Friday, April 28, 2006

Long Live Freedom Day! Long Live May Day!

Originally uploaded by rogiro.
Long live Freedom Day! Long live May Day!

Statement by African National Congress President and President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Thabo Mbeki

Our nation celebrated Freedom Day, the 12th anniversary of our liberation, the day before the publication of this edition of ANC TODAY. We have therefore now entered our 13th year of freedom. We do so within the context of a strongly positive mood among the masses of our people, who remain confident that we will make further advances towards the achievement of the goal of a better life for all.

On Freedom Day, I joined thousands of our compatriots in Galeshewe in the Northern Cape, who welcomed us with the same enthusiasm that the masses of our people constantly demonstrate throughout the country. There was no doubt but that the people were indeed in a celebratory mood, driven by the hope for a better future, born of the fact of the freedom we achieved in 1994.

I am certain this was not unique to Galeshewe, as those who attended other Freedom Day rallies elsewhere in our country would testify. This signifies that the masses of our people have taken to heart the promise we made when we said that our country had entered into its Age of Hope.

The marking of Freedom Day by thousands of our people throughout the country could not but remind us that the freedom we were celebrating was brought about by the united action of the masses of our people. This year's anniversaries bring this reality sharply into focus. I refer here to the centenaries of the Bambata Rebellion and the launch of Satyagraha, the 50th anniversary of the Women's March on Pretoria and the 30th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising.

The final assault of our movement to end white minority rule involved not only different forms of struggle but also all sections and strata of our people, joined by millions throughout the world.

This came about because our movement consciously pursued the strategic objective of uniting as many people as possible against racism and apartheid as a necessary condition for speeding up the advance to the victory of the democratic revolution. To promote this goal, our movement put forward the slogan - unite in action; act in unity!

Consistently our movement insisted that the struggle against apartheid was a struggle for self-determination, a struggle to create the conditions for our people as a whole to determine their future. This is the fundamental meaning of the vision spelt out in the Freedom Charter that, The People Shall Govern!

Accordingly, in the same way that our people had to unite in action and act in unity to defeat white minority rule, they would have to unite in action and act in unity to build the new united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. For this reason our movement worked hard not only to unite our people in all their echelons against apartheid.

It also worked to unite these masses and strata around a common vision of what the new post-apartheid South Africa should be. It was for this reason that especially during the 1980s, we made every effort to popularise the Freedom Charter and get all progressive organisations in our country freely to adopt it as their own programme.

In the main, this strategic campaign to unite the progressive movement and the masses of our people around a common perspective about our country's future succeeded. In itself this imposed an obligation on the victorious democratic movement to continue to unite in action and act in unity to build the kind of South Africa projected by the Freedom Charter.

Continuing its strategic tradition of uniting the greatest number of our people to determine their future, our movement has continued the struggle to unite our people to pursue in action a shared agenda for the fundamental social transformation of our country.

To reinforce this perspective and provide it with the cement it needs, not long after our liberation, Nelson Mandela put forward the important idea of a New Patriotism that would inspire all our people to act together in pursuit of a common defined national agenda.

In this context, Nelson Mandela could easily have repeated the challenge placed before the American people by the former US President John F Kennedy - do not ask what your country can do for you: ask what I can do for my country! The call to all of us to embrace a New Patriotism was a call to each and every one of us to define what we would do that would benefit the nation, within the context of an agreed national agenda.

We raised this question on 29 May 1998 when we opened the Debate in the National Assembly, on "Reconciliation and Nation Building", and said:

"We are interested that our country responds to the call to rally to a New Patriotism, as a result of which we can all agree to a common national agenda, which would include:

a common fight to eradicate the legacy of apartheid;
a united offensive against corruption and crime;
concerted action to advance the interests of those least capable to defend themselves, including children, women, the disabled and the elderly;
an agreement about how we should protect and advance the interests of all the different cultural, language and religious groups that make up the South African population;
a commitment to confront the economic challenges facing our country, in a manner that simultaneously addresses issues of high and sustained growth and raising the living standards of especially the black poor;
an all-embracing effort to build a sense of common nationhood and a shared destiny, as a result of which we can entrench into the minds of all our people the understanding that however varied their skin complexions, cultures and life conditions, the success of each nevertheless depends on the effort the other will make to turn into reality the precept that each is his or her brother's or sister's keeper; and
a united view of our country's relations with the rest of the world.

"We believe that these are the issues we must address when we speak of reconciliation and nation building. They stand at the centre of the very future of South Africa as the home of a stable democracy, human rights, equality, peace, stability and a shared prosperity.

"Accordingly we must attend to the question whether with regard to all these issues and at all times, all of us behave in a manner which promotes the achievement of the goals we have mentioned, and therefore take us forward towards the realisation of the objective of reconciliation and nation building, without which the kind of South Africa visualised in our Constitution will most certainly not come into being."

Next month we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of this Constitution. Necessarily, we will assess the progress we have made and the problems we have experienced as we have sought to create "the kind of South Africa visualised in our Constitution".

I am certain that in this regard, we will have to revert back to the important matters of a New Patriotism, of a shared national agenda, and of the responsibility that falls on each and everyone of us to make his or her contribution to the pursuit of that national agenda.

The Freedom Day celebration of the 12th anniversary of our emancipation has served to underline the critical importance of the nature of the new South Africa we mentioned in 1998 -"the home of a stable democracy, human rights, equality, peace, stability and a shared prosperity".

All these are the fundamental features that define the democratic victory our people won at great cost 12 years ago, after a long struggle stretching over many centuries. Our movement we will never permit that anyone should undermine them or treat them with contempt.

This is also because the objectives we mentioned in 1998, focused on freeing the masses of our people from poverty and underdevelopment, and therefore giving meaning to national reconciliation, can only be achieved within the context of the successful defence of the fundamental features of the democratic revolution we have mentioned.

All genuine members of the ANC and the broad democratic movement will have been extremely distressed and concerned that even as we were celebrating Freedom Day and just before, people who claim to be part of our movement had engaged in actions that demonstrate the unacceptable contempt for the gains of the democratic revolution to which we have referred.

I refer here to various actions deliberately intended to weaken and subvert the democracy for which countless numbers of patriots sacrificed their lives, such as violent attacks against mayors and councillors, the destruction of their houses as well as people's municipal property, violent attacks against workers during some strikes, the thrashing of public thoroughfares, vandalism and looting.

Similar behaviour in the past obliged Nelson Mandela to speak on these matters in strong terms. Opening the Second Session of the First Democratic Parliament on 17 February 1995, he said:

"I must also address the question of the attempt by some in our country to introduce anarchy into our society.

"I speak of those who engage in such totally unacceptable practices as the murder of police officers, the taking of hostages, riots, looting, the forcible occupation of public buildings, blocking of public highways, vandalisation of public and private property and so on.

"Some of those who have initiated and participated in such activities have misread freedom to mean license. They have misinterpreted popular participation to mean their ability to impose chaos on society. They have wrongly concluded that an elected government of the people is a government that is open to compulsion through acts of anarchy.

"Let me therefore make this abundantly clear that the small minority in our midst which wears the mask of anarchy will meet its match in the government we lead and the masses of the people who put that government into office.

"This they must know, that we are not afraid of struggle. We are, after all, a product of confrontation and struggle. In the past we were not defeated by forces more powerful than they. In this instance, we will not be defeated by those whose actions have nothing to do with defending or advancing the cause of the people."

The historic task facing all genuine members and supporters of the ANC, and all other genuine democrats is to act in unity and unite in action to advance the national agenda focused on the reconstruction and development of our country, in the interests of the millions of working people who continue to be afflicted by poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment.

As a critical part of this, our movement and all its supporters must do everything necessary to maintain the vanguard and historic position of our movement as the principal architect and defender of democracy. Together, we must defeat those who, as Nelson Mandela said, seek "to introduce anarchy into our society".

A great patriot, Strini Moodley, passed away on Freedom Day. We lower our banners in tribute to him, and convey our condolences to his family and his comrades. A mere four days after his passing, on 1 May, we will come together again in many rallies throughout the country to celebrate workers' day, May Day.

I trust that the progressive trade union movement and the rest of the democratic movement will use the occasion of the May Day rallies to honour Strini Moodley, to reassert the true traditions of progressive trade unionism and the place of this movement within our Alliance, and to define the role of this central motive force for change, the organised workers, in the continuing struggle to build the humane and people-centred society visualised in the Freedom Charter.

We wish all the workers of our country and the world happy May Day, confident that the ANC will continue successfully to lead our country towards the achievement of the all-important objective of a better life for all our people, especially our working people!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Historical Significance of Kwame Nkrumah: Reflections on African Liberation Thirty-four Years After His Transition

Kwame Nkrumah
Originally uploaded by Peter Grimm.
PANW Editor's Note: The following two articles were originally written and publsihed in 1998 and 2002 respectively. The first article was written in commemoration of the anniversary of the death of the late Pan-African leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Only minor revisions were made in this article for the purposes of historical clarification. Otherwise it remains in the same form as previously published in 1998. The second article was written in the aftermath of the 2002 national presidential elections in Zimbabwe during which time the governments of the United States and the UK sought to influence the poll to overthrow the leadership of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union, Patriot Front (ZANU-PF). It is being published in its same form as was done in 2002.
By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
This article was previously published as a Pan-African News Wire, Weekly Dispatch on April 27, 1998

A Tribute To Kwame Nkrumah On The 34th Anniversary of His Death

Editorial Review, April 27,(PANW)--Thirty-four years ago today in 1972, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the founder and leader of the African independence movement and the foremost advocate of Pan-Africanism during his time, died in Bucharest, Romania after a long bout with cancer. Nkrumah was the first head of state of an independent post-colonial nation in Africa south of the sahara, after he led the nation of Ghana to its national liberation under the direction of the Convention Peoples Party in 1957.

Educated at the Historically Black College ofLincoln University in Pennsylvania, Nkrumah became involved in the Pan-African movement in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s as a leading member of the African Students Association (ASA), the Council on African Affairs (CAA) as well as other organizations. After leaving the United States at the conclusion of World War II in 1945, he played a leading role in the convening of the historic Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England-a gathering which is credited with laying the foundation for the mass struggles for independence during the 1940s and 1950s.

It was during his stay in England between 1945-47, that he collaborated with George Padmore of Trinidad, a veteran activist in the international communist movement and a journalist who wrote extensively on African affairs. Nkrumah was offered a position with the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) as an organizer in late 1947 and made a critical decision to return to the Gold Coast (later known as Ghana) to assist in the anti-colonial struggle that was intensifying in the aftermath of World War II.

After being imprisoned with other leaders of the UGCC for supposedly inciting unrest among WWII veterans, workers and farmers in the colony, he gained widespread popularity among the people who responded enthusiastically to his militant and fiery approach to the burgeoining anti -imperialist movement. After forming the Committee on Youth Organization (CYO) which became the best organized segment of the UGCC, Nkrumah was later isolated from the top leadership of the Convention, who objected to his demands for immediate political independence for the Gold Coast.

