"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Assata Speaks 4
Political Prisoner to Exiled, Interview, page 4

In an obvious maneuver to provoke sympathy for the police, the NBC series juxtaposed my interview with the weeping widow of Werner Forester. While I can sympathize with her grief, I believe that her appearance was deliberately included to appeal to peoples emotions, to blur the facts, to make me look like a villain, and to create the kind of lynch mob mentality that has historically been associated with white women portrayed as victims of black people. In essence the supposed interview with me became a forum for the New State Police, Forester's widow, and the obviously hostile commentary of Ralph Penza. The two initial programs together lasted 3.5 minutes - me - 59 seconds, the widow 50 seconds, the state police 38 seconds, and Penza - 68 seconds. Not once in the interview was I ever asked about Zayd, Sundiata or their families. As the interview went on, it was painfully evident that Ralph Penza would never see me as a human being. Although I tried to talk about racism and about the victims of government and police repression, it was clear that he was totally uninterested. I have stated publicly on various occasions that I was ashamed of participating in my trial in New Jersey trial because it was so racist, but I did testify. Even though I was extremely limited by the judge, as to what I could testify about, I testified as clearly as I could about what happened that night. After being almost fatally wounded I managed to climb in the back seat of the car to get away from the shooting. Sundiata drove the car five miles down the road carried me into a grassy area because he was afraid that the police would see the car parked on the side of the road and just start shooting into it again. Yes, it was five miles down the highway where I was captured, dragged out of the car, stomped and then left on the ground. Although I drifted in and out of consciousness I remember clearly that both while I was lying on the ground, and while I was in the ambulance, I kept hearing the State troopers ask "is she dead yet?" Because of my condition I have no independent recollection of how long I was on the ground, or how long it was before the ambulance was allowed to leave for the hospital, but in the trial transcript trooper Harper stated that it was while he was being questioned, some time after 2:00 am that a detective told him that I had just been brought into the hospital. I was the only live "suspect" in custody, and prior to that time Harper, had never told anyone that a woman had shot him.

As I watched Governor Whitman's interview the one thing that struck me was her "outrage" at my joy about being a grandmother, and my "quite nice life" as she put it here in Cuba. While I love the Cuban people and the solidarity they have shown me, the pain of being torn away from everybody I love has been intense. I have never had the opportunity to see or to hold my grandchild. If Gov. Whitman thinks that my life has been so nice, that 50 years of dealing with racism, poverty, persecution, brutality, prison, underground, exile and blatant lies has been so nice, then Id be more than happy to let her walk in my shoes for a while so she can get a taste of how it feels. I am a proud black woman, and I'm not about to get on the television and cry for Ralph Penza or any other journalist, but the way I have suffered in my lifetime, and the way my people have suffered, only god can bear witness to.

Col. Williams of the New Jersey State Police stated "we would do everything we could go get her off the island of Cuba and if that includes kidnapping, we would do it." I guess the theory is that if they could kidnap millions of Africans from Africa 400 years ago, they should be able to kidnap one African woman today. It is nothing but an attempt to bring about the re-incarnation of the Fugitive Slave Act. All I represent is just another slave that they want to bring back to the plantation. Well, I might be a slave, but I will go to my grave a rebellious slave. I am and I feel like a maroon woman. I will never voluntarily accept the condition of slavery, whether its de-facto or ipso facto, official, or unofficial. In another recent interview, Williams talked about asking the federal government to add to the $50,000 reward for my capture. He also talked about seeking "outside money, or something like that, a benefactor, whatever." Now who is he looking to "contribute" to that "cause"? The ku klux klan, the neo nazi parties, the white militia organizations? But the plot gets even thicker. He says that the money might lure bounty hunters. "There are individuals out there, I guess they call themselves ‘soldiers of fortune ’ who might be interested in doing something, in turning her over to us." Well, in the old days they used to call them slave catchers, trackers, or patter rollers, now they are called mercenaries. Neither the governor nor the state police say one word about "justice." They have no moral authority to do so. The level of their moral and ethical bankruptcy is evident in their eagerness to not only break the law and hire hoodlums, all in the name of "law and order." But you know what gets to me, what makes me truly indignant? With the schools in Paterson, N.J. falling down, with areas of Newark looking like a disaster area, with the crack epidemic, with the wide-spread poverty and unemployment in New Jersey, these depraved, decadent, would-be slave masters want federal funds to help put this "n-word wench" back in her place. They call me the "most wanted woman" in Amerikkka. I find that ironic. I've never felt very "wanted" before. When it came to jobs, I was never the "most wanted," when it came to "economic opportunities I was never the "most wanted, when it came to decent housing." It seems like the only time Black people are on the "most wanted" list is when they want to put us in prison. But at this moment, I am not so concerned about myself. Everybody has to die sometime, and all I want is to go with dignity. I am more concerned about the growing poverty, the growing despair that is rife in Amerikkka. I am more concerned about our younger generations, who represent our future. I am more concerned that one third of young black are either in prison or under the jurisdiction of the "criminal in-justice system." I am more concerned about the rise of the prison industrial complex that is turning our people into slaves again. I am more concerned about the repression, the police brutality, violence, the rising wave of racism that makes up the political landscape of the U.S. today. Our young people deserve a future, and I consider it the mandate of my ancestors to be part of the struggle to insure that they have one. They have the right to live free from political repression. The U.S. is becoming more and more of a police state and that fact compels us to fight against political repression. I urge you all, every single person who reads this statement, to fight to free all political prisoners. As the concentration camps in the U.S. turn into death camps, I urge you to fight to abolish the death penalty. I make a special, urgent appeal to you to fight to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the only political prisoner who is currently on death row. It has been a long time since I have lived inside the United States. But during my lifetime I have seen every prominent black leader, politician or activist come under attack by the establishment media. When African Americans appear on news programs they are usually talking about sports, entertainment or they are in handcuffs. When we have a protest they ridicule it, minimized it, or cut the numbers of the people who attended in half.

 
posted by R J Noriega at 3:02 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, November 28, 2005
Titanic Fuck Ups in N.O
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given the defense contracting agency Titan more than a half million dollars in brand-new contracts for Hurricane Katrina. Here are the top five reasons this was a very bad idea:

TORTURE: Titan is under two different federal investigations for its role in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. The Taguba report – the official government report into the prison abuse — found a Titan employee committed “indecent acts” and was involved in “cruelty and maltreatment” of Iraqi prisoners.

NEGLIGENCE: Titan bilked the U.S. government out of millions of dollars by sending hundreds of unqualified interpreters to Iraq. On top of that, Pentagon auditors recommended withholding $4.9 million from Titan’s Iraq translator contract due to questionable billing practices.

ESPIONAGE: Another Titan employee working at the prison in Guantanamo Bay was sentenced to 20 months in prison for espionage against the United States.

BRIBERY: In March 2003, Titan admitted guilt in an “international bribery scheme.” The company had to pay $28,500 to the SEC for trying to influence the presidential election of the West African nation of Benin.

