Friday, May 25, 2012


The time has come for the African to forget and cast behind him his hero worship and adoration of other races, and to start out immediately, to create and emulate heroes of his own. We must inspire a literature and promulgate a doctrine of our own without any apologies to the powers that be. We are entitled to our own opinions and not obligated to or bound by the opinions of others. The world today is indebted to us for the benefits of civilization. They stole our arts and sciences from Africa. Their modern improvements are but duplicates of a grander civilization that we reflected thousands of years ago. Let no voice but your own speak to you from the depths. Let no influence but your own raise you in time of peace and time of war. Hear all, but attend only that which concerns you. Your first allegiance shall be to your God, then to your family, race and country. God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own creative genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit, and Eternity our measurement. There is no height to which we cannot climb by using the active intelligence of our own minds.
Excerpt from the Philosophy of the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) The Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) was founded by the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey in 1914. Garvey who was born in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887 is considered the Father of the modern Pan-African movement and his philosophies are the foundation of that movement. Garvey and the philosophies of the UNIA have influenced countless Africans including leaders and followers of powerful movements as varied as Rastafari, the Nation of Islam and the Independence movement of several colonized African and Caribbean countries. Garvey’s influence extended to African American leaders including El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X whose parents were followers of Garvey) and Martin Luther King Jr. On June 20, 1965 during a trip to Jamaica, King and his wife visited the Marcus Garvey Memorial at National Hero’s Park in Kingston, Jamaica and laid a wreath. In a speech King told the audience that Garvey was:
the first man of color in the history of the United States to lead and develop a mass movement. He was the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny and make the Negro feel he was somebody.
On December 10, 1968 King was the recipient of the first Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights presented posthumously (King was assassinated April 4, 1968) to King's widow by the Jamaican Government. One of the many African leaders influenced by Garvey’s Pan-Africanist ideas was Kwame Nkrumah who became the first Prime Minister of independent Ghana on March 6, 1957. Nkrumah is considered a pioneering advocate of Pan-Africanism on the African continent. He inspired and encouraged Pan-Africanism among several leaders of other African independence movements and was influential in the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU.) The OAU founded on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia was an organization founded by the leaders of 32 African nations. The OAU pledged to rid the continent of all forms of colonialism, to free those Africans who were suffering under White rule on the African continent. At the time White men and women in Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe were keeping the African majority in those countries in distressingly subservient roles in their own countries. Other aims of the AOU were:
to promote the unity and solidarity of the African States; to co-ordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and independence; and to promote international cooperation, having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The advocacy of the members of the OAU contributed to the following:
In Guinea: where Portugal's last ditch attempt at colonial reconquest failed. In the wake of this aggression OAU‘s offer of financial and military aid to Guinea, along with its declared war on mercenaries in Africa and the successful information campaign it waged to alert international opinion were all evidence of the usefulness OAU has in facing outside aggression and the outside world. Apartheid South Africa has been forced out of the Commonwealth and a number of specialized institutions of the United Nations family. In world sports, Apartheid South Africa has been barred from the Olympic Games and from International Tennis Tournaments.
The OAU also staged promotions of African culture including the 1st All African Cultural Festival (Algiers August 1969) and the First Workshop on African Folklore, Dance and Music (Somalia October 1970.) Together with encouraging and actively participating in the founding of the OAU, Nkrumah was responsible for the founding of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) with the goal of:
creating and managing the political and economic conditions necessary in the struggle against settler colonialism, Zionism, neo-colonialism, imperialism and all other forms of capitalist oppression and exploitation.
The A-APRP still exists in the 21st century, based out of Ghana, but with branches in many countries around Africa, the Caribbean, North America and Europe. Literature from the Toronto branch of the organization distributed at its May 19th observation of African Liberation Day stated that:
It is an integral part of the Pan-African and world socialist revolution, recognizes that African people born and living in 113 countries are one People, with one identity, one history, one culture, one nation and one destiny.” Citing the enemy of African people as imperialism, Zionism, racism and neocolonialism The A-APRP identifies that we as African people suffer from disunity, disorganization and ideological confusion it recommends “one scientific and correct solution, Pan-Africanism: the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism.
