Category Archives: Racism

Call Me Kuchu, Victor Mukasa Speaking Out Against Misrepresentation of African Activists

Victor Juliet Mukasa

Victor Thick Skin Mukasa speaking at Dartmouth College,US, criticises western activists and organisations for misrepresenting and disrespecting African activists.

African LGBTI Human Rights Defenders – Public statement of warning!

Black History month in unGrand Britannia :

Some excerpts from Black History month in unGrand Britannia :  Many people are aware of the Black Panther movement in the US but how many know of the British Black Panthers which had a brief 10 year life in the late 60s and early 70s.  The Independent reports on a photo documentary by a group of young people called “Organized Youth” who interviewed many of those who were involved in the British Black Panther movement.  Like the US Black Panthers, their struggle was against institutional racism, poor housing and education, and police brutality.   Olive Morris was one of the few women involved in the movement.

Although many members were inspired by hearing American activists talk in London – including Angela Davis, who addressed a crowd to thank her British peers for their support while she was in jail – there were notable differences between Black Power groups in Britain and the US. “Over there, they were a party; they were seeking political power,” explains Kenlock. “The American Constitution allows people to carry guns, so they were policing the police. There was segregation in America at that time – the system in America was far behind Britain. What we were about was seeking better education and jobs, and making sure the police treated us fairly. It was just the name and the culture that was adopted.”

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The name was a quick way to attract attention and get young people excited; some of the style was taken on, too. “The berets, black trousers, black T-shirt and guns,” is how Darcus Howe, a member of the British Panther inner circle k and later editor of Race Today, describes the iconography. ” But we didn’t get to the [real] gun bit over here.”

Howe got involved in the movement after meeting Panthers at the Mangrove Trial in 1971. The Mangrove, a West Indian restaurant in Notting Hill, was repeatedly raided by police; a subsequent protest march saw nine people – including Panthers such as Jones-LeCointe and Barbara Beese – arrested. Their trial became a turning point for racial justice in Britain: they were acquitted, and the institutional racism of the police was publicly acknowledged.

But while the British movement was largely founded on political protest, it was also culturally significant and socially rich. Linton Kwesi Johnson describes, in an interview for the exhibition, how his interest in poetry was ignited by exploring the library at the movement’s headquarters: “Joining the Black Panthers was a life-changer for me because for the first time I discovered black literature.”

While the movement had its own literary sub-groups, it was primarily concerned with fostering understanding of black history and radical political thought. For many, it was a Marxist struggle, an adjunct to the labour movement.

The British Black Panthers’ founders were often highly educated immigrants, scholarship kids who came to the UK from the colonies in order to gain a university degree; from wealthy backgrounds, they had never before encountered racism and were incensed at the violence and prejudice of Britain in the 1960s. They made it their mission to educate and radicalise the black immigrant working-class, too, uniting against racism across class divides (and, of course, across different ethnicities – members might have Caribbean, African or Indian heritage).  Continue on the Independent.

According to the late British social historian, Peter Fryer, Black people have been settled in Britain since Roman times. However it wasn’t until the 16th C that the numbers became significant.  The Old Bailey records and research into plantation owners reveals much about the lives of Black people during this period and later.    However most of the records are limited to England so it was with great interest that I read this account on ‘Scotland’s complicated Black history‘.

SIDEBAR: My own British roots are English from West Yorkshire, my great grandfather was a French polisher who was recruited to work on the Grand hotel in Manchester which of course was built buy capitalists money from the cotton plantations  and slave labour of the West Indies.  At that time Manchester was possibly the richest metropolis in Britain as it was the center of the industrial revolution factories producing cotton and sugar with an exploited indigenous work force including child labour.  As a ‘skilled’ workman, my great grandfather would have had better living conditions than factory workers nonetheless my grandmother spent her working life in factories or as a cleaner to rich industrialists.  Whilst my grandfather worked in a grocers shop.

Back to Scotland…

Scots were heavily involved in the slave trade of the 18th and 19th Centuries, something which leading historian Prof Tom Devine has accused Scotland of ignoring today.

Men and women were put to work in Scots-run plantations in the colonies. Female slaves were also sexually abused by their owners.

An exhibition on slavery held in 2011 involving the Centre for History in Dornoch and Edinburgh Beltane organisation featured correspondence detailing the keeping of sex slaves.

The letters were sent by Highland owners to relatives in Inverness and their contents were described as “graphic” and “disturbing” by researchers.

Prof Tom Devine’s article asked the question “Did slavery make Scotland great?” in which he argues that the close relationship between Scotland’s  18th C economic growth and slavery in plantations owned by  Scottish masters. He also admonishes Scottish academics for ignoring this fact.

The acclaimed historian added: “If you look at the telephone directory for Jamaica it’s stuffed full of Scottish names. These are people who have taken their names from their Scottish masters.

“The jewel in the crown in the Caribbean was Jamaica, which was the single richest colony in the British Empire during the 18th century. We know that and we have evidence that the Scots were the dominating force in Jamaica.

“Their owners didn’t want to live in this lethal environment so they were absentees. A lot of young Scots went out there, including one Robert Burns, who was about to go out to a post in Port Antonio in Jamaica in 1786 when he made his money with his poetry.”

Scottish academics have always skirted round the issue of Scottish slavery because it was mainly thought that the nation had not been involved. Professor Devine expressed regret in the lecture that in earlier studies he had also failed to realise the impact slavery had on the nation and omitted references to Scottish slavery in his past work.

John Akomfrah on his film “The Stuart Hall Project”

From Derica – Speak, Collaborate, Listen

I came to learn of Stuart Hall in the 1980s London and with him my introduction and understanding of being Black British – not something I ever felt personally but an identity that made sense to my children growing up Black in Britain.  As Akomfrah writes, Stuart Hall was a kind of  ‘rock star – pop icon with brains’ disseminating race and empire…  We were proud, we listened and learned….

 

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“I’ve been making projects on memory for a while now, but this one feels like the one I have been ‘preparing’ for a very long time indeed, possibly all my working life.

In our teenage years, there is always at least one person we meet or see perform or watch on the screen who in that first encounter leaves such an indelible mark on our soul that we end saying to ourselves: “when I grow up, I want be just like that; I want to be that cool, that hip, that confident, that compelling”.

Of course we always change our minds later since this is after all our ‘growing up’ years. But whatever reasons we subsequently give ourselves for our change of mind, for that shift in our thinking, secretly we also know that it usually coincides with the growing realization that we don’t have the talent or the brains or the wherewithal to become that person.

Once we accept we are never going to be exactly like our heroes, something very interesting begins for us because the initial burst of enthusiasm they sparked off, the charismatic example they offered about the purpose and direction one’s own life could take, these remain with you, moulding and shaping one’s expectations and, crucially, what ‘deals’ we end up making with this unfolding thing called life.

For many of my generation in the seventies, Stuart Hall was just such a figure. In those heady, mono – cultural days, he was one of the few people of colour we saw on television who wasn’t crooning, dancing or running. I loved all the athletes and singers and dancers too but when you are a black teenage bookworm in seventies West London, let’s just say a public intellectual of colour disseminating ideas on television offered other more immediate compensations.

Stuart Hall was a kind of rock star for us; a pop icon with brains whose very iconic presence on this most public of platforms – television – suggested all manner of ‘impossible possibilities’. By just being there in our bedrooms and living rooms, he opened up pathways into that space that he has referred as the place of ‘the unfinished conversation‘, that space in which the dialogue between us and the external world begins, that place of identity. With him and through him we begun to ask the indispensable questions of that conversation: who are we, what are we and what could we become.

