7/31/2008

Groundbreaking anchor Simpson honored at UNITY


By Talia Whyte

Originally published in the Bay State Banner

CHICAGO — Former television anchor Carole Simpson was honored last week by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) for her pioneering career and support of women journalists worldwide.

The ceremony was part of the annual UNITY: Journalists of Color convention. More than 6,000 journalists attended the convention to discuss ways to increase diversity in the newsroom.

Maureen Bunyan is a founding member of both the IWMF and the National Association of Black Journalists, one of the four associations that make up UNITY. She started her broadcast career in Boston at WGBH in 1970. She said she has been inspired over the years by Simpson’s work.

“She is the reason we are all here,” Bunyan said. “She has put herself on the line to fight for women in the newsroom.”

Simpson spent her broadcast career breaking down both racial and gender barriers in the industry. When she took over hosting duties on the Sunday edition of ABC’s “World News Tonight” in 1988, she became the first black woman to anchor a national news program.

During her time at ABC, Simpson co-anchored ABC’s live coverage of Nelson Mandela’s release from his 27-year imprisonment and moderated the second presidential debate between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Today, she teaches journalism at Emerson College and also runs the Carole Simpson Leadership Institute at the African Women’s Media Center in Senegal. She created in the institute in 1998 to help African women journalists gain the necessary skills to stay competitive in the media world.

“I am so touched by the African women,” Simpson said after receiving her honor. “We talk about satellites here, but some of them don’t even have typewriters, and yet they do such incredible work.”

Simpson has also set up several high school and college scholarships for women and minorities pursuing careers in broadcast journalism.

Simpson’s career has opened doors for other well-known journalists of color, including CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien, who was also present at the ceremony.

O’Brien, a Harvard graduate who started her broadcast career as a news writer for WBZ-TV, said she works tirelessly to bring more diverse programming to the cable news network.

During a diversity workshop for CNN employees last year, O’Brien said she was disturbed that all the panelists were white men. After the workshop, she had many discussions with CNN executives about how to increase the network’s diversity, both in front of and behind the camera.

Those discussions led to the highly publicized four-hour documentary series “Black in America,” a look at multiple aspects of contemporary African American life that premiered last week. O’Brien said “Black in America” is the highest-rated documentary series in CNN’s history, and there is potential to produce more programs in the series.

“You have to have good grounding in this business,” O’Brien said. “We have to take every opportunity to make sure everyone’s voice is being represented.”

While many of the ceremony’s attendees were excited to talk to O’Brien about the series and her career, the focus remained on Simpson. Many said they were inspired by her call to help all women journalists, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

“We need to work for women all over the world,” Simpson said. “There is much more work to be done, and I am happy to lead women in the future.”

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No free speech during Beijing Olympics


"Shocking" news out of Beijing yesterday:

From BBC News:

Journalists covering the Beijing Olympic Games will not have completely uncensored access to the internet, Chinese and Olympic officials say.

Sites related to spiritual group Falun Gong would be blocked, officials said. Journalists also found they could not see some news or human rights websites...

...On Tuesday, they were unable to access the website of Amnesty International as it released a report criticising China's human rights record.

Some international news pages and sites that dealt with issues such as Tibet were also inaccessible, journalists said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao confirmed that websites relating to the Falun Gong spiritual movement were blocked.

"As to sites related to Falun Gong, I think you know that Falun Gong is a cult that has been banned according to law, and we will adhere to our position," he told a news conference on Tuesday.


A group of journalism students from my alma mater is currently in Beijing covering the Olympics, and they have a blog, updating readers on what they see. I wonder if they too are having problems viewing certain websites.

I wonder if this website is banned in China...

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7/30/2008

Civil Rights 2.0 is live and creates conflict


Description: The battle between old and new media made its way to Chicago last week at the Unity Convention, a gathering attended by over 6,000 journalists of color. The dramatic events surrounding the case of the Jena Six, the name referring to a group of six African American teenagers charged with beating a white teenager in Jena, Louisiana in 2006, culminated when an estimated 20,000 activists gathered in the small town in support of the six teens in September. By many the mass protest is now considered the largest demonstration in the post-civil rights era. The case highlighted the shift towards digital activism as a tool for African Americans in their continued struggle for civil rights in the United States.

Tools Discussed: Radio and Blogs

What Is The Debate: During a workshop examining Jena Six's legacy radio talk show host Tom Joyner said that black radio was used by civil rights leaders like Dr Martin Luther King to organize supporters of ending racial segregation. Joyner added that because he has an audience of eight million, he played a large role in mobilizing Jena 6 activists. However, blogger Jimi Izrael argued that the Afrosphere, a group of politically active black bloggers who feel left out of the mainstream media, was actually more influential in informing the world about the case.

Last November there was a contentious fight between black radio and the black blogosphere when radio talk show host Michael Baisden accused the internet activist group Color of Change of not appropriately distributing donated funds to help pay the legal fees for the Jena Six. However, when the organization proved its financial legitimacy, Baisden apologized. Color of Change continues to raises funds for the young men through its Jena Six Defense Fund online.

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7/29/2008

Doha: the same song again


All bad news out of Geneva tonight:

From BBC News:

[World Trade Organization head]Pascal Lamy confirmed the failure, which officials have blamed on China, India and the US failing to agree on import rules.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said the result was "heartbreaking".

The talks were launched in 2001 in Doha and were seen as providing a cornerstone for future global trade.

The main stumbling block was farm import rules, which allow countries to protect poor farmers by imposing a tariff on certain goods in the event of a drop in prices or a surge in imports.

India, China and the US could not agree on the tariff threshold for such an event.

Washington said that the "safeguard clause" protecting developing nations from unrestricted imports had been set too low.


Again, what else is there to say? I have all but given up on fair trade for the rest of the world.

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Watch Trouble the Water!


Last Friday I got to see a sneak preview of the upcoming film, Trouble The Water, an excellent piece of journalism!

From the producers of Fahrenheit 9/11, the documentary is the first film that actually documents life in New Orleans two days before and two weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the area and devastated the lives of many with the use of camcorders. There have been many films about Katrina, but this film really touched me, mainly because it was entirely coming from the viewpoint of Katrina survivors. Trouble the Water talks about some unresolved issues that have since been replaced by other things in the mainstream media, like the problematic response from the government on all levels and the emotional well-being of survivors.

In the next few weeks the mainstream media will put its now annual spotlight on New Orleans to reflect on yet another anniversary of Katrina's catastrophe for about a minute. But this film exhibits why the Gulf region needs to remain in our minds year round.

Trouble the Water opens nationwide August and September.

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7/28/2008

Summer Diversions: Music Inferno

Hey, you can't go wrong with Madonna.