The theme for this year, the 54th observance of African Liberation Day is “African Youth: Get Up! Stand Up! Organize!” The struggle of African youth against oppression was recognized especially the youth who organized against apartheid in South Africa, against segregation in the southern United States and against oppression in Europe (Britain and France.) African Liberation Day will be observed on May 25 by the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (NPAS) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) 5th floor at 252 Bloor Street West (beginning at 7:00 p.m.) with a documentary and discussion about the “Scramble for Africa.” This will be an important learning event for all but especially for Africans wherever they were born. Nkrumah the man who is considered the ultimate Pan-African leader on the African continent and follower of Garvey is credited with this quote:
“All people of African descent, whether they live in North or South America, the Caribbean, or in any part of the world are Africans and belong to the African nation.”
Tuesdays from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. throughout the summer listen to

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


El Hajj Malik El Shabazz was born Malcolm Little on May 19th 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He is seriously underrated as an influential figure in African American history. Shabazz worked tirelessly and was uncompromisingly committed to the liberation of Africans. He was a Pan-Africanist whose philosophy was based on that of the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Garvey’s influence on Shabazz is not surprising because his parents were members of Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) an organization whose founder/leader openly declared war against imperialism, colonialism and white supremacy. Shabazz’s parents Earl and Louise Langdon Little met at a UNIA Convention in Montreal, Canada and were married on May 10, 1919. Like Garvey Shabazz was an icon for the African Diaspora and oppressed people worldwide. As well as being a Pan-Africanist Shabazz was a dedicated Muslim and Human Rights activist and advocate. He chastized any individual, institution, organization or government body that worked against the interest of the suffering African Americans. He fearlessly went right to the heart of the matter and made no apologies while doing so. This quote from the Autobiography of Malcolm X is a case in point:
“I can't turn around without hearing about some 'civil rights advance'! White people seem to think the black man ought to be shouting 'hallelujah'! Four hundred years the white man has had his foot-long knife in the black man's back - and now the white man starts to wiggle the knife out, maybe six inches! The black man's supposed to be grateful? Why, if the white man jerked the knife out, it's still going to leave a scar!"
Again with his “take no prisoners” style Shabazz addressed the white supremacy practiced in Christian churches during his famous ”Ballot or the Bullet” speech:
“Don't join a church where White Nationalism is preached. Now you can go to a Negro church and be exposed to White Nationalism, 'cause you are -- when you walk in a Negro church and a White Mary and some White angels -- that Negro church is preaching White Nationalism. But when you go to a church and you see the pastor of that church with a philosophy and a program that's designed to bring Black people together and elevate Black people -- join that church. Join that church. If you see where the NAACP is preaching and practicing that which is designed to make Black Nationalism materialize -- join the NAACP. Join any kind of organization -- civic, religious, fraternal, political, or otherwise that's based on lifting the Black man up and making him master of his own community.”
Shabazz also spoke about the importance of names. In an interview he addressed the issue of Africans in the Diaspora, the descendants of enslaved Africans being stripped of their African names and saddled with the names of the white people who enslaved their ancestors. In this quote he addressed the reaction of white people to Africans from the continent who were not stripped of their names:
“When I'm traveling around the country, I use my real Muslim name, Malik Shabazz. I make my hotel reservations under that name, and I always see the same thing I've just been telling you. I come to the desk and always see that 'here-comes-a-Negro' look. It's kind of a reserved, coldly tolerant cordiality. But when I say 'Malik Shabazz,' their whole attitude changes: they snap to respect. They think I'm an African. People say what's in a name? There's a whole lot in a name. The American black man is seeing the African respected as a human being. The African gets respect because he has an identity and cultural roots. But most of all because the African owns some land. For these reasons he has his human rights recognized, and that makes his civil rights automatic."
