African

“Time for an Awakening” with Bro. Elliott 12-9-18 guests Dr. Kmt Shockley and Kofi LeNiles

“Time For An Awakening” for Sunday 12/09/2018 at 7:00 PM (EST) 6:00 PM (CST) our guests was Author, Cultural Historian, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy studies at Howard University, Dr. Kmt Shockley and Educator, Activist, Kofi LeNiles. Our guest discussed their recent documentary centering around an extensive study of the Maroons in Colombia, South America, the descendants of enslaved Africans who escaped bondage and created free villages for themselves and their families, and the lesson we might learn from them.

Oil industry woos SC African-Americans to support offshore drilling

John A. Carlos II (copy)

 

 

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Daniel Island, speaks to the crowd at a rally against off-shore drilling held in Columbia in February. File/John A. Carlos II /Special to The Post and Courier

 

 

It’s an affront or an opportunity, depending who you ask.

The oil interest lobbying organization American Petroleum Institute has launched a campaign targeting minority communities, including African-Americans, to promote offshore exploration and drilling for natural gas and oil. The pitch is it’s a job creator.

The effort is gauged to counter massive opposition to the offshore alternative that numbers in the millions of individuals and groups.

That opposition is largely people who are white — one of its acknowledged weak points.

But the institute’s Explore Offshore campaign has sparked some outrage.

“I’m not surprised in this political climate,” said Marquetta Goodwine, a Beaufort County resident who goes by Queen Quet. She has been dubbed chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

She is among the more prominent drilling opponents who are African-American. “Those things make me highly irate,” she said.

But the campaign has won some support.

“Quite frankly, what I was concerned about was there were a whole lot of white people (at a public meeting on the issue) and not a whole lot of black people,” said Stephen Gilchrist, chairman of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce and the Explore Offshore effort in South Carolina.

“African-Americans are economically disenfranchised on the coast,” he said.

The campaign has been taken up by the African-American chamber as well as at least 68 other businesses, pro-business groups and anti-tax groups in the Southeast, from Virginia to Florida. In South Carolina, they include the Palmetto Promise Institute and S.C. Association of Taxpayers.

Industry analyst Offshore Technology reported the campaign specifically focuses on minority communities and that its support reflects the focus.

“These groups include a large representation from black, Hispanic and minority communities, which historically have shown less support for offshore oil and gas exploration than others — something the API is keen to change,” the report said.

How many jobs at stake?

The Explore effort has drawn controversy as drilling opponents brace for a long-expected Trump administration announcement of where federal leases will be offered. These leases will permit seismic blasting exploration for natural gas and oil offshore.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early supporter of Trump, has joined leaders of other Southeast Coast states lobbying the administration to be excluded from those leases.

Oil industry and conservation opponents have fought for more than six years over opening the Southeast coast to exploration. The Obama administration closed the waters in 2016. President Donald Trump restarted the process for the years 2019 to 2023.

The issue pits a concern for the environment and a billion-dollar tourism industry against potential revenue and jobs.

The millions opposed to the work on the East Coast include more than 120 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials and 41,000 businesses. Nearly every coastal government in South Carolina, hundreds of businesses and thousands of residents have publicly opposed the move.

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Trump Offshore Drilling (copy) (copy)
Pelicans float on the water with an offshore oil platform in the background in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., on May 13, 2010. File/Mark J. Terrill/AP

With federal momentum now shifting toward the leasing, they have been trying to rally against an intensified public push by drilling proponents who advocate “offshore energy exploration and production that can increase jobs, investments, and reliable, safe, and affordable energy,” Explore Offshore says in part on its website.

The jobs issue has been a sticking point from the beginning of the controversy. Drilling proponents say the work could bring $3.8 billion to the state’s budget and $2 billion in industry and support industry development, creating as many as 34,000 jobs, including jobs that could pay more than $100,000 per year.

Opponents say that’s wildly inflated.

“Seismic testing won’t bring the first job to South Carolina,” said Frank Knapp, president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. The oil industry brings in its own crews from out-of-state, he said.

“The only way you can justify thousands of jobs is to industrialize a portion of the South Carolina coast” at the cost of tourism revenue, existing coastal industries such as fishing and the environment, he said.

Gilchrist acknowledges the numbers might be best-case and the threats could well be real. But he doesn’t think that should “stop the conversation” about what economic benefits the work might bring.

“I’m just as concerned as anyone else. I don’t see this as an either-or. It’s a both-win. Let’s see if we can do this and protect the coast,” Gilchrist said. “We can be proactive rather than reactive here, figure it out on the front end.”

‘Have to get educated’

The shortfall of vocal participation among people of color in the controversy remains a problem for both sides.

“We are always looking for ways to increase diversity within the coalition,” said Samantha Siegel, a Charleston-based senior organizer for the environmental group Oceana, which is among the leaders of the opposition coalition. “We think it is important that decision makers hear from a diverse group of citizens.”

The coalition includes a diverse array of community, political and business groups, she said.

“But I do think there is more work to be done in terms of educating more folks in the state and particularly the folks that live in vulnerable communities where an oil refinery could be built one day if we don’t stop it,” Siegel added.