Throughout the making of The Stuart Hall Project, I’ve thought a lot about this questions of identity and of our ‘debt’ to this man. I’ve also thought a lot about the poignancy of the eulogy delivered at the funeral of Malcolm X by Ossie Davis, especially the section where Davis talks about “the presence of his (Malcolm’s) memory”. And the section I find the most affecting in that eulogy, the one I returned to again and again to the point where it became the organizing motif for this piece, comes at the end when Davis says “.. in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves“.

The presence of memory. What a wonderful way of describing all our lives. And for me, the question of ‘honoring’ begins there; with memory, with uncovering the stems of memory, the ghosts of history, sifting through the debris and detritus of past events for traces of the phantoms. It begins with searching and rummaging through all those itineraries, those collective unfinished conversations that tell us something about how a very bright young Rhodes scholar from colonial Jamaica, became ‘Stuart Hall’.

In understanding him and the movements he shaped and was shaped by, we begin to understand something about how we became what we are: the Suez crisis, the Hungarian revolution , the anti- colonial project, the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, the new Left, feminism, class politics, cultural studies. All these interventions, these unfinished conversations.

And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves. Amen to that.”

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Also, a review of “The Unfinished Conversation” the split screen installation that became the feature documentary “The Stuart Hall Project” (now showing in the UK)

“Hope in my Heart” – Documentary on Afro-German poet, May Ayim

May Ayim

From Afro-Europe, a documentary “Hope in my Heart“, on the late Afro-German poet, May Ayim [in German and English] in which she speaks of her life, her poetry and racism in Germany.  May Ayim’s father was Ghanian at the time studying medicine and her mother German.   She was initially placed in a children’s home and later adopted by a German family.  In her poem “afro-german I” she gives us an insight into her childhood experience of racism within her adoptive family and German society:

afro-german I

you’re Afro German?

…Oh I see: African and German

An interesting mixture, hug?

You know: there are people that still think

Mulattos won’t get

as far in life

as whites

I don’t believe that.

I mean: given the same type of education…

You’re pretty lucky you grew up here.

With German parents even. Think of that!

D’you want to go back some day, hm?

What? You’ve never been in your Dad’s home

country?

That’s so sad….Listen if you ask me:

A person’s origin, see, really leaves quite a

Mark.

Take me, Im from Westphalia,

and I feel

that’s where I belong….

Oh boy! All the misery in the world!

Be glad

You didn’t stay in the bush.

You wouldn’t be where you are today!

I mean you’re really an intelligent girl, you

Know

If you work hard at your studies,

you can help your people in Africa, see: ….

 

 

There is a deeper story of May Ayim in that she suffered from depression and had multiple medical problems.  After at least one  previous suicide attempt she finally killed herself by jumping on August 9th, 1996.

Haiti: From AIDS to Aid, an [Un]Humanitarian Story

The third anniversary on January 12, 2013 of the earthquake in Haiti was marked yet again by a flood of new reports, opinions, facts and figures: a repetition of the past two years in terms of the lack of progress in reconstruction, the use and abuse of Haitian people by NGOs, failure to provide housing and other basic amenities for the hundreds of thousands who remain in the camp and the exploitation of workers in the new “open for business Haiti” proclaimed by President Martelly.  To try to understand the logic of the present Western [imperial] relationship with Haiti it is necessary to go back to 1804 and the founding of the Republic. Readers might well say that was 208 years ago and surely irrelevant now but a close examination will show a surprising consistency in the subjugation and exploitation of Haitian people underpinned by blatant and paternalistic racism and overall fear of the power of the black masses.

The story begins in 1825 with France’s demand for an indemnity payment of 150 million gold francs as recompense for the loss of  its plantation economy, including slaves, in  exchange for diplomatic recognition and thereby the ability to trade .  The debt, which was not fully repaid until 1947, cost Haiti as much as 80% of its national revenue.  Debt continued to pile up as a result of borrowing to pay back the French debt, and new debts were incurred during the US occupation from 1915 to 1934, a  period which consolidated the USA’s imperial domination of the country. A new constitution  abolished a law prohibiting foreign land ownership and thereby allowed US companies to purchase huge tracts of land, displacing an estimated 50,000 peasants. [1] In addition a  $40 million loan was provided along with the takeover of the national bank and treasury. The cycle of new debt for old has continued to the post-earthquake period. In 1934 the USA ended its occupation but not before it had created two militarized forces, the National Guard and the gendarmerie which would be used to keep the population under tight control by successive dictatorships until the brief presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [2] Further loans of $250 million were provided to the Duvalier regime, and $158 million to the US-backed government of Henry Namphy, both by the World Bank. The Inter-American Development [IDB] bank also lent $110 million to the Haitian government prior to Aristide’s presidency yet only agreed to lend his government a mere $12 million. [3] This clear distinction between democratically elected leaders and US-backed unelected leaders has persisted: in 2003 the IDB agreed a loan of $200 million, the majority of which was only disbursed after the kidnapping of President Aristide on February 29, 2004.  Aristide puts it like this: “The reason is very clear: when it’s people who are serious, who will spend money for the country, these foreign banks hold on to the money. when it’s thieves who will misuse the money, with their acolytes, no problem.” [4]

Haiti was not the only Caribbean island subjected to US intervention and imperial power. Nearby Cuba was briefly under direct US control and Cuban independence was only granted on condition that the USA retained rights to operate a military base at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, since the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898 US policies towards Cuba and Haiti have been intertwined in a mix of human subjugation, material exploitation and vagrant disregard for international law.  [5]  Much of this has been couched in the language of humanitarian intervention,  similarly to the post-earthquake period.  Who can forget the audacious US invasion of Grenada in October 1983 which was preceded by various attempts at economic strangulation? Again, the justification was a “rescue” mission as well as a pre-emptive strike lest Americans be taken hostage even though there was no evidence to suggest this might happen. [6] The three Caribbean nations which have either attempted to set up or have successfully established autonomous governments for and by the people have been victims of US terror.  A. Naomi  Paik also makes the point that the “simultaneous renewal of the Guantanamo lease and the end of the Haitian occupation [in 1934] are not isolated events.”  On the one hand the USA required a permanent naval base in the eastern Caribbean and on the other an assembly line of cheap resistance-free labor and for this a pact was made with Jean Claude Duvalier and subsequently his son “Baby Doc.”  The result of the violent regime of Duvalier was thousands of refugees fleeing to the USA.   Paik explains the logic behind the USAs hostility towards Haitian refugees which was a double-edged sword, i.e. thousands of black bodies on the shores of the USA and the fact of its own “friendly” self-interested relationship with a brutal dictatorship. The USA attempted to shy away from this fact by claiming the refugees were “economic’ rather than political – in reality a meaningless distinction.