On June 12, 1949, Nkrumah and the CYO formed the Convention Peoples Party in Accra at a mass gathering of tens of thousands of people, who were prepared to launch a mass struggle for the abolition of British colonial rule in the Gold Coast. During this same period, Nkrumah formed links with other anti-colonial and Pan-African organizations that were operating in the other colonies of west Africa. When the CPP called for a Positive Action Campaign in early 1950, leading to massive strikes and rebellion throughout the colony, he was imprisoned by the colonial authorities for sedition. However, the executive members of the CPP continued to press for the total independence of the colony, eventually creating the conditions for a popular election in 1951, that the CPP won overwhelmingly. In February of 1951, Nkrumah was released from prison in Ghana and appointed Leader of Government Business in a transitional arrangement that eventually led to the independence of Ghana on March 6, 1957.

At the independence gathering on March 6, Nkrumah declared that the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it was directly linked with the total liberation of the continent. This statement made by Prime Minister Nkrumah served as the cornerstone of Ghanaian foreign policy during his tenure as leader of the country. George Padmore became the official advisor on African affairs and was placed in charge of the Bureau of African Affairs, whose task it was to assist other national liberation movements on the continent in their efforts to win political independence.

In April of 1958, the First Conference of Independent African States was convened, with eight nation-states as participants. This gathering broke down the colonially imposed divisions between Africa north and south of the sahara. Later that same year in December, the first All-African Peoples Conference was held in Accra, which brought together 62 national liberation movements from all over the continent as well as representation from Africans in the United States. It was at this conference in December of 1958, that Patrice Lumumba of Congo became an internationally recognized leader of the anti-colonial struggle in that Belgian colony.

Challenges of the National Independence Movement

By 1960, the independence movement had gained tremendous influence throughout Africa, resulting in the emergence of many new nation-states on the continent. That same year, Ghana became a republic and adopted its own constitution making Nkrumah the president of the government. However, there arose fissures within the leadership of the CPP over which direction the new state would take in regard to its economic and social policies.

Many of Nkrumah's colleagues who had been instrumental in the struggle for independence, were not committed to his long term goals of Pan-Africanism and Socialism. Consequently, many of the programmatic initiatives launched by the CPP government were stifled by the class aspirations of many of the state and party officials who were non-committal in regard to a total
revolutionary transformation of Ghanaian society and the African continent as a whole. By September of 1961, massive labor unrest occured throughout the country while Nkrumah was travelling in Eastern Europe, which was then allied with the Soviet Union.

In the aftermath of the 1961 crisis, massive purges took place within the CPP against those who were considered to the right of the new government policies related to the adoption of scientific socialism inside the country. Later in August of 1962, an assassination attempt was carried out
against Nkrumah in the north of the country, where he was nearly killed by a bomb. As a result of this incident,a new round of purges took place where many of those considered as the left wing of the CPP, such as vice-chairman of the ruling party, Tawio Adamafio, were sacked and later arrested and charged with being co-conspirators in the assassination attempt against Nkrumah. After 1962, the leadership of the CPP became more focused around Nkrumah as a personality while the government moved more towards the adoption of a one- party state model of political control. These developments were taking place in conjunction with other activities launched by opposition parties, whose strength had been curtailed by the Preventive Detention Act of 1958, that was designed to halt other plots aimed at assassination and destabilization of the new state in the aftermath of independence.

By 1964, the First Republic of Ghana had held an election that mandated the adoption of the one-party state form of government. During this period, the CPP was attempting to restructure the economy of the country from its dependence on trade and investment with the capitalist world. This proved to be a formidable task due to the legacy of colonialism in the country and the relative weakness of the Soviet Bloc and China in regard to their ability to provide economic assistance to newly independent African states. Although the realization of an United States
of Africa was the principle foreign policy objective of the CPP government, the majority of African states during this period were not willing to lessen their ties to the former colonial powers in lieu of greater linkages with the progressive states on the continent. Nkrumah in
1963 identified neo-colonialism as the major impediment to the genuine liberation of Africa. At the founding meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he released his book entitled, "Africa Must Unite", which provided a proposal for the adoption
of a continental union government as the only means of countering the development of a new form colonialism on the continent.

At the OAU conference in Egypt during July of 1964, Nkrumah pleaded for the adoption of an United States of Africa by the heads of state. This proposal was not accepted despite the apparent problems associated with the legacy of colonialism on the continent. The Congo crisis and the economic stagnation of many of the newly independent states illustrated that the these nations were not viable as economic and political entities.

At the 1965 OAU Summit held in Accra, many of the head of states from other nations did not attend because of their opposition to the foreign policy of the CPP government. At this conference in late 1965, Nkrumah issued his book entitled, "Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of
Imperialism", which condemned the United States as the principle imperialist power behind the new form of hegemonic rule which was designed to maintain western control over the newly independent states in Africa and throughout the so-called developing world. This book so
infuriated the American government that G.M. Williams, the United States Undersecretary of State for African Affairs wrote a memorandum of protest to Ghana embassy in Washington, D.C. saying that Nkrumah was working in contravention to the interest of the American government in Africa.

Just four months after the release of this book on Neo-Colonialism, Nkrumah was overthrown by a coup d'etat led by lower level military officers and police in Ghana. This coup was backed by the American government and the imperialist world in general, who percieved Nkrumah's policies as a threat to the economic and political interests of the western powers. Nkrumah was out of the country at the time of the coup, enroute to North Vietnam on a mission to bring about a peace settlement in the United States war against the people of South-east Asia. During a stop
over in China, Nkrumah was informed by the governmental officials there that a military and police coup had taken place inside of Ghana. Aborting his mission to Vietnam, he returned to Africa via the Soviet Union and Egypt,where he eventually settled in Guinea-Conakry. Nkrumah remained in Guinea until he was flown to Romania to undergo treatment for cancer in 1971. During this period after the coup (1966-1971) he continued to write on the history of Africa and the revolutionary movement for Pan-Africanism and world socialism.

The Contributions of Kwame Nkrumah

Despite the coup against Nkrumah on February 24, 1966 in Ghana, his legacy in Africa and throughout the African world continues. His views on the necessity of coordinated guerrilla warfare to liberate Africa was realized in the sub-continent during the 1970s and 1980s, when the settler-colonial regimes of Rhodesia and eventually South Africa were defeated. The role of Cuba in the liberation and security of Angola was clearly in line with the notions advocated by Nkrumah, which upheld the view that until settler colonialism was destroyed, the entire continent of Africa would not be secure.

Even though the realization of a United States of Africa is still far away, this issue continues to be discussed broadly on the continent and in the Diaspora. In Ghana, Nkrumah's legacy was utilized in both a positive and negative manner by the successive regimes that took power after his departure. These regimes are compelled to use his image and legacy, despite their refusal to adopt the CPP program in its totality.

In the United States and throughout the Diaspora, a greater identification with Africa has occured over the last thirty years. The African community in America and the Caribbean played an instrumental role in the solidarity struggle with the national liberation movements in Southern Africa during the 1980s and 1990s.

Nkrumah's views on the necessity of African unity have been prophetic in light of the continuing underdevelopment of the continent and the phenomena of domestic neo-colonialism in the United States and the Caribbean. Consequently, the legacy of Nkrumah is still relevant to the present day struggle of African peoples around the world.

A greater understanding of his ideas and activities can only benefit the present efforts to create an African world that is genuinely independent and self-determined.

Articles published by the Pan-African News Wire may be freely ciruculated for non-profit educational and research purposes. We request that the original source of these articles be cited when reproduced. Distribution for profit is prohibited without the expressed consent of the Pan-African News Wire.

Zimbabwe Under Attack: Efforts to Destabilize Zimbabwe Linked to Historical Precedents in Nkrumah's Ghana

Ghana without Nkrumah
Originally uploaded by amaah.
PANW Editor: This article was originally published on March 19, 2002

Zimbabwe Under Attack: Western Threats Must Be Viewed Within Historical Context

Efforts to destabilize the Zimbabwe Government continues; some historical precedents in Nkrumah's Ghana of the 1960s

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

NEWS ANALYSIS (PANW)—Whether the African continent has endorsed the recently held national elections in Zimbabwe or not, the western countries are determined to continue their destabilization program against the southern African nation.

President Mugabe was sworn in on Sunday 17 March by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku after winning 56% of the popular vote in an election that witnessed a concerted effort by the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union to influence the outcome in favor of the party that the west assisted through financing and propaganda to work towards the overthrow of the ZANU-PF Government.

Some of the leaders that attended the swearing in ceremony included President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabili Muluzi of Malawi, President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique , President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, President Sam Nujoma of Namibia, President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia and Botswana’s Acting President Ian Khama.

In addition, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo sent high-level representatives since they were already coming to Harare on the following Monday for a meeting with President Mugabe.

Yet, despite these political activities surrounding the re-election of President Mugabe, the western nations are continuing to claim that the elections were unacceptable. Many within Africa and the international community feel that the main reason behind the west’s rejection and persecution of the Zimbabwean government lies within the nation’s domestic and international policy which has sought to redress the legacy of colonialism and racism within the southern African region.

Based upon the actions taken by western-backed opposition leaders in Zimbabwe, the government is now moving to step up its internal security apparatus to stifle any illegal effort to overthrow a legitimately elected African government.

In an article published in the Zimbabwean Chronicle newspaper
on 16 March, the writer indicates that “We all know that Zimbabwe’s former colonial master Britain, the major sponsor of MDC, had hoped that Mr Tsvangirai would win and thus pay them back by reversing the land reform program. The people of Zimbabwe put them to shame by voting for President Mugabe. In doing so the message from the people was loud and clear—we want land.”

The article continues by saying that “Now like a dog on a leash, MDC is being told to come up with “mass actions” to give Britain and the US a good “excuse” to attack Zimbabwe. Let it be known that Zimbabwe has the capacity and capability to repel such attacks.”

Historical example of African destabilization: Nkrumah’s Ghana

Efforts aimed at the Mugabe government by the west are not new to the post-independence legacy of colonial and neo-colonial interference in the internal affairs of these nations.

Kwame Nkrumah, who led the Ghana independence struggle from 1947 to 1957, fell victim to a western-financed and engineered destabilization program when he was overthrown by a military coup in 1966. Key to his removal from office was a concerted disinformation campaign utilizing the media and the diplomatic community from the United States and the United Kingdom.

In his book entitled “Dark Days in Ghana” published in 1968 two years after his removal from office, Nkrumah states that: “It has been said that the fabrication of the “big lie” is essential in the planning of any usurpation of political power. In the case of Ghana, the big lie told to the world was that Ghana needed to be rescued from ‘economic chaos.’ Various other lies were hinged to this central lie. The country was said to hopelessly in debt and the people on the verge of starvation. Among the lies aimed against me personally was the one that I had accumulated a large private fortune; this was to form the basis for an all-out character assassination attempt. But these lies were subsidiary to the one big lie of ‘economicmismanagement’, which was to provide an umbrella excuse for the seizure of power by neo-colonialist inspired traitors.”