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7/27/2008

Unity '08: Final Notes


And, no, I didn't stay to see Barack Obama address the Unity Convention this morning.

Originally it was suppose to be a debate between McCain and Obama on Thursday evening. But because of Obama's decision to travel abroad, the speech was moved to this morning, and McCain declined to attend today. Of course, I purchased my airline tickets two months ago, and unless Unity or Obama himself were going to pay the fee to change to a later flight, I had to stick to my plan of getting home by Sunday afternoon. When I get a chance to watch his speech, I will give my full analysis here.

While many Unity attendees may think Obama's speech was the highlight of the week, for me, it was an opportunity to gain professional development through some of the best journalists of color. I left Chicago this morning feeling confident about the contacts for potential writing opportunities I made there. You might see my byline in a few more publications in the near future...Stay tuned.

I am also happy to see that I have gained quite a few more readers in the last two days from Senegal. I hope you all will continue to find this space to be of interest and want to participate in the conversation by leaving comments.

Unlike Senegal, I actually believe in free speech.

Speaking of which, Friday evening I took a cab back to my hotel. My taxi driver just so happened to be a Senegalese immigrant named Adele. Although it was only a five-minute drive, I ended up staying in the cab for 20 minutes, talking to the gentleman about that day's events regarding his country's president.

Adele was distressed about the human rights violations occurring under President Wade. However, he was even more disheartened that African Americans were embracing him.

"Nobody in Senegal likes Wade, but these black journalists in America invite him to this conference," he said. "I don't get it."

I'm not sure if I get it either. I was in the workshop where President Wade was presenting. Before Wade spoke NABJ President Barbara Ciara defended the organization's invitation.

From Unity News:

“Why did we invite President Bush? “ NABJ President Barbara Ciara. “Why did we invite (former Secretary of State) Colin Powell? Why did we invite (former National Security Adviser) Condoleezza Rice? Why do we invite any world leader?


While my knowledge of NABJ's relationship with the Wade administration is limited, I do know that attendees of this workshop, including myself, didn't feel good about what occurred. I am hoping that Friday's kerfuffle will persuade NABJ to re-evaluate it's relationship with him. Specifically, if Wade's "supporters" are brazen enough to attack an opponent in public - in the United States - one can only imagine what these same supporters would have done to this journalist in Senegal.

I realize that NABJ wants to build a deeper bond with the African Diaspora, but should it be at the expense of suppressing press freedom.

Black journalism is built on the legacy of advancing social justice. Heros like Marcus Garvey, Ida B Wells, Frederick Douglass and William Worthy led the way for future journalists. Thank goodness Roland Martin put President Wade in the hot seat, but who are the other journalists of color who are so brave today?

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Radical Music Videos: George Michael

A group of us will be seeing George Michael in concert tonight. Say what you will about him, this man still has it.

Asked in a recent interview about reading the tabloid reports about himself:

"No. Nothing you read about me is true. If there isn't a picture of me and if I haven't been arrested, it's not true..."

Spoken like a true gentleman.

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7/26/2008

Unity'08: BET finally seeing the light?


Black Entertainment Television (BET) hosted a "lunch 'n' learn" session today at the Unity Convention. So here is the joke: the discussion for the session was about the media's role in violence in communities of color.

Talk about calling the kettle black...

Okay, so you all know how I feel about BET, as you might have read my many posts, including my most recent post. But just to sum up, BET supports criminal behavior through its programming, namely music videos.

Apparently, according to BET CEO Debra Lee, the network was invited by Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley, in light of recent street violence in that city as well as around the country.

Debra Lee is in denial.

"BET is committed to the anti-violence movement," Lee said during the lunch.

BET host Jeff Johnson (who is conveniently hosting a new show on BET next month) moderated a panel of community activists and journalists, who all seem to somehow discuss how the media influences youth of color without even addressing the elephant in the room.

Finally, when the discussion was opened up to the audience, one brave, young woman got up and put BET in there place. She too noticed the idiocy of BET hosting such a discussion. Thankfully, she got rousing applauds from the audience.

Jeff Johnson's response:

"As a network we are shifting our programming, but we are also trying to change our programming by doing more of these discussions... We are also working with the [National Association of Black Journalists] on this issue."

Johnson also indicated that it is up to the audience to view the new programming, as ratings determine what programming will stay on.

He is right that the media is driven by advertising dollars, but at what cost? I should say that I didn't stay for the whole lunch, as I had to run to another workshop, so I don't know if there was further discussion on BET's role. When the lunch was announced by Unity, I actually wrote an email to Unity, asking if some of the panelists were going to at least put BET on the hot seat.

I never got a response...

We will see if there are any changes at the network in the near future, but I wouldn't hold my breath...

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Summer Diversions: Summertime

It is time to take a break from all that brings outrage to all of us for a moment and enjoy summer!

No better way to do than with the classic video by rapper-turned-actor Will Smith.

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7/25/2008

Unity '08: Democracy in Senegal?


Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade spoke today at the Unity Convention on the effects of climate change in Africa. However, his speech was disrupted by protesters who believed that he was suppressing press freedom in his own country.

One protester seated in the audience got up and shouted at Wade. Wade's security attacked the man and forced him out of the room. After the scuffle, all Wade could say was:

"I am accustomed to this in France and Senegal."

Following his speech, CNN contributor Roland Martin asked him about the complaints of human rights abuses against journalists in his country. Wade said that the people complaining about his rule are not "real journalists" including the Committee to Protect Journalists, one of Wade's most vocal opponents.

He went on to say that "I am a protector of journalists."

(Unless you criticize him, of course)

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of Wade's security people hitting the protester, but I am sure someone else will have it. The above photo is of his "supporters," who were not asked to leave the room, although they made more of a ruckus than the protesters. But I think that says all you need to know about democracy in Senegal...

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Run, Cynthia, Run!

The crackpot err... Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney wants you to vote for her, or she will beat you. But seriously, while we might make fun of her, the platform she is running on is quite solid.

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7/24/2008

Unity '08: Senegalese Prez stirs it up


Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade is one of the high profile speakers at this year's Unity Convention, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Read this article about a group of Senegalese protesters angered by the lack of press freedom in their own country.

I will be attending his workshop, and will report on what he says. He is expected to discuss climate change, but I am hoping the moderator will at least force Wade to answer his critics.

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Unity '08: Where's the Ethnic Media?


Buy-out, lay-off and stressed out are common words so far at the Unity Convention here in Chicago. Many came to the conference to regain confidence that they might keep their newsroom jobs. But the reality is that most of the media outlets showcasing at the convention are simply not hiring. I saw many booth representatives taking resumes without giving direct answers as to whether they actually have jobs to offer.

Job cuts in America's newsroom have affected all journalists, but particularly journalists of color, as you can read in a previous post.