” This distinction, no matter how specious, nevertheless legally justified US nonrecognition of Haitian refugees, a nonrecognition that essentially made the Haitian refugee into a political impossibility. The United States could not sustain its relationship with the regimes that fostered political and economic violence and simultaneously acknowledge the fact that thousands of Haitians feared for their lives in their own country. Its action in dealing with Haitians in Haiti and in its own territory, and in the waters between the two countries, were rooted in a logic of self-interested violence that disregarded Haitian lives.” [7]

1992 — Haitian refugees wait in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while being processed to return to Haiti. — Image by © Bill Gentile/CORBIS

The specific policy towards Haitian refugees was known as the Haitian Program and entailed “multiple state agencies collaborating” to deport Haitians already in Florida and discourage others from leaving Haiti. In her essay,  Paik cites a number of legal petitions by the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami which expose blatant disregard for international and humanitarian laws and the biased decisions by US courts. Haitian refugees were singularly excluded , being described as a threat to the community’s [USA] well-being. Eventually, during Reagan’s presidency, the Haiti Program was extended to include “interdiction” of refugees by the US coastal guard in international waters, which is illegal, and later detention without due process at Fort Allen in Puerto Rico. The justification for the illegal interception of Haitian boats in international waters was configured as a humanitarian intervention that would save Haitian lives.

“Interdiction exemplifies how human rights advanced US nationalist and imperialist interests. A Janus faced policy, it utterly denied Haitians the possibility of finding refugee from violence while simultaneously casting its mission as humanitarian investment in saving Haitians from the dangers of open waters.” [8]

Though the USA made it plain its 1915 invasion was to protect its financial interests, such as the Haitian American Sugar Company, HASCO, [9] subsequent interference, occupation and policies towards Haitian refugees have been presented under the guise of “humanitarian” intervention. Saving Haitians from the open seas, from disease [HIV/AIDS] and from themselves has hidden the truth behind,  on the one hand, the fear of thousands of Haitians “invading” US shores and, on the other, the opportunity for a cheap labor force just a few hundred miles away. It was only during the democratically elected presidency of Bertrand Aristide that the number of Haitian refugees significantly decreased, only to rise again after the September 1991 coup which forced him into exile in the USA. It was at this time that thousands fleeing Haiti were sent to Guantanamo Bay and again Haitian boats were intercepted in international waters and forced to return. Those who refused were hosed down and forced off the boats. [10]

Working in parallel with the Haitian Program, the USA was also busy supporting the military junta of coup-maker General Cedras and inventing and facilitating ways to suppress Lavalas, the party of Aristide, and prevent his return. The suppression was brutal from the start.

“…to steady their nerves, ordinary soldiers received up to $5000 a piece. As crowds gathered in defense of the government [Aristide] the army opened fire, and kept firing…..’the soldiers shot everything in sight . They ran out of ammunition so fast that it seems the US had to re-supply them with night-time helicopter flights from Guantanamo. At least 300 people were killed in the first night of the coup, probably many more.” [11]

The strategic importance of Guantanamo is displayed both as a detention center and as a launching pad to terrorize Haiti and no doubt any other Caribbean nation that dared to create an autonomous government. But it was with the detention of HIV+ and suspected HIV+ Haitians that the Haitian Program really came into its own. As Paik points out, the detention of HIV-positive Haitians by the USA  at Guantanamo is not just part of the historical “[neo] imperialism in Haiti” but also a continuation of a racist discourse which sees migrants and in particular migrant black bodies as “carriers of contagion.” [12] The marking of Haitians as carriers of AIDS goes back to the early 1980s when the “Center for Disease Control [CDC], identified four high-risk groups, known pejoratively as the 4-H club – “homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians” – the first time a disease was tied to a nationality but not the first time black bodies have been tied to racist notions of deviance and contagion [13] and of being a threat to whiteness.

The justification for imprisonment of HIV-positive Haitians was humanitarian – to provide them with “shelter, food and medical care.”  In reality they were being detained in dehumanizing conditions such as inadequate water,  maggot-ridden food and forced to take  blood tests.  Those diagnosed as HIV Positive were isolated and often men and women were misdiagnosed.   Women were forced to have birth control injections and in some instances their children were sent to the US whilst they remained in the camp.  Other illness reported identified were, trauma and many detainees were found to have head injuries from beatings.  One US official on hearing complaints about the appalling conditions responded that they were going to die anyway.

The immediate reaction of the USA following the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent “restoration policies” need to be seen in the above historical context of exploitation, subjugation and US domestic immigration policy. The decision to prioritize security over real humanitarian need saw the deployment of troops throughout Port-au-Prince in the immediate days after the earthquake; the consolidation of NGO rule [they provide 80% of basic public services] [14]; the consolidation of the Free Trade Zone and  the creation in January 2011 of a mega assembly line in Caracol [PIRN].   The deal was signed by the “Haitian government,” the US Secretary of State [on behalf of US taxpayers], Korean textile manufacturer, Sae-A Trading, and the IDB. With the sweep of a pen, 300 locally owned plots of land were converted into an industrial park. A report by Haiti Grassroots Watch provides some of the reasons behind PIRN which also affects US workers.

“Ultimately, in the case of the PIRN at least, US taxpayers are making it easier and cheaper for foreign and local clothing and textile companies firms to set up (sweat-)shops in Haiti, lay off better paid workers in the US and other countries, and increase their profits. If Levis and the GAP can get their clothes stitched in a place that pays US$5.00 a day rather than US$9.00 an hour (approximately the lowest wage paid in US-based clothing factories), with new infrastructure, electricity, UN peacekeepers to provide security, and tax-free revenues and other benefits, why not?”

What’s in it for the main investor , Sae-A Trading?  Massive profits from the HELP Act which allows textiles to enter the USA from Haiti, tax-free, and a USA-Korea Free Trade Agreement giving new meaning to the manufacturing methods of JIT [just in time].  The location of the industrial zone at Caracol also has serious environmental impacts, as explained in a report by Alter Presse. Apart from the loss of farming livelihood to some 1000 farmers who now constitute cheap production labor, archeological sites will be destroyed, “water appropriated polluted and made more expensive,”, and destruction of farmland means the workers will be forced to ” buy subsidized US food.
Most recently there have been a number of  mining contracts issued to multinational mining corporations [These have just been rejected by the Senate who have asked that the companies 'cease exploitation'.

"We can't sit and just say everything must stop. We must take a resolution to tell the Executive this is the position of the Senate of the Republic, the Haitian Parliament on this issue. Everything must be done within regulations. We can not resolve a wrong with a wrong but in the meantime..."

We would like to know the value of the mines in Haiti, we must get this, because we must know what we have - because it's everyday that they are telling us that this country is a poor country, their presence here is humanitarian but there is nothing being done and then, all this time, we are full of resources. And the people who are principally concerned don't have any information on this.

In “Haiti’s Gold Rush” [Guernica Magazine]Jacob Kushner writes that “mineral explorers have long suspected Haiti could be sitting on a large gold deposits.”  A number of Haitians interviewed, however, say the local people in the northern mountains and elsewhere have always known there was gold in the ground and US and Canadian mining exploration companies have been testing the region on and off since the 1970s.   Permits have been given to two Canadian companies, Majescor (to explore 450 sq kilometers), and Eurasian (1,770 sq kilometers).   Two US companies are also involved: VCS Mining have rights over 700 sq kilometers and Newmont Ventures have the largest share.  As of December last year mining permits were given to Majescor and VCS Mining.  The deal for the mining corporations is the gift from Haiti to multinational capital…

Since 2009, Haiti’s government ministers have been considering a new convention. This would allow Eurasian, Newmont’s business partner, to explore an additional 1300 square kilometers of land in Haiti’s north. But according to Dieuseul Anglade, Haiti’s mining chief of two decades, unlike previous agreements, this one doesn’t include a limit–standard among mining contracts worldwide–on how much of a mine’s revenue the company can write off as costs. Without any cap, a mining company can claim that a mine has an unusually low profit margin, allowing it to pay fewer taxes to the Haitian state; Anglade opposed these terms, and was fired in May.”