Gilchrist doesn’t see the Explore effort as exploitative. Asked about that, he said the work could be a shot at economic opportunity and training for a community that needs it.

“The people I know are barely making it,” he said. “We’re talking about the plight of 40 percent of our state.”

Many in the the “target” audience might just be waiting to see.

“They have to bring me something to back up (job creation),” said Awendaw Mayor Miriam Green, a town in the rural, relatively lower-income stretch of northern Charleston County. She has not been contacted by Gilchrist or the Explore Offshore effort.

One reason why her phone has been quiet? She is anti-drilling.

“People really have to get educated to what’s going on in the world today,” she said. ”(Groups) will single you out for their purposes.”

READ MORE AT: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/oil-industry-woos-sc-african-americans-to-support-offshore-drilling/article_1797390c-d3b7-11e8-84e9-4fe71b9765a0.html

The idea of an independent Africa was born at the first Pan African Conference in 1900

The idea of the Pan African movement had begun in the late 19th century when many African diasporans started to connect with each other. Through their interactions, they realised a dying need to bridge the gap between African Diasporan civil right activists and educated Africans fighting for the freedom of colonised states and countries.

Activists like W.E Du Bois had developed a keen interest in the ideology of African -Americans and diasporans moving back to Africa. While some activists shunned the idea, other activists in Europe and the Caribbean found the act possible and thus sparked a conversation.

In 1897,  London based Trinidadian lawyer and writer, Henry Sylvester Williams formed the Association of Africa in response to colonisation and partitioning of Africa by Europe. The association also served as a grounds for educating African Diasporan activists about the issues affecting Africa and the need to free the continent.

The successful operation of the association led to the development of the Pan African movement and the beginning of the Pan African conferences.

By 1900, the African Association was successful in bringing together a large community of Pan Africanist in the Diaspora. It also connected with Africans in Britain seeking higher education and interested in the idea of setting Africa free from its colonisers.

Noticing that the Pan-African ideology had established itself well, Williams found it necessary to organise a conference relating to Pan Africanism. In 1900, he set out to organised the conference and sought help from other willing activists.

Invitation to the 1st Pan African Conference of 1900

History was made on Monday, July 23, 1900, when the first Pan African Conference was held in London’s Westminster Hall. The three-day event brought together thirty leaders and activist across Africa, England, America and the West Indies, serving as a common ground for the start of a conversation on Africa and its future. From this conference began the widespread use of the word Pan-African, its course and objectives especially in Africa.

Documents such as “The Preservation of Racial Equality” presented by Anna H. Jones,“The Progress of our People” presented by John E. Quinlan and “The Necessary Concord to be Established between Native Races and European Colonists” presented Benito Sylvain were all discussed during the conference.

In the opening address by  Bishop Alexander Walters titled “The Trials and Tribulations of the Coloured Race in America”, he stated that “for the first time in history black people had gathered from all parts of the globe to discuss and improve the condition of their race, to assert their rights and organize so that they might take an equal place among nations.”

During the conference, the Pan African Association was officially set up. The new and well-structured association elected Bishop A. Walters, Rev. Henry B. Brown, Prof. W. E. B. DuBois, Mr H. Sylvester Williams, T. J. Calloway and Dr R. J. Colenzo as its top executives

The conference also birthed the call for the drafting of the code law for the international protection of the natives of Africa and the supervision of colonies by the League of Nations to prevent economic exploitation by foreign nations. It enjoyed international attention and stirred up great tension among Western Colonisers: the birth of a generation interested in the freedom and development of Africa had been born.

The Pan-African Conferences continued until October 1945, surviving through the second world war. By 1944, the Pan African Federation was established, and various African activists fighting for independence were well connected with activists in the diaspora. By then the conference and association created an avenue for more outspoken and action seeking African freedom fighters.

5th Pan African Conference in October 1945

The Fifth conference meeting of October 1945  saw the presence of Kwame Nkrumah, a staunch pan Africanist and the future first president of Ghana after a successful gain of its independence from the British in 1957, 12 years later.

READ MORE AT: https://face2faceafrica.com/article/the-idea-of-an-independent-africa-was-born-at-the-first-pan-african-conference-in-1900

Why the extraordinary story of the last slave in America has finally come to light

Oluale Kossola was taken from the Yoruba kingdom of Takkoi to Alabama in the 19th century.
Oluale Kossola was taken from the Yoruba kingdom of Takkoi to Alabama in the 19th century. Photograph: Courtesy of McGill Studio Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

“We stand as living monuments,” wrote the historian Len Garrison, of the black British descendants of slavery and empire. “For those who are afraid of who they must be, are but slaves in a trance.” For Garrison, the idea of the African diaspora as “living monuments” was to some extent figurative. But a new book makes it literal. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave presents the remarkable fact that there were people alive in America who had experienced abduction from Africa – being examined, displayed, traded and enslaved – well into the 20th century.

The book is the story of Cudjo Lewis; a man born Oluale Kossola in the Yoruba kingdom of Takkoi. Kossola was the last survivor of the last known slave ship to sail from the African continent to America with a human cargo. Written in the 1930s, but hidden away from a public audience until now, it is also perhaps the last great, unpublished work by the Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston.

