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More incarceration is not the answer

August 22, 2011

In California, the headlines about prisons always seem to be the same – out-of-control costs, inhumane living conditions – but it doesn’t need to be that way

by Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Ruth Wilson Gilmore
Last month, more than 6,000 people in prisons throughout California went on hunger strikes to protest inhumane living conditions – especially long-term isolation. Their protest followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s May ruling that found the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The court’s ruling mandates that the Golden State reduce its population of prisoners by nearly a third over the next two years.

In a state buckling under the social and financial weight of a gargantuan prison system that prioritizes incarceration, this could be good news: a chance to transform the way the state defines and promotes justice.

What California needs is a true “realignment” (Gov. Jerry Brown’s buzzword for reworking the state budget) of the prison system – away from mass incarceration and toward the many alternatives that are less expensive and more effective.

End the focus on incarceration

So far, the state’s plan for reducing the prison population relies heavily on simply shifting prisoners from state lockups to county jails and out-of-state rental space. But many other states are setting examples that California could follow. A recent report by The Sentencing Project notes that, to date, 13 states across the nation have closed or are considering closing facilities, reversing a 40-year trend of prison expansion.

Fiscal crises have fueled the trend, but reforms in sentencing and parole policies have also resulted in less demand for prison space. “The trend of prison closings results from smart criminal justice policy combined with fiscal realities,” says Nicole D. Porter, state advocacy coordinator of The Sentencing Project and author of the report.

California can’t afford to continue policies that prioritize incarceration, said Emily Harris of the group Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “We have to learn from these other states that have safely reduced their prison populations by implementing smart parole and sentencing reform.”

Fund education and social services first

California’s 2011 state budget, signed on June 30, finds money for “realigning” the prison system by slashing higher education and imperiling K-14 funding – a very short-sighted move if your goal is to solve the prison problem. For years, cost-benefit analyses have shown that it’s far more cost-effective to spend money to help poor kids stay in school than to jail those whose limited options lead them down less salubrious paths. From Head Start to free community colleges, spending on education reduces later spending on prisons.

The same is true of things like subsidized housing and medical and mental health services. In a paper entitled “Where We Sleep,” the Economic Roundtable demonstrates that actual public spending would fall considerably were prison funds redirected to building housing for homeless people and providing onsite social workers to guide them to appropriate resources. The alternative – police, jails, courts and prisons – is much more costly.

San Francisco is already combining both service and education imperatives to solve overcrowding problems without jail expansion, proving that realignment can be a creative force, instead of yet another weight depressing the people and resources of the Golden State.

Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of “Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California,” is a professor of geography at CUNY Graduate Center and previously taught at U.C. Berkeley and the University of Southern California. She can be reached at rgilmore@gc.cuny.edu. This story originally appeared in YES! Magazine.

 

Waiting for the endgame in Libya

August 22, 2011

by Franklin Lamb

Tripoli, Aug. 20 – Since this observer is not privy to any secrets around here and would not share them if he were, it’s fair enough to engage in frank discussions with former colleagues in Congress and new cyber acquaintances who work on the Hill.

A rebel fighter celebrates in Tripoli. - Photo: Reuters
I got an earful this week from sources familiar with John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee activities about President Obama’s semi-private views on what is happening in Libya and the president’s doubts about NATO’s role in bombing this unlucky country.

Contrary to some Washington speculation that Obama’s new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta – some congressional staffers who know him well good naturedly refer to his as “Leon the Lite” – is in charge of overseeing NATO while Obama faces a slew of political and economic problems, the reality is different.

President Obama is said to be “hands on” and is closely following NATO’s use of “all necessary measures to protect civilians.” NATO’s bombing here, including Saturday morning’s 5 a.m. seven-bomb drop near my hotel, has become a cruel hoax for the people of Libya and all who reject the claimed right of NATO to “destroy as a necessity to save and protect.”

Unlike his two predecessors in the Oval Office and also “VP Joe,” Obama disapproves of officials using colorful language that might offend voters. But he did reportedly tell his friend who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently, “We have stepped into a pot of shit and we need to get out of it!”

Part of Obama’s growing concern is said to be about his prospects for re-election. The Democratic National Committee sent Sen. Kerry and the White House a “for your eyes only” memo on the president’s re-election prospects amid approval ratings which continue to slide amidst economic uncertainties and doubts about the Obama stewardship generally.

According to congressional sources working on the Libya crisis, some Obama advisors see Libya as becoming another Iraq if NATO continues forbidding its rebels from negotiating with the Qaddafi government or if “the leader” is killed.

Assassinating Qaddafi is widely believed here to be the only reason NATO continues to re-bomb, some as many as five times, the so-called “command and control center” sites that these days could be just about anywhere in Tripoli.

Yesterday, at precisely noon, this observer was meeting with two officials at the Foreign Ministry. One is in charge of the American Bureau, and we were discussing a range of subjects. Suddenly, within a five-minute period, four NATO bombs exploded very loudly and close to the Foreign Ministry.

I eyed the massively thick conference table we were sitting at and even considered scrambling under it, just in case, as my interlocutors quickly exited the room, without even saying “goodbye.” They seemed surprised, maybe amused also, when they returned to continue the meeting and I was still sitting at the table reading my notes. “Have we all become NATO targets?” one asked, “Private homes, our universities, hospitals are all legitimate targets now according to NATO?”

Obama and some of his advisors like Sen. John Kerry are said to be wondering the same thing that some Libyan officials are. One staffer volunteered to me this week:

“Both the CIA and Pentagon told our committee that green lighting NATO to bomb Libya would be really quick and not even very dirty. Now it’s become a potentially endless nightmare.”

NATO insiders have advised congressional staffers recently that the apparent eternal U.S. armed “coalition of the willing” cannot afford another humiliation from its point of view, given Iraq and Afghanistan, so NATO has no plans to stop the bombing until one of three events occur. Those three in order of NATO preference are: Qaddafi is killed, Qaddafi “surrenders” or Qaddafi flees Libya.

President Obama is being advised by some members of the Foreign Relations Committee among others to “just pull NATO’s god-damned plug and get this mess behind us!”

The much-disparaged NATO weekly “Carman and Roland show,” live from Brussels and Naples, billed as “NATO’s media conferences to inform the public,” adds to the concerns of some in Washington. In a long overdue turnaround from last February, when the mainstream media here parroted those who for years had been working on toppling Qaddafi about his alleged killing of Libyans, CNN just this morning aired a downright balanced report about how NATO’s claims that it is protecting Libyan civilians are dubious and in fact the main cause of civilians being slaughtered here in NATO sorties – now nearly 20,000 with more than 8,000 bombing sites.

It appears from talking with many people here, including the media, that virtually no one but the scriptwriters for the “Carman & Roland show” believe NATO bombings have anything to do with fulfilling the original objectives of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.

Carmen told reporters following her and Roland’s Aug. 16 briefing show that NATO expects no problem with an expected U.N. extension next month when NATO’s June renewal expires. She may know what she is talking about because NATO has reportedly been intensively lobbying the White House to bar Qaddafi’s government from the coming U.N. debate.

The Libyan government, which is keeping statistics on NATO-caused civilian deaths, may not even be able to present its facts to the U.N. meeting next month. The reason is because Secretary of State Clinton has refused to grant Libya’s U.N. ambassador a visa. Clinton, according to committee staffers mentioned above, plans to arrange at the last minute for the National Transitional Council to represent the views of those being bombed by NATO.

Kerry’s committee staff is fairly confident that the rebels will not oppose an extension of NATO bombing of their country. Indeed their political and financial futures depend on NATO doing just that.

Yet, the White House has been advised by committee staffers that NATO has become the main danger to civilians in Libya and that a political solution can be reached if Obama orders a ceasefire.

The president is said to be thinking about doing just that.

Franklin Lamb, author of “The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon,” is doing research in Libya. He can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com. He asks readers to sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/ssfpcrc/petition.html.This story first appeared on Counterpunch.