"When money gets tight in the newsroom, diversity hiring and training are the first to go," said Barbara Ciara, President of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). "We have to continue to argue that diversity shouldn't be just a line item in the budget."

While I agree that lacking diversity in the newsroom is a problem, I also noticed another problem at Unity. For all the talk of dying racial and ethnic voices in the mainstream media, there is hardly any representation from another dying voice - ethnic media. I understand that a convention of this magnitude couldn't happen without the corporate money, but as journalists of color we are obligated to help sustain ethnic media. Buried under all the corporate sponsorships from major media outlets, various black, Latino, Native American and Asian media outlets were sparse. Geez, I was hoping to at least see a booth for the Chicago Defender...

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Blacks need not apply in Beijing?


If black folks are not going to be outraged by the Chinese financing the atrocities in Darfur, maybe this will finally raise an eye brow.

From The South China Morning Post:

Bar owners near the Workers’ Stadium in central Beijing say they have been forced by Public Security Bureau officials to sign pledges agreeing not to let black people enter their premises….

Security officials are targeting Sanlitun, which Olympic organizers expect to be a key destination for foreign tourists looking for a party during the Games.

The pledges that Sanlitun bar owners had been instructed to sign agreed to stop a variety of activities in their establishments, including dancing and serving customers with black skin, they said.


It looks like Jim Crow has finally made its way across the Pacific...

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7/23/2008

Online activists take on Beijing Olympics


Description: The Beijing Olympics are coming up in a couple of weeks, and this has not gone unnoticed by human rights activists worldwide. They are using the international event to spotlight atrocities thousands of miles away in Darfur, which campaigners say is indirectly due in part to the Chinese government.

Tools Being Used: YouTube, e-petition

What Are They Doing:Switch Over to Darfur is an international initiative to bring attention to the many Olympic corporate sponsors who have not spoken out against China continuing to finance the Sudanese government. Some of the sponsors include Adidas, General Electric and Coca Cola. The campaign is not intended to boycott the Olympics, but rather the campaign say they "are urging the Olympic corporate sponsors to join [them] in pressuring the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and China to, in turn, press Sudan to ensure that there is immediate protection for civilians and humanitarian workers on the ground in Darfur well before the Games begin."

Supporters are asked to sign a petition on their website, pledging support for the campaign as well as read a message by actress Mia Farrow. The campaign has created the video below that speaks for itself.

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7/22/2008

Off to conventions this week...


Marjane and I will be attending the Blogging While Brown and Unity conventions respectively this week, and we will be reporting back to you on all the blood, sweat, tears, drama and triumphs of people of color working in both old and new media.

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7/21/2008

WTO Meeting: Who Cares?


The usual suspects are gathering this week in Geneva for another "feel good" opportunity to look like they care about the well being of the rest of the world.

From The International Herald Tribune:

Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization, has called a week-long meeting of ministers next month aimed at reaching a breakthrough deal on liberalizing global trade, officials and diplomats said Wednesday.

Since the so-called Doha trade round was started in 2001, talks have repeatedly become deadlocked because of disagreements between major trading powers like the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India.

The upcoming meeting is scheduled to be held over five days at WTO headquarters in Geneva starting July 21, with the goal of agreeing to specific tariff and subsidy cuts. Up to 40 countries are expected to attend.

Sean Spicer, the assistant U.S. trade representative, warned that important differences still remained between trading partners on the crucial areas of agriculture industrial goods and services, the areas on which the talks would focus.

But Spicer still said there was "an opportunity for success" over the coming weeks if other countries "work with the same spirit" and "make the same intensive efforts" as the United States.


Lets be clear: The United States only cares about providing an "opportunity for success" for itselft. This meeting is a waste of time, and nothing will be accomplished on behalf of the developing world as far as trade policy is concerned.

But lets pretend for a moment that the United States and the rest of the industrialized world does want to engage in fair trade:

From Oxfam America:

1) Act first. The US should put a new offer on the table that will reform US farm programs and cut real spending on agricultural subsidies that distort global trade. It should include tighter disciplines on the WTO "box" system of classifying trade-distorting subsidies in order to eliminate loopholes that permit unjustified spending. The 2008 Farm Bill was a step backward in this regard. The US should do much more to allow developing countries to enhance their domestic food production, and should do so before demanding concessions from developing countries.

2) Implement the WTO Brazil Cotton Case ruling. The WTO dispute body has ruled repeatedly that US cotton subsidies violate WTO law. Continued refusal to implement the ruling undermines the credibility of the US and, ultimately, the WTO itself as a forum for resolving trade disputes. The US must commit to reforming or reclassifying the direct payment program, reforming and effectively limiting trade-distorting cotton subsidies, repealing the new Step 2 Program, and fully reforming US export credit guarantee programs.

3) Stop demanding harsh reciprocity from poor countries. This is the WTO's Doha Development Round, not the Doha tit-for-tat round. Rich countries must stop demanding harsh concessions from developing countries in agricultural market access, nonagricultural market access, and services, especially when rich countries are unwilling to make real reforms to their agricultural support programs. Developing countries must retain the right to safeguard vulnerable livelihoods and promote development and food security.

4) Reform food aid. Stronger disciplines are needed at the WTO to ensure that food aid does not hurt developing country farmers or local markets. The US food aid program is an obstacle to reform at the WTO. While some minor advances were made in the new Farm Bill to use some funds for local and regional purchases, the US must go further at the WTO and move to cash food aid except in emergency cases in which there are shortages and in-kind donations from the US are most appropriate.

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7/20/2008

Harlem Book Fair '08 Round-up


One of the best things that I love about the Harlem Book Fair is that I get to be around other people who share my interests: book-browsing, writing, food, arts and crafts shopping and black radical thinking!

This year was no different. Yesterday, there was a greater sense of black unity with this being the 10th anniversary of the fair, as well as the feeling of pride around Barack Obama's presidential aspirations. Everywhere I looked I could find some wearing "Obama for President" and "Yes We Can" buttons.

But back to the subject of books, I was able to check out some fascinating programming on the current state of black literature. According to the organizers of the fair, it seems pretty grim.

"There is a myth that black folks don't read books or write books," said Dr Howard Dodson of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at Friday night's Wheatley Awards.

When the Harlem Book Fair commenced ten years ago, it only had six publishers lined up on 125th Street. Yesterday's fair had near 100 vendors and attracted over 50,000 attendees.

"You are the co-creators of the fair," said HBF founder Max Rodriquez to the audience Friday night. "Imagine if you weren't here."

I attended three great panel discussions that celebrated our greatest writers. Journalist/activist Herb Boyd moderated a panel on James Baldwin's legacy.

Panelist Amiri Baraka said that he learned about Baldwin through the book, Notes of a Native Son. While Baraka had a beef with Baldwin over his presence in Europe during racial upheaval in the United States during the 1960s, at Baldwin's funeral Baraka eulogized him as "God's revolutionary black voice."