Shabazz was a man before his time because while the majority of African American political figures of his era sought freedom and liberation through social inclusion within the United States he sought Human Rights on an international level. On July 17, 1963 he addressed the members of the “African Summit” the second meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which had been founded in 1963 to bring about joint action by the independent African governments. The OAU conference was held in Cairo (Egyptian capital city) July 17–21, and was attended by nearly all the leaders of the thirty-four member states. During His presentation he appealed to the African leaders to support their brethren suffering in America:
“We beseech the independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations, on the grounds that the United States government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and the property of 22 million African-Americans. And on the grounds that our deteriorating plight is definitely becoming a threat to world peace. Out of frustration and hopelessness our young people have reached the point of no return. We no longer endorse patience and turning-the-other-cheek. We assert the right of self-defense by whatever means necessary, and reserve the right of maximum retaliation against our racist oppressors, no matter what the odds against us are. From here on in, if we must die anyway, we will die fighting back and we will not die alone. We intend to see that our racist oppressors also get a taste of death. We are well aware that our future efforts to defend ourselves by retaliating—by meeting violence with violence, eye for eye and tooth for tooth—could create the type of racial conflict in America that could easily escalate into a violent, world-wide, bloody race war. In the interests of world peace and security, we beseech the heads of the independent African states to recommend an immediate investigation into our problem by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.” On a recent visit to New York City I was saddened and shocked when at the Countee Cullen Library there was no evidence on the eve of this great man’s birthday that there is recognition of his contributions to the advancement of Human Rights for racialised people, Africans and specifically African Americans. The library is located in Harlem where Shabazz did most of his advocacy and even more ironic it is at the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and West 135th Street. Surrounded by streets with names such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard it is indeed a great shame that the powers that be at this branch could not find the time to at least mount a display to honour this African American revolutionary and Human Rights activist. Speaking with staff members at the library I was directed to various shelves which contained a total of two titles about the life and work of Shabazz. I needed help to find them. After unsuccessfully searching the shelves to which I was directed, a staff member eventually located a single copy of Malcolm X for beginners by Doctor Bernard Aquina published 1992 and on the 3rd floor there were five copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley published 1992. Although I was bitterly disappointed at the lack of information and lack of enthusiasm at that library I live in hope that my enquiries about books on the life of this great man will have moved the staff to at least mount a display of books that they may have to borrow from other branches of the New York Public Library system. The man loved books he was extremely well read and viewing some of the interviews he did where he confounded White journalists it so evident. This from one of his reportedly famous quotes: “My alma mater was books, a good library.... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity." The life work of Shabazz (short as it was, he was 39 when he was assassinated) has had a profound impact on the lives of millions even though much of what he did is still misunderstood. While he was alive the impact was not recognized, he was vilified by White media and even some of his own people but much has changed for the betterment of racialised people because of Shabazz’s life work which has benefited more than African Americans. Maybe 50 years from now when many of us have transitioned and not here to read it someone will write: “Can you imagine how differently everything would have turned out with the Trayvon Martin case, the laws that would have remained unchanged if the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jessie Jackson had not become involved?”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


On May 10, 1994 Nelson Mandela became South Africa 's first legitimate democratically elected President after more than three centuries of White minority misrule. Born Nkosi Rolihlala Dalibhunga Mandela on July 18, 1918 he was assigned the European name “Nelson” on his first day of school when he was 7 years old. Renaming racialised people is a common practice of European colonizer culture. Mandela was born a member of the royal family of the Thembu in the small village Mvezo in the district of Mthatha which was the capital of the former Transkei (one of the several “homelands” established by a White supremacist settler society) and now part of the Eastern Cape Province. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom published in 1994 Mandela gives a history of the Thembu and his life including his place in the royal household. A dispute with a white official stripped Mandela’s father of his title, status and ability to maintain a reasonably comfortable standard of living and part of the family was forced to relocate to a larger village Qunu where Mandela lived for much of his childhood. That was an early lesson on the power the whites had seized from the Africans on African land. The whites who meandered onto African land after they fled the tribalism (white men in Europe were constantly at each others throats fighting like cats and dogs over disputed territory) of Europe beginning in the 17th century in short order stole African land savagely murdering those Africans who resisted. Reading the history of the covetousness and bold face thievery of the white men and women who left Europe to “settle” on African land is fascinating in a horrified “I cannot believe they did that!” manner. Although this bunch of refugees/opportunists sometimes included “religious” personnel who made a show of being concerned about the “immortal souls” of Africans and wanting to convert them to a European version of Christianity somehow that concern never seemed to include the “immortal souls” of their thieving and murdering white kin. Those Africans who converted were afforded some degree of privilege by the whites who really used this tried and true European colonizer method to divide and conquer the Africans. There were many hold outs including Mandela’s father. In Long Walk to Freedom Mandela described his father’s strong belief in his traditional African faith: “My father remained aloof from Christianity and instead reserved his own faith for the great spirit of the Xhosas, Qamata, the God of his fathers.” The education system the Europeans forced on the Africans was also a means to ensure that “educated” Africans learned that they and their culture were inferior and the culture of their colonizers was superior. Writing of this perception of education Mandela states: “The education I received was a British education, in which British ideas, British culture, British institutions, were automatically assumed to be superior. There was no such thing as African culture.” For three hundred years white people in the country they seized from Africans and named South Africa (the British wrested control of the country from the Dutch in 1902 and named it the Union of South Africa in 1910) employed a method of violent repression to control the Africans. Mandela who would eventually become President of the nation was one of millions of Africans who struggled (some spent their entire lives in the struggle) to untie the stranglehold of European domination and repression of the rightful owners of the land. Africans resisted White domination in South Africa from the moment they realised that this was not just a group of interesting visitors to their land but instead a group intent on disinheriting Africans and stealing their land. African people consistently resisted their dispossession by the white interlopers. In Every Step of the Way: The Journey to Freedom in South Africa, Cape Town commissioned by the South African Ministry of Education, published in 2004, excerpt from the notes of Dutch colonizer Jan Van Riebeeck made during the series of meetings April 5 and 6, 1660 between the Dutch and the Khoisan leaders is reproduced: “They (the Khoekhoe leaders) strongly insisted that we had been appropriating more and more of their land which had been theirs all these centuries... They asked if they would be allowed to do such a thing supposing they went to Holland, and they added: 'It would be of little consequence if you people stayed at the fort, but you come right into the interior and select the best land for yourselves, without even asking whether we mind or whether it will cause us any inconvenience.’ At first we argued against this saying that there was not enough grass for their cattle as well as ours, to which they replied: ‘Have we then no reason to prevent you from getting cattle, since if you have a large number, you will take up all our grazing grounds with them? As for your claim that the land is not big enough for us both, who should rather in justice give way, the rightful owner or the foreign intruder?’” Van Riebeeck very shortly disabused the Khoisan leaders of the idea that the Dutch who had stolen their land had any intention of sharing with the rightful owners. The Africans had been trying to dialogue/negotiate with people who they thought might be reasonable but they unfortunately had no idea who they were dealing with. These were not reasonable people these were covetous thieving parasites who were bent on destroying the host on which they fed. By the time Mandela was born in 1918 the pattern of white repression of Africans as the author of Every Step of the Way describes:(The repression was a raw, daily experience, and there was no mistaking it for less than systematic brutality) was well established. Africans were forced to live on “reservations” while the white interlopers commandeered the best land of the Africans for their exclusive use. Describing his childhood in Long Walk to Freedom Mandela writes of one of the methods that was employed by Africans to keep their history alive and combat/resist white domination. Storytelling by elders to combat the pervasive miseducation of their children was one such method: “Chief Joyi railed against the white man, who he believed had deliberately sundered the Xhosa tribe, dividing brother from brother. The white man had told the Thembus that their true chief was the great white queen across the oceans and that they were her subjects. But the white queen brought nothing but misery and perfidy to the black people, and if she was a chief she was an evil chief. Once, he said, the Thembu, the Mpondo, the Xhosa, and the Zulu were all children of one father, and lived as brothers. The white man shattered the ‘abantu,’ the fellowship, of the various tribes. The white man was hungry and greedy for land, and the black man shared the land with him as they shared the air and water; land was not for man to possess. But the white man took the land as you might seize another man’s horse.” The young Mandela listening to Chief Joyi’s stories felt: “angry and cheated, as though I had already been robbed of my own birthright.” It is little wonder that the child listening to his elders recount this history understood his role of defender, freedom fighter and eventually leader of his people. On Tuesday, May 10, 1994, (30 years after being sentenced to life imprisonment) when Mandela was sworn in as President of South Africa he had suffered 27 years of imprisonment and had been refused the right to attend the funerals of his mother and his eldest son in 1968. His life story is told in several books including: I am prepared to die, 1979; Long Walk to Freedom, 1994; The Struggle Is My Life, 1990; A Prisoner In The Garden, 2006 and Conversations with Myself, 2010.