CHEATING: A federal inspector general report last year found Titan overcharged American taxpayers for a troop counseling contract. The company gave nearly all of the work to a subcontractor, yet added its own fee to each of the invoices. The report charged: “We believe that Titan’s fee could represent largely unnecessary costs to the government.”
 
posted by R J Noriega at 8:46 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Assata Speaks 3
Political Prisoner to Exiled

Another major lie and distortion was that we had left trooper Werner Forester on the roadside to die. The truth is that there was a major cover-up as to what happened on May 2, 1973. Trooper Harper, the same man who shot me with my arms raised in the air, testified that he returned to the State Police Headquarters which was less than 200 yards away, "To seek aid." However, tape recordings and police reports made on May 2, 1973 prove that not only did Trooper Harper give several conflicting statements about what happened on the turnpike, but he never once mentioned the name of Werner Forester, or the fact that the incident took place right in front of the Trooper Headquarters. In an effort to hide his tracks and cover his guilt he said nothing whatsoever about Forester to his superiors or to his fellow officers. In a clear attempt to discredit me, Col. Carl Williams of the New Jersey State Police was allowed to give blow by blow distortions of my interview. In my interview I stated that on the night of May 2, 1973 I was shot with my arms in the air, then shot again in the back. Williams stated "that is absolutely false. Our records show that she reached in her pocketbook, pulled out a nine millimeter weapon and started firing." However, the claim that I reached into my pocketbook and pulled out a gun, while inside the car was even contested by trooper Harper. Although on three official reports, and when he testified before the grand jury he stated that he saw me take a gun out of my pocketbook, he finally admitted under cross examination that he never saw me with my hands in a pocketbook, never saw me with a weapon inside the car, and that he did not see me shoot him.

The truth is that I was examined by 3 medical specialists: (1) A Neurologist who testified that I was immediately paralyzed immediately after the being shot. (2)A Surgeon who testified that "It was absolutely anatomically necessary that both arms be in the air for Mrs. Chesimard to receive the wounds." The same surgeon also testified that the claim by Trooper Harper that I had been crouching in a firing position when I was shot was "totally anatomically impossible." (3) A Pathologist who testified that "There is no conceivable way that it [the bullet] could have traveled over to hit the clavicle if her arm was down." he said "It was impossible to have that trajectory. "The prosecutors presented no medical testimony whatsoever to refute the above medical evidence. No evidence whatsoever was ever presented that I had a 9 millimeter weapon, in fact New Jersey State Police testified that the 9 millimeter weapon belonged to Zayd Malik Shakur based on a holster fitting the weapon that they was recovered from his body. There were no fingerprints, or any other evidence whatsoever that linked me to any guns or ammunition. The results of the Neutron Activation test to determine whether or not I had fired a weapon were negative. Although Col. Williams refers to us as the "criminal element" neither Zayd, or Sundiata Acoli or I were criminals, we were political activists. I was a college student until the police kicked down my door in an effort to force me to "cooperate" with them and Sundiata Acoli was a computer expert who had worked for NASA, before he joined the Black Panther Party and was targeted by COINTELPRO.

 
posted by R J Noriega at 4:53 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
One in A million!!!
The Fugitive: Why has the FBI placed a million-dollar bounty on Assata Shakur?

By Kathleen Cleaver

Twenty-eight years ago, in a highly disputed trial, an all-White jury convicted former Black Panther Assata Shakur of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. In 1979, while serving a life sentence, she escaped
from prison and eventually resurfaced in Cuba, where she was granted asylum and has lived ever since. But the U.S. government has continued to pursue Shakur, regularly increasing the bounty on her head and
classifying her as a “domestic terrorist.” Last May the Justice Department issued an unprecedented $1,000,000 bounty for the return of Assata Shakur, 58, who continues to maintain her innocence. Kathleen Cleaver, a law professor and former communications secretary for the Black Panther Party, talks about why we all need to know about Assata, and why she must live free: I was startled when I heard about the $1,000,000 bounty for the capture of Assata Shakur. What triggered this renewed interest in Assata? Why spend so much time and money to hunt her down when Osama bin Laden, head of an international terrorist enterprise, remains at large?

It turns out that FBI and New Jersey police officials revealed the million-dollar bounty on May 2 of this year, the thirty-second anniversary of the New Jersey Turnpike shootout in which State Trooper Werner Foerster and Black Panther Zayd Shakur were killed. Sundiata Acoli and Assata Shakur were arrested for the murders. Assata was severely wounded,
shot while her hands were up. She has always insisted—and expert defense testimony from the trial bears it out—that she did not kill anyone. But in separate trials, Sundiata and Assata were convicted of murdering Werner Foerster. In 1979, while incarcerated for life in the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey, Assata escaped. As the FBI circulated the wanted poster that called for her arrest, all over the New York–New Jersey area her supporters hung posters proclaiming “Assata Shakur is welcome here.” Cuba gave her political asylum several years later on the grounds that she had been subjected to political persecution and had never received a fair trial.

Apparently the million-dollar bounty has already been covertly offered by police to a relative of Assata’s for assistance in kidnapping her from Cuba. This bounty evokes the memory of those vicious slave catchers who were paid to capture and torment our runaway slave ancestors and return them dead or alive. This extraordinary bounty on the head of a Black woman inevitably brings to mind Harriet Tubman, that Underground
Railroad “conductor” whose ability to organize escapes earned a $12,000 price on her head from the state of Maryland. Outraged slave owners added $40,000.

Many freedom fighters I knew and loved, including Eldridge Cleaver, to whom I was married, were arrested and imprisoned because of our membership in the Black Panther Party. Our organization started in response to the gruesome war in Vietnam and the racism and injustice here that
drenched our lives in violence. Demonstrations, riots, rampant police brutality and political assassinations marked those years when I witnessed thousands upon thousands of people arrested and hundreds killed. Many turned into fugitives to save their own lives, including my husband, whom I joined in Algeria in May 1969. That was around the same time that Assata, then a bright New York City college student named Joanne Chesimard, joined the Black Panthers.

WE had a concrete ten-point program to end racial inequality. The Black Panther Party demanded the power to determine our own destiny. We insisted on decent housing, appropriate education, economic justice, an immediate end to police brutality, and other rights our people had been fighting for since slavery ended. We were not patient, we were not
passive, and we were willing to defend our principles with our lives. Since Panthers couldn’t be bought off or scared off, the government made the decision to kill us off.

Back in 1968 we became prime targets for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, particularly after J. Edgar Hoover, then FBI director, labeled us the “greatest threat to the internal security” of the United States. We were young and passionately determined to secure the freedom of our people in our lifetime. Joining the Black Panther Party at the height of this assault, Assata saw our leaders imprisoned and killed. Both Black Panther Party founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale faced the death penalty, and Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, leaders of the Illinois chapter, were murdered in a predawn raid while they slept. Assata reported that she was beaten, tortured and denied medical attention after her arrest, then continually threatened by police and prison guards while in their custody. There was no question that she felt her life was in danger.

Under international law and Cuban law, Shakur is entitled to the protection and freedom of asylum. There are no legal grounds for her return to the United States because no treaty of extradition exists between the United States and Cuba, which has been subjected to a U.S. blockade and trade embargo for more than 40 years.

Despite this, the U.S. government and the state of New Jersey have repeatedly called for her capture. The meaning of this new million-dollar bounty is to encourage and finance what amounts to a kidnapping, one that could end with Assata’s death. Our memories are haunted by stories of fiercely independent Blacks whose dignity and pursuit of freedom won
the hatred of enraged White men who sometimes murdered them, riding publicly in lynch mobs that no law restrained.

The government has elevated this barbaric conduct to the diplomatic level as a way to reimprison one Black woman who dared fight for our freedom. The FBI and the state of New Jersey must be forced to obey the law. We cannot allow them to engage in lynch-mob diplomacy.

WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW

For more information about Assata Shakur’s case and what you can do to support her, please visit assatashakur.org or handsoffassata.net, or call the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement at (718) 254-8800

 
posted by R J Noriega at 4:50 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Letter to the pope
From Assata Shakur
March 1998

Your Holiness,

I hope this letter finds you in good health, in good disposition, and enveloped in the spirit of goodness. I must confess that it had never occurred to me before to write to you, and I find myself overwhelmed and moved to have this opportunity.

Although circumstances have compelled me to reach out to you, I am glad to have this occasion to try and cross the boundaries that would otherwise tend to separate us.

