I was only a pre-school Negro boy growing up in Jim Crow-segregated St. Louis, Mo., when my sainted mother, Rosetta, gathered me close and reported, “The best school for Negroes in St. Louis is Vashon High School.” So it didn’t mean much to me.
I would not learn of the greatness of the Vashon name in ensuing decades until nearly 10 years after my arrival in Pittsburgh in 1999 — by way of St. Louis, New York City and Syracuse.
All the same, 2017 marks the 225th anniversary of the 1792 birth of seaman, veteran, war hero, prisoner of war, abolitionist, businessman and, very significantly, Pittsburgher John Bathan Vashon. Active in Pittsburgh from 1829 until the early 1850s, Mr. Vashon was one of the most accomplished Western Pennsylvanians of his day or, for that matter, any day. That he carried the status of African-American renders his achievements all the more astonishing.
Moreover, Mr. Vashon was a hero long before his arrival in Pittsburgh from Carlisle, Pa., and even before his arrival in Carlisle from the War of 1812 and from his native Norfolk, Va.
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By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
The U.S. has deployed at least 1,500 troops to the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions, with little public debate and what experts call an unclear strategy.
America’s little-known war on terrorists in Africa is becoming more perilous as the U.S. deploys growing numbers of troops to the continent’s most lawless regions, including the part of Niger where four special operations soldiers died in an ambush last week.
The escalation is occurring with little public debate — and, some military experts say, too little attention from top decision-makers in Washington. The U.S. military presence in the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions has grown to at least 1,500 troops, roughly triple the official number of American troops in Syria, according to Pentagon and White House figures.
As with Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the dispatch of hundreds of additional U.S. troops to countries like Niger, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Uganda and South Sudan is another instance where President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric hasn’t kept his administration from being drawn deeper into far-flung war zones. And the U.S. lacks a comprehensive strategy for pursuing its mission in Africa, military and intelligence experts told POLITICO.
“I don’t think there is any congressional oversight in this,” said Michael Shurkin, a former CIA analyst specializing in Africa who is now a researcher at the Rand Corp., a Pentagon-funded think tank.
He also pointed to vacancies in top policymaking posts in the State and Defense departments, saying they’ve left military operations such as Africa Command and its special operations component “pretty much doing their own thing.”
“It is not that there is a good policy or bad policy,” Shurkin said. “There is just no policy. It is inertia.”
Last week’s deadly attack has thrust into the limelight a series of dangerous military deployments that normally receive scant attention compared with the far larger military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A central focus of the mission is the vast desert nation of Niger, nearly twice the size of Texas, which has been a magnet for jihadists of many stripes, including those recruited locally and so-called foreign fighters drawn from North Africa, the Middle East and beyond.
In June, the official number of U.S. troops supporting Niger’s military as it fights the militant groups was 645, up from 575 in December 2016. But now it’s at least 800, according to the Pentagon.
Many of the troops are Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders, but officials said the reinforcements have mostly been Air Force personnel who are there to manage a surge in surveillance flights by unmanned drones and manned spy planes.
That’s a significant jump from the 100 troops that then-President Barack Obama deployed to Niger in 2013, notes a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress. “This trend has coincided with sizable increases in U.S. security assistance for African countries over the past decade, of which Niger has been a major beneficiary.”
Plans are also underway to accommodate more forces, including $50 million that the Air Force requested to construct an air strip in the northern city of Agadez, considered one of the most volatile areas of the country.
The U.S. military presence has also been expanding elsewhere in the region.
As of June, another 300 U.S. troops were operating in neighboring Cameroon, up from 285 in December, according to the White House notifications to Congress required under the War Powers Act.
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Maj. Audricia Harris, confirmed the increase in American troops in Niger but did not respond to inquiries about more up-to-date U.S. troop levels elsewhere in the region.
U.S. intelligence has warned in recent months about the growing Islamic militant threat in the region that stretches from Mali in the northwest to South Sudan and Uganda in East Africa — and a number of countries in between.
“In North and West Africa, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) escalated its attacks on Westerners in 2016 with two high-profile attacks in Burkina Faso and Cote d’lvoire,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, reported to Congress in May. “It merged with allies in 2017 to form a new group intended to promote unity among Mali-based jihadists, extend the jihad beyond the Sahara and Sahel region, increase military action, and speed up recruitment of fighters.”
Current and former military officials say the distinction between advising and combat is blurring as U.S. troops expand their footprint and increase the patrols they conduct in terrorist sanctuaries alongside local allies.