Kushner also points to the poor environmental record of Newmont. For example, in 2010 a cyanide spill in Ghana killed fish and destroyed drinking water. There are also questions around the number of possible employees and the conditions under which they would work.  Given the environmental and social devastation  of other resource-rich regions such as the Niger Delta, DRC and Ecuador,  and the weakness of the Haitian government, rule by NGOs and an overall carpetbagger mentality,  it is hard to imagine mining bodes well for local people.    An investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch found that behind the mining contracts lay

“backroom deals, players with widely diverging objectives, legally questionable “memorandums”, and a playing field that is far from level.”

Guernica – Images from Flickr via waterdotorg

The hills in the Cap Haitian region are the hills of the revolution.  They are also the hills where the indigenous people of Haiti, the Taino,  were slaughtered by Christopher Columbus and other white settlers.  These are now the hills owned by foreign multinational mining corporations. President Martelly’s slogan “Haiti is open for business” should include the line  “going for a song.”  Humanitarian aid in Haiti has always been aid in the interest of the donor country, whether it be to keep out Haitians from US soil or to exploit their labor on Haitian soil and make even more money for companies in donor countries.  It has never been about the Haitian masses.

I have very briefly attempted to outline a few complex historical events in the hope that those interested will seek out further reading such as the following sources used in compiling this piece:

Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, The Earthquake and the UN by Justin Podur 

Haiti – Haitii? Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization by Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti by Jeb Sprague

Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward

Notes

  1. A. Naomi Paik  “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo: Legacies of US Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994”  published in Radical History Review Issue 15 /Winter 2013].
  2. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation”, Pluto Press, 2012
  3. Jean-Bertrand Aristide [2011]“Haiti-Haitii! Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization”, Paradigm
  4. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti-Haitii!
  5. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  6. Terry Nardin and Kathleen D Pritchard “Ethics and Intervention: The United States in Grenada, 1983” [http://bit.ly/W7MrKo] 
  7. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  8. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  9. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship”
  10. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  11. Peter Hallward “Damming the Flood: Aristide and the Politics of Containment”
  12. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  13. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  14. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship”

This post was also published on Pambazuka News – 25/01/2013

 

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Fanon & the representations of black beauty in popular culture

From Thinking Africa “Fanon, black female sexuality and representations of black beauty in popular culture”
by Efemia Chela, 2012

Frantz Fanon’s works are all very personal. Black Skins, White Masks, a treatise on the lived experience of being black is based on his experiences in Martinican society, being a student and then a black doctor in France. A Dying Colonialism is the Algerian War through the prism of his work with the FLN and The Wretched of The Earth arises from his experiences visiting post-colonial African countries, interacting with future African leaders and observing colonial and native elites. Even though Fanon was a man his oeuvre have great relevance to women and this piece will focus on the representation of black women in Fanon’s works and how his observations can be used to analyse contemporary depictions of black beauty in popular culture and hip-hop. This essay will also address the dimensions of black female sexuality and the similarities between sexism and racism.

Of the woman of colour and her psychosexuality, Fanon writes, “I know nothing about her” (Fanon, 1986: 138) but here he sells himself short. Babha (1986) recognises that Fanon can be used to “site the quest of sexual difference within the problematic of cultural differences” (Babha,1986: xxiv).
For centuries, black women have been exoticised and viewed as hypersexual beings. Sara Baartmann was exhibited across Europe for this reason. Her large buttocks were displayed during what was termed a cultural exposition but was really a exploitation and more of a zoo viewing with audience gasping and “prodding at her” (Collins, 2005: 10) . Her supposed wild sexuality was manifest in her large bottom and her entire act was used as a tool to other her and black women, while upholding white superiority and contrasting Sarah Baartman to the ideals of white beauty. It was assumed that black people’s inability to subdue their rampant sexuality and sublimate their desire into civilisation, progress and decency was seen as justification for their subjugation.
Using Fanon this essay will argue that this idea continues to the present day and is somewhat perpetuated by hip-hop culture, the precarious nature of black masculinity and the unchallenged pre-eminence of white female beauty.
Beauty and Inadequacy
Fanon describes the black man as suffering “from an inadequacy” and a “feeling of insignificance” (Fanon, 1986: 35). He describes how black men want to be “powerful like the white man” (Fanon, 1986: 36) and while women undoubtably want power too, they are particularly prone to wanting to be beautiful like white women who are held up as paragons of beauty. Black women look for themselves in the mirror of popular culture and never see themselves reflected accurately or at all. So they endeavour to make themselves look more like the white characters they see portrayed. They are subtly taught to hate themselves. This hate is “constantly cultivated” (Fanon, 1986: 37) and the black woman becomes her own abuser. As Fanon says:
“Hate demands existence, and he who hates has to show his hate in appropriate actions and behavior; in a sense, he has to become hate.” (Fanon, 1986: 37)
In The Wretched of The Earth, Fanon speaks about the colonial elite who leave the country after liberation and the black elite who fill the existing social vacuum. This “native elite” (Fanon, 1963: 7), “intellectual and economic elite” (Fanon, 1963: 61) or “young nationalist bourgeoise” (Fanon, 1963: 62) was co-opted even before the revolution started and has been groomed to take over the reigns. Fanon calls them figuratively – “whitewashed”. I would argue that for black women, Fanon’s description of whitewashing manifests physically as well as mentally. Black women can have a relationship with a white man to lactify themselves but they can also act out the lactification process on themselves. This is something that post-colonial society, still oriented around white values encourages and black women uphold and partake in.
A look at popular culture shows how much light-skinned women are prized over dark-skinned women. Sharpley-Whiting writes that most women chosen to feature in hip hop videos are “fairer-skinned, ethnically mixed or of indeterminate ethnic/racial origins” (Sharpley-Whiting, 2007: 27) meaning they can pass for white or their blackness is not so prominent as to be out of line with prevailing standards of beauty.  The same can be said for the Hollywood film industry where there are few roles for black women. In keeping with lighter-skinned privilege, the only woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in A Leading Role has been the light-skinned, Halle Berry in 2001. Viola Davis the comparatively darker-skinned actress of film, The Help (2011) who was nominated in the last Oscar ceremony for the same prize complains, “It’s just the politics, you know. It’s just the politics of it all…There’s just not a lot of lead roles for women who look like me”[1] .  Continue on Frantz Fanon – Thinking Africa

The Outsider – rich beyond their dreams

The Outsider by Caroline Adhiambo Jakob, is published by Authors House

In the film “Living With Illegals”, Sierra Leone / British journalist, Sorious Samura becomes an illegal immigrant traveling from Morocco to Europe with a group of African migrants. Three of the men decide to make the crossing by swimming to the European enclave of Ceuta in Morocco — one makes it three are caught. These  journeys are horrendous and desperate and can often take up to 4 / 5 years, crossing many countries by land and sea.

At first there is a sense of comrade between the men (there are no women in the film) as they struggle for a life of selling battery’s, flowers and DVDs and living in make shift dormitories. But by the time Samura gets to France and realises he has been conned by the smuggler anger takes over. Many of the men admit to begging which is something I never saw during my 4 years in Granada Spain, so maybe this is something new or something which happens in northern Spain and France.

This is a soulless lonely journey towards an often soulless lifetime.  As the men in the film reach Calais, they are met by thousands  of other men and women from across the world all desperate to make the final crossing to Britain.  This is perhaps the most treacherous as they are so near yet still so far away.  Now they must negotiate themselves around border police, more smugglers and the forest.