The word “barracoon” refers to the enclosures in which captives were held on the coast before being loaded on to ships. In Kossola’s case it was the Alabama vessel the Clotilda, which played its own gruesome part in the slave trade in 1860, half a century after its official abolition, transporting 130 men and women from the west African kingdom of Dahomey – modern day Benin.

By 1931, when Hurston interviewed Kossola – sweetening him with peaches, Virginia hams and late summer melons –, he was around 90 years old, and yet able, over a period of three months, to recall his life in Takkoi in great detail; his grandfather, an officer of the king; his mother and siblings; law and justice; love and adolescence. He spoke in heartbreaking detail of watching his community annihilated during a raid by Dahomey’s female warriors, leading to his capture and enslavement, the torture of the “middle passage”, and life in 19th and 20th century Alabama. Through all these years – many more lived in America than he had spent in his African birth nation – he never let go of the unspeakable loss of his homeland. When Hurston takes his photograph, Kossola dresses in his best suit, but removes his shoes, telling her: “I want to look lak I in Affica, ’cause dat where I want to be.”

The Point of No Return monument in Ouidah, Benin.
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The Point of No Return monument in Ouidah, Benin. Photograph: Gallo/Getty Images

The uniqueness of the story and that of the writer who tells it are layered and intertwined. The old, poetic Kossola, generous with his parables and storytelling, is one of almost four million Africans enslaved late in the history of the transatlantic trade. And while the full history is documented in countless accounts of slave traders, merchants, plantation owners and masters, ledgers and auction records and court documents, the number of first-hand accounts of Africans forced to become Americans can be counted on two hands. It is Hurston, and perhaps Hurston alone, who could have drawn this heavy tale out of the often melancholy old man, and have the vision and skill to make it sing, in the way that Barracoon does, for reasons rooted deeply in her own life story.

Hurston was born in 1891 in Eatonville, Florida, a small town with an entirely black population, which she would later describe as “the city of five lakes, three croquet courts, 300 brown skins, 300 good swimmers, plenty guavas, two schools and no jailhouse”. She would keep close links to her hometown, despite leaving when she was just 13, and then drifting – working as a manicurist and achieving a degree part time at Howard University – until she arrived in New York in 1925. By then she was in her mid 30s (but convinced those whom she met that she was a full decade younger) and had – as she wrote later in her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road – “$1.50, no job, no friends, and a lot of hope”.

Hurston began studying anthropology at Barnard College and, having received a fellowship to gather material in her home state, set about documenting African American folk traditions in towns like Eatonville, and later in the southern states, the Bahamas and Haiti. It was during this period, right at the beginning of her career, that she first met Kossola, interviewing him several times in the late 1920s. It was her first major project, but also her first major failure. An article she published about Kossola in the Journal of Negro History would be accused of plagiarism, allegations which scholars now contest, and which in any event drove Hurston to return to Alabama, to conduct the series of interviews that would form the core of Barracoon, and, this time, to do so in a manner that would cast the work beyond any doubt.

Zora Neale Hurston.
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Radical approach … Zora Neale Hurston. Photograph: © Barbara Hurston Lewis, Faye Hurston, and Lois Hurston Gaston

Around this time, black art began asserting itself brazenly in an America still emerging from four centuries of slavery and legalised white supremacy, and the belief that the African had no civilisation to offer. By the time of her death in 1960, Hurston would have published more books than any other black woman in America. But it wasn’t until she caught the attention of sociologist Charles S Johnson, champion of the Harlem Renaissance and the editor of Opportunity, the official journal of the National Urban League (which published her work as well as that of Claude McKay, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen), that she got her break.

Even within the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston’s approach was radical. Inspired by her Eatonville roots, she was instinctively compelled by the folklore, the idioms, customs, worksongs, spirituals, sermons, children’s games, folktales and practices of African American communities of the south. While other members of the black intelligentsia were celebrating racial uplift, and while hundreds of thousands fled the rural south in the “great migration”, in search of what they imagined to be progress in northern cities, Hurston was interested in “the Negro farthest down”. Her goal as an author, anthropologist and essayist, was – the scholar Karla Holloway has said – “to render the oral culture literate”.

“The unlettered Negro,” Hurston wrote, was “the Negro’s best contribution to American culture.” It was this belief which inspired Barracoon – a book in which there is little of Hurston herself, but plenty of her ideology, in capturing Kossola, a man whose culture slavery both created and destroyed. Like the language of some of Hurston’s later works – Mule Bone, the play she would write with Hughes in 1931; Mules and Men, a compilation of oral folklore in 1935; and her most famous work, the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937 – Kossola’s narrative plays the music of history itself within its tonalities, rhythms and inflections. But the narrative, like Kossola, stands apart from Hurston’s others; his speech is more a recognisably African Creole than the African American vernacular, and despite all his decades living in America, Kossola is steeped in the thought of Africa, the world – as he calls it – “in de Affica soil”. Hurston’s fidelity to the manner and content of Kossola’s storytelling is the book’s strength. Yet within it were also contained the seeds of Barracoon’s downfall. When Hurston took the manuscript to publishers, they wanted her to anglicise his English, which she resolutely refused to do.

