitude adjustment, a realization that we have something to offer. But they too have something to offer us. What is needed is for us to work together, because united, and understanding each other, that’s the only way we can come together in a meaningful way and build the Afrika that We Want.

“At the African Union Mission, that’s one of my mandates. Two main mandates, one to promote Afrika in the Americas, and the second one, to bring the Diaspora home by any means necessary.

“With that understanding, I sat down and asked myself, how do I go about taking this very diverse, interested group of people who don’t like each other, how do I go about bringing them together so we can go home?

Ambassador Quao at an October 2018 conference with [left] Mr. Melvin Foote of the Constituency for Africa and [right] Dr. Ron Daniels of the Institute of the Black World. (from

“Looking at the issues that we are dealing with on this side of the Atlantic as well as the opposite side, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way we can effectively go back home as Afrikan Diaspora to accomplish two things: 1) yes, to bring the expertise that is needed, but 2) I remember two years ago, president Trump was addressing the Afrikan heads of state and he said ‘I don’t know why you guys are poor. My friends go to Afrika poor, they come back rich.’ Are you with me? So for those of you who think the Afrikan heads of state are calling you to come home because they just want your money, wrong. We are saying, if you don’t show up, and you [don’t] stand up to be counted, next time the contracts go to the Chinese, shut up. How do we give you contracts when we don’t know where you are? How do we know about your business when you don’t stand up? And that is the challenge the Afrikan heads of state are running into. Next … Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, there is a conference going on in Nairobi. Former Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, is now over infrastructure. His advisor called; one of his Afro Champion advisors called me and said, ‘Ambassador, we need you to put together a coalition of Afrikan Diaspora who can come in and be together with Afro Champions, be the first to know of the development of projects that are going on in Afrika.’ There is nothing wrong with Diaspora organizations building the next Cape to Cairo Highway. The next Cape to Cairo High Speed Train. You can only get those contracts when you’re on the table. You heard your sister [earlier in the conference] talk about [trying to find a] Pan Afrikan Chamber of Commerce, but [especially when she mentioned developing an Afrikan] single currency. These are all opportunities that are going to happen in Afrika at the continental level. You’ve got to realize, because of the Afrikan Continental Free Trade Area [CFTA], for the first time ever, in the development agenda for Afrika, we are looking at it as Afrika, not as 55 different countries.

“So this is a tremendous entry point, that if you Diaspora, if we don’t organize, we are going to miss out. The heads of state are saying the Diaspora must be in the front, along with the Afro Champions. They are wanting to create a space for us. We got our twenty-second ratification which is what we needed in order for implementation [of CFTA] to begin, two weeks ago. We are talking of a baby who has just been born. I want everybody to be clear about that. We are in a beautiful place to be on the drivers side, [in the] drivers seat of the developmental agenda for Afrika. So please, if you hear anything else from me, this is the time for us to organize, and stand up, and let’s take Afrika where Afrika belongs on the world stage. But in the process, we are also helping ourselves. There is nothing wrong with you investing your money in Afrika, coming back home to America, and play golf like they do. That’s what we want you to do, so don’t look at it any other way. It’s a win-win situation.

The Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers entertain the audience at a Reception on Thursday evening.

“So with that in mind, in Washington, we set out to then say, Where do we begin? Fortunately for us, first it was the President of Zambia who stood up and he gave us 135 hectares of land, which is about 300 acres. And when the President of Zimbabwe heard about the 135 hectares, he said … Zambia has a lot of money. You see, Victoria Falls – for those of you who don’t know Victoria Falls, Google it, it’s a beautiful place – is one of the best tourist destinations in Afrika. They say Victoria Falls is like a woman: when you look at her from the Zambian side you’re looking at her back. But when you’re looking at her from Zimbabwe the choice is yours which view you want. So he proceeded to give us 2,000 hectares. So we have been offered 2,000 hectares of land, on the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, along the Zambezi River. Prime, prime, prime location. There, ladies and gentlemen, we, the Afrikan Diaspora, in collaboration with our Brothers and Sisters on the Continent, we are going to build our first, our very own, Wakanda.

“We are calling it, Afrikan Diaspora Centers of Excellence. Why are we building Wakanda? Money alone is not enough to bring change, sustainable change that Afrika needs. Capacity building is where it’s at. Most of you may not realize that Afrika today needs 1.2 million doctors. If all the Diaspora, Continental Afrikan and Afrikan American doctors, were to go home to Afrika today, they’re only going to meet about 30 percent of the need. Many heads of states thought building new hospitals, renovating old ones, was the way to address the issues of health care. Guess what? Most of those wards, half of them, are empty because there are no doctors.

“I’d like to talk about my husband’s country, my own country, Ghana. There are more Ghanaian doctors in New York City alone than in the entire country of Ghana. So when Diaspora starts complaining … I say ‘[that’s] because you are here.’ So our reality is , capacity is what Afrika needs. And where is that capacity? It’s in the Diaspora, thanks to the brain drain. At every level, every sector, the capacity Afrika needs is in the Diaspora, not on the Continent. Seven billion dollars is being spent every year paying salaries to expatriates going to Afrika to provide services. And when I ask why is it that you never get Diaspora to fill some of those jobs, they say ‘Where are they?’ … At every level, we are losing out because we are scattered.

“So, in Wakanda, there will be a thousand-bed teaching hospital to train all the capacity Afrika needs. There will be one Wakanda village in each region, which will be a developmental hub for the region. So for every hospital built, there will be supporting hospitals. Also, we will have a university, a technical college, to train, again, all the capacity Afrika needs. Agricultural farms and an agricultural college, hotels for hospitality. A country with some of the best tourist destinations, [but] we’re only realizing about 4 percent of the tourism dollars in the world. Agriculture – for a continent with over 65 percent of the arable land in the world, we are importing food. I am embarrassed to say that. Afrika should be, and will be, the breadbasket of the world.

“In addition, in our Wakanda, we are also going to have pharmaceutical manufacturing. Most of you are also not aware that in most of the Sub Saharan Afrikan countries, [of the] drugs going into those countries, close to 50 percent have zero bio-viability. That means they are not medication. They are chalk, in some cases poisonous substances. Millions of people are dying every year, thinking they are taking blood pressure medicines, diabetic medicines … when they are taking poison. Those are murderers, outside murderers, coming in. Millions of them, every day. And nobody is held accountable. We have got to stop that. …

“And of course, there will be a power plant, infrastructure, housing, supportive development. It’s going to be a very modern city, with roads that are ready for self-driving cars, monorails for easy transport around the village. It’s going to be how Afrika should be. We will build the Afrika that We Want.

Ambassador Quao at the Thursday evening reception.