Franklin Lamb shot in Tripoli

The Bay View received this email message on Aug. 21 from Paula Clariste:

“The Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon confirms reports that Franklin Lamb was shot at approximately 11:45 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21, in Tripoli, Libya outside of the Corinthia Hotel where he has been staying.

“Franklin had just returned from a 90-minute bicycle tour of central Tripoli and was walking past the hotel swimming pool when he was hit in his right leg. Witnesses report having seen sniper fire coming from the roof of the Marriott Hotel across from the Corinthia.

“Franklin is basically OK. The bullet has been removed and he is resting comfortably and wishes that no one be concerned because he will be fine.

“Internet has been cut in Libya and events inside Tripoli are unclear. The PCRC will advise if events warrant.”

 

George Jackson: Forty years ago they shot him down

August 21, 2011

by Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali

George Jackson
The 21st of August marks the 40th anniversary of the execution of George Lester Jackson. The Chicago-born Jackson would have celebrated his 70th birthday on Sept. 23.

Many of the strategies and tactics that he and his fellow comrades employed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s were used by prisoners at Pelican Bay, Corcoran and other California prisons in the recent hunger strike.

Jackson was a prisoner who became a Marxist, an author, a member of the Black Panther Party and co-founder of the Black Guerrilla Family prison organization. He achieved global fame as one of the Soledad Brothers before being executed by prison guards in San Quentin Prison.

George and his younger brother, Jonathan Jackson, and Khatari Gaulden are central to understanding Black August. Jackson was an African born in America who became a field marshal of the Black Panther Party while in prison, where he spent the last 12 years of his life. His book of published letters, “Soledad Brother,” became an instant classic.

Gaulden became the leader inside San Quentin after George Jackson was killed on Aug. 21, 1971. The Little Rock, Arkansas-born Gaulden was himself assassinated in 1978. The hit on Gaulden was the spark that led to the Black August prairie fire.

On Aug. 7, 1970, George’s 17-year-old brother Jonathan burst into a Marin County courtroom with automatic weapons, freed three San Quentin prisoners and took Judge Harold Haley as a hostage to demand freedom for the three “Soledad Brothers.” However, Haley, prisoners William Christmas and James McClain, and Jonathan Jackson were killed as they attempted to drive away from the courthouse.

The case made international headlines. The state claimed that Judge Haley was hit by fire discharged from a shotgun inside the vehicle during the incident, since he was being covered by a shotgun attached by wiring, tape, and/or a strap of some sort, and/or held beneath his chin. The shotgun was traced back to Angela Davis.

The murder charge was thrown out early on in the pretrial hearings because Haley was killed in the hail of bullets from the San Quentin prison guards. These bullets killed Christmas, McClain and Jonathan Jackson and wounded Gary Thomas. Another prisoner, Ruchell Cinque Magee, was charged with two counts of kidnapping. He was acquitted of the more serious (kidnap for ransom) charge and convicted of the simple kidnap. The acquittal was in dispute although the jury foreman declared he was acquitted and signed an affidavit to that effect. Magee fought for decades to right this wrong to no avail. Now 71 years old, he still languishes in prison to this day.

Eight thousand people came to George Jackson’s funeral on Aug. 28, 1971. Held in St. Augustine’s church in Oakland, which held only 200 mourners, the rest waited outside. Billy X Jennings, Black Panther Party historian and one of the pallbearers that day, recalls: “We rose to pick up George’s body, and everyone raised their fists in the air as we filed past them. When the doors opened, and we stepped outside with the body, I saw that the crowd had grown tremendously. There were people on rooftops, hanging from telephone poles and filling the streets. Everyone raised their fists in the air and chanted, ‘Long live George Jackson.’ It was a sight that could set a fire in your heart.” - Photo: Stephen Shames
One year later in August 1971, three days before he was to go on trial, George was gunned down in the prison yard at San Quentin in what officials described as an escape attempt. When Jackson was murdered 40 years ago at San Quentin prison, Aug. 21, 1971, this writer saw grown, macho men break down and cry tears bigger than cantaloupes. Jackson influenced a larger number of Africans-in-America and progressive thinking whites than can be imagined.

The murder of Jackson sent Archie Shepp, Bob Dylan and Steel Pulse into the studio to record tributes to him. Jackson was eulogized in the jazz, pop and reggae idioms. “Jazz” man Shepp released “Blues for Brother George Jackson” on his “Attica Blues” album. Dylan did a single, “George Jackson,” and the British reggae band Steel Pulse, who would later be invited to perform at President William Jefferson Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, recorded two songs, “George Jackson,” a cover of Dylan’s song, and “Uncle George,” on their 1977 album “Tribute to the Martyrs.” The group actually re-recorded “George Jackson” and “Uncle George” on the 2004 album “African Holocaust.”

Jackson’s impact was so great that Warner Bros. attempted to cash in on his image by producing a film, “Brothers,” starring Bernie Casey and Vonetta McGee. The soundtrack was performed by Taj Mahal. I saw the film in Memphis, Tennessee. There was only an elderly Euro-American couple and myself in the theater that day. When I saw the film, I was slippin’ into darkness (I was underground).

Who was George Jackson and why eulogize a “convict”? When Jackson was 18, he was sentenced from one year to life for stealing $70 from a gas station. He spent the next eleven years in prison, eight and a half of them in solitary confinement.

When he was 28 years old, he was charged with the murder of a guard in Soledad prison. Shortly after his indictment for this murder, his first book, “Soledad Brother,” a book of his letters, was published in England, Germany, Italy and Sweden. He was acclaimed throughout the world as the most powerful and eloquent Black writer to emerge in years. He became a symbol for the struggle of all oppressed people.

Commenting on Jackson’s writing, C.L.R. James pointed out, “The letters are in my opinion the most remarkable political documents that have appeared inside or outside the United States since the death of (Vladimir Ilyich) Lenin.” The late Walter Rodney used to talk about how it was amazing that Jackson could develop an international consciousness from a prison cell. Rupert Lewis, who wrote the book, “Walter Rodney’s Intellectual and Political Thought,” found an essay that Rodney had written about Jackson while he lived in Tanzania.

George Jackson continued to make news even after his death. When Stanley Tookie Williams was executed on Dec. 13, 2005, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger evoked his name as one of the reasons that the co- founder of the Crips should meet his maker. Gov. Schwarzenegger pointed out, “The dedication of Williams’ book ‘Life in Prison’ casts significant doubt on his personal redemption.

“This book was published in 1998, several years after Williams’ claimed redemptive experience. Specifically, the book is dedicated to ‘Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the countless other men, women, and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars.’ The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement.”

Jackson’s second book, “Blood in My Eye,” was completed only days before he was killed in an alleged escape attempt from San Quentin. “Blood in My Eye” clearly showed Jackson’s global outlook. He wrote, “The commitment to total revolution must involve an analysis of both the economic motives and the psychosocial motives which perpetuate the oppressive contract. For the black partisan, national structures are quite simply nonexistent. A people without a collective consciousness that transcends national boundaries – freaks, Afro-Amerikkkans, Negroes, even Amerikkkans, without the sense of a larger community than their own group – can have no effect on history. Ultimately they will simply be eliminated from the scene.”

Kumasi and Shaka At-Thinnin of Los Angeles and Oakland, respectively, recently appeared on Saturday Morning Live in Toronto. Both knew George and served time in California dungeons. They represent the Black August Organizing Committee, whose mission it is to attempt to help prisoners such as Hugo “Yogi” Pennell, Ruchell Magee and countless others still languishing behind California and other prison walls in the United States. For more information on this organization, contact http://www.dragonspeaks.org.

Mumia Abu-Jamal has written and recorded several outstanding commentaries about Black August. To listen to these thought provoking messages, go to http://www.prisonradio.org.

Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali can be reached at Norman.o.richmon@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Listen to Kiilu Nyasha’s “Black August,” a historic four-hour special broadcast on KPFA, initially produced in 1993 and reproduced in 2006, at http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/22401. “For those of you who haven’t heard the voices of George Jackson, Ruchell Magee, John Clutchette, Hugo Pinell et al. and/or haven’t learned the history of our Black August martyrs, here’s pretty much the whole story. Please feel free to use clips of this program to educate to liberate,” writes Nyasha, revolutionary journalist and Black Panther veteran. These four hours are life-changing, by far the best record of the great George Jackson and the profound impact of Black August in our opinion.

George Jackson – 40 year commemoration from Freedom Archives on Vimeo.

This video is based on an edited portion of “Prisons on Fire” by Freedom Archives (2001) with video editing by Oriana Bolden.

 

Supermax prisons: 21st century asylums

August 20, 2011

Everybody out Tuesday, Aug. 23, for the rally at 11:30 a.m. on the South Steps of the State Assembly Building, Sacramento, then for Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s hearing on the Pelican Bay SHU at 1:30 p.m.: Join the Day of Action to support the historic prisoner-led protest against torture in California’s prisons; car pools leave from West Oakland BART at 9:30 a.m.

by Helen Redmond

Monday, Aug. 1, was an international day of solidarity with prisoner hunger strikers. Demonstrations and marches took place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, New York and Sacramento. People gathered to honor the resistance and courage of the hunger strikers and their families and to pledges support for all their demands. In San Francisco, hungers strikers’ parents, Marie, Randy, Maria and Irma, told of the desperation of the strikers. Irma has two sons; one has lost 25 pounds from his hunger strike, July1-19. She called for an end to the SHU. Maria has two children in Pelican Bay; one has lost 20 pounds, the other 18 pounds. She told of writing letters to her children in their native language, Spanish, but the letters were not given to them because supposedly no one could translate to see what they said, so she knows nothing of her children’s condition. Marie and Randy, the parents of one of the original hunger strikers, who has been in the SHU for 15 years, said he has lost 38 pounds. – Photo: Patricia Jackson
“People walked by and asked, ‘How are you doing?’ I answered: ‘How am I supposed to be doing? That’s the craziest question I ever heard.’ The mental health people asked: ‘Are you having any suicidal ideation? What are you thinking right now?’ I said: ‘Where the f*** am I? That’s what I’m thinking. Ain’t this America?’” – Brian Nelson, describing his transfer to Tamms supermax prison in Illinois. He was locked, chained and naked in a holding cell.

The recent hunger strike at Pelican Bay supermax prison in California exposed for three weeks the carefully planned and executed barbarism of life in supermax America. The utter desperation of the human cargo behind the concertina wire, buried deep inside concrete coffins, was gut wrenching and heart breaking. Hunger strikes are a tactic of last resort for the completely subjugated, a slow, painful, non-flammable version of self-immolation.

Brian Nelson, a survivor of 12 years in solitary confinement at Tamms supermax prison in Illinois, understands the conditions that drove the men in Pelican Bay to stop eating. Distraught and anxious, Nelson paced in his cell for more than 10 hours a day, causing severe, bloody blisters on the soles of his feet. He tried to hang himself. In the year 2000, Nelson went on hunger strike for 42 days with four other prisoners to protest many of the same conditions that exist at Pelican Bay.

The demands of Tamm’s hunger strikers were similar, too: better food, shoes with arches, appropriate clothing, access to education, inmates with mental illness be transferred out, bilingual staff and abolition of the “renunciation policy” – the “debriefing policy” related to gangs that Pelican Bay prisoners demanded be abolished. Guards tried to break the hunger strike at Tamms by leaving carts of fried chicken and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the wing. The delicious smells didn’t break Nelson.

Supermax prisoners’ daily lives are chock full of alienating and undignified experiences, so empty of positive human interaction, thousands are willing to risk death than endure such inhumane conditions. That alone speaks volumes about the reality of life in supermax prisons.

One of the most humiliating aspects of life for inmates are the frequent strip searches – forced to be naked, ordered to bend over by guards and spread the buttocks apart to have the anus inspected for contraband while coughing. Strip searches are the old normal. The photos of nude prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq shocked the world, but to be stripped naked for hours or even days is standard operating procedure in supermaxes.

Nelson explained: “Every time you leave your cell you’re strip searched … They do this to degrade and shock you … Sometimes the guards would make ‘homosexual’ comments like: ‘Hey baby, spread your cheeks.’ Darrell Cannon, a survivor of a nine-year stretch in Tamms, described the strip search: ‘They tell you to open your mouth, raise your tongue, hold your hands up, they go through your fingers and toes and tell you to turn around and spread your cheeks up against the chuckhole … It’s degrading to have two other human beings looking at you like you’re some kind of specimen. It is extremely degrading.”

Rehabilitation not an option

Prisoners on suicide watch are routinely left naked in their cells. And inmates have been punished by “caging,” where they’re held naked or partially clothed in outdoor holding cages in inclement weather.

There is no pretense of rehabilitation in supermax prisons; the purpose is harsh punishment. Prisoners endure supersized portions of psychological punishment as a result of strict and prolonged solitary confinement. Inmates are confined for 23 to 24 hours a day, every day, in cells that measure seven-by-12 square feet. It is psychological torture.

Supermax prisons are intended to isolate prisoners and to deny human contact. Cannon said: “Everything you do, you do alone … It [supermax] was designed to break you mentally, by not allowing you to have another human being right there with you that you can interact with.”

This extreme environment of sensory deprivation and social seclusion makes men go mad. Supermax prisons are filled with inmates with mental illnesses diagnosed. “It is a form of insanity to put people in a place that provokes mental illness … Either they went in crazy, or they go crazy once they are there,” said Jo Reynolds, an organizer for the Tamms Ten Year Committee and a Soros Justice Fellow.

Prisoners resort to cutting their flesh: a form of self-mutilation that results in thick scarring. Small shavings of concrete, plastic “sporks” or paper clips are used to cut and cause bleeding to arms, legs and genitals. Cannon remembers some prisoners cutting themselves “just to feel something … they were willing to do anything to get out of their cell and into the infirmary to be around other people.”

Nelson recalled an inmate who continually tightened a piece of string around his finger. It became gangrenous and was amputated. Men who injured themselves told him, “I need the pain to feel real.”

‘They’re not faking’

Solidarity with the California prisoner hunger strikers has far exceeded the expectations of the California Department of Corrections, forcing them to the bargaining table, which they had vowed never to do. Now it’s up to supporters to force them to meet the strikers’ demands. – Photo: Patricia Jackson
“Gassing” is also common in supermax prisons. It is a word used to describe prisoners throwing urine and feces at guards. Gassing is treated as a security threat and is met with excessive force by a tactical team.

Prison mental health staff label inmates who engage in cutting and gassing as malingering and “acting out,” not as suffering from mental illness. And yet there are decades of indisputable, well-documented evidence that solitary confinement causes mental breakdown and self-injurious behavior.

Dr. Terry A Kupers, a psychologist who has conducted hundreds of assessments of prisoners in supermax prisons, explained in an article in the Belleville News-Democrat: “Twenty-three hours a day alone in a cell causes many inmates to brutally attack themselves. In the adult male population of the United States, self-mutilation occurs only in solitary confinement. It’s an epidemic across the country. They’re not faking.”

Supermax prisons are modern, high-tech, taxpayer funded concentration camps. The architecture is a twisted blend of fascist-stripped-classical and functionalist, designed to facilitate the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” punishment of inmates.

They are located in rural areas in small, conservative, majority white towns desperate for jobs. Pelican Bay was built on an abandoned logging site and is completely cut off from its surroundings. Tamms supermax is located in the far corner of Illinois in the village of Tamms, population: 724. The remote location of supermax prisons keeps them hidden and away from public scrutiny and protest. Media are not allowed in.

On the perimeter of supermax prisons loom large and imposing guard towers with gun turrets and floodlights that resemble German Flak towers.

The interior of supermax prisons is built on the architectural principles of isolation, surveillance and über-control. Doors and gates are controlled electronically. A panoptic central guard tower is encircled by prisoner “pods,” and closed-circuit TV cameras allow guards to see into every cell.