I understand that the New Jersey State Police have written to you and asked you to intervene and to help facilitate my extradition back to the United States. I believe that their request is unprecedented in history. Since they have refused to make their letter to you public, although they have not hesitated to publicize their request, I am completely uninformed as to the accusations they are making against me. Why, I wonder, do I warrant such attention? What do I represent that is such a threat?

Please let me take a moment to tell you about myself. My name is Assata Shakur and I was born and raised in the United States. I am a descendant of Africans who were kidnapped and brought to the Americas as slaves. I spent my early childhood in the racist segregated South. I later moved to the northern part of the country, where I realized that Black people were equally victimized by racism and oppression.

I grew up and became a political activist, participating in student struggles, the anti-war movement, and, most of all, in the movement for the liberation of African Americans in the United States. I later joined the Black Panther Party, an organization that was targeted by COINTELPRO, a program that was set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to eliminate all political opposition to the U.S. government's policies, to destroy the Black Liberation Movement in the U.S., and to discredit activists and to eliminate potential leaders.

As a result of being targeted by COINTELPRO, I, like many other young people, was faced with the threat of prison, underground, exile or death.

At this point, I think that it is important to make one thing very clear. I have advocated and still advocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the U.S. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism, and the elimination of political repression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty.

To make a long story short, ...let me emphasize that justice for me is not the issue, it is justice for my people that is at stake. When my people receive justice, I am sure that I will receive it, too. I know that Your Holiness will reach your own conclusions, but I feel compelled to present the circumstances surrounding the applicatlon of "justice" in New Jersey. I am not the first nor the last person to be victimized by the New Jersey system of "justice." The New Jersey State Police are infamous for their racism and brutallty. Many legal actions have been filed against them and just recently, in a class action legal proceeding, the New Jersey State Police were found guilty of having an "officially sanctioned, de facto policy of targeting minorities for investigation and arrest."

Although New Jersey's population is more than 78 percent white, more than 75 percentof the prison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos. Eighty percent of women in New Jersey prisons are women of color. There are 15 people on death row in the state and seven of them are Black. A 1987 study found that New Jersey prosecutors sought the death penalty in 50 percent of cases involving a Black defendant and a white victim, but in only 28 percent of cases involving a Black defendant and a Black victim.

Unfortunately, the situation in New Jersey is not unique, but reflects the racism that permeates the entire country. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. There are more than 1.7 million people in U.S. prisons. This number does not include the more than 500,000 people in city and county jails, nor does it include the alarming number of children in juvenile institutions.

The vast majority of those behind bars are people of color and virtually all of those behind bars are poor.

The result of this reality is devastating. One third of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are either in prison or under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system.

Prisons are big business in the United States, and the building, running, and supplying of prisons has become the fastest growing industry in the country. Factories are being moved into the prisons and prisoners are being forced to work for slave wages. This super-exploitation of human beings has meant the institutionalization of a new form of slavery. Those who cannot find work are forced to work in prison.

Not only are prisons being used as instruments of economic exploitation, they also serve as lnstruments of political repression. There are more than 100 political prisoners in the U.S. They are African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Natlve Americans, Asians, and progressive white people who oppose the policies of the United States government. Many of those targeted by the COINTELPRO program have been in prison since the early 1970s.

Although the situation in the prisons is an lndication of human rights violations inside the United States, there are other, more deadly indicators.

There are currently 3,365 people now on death row, and more than 50 percent of those awaiting death are people of color. Black people make up only 13 percent of the population, but we make up 41 percent of persons who have received the death penalty.

The number of state assassinations has increased drastically. In 1997 alone, 71 people were executed.

A special reporter assigned by the United Nations organization found serious human rights violations in the U.S., especially those related to the death penalty. According to these findings, people who were mentally ill were sentenced to death, and people with severe mental and learning disabilities, as well as minors under age 18. Serious racial bias was found on the part of judges and prosecutors.

Specifically mentioned in the report was the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the only political prisoner on death row, who was sentenced to death because of his political beliefs and because of his work as a journalist, exposing police brutality in the city of Philadelphia.

Police brutality is a daily occurrence in our communities. The police have a virtual license to kill and they do kill: children, grandmothers, anyone they perceive to be the enemy. They shoot first and ask questions later. Inside the jails and prisons there is at least as much brutality as there was on slave plantations. An ever increasing number of prisoners are found hanging in their cells.

The United States is becoming a land more hostile to Black people and other people of Color. Racism is running rampant and xenophobia is on the rise. This has been especially true in the sphere of domestic policy.

Politicians are attempting to blame social problems on Black people and other people of color. There have been attacks on essentially all affirmative action programs designed to help correct the accumulated results of hundreds of years of slavery and discrimination. In addition, the government seems determined to eliminate all social programs that provide assistance to the poor, resulting in a situation where millions of people do not have access to basic health care, decent housing or quality education.

It was with great happiness that I read the Christmas message that Your Holiness delivered. I applaud you for taking up the cause of the poor, the homeless, the unemployed. The fact that you are addressing the issues of today, unemployment, hopelessness, child abuse, and the drug problem, is important to people all over the world.

One third of Black people in the United States live in poverty, and our communities are inundated with drugs. We have every reason to believe that the CIA and other government agencies are involved in drug trafficking.

Although we live in one of the richest, most techically advanced countries in the world, our reality is similar to an undeveloped, Third World country. We are a people who are truly seeking freedom and harmony.

All my life I have been a spiritual person. I first learned of the struggle and the sacrifice of Jesus in the segregated churches of the South. I converted to Catholicism as a young girl. In my adult life I have become a student of religion and have studied Christianity, Islam, Asian religions and the African religions of my ancestors. I have come to believe that God is universal in nature although called different names and with different faces. I believe that some people spell God with one "O" while others spell it with two.

What we call God is unimportant, as long as we do God's work. There are those who want to see God's wrath fall on the oppressed and not on the oppressors.I believe that the time has ended when slavery, colonialism, and oppression can be carried out in the name of religion. It was in the dungeons of prison that I felt the presence of God up close, and it has been my belief in God,and in the goodness of human beings that has helped me to survive. I am not ashamed of having been in prison, and I am certainly not ashamed of having been a political prisoner. I believe that Jesus was a political prisoner who was executed because he fought against the evils of the Roman Empire, because he fought the greed of the money changers in the temple, because he fought against the sins and injustices of his time. As a true child of God, Jesus spoke up for the poor, the meek, the sick, and the oppressed. The early Christians were thrown into lion dens. I will try and follow the example of so many who have stood up in the face of overwhelming oppression.

I am not writing to ask you to intercede on my behalf. I ask nothing for myself. I only ask you to examine the social reality of the United States and to speak out against the human rights violations that are taking place.

On this day, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., I am reminded of all those who gave their lives for freedom. Most of the people who five on this planet are still not free. I ask only that you continue to work and pray to end Oppression and political repression. It is my heartfelt belief that all the people on this earth deserve justice: social justice, political justice, and economic justice. I believe it is the only way that we will ever achieve peace and prosperity on earth. I hope that you enjoy your visit to Cuba. This is not a country that is rich in material wealth, but it is a country that is rich in human wealth, spiritual wealth and moral wealth.