“For everything that’s happening in Wakanda, there’s going to be downstream development. You can picture this: a team … whose job is to do nothing but to make sure, 15 to 20 years from now, [lack of] access to health care is a thing of the past. Educators who are saying, 15 to 20 years from now, [lack of] access to health care is a thing of the past, [lack of] access to power is a thing of the past, [lack of] access to water is a thing of the past. We’ll have teams from the Diaspora working on the various sectors. Can we not do that guys? Absolutely, yes we can. And all we’ve got to do is organize, because the brains we need are endless in the Diaspora. Then the question becomes, ‘Ambassador, how are we going to find them?’ That’s easy! We’ve got 50 million Black people in this country. 41 million Afrikan Americans and 9 million Continental Afrikans. If I just get a million of those to put aside a thousand dollars a year, that’s a billion dollars. Can we not do that? If I get 5 million, now we’re down to only 200 dollars a year, and we’ve got a billion dollars. And you take that money, you leverage it, and you keep it in there, just leveraging it, not doing another thing, we can get a billion dollars every year, out of that money, to build our Wakanda. Can we not do that? Can I get an ‘Amen’?

“We can do this! We want the NGOs out of our countries. We want no more aid. Aid is killing us. We don’t need aid, because we are very capable of taking care of ourselves. Especially you, us, Diaspora. To whom much is given, much is expected. We can do this. We live in this wonderful, great country. In my last conversation with [previous African Union Commission] Chairman [Nkosazana Dlamini-] Zuma, she said to me, ‘My sister, if sustainable development is to come to Afrika, it’s going to be brought by the Diaspora. But not just any Diaspora; the Diaspora in America. The Diaspora in America. Think about it. There’s something unique about being a Diaspora in this country. We already live as Americans. Not as Californians, not as Floridians, but Americans. Subconsciously, we are already integrated, so moving into Afrika is a piece of cake! So the Afrikan leaders, and my [current African Union Commission] Chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, they are very clear, that in order for Afrika to move forward, the Children of Afrika in the Diaspora must be front, middle and end of it all. So I look forward to our conversations, [and] I hope that we can all be in the right spirit and agree that we must speak as one Continent, one Afrika, one voice. Thank you.”

The Ambassador has also released an extremely informative video in which she quite emphatically breaks down the destructive legacy of the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference, in which the European powers at the time carved up the Afrikan Continent into colonial territories that led to the current map of Afrika we see today, as well as the colonial influence that persists in Afrika in the form of colonial languages, colonial spirituality, colonial names, colonial currency and the pillage of the Continent for the benefit of the colonial powers, and urges us all to work together as Afrikan People to break the colonial grip that still hampers the Mother Continent to this day.

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Selassie Statue 1

The African Union unveils a statue honoring Emperor Haile Selassie

EDITOR’s NOTE: The following articles were shared from pieces that originally appeared in the BBC (, The Namibian (–-Why-the-African-Union-is-putting-up-a-statue) and the Daily Monitor (, among other sources. This also currently appears on the KUUMBAReport Online Web site (, and thus reflects the occasionally differing perspectives of a variety of news sources and organizations, which we present here unedited.

A statue of Ethiopia’s last emperor has been unveiled outside the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The likeness of Haile Selassie is being given pride of place outside the $200m (£154m) building in recognition for his role in establishing its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

But that might not be the first thing that springs to mind on hearing the name Haile Selassie. The name is perhaps more easily connected with Jamaican singer Bob Marley and Rastafarians.

So who exactly is Haile Selassie, and how did he come to be worshipped as a god by people living thousands of miles away?

First things first: why is he getting a statue?

Haile Selassie was more than 30 years into his reign when he helped establish the OAU. Its first meeting, in May 1963, was held in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia – which has never been colonized although it was subjected to a five-year military occupation by Mussolini’s Italy – had served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period.

Now other countries were finally gaining independence, and this was a chance to bring nations together to fight against colonization and white minority rule while also coordinating efforts to raise living standards and defend their sovereignty.

“May this convention of union last 1,000 years,” Selassie, who spent a year preparing the city for the meeting, told the gathered delegates.

As it happened, the OAU ceased to exist in its original form in 2002, replaced by the African Union (AU).
But his role in establishing the union has not been forgotten, and the statue is a way for the AU to recognize Selassie’s contribution.

So, how exactly did he come to be seen as a god?

It all comes down to his coronation in 1930, and a “prophecy” made by a Jamaican black rights campaigner, Marcus Garvey, a decade earlier.

Garvey had told his followers in 1920 they should “look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand”.

So, when a black man called Ras Tafari was crowned in Ethiopia, many saw that as a sign the prophecy had come true.

In East Africa, Ras Tafari (“chief” Tafari) became Haile Selassie (“power of the trinity”). Almost 8,000 miles away in the West Indies, Haile Selassie became God (or Jah) incarnate – the redeeming messiah – and Ethiopia, the promised land.

In short, the Rastafari movement was born.

Did Selassie believe it himself? Well, he certainly didn’t try to dispel the belief when he visited Jamaica in 1966. The emperor was greeted by thousands, desperate to get a glimpse of their god. Among the devotees was the wife of a young Reggae musician, Bob Marley, who was away in the US.

Rita Marley would later describe how she saw nail marks on Selassie’s palm as he waved at her. It was a moment of religious awakening, and when her husband returned, they embraced the belief.

Three years earlier, Rastafarians had begun to move to Ethiopia and a piece of land Selassie had put aside for black people from the West in 1948. After the visit, the numbers grew larger. Today, the community numbers about 300 people.

But followers were presented with a conundrum after Selassie died in 1975, a year after he was deposed in a Marxist revolution. After all, gods cannot die.

This was resolved after it was argued Selassie’s body was just his earthly body.

Also, it should be noted, Garvey was never a believer. In fact, he was a critic of Selassie.

What was he really like?

Opinion is still split over whether Selassie was good for Ethiopia or not.

A Human Rights Watch report accuses him of acting with “official indifference” to famines in various regions of the country and attempting to conceal the famine of 1972-72, in which an estimated 200,000 people died.

He is also known to have violently cracked down on people who opposed him during his reign.

Marcus Garvey was unimpressed after he fled Ethiopia in 1936 following the invasion of Benito Mussolini’s troops a year earlier, describing Selassie as a “coward” and calling him out for “the terrors of slavery”. The practice was not outlawed in Ethiopia until 1942.

Academic Dr Yohannes Woldemariam has gone as far as to argue that Selassie should be remembered as a dictator. Indeed, he created a constitution which placed all the power in his hands and those of his descendants.

But his supporters argue he was a great leader and modernizer, who was one of the first African leaders to become a figure on the global stage.

His appeal to the League of Nations after his country was invaded is still remembered today – not least because it forms the basis of Bob Marley’s 1976 song, War.