Privacy is nonexistent. Concrete cells contain a poured concrete bed, immovable concrete desk/stool, stainless steel sink, toilet and mirror. Metal wire mesh cell doors have a slot to deliver food and other items. Some doors have Plexiglas covers that insulate cells from sound, air and vision.

Architects have partnered with penal authorities to create austere, hermetically sealed dungeons devoid of natural light, color or beauty. They are milieus full of monotony, guaranteed to provoke mental despair. Architects who build prisons call themselves “justice” architects. In response to that outrageous claim and to the boom in prison building, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (AAPSR) launched a prison design boycott. The organization acknowledges the barbaric consequences of supermax incarceration and encourages architects to sign a pledge not to do any work that “furthers the construction of prisons or jails.”

Daily routines in supermax prisons are rigidly controlled. Prison guards and administration have total power and domination over every aspect of prisoners’ lives through a series of capricious rules and regulations that, if broken, result in “tickets,” loss of privileges or additional prison time.

Inmates’ bodies, belongings and cells are subjected to relentless searches, inspection and video monitoring. Authorities decide the number of showers per week – one to five – the length of shower time – 15 minutes –  and exercise time – one hour – the regulations and restrictions on clothes, TV and radio access, food and visitation rights, and they can withdraw medication. Inmates aren’t allowed to speak to other inmates when outside their cells. If prisoners stray off the yellow line walking to the shower or exercise cage, they can be shot.

The hunger strikers in Pelican Bay sent the world a distress signal: a supermax SOS. They are buried alive but still able to fight against the most appalling prison conditions imaginable. Those of us on the outside have a moral and ethical responsibility to hear and answer that call and fight to shut every supermax prison down.

Helen Redmond, LCSW, is a Chicago-based journalist, medical social worker and drug and health policy analyst. She can be reached at redmondmadrid@yahoo.com. She blogs at http://helenredmond.wordpress.com. This story previously appeared on Aljazeera English.

The first of August was a day of action initiated by World Can’t Wait and taken up by the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, calling for people of conscience everywhere to act to support and respect the prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison and other prisons all around California. The prisoners’ courageous 20-day hunger strike in July successfully challenged the inhumane conditions of the Security Housing Units (SHU) in the eyes of the world. It spread to thousands of prisoners in at least 13 California prisons. It hauled into the light of day decades of inhumane torture and abuse going on behind the prison walls. These prisoners have inspired people’s support far and wide.

Our two demands: The CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) must fully meet the hunger strike’s five demands, and there must be no retaliation for the hunger strike against any prisoners, their families and advocates, or their attorneys.

Prisoners are human beings! They deserve the human rights and civil rights demanded by their very humanity – and by ours outside the prison walls too, wherever we may be.

 

Russian bloggers condemn Cameron’s ‘suppression of U.K. revolution’

August 20, 2011

by Sergei Balmasov

English youth are pictured in action during the height of the uprising in Enfield, North London. The colloquial word, "chav," is used to describe youths from working class or sub-working class backgrounds in England. The stereotype is of violent youth dawned in sportswear who are poorly educated and scarcely employed. This "chav" or "gangster" culture of the underclass is what David Starkey, in the video at the end of this post, attempts to blame on influence from Black culture in England.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has lost legitimacy as a result of the brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrators and should resign. Statements to this effect were made nearly simultaneously by leading Iranian and Libyan politicians.

Khalid Kaaim, deputy head of the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed that Cameron and his government have completely lost their legitimacy and should leave after the mass protests and violent police actions against the participants in peaceful demonstrations.

The Tripoli official also urged the United Nations Security Council and the international community to abandon their passive attitude in the face of egregious human rights violations in the U.K. Not long before that the “passiveness” of the U.N. Security Council was condemned by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic called on the British police to “exercise restraint.” The ministry spokesman, Rahmin Mehmanparast, said: “The British government should order police to stop violent confrontation with the people. The government must engage in a dialogue with the protesters and listen to their demands so that the situation can return to normal.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry in this regard demanded that the U.K. protect “civil liberties” and enable “an independent investigation by international human rights organizations” of all the circumstances of the death of the young Black man, Mark Duggan, whose murder served as the detonator for the riots in British cities.

The assessments of the ongoing events in the U.K. made by Iran and Libya are nearly identical to the official reaction of the West to the opposition’s actions in Libya and Syria.

London in February declared the ruling regime of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya illegitimate because the Libyan leader dared to resist the attacks by the armed opposition groups, including Islamists.

Three months later, similar language appeared in the assessment of the actions of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, allied with Iran. British Foreign Secretary William Hague was one of the first officials to say that, as a result of the repression against its own population, Assad had lost legitimacy.

All these factors served as a justification for the start of military operations against Libya, and now Syria is under the same threat.

Cameron said, “We cannot speculate on human rights in relation to the events in the U.K.”

But what do the British authorities do? Particular attention should be paid to the ways in which Cameron’s regime has suppressed the British revolution. In a hasty fashion, the so-called courts – after only three days of the unrest – began to hand out harsh penalties to protesters, most of whom were jailed pending the outcome of their trials.

Cameron himself had vowed that water cannons and plastic bullets would be used against peaceful demonstrators. Is it possible to ignore such a blatant violation of human rights in one of the leading democratic countries?

David Cameron has been criticized for condemning the youth involved in the uprising, calling the rebellion "criminality pure and simple" and adding that not enough police were on the streets. In a speech on Monday, Cameron said he was determined to tackle what he calls "a slow-motion moral collapse in Britain." Criticism has been expressed by foreign politicians and ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has launched a fierce attack on the claims made by the British government and media that the "riots" of this month show Britain is in "moral decline." Instead, Blair insists, the root of the problem needs to be addressed.
Many in the Russian blogosphere feel sorry for the Brits who fell victim to their excessive tolerance. Earlier, Britain took the liberty of harshly criticizing Russia for violating human rights during the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus, as well as for the fact that Moscow does not enter into a dialogue with the “opposition.”

The actions of the British prime minister and his henchmen the police towards protesters of color amount to racism, especially as the police turn a blind eye to the actions of the Nazis from the so-called English “Defense League” that, with the tacit approval of Cameron, started the violent repression of the revolution.

Many have pointed out that TV channels tried to present the information in such a way as to show that the rioters were predominantly Africans or Pakistanis. However, this is not the case. Various blogs display numerous photos of white people who came to protest in the streets along with their Black brothers against the actions of the authorities and the deterioration of living conditions.

Moreover, according to news agency JTA, the revolution has also affected the Jewish community in Britain. Its representatives, for example in Tottenham, were dispersed by mounted police when they came to protest against the racist and pro-Nazi activities.

However, for some people it would be very disadvantageous if the events in the U.K. looked like anything other than a “race riot.”

British bloggers have reported that skinheads smashed a few shops belonging to Muslims. In this sense, the behavior of the British prime minister makes bloggers question whether he sympathizes with the infamous British Nazi, Oswald Mosley.

The officials in London recognize that the prisons are overcrowded by those who tried to protest against the blatant tyranny of the police. What right does the country that states that it is democratic have to deal with peaceful protesters in this way? There are children among the detainees. Has British democracy fallen so low as to fight its future, the younger generation?

There are those who defend Cameron. They say that there is no comparison between the rebels in Libya and Syria and the scoundrels who dared raise their hand against one of the cradles of world democracy.

Of course, there is no comparison. Suffice it to stress the humanistic aspirations of British protesters, who, in contrast to the Syrian and Libyan opposition, were not seen murdering police officers. Slanderous accusations of massive looting of shops by the opposition are spread by the media lured by the London authorities.

There are statements, allegedly by the opposition, on internet social networks that would suggest the arson and looting are the work of provocateurs hired by the police and MI6.

They have one goal: to demonize and discredit the British revolution. At the very least, there is the presumption of innocence and indictments can be made only by the judicial authorities, not newspaper people.