Respectfully yours,

Assata Shakur
Havana, Cuba
 
posted by R J Noriega at 4:34 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Assate Speaks 2
NBC Television Network Distorts Facts
In January of 1998, during the pope's visit to Cuba, I agreed to do an interview with NBC journalist Ralph Penza around my letter to the Pope, about my experiences in New Jersey court system, and about the changes I saw in the United States and it's treatment of Black people in the last 25 years. I agreed to do this interview because I saw this secret letter to the Pope as a vicious, vulgar, publicity maneuver on the part of the New Jersey State Police, and as a cynical attempt to manipulate Pope John Paul II. I have lived in Cuba for many years, and was completely out of touch with the sensationalist, dishonest, nature of the establishment media today. It is worse today than it was 30 years ago. After years of being victimized by the "establishment" media it was naive of me to hope that I might finally get the opportunity to tell "my side of the story." Instead of an interview with me, what took place was a "staged media event" in three parts, full of distortions, inaccuracies and outright lies. NBC purposely misrepresented the facts. Not only did NBC spend thousands of dollars promoting this "exclusive interview series" on NBC, they also spent a great deal of money advertising this "exclusive interview" on black radio stations and also placed notices in local newspapers.

In an NBC interview Gov. Whitman was quoted as saying that "this has nothing to do with race, this had everything to do with crime." Either Gov. Whitman is completely unfamiliar with the facts in my case, or her sensitivity to racism and to the plight of black people and other people of color in the United States is at a sub-zero level. In 1973 the trial in Middlesex County had to be stopped because of the overwhelming racism expressed in the jury room. The court was finally forced to rule that the entire jury panel had been contaminated by racist comments like "If she's black, she's guilty." In an obvious effort to prevent us from being tried by "a jury of our peers the New Jersey courts ordered that a jury be selected from Morris County, New Jersey where only 2.2 percent of the population was black and 97.5 percent of potential jurors were white. In a study done in Morris County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, 92 percent of the registered voters said that they were familiar with the case through the news media, and 72 percent believed we were guilty based on pretrial publicity. During the jury selection process in Morris County, white supremacists from the National Social[ist] White People's Party, wearing Swastikas, demonstrated carrying signs reading "SUPPORT WHITE POLICE." The trial was later moved back to Middlesex County where 70 percent thought I was guilty based on pretrial publicity I was tried by an all white jury, where the presumption of innocence was not the criteria for jury selection. Potential jurors were merely asked if they could "put their prejudices aside, and "render a fair verdict." The basic reality in the United States is that being black is a crime and black people are always "suspects" and an accusation is usually a conviction. Most white people still think that being a "black militant" or a "black revolutionary" is tantamount to being guilty of some kind of crime.

The current situation in New Jersey's prisons, underlines the racism that dominates the politics of the state of New Jersey, in particular and in the U.S. as a whole. Although the population of New Jersey is approximately 78 percent white, more than 75 percent of New Jersey's prison population is made up of blacks and Latinos. 80 percent of the women in Jersey prisons are people of color. That may not seem like racism to Gov. Whitman, but it reeks of racism to us.

The NBC story implied that Governor Christie Whitman raised the reward for my capture based on my interview with NBC. The fact of the matter is that she has been campaigning since she was elected into office to double the reward for my capture. In 1994, she appointed Col. Carl Williams who immediately vowed to make my capture a priority. In 1995, Gov. Whitman sought to "match a $25,000 departmental appropriation sponsored by an "unidentified legislator." I watched a tape of Gov. Whitman's "testimony" in her interview with NBC. She gave a very dramatic, exaggerated version of what happened, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support her claim that Trooper Forester had "four bullets in him at least, and then they got up and with his own gun, fired two bullets into his head." She claimed that she was writing Janet Reno for federal assistance in my capture, based on what she saw in the NBC interview. If this is the kind of "information" that is being passed on to Janet Reno and the Pope, it is clear that the facts have been totally distorted. Whitman also claimed that my return to prison should be a condition for "normalizing relations with Cuba". How did I get so important that my life can determine the foreign relations between two governments? Anybody who knows anything about New Jersey politics can be certain that her motives are purely political. She, like Torrecelli and several other opportunistic politicians in New Jersey came to power, as part time lobbyists for the Batista faction - soliciting votes from right wing Cubans. They want to use my case as a barrier for normalizing relations with Cuba, and as a pretext for maintaining the immoral blockade against the Cuban people.

In what can only be called deliberate deception and slander NBC aired a photograph of a woman with a gun in her hand implying that the woman in the photograph was me. I was not, in fact, the woman in the photograph. The photograph was taken from a highly publicized case where I was accused of bank robbery. Not only did I voluntarily insist on participating in a lineup, during which witnesses selected another woman, but during the trial, several witnesses, including the manager of the bank, testified that the woman in that photograph was not me. I was acquitted of that bank robbery. NBC aired that photograph on at least 5 different occasions, representing the woman in the photograph as me. How is it possible, that the New Jersey State Police, who claim to have a detective working full time on my case, Governor of New Jersey Christine Whitman, who claimed she reviewed all the "evidence," or NBC, which has an extensive research department, did not know that the photograph was false? It was a vile, fraudulent attempt to make me look guilty. NBC deliberately misrepresented the truth. Even after many people had called in, and there was massive fax, and e-mail campaign protesting NBC's mutilation of the facts, Ralph Penza and NBC continued to broadcast that photograph, representing it as me. Not once have the New Jersey State Police, Governor Christine Whitman, or NBC come forth and stated that I was not the woman in the photograph, or that I had been acquitted of that charge.

 
posted by R J Noriega at 4:32 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
I Speak of Freedom
by Kwame Nkrumah

For centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent. The white man arrogated to himself the right to rule and to be obeyedby the non-white; his mission, he claimed, was to "civilise"Africa. Under this cloak, the Europeans robbed the continent ofvast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people.

All this makes a sad story, but now we must be prepared to burythe past with its unpleasant memories and look to the future. All we ask of the former colonial powers is their goodwill and cooperation to remedy past mistakes and injustices and to granting dependence to the colonies in Africa….

It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems,and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces forgood in the world.

Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests containsome of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power,which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasonswhy we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty,and scarcity in the midst of abundance.

Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth. Individually, the independent states of Africa, some of them potentially rich, others poor, can do little for their people. Together, bymutual help, they can achieve much. But the economic developmen tof the continent must be planned and pursued as a whole. A loose confederation designed only for economic co-operation would not provide the necessary unity of purpose. Only a strong politicalunion can bring about full and effective development of our natural resources for the benefit of our people.

The political situation in Africa today is heartening and at thesame time disturbing. It is heartening to see so many new flags hoisted in place of the old; it is disturbing to see so many countriesof varying sizes and at different levels of development, weakand, in some cases, almost helpless. If this terrible state of fragmentation is allowed to continue it may well be disastrousfor us all.

There are at present some 28 states in Africa, excluding the Union of South Africa, and those countries not yet free. No less thannine of these states have a population of less than three million.Can we seriously believe that the colonial powers meant these countries to be independent, viable states? The example of South America, which has as much wealth, if not more than North America,and yet remains weak and dependent on outside interests, is one which every African would do well to study.

Critics of African unity often refer to the wide differences in culture, language and ideas in various parts of Africa. This is true, but the essential fact remains that we are all Africans,and have a common interest in the independence of Africa. The difficulties presented by questions of language, culture and different political systems are not insuperable. If the need for political union is agreed by us all, then the will to create it is born;and where there's a will there's a way.

The present leaders of Africa have already shown a remarkable willingness to consult and seek advice among themselves. Africans have, indeed, begun to think continentally. They realise that they have much in common, both in their past history, in their present problems and in their future hopes. To suggest that the time is not yet ripe for considering a political union of Africais to evade the facts and ignore realities in Africa today.

The greatest contribution that Africa can make to the peace ofthe world is to avoid all the dangers inherent in disunity, by creating a political union which will also by its success, standas an example to a divided world. A Union of African states willproject more effectively the African personality. It will command respect from a world that has regard only for size and influence.The scant attention paid to African opposition to the French atomictests in the Sahara, and the ignominious spectacle of the U.N.in the Congo quibbling about constitutional niceties while the Republic was tottering into anarchy, are evidence of the callousdisregard of African Independence by the Great Powers.