“You’re damn right they’re in harm’s way,” said a former military officer with direct knowledge of the Africa operations who was not authorized to speak publicly, “because we are accompanying the indigenous forces and those forces are fighting an active, thinking enemy there.”
The level of danger to U.S. troops had been on display even before the deadly ambush in Niger last week.
Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee, said after the attack that “this was the first attack on U.S. forces on the ground in Niger.”
But two military officers — one current and one former — with direct knowledge of the operations in Niger told POLITICO that troops had previously been injured by an improvised explosive device or mine, though it remains unclear whether Americans were deliberately targeted in that incident.
The ill-fated patrol last week was an Expeditionary Forces mission, in a part of the country where troops are trying to hunt down and disrupt convoys of smugglers who travel through Niger’s open brush land from Mali and Chad to Libya carrying arms and terrorist funds. It is one of several areas in the broader Lake Chad Basin where advisers accompany the Expeditionary Forces and other local units.
While the Americans “stay back from actual raid,” the former military officer related, sometimes advisers have been under fire.
“We would go to the last covered and concealed spot” when going along with partner forces on a combat mission and then stay back from the actual raid, the former military source said. “But of course there’s no concealment out there” in an arid landscape with little vegetation to hide behind.
But as the military effort ramps up, so have concerns that the Trump administration lacks a comprehensive strategy for the region. Such a strategy would also emphasize more non-military tools such as economic aid and cooperation with allies to strengthen democratic institutions in some of the world’s poorest nations.
“There is a tendency to militarize things by deferring to the military,” Shurkin said, adding that the military effort “should be part of a larger strategy that will include other types of assistance.”
“You will end up with this piecemeal approach — focused on military stuff but in a very narrow way,” he added, noting that the U.S. military is only training a few elite units in these nations.
A senior State Department official on Wednesday told Congress that the administration is seeking to do more to assist countries hardest hit by the scourge of terrorist groups.
Donald Yamamoto, an acting assistant secretary of state, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that the the administration’s $5.2 billion foreign aid budget next year will give priority to Mali, Nigeria and other African nations where Islamic terrorist groups have gained strength.
He called promoting these fragile states “a critical priority for the United States in Africa.”
But Congress received a warning last week that the larger U.S. military presence, along with that of other allies like the French, may already be angering local populations prone to the jihadist message.
“The growing foreign military footprint in the country appears to have fed a local backlash against both the government and Western countries,” the Congressional Research Service report said.
“One risk is that it is ineffectual and we are wasting money,” Shurkin said of the African counterterrorism mission. “We can also make things worse. Mucking around you bound to inflame things, exacerbate problems. We have no idea who these people are, which could be very, very dangerous.”
Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, who oversees all Army special operations forces, pledged in an address Wednesday to the Association of the United States Army in Washington to get to the bottom of what happened to the troops killed in Niger last week.
“I think we owe that to the American people, we owe that to the mothers, fathers, and wives of the fallen, to look critically from every echelon to see if we can do our job better,” Tovo said. “I think it highlights the fact that really every mission around the world that we’re undertaking has got elements of risk.”
Both military sources with knowledge of the Niger operations questioned just how much the missions are accomplishing.
“I would be hesitant to say we and the Nigeriens are having significant effects in that part of Niger up near Mali,” said the former officer.
“We’re having an effect,” he added. “Is it going to win the war? No, because the war will never end.Post Views: 241
By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
Today’s REVIVE show topic is entitled:
Live with REVIVE: On Air Poetry Slam!!!
WE’RE CALLING ALL POETS TO PERFORM!
#REVIVE #Spit #Poetry #PoetrySlam #Lyricist #Poet #Artists #Spokenword #REVIVE
Each artist was given the maximum time frame of seven minutes to present their art. Every performer was given the opportunity to introduce themselves, present their poem or spoken word, and then give their contact information where people can find more of their work.
Please keep in mind that this is a safe space and judgment free zone, nothing is off limits. Please be respectful to each artist’s gifts, talents, and abilities. This was fun yet a competitive on air poetry slam.
YOU CAN CATCH REVIVE EVERY SUNDAY 11 AM-1 PM & EVERY WEDNESDAY 8 PM-10 PM!!!
It would be amazing to hear your perspective. So please call in we want to hear what you guys the listening audience out there have to say always. Once again this show is for the people. We here at REVIVE thrive off of communication. So call us at (215)490-9832 or follow me on Twitter and Facebook @REVIVE_POC !