Even if some of the demonstrators took something from a supermarket, is that enough of a reason to conduct a punitive police operation? In some areas, the revolutionary course of events and actions of the authorities interfered with the supply of food. People need something to eat. Is it any wonder that people are hungry and grab at food?

Now, after several months of civil war, no one would dare call the Libyan opposition “peaceful demonstrators.” The same applies to the glorious successors of the “Arab revolution” in Syrian Hama, where the opposition quite democratically cut off the heads of the “Assad supporters” and set government buildings on fire.

The question arises: If the West supported the actions of those “peaceful demonstrators” with air strikes in Libya, what kind of punishment does Britain deserve?

When the riots began dwindling, many people in London sighed quietly. Yet, how long will the peace last? After all, the event showed the weakness of the former “mistress of the seas” in the face of popular protests.

And most importantly, can Great Britain and the West open their mouths in defense of “peaceful demonstrators” in Libya and Syria?

It is important to pay attention to the fact that at last Libya and Iran have united in their opposition to the U.K. That in itself deserves attention since for a long time, Qaddafi believed Iran to be one of his main enemies. Iran was not particularly respectful towards the “Libyan upstart” either. However, the aggressive actions of the West, including Britain, against Libya and Syria forced Tripoli and Tehran to reconcile their positions. Indeed, it is time for Iran and Libya to stop the long and unnecessary strife. Apparently, they found the “Achilles heel” of the U.K.

The following video shows a discussion with popular British historian David Starkey on the BBC where he claims that the recent events were based simply upon criminality of a type grounded in Black culture. His racist comments have received widespread criticism.

Sergei Balmasov writes for the Russian online journal Pravda.ru, where this story originally appeared under the headline, “What kind of punishment does Britain deserve?” The story subsequently appeared on The-Latest.com.

 

Cisco Torres is free of all charges in the SF8 case

August 19, 2011

by Claude Marks

Cisco Torres visits Kiilu Nyasha for an interview during one of his many trips to San Francisco from his home in New York City to fight the bogus charges lodged against him and seven other former Black Panthers. He was the last of the San Francisco 8 whose case was still being litigated. What joy that the cloud is finally lifted! – Photo: Hans Bennett
Judge Philip Moscone signed and filed an order dismissing charges against Francisco Torres late Thursday, Aug. 18. Cisco was the last former Black Panther member facing charges in this 1971 case about the killing of a San Francisco police sergeant.

“It took over four and a half years to win this case!” said Cisco Torres.

In 1973 several of the men were brutally tortured by police in Louisiana to elicit false confessions. The case was dismissed in the 1970s, but charges were filed again in January of 2007 against eight former Black Panthers.

They all resisted this renewed repression. Charges against Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Richard O’Neal and Harold Taylor were previously dismissed for insufficient evidence. Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim pled to greatly reduced charges, receiving time served and probation.

Cisco Torres, speaking for himself and on behalf of the San Francisco 8, was elated, giving “our thanks to all of our supporters for battling with us for so long. Our victory is shared!”

“I just got a call from a very happy Cisco who got the news yesterday that the case against him was dismissed,” writes his friend and comrade revolutionary journalist and former Panther Kiilu Nyasha. “As you all know, the San Francisco 8 case dragged on for over four years while we struggled to mount a campaign to free them.

“Finally, this case is over! This is great news and we should all celebrate!

“This people’s victory will boost our morale and reenergize us to continue our fight to free all our political prisoners, especially Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, the two of the SF8 who remain in prison (more on them at www.freethesf8.org). I’m sure they’ll be delighted to hear this news as well.”

Questions and comments may be sent to claude@freedomarchives.org. Bay View staff contributed to this story.

 

Facebook caves to the prison-industrial complex

August 19, 2011

by Kenneth E. Hartman

In disallowing prisoner profiles, Facebook aids the "prison-industrial complex" at the expense of its very purpose, social networking.
In a decision setting back prisoners’ rights and helping to advance the interests of prison bureaucrats and their guard union allies, Facebook announced plans to work with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to shut down pages set up for prisoners. Spokespersons for the department claimed that prisoners were using their Facebook pages to “stalk victims” and “conduct illegal activities” and that this was all related to the increased incidence of cell phones found inside the prisons.

What a load of crap!

I’m one of the prisoners with a Facebook page that will be shut down to appease the shrill hate groups that continue to try and own the public debate about prisons, about crime and punishment and about what kind of justice should be practiced here in the land of the free. It’s past time to address some of this fear mongering head-on, even if my keepers surely won’t appreciate it.

It’s all about trying to keep the public in the dark about how their billions of dollars have been wasted behind the electric fences, out of sight and beyond accountability.

The prison-industrial complex is a huge jobs engine for unionized public employees. Gov. Andrew Cuomo spelled it out it accurately when he withstood intense lobbying pressures and closed a couple of prisons in New York: “I’m not running a jobs program, putting a lot of people in prison to give a few people high paying jobs.”

This is the fundamental truth about prison. The people who profit off of mass, disproportionate incarceration know that a reckoning is coming. Crime is at historic lows. State budgets are upside down, like the rest of the country. The majority of people in prison are not monsters. The public’s safety is not the issue. The threat is to the paychecks of public employee unions.

For the past quarter of a century, the playbook has been simple, direct and frighteningly successful. Play the fear card, mention the word “victim” and shut down rational debate. It’s unclear to me how anyone could “stalk their victims” through Facebook. This is a perfect example of dragging a particularly stinky red herring across the trail, something prison bureaucrats are wont to do.

The prison-industrial complex is a huge jobs engine for unionized public employees.

For an interesting case in point, during a recent interview on Los Angeles public radio station KCRW’s excellent public affairs program, “Which Way L.A.,” host Warren Olney repeatedly asked California prison chieftain Scott Kernan how allowing men at Pelican Bay to wear a warm hat during the winter could be a security threat – this was one of the legitimate demands of hunger strikers.

Bossman Kernan never really answered the question and, instead, kept rambling on about how dangerous these “offenders” are and how these issues impacted “victims.” Interestingly, both prisoners and victims of crime have been commodified into roles in support of the prison-industrial complex.

The public’s safety is not the issue. The threat is to the paychecks of public employee unions.

The prison system has two great fears: The first is that the rest of society will learn that prisoners are, in actuality, fellow human beings who deserve to be treated in a humane fashion; and the second is that what really goes on in these places might be exposed to the cleansing light of public scrutiny.

To prevent the first of their fears from being realized, the prison system has upended basic civil rights and created a de facto no-information zone around prisoners. When I came to prison more than 30 years ago, I could write to anyone in the media through confidential mail. Any reporter with legitimate credentials could come inside a prison and interview any prisoner.

Today, I can only contact the media through closely censored mail and recorded, monitored collect phone calls. And reporters, on the rare occasions they manage to slip through the fences and get into these places, are strictly forbidden from interviewing any specific prisoner.

For the great rip-off of society to continue, it’s imperative for the public to continue to be hoodwinked into believing that the prisons are incredibly dangerous, filled with slavering beasts ready to go on a killing spree at the first opportunity. Nothing ruins this sham more than the taxpayers getting a good look at prisoners in the flesh.

Some prisoners access facebook via cell phones which prisoners say are sold to them by guards, who profit by charging several times more than the retail cost. Prisoners and their families find a way to scrape up the money in order to avoid the astronomical cost of the privatized prison phone system that typically costs the family hundreds of dollars a month for collect calls. These same cell phones traded by the prison guards are routinely confiscated. Pictured, Lt. Robin Bond examines cell phones confiscated between 2006 and 2008, from the state prison in Vacaville. - Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
We don’t have horns or tails, and the vast majority of us aren’t even in prison for a violent crime. The rationale, such as it is, for preventing the press – in a supposedly free country – from directly interviewing prisoners is it could cause discomfort to a victim. Invocation of the “victim” is, again, used to justify virtually any depredations of both civil rights and common humanity.