American slaves on a plantation in South Carolina, 1862.
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American slaves on a plantation in South Carolina, 1862. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“Hurston was not interested in, as Toni Morrison might put it, the white gaze, and how ‘they’ would perceive us,” explains Deborah Plant, a Hurston scholar who edited Barracoon. “She was interested in what was specific in African American culture, those aspects which were rooted in African tradition, African history, African civilisation, because in that authenticity lay the genius – the spirit, as Hurston describes it – that which the soul lives by.”

For Cheryl Wall, Zora Neale Hurston professor of English at Rutgers University, “this impatience with Hurston’s determination to transcribe Kossola’s speech faithfully is enormously frustrating”. It was “part of the pattern of Hurston’s life that she had to fight so hard to have her voice heard, and the voices of those whose stories she wanted to tell. We are told the dialect is too difficult. Is it really any more difficult than the dialect of Mark Twain or James Joyce? Yes it requires some extra effort, but it’s the kind of effort we usually put into a literary text without complaint.”

The irony is astounding. Kossola, a man denied his home and his voice by American racism, would have the telling of his story silenced too. Barracoon, having been met with intransigence by publishers, remained unpublished, ending up in a private collection that was passed to the archive at Howard University in 1956, where it remained inaccessible to all but a handful of scholars who read it and cited it in their work.

Hurston found her own life mirroring this cycle of narration and dispossession. After the success of her work in the 1930s and 40s, her hugely productive career spiralled downwards. She lived hand to mouth, writing articles for magazines while working at odd jobs, including one stint in Miami for an employer who saw her byline in the Saturday Evening Post and tipped off a reporter that the author was her maid. Hurston was humiliated, and spent the next decade in a series of small towns in Florida, plagued by health and money problems, until she ended up in a welfare home where she died, penniless, of heart disease in 1960.

A slave’s cabin at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
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A slave’s cabin at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Edisto Island, South Carolina. Photograph: Courtesy of NMAAHC

At the time of her death, none of her seven previously published books was in print. Neighbours collected money for her funeral and it made front page news in the local black weekly, the Fort Pierce Chronicle. But she was buried in a segregated cemetery, in an unmarked grave.

For the novelist and feminist Alice Walker, who in 1973 set out to discover what had become of Hurston, finding this grave in a “field full of weeds” was a devastating experience. “There are times,” wrote Walker, “and finding Zora Hurston’s grave was one of them, when normal responses to grief, horror and so on do not make sense because they bear no real relation to the depth of emotion one feels.” Walker was determined to restore Hurston’s legacy and reputation. She obtained a gravestone, and had it inscribed with the words: “Zora Neale Hurston – A genius of the south. Novelist. Folklorist. Anthropologist.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God, still considered Hurston’s greatest work, was soon back in circulation. That edition, by the University of Illinois Press, sold more than 300,000 copies, making it, as Wall says, “one of the most dramatic chapters in African American literary history”.

The publication of Barracoon thus represents a recovery within a recovery; the works of Hurston having been so dramatically resurrected, but this one languishing in obscurity until now. And its publication comes at an emotive moment in the African American experience – an experience loaded not just with historical trauma, but very contemporary pain. Alice Walker writes, for example, in the foreword to the book, that in reading Kossola’s story, African Americans “are struck with the realisation that he is naming something we ourselves work hard to avoid, how lonely we are too in this still foreign land”.

Karla Holloway, professor of English at Duke University, says: “The irony is that the loneliness that echoes through Kossola’s account, and that Walker so poignantly notices, is our collective legacy.

“We work hard to escape and slip past that loneliness, but inevitably we are captured, again, by the wake of slavery, a tidal wash as reliable as moonrise.”

The era of Black Lives Matter, of harassment in coffee shops, of a president who has been both overtly racist and also dismissive of racism, and of the disappointment at the first black president having been able to make little real change to poverty, criminalisation and exclusion, has produced a moment in which the struggle has never been more apparent, yet the cultural expression of that suffering has never been more visible.

Illustration by Swain, from 1835, of slaves being put into the hold.
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Illustration by Swain, from 1835, of slaves being put into the hold. Photograph: Rischgitz/Getty Images

“I do think one of the reasons that the book is so attractive right now is that there is this longing for African Americans to have access to a pre-US life – a connection to Africa,” says Autumn Womack, an assistant professor of English and African American studies at Princeton University. “If nothing else, Barracoon announces the desire for this kind of connection, even if it’s never really fulfilled. People are searching for a vocabulary to make sense of that.”

That struggle is finding expression in film, TV and theatre that focuses on the experience of slavery; from the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, the remake of the memorable series Roots and the multi-award-winning musical Hamilton. It is present in pop culture, with the recent phenomenon of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”, whose video references the violent brutalisation of African Americans. There are new museums – America’s first of African American history, which opened in 2016; the Whitney Plantation, the first plantation museum on American soil; and the nation’s first memorial to the horrors of lynching, in Alabama.