"James Baldwin was the most impressive literary figure in my life," Baraka said.

Beverley Manley, the former wife of the late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, discussed her new book, The Manley Memoirs. Mrs. Manley is best known for being a staunch feminist who spoke her own truth during her husband's tenure.

"I wrote this book because I wanted to show that women can make it in patriarchal societies," she said. "It is amazing how I survived."

Finally, another great panel on the bicentennial of the U.S. abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. While Great Britain spent nearly $40 million last year on commemorations, this important anniversary went unnoticed in the United States. Despite Obama's unprecedented presidential campaign, Dodson said that Americans were in denial about talking about race.

"You can't know about your history without knowing about the slave trade," he said.

View all the panel discussions online at Book TV.

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Through honey deal, Hub J'cans give back


By Talia Whyte
Originally Published in The Bay State Banner

A group of enterprising Jamaican Americans living in Boston has taken the old maxim “charity begins at home” to heart — and they are using their resources to serve those less fortunate in their homeland.

The Boston Diaspora Ventures LLC entered into a collaborative agreement with the All Island Bee Farmers Association (AIBFA) last month to help reinvigorate honey production in the Caribbean nation for international distribution. The idea for the venture came from a number of Jamaicans living here who felt they need to give back.

“Many of us in the Jamaican Diaspora came together about eight years ago and wanted to do something back home,” said Kenneth Guscott, honorary consul to Jamaica for Massachusetts. “Jamaica is rich in resources, but it doesn’t have the resources and the connections to get things done. This is where we came in.”

Guscott first traveled with a group of other Bostonians to the Jamaican parish of Manchester to help build wind farms. With a background in nuclear engineering, Guscott acted as a pro bono consultant on making the windmills a success.

The windmill project proved to be so successful that the group decided to form the Boston Diaspora Ventures two years later and work on more projects designed to benefit the whole island, including opportunities to utilize Jamaica’s vast agricultural resources.

Guscott said that while Jamaica’s abundance of natural resources give it the chance to compete in the global market, backlogged loans to financial institutions like World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have stifled the island’s economy.

Guscott’s group met with Jamaican officials about refurbishing a honey-processing factory that was already being run by an Argentine company. Since that company didn’t have anyone to run the factory, the Boston Diaspora group stepped in and hired its own crew, including Ivy Lawson, a Jamaican-born industrial engineer living in Boston, who was tapped to run the factory.

“[Lawson] moved down to Jamaica in January and she is working to bring the plant up to international standards for distribution,” Guscott said. “We hope to start selling honey in the United States and Europe around Thanksgiving.”

Nearly 100 bee farmers who are already part of the association will benefit from the partnership, according to Guscott. At first, however, some worried that an alliance with American business would create anxiety about possible exploitation of workers in the developing world by those in power in an industrialized country. To quell these fears, an agreement was reached that enables the association to earn 50 percent of revenues, while the Boston Diaspora group gets the other 50 percent. In addition, a school will be built to train bee farmers, who will be given a stipend upon graduation to start farming themselves.

Guscott hopes the bee farming project will help stimulate employment in Jamaica, where many areas are experiencing increased violence and crime due to a lack of stable employment for young people.

“This program will give opportunities to those youth,” he said. “I want to help them, just like people helped me when I was younger.”

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7/19/2008

Media Blackout on Vincent Bugliosi?


Speaking of books...

A Canadian investor wants to support the film version of Vincent Bugliosi's controversial book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, which has now reached the New York Times Bestseller List, although the newspaper has not reviewed it.

From The Winsor Star:

...it has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media in the U.S., said
Peter Miller, Bugliosi's literary manager.

"We were blacklisted from the media for about six weeks," said Miller.

"We didn't have one blurb or quote on this book, nor did we have one review. It's extremely unusual, particularly in regard to someone of Mr. Bugliosi's calibre."

"So he's not a left-wing nut -- he's arguably the most famous prosecutor in America with the greatest track record."

Bugliosi's publicists "had arranged originally for Vanity Fair to do a story on this, and Vanity Fair dropped out," said Miller. "Then Newsweek was going to do an essay, and at the last minute they dropped out. The New York Times has not reviewed this book -- there's an obvious blacklisting because Vince is a force in publishing."


Thanks in part to liberal bloggers, this book was able to take off.

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7/18/2008

Harlem Book Fair 2008!

We are heading down to New York City today to attend the 10th annual Harlem Book Fair, the largest black-oriented literary event in the United States. This is a great event for those of you who support the future of literacy and cultural sustainability in the African Diaspora.
If you can't come to New York this weekend, you can still participate by watching it on Book TV. Scheduled authors to appear include activist Amiri Baraka, journalists Herb Boyd and Cora Daniels and former Jamaican first lady Beverley Manley.

Of course, Global Wire will be reporting on this year's participating authors as well as the hottest topics in black arts and letters.

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7/17/2008

No Emmy Love for 'The Wire'


No surprises out of Hollywood this morning...

From CNN:

...HBO's "The Wire" -- which concluded its fifth and final season this year -- once again came up empty in the best drama nominations. It did receive one nod, for writing.

The series, though much praised and dissected by a hard-core group of fans, has received little recognition from the Emmys, with just one nomination -- also for writing -- in 2005.


Of course, the writing nomination doesn't really mean anything. This is another example of one America denying that another America exists. Read my article on why 'Wire' creater David Simon thinks the show never got the high ratings of other HBO programs received.

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S. African authors speak out on Africa's woes, triumphs


By Talia Whyte

Originally published in The Bay State Banner


South African activists and writers Elinor Sisulu and Sindiwe Magona came to Boston last week to participate in a series of seminars to celebrate the children’s literature of their home country. The seminars were part of the 10th anniversary festivities for South Africa Partners, a Boston-based nonprofit organization that supports relations between the U.S. and South Africa through education and health initiatives.

In one of those initiatives, according to Sisulu, for every book donated to South Africa Partners, the organization will purchase an additional book written by a South African author, which will then be distributed to children throughout South Africa. Sisulu said she supports the effort because it aims both to support the South African economy and enable children in her country to read more books written by native authors.

“Many well-meaning people send books to Africa, but most of them are not culturally appropriate for our children,” Sisulu said. “Children should read about their own culture and see themselves.”

Sisulu is the author of “The Day Gogo Went to Vote,” a children’s book about a grandmother who is determined to go to her local polling place in the first election allowing black South Africans to vote. Magona is the author of 18 children’s books, including “The Best Meal Ever!” and “Life is a Hard but Beautiful Thing.”