More frightening to the system than the public finding out prisoners, generally, aren’t the embodiment of evil, is the possibility that what actually goes on inside will be revealed. What is imagined and what is reality are so far apart as to be wholly disconnected.

The guards have invested heavily in promoting the perception that death stalks them every day in these places. And their bureaucrat allies – just about all of whom started out as guards – happily sign on to this fiction because it provides the perfect excuse for why the system is such a dismal failure.

We don’t have horns or tails, and the vast majority of us aren’t even in prison for a violent crime.

What really goes on inside the prisons is horrific treatment, provoked and encouraged racial violence, constant violations of constitutional rights and so much more it could fill more than a hundred pages of small print. In fact, it does, and anyone can read the documentation in the decision of the three-judge panel that found California’s prisons so deficient and inhumane it ordered a massive downsizing of the system (Plata, et al. vs. Schwarzenegger, et al. and Coleman, et al., vs. Schwarzenegger, et al. Case 2:90-cv-00520-LKK-JFM, Document 3641, filed 08/08/2009).

This decision was necessary because the judges knew the special interests – guard union, contractors and suppliers – had bought so much in the state’s political process that there was no other viable way to achieve change.

The guards have invested heavily in promoting the perception that death stalks them every day in these places. And their bureaucrat allies – just about all of whom started out as guards – happily sign on to this fiction.

In my 30-plus years of imprisonment in California, the rate of incarceration went from around 100 per 100,000 to close to 450. The rate of parole failure went from less than 25 percent to more than 70 percent during the same period. Similar numbers can be found in the rest of the country.

For comparison’s sake, the incarceration rate of other industrialized countries is less than 100 and the world average, including all of the repressive countries, is less than 200. Recidivism rates run at about 35 percent everywhere else. This country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, bar none.

To put it into another perspective, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have fully 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. This is the prison nation.

Numbers can be mind numbing, but it’s important to see and internalize what all of this means. All across the country, as the various states wrestle with diminished resources and shrinking tax bases, decisions are being made about priorities: Interests are competing for the dollars left in the smaller pie.

The prison bureaucracy is vigorously advocating for cuts in funding for poor children, for disabled people, for seniors, in its desperate attempt to keep the imprisonment gravy train on track.

With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have fully 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. This is the prison nation.

But that’s not the full extent of it, not by a long shot. To tilt the scales in favor of more prisons and less social welfare spending, the system will trot out the same hoary tropes it’s used during the past generation of unchecked expansion. This Facebook nonsense is right along with the standard fear-mongering tactics of the prison bureaucrats and their guard allies.

I’ve seen worse in my time inside, up to and including incitement to violence to overturn unfavorable court decisions. Watch out for some extremely dangerous prisoners finding themselves on the other side of the fences.

The prison bureaucracy is vigorously advocating for cuts in funding for poor children, for disabled people, for seniors, in its desperate attempt to keep the imprisonment gravy train on track.

When the inevitable tragedy occurs, all the rest of us will be tarred with the same outrage. Someone’s grieving mother will plead for retribution while the newsreaders tut-tut in sympathy. Mock outrage will spew out of red-faced politicians in thrall to the prison-industrial complex. The guard union will magnanimously put up the many millions needed to pass the poorly written initiative that results in tens of thousands of pathetic drug addicts and troublesome mentally ill homeless people receiving long life sentences.

The cover of Kenneth E. Hartman's "Mother California"
No less than United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican and no flaming lefty, described this state of affairs, in regard to California’s infamous three-strikes law, as “sick.”

The prison system has a unique hold on the political process that renders it almost invulnerable to the kind of fundamental reform 25 years of dismal failure should have demanded. The Democrats won’t criticize their public employee union allies and the Republicans remain wedded to the concept of keeping the disempowered classes down and disenfranchised through mass incarceration. The prison bureaucrats and their guard union allies have cynically and very successfully played the two ends against the middle.

The Democrats won’t criticize their public employee union allies and the Republicans remain wedded to the concept of keeping the disempowered classes down and disenfranchised through mass incarceration.

Neither side of our dysfunctional dyad is willing to propose remedies to what is obvious to every independent observer: There are too many people in prison for too long, costing society way too much money.

Facebook’s craven decision to appease the prison-industrial complex has nothing to do with protecting crime victims or stopping criminal activity. Let me assure you, we knew how to conduct illegal activity before Mark Zuckerberg “invented” Facebook, even before Al Gore “invented” the internet.

It’s all about trying to keep the public in the dark about how their billions of dollars have been wasted behind the electric fences, out of sight and beyond accountability.

My 1,300 “friends” and I didn’t threaten anyone. But the prison system and its allies pose a genuine threat to society. The sooner the public wakes up and realizes this, the better off we’ll all be. Until then, be afraid; be very afraid of people claiming to be protecting you.

Kenneth E. Hartman’s memoir of prison life, “Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars“ (Atlas & Co. 2009) won the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award. He is currently at work on a memoir about hitchhiking through the ‘70s. For more information, see www.kennethehartman.com or contact him indirectly at kennethehartman@hotmail.com.

 

Congo: Let’s be frank about Dodd-Frank

August 19, 2011

by Mvemba Phezo Dizolele

This Congolese teenager works in a coltan mine. Congo holds 80 percent of the world’s coltan resources, a mineral widely used in electronic products, without which wireless communication as we know it could not exist. This youngster’s hope lies not in the Dodd-Frank Act, which could cut off exports and his meager livelihood, but in a strong Congo government restoring peace and prosperity to the war-torn eastern Congo and an end to foreign plundering of its resources and the killing and exploitation of its people. – Photo: Myemba Phezo Dizolele
On Aug. 7, freelance journalist and blogger David Aronson published an important opinion piece in the New York Times on the effects and ramifications of the Dodd-Frank Act. I congratulate and commend him for a clear and lucid position. The op-ed has unleashed a healthy, robust and at times acrimonious debate online about the meaning of this legislation. Blogs are beaming with commentary and the Enough Project has been on the defensive with a response in the Huffington Post by Sasha Lezhnev. David deserves all the credit for this discussion.

Like the activists who lobbied for the legislation, Dodd-Frank assumes that minerals such as gold, wolframite, coltan and tin – which are extracted from areas under the control of armed groups – drive the conflict, and therefore, curbing the trade would bring peace to the region.

Organizations like Global Witness, the Enough Project and its partners that have invested considerable resources into this issue, contributed to this oversimplified reasoning. Proceeds from mineral trade provide the militias the financial means to acquire more firepower, they argue, which in turn perpetrates the conflict.

The historical truth, however, is different. Activists have reversed the cause-to-effect sequence of developments. In the Kivus, the local economy rested on agriculture and commodity trading, which suffered severe setbacks at the onset of the war in the late ‘90s as the conflict ushered in a rapid destruction of farms, fields and road infrastructure. The ensuing proliferation of militias, which exacted – and still do – a heavy toll on the peasants and commodity traders, drove the populations off the fields into the emerging artisanal mining.

In eastern Congo, from Butembo in North Kivu to Nzibira in the hills of South Kivu, thousands of families now live off this informal mineral trade, which generates between $300 million and $1.4 billion a year. The long supply chain ensures that people who would otherwise be unemployed and starve have a minimal income. These people, however, are likely to pay a high price for the legislation and lose their livelihood.

Thousands of families now live off this informal mineral trade, which generates between $300 million and $1.4 billion a year. People who would otherwise be unemployed and starve have a minimal income.


Coltan mining in the South Kivu, a mountainous region of Mushangi, is largely performed by children whose families were driven from their farmland by a combination of the war that began in the late ‘90s and the “coltan rush” beginning in 2000, the year the price of coltan exploded from $30 to $400 a pound. – Photo: Myemba Phezo Dizolele
Back in September 2010, they experienced the effects of a mining moratorium for the first time. In an attempt to pre-empt the U.S. legislation and its proponents, Congolese President Joseph Kabila suspended artisanal mining operations in the region. Expectedly, the outcome was devastating for the population, as the thousands of Congolese who depend on this trade could not find work in a country with 8.9 percent and 81.7 percent unemployment and underemployment rates, respectively.