We have to prove that greatness is not to be measured in stockpilesof atom bombs. I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives,the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear,envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but foundedon hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.

The emergence of such a mighty stabilising force in this strife-wornworld should be regarded not as the shadowy dream of a visionary,but as a practical proposition, which the peoples of Africa can,and should, translate into reality. There is a tide in the affairsof every people when the moment strikes for political action. Such was the moment in the history of the United States of America when the Founding Fathers saw beyond the petty wranglings of theseparate states and created a Union. This is our chance. We mustact now. Tomorrow may be too late and the opportunity will have passed, and with it the hope of free Africa's survival.
 
posted by R J Noriega at 4:31 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Assata Speaks Part 1
Political Prisoner to Exiled
On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a "faulty tail light." Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became "suspicious." He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Forester was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Forester. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Forester was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial. We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison. In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life.

New Jersey Police & the Pope
The U.S. Senate's 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence operations inside the USA, revealed that "The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the publics perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through "friendly" news contacts." This same policy is evidently still very much in effect today. On December 24, 1997, The New Jersey State called a press conference to announce that New Jersey State Police had written a letter to Pope John Paul II asking him to intervene on their behalf and to aid in having me extradited back to New Jersey prisons. The New Jersey State Police refused to make their letter public. Knowing that they had probably totally distort the facts, and attempted to get the Pope to do the devils work in the name of religion, I decided to write the Pope to inform him about the reality of’ "justice" for black people in the State of New Jersey and in the United States.

 
posted by R J Noriega at 4:18 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Monday, November 14, 2005
Reggae and dancehall WHoo
Balancing Act
To bounce or to burn? A dancehall dilemma for Jamaica's dangerous days

by Baz Dreisinger

What's up in Jamaica right now is the murder rate. Should the homicides continue at their current pace—over 1,180 since January—Jamaica could end the year with the highest per capita murder rate in the world. What's that got to do with Shaggy, Sean Paul, and other dancehall acts releasing albums this fall? Nothing. And that's their and dancehall's potential dilemma. Violence isn't new to Jamaica; neither is dancehall's role as escapism-cum-therapy. But when flamboyant dancer Gerald Bogle Levy— virtually a symbol of dancehall itself—was murdered in Kingston in January, a line was crossed: The sacred realm of the dance, outré sanctuary from the harsh realities of ghetto life, had been bloodied. More than ever, the conscious, one-drop reggae that began dominating the scene last year better fits the national mood. Soothing or seething, roots had enough fire to trivialize dancehall: The massive willie-bounced while Kingston burned.
Dancehall DJs, then, have been left pondering the line between fun and frivolous. They can lyrically address the violence, but they'd best mind the way they talk; corporate sponsors, campaigning to clean up the gun talk, are shopping for scapegoats. So on his respectable debut, Infiltration, Spragga Benz protégé Assassin takes tepid jabs at the system—lamenting his Gangsta City, or wondering why "If Saddam have so much bomb, dem cyaan find it"—but his most dramatic statement is his signature cry, bellowed fast and furiously: "A murder!" That says it all, even if it's meant metaphorically: À la Bounty Killer, Assassin uses an enunciated, booming baritone to pummel the riddim into submission. He does this best in "As a Man," a thrilling torrent of jabber tailor-made for Steely & Clevie's delightfully off-kilter "Sleepy Dog" riddim, and "Idiot Thing," in which Assassin curtly assails the foolish: "Man a dress up in a name brand suit, nah mind him yute—a idiot ting dat!"

Other DJs have experimented with an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em approach. They've tried singing over one-drop riddims, with results that sometimes—Bounty Killer's "It's OK," Vybz Kartel's "Can't Move We," Elephant Man's "As Far as My Eyes Can See"—sound surprisingly sweet. Or they've joined the reggaetón revolution. "Rah Rah Remix"—off Elephant Man's Red Bull of a new album, Ova Di Wall—is a compelling Caribbean mash-up featuring Daddy Yankee and Pitbull, whose verses re-enact musical history: And dancehall begat hip-hop, and their coupling begat reggaetón.

Shaggy and Sean Paul, though, haven't much pondered their own relevance. Their new releases gaily give us more of the same: apolitical
bashment music. Shaggy boasts that he's sold more records than Bob Marley; on Clothes Drop, he struts his stuff with unsurprising pomposity—and proves himself a strikingly skilled DJ. In the best tracks on this uneven album, his sixth, Shaggy's so-seductive baritone expertly wraps itself around a scintillating Tony Kelly riddim. Shaggy's big-bamboo routine has never sounded more gloriously over-the-top than in "Ready Fi Di Ride" and "Luv Me Up" (want him to make you "bite your lip and roll up your eyes"?). He drops the tempo and his Mr. Lover Lover guise twice, to get serious: "Repent" is a sober rallying cry, and "Stand Up" 's old-school charm is boosted by a 1969 Crystalites sample. But collaborations with Olivia of G-Unit, will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas, and Nicole of the Pussycat Dolls cheesily grate; generic choruses like "Let me see you get wild tonight" are an insult to vibrant verses.

Shaggy has moaned that he's been dismissed as a warm-up to Sean Paul, who's the real deal. But ironically, he has something that Paul lacks. Shaggy's boombastic routine takes the DJ out of the realm of the real and onto the realm of the concert stage—where Shaggy, merrily transforming his mic into a phallus, delivers, and Paul, visibly struggling to pull off the willie bounce, doesn't.

What Paul does pull off with The Trinity, though, is an irresistible party record on par with 2002's Dutty Rock; it's already scored the highest-ever debut and single-week sales for a reggae artist in SoundScan history. The formula ain't broke, so Paul doesn't fix it: Over some of the best riddims of the past two years—Lenky's demure "Masterpiece," Black Chiney's drum-driven "Kopa," Don Corleone's tuneful "Trifecta"—he serves up singsong choruses and a flow so impeccably rhythmic, it sounds computer generated. Speed is his friend, preventing rhythmic from turning robotic, sonorous from turning soporific. "We Be Burnin' " deliberately repeats "Gimme the Light" 's formula; brisk anthemic verses play off a thumping drumbeat, while the chorus is a catchy jingle advertising everyone's favorite herb.

Ultimately, Paul and Shaggy are exempt from contemplating their music's relevance, because they're relevant by virtue of presence alone: As crossover kings who've made a world of fans see reggae after Bob, they're walking Jamaican flags, always and ever statements of Caribbean nationalism. And that can never be trivial.

 
posted by R J Noriega at 12:43 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Blackness for sale!!!
Reviewed by Jabari Asim

"So we are all black people, so-called Negroes, second-class citizens, ex-slaves," Malcolm X famously reminded a Detroit audience in 1963. "You are ex-slaves. You didn't come here on the 'Mayflower.' You came here on a slave ship -- in chains, like a horse, or a cow, or a chicken." In equating the United States' treatment of slaves with the handling of livestock (and mixing his metaphors: How often has anyone seen a chicken in chains?), Malcolm's typically blunt "Message to the Grassroots" drove home the monstrous immorality at the heart of American slavery: the refusal of the slaveholding class to regard their chattel as fellow human beings.
The nation's tremendous profit from its use of slaves -- a bounty from which slaves and their descendants were largely excluded -- has poured salt in a wound that continues to fester. Nearly every ethnic group has been enslaved at some point in the course of human events, but America's descendants of slaves belong to the only group whose centuries-long captivity, forced labor and post-emancipation lowest-caste status contributed directly and substantially to the development of the mightiest superpower of all time. The extent to which that cruel practice and its resulting inequities still affect our society continues to be a source of thorough study and intense debate. It also resonates throughout How to Rent a Negro, damali ayo's satiric take on modern American race relations.