Crossing borders, migrations to Euroland presented as the land of milk, honey and endless riches. Juxtaposed against this ‘Dreamland’ is Africa,  hunger corruption and endless wars. What does it mean to make the perilous journey from the global south to the west.  To work 6 or 7 days a week, up to 16 plus hours a day for a pittance as domestics where often women are sexually and physically abused; day workers,  fruit pickers or car washers?  To have no social life with the only hope being that ones children will somehow fare better.   What does it mean when the journey is the other way around, from the global north to the south/  How does white privilege manifest itself in contemporary Africa, in neo-coloniality?   The The Outsiders goes some way to answering these questions.   It is the first novel by Kenyan, Caroline Adhiambo Jakob, and follows the lives of two women – Irmtraut, a German high-powered executive, ambitious and single.  And Philister, a victim of sexual abuse living in poverty on the streets of Nairobi.  Philister’s dream is for a better life and that better life exists in Europe.   Irmtraut’s venture to Kenya, on the other hand, is forced upon her by her boss and married lover.    The characters are created around believable stereotypes each embarking on a journey premised by mythical imaginations of life on the other side.   From the south, Philister approaches Europe with much more than hope.  She is convinced she will be rich in record time.  There are no obstacles in her imagination.

“Stories were often told of people who arrived in majuu and suddenly became so rich they had no idea how to spend all their riches” 

Irmtraut on the other hand approaches Kenya with dread and a firm belief that nothing will work and no one can be trusted.  Her search for Africa leaves her with stories of child soldiers and ruthless idiotic dictators.  From the beginning we know for Irmtraut there is no where to go, but up.

To reach Germany, Philister persuades  her abuser and uncle who is the manager of Kenyan National football team, to include her in the team.  She arrives in Germany  where the team loose all their games and promptly they all disappear to begin a life on the margins of society.  Philister story is told through a series of letters to her friend, Tamaa Matano which begin with hope.  Her hopes are very soon squashed at the realization that her life in Germany is even more precarious than in Kenya.  She is challenged by the same problems of housing and employment but these are  exacerbated by racism and the additional vulnerability of being alone and unable to trust anyone.  Eventually she joins the millions of other undocumented Africans and Asians who supply Europe with its lowest ranks of the labour market.  In Living With Illegals, Samura makes the point that it is the illegal people who contribute to the economy. The ones who oil the wheels which keeps Europe turning, doing those jobs Europeans wont do and nothing will stop them from coming.

Irmtraut is the kind of liberal whiteness that insists they are not racist until faced with Blackness and Africa.  Her racism is challenged by her fearful reaction on a train, to the only Black person she has close contact with. Still, she manages to persuade herself that because Will Smith is her favorite actor, she is cannot be racist.  As time passes both women learn the truth about their adopted countries and themselves.   Irmtraut whilst enjoying white privilege in Kenya also faces the fact that it can come at a high cost if carried too far.   Very quickly Kenya chips away at  her ignorance and privilege but never leaves her without choices, something Philister rarely enjoys.

Though there are moments of laughter particularly for Irmtraut, the story of Philister is one of incredible sadness as she faces discrimination after discrimination in a life of emptiness and poverty in Europe.  There is no escape, no way to return.    The irony is that her friend who she left behind in Nairobi has a very different experience.   The Outsiders is an interesting read and is entirely plausible.  Some of the dialogue is awkward and forced but the book achieves what I believe it set out to do, which is expose the myths on which prejudices and discrimination are built. Philister sinks further and further into invisibility till finally she more or less ceases to exist except as an object of pity or hate.  Not altogether dissimilar from her life in Nairobi’s streets. But at least there she has the familiarity of language and people and most importantly her dreams.   In Europe she is stripped of everything.    Irmtraut on the other hand is always visible, her existence always privileged even when she is the victim of a scam or theft.  The question we are left with is which is preferable – a life of poverty in Kenya or a life of loneliness and poverty in Germany?

 

 


Repolitizing Pride – a queer feminist revolution…

Reclaiming Pride from pinkwashers markets and imperialists -

Black France

 

From African Diaspora - France Noir: The History and Politics of Blackness published by Duke University Press

 

In Black France / France Noire, scholars, activists, and novelists from France and the United States address the untenable paradox at the heart of French society. France’s constitutional and legal discourses do not recognize race as a meaningful category. Yet the lived realities of race and racism are ever-present in the nation’s supposedly race-blind society. The vaunted universalist principles of the French Republic are far from realized. Any claim of color-blindness is belied by experiences of anti-black racism, which render blackness a real and consequential historical, social, and political formation. Contributors to this collection of essays demonstrate that blackness in France is less an identity than a response to and rejection of anti-black racism. Black France / France Noire is a distinctive and important contribution to the increasingly public debates on diversity, race, racialization, and multicultural intolerance in French society and beyond.

Contributors. Rémy Bazenguissa-Ganga, Allison Blakely, Jennifer Anne Boittin, Marcus Bruce, Fred Constant, Mamadou Diouf, Arlette Frund, Michel Giraud, Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Trica Danielle Keaton, Jake Lamar, Patrick Lozès, Alain Mabanckou, Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Tyler Stovall, Christiane Taubira, Dominic Thomas, Gary Wilder

A Malcolm X, Manning Marable Mix Up

Controversy has surrounded  Manning Marable’s autobiography of Malcolm X [May 19, 1925 — February 21, 1965]   not least of all Marable’s death on the eve of the books publication.  Most of the criticism of Marable’s Malcolm X derives from his courage to present Malcolm as human and in doing so stripping him of at least some of his iconic status.   Yes we need icons but we need icons who are also human with the frailties, contradictions and uncertainties that we ourselves  possess.  Here Bill Fletcher  explores  the key issues raised in Marable’s  ’Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention’

 

Good afternoon. My thanks to Herb Boyd for inviting me to participate on this panel and my thanks to Herb and Haki Madhubuti for inviting me to contribute to the book of essays in response to the publication of Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.

Once we have established that Malcolm X (MX) was not the Messiah, nor was he the Mahdi in either the Sunni or Shia traditions, it should, at least theoretically, be possible to engage in a discussion about MX and his legacy.

The one obstacle to such a discussion, however, was summed up by one activist when they proclaimed — in condemning Marable’s ‘Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention’ — that the people need icons. When I read this I realized that what it meant was that some people believe that it is neither possible nor appropriate to undertake a materialist examination of our beloved brother. And further, that anything that suggests that MX was anything less than perfect somehow betrays our love and respect for our brother.

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Unpacking the layers of Sweden’s racist-misogynist cake

Shailja Patel writing in Pambazuka News responds to the shockingly brutalisation of African women’s bodies by the Swedish Artists Organisation  – Lets be clear this action and the response by the artists in question does not stand alone.  It should be studied closely in itself AND  along with the growing acceptance of racism and racist action all of which point to the continuing brutalisation of African people in Europe and America [USA & Canada] and the attempt by white liberals to deflect the Black reality through the insidious myth of a post racial world.

The missing ingredient in Sweden’s racist-misogynist cake 

What makes the cake episode so deeply offensive is the appropriation, by both artist and his audience, of African women’s bodies and experiences, while completely excluding real African women from the discourse. It is a pornography of violence.

TOP LAYER

The scene is Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art, on Sunday, April 15th. The event is the celebration of World Art Day, and the 75th birthday of the Swedish Artists Organisation. Five artists have been asked to create birthday cakes for the occasion.