What’s more, he was not made emperor through a chance of birth. Although born into a noble family in 1892, he was only named leader after impressing Menelik III with his intelligence.

And – as the AU’s statue to him reminds people – he was a great advocate for pan-African cooperation, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to have an effect on millions of people across the continent today.

African Union Unveils Haile Selassie Statue At Its Headquarters in Ethiopia

Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza
Sun, Feb 10, 2019

⦁ In paying respect to Haile Selassie’s role in the formation of the African Union, his statue has been unveiled at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

⦁ The African Union has paid reverence to one of the most iconic African revolutionaries, Haile Selassie I by⦁ unveiling a statue at the headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The statue was officially unveiled by the AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The artists who brought it to life are Bekele Mekonnen, Mesfin Tesfaye and Henock Azene, who are all Ethiopians.

Haile Selassie’s statue becomes the second one to be erected at the AU headquarters. In 2012, Kwame Nkrumah’s statue was unveiled. Kwame Nkrumah is respected for how he championed Pan-Africanism, especially at a time when colonial forces did not want to see any advancement being championed by African leaders.

The unveiling of Haile Selassie’s statue sends a very strong message of Pan-Africanism across Africa. Haile Selassie was one of the leaders who were instrumental in the formation of the continental body, when it was still called the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Haile Selassie was the leader of Ethiopia at the time (1963), being Emperor of the country. He was the last Emperor of the country. He was deposed in 1974 through a coup after some resentment had grown against him.

Selassie uttered some iconic words when the organization was formed. “May this convention of union last 1,000 years,” he said.

Ethiopia has long been viewed as a beacon of African independence. The country was never colonized – although it was subjected to a five-year military occupation by Mussolini’s Italy.

The African Exponent Weekly

Ethiopians have hailed this development from the African Union.

Header image credit: @terrefebiruk on Twitter

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SRDC Summit 2018: The Sisters Speak

SRDC Summit 2018: The Sisters Speak

Too often at Pan-Afrikan conferences, when the discussion turns to issues of activism and revolutionary principles, the Brothers take to the podium and fill the air with grand pronouncements and militant fervor. Most of these speeches are indeed quite relevant, necessary even, but in the process the Sisters often tend to be left out, sitting in the audience as though their only purpose is to listen and not to offer their own viewpoints. I have been told something similar on many occasions by the Queen of our personal castle. And on Saturday, November 17, 2018, at the conclusion of the public Summit, I was told this again by a Sister in the audience who noticed that many of the remarks were, again, male-dominated despite our (apparently less-than-adequate) efforts. If there was one oversight of the 2018 Summit that I would correct, it is that a conscious, intentional effort was not sufficiently made to ensure that more Sisters had an opportunity to address the audience.

And there were strong Sisters whose voices needed to be elevated more. Some, such as African Union Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, were unable to join us at the Summit because they were out of town (Ambassador Quao was in Ethiopia). Some were lost among the many voices who sought to address the audience that weekend. Sis. Makeda Kandake (pictured, below) of Guadeloupe has been a strong organizer for Reparations for Afrikan people, the ending of France’s political stranglehold on its colonies in the Eastern Caribbean (such as Guadeloupe and Martinique), and the organizing of the grassroots Afrikan communities there to force the international community to hear their voices. Having recently recovered from the devastation of the series of hurricanes that devastated her home as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, she is now organizing for conferences and collaborative efforts between Afrikan activists to be held and directed from her home country. More time should have been reserved for her to make formal presentations at the public Summit event, though she was able to be directly involved in discussions with other Pan-Afrikan activists as part of SRDC’s work to build international coalitions on the way to re-establishing the Pan African Diaspora Union (PADU) on the global level.

As it was, however, Sisters were not outright excluded from speaking at the Summit. Below, we include some of the statements made by Sister Activists from Afrika (Liberia), the United States (Maryland) and Europe (The Netherlands), as attendees at the Summit offered their suggestions and planned initiatives to help lift up and liberate Afrikan people. There were also statements made by Mother members of the Maryland Council of Elders, as well as Sisters who participated in State Presentations from Maryland and Washington State, which will be shared in a future article. Whether they were at the podium or speaking from the floor, Sisters and Mothers did indeed have important things to say, and we are honored to be able to share their words.

In this article, we feature the statements of Dr. Barryl Biekman of The Netherlands, Sis. Mouna of ECOWAS Women out of Liberia, and Mama Victory Swift of the Maryland Council of Elders, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus and Our Victorious City. These were some of the most powerful statements of the Summit, as they gave the rest of us important direction for recognizing, acknowledging and respecting the power of the Black Woman, reaching back home to our Sisters and Brothers in Afrika and ensuring that, when working on behalf of our Youth, that we “leave no one behind.”

Dr. Barryl Biekman on Women of Afrika at the United Nations

Dr. Barryl Biekman, founder and lead organizer for the African Union African Diaspora Council (AUADC) of Europe, has been organizing people of Afrikan descent from her home in The Netherlands for decades. She has been at the forefront of resistance to the racist Christmastime character known as Black Pete (“Swarte Piet”), known in fables as Santa’s black-skinned assistant who, instead of giving treats and toys to good little children, instead kidnaps “bad” little children and spirits them away from home, never to return. She works tirelessly to organize Afrikan populations in Europe to raise their collective voice in the African Union, as does Professor David Horne in the United States. She is in regular contact with Afrikan activists in Germany, the United Kingdom and Dimonas, Israel; indeed, Dr. Khazriel Ben Yehudah of the Afrikan Hebrew Israelites was also in attendance at the Summit, largely because she was there as well. She was among the Pan-Afrikan activists who participated in the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa. Born in Suriname, she has worked for well over a decade in cooperation with SRDC to organize Afrikan people in Europe to establish their voice in the African Union as well as in the United Nations. In January 2015, she gave the keynote address at the official launch of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, and has contributed to the efforts of the UN’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which she has continued to champion in the years since.

Aside from participating in several key meetings during the Summit to forge organizational relationships with the Continental Afrikan delegates from organizations such as the African Diaspora Union (Afridu) and the diplomatic delegations from The Gambia and Liberia, she made important observations regarding the African Union, the United Nations and the status of women. “The African Union has declared, until 2020, the Decade of Afrikan Women. And in the Commission on the Status of Women, every year in March, at the United Nations, Afrikan Women [of the Diaspora] are together with Afrikan Women from the Continent. And they are doing amazing jobs. Amazing jobs. Because people must realize that women in some parts of Afrika don’t have access to land, not to finance. … And these women are doing incredible work.”