Although "the purchase of African Americans was outlawed many years ago," ayo writes, "black people are once again a valued and popular commodity." In her view, they appeal especially to whites who rely on their relationships with blacks as evidence of their own progressive politics or simply to inject some sorely needed "cool" into their lives. Ayo has in mind real-life versions of George Costanza, the "Seinfeld" sidekick who spent an entire episode in search of a black person whom he could pass off as his friend.

Whites like George needn't despair that slavery is no longer legal, ayo suggests. "Those who want to utilize the service of an articulate and well-mannered African American are easily classified as renters. Those who find themselves serving as certified African Americans for colleagues and friends are conveniently referred to as rentals." Her book is a tongue-in-cheek guide to completing such "transactions" with a minimum of fuss.

According to ayo, her suggestions will help her fellow Americans honor their country's "vibrant spirit of capitalism." The mercantile roots of racial relations on these shores are frequently touched on in African American art. The results are often evocative and dramatic, as in "Bid 'Em In," Oscar Brown Jr.'s classic 1962 song about a slave auction:

I'm looking for four. And $400, she's a bargain for sure

Four is the bid, 450; five; $500 now look alive

Bid 'em in; get 'em in. Don't mind them tears, that's one of her tricks

Five-fifty's the bid, and who'll say six?

Building on the work of Brown and other visionaries, the generation of artists to which ayo belongs has begun to address not only the commodification of black people but also the marketing of blackness. (Ayo specifically acknowledges comedians Godfrey Cambridge and Dick Gregory, who told Rent-A-Negro jokes during their 1960s performances.) It's a shakier concept, to be sure, given the near impossibility of defining it. Still, Madison Avenue relentlessly pushes blackness as an all-purpose brand, readily adaptable for any product's needs. "Buy what we're selling," many commercials suggest, "and you, too, can possess a bit of that elusive 'thing' so easily embodied by those colorful, sexy, sassy, rhythmic African-Americans." In TV ads such as the one featuring a young white woman pop-locking (a decades-old urban dance style popularized by blacks) in the front seat of a Mitsubishi, advertisers send up our preoccupations with blackness even as they sell it, pre-empting the irony and savage wit once considered the province of artists.

Ayo challenges whites to bypass simulated blackness in favor of the real deal, available for only a few dollars more. "Most black people are qualified to fill your need for an authentic black presence," she writes. "Many have a lifetime of experience in the field." What's in it for blacks? Well, unlike the helpless woman on the auction block in Oscar Brown's harrowing lyric, the modern African American can finally profit from her labor. "You've been volunteering your services for years," ayo argues. "Why not start charging fees? Would a dentist, teacher, or hairdresser give away every session for free? Of course not." According to ayo's biographical note (she prefers a lower-case spelling), she has been "a professional black person for more than thirty years." Her book is an outgrowth of rent-a-negro.com, a Web site she launched in 2003. It includes a price guide to help novices get started. Fees for corporate clients, for example, should begin at $350 per hour. Clients who want to touch their rental's hair should be prepared to fork over $25 each time (upped to a suggested $100 in the book). Drop-in appearances: $100 each. In a 2003 interview with The Post, ayo said the site grew out of her years "being in all-white settings, fielding questions from people wanting to touch her hair, and playing the role of cultural ambassador."

Although her book may appeal most to members of the post-civil-rights class of black professionals who have endured similar trials, it is not likely to prove so fascinating to other African Americans, who likely have more pressing concerns. What's more, ayo risks overestimating whites' willingness to be made fun of for 190-plus pages. That said, her repetitive style will challenge the attention spans of even her most sympathetic readers. "Don't let your pride get in the way of your paycheck," she facetiously warns potential rentals, before providing similar advice -- "Don't let your anger get in the way of a solid paycheck" -- a dozen pages later. Ayo's approach may remind some of Keith Townsend Obadike, an African American artist who in 2001 attempted to auction his blackness on eBay. He set the opening bid at $10 and accompanied his posting with a list of virtues, among them:

"This Blackness may be used for making jokes about black people and/or laughing at black humor comfortably"; and "This Blackness may be used for dating a black person without fear of public scrutiny." But he also included such caveats as "The Seller does not recommend that this Blackness be used while shopping or writing a personal check" and "The Seller does not recommend that this Blackness be used while voting in the United States or Florida."

Obadike planned to conduct the sale for 11 days, but eBay shut down the project four days later after deciding it was "inappropriate." He received 12 bids, with the highest offer at $152.50. The project was daring, funny, innovative -- and lasted just long enough to be effective. Which points to the major shortcoming of How to Rent a Negro: It is essentially a one-joke proposition stretched to book length. It works better as an Internet attraction, a brief entertainment roughly equal to a rented video. As a book it's a much harder sell.

It is also hampered by readers' awareness of Aaron McGruder, Dave Chappelle and other artists who mine the same territory with more consistent results. The best of these may be ego trip, a five-man combo whose riffs on race in books like ego trip's Big Book of Racism (2002) and on TV programs such as VH1's "Race-O-Rama" effectively skewer a range of American neuroses. Gabriel Alvarez, one of the group's members, told the New York Times that race "was the new pornography, the only thing in our culture that people are still uncomfortable talking about." We can laugh about it, however; in some cases, all the way to the bank.



 
posted by R J Noriega at 10:29 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, November 06, 2005
ignorance is so far from bliss
By Adisa Banjoko 26/02/2002


Today, Hip Hop culture has, by most measures, reached its zenith. People on virtually all continents engage in all the elements of Hip Hop culture, with rap being at the forefront. Hip Hop culture sells clothes, cars, fast food, kids’ toys and all kinds of things most people never thought would have any relationship to the art form.

The African oral traditions that were the roots of rap music have spawned arguably some of the most prolific, most original and most soul stirring albums of all times. Yet under the surface of Hip Hop’s “success” runs a thread of ignorance that, if continued upon, could potentially fracture the entire framework of the life-affirming qualities of this art. This thread can be described as jahiliyyah (jah-hill-ee-yah), the Arabic word for “ignorance”.

In Hip Hop, many artists give lip service to knowledge and the importance of holding onto it. But the truth is that many people involved in the art embrace ignorance more readily.

When most people use the term jahiliyyah, they are talking about the pre-Islamic “age of ignorance”, when the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) fought against during his time as a messenger of Allah (swt). During that time, the people of Arabia were very courageous. They were acknowledged as some of the most trustworthy people of their time. If a jahili Arab took and oath – for better or worse – one knew it would be kept. This same concept of oath-taking is not lost on the culture of Hip Hop where one of the most common sayings heard is “word”. It’s used as an affirmation that one has spoken the truth. People always say things such as “my word is my bond”, or “that’s my word ya’ll”, etc. The power of one’s word in Hip Hop is unmatched.

On the other hand, there were many things about the jahiliyyah age that were not so positive. The men of that time were very territorial - all of one’s dealings were based on which area of Arabia they were from and their blood ties to various individuals.

Relating this back to Hip Hop culture, one can see how much territorialism and clan affiliations permeate the art. One of the earliest (early-mid 1980s) and most popular reflections of this mindset is seen in the Boogie Down Production song “South Bronx” as well as in the MC Shan track entitled “The Bridge”, which champions the Queens area of New York.

Other records that express jahili territorialism include NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton”, Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York”, Mob Deep’s “LA, LA”, Ludadris’ “Welcome to Atlanta” and almost any song by West Coast rap artists.