During the period of Nkrumah’s independent government in Ghana, 1957-1966, the country served as a rear base for national liberation movements from throughout Africa and the world. President Robert Mugabe spent time in Ghana during this period where he obtained training in revolutionary theory and organization.

One of the key areas of interests to the Nkrumah government was the total liberation of the African continent. At the independence celebration on March 6, 1957, Nkrumah stated that the freedom of Ghana was meaningless if it was not linked to the complete eradication of colonialism on the continent.

This is the reason behind President Nkrumah’s militant stance against the former European-settler regime in Rhodesia. In late 1965, Ian Smith declared a Unilateral Declaration of Independence which effectively absolved Britain of its responsibility in resolving the Zimbabwe question. Nkrumah demanded that the United Kingdom government take military action to remove the European-settler regime of Ian Smith.

The refusal of Britain to take meaningful action against the
rebellion by the white settlers led to the severing of diplomatic relations between the UK and Ghana in late 1965, several months prior to the overthrow of the Nkrumah government.

In a book by Nkrumah entitled: “The Rhodesia File”, he says that: “ Let me first state the position of Ghana, which remains unchanged. We consider that the United Kingdom has under the charter of the United Nations certain positive obligations towards the African people of Southern Rhodesia which are set out in Article 73. If Britain is unwilling or unable to fulfill these obligations the United Nations must step in. Ghana considers that the proper organ through which the United Nations should intervene is the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). This view has now been supported by the Security Council of the United Nations.”

Later on in the same book, it points out that: “Nkrumah set a time for Britain to end the settler rebellion in Rhodesia. When the time limit expired on 15 December, Ghana in compliance with the OAU resolution agreed at the 1965 Accra Summit meeting, broke off diplomatic relations with Britain.”

A little over two months after the Ghana Government broke off diplomatic relations with Britain the Nkrumah dominated state was overthrown through illegal military and police actions.

Lessons for the Zimbabwe government today

It appears that the opposition MDC realized several months ago that it was not capable of winning a democratically contested election in Zimbabwe. Consequently, last month a
plot was exposed on Australian television that documented
Tsvangarai’s attempt to elicit the support of a consulting firm in Montreal, Canada to participate in an effort to assassinate President Mugabe and to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe.

Although Tsvangirai denied the authenticity of the videotape
and the Australian television documentary, the transcript of
the actual recordings were published on the Afrikan Frontline web site at . These transcripts indicate that there was a serious attempt to foment an international plot to remove the democratically elected government of an African nation with the assistance of western governments and financial interests.

These are serious issues for the Zimbabwe Government to address in its effort to protect the independence and sovereignty of the country. One major feature of the west’s destabilization campaign against Zimbabwe is the role of the Commonwealth which is scheduled to convene on Tuesday 19 March to discuss the results of the elections in the country. This meeting will be held in London and it will consist of the Commonwealth troika on Zimbabwe comprised of the presidents of South Africa, Nigeria, and the prime minister of Australia.

The Commonwealth was split along racial lines over the Zimbabwe question prior to the national elections held on March 9-11. The African nations supported the efforts of the Zimbabwe Government to exercise its legal right to conduct elections inside its territory. The European states, Australia and Britain wanted to impose economic sanctions and install the western-backed opposition group, the MDC, in power. These efforts were only thwarted by the steadfast position of the African governments within the Commonwealth.

British press reports on Zimbabwe have also reflected the government’s hostility toward the African nation. In a Guardian Newspaper article on 11 March, the tabloid states that some staff members within the BBC have objected to the general tone of the network’s coverage of political developments in Zimbabwe.

In an article entitled: “BBC Zimbabwe Line Colonial, Says Staff”, published on 11 March it states that “Senior figures at the BBC World Service have expressed concern to the domestic news division that coverage of the Zimbabwe elections has been driven by a
“colonial agenda”, potentially causing damage to the corporation’s reputation for impartiality.”

This article continues by pointing out that “There has also been concern about the frequent BBC claim that it is banned from Zimbabwe. While it is true to say that BBC correspondents have been refused entry, a number of African World Service reporters are working legitimately there.”

Such biased coverage has attempted to convince people both inside and outside of the country that all of the political crimes committed inside the country are done by the Zimbabwe Government and its supporters.
However, an article published in the Herald newspaper on 16 March states that: "Police statistics show that the opposition party’s members committed 176 politically-motivated crimes last year including the murder of Bulawayo war veterans’ leader Mr Cain Nkala while ZANU-PF supporters were responsible for 157 political crimes.”

It continues by saying that: “During last weekend’s presidential election, MDC also committed the highest number
of crimes with its members involved in 570 incidents while ZANU-PF supporters were responsible for two cases.”

Nonetheless, the western press, whose governments support the political factions inside Zimbabwe that are committing these crimes, are not reporting on the activities of their surrogates in the country. Most articles written by mainstream press agencies in the United States, Britain and Europe are against the Mugabe government and these accounts of developments in the country attempt to portray him as someone that is less than honorable and legitimate.

A writer from the War Veterans' Association in Bulawayo sums
up the majority sentiment in Zimbabwe through a letter to the Chronicle newspaper published on the 15 March. The letter says that: “The union of this continent will never be realized as long as we allow the Western bullies to dictate our destiny through sponsoring some of our people to oppose the governments for the sake of money."

“Zimbabwe, in particular, has never had peace since 1890 when the British left their island and invaded our country. They have taken everything that our country had to enable its people to fend for themselves, and they continue to loot and hoard all our resources,” the letter by the war veterans say.

This letter continues by asking a series of questions: “Do you know that Zimbabwe is for Africans? Why don’t you do things for yourselves? You enjoy being spoon-fed, controlled and paid by foreigners from your own resources. Why do you worship these white foreigners? Are you not human beings like them?"

“Don’t betray Africa, your God-given continent. Don’t betray Joshua Nkomo,
Robert Mugabe, ex-detainees, war veterans and the masses."

"Don’t sell your country! Vote for Land."

Pan-African News Wire articles may be forwarded broadly for non-profit research and educational purposes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tanzania: Group Files Case Challenging Zanzibar Union

Originally uploaded by DEMOSH.
TANZANIA: Group files case challenging Zanzibar union

ZANZIBAR, STONE TOWN, 24 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - Two days before the 42nd anniversary of the political union of Tanganyika and the isles of Zanzibar, forming the United Republic of Tanzania, a group of 10 people in the semi-autonomous island have filed a case in the Zanzibar High Court seeking to have the union quashed because, they say, "it is illegal".

The group wants the union nullified to pave the way for fresh discussions on the formation of a new union, "which will represent the interest of the majority, because the current union has been a mess".

The founders of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere (Tanganyika) and Abeid Amani Karume (Zanzibar) signed the original article of the union that brought into a single political entity Tanzania mainland and the two islands that make up Zanzibar: Pemba and Unguja, with Zanzibar enjoying semi-autonomous status. Zanzibar has its own president and national assembly but recognises the overall leadership of the president of the united republic.

"We have finalised the required legal procedures, and submitted our affidavits," Rashid Salum Addiy, the leader of the 10 Zanzibaris who filed the case, told a news conference on Monday in the Zanzibar capital, Stone Town.

Addiy's group began their opposition to the current union in June 2005 when they went to the high court demanding that Zanzibar's attorney general present the original articles of the union.

However, in a ruling in December 2005, the court said the attorney general's office did not have a copy of the original article of the union signed by Karume and Nyerere. However the attorney general's office responded that this lack of documentation did not imply the non-existence of the article of the union.

In their suit, Addiy's group have named five locally prominent persons on a list of people to be questioned on the "illegality" of the union. These include the UN Secretary-General, Zanzibar's attorney general, the secretary-general of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council, the Speaker of the Zanzibar House of Representative, and the secretary of the ruling political party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

On Saturday, during the launch of a book titled "Zanzibar and the Union Question", a section of Zanzibaris said the union should be nullified as it was of little importance to Zanzibar's economic development.

The new book, edited by University of Dar es Salaam professors Chris Peter and Haroub Othman, is a compilation of papers about the union, written by renowned Tanzanian writers including Issa Shivji, the leader of opposition in Zanzibar House of Representatives, Abubakar Khamis Bakari, Haroub Othman, Mahadhi Juma, and Wolfgang Dourado, Zanzibar's first attorney-general after 1964 revolution, who was detained after questioning the union's formation.

The majority of the speakers at the book launch expressed displeasure with the union. The launch was organised by the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre, in collaboration with Zanzibar Law Society and the Zanzibar Press Club, to mark the 42nd anniversary of the union.

The deputy vice-chancellor of the Zanzibar University College, Mohamed Harith Khalfan, said Zanzibar lawyers had let down the public by not taking action against the union. He said lawyers had left all matters concerning the union to politicians, who often were not transparent.

Facilitators of the meeting, including Othman and Peter as well as lawyers Othman Masoud and Yahya Khamis described the union as problematic. While Masoud and Khamis said the problems facing the union originated from the country's constitutions, Othman said it was possible to make amendments to both the Zanzibar and union constitutions to resolve the existing mistrust and strengthen the union.

Othman also said Zanzibaris were to blame for not being firm in defending the interests of Zanzibar. "I beg to differ with those who think most of the union matters are forced into law, normally the required procedures including dialogue forums, such as parliament, in which Zanzibaris participate, are followed," he said.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jimi Hendrix & The Band of Gypsys: When Earth Meets Space

Jimi Hendrix 35th Anniversary Tribute: The Band of Gypsys in Historical Context

Editor's Note: September 18, 2005 was the 35th Anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) in London, England. The article below, written by Oscar J. Jordan III, provides a perspective on Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys. Hendrix was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. His legacy lives on three and a-half decades after his untimely death. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire.

For more information on the music of Jimi Hendrix just log on to the URL below:

Jimi Hendrix and The Band of Gypsys...
Or That's What Happens When Earth Fucks With Space

By Oscar J. Jordan III

"Buddy Miles claims that Michael Jeffery, in a deliberate effort to sabotage the Band of Gypsys' s performance, slipped Hendrix LSD backstage. "Both my sister and I saw Jeffery slip Hendrix two tabs of acid, and I personally saw Hendrix take them. He looked so scared."

Jimi Hendrix wasn't stupid but he was naive. On October 15th 1965, he signed a three year exclusive recording contract with producer Ed Chalpin for PPX Inc in New York. At the time he was just a squirrel looking for a nut. A year later he would be discovered by Chas Chandler and the world would be introduced to fire breathing guitar and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Chas was smart enough to buy up all of Jimi's outstanding contracts but Jimi neglected to tell Chas about one in particular. PPX Inc. After Jimi got a record deal with Warner Brothers, Chalpin demanded huge sums of cash for breach of contract. They went to court and it was eventually agreed upon in June of 69' that Jimi would record a live album not featuring The Experience, since nobody wanted to give PPX new studio material. This album would be given to PPX and be released by Capital records. Warner Brothers added a stipulation that the album not be called The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but something else as to disassociate the release from their name.