This is what the world will see, in photos and on video, the next morning.

On the table, a huge cake, with a smooth shiny black surface, in the form of a caricatured African female body, sans legs. Naked, splayed on its back, it is composed of crotch, belly mound, large pendulous breasts held by truncated stick arms, a row of neck rings. Where the neck rings end, a living human head rears up through a hole in the table. The head belongs to the kneeling body of a man. It is tricked out in exaggerated blackface —large white circles around the eyes, drawn-on cartoon red mouth and pointed teeth.

Sweden’s female Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth, approaches the cake with a knife in her hand. She performs a simulated clitoridectomy, cutting the first slice from the crotch, to reveal a moist spongy red interior. The head of the body moans and shrieks with pain. A roomful of white Swedes, men and women, laugh and applaud. Cameras flash. In the photographs, faces appear alive, avidly entertained, as the minister feeds the slice she has cut to the grinning head. More people cut and eat slices of the cake body, dismembering it. The head moans, yells, screams with each knife-stroke.

There are no people of colour in the room. There are no black women in the room.

The images go viral. The African Swedish National Association demands the Minister’s resignation, as do hundreds of viewers across the world. Hundreds more register outrage and disgust on social media. It is unacceptable that the body of an African woman can be represented this way, as an object for violation and consumption. It is unacceptable that a government minister of Sweden can publicly enact the violation and consumption of that body, and laugh as she does it.

SECOND LAYER

The artist who created this cake-installation, Makode Linde, is a biracial Swedish man, of mixed black and white heritage. He refers to himself as an Afro-Swede. It was he who knelt under the table, playing the head of the cake-woman.

“Within my art I try to raise a discussion and awareness about black identity and the diversity of it,” Linde says on Al-Jazeera. “The [recent] discussions [about my cake piece] have been mostly if I or the culture minister are racist or not. I think it is a shallow analysis of the work. It’s easy to take any image and put it in the wrong context.”

His intention, he says, was to prompt action against the female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by certain African communities. The performance “went off the exact way I wanted it.”

“It’s sad if people feel offended, but considering the low number of artists in Sweden who identify as Afro-Swedish I find it sad that the Afro-Swedish Association haven’t followed my artistry and do not understand what my work is about.”

 

And he continues:

“If people can get this upset from a woman cutting a cake, can’t they use that energy towards the real battle against female genital mutilation?”

He displays no ambivalence about his appropriation of the body and experience of an African woman. There is no suggestion that he has ever spoken to women from communities which practice FGM, the ones his installation is supposedly intended to benefit, or that he has invited their feedback on this piece.

THIRD LAYER

The plot thickens.

Swedish arts blogger Johan Palme frames the incident as a ‘very efficient mousetrap’ for the Minister of Culture.

Apparently, Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth, the culture minister, “is reviled by large parts of the art world for her culture-sceptic stance and for previously condemning provocative art in what many see as a kind of censorship.”

Therefore, she arrived at the event acutely conscious of the need to repair her tattered image and dissolve the perception that she is a threat to freedom of expression in Sweden. Handed a knife, and asked to cut into the crotch of the cake-woman, she knew that if she balked or questioned, she risked being pilloried as an enemy of provocative art.

 

“ Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth tries to play along as best she can in what she sees as a “bizarre” situation, reciprocating the laughter.” writes Palme. “And on the other side of the cake, placed in the narrow space in front of a glass wall, stands one of the minister’s fiercest critics, visual artist and provocateur Marianne Lindberg De Geer, camera at the ready. And she snaps pictures of the whole series of events, as the minister is egged into doing more outrageous things, performing for the crowd.”

 

Palme also reveals that artist Makode Linde’s has another life: “he’s a club promoter and DJ, one of Sweden’s most successful, who knows exactly how to manipulate crowds and their emotions.”

Following the global outcry the Minister releases a statement:

 

Our national cultural policy assumes that culture shall be an independent force based on the freedom of expression. Art must therefore be allowed room to provoke and pose uncomfortable questions. As I emphasised in my speech on Sunday, it is therefore imperative that we defend freedom of expression and freedom of art –even when it causes offence.

I am the first to agree that Makode Linde’s piece is highly provocative since it deliberately reflects a racist stereotype. But the actual intent of the piece – and Makode Linde’s artistry – is to challenge the traditional image of racism, abuse and oppression through provocation. While the symbolism in the piece is despicable, it is unfortunate and highly regrettable that the presentation has been interpreted as an expression of racism by some. The artistic intent was the exact opposite.

It is perfectly obvious that my role as minister differs from that of the artist. Provocation can not and should not be an expression for those who have the trust and responsibility of Government representative. I therefore feel it is my responsibility to clarify that I am sincerely sorry if anyone has misinterpreted my participation and I welcome talks with the African Swedish National Association on how we can counter intolerance, racism and discrimination.

Still missing: the voice of any black woman. I wonder why Nyamko Sabuni, Sweden’s dynamic Minister for Integration and Gender Equality, and the only black woman in Sweden’s cabinet, has not been asked to comment. In 2006, Sabuni created a storm of controversy when she called for mandatory gynecological examinations of all schoolgirls in Sweden in order to prevent genital mutilation. If she had been the speaker at this event, would she have been asked to cut the cake? Could her absence from the debate be because the inconvenient fact of a live articulate powerful black Swedish woman, who actually makes policy on FGM, shows up Linde’s shock art for the puerile nonsense it is?

 

THE BASE LAYER

Nothing about me, without me has been the rallying cry of numerous movements for justice and representation at the tables of power.

 

It’s tragic that in 2012, this basic tenet of any political art or advocacy is continually ignored by the entitled. And never more so than when it comes to African women and girls, the world’s favourite target for rescue, the population everyone loves to speak for and speak about, but rarely cares to listen to. What makes this cake episode so deeply offensive is the appropriation, by both Linde and his audience, of African women’s bodies and experiences, while completely excluding real African women from the discourse. It is a pornography of violence.

 

Jiwon Chung, leading theorist of Boal’s Theater Of The Oppressed, offers a useful set of questions to apply to any art that claims to address the suffering of a particular group or class of human beings. Let’s apply them to Linde’s cake installation, and the argument of his supporters that it somehow serves women and girls from communities that practice FGM.

 

1) Cui bono? Who benefits?

 

Linde has achieved overnight global fame from this exercise — the kind of exposure and media spotlight artists dream of. Sweden’s Culture Minister, Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth has established herself as a champion of provocative art. It’s not clear how any woman who has had FGM, or any girl at risk of FGM, is materially better off.

 

2) How do those whose suffering / body / experience is depicted feel? Do they feel they’ve been done justice?

 

A brief survey of comments on media sites and facebook postings about this event suggest that the overwhelming majority of African women feel ‘outraged’, ‘violated’, ‘furious’, ‘sick’.

 

3) Are you speaking for them (because you have a voice, and they don’t), or are they speaking for you, because what they have to say is so much more compelling than you?

 

The only one vocalizing anything in Linde’s art is — Makonde Linde. His caricature of an African woman doesn’t even vocalize words, just sounds of pain.

 

The next five questions, only Linde can answer.

 

4) Are you attributing clearly (giving clear credit?)

 

5) Are you dialectical?

 

6) Is your I a we? Is your we an I?

 

7) If their suffering were to disappear, would you be truly happy? Or would you have to look for something else onto which to glom your dissatisfaction?