WE NEED YOU ALL TO BE APART OF THE CONVERSATION!!Post Views: 239
By Elliot Booker — 3 years ago
By Ezrah Aharone
Nate Parker’s movie The Birth of a Nation has revived the question: What caused Nat Turner’s 1831 uprising? Turner, first of all, was not a deranged misfit who acted outside of a historical context of previous African freedom fighters. Throughout slavery’s duration, resistance was not only constant and fatal, but twofold. Africans equally resisted both slavery and Americanization.
Contrary to popular “feel good” versions of history, the “fight against slavery” should not be presumed as a “fight to become American.” For enslaved Africans like Turner, Americanization was the obstacle — not the vehicle — to the freedom they sought.
A largely overlooked factor that forged Africans into Americans was their inability to muster enough weapons to militarily free themselves from Americanization. Along with the 2nd Amendment which allowed Whites to bear arms, slavery was also backed by America’s military, which is why 800 soldiers deployed against Turner. Within this context of warfare (which fomented at least 313 recorded armed uprisings), there is provable evidence that Africans became Americans — not by virtue of winning the Civil War — but by virtue of prior military defeats.
CNN’s Town Halls won’t discuss this, but numerous captives were already soldiers in Africa beforehand, who like Turner, held deep monotheistic beliefs. Once in America, these battle-tested troops launched guerilla forms of warfare whenever possible, using whatever weapons possible, with clear theological convictions that fused spirituality with revolution. Naturally, after being forcibly uprooted 5,000 miles from long-lived kingdoms and cultures, they deemed Euro-Americans as new adversaries, and Americanization was certainly not their goal.
This explains why tens of thousands of Africans militarily fought with the British against America during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Plus, another 100,000 fled or died fleeing to join British forces. Conclusive stats are unknown, but from a sheer combat perspective, the Revolutionary War could be framed as the largest uprising of Africans who ever unified to militarily free themselves from Americanization . . . including Africans reportedly owned by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Despite being defeated, it is still necessary to credit legitimacy to such Africans, beyond distorted narratives that label Turner an “African American” even though men like him sought America’s military downfall. Olaudah Equiano (an Ibo, captured at age 11, who published the first surviving “slave account” in 1789: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano) wrote, “When you make men slaves, you compel them to live with you in a State of War.” Once freed in 1792, he bolted like lightning to England.
Haiti’s independence (1804) ignited further military motivations. On July 4th, 1804, instead of recognizing US independence, hundreds of Blacks in Philadelphia stormed Independence Hall to live Haitian independence vicariously. Flanked in military formations, they carried swords and attacked Whites for two days, chanting “we will show them [whites] St. Domingo [bloodshed like Haiti].”
So, by the dawn of his 1831 uprising, Turner was just one cog in a long continuum of such idealists. Other notable military operations involved: Fort Mose in Florida (1738-1763); the Stono Uprising in South Carolina (1739); the German Coast Uprising in Louisiana (1811); Negro Fort in Florida (1815); and David Walker’s Appeal (1828) advocated revolution and religion (even though Walker was more an assimilationist than sovereignist).
Men like Turner also equated themselves to other hemispheric freedom fighters (in nations like Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Columbia) who gained independence . . . including Euro-Americans. For example, before being hanged for their 1800 planned uprising, one of Gabriel Prosser’s soldiers retorted, “I have nothing more to offer than what General [George] Washington would have had to offer, had he been taken by the British and put to trial. I have adventured my life in endeavouring to obtain the liberty of my countrymen, and am a willing sacrifice in their cause.” In translation, he meant, “Bring it; I stand upon universal principles of freedom that — just like you — I will never compromise.”
Interestingly, in a “60 Minutes” interview, Nate Parker paralleled Nat Turner to George Washington in terms of their shared idealisms to “Birth a Nation.” From this perspective, whether you agree or disagree with Turner’s guerilla tactics, his comparative cause to end tyranny was no less honorable than America’s founders.
Tyranny, however, can be a very peculiar and subjective creature, since “one man’s tyranny can be another man’s liberty.” Hence, George Washington, who enslaved and tyrannized over 300 Africans is deified on Mt. Rushmore as a hero, while conversely, Nat Turner who fought against slavery’s tyranny is demonized as a savage. To this contradiction, James Baldwin once quipped, “In the US, violence and heroism have been made synonymous . . . except when it comes to Blacks.”
This article was culled in part from “The Sovereign Psyche: Systems of Chattel Freedom vs. Self-Authentic Freedom” by Ezrah Aharone, who is an adjunct associate professor of political science at Delaware State University. He is also a political and business consultant on African Affairs, as well as the author of “Sovereign Evolution and Pawned Sovereignty.” He can be reached at www.EzrahSpeaks.com.Post Views: 460