This is how Jimi would satisfy Chalpin who was selling inferior recordings of Jimi from his pre-Experience days. The recordings were of low quality, other instruments were added, then sold as bonafide Jimi Hendrix recordings. Ironically in July of 67', Jimi showed up at Chalpin's studio oblivious to the legal maneuverings taking place. He just wanted to hang out with friends and show off his 8 string Hagstrom bass and new wah-wah pedal. "Wait until you hear this wah-wah pedal". Oh yeah, Chalpin recorded that too. They recorded him and later put it out on the market as a Jimi Hendrix recording.

Check out this recorded dialogue:

Jimi: You can't, you if you use it you can't put my name on the er...thing...right?

Curtis Knight: No, no, no. Hell no.

Jimi: Now, listen, huh...he can't do this, all right...ok?

Chalpin: Go ahead.

Jimi: Edward (Chalpin), can you hear me?

Chalpin: I can hear you loud enough.

Curtis Knight: You can't use his name for any of this.

Chalpin: Oh don't worry about it.

Jimi: No, seriously though, seriously though..

Chalpin: It's our own tape, don't worry about it.

Jimi: Huh?

Chalpin: I won't use it. Don't worry.

Of course he would use it! Chalpin wasn't crazy, he was a businessman. Something with Jimi's name on it meant duckets in the bucket. The question is; "why did Jimi go back in the first place?" He was probably trying to smooth things over with Chalpin with the idea that he could use the tracks without his name. But what good would that have been if he couldn't use Jimi's name? He had to be unaware of the details of the suit. No, he wasn't stupid just naive.

By the later part of 1969 drummer Mitch Mitchell had already performed with Jimi at Woodstock and was back in England to spend some time at home. He later joined up with Jack Bruce and Larry Coryell. The band was called Jack Bruce and Friends. An agitated Noel Redding had already left the band after a Denver show in June of 69'. Bassist Billy Cox, an old Army and R&B band buddy had already replaced Noel and performed at Woodstock. Billy and Jimi went way back, playing together between 1961 and 1965 with The King Casuals. Buddy Miles and Jimi had met years before when Buddy was Wilson Picket's drummer. He joined The Electric Flag and later fronted his own band The Buddy Miles Express. With Buddy Miles in place as the drummer, The Band of Gypsys was born.

As early as September of 69' the three of them were jamming or in the studio working on a new album that was overdue for Warner Brothers. For all their hard work they had not completed any new material that was presentable. Hours and hours of studio time was spent jamming with out any finished songs. These sessions yielded early versions of "Room Full of Mirrors", "Ezy Rider", "Stepping Stone", "Izabella", "Dolly Dagger", "Burning Desire", "Message to Love", "Power of Soul", "Who Knows", and "Machine Gun".

Albert Allen: "Hendrix was trying to find a way to get to the black audience. He felt that if he put together a band that could reach that audience, he would please them. He wanted to be liked by blacks but I don't think he knew what ingredients he needed."

The bottom line was that after wading through all the so-called political and social ground-breaking aspirations for the band, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles were merely helping their friend out of a serious jam. They were great friends and musicians, and happened to be at the right place at the right time. They would book four shows at the Fillmore East over two days, record it, mix it, take the best stuff and give it to Ed Chalpin as a pay off. Yes, Jimi wished he had more Blacks in his audience. He wanted to please and not alienate his own people. But finding that elusive magic bullet that would get him in the good graces of an audience who was more attuned to Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Smokey Robinson, was low on his list of priorities. It seemed that everyone else had higher expectations for the band than Jimi did. In the beginning he wasn't fully committed. He felt pushed into the situation but he had agreements to fulfill. He really just wanted to play and write good music.

Electric Gypsy: "It has become part of the Jimi Hendrix mythology that he was under pressure to form a black band. There may well have been demand from black nationalists that he should do this, there is no evidence that he actually complied. With his next venture (The Band Of Gypsys) the presence of two black musicians in a new trio format was sheer expediency.

Can you imagine the pressure he must have been under? While acknowledging responsibility for making the mistake of signing with Chalpin, he was getting pressured by various Black nationalist factions to be their spokesperson. This was during the Black Power movement of the 60's and if you weren't part of the solution you were considered part of the problem. Not only that, but he needed to give something to Warner Brothers and Capital, and at the same time prepare his new band for the Fillmore East shows. He had to whip the band into some kind of cohesive unit that would work. The tapes from the rehearsals at Baggys studios reveal a rough R&B band struggling to play together as a tight rhythmic unit. Creative ideas flowed constantly but were later jettisoned. Even Alan Douglas stepped in to organize rehearsals and recording, but Jimi's expensive and time consuming way of coming up with ideas through non-stop jamming was too frustrating for Alan to continue. It also created a power struggle between him and Mike Jeffrey with Jimi in the middle. Then there was the record company to deal with.

Johnny Winter: The white guys and managers would say, "Don't play with these niggers, man; the 14 year olds can't relate to all that space stuff. Get the cute English guys back." And the Black guys would tell him he was selling out to whitey. Jimi was a pretty sensitive person, plus he was loaded all the time, and he didn't know what to do.

Jimi just wanted to create music, but he was a Black star with a white audience. Insecure white kids could go see Jimi without having to worry about being seriously outnumbered by Blacks, as they would at a show by someone like Jackie Wilson. Jimi had no exposure to Blacks on Black radio because his music didn't fit into their Motown heavy format. Without this introduction to his own people he was a skinny ass freaky mother fucker who sold out to whitey.

Hendrix: "Black kids think the music is white now, which it isn't. The argument is not between black and white; that's just another game the establishment set up to turn us against one another..."

He may have thought that, but Black stations would not play his music anyway, regardless of the establishment. It wasn't about skin color, it was about where to place his music. What he was creating was just so outside of everything that was going on, even some white stations wouldn't play him. To add to his dilemma he was caught in a river of Black nationalist groups, record producers, musicians, women, drugs, and businessmen all competing for his money, his celebrity, his time, and his music. In addition, Mike Jeffrey couldn't stand Buddy Miles and did everything he could to turn Jimi against him. Jimi needed more time. But in December things started to look up. Jimi was very slowly beginning to regain his creative juices, and the band was coming together. The word on the street was that Jimi had a brand new bag. More earthy.

Funky. Machine Gun was the talk of the town, and the band was all Black now. What gives???

Charles Shaar Murray: "It's generally received a fairly unenthusiastic press, but the Cox/Miles rhythm section has a heavy rolling fluidity which brings out a very different dimension in Hendrix's playing from the more familiar Redding/Mitchell team, which hinged on Redding's stiffness and Mitchell's flamboyant extroversion. For the record the Gypsys remain Miles Davis's favorite Jimi Hendrix rhythm section. ...The way Hendrix locks into the thick, lazy twitch of Cox and Miles's groove on the opening "Who Knows", creates a brand new funk which he never attained with any other combination, and one which found it's truest echoes in the seventies of one of Hendrix's sixties influences."

The story goes that on December 31, 1969 at the first show at the Fillmore East, Jimi pulled out all the stops and did his full stage show. The audience went wild. He later asked Bill Graham what he thought. Graham said it stunk, and that the audience would love him no matter what he did. All the stage antics simply made his performance under par. He could do push ups and the audience would love him because he was the great Jimi Hendrix. He did everything but play the music. Jimi was down about it, but for that second show Jimi just stood there and played, and played brilliantly. Graham describes the second show as "The most brilliant, emotional display of virtuoso electric guitar playing he had ever heard".

December 31, 1969 New Year's Eve
First Set:

Power of Soul, Lover Man, Hear my Train A Comin', Then Changes, Izabella, Machine Gun, Stop, Ezy Rider, Bleeding Heart, Earth Blues, Burning Desire.

Second Set:

Auld Lang Syne, Who Knows, Stepping Stone, Burning Desire, Fire, Ezy Rider, Machine Gun, Power of Soul, Stone Free, Sunshine of Your Love, Them Changes, Message to Love, Stop, Foxy Lady, Voodoo Child, Purple Haze.

"Happy New Year, goodbye 69'. Would you can do for me, is kiss my behind." Two incredible shows but the reviews were mixed. But you know how critics are...

Chris Albertson - Down Beat magazine: "Hendrix never really has considered himself much of a singer, and he is right. Perhaps that is why he let his guitar drown out his voice each time he sang while he did not allow it to interfere with Miles' vocals. Miles is a good blues singer, and I think Hendrix would be wise to let him handle that department. His work on the drums is not bad, but it cannot stand comparison with numerous jazz drummers."

Mike Jahn: "His playing is so loud, so fluid, and so rife with electronic distortions that it resembles that of no other currently popular performer."

Never before had Jimi sounded more funky. This was hard progressive funk. It was ground breaking music that pointed the way to where R&B was supposed to go. As opposed to the music of The Experience, The Band of Gypsys were earthy, very funky, and in the pocket. In my mind this is the band where Jimi rediscovered the "one"! The "one" is a hard accent on the first beat of a bar that is the key ingredient to funk. James Brown was the architect of this monster groove and it was later adopted and pulverized by George Clinton and many others.

January 1st 1970 New Year's DayFirst Set:

Who knows, Machine Gun, Them Changes, Power of Soul, Stepping Stone, Foxey Lady, Stop, Earth Blues.

Second Set:

Stone Free, Them Changes, Power of Soul, Message to Love, Earth Blues, Machine Gun, Voodoo Child, We Gotta Live Together, Wild Thing, Hey Joe, Purple Haze.

Loraine Alterman: "Unfortunately A Band Of Gypsys doesn't quite measure up to Hendrix's art. Cox, an old friend of Hendrix, provides solid support on bass, but Miles insists on grabbing his share of the spotlight as a singer. The drummer seems to suffer from the delusion that he is another Otis Redding when neither his styling nor his voice have anything to distinguish him from the run of the mill R&B singer."

Alfred G. Aronowitz: "By the time the second set ended, at 3 this morning, the audience was on it's feet, clapping to the music and singing along "We got to live together, We got to live together."

John Woodruff: "To my mind Hendrix always had soul - it wasn't the Sly Stone or the James Brown type - it was the Hendrix type and it was rich. Now it is the Buddy Miles type with a lot of fast guitar work on the side. Give me Mitchell any day. He pushed Hendrix into new ideas all the time. ...Mitchell is incredible. Miles, well, he's a drummer."

The Song "Machine Gun" in my opinion has to be considered his masterpiece. Nothing before this with The Experience even comes close (except for possibly the Live at Berkeley version of "Hear My Train A Comin'"), particularly the version from the first set on New Years day. This version was chosen by Hendrix and Eddie Kramer to go on The Band of Gypsys album. It starts out with a dedication.