It is abundant in literature too; Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and other influential books such ass Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, which tells the story of the Great Depression in new and profound detail; Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X Kendi, which chronicles the lifespan of American racism; Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, radicalising readers of young adult fiction to the injustice of police killings; and Jesmyn Ward’s devastating Sing, Unburied, Sing.

The pathos of the African American experience, told with such tenderness in Barracoon, is matched by its complexity. Hurston herself remarked that in writing Kossola’s harrowing account of how the king of Dahomey profited from raiding and selling members of neighbouring kingdoms, she was deeply affected by the question of African complicity in the slave trade. “The inescapable fact that stuck in my craw,” Hurston wrote, “was my people had sold me and the white people had bought me. That did away with the folklore I had been brought up on – that white people had gone to Africa, waved a red handkerchief at the Africans and lured them aboard ship and sailed away.”

And yet Barracoon also helps deepen the understanding of the context in which slavery took place. “This idea of ‘African complicity’ is more myth than a reality,” Plant says. “Because at that point in history, there was no such thing as an ‘African’. People on the African continent did not self identify as Africans; instead there was a self identity in relation to specific ethnic groups and specific kingdoms, religions or language. So many of us don’t know, because we don’t have these nuances about our history.”

The absence of stories like Kossola’s has hardly helped bring these nuances to the fore. There are other difficult questions arising from the book about the extent to which the African American victims of slavery internalised the attitudes of their oppressors. Kossola recalls how his children in particular endured bullying from neighbouring African Americans, for having two African-born parents.

“All de time de chillun growin’ de American folks dey picks at dem and tell de Afficky people dey kill folks and eatee de meat,” Kossola recounts in Barracoon. “Dey callee my chillun ig’nant savage and make out dey kin to monkey … It hurtee dey feelings.”

“Those acculturated African Americans could have been more open, more receptive, compassionate, and they weren’t,” Plant says. “They were a source of hostility to Kossola and his community. We can explain or rationalise it, but it doesn’t justify it.” The book’s uniqueness is in its recounting of a story in which we are all equally bound up by this cycle of oppression – the former slave plagued by the trauma of losing his homeland and family, the writer whose work survived the desire of intellectuals for white approval, the reader forced to challenge their own ideas about race and the internalisation of oppression. But more than anything it brings an African past up close to an African American present, at a time of great searching. “Throughout her life, Hurston fought against this idea that there was no connection to Africa once people arrived on these shores, and everything was forgotten,” Wall says. “We know that’s not true. But a book like this really brings that to life.”

Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave by Zora Neale Hurston is published by HarperCollins.

READ MORE AT:  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/26/why-the-extraordinary-story-of-the-last-slave-in-america-has-finally-come-to-light

The Creation of Birthright AFRICA

Amos Barshad

When Ashley Johnson, an artist from Chicago, heard about Taglit-Birthright—the program offering trips to Israel for young Americans of Jewish descent—she wondered why a similar program didn’t exist for people of the African diaspora. She Googled “birthright” and “Africa,” and was pleased to learn that one did—at least in theory.In 2005, Walla Elsheikh, a former Goldman Sachs associate whose father had been a Sudanese diplomat, heard a friend rave about a Taglit trip. She registered a Web site with the name Birthright AFRICA. She let the idea marinate, and nothing much happened, until she got a Facebook message from Johnson.

The two began a correspondence and eventually decided to launch the program together. In October, 2016, Johnson, who is thirty-three, and Elsheikh, who is thirty-eight, travelled to Ghana, where they met local entrepreneurs and saw relevant sights: everything from the notorious Cape Coast Castle, the center of the transatlantic slave trade, with its “door of no return,” to W. E. B. Du Bois’s last home, in Accra.

Elsheikh, who grew up in Uganda, Sudan, and Sweden, said, “Ghana is really seen as the gateway to Africa. Birthright AFRICA is built around the Ghanaian principal of sankofa—in order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’re from.” The organization has, to date, financed a trip enabling seven young Americans to make the journey.

One evening, a City University program called Black Male Initiative, which supports access to higher education for students from underrepresented demographics, held a fund-raiser, in part for Birthright AFRICA. The m.c. was Jeff Gardere, also known as Dr. Jeff, a popular TV psychologist (Orion TV’s “Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court,” Reelz’s “They Got Away with It”). Lots of B.M.I. students attended the event, which featured an open bar and trays of chocolate desserts. Guests could be overheard chatting about clubbing (“We used to slow-jam at Leviticus back in the day”) and medical appointments (“Black men don’t like two things: prostate exams and therapy”).

All CUNY B.M.I. students of African descent between the ages of eighteen and thirty are eligible to apply for free Birthright AFRICA trips. Those who make the cut, Gardere said, explaining the program to the crowd, will first visit the African Burial Ground National Monument, in downtown Manhattan, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C. Then, he said, dropping his voice to a whisper—“we’re going to give them ten days in Ghana.”

At Gardere’s prompting, guests began to raise their hands and pledge donations. An employee of Brooklyn College said, “A hundred dollars!” Gardere encouraged the crowd with impromptu personal incentives—“You wanna meet Phaedra from ‘Real Housewives’?”