Sis. Mouna, ECOWAS Women (Liberia) on Bringing the Knowledge Back Home

One group that is participating in the March events at the United Nations on the status of women is the ECOWAS Women. Sis. Mouna, from Liberia, is the President of ECOWAS Women, an organization of Sisters from West Africa who are organizing in the area of the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS). “There’s a United Nations Commission on the Status of Women every year, where women from all walks of life come together, from all organizations, to put their case forward,” she said, echoing Dr. Biekman’s comments. “We were privileged to apply for a side event this year. The deadline was the 9th of this November. So we applied and they will get back to us on November 29. If we are selected, then we can form a synergy, come together and form something to present on that day, instead of us doing it alone. You can come with your plan, I can come with my plan, because we are from Liberia, we have people from Nigeria and other parts of Afrika. And the side event will be visited by everybody, and we’ll be on the United Nations Compound.

“So the Sheroes Sisterhood is doing it with us, the ECOWAS Women. And what we do is, anything that is in the interest of women, we look our for the protection of the Woman.”

She addressed issues faced by Afrikans in general and Afrikan women, in particular, in receiving the respect from Europeans and men that they deserve. “Afrikans don’t need to be coming here and looked down upon. … We need to believe in ourselves. … Whatever we see here in America, we can take it home and make it better. So, with this side event, we can encourage ourselves, and we [can] come together as one. …”

She also discussed Afrikans who move to the West and never return home to Afrika. “People come here and don’t want to go back, they want to stay here [but] at the end of the day, we have freedom back home! What we need is for our governments to understand that they can’t continue to look down on us [and should] give us the rights that we deserve. They say that America is getting our citizens. So, if everybody is leaving Afrika and coming to America to stay, what’s going to make a difference back home? Nobody’s going to be left back home who can make a difference. So, can we come together as one?

“I’m an Afrikan woman, who is proud to be an Afrikan, who is coming here to tell my people that we don’t have to abandon home. We can leave home, but not abandon home. We come, get experience, get the good things that we see, go back home and make an impact. Do not just leave everything there, come here and stay. I don’t see freedom here. I see freedom back home. Back home, I’m president of the ECOWAS Women. Liberian women. Strong women. Here I’m nothing. Here, I have to do everything for myself. Back home, we come together as people. We see one another. We don’t just get on the Internet and that’s it. … Back home, we interact. My brother, my mother, my family, we live together. We have to make people see these things. Why? Because leaving home to come to America, because of hunger, because of bad governance, people don’t want to see their children hungry. [Because] your children are hungry, your children cannot go to school, you cannot pay your children’s school fees, you have to come to find a greener pasture. But if we get our governments to see that these things must change, we will find ourselves coming back home. We will find people staying home. And coming here to just … get experience.

“So, we are open for partnership. We have applied for the side event in March, they will get back to us November 29, then we have to get our Concept Note, our Proposal. … We’ve got to come together and encourage one another and start from here.”

[The United Nations did reply and approved the application of the ECOWAS Women for the side event at the March UN conference — Editor.]

“Leave None Behind”: Mama Victory Swift (Maryland Council of Elders and Our Victorious City)

Mama Victory Swift is a member of the Maryland Council of Elders, as well as founder of the organization Our Victorious City, named for her youngest son, Victorious Swift, who was tragically murdered in March 2017. Mama Victory did a number of things behind the scenes throughout the weekend to help ensure the Summit ran smoothly, including financing the food for one day of the Summit so the attendees could eat for free, but she also made several important statements during the Summit that reflected the level of commitment that one would expect to see from a consistent community activist who is also a mother deeply touched by the senseless loss that threatens us all who live in an environment where so many struggle to survive. Her comments to the audience reflected the personal concern that should shake us out of our intellectual arrogance, laziness, fear and inertia, and make the struggle real for all of us.

“All roads lead to Afrika,” she told the audience on Saturday, much as Mama Tomiko also said. “We have to be able to see the forest for the trees. Everything we’re doing collectively and individually leads us all back to the Motherland, leads us all back to the Continent. Everything we’re doing in Baltimore, whatever we’re doing in Seattle, whatever’s being done in Detroit, Ghana, Liberia, whatever is being done, the purpose of those efforts is for us to come together as a people and to reclaim our name, our culture and our land back. That is our purpose, and I don’t think any of us in this room are dismissed from that agenda. Am I correct? That is our agenda. And … we do need a collective focus on how to get our land back, but I think that we are all collectively doing what we’re doing wherever we’re doing it, so that all roads will lead back to Afrika.”

The day before, speaking about connecting with Afrika and making that connection for the masses of the people, Mama Victory stressed the importance of making personal connections with the people, and most importantly, the children. “Is there any organization out here that works with youth? … It is absolutely possible for us to collaborate, from wherever we are, to make this a collaborative, so we in Baltimore and those in [places like] Seattle, we can set a date and all of us from different states can go together with children from our respective areas, together, to Ghana. So we can do that. That is something we can think about, that we should do, that if we just put our minds to it, we can do. … I want to communicate with everyone that signed that registration. …

“The one thing I wanted to take away is the assignment that we have. … We have to speak, for the next year, to every Afrikan we see. If you walk past an Afrikan, you speak. Everyone, even the ones of us who are lost. … Because that grows unity. That’s something that we’ve been indoctrinated to not do. And that keeps us separated. So when you see another human being that has the same melanated skin as you, you speak whether they speak or not … because that grows unity. That’s something that they’re not accustomed to. That’s something that we’re not accustomed to. I walked in this room today and there were people who didn’t speak to me and we know better. We know better than that. … And we’re then obligated and responsible to do better. Because, see, love is an action word. It’s ‘to love’. And because it’s an action word, we have to move on it, if we’re really serious about growing a nation of people who are waking up and arising from their sleep. The first part of that is having a human connection that we’ve been indoctrinated to discontinue, out of fear. So, speak. That’s one.

“Two is, it’s not enough for us to save our own selves. … My youngest child, Victorious Swift, was murdered last March. Now Victorious, from the age of five, was a founder of an organization. He was a warrior, he is a warrior. His spirit is so profound that the energy of his life force still exists, not only with me and mine, but nation-globally. He did more than I even knew he did. But it’s not enough for us to fight and save our own children. If we will not fight to save all children, then we’ve dropped the ball before we’ve even started. Because — I say this, I’ve said it for years — we can raise our children to be the most phenomenal human beings, the most phenomenal warriors, on this planet, but if we don’t reach the ones who didn’t get it, that’s the one who will meet ours in the middle of the night, in an afternoon going to their car, on their way home — and steal their lives. We have a responsibility, to raise all of our children … and , really, really, really — leave none behind.”

Next SRDC Summit Article: Words From The Elders

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Prof David Horne 1

Opening Remarks from the 2018 SRDC International Summit in Baltimore, Maryland

On Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) and the Maryland Council of Elders (MCOE) hosted the 2018 SRDC International Summit at the historic Great Blacks In Wax Museum. The actual meeting was held at the Mansion, located at 1649 East North Avenue, on the corner of North and Broadway in East Baltimore.

The Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus was founded as an international Pan-Afrikan organization as a result of the African Union’s 2003 invitation to the Afrikan Diaspora to become involved as potential voting members, and the holding of a Pan-Afrikan roundtable discussion among activists in Los Angeles in April of 2006. Its mission centers on the establishment of local, national and international groups dedicated to reaching out to the grassroots communities of people of Afrikan descent, establishing a Pan-Afrikan Agenda and electing a cadre of representatives to present that Agenda to international Pan-Afrikan bodies such as the African Union. A plan was developed and proposed by SRDC by which the local organizing committees can reach out to their communities and elect Representatives and Councils of Elders, who would in turn become potential spokespeople for the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora in international meetings. The Maryland Organizing Committee of SRDC was founded in 2007.

The Maryland Council of Elders was established at the December 2017 Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meeting that was held by the Maryland Organizing Committee of SRDC. This is not the first time a Council of Elders has been established in Maryland, but so far it has been the most active, having presided over three Town Hall Meetings, the commemoration of Afrikan Liberation Day 2018, and now the 2018 SRDC Summit. Its members include Baba Rafiki Morris (Co-Chair), Mama Maisha Washington (Co-Chair), Mother Marcia Bowyer-Barron, Mama Victory Swift, Mama Abena Disroe, Baba Ishaka-Ra-Hannibal-El, Baba Kenyatta Howard, Dr. Ken Morgan, Baba David Murphy and Baba Ade Oba Tokunbo. Key activists who have worked directly with the MCOE to make the Summit a success include Bro. Brandon Walker, Bro. Ben Enosh, Sis. Kim Poole and Bro. Charles Jackson.

A number of local organizations were also involved in the planning and implementation of the Summit: Our Victorious City, the All-Afrikan Peoples Revolutionary Party (A-APRP), the Organization of Afro-American Unity Baltimore (OAAU), the Organization of All Afrikan Unity Black Panther Cadre (OAAUBPC), the Ujima Peoples Progress Party (UPP) and the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI).

The Summit’s objectives are also inspired by several international organizations: the Central American Black Organization (CABO), known in Spanish as the Organizacion Negro Centro Americana (ONECA); Per Ankh Smai Tawi from the Virgin Islands; the Mouvement International pour Reparation (MIR) from Guadeloupe; the Pan African Federalist Movement (PAFM); the African Union African Diaspora Council (AUADC) from Europe; the Middle East African Diaspora Unity Council (MEADUC) from Dimonas, Israel; the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent; and the Pan African Diaspora Union (PADU).

Delicious and healthy food for the attendees was graciously provided courtesy of Sis. Ujimma Masani, founder of the organizations Brothers Who Can Cook and Sisters Who Can Burn as well as a member of the activist organization Working, Organizing, Making A Nation (WOMAN) and Mama Victory Swift, who provided much-needed financing for the food.

Special guests traveled far to participate in the Summit. Aside from the Organizing Committees from Los Angeles California, Charleston South Carolina, Seattle Washington, Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, The Netherlands and Dimonas Israel, delegations from The Gambia (Gambian Embassy), Liberia (Sehwah) and the African Diaspora Union (Afridu, based in South Africa), as well as representatives of Queen Mother Delois Blakely (New York) and the Pan African Federalist Movement made presentations to the audience during the two days of the Summit.

The first day started later than scheduled, largely because of delays in transporting the out-of-town guests from their hotels near the Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport to the meeting venue. In spite of the early chaos, the members of the Maryland Council of Elders, in particular, made sure the arriving delegates and community members were welcomed and that food was made available for attendees during both days of the Summit.

Future articles will discuss some of the statements and presentations made throughout the Summit. This article will concentrate on the opening remarks from SRDC’s founder, Professor David Horne, as well as the Co-Chair of the Maryland Council of Elders, Baba Rafiki Morris, and the former President-General of the UNIA-ACL, Baba Senghor Baye.

Baba Rafiki Morris
Maryland Council of Elders (MCOE)

“My name is Rafiki Morris. I’m one of the co chairs of the Maryland Council of Elders, who along with the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus is hosting this meeting today. I’m also an organizer for the All-Afrikan People’s Revolutionary Party, and so we’re going to exchange some views about the problems our people have, and try to approach some solutions over the next couple of days. We apologize for the late start, and hopefully we’ll catch up, because we have a lot of things to talk about.”

After Mama Abena Disroe and Baba Ishaka-Ra-Hannibal-El officiated the Tambiko (Libation), during which the Ancestors were recognized and honored, Baba Rafiki continued.

“In December of last year, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus pulled together some of us for what has come to be known as the Maryland Council of Elders. The Maryland Council of Elders consists of Brothers and Sisters from basically all walks of life and we were given a charge by the people who brought us into existence to choose one thing and do it well. It took us a while to examine the activities of the various organizations that made up our group, to find out what that one thing should be. We finally concluded that the best thing that we can do as Elders in a troubled community, is bring our people together. The best thing that we can do is forge unity among our organizations, among our community and among ourselves.

“And it is in that spirit that we have maintained our activity over these past several months … soon it will be a year. Wow. It’s been a long year. We did a lot of work in that year. And we have made some progress. It’s a funny thing about progress. You don’t always know that it’s happening, until somebody else says ‘I see whet you all did.’ And this is what’s been happening with the Council of Elders. I was up in Arch Social Club a couple of weeks ago, and one of the Brothers there — because we hadn’t been meeting there for a while — says, ‘Rafiki, no matter what you all do, make sure that you all stay here at Arch Social Club, because you all don’t know the impact that your presence has had on what we’re doing here.’ We didn’t know. But just our presence there, seniors in our community, meeting to talk about our problems, inspired the people around us to begin to do things to help our people.

“We took on two major activities outside of our Town Hall Meetings. The first one was Afrikan Liberation Day, and the second one is this Summit. We put a lot, a lot, a lot of hope, faith and confidence in this Summit. And we will tell you like we tell everybody, you see there’s a small amount of people here. We always tell folks, it’s not the size of the audience in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the audience. And when I look out at this audience I see fighters. I see strugglers. I see people who are not content with the status quo. And if you are Afrikan on the planet Earth, one thing you should not be is content. Because it ain’t right what’s going on.

“So, we want to welcome you, but we want to welcome you with an understanding of what’s happening. We are dying. Our people are dying. In Baltimore, we lose almost four people a day, to gunshots and opioid overdose. More in opioid overdoses than gunshots. And Baltimore doesn’t have 500,000 people.