"Happy New Year, first of all. An' I hope you have about a million or two million more of 'em, if we can get over this summer. Nyeh heh, heh. We'd like to dedicate this one to, uh, sort of a draggy scene that's goin on, all the soldiers that are fightin' in Chicago and Milwaukee and New York...oh yes, and all the soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Like to do a thing called Machine Gun."

While the other versions of this song over the four shows were brilliant in their own right, this particular version seemed to bring together all the elements in the right place. It displayed the most feeling, dynamics, musicianship, band interaction, and the pain of the Vietnam war on a personal level. Not just pain for the American Soldiers who were there dug in deep in terror, but the plight of the people of Vietnam.

"Well I pick up my axe like a farmer, and your bullets keep knockin' me down."

Hendrix reminds us that there were people who lived there who were either being killed or traumatized. The post modern delta blues groove that Jimi sets up for Cox and Miles to take over, becomes relentless, heavy, and thick as a brick. This is stone cold slow funk with a delta blues sensibility! This song is a 20th Century American masterpiece joining the works of Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. "Machine Gun" out weighs other great songs because it is so deep, yet so simple, and when it's done you feel like you've just watched a very intense movie in THX. The song is played using one chord. One chord! With this one chord and his maple necked Fender Strat tuned down a whole step to D, he blurs the gap between major and minor. This piece of work also happens to be the Encyclopedia Brittanica of everything that is possible with the electric guitar. A master class in feed back, whammy bar usage, sustain, over bends, double stops, effects, behind the neck tapping, spring manipulation, and how to create the sound of air.

Cinematic, Jimi's guitar cries, wails and moans, displaying pictures of rice paddies, despair, screaming victims, bullets cutting through the thick humid air, and the pain of unjustified death. Jimi shows us through sheer sound that farmer on his knees, screaming at the top of his lungs, kneeling in a rice paddy, with a defiant fist in the air and a snarl on his lips. Then he is cut to pieces by a spray of bullets. Rat-a-tat-tat!

"The same way you shoot me down baby, you'll be goin' just the same, three times the pain. And your own self to blame."

Groove wise this songs is as hard gut bucket as it gets. Buddy Miles plays the shit out of those drums! Ladies and gentleman the monster is walking! When you hear the rat-a-tat-tat of the machine gun, Buddy Miles makes you feel it hitting you in the chest. Billy Cox had ESP with Jimi. All they needed was a look from each other and they were together like Siamese twins.

Holding down that groove and keeping it alive and steady was his gift. Few can match his ability to make his bass surge, breath, and pulsate all at the same time. It's that deep southern R&B vibe he puts forth that makes this song so deep and earthy. Billy Cox grounds us with deep southern R&B, Hendrix takes us to the outskirts of infinity, and Buddy Miles beats the shit out of everybody. It's almost performance art but the song lets your mind see all the action. Like Hitchcock, Hendrix pans the camera away from the subject to allow you to imagine the absolute worst. Yeah, I like this song alot. But opinions varied in regards to Buddy Miles's drumming.

Charles Shaar Murray: "Whereas Mitch was all fire and air, with one foot in the jazz world of Elvin Jones and Tony Williams and the other in the flamboyant Britrock double-bass-drum tradition of Keith Moon and Ginger Baker, Miles was earthier to the max with on-the-one roots in deep heavy funk. He was incapable of soaring into the up-and-out as Mitchell could, but he could anchor Hendrix as Mitchell couldn't. The Experience rhythm section was wiry; the Gypsys were solid, meaty and muscular. It wasn't just the musicians' skins that were blacker; the music was too."

After the last Fillmore shows while Jimi rehearsed the band, Mike Jeffrey was plotting to bring The Experience back together. That last Fillmore show was the only show that The Band of Gypsys were committed to and in Mike Jeffrey's mind it was time to move on. The Band of Gypsys was simply a project Jimi put together to take him to the next project. The Jimi Hendrix Experience became Gypsys Sons and Rainbows, which became The Band of Gypsys, which would later evolve into something else. This something else might have been a project with Steve Winwood. Lots of ideas were up in the air and all this could change at any time because in an interview with The Record Mirror Jimi stated that he would "play with Mitch maybe, but not with Noel for sure". So then you have to ask yourself, what's wrong with Buddy Miles?

Robert Wyatt: "Buddy could be pleasantly messy. He wasn't as tight as a Stax drummer. He was no drum machine; his rolls would clatter about a bit."

Mike Jeffrey, with his knee in Jimi's back, put on the pressure to get rid of Miles. He did whatever he needed to do to get his way. The effects of coercion and alienation took their toll on Jimi. Jeffrey simply did not want The Band of Gypsys to exist. Noel Redding got a call to reform The Experience! Things got worse when Jimi's drug abuse worsened, and he and Miles got into a few arguments. Jimi was the star, but Miles though dedicated to the project, had a large ego. He wanted to be a star in his own right. After all, Miles's last album "Electric Church" had done very well for Mercury Records and they wanted him back. He was a successful player in the music industry and had his own core audience that he brought to The Band Of Gypsys' shows and to the record stores. This could cause some conflict.

Mike Bloomfield: "Buddy is Superspade. If you melted down James Brown and Arthur Conley and Otis Redding into one enormous spade, you'd have Buddy...he is the quintessence of all R&B amassed in one super talented human being. His singing is just superb, his drumming is just the best. He's the superman."

Electric Gypsy: "...Jimi was not happy having Buddy Miles as his regular drummer because he wasn't good enough. Jimi wanted someone like Mitch to play against. Buddy was fine for jamming at the Scene and socially he was great fun - he and Jimi had some good times together.

But as Gerry Stickells observed, Buddy was a solid, lay down the beat, rock'n' roll drummer. Mitch had a certain bit of jazz background there that allowed him to move around a bit, around what Jimi was doing.

Jimi didn't handle this situation at all well. He needed to make some hard choices and voice them, but he could not come to a decision. He knew what he wanted to do but couldn't look Buddy in the eye with the truth. To add to all of this, Jimi had a run in with Mike Jeffrey.

Jeffrey demanded that he fire Buddy Miles or he could tear up his contract. As usual the record company had their own ideas of what was best for Jimi.

Billy Cox: "Buddy and I thought that because they had successfully marketed the Jimi Hendrix Experience as being these two white guys, with Jimi in the middle, they didn't want to change horses midstream and go with three black guys up there."

On January 28th 1970, The Band of Gypsys were to play last their show at Madison Square Garden for the Winter Festival For Peace. It was organized by the Vietnam Moratorium committee with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary running the show and getting all the talent to play for free. Jimi showed up too stoned to play.

Johnny Winter: "When I saw him it gave me the chills. It was the most horrible thing I'd ever seen. He came in with his entourage of people and it was like he was already dead. He just walked in and even though Jimi and I weren't the greatest of friends, we always talked, always - and he came in with his head down, sat on the couch alone and put his head in his hands. He didn't say a word to anybody and no one spoke to him. He didn't move until it was time for the show. He really wanted to do that gig, but he never should have."

As he walked on stage a woman yelled out "Foxey Lady!". Jimi responded with "Foxey Lady is sittin' right over there, in the yellow underpants stained with dirt and blood." People in the audience were mortified! He then performed terrible versions of "Who Knows" and "Earth Blues", then stumbled to the mike and said "That's what happens when earth fucks with space, never forget that." He then sat down on the stage near the drums and refused to continue.

Buddy, trying to take control of the situation, addressed the audience. "Listen it seems as though we are not quite getting it together here. Just give us a little more time because it has been hard. Give us a few minutes and we'll try to get something together." Jimi unplugged his guitar, went back to his dressing room, and bent over with stomach cramps.

Sacha Reins: "Jimi picks up his guitar again, and he tries to start another song, but it is even worse. Then he throws his guitar on the floor and leaves, his body shaking from sobbing. Apart from a few fools who are booing, everybody is silent. They are getting up and stand in silence, unable to comfort a friend, the idiots."

Billy Cox: Buddy and I walked over to Madison Square Garden, went into the dressing room, and there was Jimi. He was not in the best shape. Jimi was sitting next to Jeffery, and we knew it wasn't going to work. Jimi was in bad shape. We thought about not going out there, because someone was trying to make assholes out of us, but we did. We thought Jimi might be able to make it, but we only got through that one song before it started coming apart. What went down was very embarrassing, and it left Jimi angry and disillusioned. It was unfortunate."

From the book Setting the Record Straight : "Buddy Miles claims that Michael Jeffery, in a deliberate effort to sabotage the Band of Gypsys' s performance, slipped Hendrix LSD backstage. "Both my sister and I saw Jeffery slip Hendrix two tabs of acid, and I personally saw Hendrix take them. He looked so scared.""

We'll probably never find out the truth. Some say Jimi accidentally did it to himself. After all, this had happened before in Germany. Others say that Jimi was already high and Mike Jeffrey made it worse by giving him acid before the show. The popular belief is that Mike Jeffrey gave Jimi bad acid as a "Final Solution" to destroy the band publicly. This was backed up by Buddy Miles' statement.

Whatever the cause, it was the end of The Band of Gypsys. Backstage Mike Jeffrey confronted Buddy Miles and told him he was fired. Billy Cox didn't feel welcome and went home to Nashville. Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell would be soon on their way to New York from England. The next day in the press, Jimi made a statement to the effect that he was not happy with The Band of Gypsys. He singled out Buddy as having too much "earth" for his taste.

Throughout my research for this essay that word kept popping up. Earth. What does that mean? Maybe there was a little too much James Brown and not enough Tony Williams. Too much funk and not enough of Jazz? Too much earth fucking with space? I've always sought that magical drummer who could combine Mitchell's unadulterated fire, flash and mayhem, with Miles's earth, weight and gut bucket funk. Imagine a drummer who could fill that position for Jimi, fulfilling his most urgent musical and emotional needs. The later rhythm section of Cox and Mitchell effects a groovalistic compromise between the two radically different feels. Buddy Miles and Mitch Mitchell were two sides of the same coin. Both brilliant musicians. Whenever I hear a Hendrix tune I always wonder what the other would have brought to the table.

Oscar J. Jordan III
For more of Oscars' essays, go to:
Soul Patrol: The Jimi Hendrix Black Experience!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mexico Welcomed Fugitive Slaves & African-American Job Seekers

Mexico Welcomed Fugitive Slaves and African American Job-Seekers

New Perspectives on the Immigration Debate

Ron Wilkins
Patrice Lumumba Coalition
RW is a former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and is presently a professor in the Department of Africana Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills

There are of course, many angles from which to view the escalating immigration debate. Mexican immigrants, who constitute the largest share of the undocumented, have a unique history with the African population inside the United States. As the Black community weighs-in on this very contentious issue, it becomes necessary for us
(both black and brown) to review the history that we share.