In the 1975 released movie Cornbread, Earl and Me the young basketball player was slain by police who proceeded to ensure a massive cover-up of their crime. The story is about a young African American male killed by police who proceed to engender a massive campaign of intimidation to silence the witnesses to their crime. They even manufacture a criminal record for the murdered African American youth. The aspiring basketball star was leaving a store where he had bought a “soda pop,” it was raining and he was wearing what is now popularly known as a “hoodie” when he was shot and killed by police who assumed he was a criminal. The police attempt to escape justice was almost successful because the entire African American community was cowed/intimidated (with the exception of an African American mother and her teenage son) by the might of white supremacy. The “me” in the title of the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me was teenager Wilford Robinson (brilliantly portrayed by a then 12 year old Laurence Fishburne ) who courageously testified in court shaming all the cowardly adults who were too terrified to speak the truth even under oath afraid of the power of the police force and other White power structure. Fast forward to February 26, 2012 some 37 years later where life imitates art and a 17 year old African American male is killed by a White man with delusions of being a police officer who is not a member of any police force but seems to fancy himself in that role. In a gated community in Stanford, Florida 17 year old Trayvon Martin was returning from buying candy and a can of iced tea when he was shot and killed by a White man imbued with the White skin privilege bestowed upon him by a White supremacist culture felt entitled to confront, challenge and end the life of an African American. Racial profiling, the White man’s sense of entitlement and a rush to judgment resulted in the murder of yet another African American. Zimmerman was not arrested after killing the unarmed teenager. In spite of the sense of entitlement exhibited by George Zimmerman and other white Americans the history of African Americans in Florida and most likely Trayvon Martin’s family goes back many generations to at least the 1500s. The recorded history of Africans in Florida begins with the arrival of Estivanico the Black an enslaved African in April, 1528 who was a member of the expedition to North America led by Panfilo de Narvaez and Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca. The enslavement of Africans in Florida was sanctioned by the Spanish monarch Philip when he gave permission in 1565 to Pedro Menendez de Aviles to import 500 enslaved Africans to St Augustine in Florida. St Augustine is supposedly the first European colony in North America established by the Spanish in Florida on September 8, 1565. There has been a history of violence against African Americans by white Americans since the first enslaved Africans were taken by force to America. The ill treatment of African Americans in Florida is just one of many examples of this scourge. One of the earliest examples after slavery was abolished in the USA is the massacre of an entire African American community on January 1, 1923. From January 1st to January 6, 1923 white men roamed the African American town of Rosewood in central Florida raping and murdering African American men, women and children. They destroyed the entire town including the animals that belonged to the African American families who even though some tried to defend their homes were vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the whites. Some African American women and children managed to hide and fled to Gainesville and eventually made their way to Northern states where they were so traumatized they never spoke of that dreadful time for decades. In 1994 the Florida Legislature passed the Rosewood Bill and the nine survivors of the Rosewood Massacre received $150,000 each which was hardly any kind of compensation for the trauma and horror they experienced. Unlike the majority of adults in the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me who were cowed and intimidated by the white power structure when Cornbread was murdered it is heartening to note that Trayvon Martin’s parents have refused to remain silent about their child’s murder. With the support of the African American community and many allies they have kept the attention of the world on the fact that there was no justice for their slain child. The overwhelming support for this grieving couple has come from as far away as London, England when the parents of Stephen Lawrence (the Black British 18 year old who was murdered by 5 White youth on April 22, 1993) reached out to offer support. On Thursday April 19 the National Bar Association hosted a town hall meeting where Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s parents) were in attendance. The National Bar Association is the largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges. Many supporters at the town hall meeting received posters that read I am Trayvon Martin, arrest the man who murdered me. No Justice no peace which we displayed in support of the family. Even though Zimmerman has now been charged it is not the end of this family’s struggle for justice. Benjamin Crump the attorney representing the family of Trayvon Martin, Clinton Paris of the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs; state Senator Chris Smith from Fort Lauderdale, Carolyn Collins with the NAACP-Hillsborough County, Tanya Clay House, of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law were among the panelists at the town hall meeting who explained the origins of the "stand your ground" law and discussed the status of the case and the likely next steps in the legal proceedings against Zimmerman. The town hall meeting and a subsequent press conference were held at the Beulah Baptist Church in Tampa , Florida where more than 400 supporters gathered to stand in solidarity with the couple. Beulah Baptist Church is Tampa ’s oldest African American Baptist church founded in 1894 and the members including the relatives of Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon’s mother) were very welcoming. I spoke with several members of the family who are devastated that their young relative was killed but relieved that the killer has been arrested and charged. Although the powers that be have denied it, it is obvious that the outpouring of support internationally has played a part in the decision to charge Zimmerman with a criminal offence. It was the day before their child’s killer would appear for a bond hearing and we were told that Zimmerman had requested a private meeting with Trayvon’s parents. His request was refused because it was felt that the request was self serving. It was after all almost two months since he had killed their child and not once before then had he apologized or even acknowledged the parents of the youth he had shot and killed. It is extremely important that supporters of Trayvon Martin’s family keep informed about the case, if not this case will disappear into nothingness and become yesterday’s news. If we do not want this to become another case like that of Stephen Lawrence where it took almost 20 years for his parents to see some of his killers sentenced we must stay informed. This is not just a matter of justice for an African American family because it has gained international attention. Zimmerman although charged with second degree murder has been released on $150,000 bail and the world continues to watch as this case unfolds.