“They spend more money on police in Baltimore per capita than almost any city in the United States. Like 25% more. Sixty percent of the city’s budget is spent on policing. Now you know who they’re policing. They’re policing you. And they’re waiting for you to give them a reason to come kick your door in. This is the same process that they’re using in the Sudan, this is the same process that they’re using in West Afrika, this is the same thing that they’re doing in Venezuela, in Bolivia, in Colombia, in Trinidad, in every major city in the United States. It’s called counterinsurgency. Keep them down so they don’t rise up. This is what’s going on. This is what’s happening. This is a military operation. And you are the enemy. Some of us don’t want to acknowledge that we have enemies. But we definitely have enemies, and the only way to deal with our enemies is to get organized, and the only way to get organized is to set aside some of the petty differences that keep us divided, separated and apart from one another.

“So, it’s to address these issues that we are here today. And we would like for all of you to pay close attention, to involve yourselves in this discussion. This is not a series of lectures. This is a discussion. A dialog. That means you’ve got to talk and listen. Right? That’s what dialog is. It’s an exchange. And we’re here to exchange views. There are a lot of different formations and groups represented here, with different points of view. And we say all of these points of view have some validity. Because you don’t fight a revolution just one way. You fight a revolution in every possible way, at the same time. And this is what we have to do, and this is what we have to talk about.

“So without further ado, I would like to bring Professor Horne, who’s going to do our opening remarks, and thank you all for coming, hope you stay with us throughout these two or three days of activity, and give your best, because your people need it. Thank you very much.”

At this point, Professor Horne approached the podium to make his opening remarks, in which he gave a synopsis of the situation of Afrika, its connection to its Diaspora and the mission of SRDC.

Professor David Horne
Founding Member of the National Secretariat
International Facilitator
Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC)

“Are Black people going to win? Will Afrika be united? Then, Hallelujah.

“My given name, by my parents, is David Lawrence Horne. I was given an Afrikan name three days ago, when I was in Liberia. I’ve always been of the belief, particularly with Afrika, that when you have done something that they can identify, they give you a name. In Afrika, names mean something. Names are significant. Quite often here, our names are just whatever is cute, whatever kind of fits. … And again, that’s part of an adaptation to this country. But we are Afrikan people. We were Afrikan people before. We were Afrikan people then. We are Afrikan people now. And we will be Afrikan people tomorrow.

“Historically, everybody’s Afrikan. We all came from the Continent, even though White people don’t want to acknowledge it, even though they came from Afrika. We are the birthplace of mankind. Now, clearly, they don’t want to be Afrikan anymore, and we really don’t want them to be Afrikan anymore, because they don’t really represent us. But we who are Afrikan, whether we’re in Brazil, Suriname, Trinidad, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Baltimore, Los Angeles, no matter where we are, we are still Afrikan people. Israel — not all of Israel, just Dimonas — we are still Afrikan people, and part of our assignment, part of our reason for being here, in case we forget — and the Elder just reminded us of why we’re here, which is to have a discussion — but in case we forget why we’re here, it ain’t right. And it’s not going to be right until we correct it. Until we bring the balance back into the world. So, it may not be right before we leave this Earth, but it is our obligation to do everything we can in the short time that we can have to make sure we move it forward.

“It should be better, we should be further along the road, when each of us transition out of here. If we’re not doing that, then why are we here? Just to make a little more money? Just to get a bigger car? Just to party a little more? That’s a complete waste of damn time. If you’re not here to make this place better, you shouldn’t be here. Afrikan people have one job — to reclaim the land, and to reclaim ourselves. Afrika must be reunited. Afrika must come back together.

“I am part of a group that organized itself in 2006 called the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus. I was lucky to found the organization and we’ve been moving and expanding ever since. The original objective of SRDC was to help get Afrikans who are not on the Continent — and again, we are trying to move away from this concept of the ‘Diaspora’; there are basically Global Afrikans, those on the Continent and those not on the Continent, but we’re all Global Afrikans — our responsibility was to figure out a way of showing the African Union that we were willing to accept their invitation. Now, we’ve been gone a long time. We’ve been scattered all over the place. We have all kinds of songs, all kinds of poetry, all kinds of writings remembering that. We all in here remember ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child / A long, long way from home.’ They were talking about us being away from Afrika.

“Well, in 2003, the African Union, the newest iteration of an organized Pan-Afrikanism, the newest organization to move us forward, about bringing Afrika together, that organization, in 2003, invited the Global Afrikans not living on the Continent to come back home. Not just to come back home to raise hell. Not to come back home to rob people, beat people up and bring some of these ills that we’ve learned away from home, to bring them back. No. They invited Afrikans to come back home and help to push Afrika to where it should be. We should all be talking about Wakanda. Afrika should already be there. We are supposed to be helping them get there. And the African Union invited us to come back home, to stop being like motherless children.

“But they would set up a procedure to do that. We then embarked on having Town Hall sessions, creating Councils of Elders so that we could get people in the community to decide who had been working in a Pan-Afrikanist way before this invitation. Who would now carry us further. And we’ve been working with trying to get into the African Union. There are supposed to be twenty delegate seats to join one branch of the African Union called ECOSOCC [the Economic, Social and Cultural Council]. ECOSOCC is an advisory part of the African Union. It makes no real executive decisions. It makes a recommendation for action.

“The African Union is a presidential-head-of-state organization. There are essentially 55 Afrikan countries. Actually 54, unless you count Western Sahara. Morocco does not count Western Sahara because it sees it as a colony. [People] don’t recognize colonies anymore. So [for us] there are 55 Afrikan countries. The heads of state make all the firm decisions.

“ECOSOCC, which is were the Global Afrikan Community called the Diaspora is supposed to come back in, and is supposed to become part of this discussion body, and make recommendations to move forward — they don’t know us anymore. We’ve been gone too long. A lot of us don’t know them. A lot still don’t have real relationships with Continental Afrikans. When they come here, you don’t invite them to barbecues. You don’t invite them to your churches. You don’t hang out with them, you don’t invite them to your parties. You know what I’m talking about. They have convinced us that the Continent is no longer a part of us. Afrikans don’t even know who we are. White people spend a whole lot of time bringing Afrikan guests in and keeping them in White communities. ‘Don’t talk to Black people; don’t talk to Afrikan-Americans because they will taint you, because they will get you messed up. They will take you to the ghetto and get you all into their life of crime.’ So while a lot of Afrikan guests have been brought in, and kept away from us, we have had our history books written by crazy people who taught us that we’re not Afrikan. ‘No, your history began when you got off the slave ship. That’s Black history.’ And that was a lie in and of itself. Number one, the people who got off that ship in 1619 were not slaves. And our history did not begin there anyway. We have a global authority. World history came from Black folks. …