However, before reviewing our history together, I need to say unequivocally that the U.S. seizure of more than half of Mexico’s territory in 1848 netted Washington more than 80% of Mexico’s fertile land and was a criminal act. And that if Mexico today, still included California and Texas, she would possess more oil than Saudi Arabia and have sufficient economic infrastructure to employ all of her people. When Mexican people say that “the border crossed us, we did not cross the border”, they speak the truth, and more black people (most of whom are not strangers to oppression, exploitation, domination and exclusion) need to appreciate that.

It has been said that for most of the 19th century, Mexican immigrants were more highly regarded by African Americans, than any other immigrant group. What may account for this, at least in part, is the enormous if not pivotal role undertaken by black fighters in the war to secure Mexican independence from Spain and abolish slavery. Unfortunately, many of us repeat the falsehoods of our adversaries and have forgotten our special relationship with Mexican and Indigenous peoples.

It is time that our memories be restored and that the naysayers and nativist negroes among us either put up or shut up. What follows is the little known history of Mexico serving as a refuge for fugitive slaves and a provider of job opportunities for blacks emigrating from the U.S. to Mexico.

Mexico as a Haven for Fugitive Slaves

From the very beginning of his Texas colonization scheme, a determined and deceitful Stephen Austin sought to have Mexican officials acquiesce to the settlement of slave-owning whites into the territory. It was generally acknowledged that the people and government of Mexico abhorred slavery and were determined to prohibit its practice within the Mexican republic. Beginning in 1822, at least 20,000 Anglos, many with their slave property, settled into Texas. Jared Groce, one of the first of Stephen Austin’s Texas settlers that year, arrived with 90 enslaved Africans. The Mexican Federal Law of July 13, 1824 clearly favored and promoted the emancipation of slaves. Mexico had even stipulated that it was prepared to compensate North American owners of fugitive slaves. Determined instead to have things their way, Anglos began to press for an extradition treaty which would require Mexico to return fugitive slaves.

From 1825 until the end of the Civil War in 1865, Mexican authorities continuously thwarted attempts by slave-holding Texas settlers, to conclude fugitive slave extradition treaties between the two parties. During this period of extremely tense relations between the two governments, Mexico consistently repudiated and forbade the institution of slavery in its territory, while U.S. officials and Texas slave-owners continuously sought ways to circumvent Mexican law. The Mexican authorities thwarted repeated attempts by slave-holding Texas settlers, to conclude fugitive slave extradition treaties between the two parties.

In 1826 the Committee of Foreign Relations of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies refused to compromise on the issue of fugitive slaves and defended the right of enslaved Africans to liberate themselves. Mexican government officials cited “the inalienable right which the Author of nature has conceded to him (meaning enslaved persons)”. Congress member Erasmo Seguin from Texas commented that the Congress was “resolved to decree the perpetual extinction in the Republic of commerce and traffic in slaves, and that their introduction into our territory should not be permitted under any pretext”.

Again, in October 1828 the Mexican Senate rejected 14 articles of a newly-proposed treaty and harshly criticized article 33, stating “it would be most extraordinary that in a treaty between two free republics slavery should be encouraged by obliging ours to deliver up fugitive slaves to their merciless and barbarous masters of North America”.

Reporting on the growing number of Anglo settlers in Texas, Mexican General Teran reported “most of them have slaves, and these slaves are beginning to learn the favorable intent of Mexican law to their unfortunate condition and are becoming restless under their yokes …” General Teran went on to describe the cruelty meted out by masters to restless slaves; “they extract their teeth, set on the dogs to tear them in pieces, the most lenient being he who but flogs his slaves until they are flayed”.

On September 15, 1829 AfroMexican President Vicente Guerrero signed a decree banning slavery in the Mexican Republic. Yielding to appeals from panicked settlers and Mexican collaborators who saw Mexico benefiting economically from the Anglo presence, Guerrero exempted Texas from the prohibition on the introduction of slaves into the republic, on December 2nd. Several months later, the Mexican government severely restricted Anglo immigration and banned the introduction of slaves into the republic.

Undeterred, the Anglos succeeded in negotiating a new treaty with Mexico in 1831, which included article 34, which called for pursuit and reclamation of fugitive slaves. After considerable wrangling between the Mexican Chamber of Deputies and Senate, article 34 was removed from the treaty. Also, by 1831 it became apparent through debate within the Mexican Senate that the government’s welcoming of fugitive slaves was not completely altruistic. Some Mexican officials, fearful of U.S. military intervention, had began to see it as wise to encourage the development of runaway slave colonies along the Northern border as a way to lessen the threat posed by the U.S. As historian Rosalie Schwartz put it, many Mexican officials “reasoned, these fugitives, choosing between liberty under the Mexican government and bondage in the United States, would fight to protect their Mexican freedom more vigorously than any mercenaries”. As the interests of Mexican officials and U.S. abolitionists coincided during the early 1830’s, a modest number of former slaves established themselves in Texas and fared well during the period.

In 1836, after the fall of the Alamo and its slave-owning or pro-slavery leaders, such as William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, Mexican forces were defeated and an independent Texas was eventually annexed by the United States. However, before the expulsion of Mexican forces from Texas, Brigadier General Jose Urrea evicted scores of illegally-settled plantation owners, liberated slaves, and in many instances, granted them on-the-spot titles to the land they had worked. Oddly enough, many black people call for “forty acres and a mule” -- a reference to Union General Sherman’s Special Field Order 15 and General Howard’s Circular 13, which made some land available to former slaves. But what one never hears are references to Mexican General Jose Urrea and the land titles that he and his men granted to former Texas slaves, following the defeat of the Alamo, a generation before the “Civil War”.

Even after the loss of Texas, Mexican officials refused to formally acknowledge Texas independence on the grounds that it “would be equivalent to the sanction and recognition of slavery”. After Texas independence the slave population mushroomed and the number of runaways across the South-Texas–North-Mexico border, increased. In 1842 Mexico’s Constitutional Congress reasserted the nation’s commitment to fugitive slaves. In 1847, 38,753 slaves and 102,961 whites were listed in the first official Texas census. In 1850, in a new treaty accord with the United States, Mexico again refused to provide for the return of fugitive slaves.

The slave institution in Texas was continuously undermined by defiant Tejanos (Mexicans in Texas) who took great risks and invested enormous resources toward facilitating the escape of enslaved Africans. The Texas to Mexico routes to freedom constituted major unacknowledged extensions of the “Underground Railroad”. Tejanos were variously accused of “tampering with slave property”, “consorting with blacks” and stirring up among the slave population “a spirit of insubordination”.

Plantation owners in Central Texas adopted various resolutions aimed at preventing Mexicans from aiding the slave population. Whites in Guadalupe County prohibited Mexican “peons” from entering the county and anyone from conducting business or interacting with enslaved persons without authorization from the owners. Bexar County whites suggested that ”Mexican strangers entering from San Antonio register at the mayor’s office and give an account of themselves and their business”. Delegates to a convention in Gonzales resolved that ”counties should organize vigilance committees to prosecute persons tampering with slaves” and that all citizens and slaveholders were to endeavor to prevent Mexicans from communicating with blacks. Whites in Austin decreed that “all transient Mexicans should be warned to leave within ten days, that all remaining should be forcibly expelled unless their good character and good behavior were substantiated by responsible American citizens” and that “Mexicans should no longer be employed and their presence in the area should be discouraged”. In Matagorda County, all Mexicans were driven out under the bogus claim that they were wandering, indigent sub-humans who “have no fixed domicile, but hang around the plantations, taking the likeliest negro girls for wives … they often steal horses, and these girls too, and endeavor to run them to Mexico”.

By the year 1855, the estimates were that as many as 4000 to 5000 formerly enslaved Africans had escaped to Mexico. Slaveholders became so alarmed at this trend, that they requested and received, approximately 1/5th of the standing U.S army which was deployed along the Texas-Mexico border in a vain effort to stem the flow of runaways. Defiant Mexicans stood their ground, refused to return runaways, continued supporting slave uprisings and providing assistance to escaping slaves. In the words of Felix Haywood, a Texas slave, whose experience is recalled in “The Slave Narratives of Texas, “Sometimes someone would come along and try to get us to run up north and be free. We used to laugh at that. There was no reason to run up north. All we had to do was walk, but walk south and we’d be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande”.

What a Difference a Border Made

1857, was a year whose profound irony made it one of the most interesting. 1857 was the year that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Dred Scott, an enslaved African who had sued for his freedom, on the grounds that his owner had forfeited any claim to him, after taking him into a free state.

Ironically 1857 was the same year that the Mexican Congress adopted Article 13 declaring that an enslaved person was free the moment he set foot on Mexican soil.

Mexico as a Provider of Job Opportunities for African Americans

During the 1890’s, hundreds of black migrants fed-up with slave-like conditions and segregation, left Alabama for Mexico and established ten large colonies. Shortly thereafter, during the period of the Mexican Revolution, large numbers of black people migrated from New Orleans to Tampico, Mexico as the oil industry prospered. These Africans in Mexico established branches of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. One of the black oil workers who came to Tampico stated, “there is no race prejudice, everyone is treated according to his abilities”. During the same period, black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson asserted that Mexico was “willing not only to give us the privileges of Mexican citizenship, but was also willing to champion our cause”.

Juan Uribe, a major Mexican official, visiting Los Angeles in 1919, was quoted as saying, “ My only regret is that it is not physically possible to immediately transport several million African Americans to my beloved Mexico, where the north yields her riches as nowhere else and where people are not disturbed by artificial standards of race or color”. Similarly, African American immigrant Theodore Troy said, “ I am going to a land where freedom and opportunity beckon me as well as every other man, woman and child of dark skin. In this land there are no Jim Crow laws to fetter me; I am not denied opportunity because of the color of my skin and wonderful undeveloped resources of a country smiled upon by God beckon my genius on to their development”. A black colony which included fifty families, developed fruit orchards and engaged in cattle raising. It established itself in Baja, California, in the Santa Clara and Vallecitos Valleys situated between Ensenada and Tecate, approximately thirty miles south of San Diego and lasted into the 1960’s.

Not to be overlooked is the enormous success of the Negro Baseball Leagues in Mexico during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Black ball players together with 4-500 family members seeking relief from racism in the U.S. and segregated institutions, were hosted in Mexico by generally respectful competitors and admiring fans. One competitor in particular, Ray Dandridge played for 18 years in Mexico, before Jackie Robinson gained admission into U.S. major league baseball. Also, from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, major Mexican muralists, such as Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco invited prominent African American artists such as Hale Woodruff, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White to the Mexican Art School where they developed an art style which helped them to connect images, more effectively, to ethnic and class struggle.

Of course there are many more historical intersections where Mexican and African people cooperated with each other. A few examples were the solidarity between the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)/Black Panther Party and Brown Berets; SNCC and the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres and El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Atzlan (MEChA) and the Black Student Union (BSU). Mack Lyons, a black member of the United Farmworkers Union’s National Executive, negotiated its contract with Coca Cola, which owns Minutemaid and sizeable Florida orange groves. In Los Angeles, during the 90’s, black and brown students recognizing common history and mutual interests, formed African and Latino Youth Summit (ALYS).