Meanwhile, prospective Birthright AFRICA applicants were learning about the program for the first time. Jaleel Thomas, a young man in a suit, who was from Chicago, said he was intrigued. “I have a potential internship with Deloitte this summer,” he said. “But if you say, ‘Hey, Jaleel, I want you here in Ghana for ten days,’ I will make it happen.”

Devon Simmons, a tall criminal-justice student at John Jay, is the first graduate of CUNY’s Prison-to-College Pipeline, and he was interested in Birthright AFRICA’s international opportunities. “I just came back from study abroad in Cape Town, doing some research in regards to incarceration over there,” he said. “Next stop is Cuba, this summer.”

Elsheikh, Birthright AFRICA’s co-founder, is still in New York, but Johnson, now the program director, moved to Langma, Ghana, last year, in order to oversee ground operations. Elsheikh said, “Some of the scholars who made the trip were so into this myth” fuelled by the negative image of Africa presented to Americans. Making the trip “changed their life trajectory.”

The myth was further fuelled when President Trump referred to Haiti and some of the nations of Africa as “shithole” countries. “So it’s that much more relevant to dispel,” Elsheikh said, “particularly for people of African descent. Because it really hits your soul.” Johnson said, “We are not pushing a political agenda. But it’s inherently political to educate and empower black people.”

On the evening of the B.M.I. fund-raiser, a New York State assemblyman named Michael Blake gave the closing comments. “Don’t tell us our kids are not exceptional!” he shouted. “And I say to you, in the words of the great philosopher Fat Joe”—the Bronx’s own—“Nothing can stop you, you’re all the way up!”

READ MORE AT: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/12/roots/amp

KweliTV is Netflix for black people, by black people, starring black people

Kweli.tv aims to be the go-to streaming media platform for black filmmakers all over the world to share their content and make money from its distribution. KweliTV handpicks all of its content, with 98 percent of the content having been official selections at film festivals worldwide.

“There are a lot of really great filmmakers out there globally,” KweliTV founder DeShuna Spencer told me. “For us, we’re offering an avenue for filmmakers of color to make money off of their work and be celebrated for the work they do.”

Perhaps, more importantly, KweliTV wants to be a source of authentic storytelling of the black community from the black perspective. A recent study showed the mainstream media (news and opinion media) offers a consistently warped view of black people and black families. For example, black families represent 59 percent of the poor in mainstream media even though they make up just 27 percent of low-income people, according to Color of Change. Meanwhile, white families make up just 17 percent of low-income people while they officially represent 66 percent of the country’s low-income population.

Kweli, which means “truth” in Swahili, aims to tell all sides of the black experience. In order for content to be featured on KweliTV, the the main character needs to be of African descent and “not the sidekick, the friend of the fairy godmother,” KweliTV founder DeShuna Spencer told me. “The black person has to be the main character.”

An example of some KweliTV content is a film called Something Necessary. Created by Kenyan filmmaker Judy Kibinge, Something Necessary explores life after the civil unrest in Kenya following the 2007 elections through the eyes of a woman named Anne. In 2013, the film was nominated for audience choice award at the Chicago International Film Festival and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

There are currently 200 titles on the platform, with KweliTV adding about three titles a week in the categories of documentary, shorts and full-length features. Subscribers can watch KweliTV on the web or via Roku, Apple TV or Google Play. Unlike Netflix, the goal is not to have an endless library of content. Instead. KweliTV wants to keep it intimate with no more than 500 titles at a time.

KweliTV, which launched out of beta just a few months ago, currently has 2,000 paying subscribers. By the end of the year, the goal is to hit 30,000 paid subscribers. An annual membership costs $49.99/year and a monthly one costs $5.99.

As a value-add to the streaming content, KweliTV partners with other black-owned businesses to offer discounts and other perks to its subscribers. Subscribers can access discounts at companies like Heritage Box, Black Card Revoked, African Ancestry and others.

On the creator side, filmmakers get paid based on how many minutes people spend viewing their content. More specifically, 60 percent of Kweli.TV’s revenue goes to filmmakers, who get paid quarterly.

In alignment with Spencer’s desire to keep it intimate, KweliTV is going to start hosting in-person events for its members to connect with each other. The first event will be next month.

“We really see Kweli as being a community more than a streaming service,” Spencer said. “Our customers are asking us to be more community-oriented.”

KweliTV is a bootstrapped company in the traditional sense, meaning it hasn’t raised funding from any angel investors or VCs. The company has, however, won $65,000 from a couple of startup competitions.

“It’s a full-time job to raise money,” Spencer said. “That’s not to say we’ll never raise but today, my focus is on revenue.”

One of KweliTV’s competitors, Afrostream, shut down last August, despite raising $4 million in capital. Spencer pointed to Afrostream as a bit of a cautionary tale of trying to grow too quickly.

Instead of becoming a unicorn, Spencer sees her company as a zebra. Unlike unicorns, zebras a profitable and work to improve society, and KweliTV is achieving both of those requirements.