“But they have tried to keep us divided. They have taught us a bunch of nonsense about each other. Part of the African Union’s job is to get rid of all that. They must change the whole educational system. In the 55 Afrikan countries, the educational system is still based on European values. They are still teaching young Afrikan kids about Galileo and a bunch of other White heroes. They don’t have Afrikan heroes in books, so that you can learn that Afrikans came up with mathematics, not White folks. That the first civilization was in Afrika, not in Europe. We don’t have that yet. So part of the African Union’s effort is to change the White educational system, just like we are changing our educational system. Just like too many of us still don’t know who we are and where we came from, and that we are worth something. It’s not supposed to be based on what White people say. …

“So, the SRDC was created to connect those who wanted to be recognized as Afrikans again. We’re the continental organization that was talking about real Pan-Afrikanism. This is the next iteration of Kwame Nkrumah and his dream. This is the next iteration of what Haile Selassie talked about. …

“The state of where we are now is that the African Union is still making major, major, major progress, but it is a bureaucratic organization, still run by heads of state, who still care much more about bringing in money for their family, and staying in charge, than they are worried about how to better govern the people, how do I make decisions that will help my individual country.

“We are still working on dual citizenship for us. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I want to have an option. When that orange man [in the White House] goes nuts — he’s not nuts yet, he’s just normal now for him — but when he goes nuts, I want to have a place to go, that loves me back … where I can be a citizen, where I can help develop something. I want to have an option. So a part of what SRDC is working on is dual citizenship, so we’re setting up negotiations in different countries. We’re working on this responsibility we have to reconnect ourselves to this Afrikan future.

“I just came from Liberia. The single Afrikan country that America colonized. In the 1884 European conference [known as the Berlin Conference–Editor] which colonized all of the Continent, except Ethiopia — South Sudan was not there, Eritrea was not there, they were not entities at that time — America was at that [1884 Berlin] conference. They didn’t take on any of the other territories, but they had already colonized Liberia. They had taught some Afrikan-Americans that ‘you can go back home, you can go back to Liberia. Just act like us.’ So some of us went home and acted like White folks and imposed ourselves on the native population of Liberia. Now I grew up seeing Liberia in every magazine all the time, talking about how things were getting good for Afrikan-Americans to return and if you wanted, you could go back and instantly become citizens. But it was a mess. It was a mess and it got to be a big mess and got to have a civil war. This country [the United States] dropped Liberia like a stone. Ignored them so their development went backwards instead of forward. And they are now in serious need.

“I’m a Pan-Afrikanist. I’ve been a Pan-Afrikanist most of my adult life. I’ve worked with a bunch of other Pan-Afrikanists. I understand why we ignored Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras. Because we can understand that some Black people spoke Spanish. I understand that we focused only on ‘Let’s Go Back To Tanzania, Let’s Go Back To The Continent’. I understand that. I do not understand why we ignore Liberia. Pan-Afrikanists should have been all over Liberia by now. But we were not, we have not been. And they need some serious help.

“So one of the things we’re doing right now is a big project. We are going to build a Public Library in Liberia. Liberia has no Public Libraries anywhere in the country. Not one. Shocking to think about, but in most Afrikan countries, a Public Library is not a big deal. They use their money to build streets and highways. We’re going to build a library, so the young people will have a place to go. … We’re going to build something from the Diaspora. That’s part of what SRDC is doing in partnership with Liberia. We need to understand, Liberia needs help and all of Afrika needs our help. We have to come back. We have to reconnect. That is what SRDC is about, that is what, essentially, this Conference has to be about.

“Yes, there have been wars [among activists] … word-wars between 2008, 2007 and now. [Some people] have been acting crazy, and have called people a bunch of names, and have gotten in the way of progress. Unfortunately, that is how we move forward. By moving backwards ten yards before we can move one yard up. [Ancestor and former Jamaican Ambassador and barrister] Dudley Thompson, who was the President of WADU [the World African Diaspora Union, another prominent Pan-Afrikan organization] before his untimely death, was a great, great man. He had done innumerable things which we have to give him credit for. And he [and other recent Ancestors deserve] much more than the nonsense we have heard on the Internet. A lot of you have read foolishness about who is doing what and who is not doing what, who is a CIA agent and who is basically sleeping around. All of that gets in the way and should be ignored.

“We must have projects. We are now going to connect with the African Union and we’re going to connect with this whole effort to re-unify Afrika. Afrikan must be unified. We’re going to connect to that, not by just going through the bureaucratic [organizations]. We want our twenty seats in the African Union. We’re not letting that go. But we’re not going to say that this is the only way that we’re going to handle this.

“We are going to do project-by-project. We are going to show you that we are so valuable that you cannot ignore us. We have a representative here, Dr. Barryl Biekman, from Europe, who represents at least 25 years of trying to organize [Afrikans living in] Germany, The Netherlands, France and other European countries to do the same thing, because Afrikan people are everywhere. We are fighting through the nonsensical name-calling to get to the real, purposeful action forward. That is what SRDC has been about. SRDC has a very, very strong connection to our European counterpart, we are working with folks in the Caribbean, we’ve actually traveled to Brazil, we’ve gone to Canada, we’ve gone around trying to tell people Afrika Says Come Back. They’re ready. Get ready to help.

“Dr. Khazriel [Ben Yehuda, from Dimonas, Israel], who is the head of the Afrikans in Israel, has been working with SRDC and the European Pan-Afrikanists to make us understand that there are Black Palestinians, there are Black Bedouins, there were Black people in what White people like to call Israel long before those people showed up.

“We’re a historical people. We’re the bedrock. And that bedrock is now rising back to the surface where it belongs.

“We must understand something about science. Climate change means they all are going to come running to Afrika. The cold weather [that is expected to result in the polar regions when the planet’s heat-exchange mechanism breaks down] is going to kill all of them off. All of them are going to come back to the Equator. When they come, they are going to come to reclaim, retake it. And we’ve got to be ready for that. They’re coming for everything that we have. If we have not reconnected ourselves to that Continent, we have given away the future of the Afrikan people, and we cannot allow that.

“The Conference this weekend is about How do we move forward along that pathway? How do we reconnect with Afrika? How do we do something tangible? How do we make some decisions that will not only impact why we are killing each other here [but also] how we will stop killing each other over there?

“And we have a representative from a group called Afridu [the African Diaspora Union, based in South Africa], which has said they want to reconnect with us as we reconnect to Afrika. They want to be our eyes and ears in the Pan African Parliament [which] was set up to become the legislative body for the entire Continent. Once you get to a Union Government or a Federalist Government, you’ve got to have a legislative body. The Pan African Parliament was established to do that. Right now they meet two or three times a year and they make recommendations but the recommendations are not always listened to by the heads of state. But they are firm in what they are trying to do. They understand Reparations. They understand that Afrikans from here want land and Reparations and they have discussed it. They have discussed the whole issue of human rights being imposed on them. … Afrikan culture, most of it, is not into the gay lifestyle, and the Pan African Parliament has had a number of discussions about [LGBTQ issues]. So the Pan African Parliament is going to become the legislative body for the entire Afrikan Continent. So we have a group, Afridu, that is working with us in the Pan African Parliament.