Admittedly, Vicente Fox is no Vicente Guerrero. The Mexico of today is profoundly different from the refuge that once welcomed fugitive slaves, or land of opportunity that embraced African American job-seekers; yet, its beautiful history of support, for African Americans, in need of allies, cannot be erased. It might prove useful to see the relationship between black and brown people as similar to the bond between a man and woman. It is beautiful most of the time, but there are moments when it is tested and may become strained. When this happens one or both must give more and work to increase or renew trust.

Pass this material on to others. The black or brown reader of this piece should now know, that the best of our history together, as black and brown people, speaks to the necessity of collaborating during the worst of times. A wise people are a grateful people, and never content themselves with recalling and celebrating their legendary alliance with an important neighbor. Instead, they press forward, fully aware that mutually-supportive relationships are still possible and necessary.
Special acknowledgement is extended to historians Rosalie Schwartz, Gerald Horne, Rodolfo Acuna and Omar Farouk, whose earlier investigative efforts in the field of African-Mexican collaboration, contributed to making this work possible.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Zimbabwe Celebrates 26 Years of National Independence

Robert Mugabe
Originally uploaded by Samuel Adanu.
Children urged to set goals

Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWEAN children must make use of the educational facilities established by the Government since independence in 1980 to develop themselves and the nation, President Mugabe said yesterday.

Cde Mugabe urged schoolchildren to set themselves goals of what they want to achieve professionally and make use of the facilities at their disposal. "Take advantage of the facilities you have and pass your O-Level, A-Level and Grade Seven.

We are proud of our students, they have taken advantage of the facilities we have put in place since 1980 to improve themselves," he said. The President was addressing schoolchildren from the country’s 10 provinces at the party he and the First Lady, Cde Grace Mugabe, traditionally host on Independence Eve, at the City Sports Centre in Harare.

He implored the youths to work hard in school and advised those who were not academically gifted to pursue practical subjects such as carpentry and building. Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe’s leaders — living and dead — who fought to liberate the country did so to ensure Zimbabweans could rule themselves and have access to educational and health facilities.

"This is your occasion, celebrate it. This is your anniversary, therefore enjoy it, dance, sing, eat and play for this is the day freedom fighters fought for, died for and suffered for. It is our national day. We must treasure this day," said President Mugabe.

Cde Mugabe said on their part, leaders were doing their best to develop Zimbabwe and make it better. President Mugabe said teachers had a fundamental role to play in the development of children, and the Government and parents relied on them to teach morals and instill discipline in the youths as well as equip them with skills. With these virtues, the youths would be able to look after themselves, their parents and their heritage — Zimbabwe, Cde Mugabe said.

The President said this could only be possible if children were disciplined and not a rebellious lot. Zimbabwean children had a right to education as much as they had a right to life in addition to other rights, which include freedom rights.

However, Cde Mugabe said, children should not abuse freedom, but use it to do things society expects of them. "To our teachers, we say these children are there to be taught; teach them, don’t cheat them." President Mugabe reiterated that he appreciated and sympathised with teachers because of the low salaries they were being paid. He said the Government was looking into the issue and he would ensure teachers were paid decent salaries.

President Mugabe said Independence Day was an opportunity for the nation to pay tribute to those who fought for freedom. "We should praise them. Some are no longer with us, some remain with us."

Cde Mugabe said not only those buried at the National Heroes Acre contributed to the liberation struggle, but many others played their part, including parents who gave material, financial and moral support. He told the children to remember that while they belonged to their families and communities, they were Zimbabweans and should be patriotic.

Cde Mugabe said former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith wanted them to be Rhodesians, but freedom fighters from Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) thwarted him. Smith wanted Zimbabweans to be Rhodesians, naming them after Cecil Rhodes who led the early colonial settlers, but nationalists and the people rejected that.

President Mugabe said they would never have allowed Zimbabweans to be named after an imperialist. He said others like the late James Chikerema and Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole joined Smith in the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia regime but still Zanla and Zipra rejected the arrangement, giving way to the birth of Zimbabwe on April 18 1980.

All set for independence festivities

Herald Reporter

TODAY all roads lead to various centres countrywide for celebrations of the 26th Independence anniversary.

The main celebrations will be at the National Sports Stadium in Harare where the major highlight will be President Mugabe’s speech. Gates at the stadium will be opened at 5.30am and 40 buses have been hired to transport people, for free, from the usual pick-up points. The buses will be on the road from as early as 5am.

President Mugabe’s speech will be preceded and followed by mass displays from several groups of children born in a liberated Zimbabwe. There will also be drama and musical entertainment, spiced with poetry. Late in the afternoon, there will be the Uhuru Trophy soccer final, featuring Masvingo United and CAPS United.

In Bulawayo, the main activities will take place at White City Stadium where similar celebrations will be held with Bulawayo Metropolitan Governor and Resident Minister Cde Cain Mathema reading the President’s speech. There will also be a soccer match featuring Dynamos and Highlanders in the Uhuru Trophy for the third and fourth place.

Elsewhere, provincial governors will read the President’s speech, while in districts, administrators and senior party officials will read the speech to their respective gatherings.

Let’s celebrate with renewed strength

TODAY all patriotic Zimbabweans celebrate the 26th anniversary of independence and democracy in an environment of peace.

Congratulations are in order. Today is also a day to take stock of the challenges the country continues to face from detractors at home and abroad. These challenges should give us renewed strength to continue defending the gains of independence, for the problems were generated to subvert the process.

This is also a day to celebrate our resilience as Zimbabweans, for we managed to withstand all attempts to divide and incite civil unrest among us.

We showed our resolve to maintain our hard-won peace, and entrusted all political decisions to the will of the majority, but at all times mindful of the concerns of the minority voices. Today we celebrate the finalisation of the land reform programme through landmark judgments that were made by our Supreme Court that upheld all land reform laws.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 17) Act also put paid to all attempts by white former commercial farmers to frustrate the programme by jamming the courts with legal challenges. Today we also celebrate the democratic tradition that has seen us consistently holding elections every five years to give people the right to choose their own leaders.

We celebrate the numerous diplomatic coups we scored against detractors who wanted to isolate our nation, make us a pariah state so that they could savage us at will. Today our nation dedicates itself to continue the struggle that was launched by luminaries like Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi over a century ago.

It is also a day to remember all those who laid down their lives so that we could have ours. The heroes and heroines who fought under the banners of Zanla and Zipra and eventually the united Patriotic Front gave us this freedom, and today they are united under the ruling Zanu-PF party.

This, however, does not mean that only those who identify with the ideals of the ruling party should celebrate independence. Even those in the opposition MDC or any other party, and those who consider themselves above politics should also celebrate this day that gives them room to make those choices. Even sworn detractors should also take time off their vilification campaigns to celebrate the independence and democracy that gives them the latitude to do so without any recrimination.

But this is also a day they should ask themselves whether their actions are furthering the interests of Zimbabwe and its people. Whether they would be able to identify with Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Josiah Tongogara, Nikita Mangena and Herbert Chitepo, to mention just a few, if those cadres were to wake up today.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The McKinney Affair: Rampaging Racism & A Cowardly Caucus

Chief McKinney
Originally uploaded by maloriecamp08.
The McKinney Affair: Rampaging Racism & a Cowardly Caucus

By Glen Ford & Peter Gamble
The Black Commentator

There are profound lessons to be learned from the ongoing travails of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), under siege by white America at large, the leadership of her own party, and the chairman of her own caucus.

In the aftermath of McKinney’s run-in with a Capitol Hill police officer, we have witnessed an orgy of unadulterated defamation that is actually directed at Black women in general. In rejecting and denouncing McKinney’s defense, her tormentors demonstrate that the very concept of racial profiling was never sincerely accepted among most white Americans, and that 9/11 is just an excuse for undoing decades of legal and political struggles against the abominable practice.

So virulent and shameless have been the attacks on McKinney – spewing caricatures of the six-term lawmaker that reflect whites’ own hallucinatory visions of Black people – it leads us to conclude that racists are conducting a kind of ritual, an exorcism to cast the “militant Black” out of the national polity, once and for all. Disgustingly, a number of Black voices have joined mob, in order to prove that they are reasonable and trustworthy Negroes who won’t intrude on white folks’ illusions of innocence.

Most distressingly, the McKinney affair dramatically demonstrates that the Congressional Black Caucus has been eviscerated as a body. The CBC is revealed as collectively gutless, devoid of any semblance of Black solidarity, without which it has no reason for being.

CBC Hits New Low

We at BC had previously believed that April, 2005, when 37 percent of the 42 Black House members voted for Republican bills, was the lowest point in Congressional Black Caucus history. A year later, the CBC has found a new nadir. On the evening of April 5, undoubtedly on orders from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, CBC chairman Mel Watt gathered twenty or so members to browbeat McKinney into firing her legal team and cease appearing before the media. Watt absented himself from the beat-down, so that it would not appear to be an “official” CBC event.

As congressional aides wandered in and out of the room, some Members dutifully echoed Pelosi’s demand that McKinney not frame the March 28 confrontation with the policeman as a “racial” incident, and that she issue an apology on the House floor the following morning. According to several sources who spoke with BC on condition of anonymity, and based on an account given by McKinney staff assistant Faye Coffield to a weekly Atlanta meeting of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, a “consensus” was reached that McKinney would deliver the apology and abandon efforts to defend herself in the media (although not her legal team).

The next morning, at the appointed hour, McKinney was prepared to offer her apology to the House. But Mel Watt had already put the word out that CBC members were to renege on their part of the deal. The Caucus must not stand with McKinney when she stepped to the microphone. Mel Watt, Nancy Pelosi’s poodle, attempted to enforce his Mistress’s wish that McKinney appear utterly isolated and alone. Nothing should distract from the Democrats’ non-strategy of doing and saying nothing until mid-term elections in November. The Republicans must be allowed to self-destruct without interference. McKinney’s charge of racial profiling was a distraction from the Democratic non-strategy – so she must be shunned. Mel Watt was the enforcer – the designated shunner-in-chief.

Pelosi appears to harbor a deep hatred for McKinney, whom she cannot control. Most recently, the 51-year-old Georgia lawmaker defied the Leader’s orders, voting in favor of a Republican bill, cynically modeled on Democrat John Murtha’s measure for a quick exit from Iraq. She was among only three Democrats, and the only CBC member, to do so. McKinney also ignored Pelosi’s order that Democrats boycott hearings on Katrina and leave the field to Republicans.

However, Pelosi has been the aggressor all along, bent on bringing the CBC and other progressives to heel as she pursues her spineless non-strategy for victory by default over the GOP – a scenario that by definition requires African Americans to mute their own demands, to be quiet and compliant. When McKinney returned to congress in January 2005 after a two-year hiatus, Pelosi denied her seniority, bumping her down to freshman status despite her previous ten years on The Hill. Not a peep from the CBC, cowed by their Leader and, recent events have shown, packed with members who are themselves fearful that McKinney’s militancy will raise the bar of constituent expectations for their own performances on Black people’s behalf.

