Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
"Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?"
I'm tired of bein' poor and even worse I'm black.
My stomach hurts, so I'm lookin' for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a n--ga, he's a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.
First ship 'em dope & let 'em deal the brothers.
Give 'em guns, step back, and watch 'em kill each other.
"It's time to fight back", that's what Huey said. 2 shots in the dark now Huey's dead.
I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere
unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin' changes.
Learn to see me as a brother 'stead of 2 distant strangers.
And that's how it's supposed to be.
How can the Devil take a brother if he's close to me?
I'd love to go back to when we played as kids, but things change, and that's the way it is.

Changes by Tupac Shakur, released in 1998 two years after his 1996 assassination.

June is Black Music Month, time to celebrate the contributions that Africans have made to world music and Tupac Shakur was one of the best and brightest. He was one of our griots who verbalized the reality of many Africans not only in America but the Diaspora. The lived reality he rapped of is true in America, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and anywhere else we live in a white dominated society. Africans in the Diaspora have been fighting against overwhelming odds since the Portuguese began kidnapping our people in the 15th century and scattering us across the globe as chattel. When Christopher Columbus lost his way to India and “discovered” the New World, other European tribes became involved in the trading of kidnapped Africans. It has been written that when the Portuguese first entered into trade with Africans in the 1430s they were interested in gold and spices. Their eventual interest in trading in human bodies began as a crime of opportunity when they happened upon friendly and defenceless Africans going about their peaceful business. The genocide of two groups of people, the Aboriginals of the Americas and the Africans began with European occupation of land that belonged to the original people of the New World and European covetousness that would not allow them to share the land with the rightful owners. To obtain free labour for the mines and plantations of the land they coveted and stole, the Europeans began a systematic brutalization of the Native people who being familiar with their surroundings sometimes managed to flee to safety. Many more of the indigenous people were worked to death, murdered, tortured or died from exposure to European diseases for which their bodies had no immunity. With the destruction of communities like the Tainos who lived in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico before the arrival of the Europeans, there was soon a need for another source of free labour. The Tainos did not quietly surrender their land but they were no match for the viciousness and cunning of the Europeans. In Cuba, Hatuey, a Taino chief who led his people in their fight to remain free, was sentenced by the Spanish Crown to a public death and was burned alive at the stake. The Spanish priest, Bartolome de las Casas, recorded the words of the chief to his people: "These tyrants tell us they adore a God of peace and equality, yet they usurp our land and enslave us. They speak of an immortal soul and of eternal rewards and punishments. They rob us, seduce our women and violate our daughters. Unable to match us in valour, these cowards cover themselves in iron that our spears cannot pierce." Bartolome de las Casas also documented the barbarism of the Europeans when dealing with the Tainos. "A village of around 2500 was wiped out. They (the Spaniards) set upon the Indians, slashing, disembowelling and slaughtering them until their blood ran like a river. And of those Tainos they kept alive they sent to the mines, harnessing them to loads they could scarcely drag and with fiendish sport and mockery hacking off their hands and feet and mutilating them in ways that will not bear description." As “protector of the Indians” Bartolome de las Casas suggested Africans as an alternative and unleashed a four hundred year genocide of Africans. Most of the information that is available to us tells of Africans being brought to the New World as “slaves” but we also know that Africans came here before Columbus lost his way and stumbled upon these lands. In his book They came before Columbus, Guyanese historian Ivan Van Sertima documents the evidence of his extensive research to prove that Africans traveled to and lived in North, South and Central America before any European. Many of the Africans kidnapped and held in bondage were farmers and skilled craftsmen and women whose talents were used to enrich the white people who kept them in bondage. These Africans came from well ordered societies and great civilizations.

This history is mostly ignored in the education system that our children must navigate where they only learn about the history, culture and achievements of white people. The most recent and glaring example is the Genocide full-credit course approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Their “rationale” is that “the study of the tragedies and horrors of genocidal acts in the past and present must be studied and addressed. Democracy, justice, and the rule of law must be understood, claimed, and defended by each generation of citizens if we are to confront this demonstration of human evil.” The course will centre on study of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. This initiative came out of a motion that was put forward on July 13th, 2005 at the TDSB. The TDSB approved the motion and resolved: That previously written documents on the Holocaust and its contemporary implications be revised to reflect the current high school program and recent global events such as Rwanda. I have to wonder if Rwanda was thrown in as an afterthought and how much of the curriculum will be spared to deal with Rwanda.

Not surprisingly there is no mention of the genocide against the First Nations people of Canada even though this is an educational initiative for Canadian students. There is no mention of the genocide of the Germans against the Herero people of Namibia 1904-1908. No mention of the Belgian genocide (under the leadership of King Leopold II, cousin to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II) against the people of the Congo 1885-1908. Unlike the public hearings and accompanying media frenzy around the establishment of an alternative African centred school, there were no public hearings, no media frenzy for this genocide program. A Steering Committee was struck consisting of “a number of different Toronto District School Board departments, including: Equitable Schools, Student and Community Equity, Social, Canadian, and World Studies, and Special Projects. Academics from OISE/UT and York University, as well as members from Facing History and Ourselves, The Holocaust Centre, Yad Vashem, The Canadian Centre for Genocide Education, and UNICEF Canada have played an integral role in the creation of the course.”

Of course there is no mention of the four hundred year Maafa, the millions of African lives lost, the generations of Africans stripped of their names, language, culture and the spirit injury that endures in the 21st century. In these times we need to heed the words of the Honourable Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, another one of our best and brightest griots: “Don't forget your history. Know your destiny, in the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty”
Written in June 2008

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