“In the 2012 Global Diaspora Conference, that was held in South Africa, part of the decision making was that the Diaspora could become Observers. If you were willing to pay your airline tickets and take time out from your job, you could become Observers at any of the African Union activities. You can do interviews. You can go to the Pan African Parliament. You can go to meetings of ECOSOCC … and then come back and talk to your home group about what happened at the meetings. If you’re willing to put in the time and spend the money, you can do it. We have not taken advantage of it. So for the most part, we don’t know what’s going on in Afrika. And we need to know.”

[On the question of how we can move forward in the face of movements such as #MeToo, the Women’s Movement, Blexit and various White Supremacist-inspired actions without falling behind and running out of time:] “We will get our 20 delegate seats [within the next two years]. [Also. US President] Donald Trump will be impeached. … [US Vice President Mike] Pence was involved in the skullduggery that got Trump elected in the first place [so he could be impeached as well]. …

“The plan that we came up with for building community, the Town Halls and the Community Council of Elders, that is still the best plan out there. There is not any place in the world where Global Afrikans live which has come up with a better plan than this. The people who were in charge of selecting how to organize the Global Afrikans kept assigning people that they liked, as opposed to assigning people who knew what they were doing, and so that got in the way. We have now been able to kill that. We now deal directly with African Union officials. The process will be in place to decide on those 20 delegate seats before the end of 2019. And for those coming from the United States, no, we are not getting 19 of the 20 seats, as some of my friends have said. … The United States may get four, maybe. Brazil’s going to get three or four. But anyway, we’ve got to divide them up.”

[On the need to check our tendency for American arrogance in dealing with Afrikan leaders and communities:] “In 1974 we went to the Sixth Pan African Congress in Tanzania. There were 350 of us. There were more delegates from the United States than there were from the rest of Afrika. Our first week there, we went to every meeting, every conference, and raised hell. ‘You Afrikan presidents don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know how to lead. You don’t know how to take Afrikans to the next level.’ We basically came in storming. At the end of that first meeting, [Guinean President] Sekou Toure sent his foreign minister in to talk to us. Sekou Toure was our major hero at the time. The foreign minister came in and said ‘My dear Afrikan Brothers, we are honored by your presence here, that you are coming back to show us how much you care about Afrika. But trust me when I tell you, sit down and shut up. Not one of you has ever run a country. Not any of you has ever had to face decisions about what to do with the thousands of people who are … in a particular area. You don’t know what you are talking about, coming here and telling us about how we have to have Scientific Socialism here, we need to have trade relationships there. Sit, listen and learn.’ Governance is hard. Trying to be able to maintain your country and not lose it is hard.

“That’s why we talk about how the African Union has made some progress, and it has. They have just passed something that no one thought possible: the Continental Free Trade Agreement, which means the entire Afrikan Continent will now start trading with each other, as opposed to focusing all their trade relations with what comes from Europe. To hear that Nigeria was importing rice every day to feed its people, that’s crazy. We taught the world about rice. Afrikans need to trade with each other and value what Afrikans produce. They have now made that agreement. They are now going to pull that off. Nobody would have thought that possible 15 years ago.

“There is progress being made. But it is, first of all, identifying what issue you can tackle, pull all your resources together, tackle that issue, then move on to the next one. You need to address these issues in your own communities, with your own Councils of Elders, so we can get together and pool the resources of all this wisdom. That is what this whole collective effort is all about. This is not a game. This is not going to be easy. This is a lifetime commitment.”

Baba Senghor Baye
Assistant Manager, Harambee Radio
Former President-General, UNIA-ACL

“First of all, this [Professor Horne] is my Brother here, and when we say SRDC, I’m with that. We worked with the UNIA for many years and are still with the UNIA. He served as International Organizer, I served as President-General. But I want my Brother to understand that there’s a movement taking place. Not in an organization, but a grassroots global movement, called the Pan African Federalist Movement. The head of the Regional Initiating Committee of North America will be here tomorrow. But I’m very much involved with that movement on the international, national and local level. So what I want you to understand, if we’re talking about people under 39, they are rising up. But they need the wisdom of those of us that know what has been going on, and know what can go on if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do. So all these [competing] movements we’re talking about, we’ve got a movement coming.

“In 1958, when Kwame Nkrumah called Brothers and Sisters together for the first Afrikan Peoples Conference, there was a plan. … There were other plans that did not properly manifest. We’re talking about the grassroots plan of the people rising to power to address the issues from the bottom up.

“From December 8 to December 13 this year, we’re meeting in Accra, Ghana, along with the Kwame Nkrumah Center, led by Samia Nkrumah and others and the Pan African Federalist Movement. Thus far, representatives from 36 countries have registered. … David will be there with me and others. So, many of us are coming together to address the issues that our Ancestors put in place. They knew that the grassroots had to rise up. Unfortunately, many of the grassroots don’t realize how much power they have to go up against those other movements in terms of … the truth of Mother Afrika. So, in spite of what the countries may do, despite what happens from the top down, we’re coming from the bottom up. And that means there’s going to be change, regardless. So I want to make it clear, sometimes we put too much emphasis on others’ movements, and then we don’t concentrate on building our own movement. Young people are sick and tired of the foolishness, but they don’t have the wisdom, they don’t necessarily have the clear picture of what our Ancestors laid down. And this movement I’m talking about is led by those Ancestors. … We need to study and bring all that together, and build power from the bottom up. And whatever happens from the top is going to happen, but Dr. Horne assured us, we say by the next generation, we’re going to take Afrika back and unify Afrikans.

“Now, there’s going to be hit-back. Let’s be clear. But we don’t have a choice. By 2020, it will be 100 years [since] Marcus Garvey brought 25,000 delegates from all over the world together in Harlem, and the same objective they had. So we’re not far behind. Now we’ve got to catch up. But don’t be content. … Afrika’s gonna win.”

Later on Friday and Saturday morning, the various SRDC organizations from Seattle, Washington, Charleston, South Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland made presentations on their activities over the last year. The Saturday session also featured presentations by delegations from The Gambia, Liberia and the Pan African Federalist Movement, as well as an address by the Community Mayor of Harlem, Queen Mother Delois Blakely. Check back with this site over the next week or so for more articles from the 2018 SRDC International Summit.

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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.

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:

•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

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 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.

Joseph Palmer
SRDC – South Carolina

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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; 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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