Army units deployed to protect the mining areas turned their assignment into a business opportunity and joined the black market trade. Six months later, unable to enforce his decision, Kabila lifted the ban.

Currently, it is nearly impossible to separate clean ore from bloody minerals imported from the region. While the concerned industries figure out a credible certification process, anticipated compliance with the legislation increases transaction cost in one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

In order to protect their reputation, the electronics and high technology industries contemplate boycotting minerals from the region. The decision by U.S. companies to either scale back or stop sourcing ore from eastern Congo means that the people of the Kivus are likely to experience the same devastating blow that hurt the local economy when President Kabila imposed the mining moratorium in September 2010.

The government’s inability to assert state authority is the real cause of the insecurity that set off the emergence of militias and sustains the plunder of natural resources. With the collapse of the state, old, latent community grievances stemming from land disputes, demographic pressures, ethnic tensions and control of resources and trading routes turned eastern Congo into a tinderbox.

The government’s inability to assert state authority is the real cause of the insecurity that set off the emergence of militias and sustains the plunder of natural resources.


A child miner displays the unprocessed mineral ore, coltan, which he has dug from the ground. Mvemba Dizolele writes: “Ten-year-old Bashizi tells me, ‘I do this hard work because my father is too old to support me.’ He has been doing it for several months. ‘That is the only thing there is to do around here,’ he says,” since the farm families were driven from their land. As bad as mining conditions are, a Dodd-Frank Act moratorium on mining would leave the farmers-turned-miners with nothing but unemployment and starvation. – Photo: Myemba Phezo Dizolele
Ambitious demagogues only need to embrace a cause and find a sponsor – a community, business or political elite or a state – to start a militia. The three main militias, FDLR, CNDP and PARECO, have exploited these dormant grievances and benefitted from either community or state support. The pattern remains the same for the three dozen smaller militias that operate in the area.

Mineral exploitation, the object of activism and legislation, is but one source of revenue for these armed groups. They literally rule over the territories they control, taxing every economic activity and terrorizing the civilians into submission. Losing access to the mines will marginally affect their capacity to generate funds, considering that weapons and ammunitions are relatively inexpensive.

In other words, if there were no minerals, the conflict would still rage on, as armed groups would find other sources of revenue. As long as the government is incapable of imposing its authority and addressing the various grievances, the region will not know peace.

If there were no minerals, the conflict would still rage on, as armed groups would find other sources of revenue. As long as the government is incapable of imposing its authority and addressing the various grievances, the region will not know peace.

The government has failed to build a professional army, perhaps the single most important element in ensuring Congo’s territorial integrity and the security of its citizens and coveted natural resources. President Kabila continues to deal with militias in the east in the same way that he did during the transition period: co-opting warlords into the government and security institutions.

Even as militia leaders get promoted into the Congolese army, they remain rooted geographically in their area of influence and continue to perpetrate horrific abuses on civilians with impunity. In short, the national army is little more than a patchwork of militias with parallel command structures and no incentive to change.

The predatory designs of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda also fuel the volatile situation. Both Rwanda and Uganda have invaded Congo twice, with continued incursions into eastern Congo where they still support militias. Several U.N. reports have linked both countries to Congolese militias and the looting of resources.

The predatory designs of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda also fuel the volatile situation. Several U.N. reports have linked both countries to Congolese militias and the looting of resources.

Furthermore, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania benefit from the illicit mineral trade in eastern Congo as they serve as primary export routes. And while Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have no gold, diamond or tantalum deposits of significance; they have become important exporters of these minerals.

Congolese children and adults, who farmed the land before the war, now dig their mountains for coltan in Mushangi. Due to the corrupt state of the Congo, aided by the U.S., Rwanda and Uganda, the Congolese miners are prevented from benefiting from the riches of their region. Only a strong Congolese government, not a Dodd-Frank ban on coltan exports, can bring peace and prosperity to eastern Congo. – Photo: Mvemba Phezo Dizolele.
In the past, high-level government officials and senior army officers were implicated in this trade. Whether this is still the case today is unclear. It seems, nevertheless, highly unlikely that these countries could export such large amounts of minerals without the collusion of government officials. Whether these leaders are actively sourcing these goods or simply turning a blind eye to the trade matters little to the bottom line: The result is still the same.

While the SEC is working out the details of the regulations, Rwanda actively capitalizes on the failure of the Congolese state. On May 13, 2011, Bloomberg reported that Rajesh Exports Ltd., India’s largest jewelry manufacturer, might invest as much as $1 billion over the next five years to develop Rwanda’s gold industry, including a refinery and a diamond-trading business.

With limited gold deposits and no proven diamond reserves, Rwanda is likely predicating its agreement with Rajesh on DRC’s resources. In the absence of a strong Congolese state to protect its interests, Dodd-Frank will effectively certify the looting of Congo’s minerals.

Oversimplification of issues often produces inadequate, counterproductive policies. Dodd-Frank and its proponents, who seek to curb U.S. companies, penalize the people of eastern Congo but do little to curtail the militias and their backers.

Dodd-Frank and its proponents, who seek to curb U.S. companies, penalize the people of eastern Congo but do little to curtail the militias and their backers.

We know the primary supporters of militias, whether in DRC, in neighboring countries or overseas. We also know the primary export routes and which neighbors profit from this trade. It is troubling that the legislation uses a shotgun approach to the illicit mineral trade quandary and inculpates all of DRC’s 10 neighbors. For instance, the legislation treats Zambia, a mineral rich country that is not involved with militias in eastern Congo but borders DRC to the south, with the same suspicion as Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania, which are the primary export routes.

The proponents of Dodd-Frank present the issue in such a way that one may think that eastern Congo is a sovereign, independent country. The legislation fails to place the problems of the Kivus in the context of a national crisis that requires robust engagement at the national level. The Enough Project has been eager to display a letter of endorsement signed by 35 Kivu-based civil society groups. That is hardly a buy-in by the Congolese at the national level.

Coltan mines consist of open pits and networks of narrow tunnels at constant risk of collapse, which child miners must navigate. Coltan has driven the exponential growth of the technology industry. – Photo: Myemba Phezo Dizolele
Unless Dodd-Frank is about U.S. consumers and companies, the activists and their partners in Congress should confront the real causes of the conflict, which are failed leadership and corruption in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, and predatory policies of Rwanda and Uganda, which destabilize eastern Congo while benefiting from the mineral trade.

Congress should confront the real causes of the conflict, which are failed leadership and corruption in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, and predatory policies of Rwanda and Uganda, which destabilize eastern Congo while benefiting from the mineral trade.

Cleaning up eastern Congo requires the courage to denounce and pressure all guilty parties through a variety of means, including International Criminal Court indictments, freezing the assets of militia leaders and their backers, and diplomatic pressure on the governments of DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

Real change will only happen when a combination of bold measures is part of a comprehensive policy that addresses the crisis’ multifaceted nature as was done with blood diamonds for Sierra Leone and Liberia. These measures included U.K.-sponsored military intervention and state-building initiatives, the restoration of state authority, the dismantlement of militias, the Kimberly process and the pursuit of justice, which eventually led to the arrest of Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor. Pretending otherwise in DRC would be disingenuous.

Incidentally, the declared mission of the Enough Project is to end genocide and crimes against humanity. No genocide has been declared in DRC, but over the years human rights organizations have produced several credible reports of mass killings and crimes against humanity perpetrated by different actors in Congo.

The most detailed of these reports, the U.N. Mapping Report, was published in October 2010 by the High Commission for Human Rights. Analysts may disagree on the exact number of the victims of the conflict in DRC, but most of them agree that hundreds of thousands of Congolese have died as a consequence of conflict. So far, however, the Enough Project’s response to these reports has been tepid at best.