Magona said that South Africa’s education system is suffering because the government doesn’t provide equal support for students at all age levels or those learning in different languages. She also said she finds it discouraging that today’s youth use the Internet, instead of traditional storytelling from their elders, to gain information about their culture.

“During apartheid, we had our languages and storytelling,” she said. “Now that we are free, South Africa is like America during slavery. Our children are being prevented from an education and their history.”


Education in South Africa garnered international attention last year when the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls opened outside of Johannesburg. The boarding school was established to increase opportunity for South African girls who had shown academic talent and leadership skills, but came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.


The school has received praise from some, including former South African President Nelson Mandela, but has also been criticized by many who say they are displeased that it only caters to the needs of a small number of children.

“Oprah’s school is great, but doesn’t make a dent,” Sisulu said. “It doesn’t begin to address the problems in South Africa. No one can really say that education in South Africa will be improved by Oprah.”

The educational and social problems in South Africa have been compounded recently by woes throughout the continent, especially in neighboring Zimbabwe.

As the official mediator appointed to deal with Zimbabwe by the Southern African Development Community, South African President Thabo Mbeki has faced heavy criticism for taking what many believe to be a soft stance against the actions of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who was declared the winner of the nation’s runoff election last month. Many in the international community have questioned the legitimacy of Mugabe’s victory, calling the June 27 runoff neither free nor fair.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March presidential election, but not the majority required to avoid a runoff. He withdrew from the second contest after weeks of military-orchestrated violence left dozens of his supporters dead, thousands severely beaten and thousands more homeless as they were chased from villages, fled attacks or had their houses burned down.

Sisulu was in Zimbabwe last April and said she was disturbed by the poverty and political corruption that have taken over the country.

“As a human rights activist, I believe in speaking out against injustice,” Sisulu said. “Not speaking out against Mugabe goes against everything the anti-apartheid movement stood for.”
Magona said she is particularly concerned about the silence from many African leaders and African Americans on the problems in Zimbabwe. While she is happy that the African Union (AU) strongly opposed the establishment of the United States African Command (AFRICOM) military base, Magona is disappointed that the same anger has not also been directed toward Mugabe, saying that the AU has evolved into a “friendship club.”

“There are no standards in the AU anymore,” Magona said. “Mugabe gets support from them because he skillfully talks about himself as anti-Western and anti-imperialist. As an individual, do I want Mugabe as a leader? No, I do not. What does he stand for?”

As the political and economic problems worsen in Africa, Magona feels good that change is in the air in the White House, and hopes Africa can have a better relationship with the United States in the near future.


“We are excited about [Democratic presidential contender Barack] Obama, not because he is black, but there is a chance that he would want to have a better engagement with the world,” Magona said. “He is a good role model, and he makes us feel proud to be black.”
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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7/16/2008

Obama-mania goes overeas


Description: Presumptive U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama will be traveling to Europe and the Middle East later this week to meet with opinion leaders and supporters. Most importantly Obama will be rallying Democrats living overseas. Nearly six million American expatriates living in over 90 countries are eligible to vote in the November election, according to the Associated Press. Obamaholics worldwide are taking the opportunity to get out the vote for their man.

Tools Being Used: Facebook, social networks

What Are They Doing: Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party organization for the millions of Americans living outside the United States. They are using their Facebook page to inform supporters about the latest political news and reminders about registering to vote. American expatriates for Obama in Jordan and France have set up Meetup pages to reminder supports about upcoming Obama meetings.

"As an American it really warms my heart to see the support for Obama across the world. He is a once in a lifetime leader!" said Jason Bell on the Hong Kong for Obama Facebook page.

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7/15/2008

Fear of the Black Woman's Hair


Now we have all heard about the controversial cover of the latest New Yorker. The cable news talking heads spent most of yesterday criticizing the magazine for "satirizing" Sen. Barack Obama by dressing him as a Muslim militant with the American flag burning in the fireplace and a portrait of Osama bin Laden's likeness on the wall.

But very little has been said about Michelle Obama's portrayal. While I agree that magazine covers are much ado about nothing, as previously noted, I do find this cover to be particularly interesting in how the mainstream media views black women. As you can see, Mrs Obama is wearing military fatigues with a rifle strapped to her back. Most important, she is sporting an Afro.

Again, while the magazine says that it was "satirizing" the Obamas, it is very clear that in this society black women are still judged by the their hairstyles.

Natural black hair (Afros, dreadlocks, braids) has always been demonized and seen as a sign of non-conformist behavior compared to Western ideals of long straight hair. Last year a editor at Glamor got in hot water for saying that natural black hair was unattractive and unprofessional.

The following are terms I have heard about hairstyles over the years:

Natural hair = angry, militant, uncivilized, ugly, too black
Straight hair = nice, genial, civilized, beautiful, competent

Oh, what do they know. While I don't wear my hair naturally myself (by personal choice, not political), there have been a lot of really cool chicks I admire who have gone au natural without shame.







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7/14/2008

Everything thats wrong with US health care


It was determined that Esmin Green, the Jamaican immigrant whose final moments of life lying on a hospital floor were caught on a surveilance tape, died of a blood clot.

From CNN:

Green's autopsy reveals that she died from pulmonary thromboemboli -- blood clots that formed in her legs and eventually made their way into her lungs, according to Ellen Borakove, the medical examiner's spokeswoman. The clots came from deep vein thrombosis, which complicated Green's chronic paranoid schizophrenia.

Many people afflicted with deep vein thrombosis are unaware they have the condition, but symptoms including pain or swelling in the leg or shortness of breath.

Drugs that stop the clots from forming can help and can also prevent existing clots from growing larger. Doctors recommend that people with deep vein thrombosis avoid long periods of inactivity and frequently exercise their legs during long trips.

After the security videos were released, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which oversees the hospital, said it was "shocked and distressed by this situation. It is clear that some of our employees failed to act based on our compassionate standards of care."


I bet when the Green family wins their lawsuit against the hospital, they are really going to feel shocked and distressed.

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7/13/2008

Radical Music Videos: Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield made a name for herself as a so-called "blue-eyed soul" songstress back in the day. Here is one of my favorite Dusty songs.

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7/12/2008

G8 final notes: The song remains the same


Earlier this week the 34th G8 Summit concluded in Hokkaido, Japan. While leaders from the industrialized world feel that progress was made at the gathering, anti-globalization activists thought it was business as usual. Here are some thoughts:

"I had no great expectations from this summit meeting, but I was willing to
be surprised. However, the statements from the G8 ministers on issues of world
economy, food security, climate change. etc, only reinforced my greatest fear
that they continue to insist on their single-minded focus on pushing through
with trade liberalization at any cost. Their commitments on those topics are
ambiguous and not real commitments. What comes out most clearly is their bias
for pushing the market, opening up economies, and their eagerness to find
investment opportunities, even in times of crisis and protecting these
investments, at every instance.