Many years later this poetic battle of territorialism would have deadly impact as the East/West rhyme “war” escalated, leading to the shooting deaths of rappers 2Pac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. But despite the shock of these deaths, the jahiliyyah mindset continues to permeate the Black ghettoes of America. And in the world of Hip Hop today we see it continue in the ongoing battle between rappers Jay-Z and Nas.

Ask any Black man you know about the stress of strolling into an unfamiliar neighborhood. The first question asked by locals is often: “Ni**a where are you from?” The wrong answer to that query could have painful and sometimes deadly consequences. The only thing that can save a man in this situation is strong clan ties to someone of that territory. Answers like: “Oh, me? Man, I’m from Frisco but do any of ya’ll know T-Money? That my cousin!” are often the only thing to save the day.

Another facet of jahili culture in Hip Hop is the prevalence of disrespect towards women. During the age prior to the Prophet Muhammad (saaws), male children were highly preferred over female children. People were prone to bury their newborn daughters alive rather than carry the “burden” of having a daughter. In the world of Hip Hop, women are not buried alive physically, but rather given verbal and visual burials that reflect the same ignorant value system.

Every time these rap songs, with profane words directed at women, get rotation on the radio waves and TV screens they burn away the self-esteem of women world wide. This leads some men to believe that slapping a woman is “keeping it real”, because of how a lot of rappers act.

Additionally, a lot of rap music encourages women not to think, not to educate themselves, not to put God’s word above man’s, not love themselves and to not expect respect from their men. Much of Hip Hop music suggests that women should prefer being a physical play toy. Unfortunately, more and more women are embracing these negative philosophies, believing that being sexually loose somehow equates to being a “strong” or “powerful” woman. Female rappers such as Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and countless others reflect the female jahili mindset.

Materialism was another big issue for pre-Islamic Arabs. People were consumed with having gold trinkets, showing them off in public to signify their financial clout and status. The same is true of Hip Hop culture where the “bling bling” era has arrived – “bling bling” referring to the glimmer of the expensive jewels many artists wear. It’s about the cars, the gold teeth the clothing brands – all jahili traditions.

In truth, Hip Hop is so materialistic that it borders idol worship. It reminds one of a passage in the Bible that says “Some boast of horses and of chariots, but we boast the name of the Lord.” Materialism is another deadly trend many in Hip Hop culture celebrate or silently champion by remaining quiet about its dangers. This is not to say that people should not seek success. They certainly should. But showing-off to degrade others is not needed, and it makes the entire community look foolish to the outside world.

Poetry is another area in which there are commonalities between the present and Arab antiquity. During the jahiliyyah era, some of the most powerful people in Arabia were the poets. The poets of every clan would make songs of pleasure, love, war and hate at will. Tribal leaders even sought favor with the poets, for if a bard ridiculed you in those days, your integrity as a leader could be compromised.

Our poets of today have power as well. However, while in years gone by groups such as Public Enemy used their voice to encourage people to “Fight the Power”, many of today's rappers use their pulpits to inspire the young to pursue frivolous paths of materialism, mindless violence and sexual conquests. And very few champion loving God and respecting and helping one’s neighbor.

There is a serious imbalance in the kind of Hip Hop that is not just played on radio and TV, but even a lot of the “underground” Hip Hop has lost its consciousness and brought in some of the detrimental jahili elements. It is therefore time for a change, lest this beautiful art be lost altogether.

Once the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) said, "[Religious] knowledge will be taken away [by the death of religious scholars], ignorance [in religion] and afflictions will appear; and Harj will increase." It was asked of the Prophet (saaws), "What is Harj, O Allah's Apostle?" He replied by beckoning with his hand indicating "killing”.

Our religious scholars are not all dead in a literal sense. However, for many of us they might as well be; for we no longer think of them and look to them as we should. And still other scholars have been killed off by haters of the truth.

By the time the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) finished his time on earth, he had unified the Arabs. The age of ignorance was gone and the status of women had been redeemed. The people’s quest for materialism, tribalism and frivolous entertainment was erased. It was replaced with a new faith in God and respect for humankind.

After reaching the ghettoes of American, Islam reformed some of their worst citizens and turned them into some of its best. Malcolm X is a perfect example of this transformation. But there are countless others who changed their lives as well. If people in Hip Hop truly want to grow, they might think about following Malcolm’s lead by emulating his actions, rather than just buying a t-shirt with his words or face on it.

Unless we rid Hip Hop of the jahiliyyah elements, we can only expect more sharp minded but misguided youth to perish over territorialism, materialism and the pursuit of the sensual path. I pray that Allah (swt) guide us better.
 
posted by R J Noriega at 11:10 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Racism and Poverty, Two Struggles with One Goal
By Chioma Adaku
http://emergingminds.org

Racism and poverty are not only two struggles with one goal, but it’s ironic how I lived in an all Black neighborhood facing poverty and then was bused to a majority White school to endure racism. There is a segment of the population ran and ruled by a group of people who have power and privilege because of their ethnic group; while another population is allowed to suffer from poverty, inadequate education, and injustices because of their ethnic group.

In America, we have two educational systems: one encompasses effective schools holding high expectations for their students located in affluent and stable communities; the other, ineffective schools which communicate low expectations and aspirations for their students, who are not given full opportunity to succeed. Where you live determines the chances you get in this world. It determines the school your children go to, the types of crimes they are exposed to, and the peer influences on your children.

When most folks think of privilege, they totally disconnect it from a benefit of an ethnic group. When they think of racism, it is considered what you have said or done to offend someone; not knowing that it is a system that is designed to benefit a segment of the population based on their ethnic group that automatically gives them power and privilege over other ethnic groups. So what does this mean? Let’s do the math…it means that if you are born in a certain ethnic group you receive certain benefits of power and privilege. Black people cannot be racist; as a whole they are not beneficiaries of a system of privilege and power because of their ethnic group; but yes, they can be prejudice. The history of racism and the struggle for equality in the United States for Black people is far broader and complex than can be covered in this brief overview.

The framework of racism and poverty presents two struggles with one goal; to oppress a segment of the population based on their ethnic group. It is not rocket science that when a White Woman walks down the street, she holds her purse firmly as she passes a Black man; no matter if he is wearing a Suit or saggy pants. It is not a secret that when a Black woman shops in a grocery store once a month and approaches the counter, the first reaction she gets from the clerk is, “will this be food stamps?” It is no coincidence that when Black Katrina victims were gathering food they were looting and when White victims were gathering food they were trying to provide for their families.

In today's world it is considered impractical to talk about racism and poverty. But in the face of systematic problems that confront a viable and enlivening society for all those impacted by racism and poverty, we must find ways to develop and share a commitment to democratically discuss and unshackle these dividers. How can we expect society to be free of oppression, if we keep honoring diversity and not building democracy?

Chioma Adaku serves as the National Coordinator for National Welfare Engine.
 
posted by R J Noriega at 4:49 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
The Comic-Strip Revolution Will Be Televised
By :Lola Ogunnaike

FANS fearing that "The Boondocks," the wildly scathing, racially charged comic strip, will lose its bite when it appears on television next week need not worry. Within the first 10 seconds of the new show of the same name, viewers will be offered the following Molotov cocktail of social criticism: "Jesus is black, Ronald Reagan is the devil and the government is lying about 9/11."

Since its national debut six years ago, the strip, about two black children living in white suburbia, has slaughtered its share of sacred cows, eviscerating everyone from Condoleezza Rice and Strom Thurmond to 50 Cent and Ralph Nader. President Bush has been a frequent target. As a result, the strip has been suspended, banished to editorial pages and dropped from some newspapers (it currently appears in more than 300).