On the House floor, the morning of April 6, Pelosi/Watt had set McKinney up for further humiliation. Not only would she be required to deliver an apology that would be seen as an admission of guilt (by those who had already condemned and defamed her), but the absence of CBC members at her side would mark her as a lone “extremist,” a “loon” whose politics could be dismissed out of hand. Why, even McKinney’s own colleagues won’t stand with her. She’s crazy (like the rest of those darkies who cry racism).

According to several congressional sources, McKinney confronted a gaggle of CBC members, reminding them of the consensus agreement of the night before, in which they had promised a display of physical solidarity at the microphone in return for her concessions. White Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), seeing the commotion, hurried over to the Black circle: “I’ll stand with you, Cynthia.” Others stepped forward to fulfill their pledge, despite CBC chairman Mel Watt’s treacherous machinations.

Here is a partial list of those who were videotaped standing with McKinney when she read the words of apology that had been demanded of her:

* Elijah Cummings (MD)
* Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI)
* Barbara Lee (CA)
* Alcee Hastings (FL)
* Maxine Waters (CA)
* Bobby Rush (IL)
* Corrine Brown (FL)
* Major Owens (NY)
* Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX)
Marcy Kaptur (OH)
Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Jose Serrano (NY)
Bob Filner (CA)
*CBC members

Only nine of the 20-plus CBC members who had reached
“consensus” on standing with their sister the night before, bucked Pelosi’s petty dictatorial edict – and straw-boss Mel Watt’s attempt to enforce it.

Once upon a time, the CBC could collectively call itself “the conscience of the congress.” No more.

Multi-Profiling and Sheer Malevolence

By bowing to Pelosi, Black congresspersons reinforce her and other white’s belief that they can pick and choose the African American leaders and representatives they deal with, and isolate the rest, while still retaining mass Black support for the Democratic Party. Such Blacks are enablers of racism, and must eventually pay the price at the hands of their constituents, who are no different than the Black Georgia voters who sent McKinney to Washington six times. Worse, in urging McKinney to drop the “racial” aspect of her defense – to pretend that she was not racially profiled, when they know that police profiling is near-universal – they do grave injury to fundamental Black interests.

Days after his attempt to pound McKinney into dust, the duplicitous Mel Watt related to the Charlotte Observer his own scary run-in with Capitol police “a year or so ago”:
"I was running to the floor to vote and an officer said, `Can I see your ID?' and I said, `No' and kept running. I looked back and he had his hand on his gun. Then another (Capitol) police officer said, `Member.' He recognized me (as a House member). It just so happened that the first (officer) was white and the other one was black ... I was probably very rash. In retrospect, I thought to myself, `You had to be out of your mind.' I was trying to get to a vote and he had a job to do."

Watt understands very well that the Black officer, who didn’t go for his gun, but instead called his white partner off, was intervening in a case of racial profiling. Yet Watt’s desire to stay in the good graces of his Leader, Pelosi, drives him to conspire against a fellow Black congressperson, Cynthia McKinney, whose recent hair makeover is said to have made her fair game to be accosted by Capitol police. Said McKinney:
“Do I have to contact the police every time I change my hairstyle? How do we account for the fact that when I wore my braids every day for 11 years, I still faced this problem, primarily from certain police officers.”

Nobody knows better than Black officers that racism is rampant in the Capitol Police force. Of the 1,200 officers, 29 percent are Black, and many still have racial bias suits outstanding. "You have, basically, a renegade police department up here, that’s been operating under the protection of Congress," said Charles J. Ware, an attorney representing the Capitol Black Police Association.

But it’s not just race. Police officers, like workers in any organization, spend much of their time talking shop. For Capitol police, the subject of their shop-talk is the members of congress they are hired to protect. Cynthia McKinney is famous – no less so on Capitol Hill. She is the Black woman viciously branded as a friend of “terrorists,” the most uppity African American in the federal legislature. The cops are quite aware of what she looks like, new hair-do or not.

A McKinney lawyer got it right when he told a Howard University press conference that his client was targeted for reasons of “sex, race and Ms. McKinney's progressiveness."

The cops know who McKinney is – they have profiled her politically. Michael C. Ruppert, former Los Angeles cop and current honcho of the popular web site From the Wilderness, has felt the police hostility directed at his longtime friend, Cynthia McKinney:
”I have walked the halls of Congress with Cynthia McKinney maybe eight to ten times. I have walked into and out of the Cannon and Longworth house office buildings with her. I have walked to hearings in the Rayburn house office building with her. I have walked the underground tunnels from one of those office buildings directly to the edge of the House floor and its anteroom with her. I can tell you one thing for certain because I have seen it and I have felt it. Cynthia McKinney and her staff get treated differently from just about anyone else on the Hill. It’s subtle, but so is the taste of dirt when it’s in your mouth.”

Although the Capitol police have failed to produce a surveillance tape of McKinney’s confrontation with their officer, the congresswoman captured one incident in the movie, “American Blackout,” now being screened at sites around the country. The film depicts McKinney’s investigation of voting irregularities in the 2000 elections. One segment shows the congresswoman being accosted by police as she and her party approach the Longworth building of the Capitol. McKinney turns to the camera and reports that police subject her to such treatment “all the time.”

Does that happen to 535 members of congress “all the time”? Not hardly.

California Rep. Tom Lantos, according to the web reference site Wikipedia,
“ran over a teenager in the Capitol parking area and refused to stop despite screams from the crowd. He never apologized for the hit-and-run either." The Boston Globe reported that Lantos was not charged with hit-and-run, but was only fined $25 for ''failure to pay full time and attention." However, a teacher accompanying the student was threatened with arrest by Capitol police when she chased Lantos’ car, demanding that he stop.

Apparently Capitol police are quite zealous in protecting their lawmakers – if they are white.

In an otherwise inane, anti-McKinney article, Black columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson gave some historical perspective to recent events:

“In past years, the Caucus raised heck when a white Republican Congressman punched a black Capitol police officer and a year later Ohio Democratic Representative Louis Stokes was hassled by Capitol police. And the Congressional Black Caucus rushed to their defense.” Not this time, not for Cynthia McKinney. The Congressional Black Caucus is broken.

Sex and the Federal City

Around midnight on April 8, Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson performed a grotesque, bewigged skit in which he conjured up a fat, sloppy, dull-witted, belligerent, loud-talking, no-listening, from-deep-in-the-ghetto character who was supposed to be – Cynthia McKinney. Of course, this TV minstrel’s interpretation bore no resemblance to the congressperson – daughter of one of Atlanta’s first Black policemen, a former faculty member at Clark Atlanta University, world traveler and sought-after speaker, six-term legislator. But that did not matter. Although SNL does superb work caricaturing public personalities, its usual standards did not apply in McKinney’s case. The skit was a dehumanizing assault on Black women as a group, with “Cynthia” standing in for the female gender of her race.

A specific profile of Black women exists in the minds of vast sections of white America. As Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura relates in this issue of BC, in “an analysis of White students’ stereotypes of Black women by professor of women’s studies and sociology Rose Weitz at Arizona State University and Wakonse fellow Leonard Gordon at the same university, the students primarily characterize Black women as loud, aggressive, argumentative, stubborn, and bitchy.”

White men (and women, and some Black men) on and off Capitol Hill are eager to vilify and diminish McKinney, to call her a “bitch,” a “racist,” “crazy” and all manner of epithets. This abuse is actually directed against the defamers’ twisted idea of who and what Black women are. So diseased are their minds, they see only their sickness-induced delusions. White supremacy allows them to translate their delusions into public policy. September 11 gave them a free pass to run buck wild, with no apologies, under the umbrella of “homeland security.”

Black Voters Will Decide

It can be no consolation to Rep. McKinney that she is just a convenient target for what we now recognize as a great resurgence of racism in the United States. The South rules, a South that is not defined geographically, but socio-politically. White Americans have become much more homogenous in the electronic and high-mobility age – to the detriment of sanity. Their never-forsaken dreams of domestic and planetary racial conquest were given a Frankenstein-like jolt and boost by the Bush regime, which spoke directly to the predatory core of American myth and historical practice. Emboldened, they have snared Cynthia McKinney in one of their IRTs: Improvised Racist Traps. She awaits the decision of a grand jury.

The moral and political collapse of the Congressional Black Caucus could not come at a worse time – but it has occurred. Corroded by corporate money, dependent on corporate media – with the near-extinction of independent Black media – adrift in the gulf between the needs of the Black masses and the narrow aspirations of the miniscule hyper-mobile Black classes, and still steeped in rank male chauvinism, much of Black “leadership” cannot abide a genuinely progressive, charismatic female in their midst. Many also look on in sulking jealousy at the burgeoning unity and militancy of Latinos, whose grassroots are on the move, and whose media support their cause.

The CBC cannot even support each other

When CBC members urged Cynthia McKinney to forsake the truth, to hide the ugly fact of racial (and political, and sexual) profiling, they gave enormous aide and comfort to the enemy. If there was one victory that African Americans had achieved in the post-Civil Rights era, it was to make racial profiling legally, politically and socially unacceptable. This victory was the fruit of countless suits, demonstrations – all manner of political struggles – and the legacy of the legions of dead, maimed, jailed and humiliated victims of profiling who became the focus of sustained Black action.

September 11 provided the excuse to undo decades of anti-profiling victories. Profiling is reckoned to be a good thing. Now the racists seek to reestablish arbitrary and capricious white supremacy, with legislation that would de facto deputize every police officer as an agent of “homeland security” who need not respect the constitution in the case of “suspected” undocumented immigrants. At that point, all persons of color become grist for the suspicion mill. Just as the Capitol policeman chose not to “recognize” Cynthia McKinney as a congressperson, any cop could willfully fail to recognize his fellow Americans and strip them of their rights. Such a regime already exists in designated “drug zones” in urban America, where everyone is suspect.

Yet the CBC allows Republicans and racist Democrats to jeer and bully Cynthia McKinney into a legal cul-de-sac, because she dares to cite profiling.

The masses of African Americans know the deal – they are profiled constantly in stores, when observed outside their neighborhoods, on the highways, when breathing while Black. McKinney’s version of events does not seem bizarre to them. Although the laughing racist hyenas convince each other – with the tacit help of CBC chair Mel Watt – that McKinney is on the ropes, it is the Black constituents of Dekalb County who will decide if she is “crazy” for standing up for her (and our) dignity and rights.

When McKinney arrived back in Atlanta shortly after her confrontation with the uniformed profiler, State Representative Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, was among those to greet and support her: "It's really not about Cynthia McKinney,” said Brooks. “It's about African-Americans in America who are victims of racial profiling every day."

Much of the Congressional Black Caucus seem to have lost touch with this reality. As a body, they have lost their moorings, and must be rehabilitated, surgically. A bunch of them have got to go.
BC Co-Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are writing a book to be titled, Barack Obama and the Crisis in Black Leadership.