I find most disturbing the mention of their urgency of “concluding the
DOHA round” to solve the food crisis, as well as to stave off the financial
crisis of their economies, and their unequivocal admission that they are going
to “resist protectionist pressures against international trade and investments
in all its manifestations”, without an equally strong commitment to consider the
concerns of developing countries. This poses the clearest and biggest obstacle
to the right to development of developing countries."

NPR's "Tell Me More" had a great segment on its show yesterday, with guest Nigerian journalist Constance Ikokwu also speaking about why the developing world needs fair trade not aid.

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7/11/2008

China, China - The world is watching you!

Are you pumped for the Beijing Olympics? If you read this site regularly, probably not. For those of you, including President Bush, who still don't understand why China was a bad choice to hold the summer games, please watch the video below.



Attention fellow black folks:

Please read Debra Dickerson's article and my post on why the African Diaspora should organize against China.

Also, please sign this petition, pledging to not watch and support corporate sponsors that buy television advertisments during the Olympics.

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7/10/2008

'AfroPop" brings African Diaspora together through film and Internet


By Talia Whyte

Originally published in The Bay State Banner

The advent of new media tools have made the world a smaller place, and the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) is taking advantage of what it considers an opportunity with its new series, “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Program.”

The three-week program, premiering for Boston audiences Sunday night on WGBX Channel 44, shows documentary films that examine and celebrate different aspects of black identity as they are expressed around the world. The films also provide an alternative view of the African Diaspora rarely seen in the mainstream media.

Filmmaker Regi Allen was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University when he traveled five years ago with a group of other African Americans from Pittsburgh to Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast to make “10 Days in Africa,” the premiere film in the “AfroPoP” series. The trip, he says, was a soul-searching experience not only for himself, but also for the people he met.

“It was a personal journey for me,” Allen said. “The trip brought down barriers … Connecting with Africa is important to me because the only thing I saw about Africa before the trip was AIDS and war.”

Misperceptions were on both sides.

“… And many Africans think African Americans are rich and didn’t have any connection with the continent,” he said.

“AfroPoP” will be hosted by someone who knows a little something about transcending identities — actor Idris Elba. Born to West African parents in London, Elba now lives in the United States, where he is one of Hollywood’s rising stars and perhaps best known for his role as Stringer Bell on the critically acclaimed HBO series “The Wire.” He says he was ecstatic when he was asked to take on hosting duties.

“I loved the idea of cultural exposure,” Elba said in a recent interview with the Banner. “I love truth. Many of the images we get are so slanted. I relished the opportunity to give accurate accounts of African life and true African interests.”

The NBPC sees “AfroPoP” as not only an opportunity to share some of the best documentaries being produced by the industry’s young black filmmakers, but also a chance for those displaced in the African Diaspora to talk to each other about commonalities.

“Hip Hop Revolution,” another “AfroPoP” film, examines how hip-hop culture has become a worldwide phenomenon, transcending black and colored communities in Cape Town, South Africa. South African filmmaker Weaam Williams says she wanted to show that just as black and Latino youth used hip-hop to speak out about urban blight during the 1980s, young South Africans also rhymed about the detrimental effects of apartheid during that same time period.

“I was inspired by the hip-hop artists in my community,” Williams said. “I wanted to show in my film that hip-hop is international. I also think there is a creative resurgence in Africa, and I wanted to tap into that.”

Elba agreed that hip-hop is universal, as well as infectious. When he is not acting in film and television he finds time to put on his other hat as DJ Driss to spin records at night clubs all around the country.

He actually started out as a DJ when he came to the United States in order to pay the bills while auditioning for acting roles. Now that his acting career has taken off, he continues to DJ for fun these days.

“I fell in love with hip-hop during the mid-80s,” he said. “There was this radio DJ in London, Dave Pierce, who had started an on-air freestyle battle. It became really popular and hard to call into. I got through and didn’t win, but was hooked on the music and making the music ever since.”

The NBPC is the leading provider of black-oriented programming on PBS. It has also been on the forefront of using new media to reach the public.

The organization hosted a new media training session last year working with WGBH in Jackson, Miss., where filmmakers could learn about implementing digital technology into their projects.

“AfroPoP” viewers can view segments of the films and interviews with the filmmakers online at www.blackpublicmedia.org, and can also leave comments and start conversations about them as well.

The series is just one example of how blacks around the world are connecting with each other.

Such discussions have seen an unprecedented spike this year due in part to the presidential aspirations of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, whom many members of the African Diaspora find inspiring and have embraced.

“First off, I want to say he’s a good leader who happens to be black, rather than a black leader who happens to be good,” Elba said. ”I feel politics is politics — it really has no color. He’s a dynamic person who is bringing a wind of change and happens to identify with who I am.”

“AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Program” premieres Sunday, July 13 at 7 p.m. on WGBX Channel 44.

For more information, visit www.blackpublicmedia.org, or www.wgbh.org

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7/09/2008

Anti G8 protests go online


Description: World leaders concluded talks today at the 34th G8 Summit on key topics such as global poverty, rising food and oil prices, climate change and political stability in Africa and Asia. The gathering took place on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido with overwhelming police presence to prevent anti-globalization protests that have turned violent at past summits. Nonetheless, protestors took to the blogosphere instead to express their grievances with international policies.

Tools Being Used: Blogs

What Are They Doing: In past years anti-globalization activists have complained that the mainstream media doesn't cover their protests about why they think the Group of 8 doesn't work in the best interest of the rest of the world. As a result, there have been many examples of important citizen journalism over the last couple of days documenting the "Alternative G8 Summits." Photojournalist Linus Guardian Escandor has posted his photos of Filipino protestors rallying in front of the Japanese embassy in Manila on Monday. Socialist Aotearoa and Oread Daily have posted videos, photos and testimonies of varies protests taking place in Tokyo on their blogs. The Socialist Party of Australia has been keeping readers up to date with blog reports of police violence against protestors.

“There are so many police officers, asking for your license, where you are going and what you are up to,” said Filipino activist Renato M. Reyes. “The G8 are very afraid of people criticizing them. They are afraid because they feel guilty about something.”

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7/08/2008

No aid for Katrina victims 3 years on


Just in case you needed more proof that the U.S. government continues to screw over the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita three years laters...

From CNN:

Last month, CNN revealed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had stored $85 million worth of household items in warehouses for two years. Instead of giving the supplies to victims of the 2005 hurricane, FEMA declared them surplus and gave them all away to federal agencies and 16 states in February.

The state of Louisiana -- the most hard-hit by the storm -- had not asked for any of the supplies, prompting outrage in the community after the original CNN report.

CNN's investigation showed that Mississippi was one of the 16 states that took the FEMA supplies, but it did not distribute them to Katrina victims.