 

 

READ MORE: https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/07/kwelitv-is-netflix-for-black-people-by-black-people-starring-black-people/?ncid=mobilenavtrend

Black Iran: The Forgotten Legacy of Enslaved Africans in Persia Is Being Resurrected

Slaves who were not eunuchs were sometimes assigned to the armies of the Qajar elites. The 14 pictured here belonged to Qajar prince Zell-e-Soltan, Ghameshlou, Isfahan, 1904. Photograph: Zell-e-Soltan/Modern Conflict Archive, London, UK
Slaves who were not eunuchs were sometimes assigned to the armies of the Qajar elites. The 14 pictured here belonged to Qajar prince Zell-e-Soltan, Ghameshlou, Isfahan, 1904. Photograph: Zell-e-Soltan/Modern Conflict Archive, London, UK
Although Iran receives attention these days for a number of things, including the nuclear deal it reached with the U.S. and other nations, there are other aspects to the nation and its history that have remained elusive. Take, for instance, the history of Africans in Iran.  Slavery had existed in the country for hundreds of years, and yet Iranians have not come to terms with their past, if they understand it at all.

One scholar has amassed a collection of photographs and texts that  provide a narrative of the story of Black people in Persia, as the Guardian reports.  Anthropologist Pedram Khosronejad, who is the Farzaneh Family Scholar for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at  Oklahoma State University, has devoted his attention to the issue of slavery in Iran since the late 1990s, after studying the traditional clothing of Afro-Iranians.

 In this staged photo taken by Zell-e Soltan at his summer hunting palace near Isfahan, one of his African slaves holds his son. According to the caption, the infant (Iqbal) is the real son of the adult African slave, Haji Yaqut Khan, suggesting he wasn’t a eunuch and could father his own children. The caption says that Yaqut Khan is in his ethnic clothes (languteh), which was mainly worn by Africans outside of Iran. Photograph: Zell-e-Soltan/Modern Conflict Archive, London, UK
In this staged photo taken by Zell-e Soltan at his summer hunting palace near Isfahan, one of his enslaved Africans holds his son. According to the caption, the infant (Iqbal) is the real son of the adult enslaved person, Haji Yaqut Khan, suggesting he wasn’t a eunuch and could father his own children. The caption says that Yaqut Khan is in his ethnic clothes (languteh), which was mainly worn by Africans outside of Iran. Photograph: Zell-e-Soltan/Modern Conflict Archive, London, UK

The history of Black people in Persia reaches back to the ninth century, and the Persian Gulf slave trade has ancient origins. Most Afro-Iranians emerged in Iran through the Indian Ocean slave trade, which included a trade route between East Africa and the Middle East.  Enslaved Africans worked as soldiers, bodyguards, eunuchs and servants to households of the wealthy.  The enslavement of African people continued until 1928, when Iran abolished the practice.  According to the Ajam Media Collective, although Afro-Iranians were scattered throughout the country, many settled in the Southern region bordering the Persian Gulf following emancipation.

Haji Firuz—the Santa Claus-type figure that is an icon of the Persian New Year—is a jovial, red robed, minstrel-type figure who provides people with holiday wishes.  And he is depicted in blackface and was intended to be a slave.  But the topic of slavery in Iran is an invisible and sensitive one, the Guardian reports, given the lack of research on the subject.

“There are some Qajar families who have issues with the term ‘slave’,” Khosronejad noted, referring to the ruling dynasty in Iran from 1794 until 1925. “They say what their families had were domestic servants and they were not treated as slaves. This might be correct, but slavery is slavery and we should be able to talk about it openly.”

Khosronejad has collected 400 photos depicting Afro-Iranian slaves and servants, which he plans to compile into a book and a series of exhibitions.

From the Afro-Iran series by Mahdi Ehsaei (Copyright: Mahdi Ehsaei)
From the Afro-Iran series by Mahdi Ehsaei (Copyright: Mahdi Ehsaei)

Meanwhile, Iranian-German photographer Mahdi Ehsaei has chronicled the lives of Afro-Iranians in the present day through beautiful photographs of a community that is little known, as Muftah reports.  Ehsaei has published a photo-book called Afro-Iran – a historical and cultural exploration of the African presence in Iran.  The photographer reflected on his project:

The Hormozgan province in the Persian Gulf is a traditional and historical region with a diverse and unexplored population. It is framed with unique landscapes and people with profound personalities. Iranians, who still have African blood in them and continue their African heritage with their clothing style, their music, their dance and their oral traditions and rituals.

From the Afro-Iran series by Mahdi Ehsaei (Copyright: Mahdi Ehsaei)
From the Afro-Iran series by Mahdi Ehsaei (Copyright: Mahdi Ehsael

The resulting portraits reveal new facets and unfamiliar faces, which are not typical for the common picture of Iran. They show details documenting the centuries-long history of this ethnic minority. A confrontation between the Persian culture and the, for Iran unusual, African consciousness.

Efforts to unlock the history and present realities of Black people in Iran will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of this often-neglected and forgotten minority

“Proof of Consciousness” (P.O.C.) the Host of REVIVE!!! 12/27/2017

Today’s REVIVE show topic is entitled:

“Winning Wednesday”

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For African-Americans, Kwanzaa is not just any “Black holiday.”