 

8) Do you belong, do you truly claim solidarity with the suffering — or do you do it only when it fits in with your concerns and schedule? How do you support them outside your art?

 

Here’s an idea for truly provocative art. No more male artists, black or white, speaking for African women. No more ever-more-graphic ever-more-voyeuristic art on the suffering of African women. Stop using the female African body as raw material to be worked — unless you happen to live in one. Then, notice that African women are making their own work about their lives and struggles. Look. Listen. Learn.

Telling Uneasy Stories: El Negro Of Banyoles #1

 

 

Over the next several weeks, I will be analyzing the phenomenon of human exhibition  that was the trend of the day in 19th century Europe. I will do this with specific interest in the exhibition of the African body, and even more specifically the body of a Motlhaping man who came to be known as El Negro. Here begins my story with this story. There was a mild drought in Botswana that year. I also remember that there was also a flood and Gaborone City had just suffered a minor earth tremor – and that all these unusual happenings were (according to the superstitious among my compatriots) clear signs that El Negro could not wait to come home and receive a proper burial. I recall October, 2000. I was a 15-year old high school student in Gaborone. The news reports on Botswana Television repeated themselves like commercials about a southern African man whose body had been stolen from a grave almost two hundred years earlier. Ostensibly, the man had been a king of his Batlhaping nation or as Western media like to condescend: “chief” of the Batlhaping “tribe.”

I also remember political pundits on Radio Botswana speaking in subdued tones about how after the said king’s traditional burial in 1830, his body had been exhumed and stuffed by two French taxidermists in exactly the same way that trophy animals were stuffed, and taken to Europe to entertain the public who had never seen a black African. He had become known as “El Negro.” Before 2000, Batswana themselves had not heard of “El Negro.” As history would have it though, the African Union – Botswana included – had decided that his remains be repatriated from Banyoles, Spain to Africa. What better place to re-territorialize his remains then than the internationally obscure Botswana in lieu of the rightful South Africa to circumvent international media? In consequence, on October 4, 200o El Negro’s remains touched down at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone and his physical reterritorialization slotted him into Botswana’s narrative. We even created myths around him to justify our climate.

In this series of weekly posts on Black Looks I will:

i)discuss the narrative about Africa that El Negro served during his exhibition in Banyoles, and

ii) examine the narrative about Banyoles and perhaps Spanish society that he told at the same

time.

Let me leave you with the idea of a “social freak” since that will be the first category I look at and the ways in which El Negro was made to be one and how that ripples across centuries to today in how the African body is consumed by spectators. A freak is defined as “a person or animal on exhibition as an example of a strange deviation from nature.”1That cool night when Jules Verraux, a French taxidermist, and his brother exhumed El Negro’s body their objective was to show Europe body deviant from the European norm. El Negro’s corpse would be consumed as entertainment; a freak would be created. For the Banyoles museum-goers who had never come across a hue this dark or hair this tightly-coiled, the startling exhibition of El Negro immediately established a more tactile notion of the African, the Other. Looking forward to discussing more with you all next week.

Anything but Black -

Documentary series explores the complexities of racism and colourism in Central and South America!

“Who do you think you’re kidding – you ARE Black”, “You aren’t really Black”, “You’re mixed race / half caste / mestizo / mulato”, “Actually you’re white”. Reminds me of the “UnAfrican” conversation, an essentialist notion of blackness where people are arbitrary excluded and included. Like the boundaries created by recolonisation in the form of religion as it meets with gender, sexual orientation, class, race, war on terror, nationhood and the MARKET.

Eating the other: “Our voices must be respected”

You have no right to speak of my story.
You have no right to publish my story in the press
Because I did not give you authorization.
You have no right. I did not speak to you.
You have said things you should not have said.
Thank you

Haitian American writer Edwidge Danticat responds to the rape storyHow Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD” by Mac McClelland. A classic case of appropriating someone else’s suffering as an atonement for not suffering, a phenomena Bell Hooks describes as “Eating the Other” [Black Looks: Race and Representation]. As a way of deflecting the guilt of white privilege the subject both desires “blackness” and “constructs a social framework of sameness, a homogeneity of experience.”

The desire to make contact with those bodies deemed other, with no apparent will to dominate, assuages the guilt of the past, even takes the form of a defiant gesture where one denies accountability and historical connection” . Most importantly, it establishes a contemporary narrative where the suffering imposed by structures of domination on those designated other is deflected by an emphasis on seduction and longing where the desire is not to make the other over in one’s image but to become the other”.

In this essay Danticat recounts her meeting with the Haitian woman McClelland called both Sybille and K* in her writings and her request that McClelland not write about her. A breach of trust, a disregard for the voices of Haitian women and their right to ownership of their stories.

>I met her at a meeting for rape survivors in Port-au-Prince. She is a 25-year-old mother of three children. She has a beautiful singing voice and often sings in talent shows to inspire other rape survivors.

This incredibly brave and talented woman speaks Creole, French and Spanish. She learned Spanish while traveling between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to buy grocery items, toiletries and non-perishables that she would then resell in Port-au-Prince.

She lost the father of her older children to illness before the earthquake and lost the father of her youngest child on January 2010, during the earthquake. She also lost her home, which is how she ended up living in the camp where she was raped.

In her essay, Ms. McClelland writes that K*’s trauma led in part to her own breakdown. Nevertheless, during Ms. McClelland’s ride along with K*, on a visit to a doctor, Ms. McClelland, as has been reported elsewhere, live-tweeted K*’s horrific experiences. The tweets put K*’s life in danger because they identified the displacement camp where K* was living–with details of landmarks added–her specific injury, her real name, and suggest that she is a drug user.

When K* found out about Ms. McClelland’s tweets, even before Ms. McClelland’s original Mother Jones article was published, K* wrote a letter to Ms. McClelland and Mother Jones magazine asking that Ms. McClelland not write about her. Her lawyer emailed the letter to them on November 2, 2010…[see above]

Ms. McClelland has stated on this same twitter account that she had K*’s permission and K*’s mother’s permission to ride along with them, but she certainly–according to K*’s lawyer, and the driver on the ride along, and K* herself–did not have K*’s permission to tweet personal and confidential information about her. And even if Ms. McClelland in some way thought she had K*’s consent, the attached letter should have made it clear that it was withdrawn and that she had, as the letter states, “no right” to write about K* anymore, especially in ways that her previous tweets had made K*’s and her location easily identifiable.

I have K*’s permission to publish this letter and to talk about K* because she is angry at the way Ms. McClelland has portrayed her in the tweets, has ignored the wishes of her letter and continues to make K* part of her story.

This week, K* wrote me an e-mail from Port-au-Prince saying, “I want victims in Haiti to know that they can be strong and stand up for their rights and have a voice. Our choices about when and how our story is told must be respected.”
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H/T Eccentric Yoruba

Cradle nation: An Evolutionary Sigh!

“Honestly, I haven’t been any where. I have not worked for a living for four years, now. “We know where it lives,” everyone says in rabid finality, so I took to listening to loud classical music. It has worked for me in the past so it was a sort of back to the grind stone, if you like,” said Orogodogoin as she took stock of the group animosity fuelled by fear that gathered around her.

The absence of Activism had cost Orogodogoin four years of unemployment while the white LGBTI activists made a living off selective activism. It was not for want of trying Orogodogoin tried. Orogodogoin applied two or three times once to work in a church run bookshop.

“The job has gone!” said the gay manager of the bookshop on Orogodogoin’s first attempt.