Jim Marler, director of Mississippi's surplus agency, failed to return repeated phone calls over several months to explain what happened.

Agency spokeswoman Kym Wiggins said, "There may be a need, but we were not notified that there was a great need for this particular property."

That doesn't sit well with most aid groups in Mississippi. "You would have to be living under a rock not to know there is still a need," said Cass Woods, the project coordinator of Coastal Women for Change...

...Bill Stallworth, executive director of the Hope Coordination Center in Biloxi that helps rehouse Katrina victims, said he's astounded that the supplies were given away.

Stallworth and other community leaders said if they had known the FEMA items were available, they would have begged for them.

"And when I hear people stand up and just beat their chest and say we've got everything under control, that's when I just want to slap them upside the head and say, 'Get a grip, get a life,' " said Stallworth, who is also a Biloxi city councilman.

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7/07/2008

Cocaine is a hellava drug


The United Nations put the latest report on the international drug trade last week:

From 2008 World Drug Report:

The drug problem is being contained but there are warning signs that the stabilization which has occurred over the last few years could be in danger. Notable amongst these is the increase in both opium poppy and coca cultivation in 2007, some growth in consumption in developing countries and some development of new trafficking patterns. There have also been encouraging contractions in some of the main consumer markets. This year, almost one hundred years since the Shanghai Opium Commission in 1909, the Report presents an historical review of the development of the international drug control system.


While Richard Nixon coined the term in 1971, in the United States the War on Drugs really started in 1880 after agreement with China to stop importation of opium. Today the United States spends an estimated $12 billion on "drug control" and another $30 billion on incarcerating drug offenders.

But as we all know, drug offences disproportionately affect the poor and people of color in this country.

From the Sentencing Project:

The enormous racial disparity in who goes to prison also surrounds the crack cocaine sentencing debate. Over 80 percent of the men and women serving time for federal crack cocaine offenses are African American, despite the fact that two-thirds of crack users are white or Hispanic. The strategy of the war on drugs has largely targeted black and minority communities, so Congress’s mandatory penalties have a disproportionate impact on people of color. The Sentencing Commission’s own findings conclude that reducing the mandatory sentences for crack cocaine would lessen racial disparity in federal prisons and improve public perceptions of fairness within the criminal justice system.

Momentum has emerged over the last year to address the hastily passed law. At the end of last year, a U.S. Supreme Court decision acknowledged the legitimacy of the crack cocaine sentencing controversy and the Sentencing Commission amended the sentencing guidelines governing crack cocaine offenses. As a result of the commission’s action, 7,000 prisoners have received sentence reductions since March.

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7/06/2008

Obamaholics finally see the light


The Obama campaign must have forgotten to put their secret ingredient into their latest serving of Kool-Aid.

From The New York Times:

Senator Barack Obama’s decision to support legislation granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants has led to an intense backlash among some of his most ardent supporters.

Thousands of them are now using the same grass-roots organizing tools previously mastered by the Obama campaign to organize a protest against his decision.

In recent days, more than 7,000 Obama supporters have organized on a social networking site on Mr. Obama’s own campaign Web site. They are calling on Mr. Obama to reverse his decision to endorse legislation supported by President Bush to expand the government’s domestic spying powers while also providing legal protection to the telecommunication companies that worked with the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

During the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to fight such legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But he has switched positions, and now supports a compromise hammered out between the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership. The bill is expected to come to a vote on the Senate floor next Tuesday.


Best of all, the Obamaholics didn't seem to know that their man was a typical politician.

“I have watched your campaign with genuine enthusiasm,” Robert Arellano wrote on the campaign's website, “and I have given you money. For the first time in my life, I have sensed the presence of a presidential candidate who might actually bring some meaningful change to the corrupt cesspool of national politics. But your about-face on the FISA bill genuinely angers and alarms me.”


The more things change, the more things remain the same.

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7/05/2008

McCain's magical free trade adventure


Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee John McCain finished his "free trade is fabulous" tour of Mexico and Colombia this week, following a stint in the Midwest where many Americans have lost work due to NAFTA.

BTW, not to be a conspiracy theorist, but is it me or is it just coincidence that three U.S. government contractors captured by FARC, just so happen to be "rescued" by the Colombia government while McCain is in the country. It smells of McCain and Uribe trying to look like they are defending "freedom and patriotism" the same week of July 4th. I'm just saying...

But back to the subject at hand, just like his "I'm down with Negroes" tour a few months back, where he tried to fool Americans into believing that he actually cares about black people, McCain's Latin American trip is designed to convince Americans about the benefits of globalization.

From The Wall Street Journal:

...He was also highlighting his support for the pending free-trade agreement with Colombia, which he says is needed to support a vital partner in the region. Sen. Barack Obama and many Democrats say there are still too many human-rights abuses, particularly against labor activists, to allow the pact to go through.

Sen. McCain declined to mention Sen. Obama by name, even though his host, Mr. Uribe obliquely said he was pleased with recent comments by Sen. Obama.

"The only discussion I had concerning the presidential campaign was that I believe that any partisanship ends at the water's edge," he said.

The partisan skirmish persisted in the air en route to Colombia, though. Aboard his plane, the Arizona senator told reporters that Sen. Obama would represent a step backward for trade that could endanger the U.S. economy.

"He's a protectionist and anti-free trade," he said.

Sen. McCain told reporters that he raised human rights with Mr. Uribe and said he was assured that progress is being made. Mr. Uribe appeared with Sen. McCain at the evening news conference but declined to answer any questions.

Earlier in the week, Sen. McCain said that the abuses are not bad enough to hold up the agreement. "I balance [human-rights abuse] against Uribe and his administration's rescue of Colombia from a failed-state status," he told reporters in Pennsylvania Monday. The abuses do not justify the need "to throw out the entire theory of free trade..."


For the record, Obama also has a NAFTA problem.

However, let me get this straight, according to McCain and the Bush Administration (one in the same), FARC are human rights abusers because they captured Americans, but Colombia's abuse of its own people is not bad enough for the United States to rethink its trade policy with the country.

God bless America!

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7/04/2008

No Black or Poor Child Left Behind


Every year on July 4th Americans celebrate its achievements as a country since breaking away from the Brits way back in the day.

Public education was "suppose" to be one of the hallmarks of this great nation, however, it has been in deterioration for the last 40 years, due to the shifts and racial and class structures in America's inner cities.

But something went horribly wrong in 2002 when President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, which has only made the deterioration happen quicker.

Independent Presidential nominee Ralph Nader (yes, he is still in the race) got into some hot water last week when he called out Barack Obama for not being black enough.

From The Rocky Mountain News:

"I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law," Nader said. "Haven't heard a thing."