 

What Kwanzaa means for black Americans

Kwanzaa celebrations. Black Hour, CC BY-NC

Associate Dean of Students, Vanderbilt University

On Dec. 26, millions throughout the world’s African community will start weeklong celebrations of Kwanzaa. There will be daily ceremonies with food, decorations and other cultural objects, such as the kinara, which holds seven candles. At many Kwanzaa ceremonies, there is also African drumming and dancing.

It is a time of communal self-affirmation – when famous black heroes and heroines, as well as late family members – are celebrated.

As a scholar who has written about racially motivated violence against blacks, directed black cultural centers on college campuses and sponsored numerous Kwanzaa celebrations, I understand the importance of this holiday.

For the African-American community, Kwanzaa is not just any “black holiday.” It is a recognition that knowledge of black history is worthwhile.

History of Kwanzaa

Maulana Karenga, a noted black American scholar and activist created Kwanzaa in 1966. Its name is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, the most widely spoken African language. However, Kwanzaa, the holiday, did not exist in Africa.

A candle is lit each day to celebrate the seven basic values of African culture. Ailisa via Shutterstock.com

Each day of Kwanzaa is devoted to celebrating the seven basic values of African culture or the “Nguzo Saba” which in Swahili means the seven principles. Translated these are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics (building black businesses), purpose, creativity and faith. A candle is lit on each day to celebrate each one of these principles. On the last day, a black candle is lit and gifts are shared.

Today, Kwanzaa is quite popular. It is celebrated widely on college campuses, the U.S. Postal Service has periodically issued Kwanzaa stamps, there is at least one municipal park named for it, and there are special Kwanzaa greeting cards.

Kwanzaa’s meaning for black community

Kwanzaa was created by Karenga out of the turbulent times of the 1960’s in Los Angeles, following the 1965 Watts riots, when a young African-American was pulled over on suspicions of drunk driving, resulting in an outbreak of violence.

Subsequently, Karenga founded an organization called Us – meaning, black people – which promoted black culture. The purpose of the organization was to provide a platform, which would help to rebuild the Watts neighborhood through a strong organization rooted in African culture.

Karenga called its creation an act of cultural discovery, which simply meant that he wished to point African-Americans to greater knowledge of their African heritage and past.

Rooted in the struggles and the gains of the civil rights and black power movements of the 1950s and 1960s, it was a way of defining a unique black American identity. As Keith A. Mayes, a scholar of African-American history, notes in his book,

“For black power activists, Kwanzaa was just as important as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kwanzaa was their answer to what they understood as the ubiquity of white cultural practices that oppressed them as thoroughly as had Jim Crow laws.”

Overturning white definitions

Today, the holiday has come to occupy a central role, not only in the U.S. but also in the global African diaspora.

A 2008 documentary, “The Black Candle” that filmed Kwanzaa observances in the United States and Europe, shows children not only in the United States, but as far away as France, reciting the principles of the Nguzo Saba.

It brings together the black community not on the basis of their religious faith, but a shared cultural heritage. Explaining the importance of the holiday for African-Americans today, writer Amiri Baraka, says during an interview in the documentary,

“We looked at Kwanzaa as part of the struggle to overturn white definitions for our lives.”

Indeed, since the early years of the holiday, until today, Kwanzaa has provided many black families with tools for instructing their children about their African heritage.

Current activism and Kwanzaa

Students celebrate Kwanzaa. Black Hour, CC BY-NC

This spirit of activism and pride in the African heritage is evident on college campus Kwanzaa celebrations – one of which I recently attended. (It was done a few days early so that students going on break could participate.)

The speaker, a veteran of the Nashville civil rights movement, spoke about Kwanzaa as a time of memory and celebration. Wearing an African dashiki, he led those in attendance – blacks and whites and those of other ethnicities – in Kwanzaa songs and recitations. On a table decorated in kente cloth, a traditional African fabric, was a kinara, which contains seven holes, to correspond to the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. There were three red candles on the left side of the kinara, and three green candles on the right side of the kinara. The center candle was black. The colors of the candles represent the red, black and green of the African Liberation flag.

The auditorium was packed. Those in attendance, young and old, black and white, held hands and chanted slogans celebrating black heroes and heroines, as diverse as the civil rights icons, Rosa Parks and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Jamaican musician Bob Marley.

It was a cultural observance that acknowledged solidarity with the struggles of the past and with one another. Like the black power movements, such as today’s Black Lives Matter movement, it is an affirmation of “Black folks’ humanity,” their “contributions to this society” and “resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

Karenga wanted to “reaffirm the bonds between us” (black people) and to counter the damage done by the “holocaust of slavery.” Kwanzaa celebrations are a moment of this awareness and reflection.

 

 

READ MORE AT: https://theconversation.com/what-kwanzaa-means-for-black-americans-88220

Time for an Awakening with Bro. Elliott Friday 12/22/17 guest Historian Ashra Kwesi

“Time for an Awakening” for Friday  12/22/2017 at 8:00 PM (EST) 7:00 PM (CST) guest was Historian, BaBa Ashra Kwesi. “African Spiritual Science in the Christmas Holiday” was the topic of dicussion.

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