Trying to translate that incendiary spirit into great television will be a challenge, an expensive challenge at that. Cartoon Network pays Sony Pictures Television, producer of the series, an estimated license fee of $400,000 per episode. Add to that the millions the network has spent on marketing, including many billboards in New York and Los Angeles trumpeting the show's premiere on Nov. 6 in the late-night "Adult Swim" block, and "The Boondocks" becomes the most expensive show the network has made.

"We don't have a lot of money, so we decided that for this year, we're going to put every dime we have into 'Boondocks,' " said Mike Lazzo, senior vice president of programming and production at Cartoon Network.

It remains to be seen if the anime series will become a phenomenon like Dave Chappelle's "Chappelle's Show" or sputter and die like "The PJs," Eddie Murphy's animated series about life in the projects. (Both shows satirized African-American culture and the culture at large.) "I figure it will either be a big hit or a massive flop; there is no room for in between," Aaron McGruder, creator of "The Boondocks," said one recent afternoon in the windowless warehouse space that serves as his studio here. "I work presuming horrendous failure and I do my best to prevent that."

Like the strip, the series follows the adventures of Huey Freeman, a 10-year-old militant with the soul of a Black Panther, and his baby brother, Riley, a cornrow-sporting potty mouth who idolizes gangsta rappers. The boys live in the suburbs with their stern but loving grandfather. Played by John Witherspoon (best known for his role as a sartorially challenged father in the 1992 romantic comedy "Boomerang"), Granddad is partial to corporal punishment and exercising in the nude. The actress Regina King ("Jerry Maguire") gives voice to both Riley and Huey. (The singer Alicia Keys was originally cast as Huey but dropped out citing scheduling conflicts.) Unlike the strip, Mr. McGruder said, the series will not be topical. "We cannot make a show that's going to be dated," he explained. "It has to survive into syndication and be watchable in 10 years."

Still, it would not be an Aaron McGruder production if it were not controversial and "The Boondocks" is sure to inspire heated conversation. One episode imagines the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emerging from a coma, only to find that his pacifism doesn't play well in the post-Sept. 11 world. No longer a beloved national hero, he lands on the cover of Time magazine as a traitor. Even worse, a film about him, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., tanks. Another episode has a self-loathing black man praying to get into white heaven. In "Guess Hoe's Coming to Dinner," Granddad dates a young gold digger who turns out to be a prostitute. And an episode poking fun at the R&B singer R. Kelly, who is facing child pornography charges, ends with Huey declaring, "We all know the nigga can sing, but what happened to standards?"

Mr. McGruder is unapologetic about the use of the N-word in his series - it appears more than 20 times in one episode, even. "I use it," he said. "A lot of young black people use it and a lot of old black people use it. At a certain point it starts to feel fake if you're not using it."

The furor over the word "speaks to how juvenile racial discourse is in this country," Mr. McGruder said.

Mr. Lazzo said he was not bothered by the provocative content of "The Boondocks." "I'm 47 and I grew up with 'All in the Family' and I remember that show made people laugh and think and that's what good television does," he said.

Still, Mr. McGruder is willing to make certain concessions to more delicate sensibilities. When Sony executives asked that he heavily edit an episode that featured Oprah Winfrey being kidnapped by two thugs, he did not protest. "They were scared of Oprah, which is O.K.," he said. "We should all have a healthy fear of Oprah."

"Oprah has the power to lay waste to entire industries with a mere utterance," Mr. McGruder said, quoting one his show's characters. "That's a power that you have to respect. And ultimately I respect it."

That doesn't mean he's gotten softer, though; he views the very suggestion as a kind of trap. "The same people that question me about getting soft to get me to say something crazy about Oprah will turn around and be like, 'Look at what this crazy fool just said about Oprah!'"

Standing just over 5 feet 7, Mr. McGruder is a slight, handsome man with small features and slim hands. Dressed in jeans, a Stevie Wonder T-shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, the cartoonist could easily pass for a bookish high school sophomore. Unlike his alter ego, Huey, whose face is all furrowed brow and self-righteous scowl, Mr. McGruder is quick to smile. One afternoon this month, he was brimming with opinions. Mr. McGruder on Senator Barack Obama's chances of ever sitting in the Oval Office: "He's not even going to be able to smell the White House unless he's a member of Skull and Bones or any of those close-knit secret societies that really aren't so secret anymore." Regarding the rapper Kanye West's recent remark that Mr. Bush doesn't care about black people: "If you're black and you don't know that by now, you're in trouble. I think it's time that poor whites start realizing that George Bush doesn't care about them either and he will let them die too."

Those who work with Mr. McGruder say that his passion for politics is infectious. "Since meeting Aaron," Ms. King said, "I've started listening to NPR. He inspires you to want to go out and learn more."

Born on the South Side of Chicago and raised in the middle-class suburb of Columbia, Md., an area that bears more than a passing resemblance to the bucolic Boondocks, Mr. McGruder began drawing as a child. In high school he listened intently to the black nationalist-inspired rhymes of rap groups like Public Enemy, X-Clan and Poor Righteous Teachers. During his years as an African-American studies major at the University of Maryland, Mr. McGruder said, he flirted with the idea of becoming "a spokesman for the people." The life expectancy of that gig, however, proved an insurmountable deterrent. "Usually if you're doing that job well, you're dead by 34, which is not in my plans," he said.

Instead, he set out to create a spokesman who could not be assassinated: an adorable, opinionated, elementary school kid with not-so-elementary insights about race, class and culture. The first person to put "The Boondocks" in print was a college student named Jayson Blair, who was then editor of The Diamondback, the campus paper at the University of Maryland. Mr. McGruder proudly recalled persuading Mr. Blair to pay him $30 per strip, $17 more than his fellow cartoonists were receiving at the time. Years later, Mr. Blair, hired by this paper and then resigned after fabricating stories, would be lampooned in the strip he help put on the map. "You can actually look at Jayson Blair and say, 'Wow, you set black people back,' " Mr. McGruder said, shaking his head. "A lot of people are accused of that, but he actually did it."

"The Boondocks" went national in 1999 and its creator quickly became a personality. Books of his cartoons, like "Birth of a Nation" and "A Right to Be Hostile," soon followed.

This is not the first time Mr. McGruder has tried to turn his strip into a television show. From the fall of 2003 to the summer of 2004, he worked on a six-minute pilot for Fox. He described the process in a word: "hellish." "It was an incredibly difficult time for me," he said. "I was worked half to death all the time. I was a zombie. I was mean. I was miserable."

Mr. McGruder said he had seriously contemplated walking away from his strip. Or getting himself fired: "I didn't want to quit, but if they threw me out then I'm a martyr," he reasoned. As it turned out, however, the angrier and more frustrated he grew, the better his work got. "Going as far as I can with my own creative instincts has generally only paid off," he said with a rueful shrug.

When Fox passed on the show, Mr. Lazzo contacted the cartoonist and asked to look at the pilot. "It felt networky," Mr. Lazzo recalled. "Aaron's voice felt watered down." Because cable is less restrictive, he said, "we were able to say, 'Make the show you want to make, Aaron.' "

These days it is not uncommon for Mr. McGruder and his illustrator, Carl Jones, to write a week's worth of comic strips in one day. "We're juggling so many things," Mr. Jones said. "You have no idea how crazy it can get." Already Cartoon Network has asked Mr. McGruder for another season of scripts. When not working on the strip or the series, Mr. McGruder is fiddling with a movie script about black fighter pilots in World War II.

Friends and family rarely see him. "Sometimes he works so hard, he gets sick," Ms. King said. "Like a big sister, I'm always asking Aaron if he's getting any sleep." The answer, he said, is not yet. "I made the decision early on that I was going to work myself to death now, so that I don't have to wait until 65 to enjoy my life," Mr. McGruder said. "I'm trying to live well, and there is no freedom in America if you're economically bound to the system."

 
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