While I think it was a bit of a stretch to play the race card with Obama, Nader does bring up a larger problem with the Obama campaign and politicians in general - if you are a racial minority and/or poor in America, you have to fend for yourself, especially when it comes to education. Lets face it; no one is working on your behalf.

I finally got to see this great HBO documentary the other day, Hard Times at Douglas High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card. The directors spent a year documenting students, staff and teacher at the beleaguered Baltimore high school, giving a vivid overview of what's wrong with NCLB. The film is reminicent of the forth season of the dearly departed drama, The Wire. Even one of the students featured in the film seems to resemble popular character Snoop.

After watching the doc, you have to wonder if public education in this country was better, we could have less Stringer Bells and Avon Barksdales in the world.

From the HBO film synopsis:

...Douglass principal Isabelle Grant oversees a staff of teachers that is two-thirds non-certified, while many are substitutes unqualified to teach their subject areas. Threatened with sanctions, or even closing, unless student scores improve in annual standardized tests, the faculty tries to find workable solutions to chronic problems of attendance, lateness and apathy among students, many of whom come from poor backgrounds and broken homes, and lack the most basic reading and math skills.

Due to an achievement gap of four to five years below grade level, ninth grade students present the greatest challenge, requiring intensive intervention by the already overwhelmed teaching staff. By the end of the school year, 50% will drop out. Grant and her staff struggle to raise state assessment scores as a Maryland State monitor continually watches over Douglass with the threat of a state takeover...

Eventually, Douglass fails to make the adequate yearly progress required by the No Child Left Behind Act and the city and state wrestle for control of the school. This is typical of inner-city schools that cannot meet the demands of the federal law. By 2007 one in four of the nation's public schools failed to show improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act and was threatened with sanctions...


God bless America!

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7/03/2008

Huey Newton on homosexuality, sexism


The Black Panther Party was known to ruffle some feathers throughout the privileged, white establishment during the turbulent 1960s. During the height of its existence, many party members, most notably Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver, were accused of homophobia and misogyny.

However, it has come to my attention that Black Panther Co-Founder Huey Newton wrote an essay long before it was politically correct, explaining why black leaders should embrace LGBT and feminist activists. "A Letter from Huey Newton to the Revolutionary Brothers and Sisters about the Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements" is considered the first pro-gay, pro-woman proclamation to come out of the black civil rights movement. Thanks Nikki for emailing me this!

From Clay Cane:

During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say "whatever your insecurities are" because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you're some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women's right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society.

And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it's a phenomenon that I don't understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don't know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn't view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I'm now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that "even a homosexual can be a revolutionary." Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women's liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counterrevolutionary, because they are not.

We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counterrevolutionary, then criticize that action. If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women's liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are our potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.

We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say "insecurities," I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process which builds insecurity in the American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.

We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms "faggot" and "punk" should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as Nixon or Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.

We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women's liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.

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7/02/2008

Where's the black outrage over Mugabe?


There is a deafening silence from the African Diaspora about taking a stand against Robert Mugabe's deadly regime. African leaders attended the African Union summit in Egypt this week and reluctantly approved a resolution to have a government of national unity in Zimbabwe.

From BBC:

The summit's host, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, made a strong speech in which he said that Africa's conflicts were a major impediment to development.

"There can be no development without peace and no advancement without stability," he said.

And he went on to enumerate the continent's conflicts: between Djibouti and Eritrea, Chad and Sudan, and in Somalia.

But of Zimbabwe he had nothing to say.

Zimbabwe is an embarrassment, which some African leaders do not want to mention in public in the hope it might just go away.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, most African Americans seem to have nothing to say about Zimbabwe. While many A-List black celebrities made their way to London last week to attend Nelson Mandela's birthday bash and celebrate the former South African president's accomplishments of bringing multiracial democracy to his country, these same celebrities are mum about the country next door where henchmen harass and kill people for not voting for Mugabe.

How I long for the days of mass demonstrations led by African Americans in opposition to South Africa's apartheid system 20 years ago. Just like our silence over the killings in Darfur, thanks in part to China, blacks around the world have become oblivious to Zimbabwe.

Even the people you would think would know better, just don't.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young is among those who still manage to see more morality than malice in Mugabe's rule. "Americans cannot be rational about Mugabe," Young said. "We've always miscast Mugabe. He's a fundamentalist Roman Catholic. ... He doesn't steal."

Young traces Zimbabwe's troubles back more than 30 years, to the failure of the United States and Great Britain to fund land reform efforts as generously as promised.

Similarly, Nicole Lee, head of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington-based human rights group founded by black Americans, points to "a larger context" that includes the failure of Western nations to fund programs to grant farmland to poor black Zimbabweans. She, too, says that Americans shouldn't "demonize" Mugabe.

There's just one problem with that. Mugabe has become a demon.


Thank goodness for the elders for keeping it real.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis said he supports a more forceful response to Mugabe's tyranny. "Just because he's a black leader of an African nation doesn't mean that we can afford to be silent," he said.

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American caravan blogs Cuba trip


Description: The United States has had a contentious relationship with Cuba for nearly half a century. With the recent change of political powers from Fidel Castro to his brother, Raul, and new leadership in the White House next year, many American activists see this as an opportunity to improve relations with the communist state. A group of pro-Cuba activists are blogging about why U.S. policies towards Cuba should change as they travel to the country.

Tools Being Used: Blogs

What Are They Doing: The 19th annual US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, comprised of 100 Pastors For Peace volunteers, have been traveling across North America for the last month, educating the public about what they say are the detrimental effects of U.S. policies on Cuban society. Specifically the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act prohibits foreign companies that trade with the U.S. from also trading with Cuba. The law also prevents travel to Cuba by American citizens and imposes limits on how many times Cubans living in America can travel to their homeland to visit family. In 1996, the U.S. government enacted a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine for violators of the embargo.

They are using their blog as a travel journal, publishing photos and stories from their trip.

"This caravan is the true face of the US people," said Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace in a statement. "The immoral and ignorant policy of the US government toward Cuba represents the power of a mean-spirited minority. This caravan embodies the true inner feelings of the US majority. We will keep challenging this unjust blockade until our government rescinds this inhuman policy that causes our neighbors so much suffering."

Yesterday the caravan converged in McAllen, TX, and plans to cross the Texas border into Reynosa, Mexico early on Thursday, July 3. From there they will commit the act of civil disobedience by flying into Havana, Cuba. While there, the caravan plans to give out donated aid to the needy and interact with Cuban civil society activists on a "people to people" mission.

Lisa Valanti, founder of the U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities Association, has been traveling with the caravan every year since its inception without accepting a license from the U.S. Treasury Department.

“Most Americans favor ending this embargo,” she said in a interview the Boston-based Bay State Banner. “What kind of people are we if we don’t demand this?”

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