“Oh, it’s you again,” said the same gay manager of the same bookshop. “Thank you for coming again but we will call you.”

“Hello,” said the same gay manager to a gay man waiting to try his luck. “The job is yours. Me, employ whatever that thinks it is? It will not happen, the job is yours if you want it, just say, yes, already!”

“Yes already, then!” said the gay man and he got it just like that and Orogodogoin hadn’t even left the bookshop.

Activism was necessary. Orogodogoin knew it. Orogodogoin was not going to forget that experience in a hurry.

It was Saturday, the 25th of June 2011.  Orogodogoin was attending the conference, “Cradle Nation, Exploitation and Resistance” and she had written the following:

My name is Orogodogoin and Orogodogoin is a writer and a transsexual activist. Orogodogoin felt the conference was a learning curve for me. “Cradle Nation, Exploitation and Resistance” was an invitation for reasons only the organiser, World Peace Path (Development and Justice for the world’s poor) knew.

The spread of the church venue appeared to be packed until Orogodogoin looked up and saw the seats in the “gods” were hardly taken. Orogodogoin needn’t have worried because no sooner had the first half of the conference ended because then Orogodogoin discovered that the Cradle Nation Sexualities (the striving for liberation) event was tucked away in a back room called, “the Vestry room”. Vestry indeed! The venue space turned out to be a small room but given that it was filled and spilling outside Orogodogoin wondered if a giant monitor was out there to give those that couldn’t get into the room a glimpse of what was going on inside. Apparently no such luck was at hand.

Given all this, the question was, why did Cradle Nation Sexualities have to be brushed to a side room at all? there was no time to dwell on this as the moderator, Sappho Grant, who due to time constraints opted for a “question and answer” format WHICH that meant we all had sufficient time to do the subject matter justice. Tigersclub, David, and Orogodogoin spoke about Cradle Nation Sexualities, silence, the Western world’s worldview of sexuality, the incursion of sexuality NGOs onto the Cradle Nation stage who thought they could come in and tell us about ourselves using imported labels to remap sexuality in Cradle Nation for us rather than helping us focus on our needs ourselves.

Orogodogoin had to say, in hindsight, unlike Tigersclub and Kako who preferred to steered clear of the word, activism, Orogodogoin embraced it. Kako rejected it because he had never spoken from an activism standpoint. Tigersclub, because he preferred a more “softly, softly” approach. It is not that Orogodogoin couldn’t talk without taking the standpoint Orogodogoin adopted. on the contrary, owning Orogodogoin’s subjectivities as a transwoman, a lesbian and an Cradle Nation native disenfranchised both in the West and in Cradle Nation, sanctioned Orogodogoin’s speaking out.

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Shady politics of GayMiddleEast

Last March, Pink Watching Israel published an article in which they exposed the website Gay Middle East as having “shady politics” with close Zionist connections and “who has never carried any of the anti-apartheid statements by LGBT groups in the region.

That the largest Middle East LGBT (well, G mostly)”grassroots news” website is run by British Israeli Zionist Dan Littauer is already cause for concern. The fact that GME regularly collaborates with neo-colonialist Islamophobes such as Peter Tatchell [See Out of Place, Out of Print] (the guy with a penchant for threatening lawsuits against those who don’t think he is god’s gift to oppressed gay people) doesn’t help his credentials much. Bizarrely, he is also the human rights and press officer for the Association of British Muslims. Barring the logic of such a position, Littauer is also quite friendly with Islamophobic pornographer Michael Lucas, whose recent campaign against Siegebusters, a NY-based anti-apartheid group, successfully got them banned from meeting at the NY LGBT center. Lucas, by the way, is making a name for himself uttering such gems as “Muslims have not contributed to civilization in any way”. He is also famous for making gay porn film “Men of Israel”, which had its setting on the ruins of homes of Palestinians displaced in 1948.

There is a degree of deceptiveness about Gay Middle East which Mideast Youth in a post “Que(e)rying the Israel-linked GayMiddleEast.com: a statement by Arab queers” compares to Tom MacMaster’s “Amina”.

MacMaster’s deception brought many issues to the fore, and the least interesting are the stories GayMiddleEast.com has been plugging about how, contrary to what MacMaster has portrayed, gays are actually really oppressed. Perhaps more relevant in this context is an honest discussion about how to do solidarity work in a way that is respectful of people’s lived realities. That includes knowing what the limits of solidarity are, especially when you are outside the community you claim to care about, and when you occupy a position of privilege.

Both MacMaster and Littauer have chosen the wrong path; they have both put themselves front and center, the former by actually deceptively adopting the persona of a queer Arab woman, and the latter by acting as a spokesperson and gatekeeper for queer Arab voices with a direct line to the Western media.

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Are we ready for interracical yet

Liesl Theron, the director of Gender Dynamix, South Africa, guests blogs on “cross-racial / interracial” relationships in Post-Apartheid South Africa.

Cross-racial and interracial, two terms that are used interchangeably and yet I learned that when discussing or defining a couple from different races in a relationship, they have different meanings, or at least represent two different viewpoints.

All of this came about on the morning of 22 April 2011, when my partner and I started planning an event or rather an interactive exhibition, we want to host – in August this year during women’s month. We want to celebrate female friendships and intimate partners sharing love. Our discussion obviously moved towards the theme of cross-racial or interracial relationships too. Needless to say, due to our own relationship, it is a topic that is close to the heart of us both.

I jotted down some thoughts, as we want to remember the ideas we had in planning this upcoming celebration. When I read back some of my notes and spoke of ‘cross-racial’ she said to me she prefers using ‘interracial’, explaining that ‘cross-racial’ sounded too harsh — as if there are barriers and it really did not feel like a friendly, loving space.

At that moment I felt silenced, I did not know or did not want to answer, as I felt that that was exactly the reason why I wanted to use the term ‘cross-racial’. On my conscious level I also knew I did not want to use the word ‘cross-racial’ because of how I value our relationship or describe our individual attitudes towards each other — but that I wanted to employ the word ‘cross-racial’ because we are not in Utopia either.
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Pink Washing the Middle East

15th June:  By now everyone is aware that Gay Girl in Damascus is really a straight white American male, Tom MacMasters.  The article on “Pink Washing”  has been removed because it was written by an imposter, a fraud who has caused great distress to many Syrian activists especially in the LGBTI community – who doesnt even have the decency to apologise for his actions.

Commentary: “objectively” less attractive?

If as Satoshi Kanazawa’s claim that, “Black women are “objectively” less attractive!” is anything to go by racism in academia is at an all time high and we black women must repudiate this passionately. Over a decade ago, I had the misfortune of listening to a Japanese undergraduate saying of the different races: “There are whites, yellow and then at the bottom, there are blacks!” I was furious as much then as I am faced with this fresh slur. Here we are again full circle. My surprise is that the London School of Economics and Political Science is supervising such racist pseudo scientific tripe in the name of evolutionary psychology. Belittling any race in this manner is tantamount to racism and could be said to be academic racial cleansing. As a black woman, it is deeply upsetting and denigrating to black people and black women in particularly and calls into question notions of beauty.

Such an infraction academic or otherwise must be petitioned in the strongest terms. Sign the petition to Psychology Today to retract the article, apologise and explain why it was published in the first place.

Malcolm X: sisters in struggle

Remembering Malcolm X – Black Canadian women discussing the racism they experience in Canada – Sisters in the Struggle: Dionne Brand & Ginny Stikeman, 1991