Dodd-Frank hammers on the symptoms of a crisis, but shies away from the real fight for good governance, justice and rule of law.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, an independent journalist who has covered Congo’s war-torn Ituri and South Kivu provinces, is the Peter J. Duignan Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the author of a forthcoming biography, “Mobutu: the Rise and Fall of the Leopard King” (Random House UK). His analyses have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek International, International Herald Tribune and other outlets and he has been a guest analyst on PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria, BBC World News and more. A grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, he covered the 2006 historic elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo and produced Congo’s Bloody Coltan, a documentary report on the relation between the Congo conflict and the scramble for mineral resources. Visit him at Dizolele’s Eye on Africa, where this story first appeared, and contact him through Facebook, at Eye on Africa Dizolele.

 

Seeing no evil in the Congo

August 19, 2011

The United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played a significant role in the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century

by Timeka Smith

Raw coltan is an essential ingredient in our cell phones and laptops.
Do you have a smart phone? A laptop? Then you play a role in the violence that occurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cell phones, laptops and other electronics don’t work very well without the mineral, coltan. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, poor farmers are gathered by armed gangs and enslaved to dig coltan out of the ground.

The Institute’s Foreign Policy In Focus project, Friends of The Congo, Congo Global Action and Africa Faith & Justice Network recently co-sponsored a screening of Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth at the Reeves Center in downtown Washington. As the crowd of over 100 people gathered in the conference room, there was excitement about the film as well as chatter about becoming a “friend of the Congo.”

The film explores U.S. influence on the humanitarian crisis in Congo and argues that U.S. actions and the lack thereof have fueled violence and the exploitation of natural resources there. While Congo has experienced turmoil for over 100 years, violence significantly increased after it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, dreamed of democracy as well as total emancipation for his country. However, this has proven to be a dream deferred indefinitely as Western powers systematically support the nation’s destabilization. In 1961, the United States and Belgium conspired to assassinate Lumumba because he refused to conform to Western ideals.

U.S. AFRICOM Commander William “Kip” Ward with Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe – Photo: AFRICOM
After the assassination, the United States supported Congolese dictator Mobutu – a corrupt leader who committed numerous human rights violations. Washington ultimately discontinued its support for him but has continued to sponsor other Congolese dictatorships that exploit citizens.

Furthermore, the United States and United Nations have failed to respond to attacks by Ugandan and Rwandan troops on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rival war lords such as James Kabarebe of Rwanda and James Kazini of Uganda frequently raid Congo, rape the women, massacre entire communities and help themselves to the country’s natural resources. In the war in Congo, 6 million people have been killed. No action is taken to investigate and penalize offenders.

According to Congolese human rights activist Kambale Musavuli, President Barack Obama understands that it is imperative to help Congo. As a senator, Obama wrote a comprehensive law, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, to support Congo.

Section 105 of this legislation states, “The Secretary of State is authorized to withhold assistance made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, other than humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism assistance, for a foreign country if the Secretary determines that the government of the foreign country is taking actions to destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” However, the U.S. continues to support Rwanda and Uganda despite clear evidence of their attacks on the Congolese.

The film includes footage of a speech President Obama delivered two years ago in Ghana, in which he said, “Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men.” How true. That’s why the U.S. government must stop ignoring corruption and supporting war lords.

Timeka Smith is an intern at the Institute for Policy Studies, where this story first appeared. IPS can be reached at info@ips-dc.org.

This film is a short version of a feature length production to be released in the near future. Friends of the Congo encourage you to leave a comment by clicking here and to support the film by making a financial contribution.


Just rock, or Black rock? An interview wit’ the rock band Peekaboo Theory

August 18, 2011

by Minister of Information JR        

Peekaboo Theory, Houston rock group
Although what we call rock began with musicians from the era of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, it has long been associated with being a white genre of music, characterized more historically by the music of Elvis Presley and the Beatles. That is the reason I wanted to do this interview with the Black Houston-based rock group Peekaboo Theory.

While I was in Houston on a speaking and book tour a couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days with Ramon and Cayn. We talked a lot about music. I thought they were two very interesting musical enigmas when it came to the types and tastes of music that I was exposed to. Nonetheless, I thought it was essential that people who follow my work be up on this band. Check out Peekaboo Theory in their own words …

M.O.I. JR: How and where did you guys grow up? How did you guys get into rock music?

Ramon: I grew up in Houston via Kingston, Jamaica. My earliest recollection of music involved a lot of rock and roll. My parents – as many Jamaicans do – listened to a wide array of music, some of which wasn’t popular in the States. We were a very musical family. I started playing piano around 11 and then guitar shortly after.

I did rap and listened to hip hop when I was young, but even my friends in the neighborhood knew growing up that I listened to some “weird stuff” and played “weird music.” I ran with it. I only chilled with like three or four friends from school really and we’re still cool to this day. Now it’s cool to be weird and we laugh about that.

Cayn: I grew up in Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas. I met these guys during Hurricane Rita. I was bored and I ran into FYIAAM at Guitar Center where he quickly introduced me to Ramon. I was waiting for like over an hour for Ramon not to be busy from work. Once we did talk, it was like finding a good brother.

M.O.I. JR: How did Peekaboo Theory come together?

Ramon: DJ FYIAAM instigated me. He fed me samples and pushed me to find good musicians while we were working together. Once he met Cayn, he was like, you need to meet Ramon. And it’s pretty much been on lock since then.

M.O.I. JR: What is the importance of the band versus just having Cayn sing over recorded tracks? What is the difference?

Ramon: Cayn can tell you better, but it’s a tangible experience when all six of us do our thing to make the music happen. While putting the band together, I would create pieces to fit into music and then say to myself, “I’m going to need a lot of players that really know their shit for this.”

The live show is paramount. When you play music live and people hear the experience AND see what you do to make the sound, their reactions are the difference. We feed off the crowd; it’s a more interactive thing to have the band.

Cayn: The difference I see is, I get more energy from these guys while on stage. The crowd gets a bolt of energy once they see how keys or drums make the sounds we create. I have been on stage with just backing tracks: NOT FUN.

If making music was a flower, my guys would be the root system, the stem, the leaves and the thorns. I am merely the bud that blooms from good care. So without them, I do not exist is how I feel about it.

M.O.I. JR: Who are some of the musicians who inspire you and why?

Ramon: Peter Tosh taught me to fight for what I believe, Tricky taught me to be inventive, Smashing Pumpkins taught me to be an emotional teen, Pinback taught me to be a music lover, Portishead taught me to be a music junkie, Wu-Tang Clan taught me to fall in love with music completely.

Radiohead used to be a big time favorite because lyrically and sonically they really got what it was I loved about doing music, which is doing it your way. Gregory Isaacs, Toots, Bob Marley and sons are all inspirational to me as well.

Peekaboo Theory in performance
Cayn: Ceelo inspires me because in all that he does, he just seems free-minded. Also, Mick Jagger because of his energy and his ability to connect with any audience. I want that appeal in my arsenal.

M.O.I. JR: Do you have material online or in stores? What makes your sound different from the 10,000 other rock bands in Texas?

Ramon: Yes: iTunes and Amazon. We technically won for best avant garde in Houston, but we play punk and shit at times. I think that’s what draws the crowd. The ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds of six people from Colombia, Jamaica, down South – Darian is from the Midwest – Cayn’s Native American background, all come into play.

M.O.I. JR: For people who are not up on their history, what have Black people contributed to rock? Do you feel like you play music in the legacy of these people? Why?

Ramon: Hmmm. A lot has happened since then. I feel we carry on the same spirit of those who started playing in the first place. They just wanted to play music and express themselves. Before the machine – the man’s hands in it all – I don’t know that it was called rock. So yeah, we’re doing that same thing here and now. Time has allowed for the expansion of synths and genre-blends since then, so what we do is for our generation, not a recap of the past.

M.O.I. JR: Do you think it is harder to be a rap band or a Black rock band? Why? Does being a novelty help sales?

Ramon: Being a novelty does help. That has been achieved more so, though, because of our sound. Breaking out of any norm takes a lot of endurance and we’ve seen more difficulties than help from being a Black rock band. I think that aspect of it may make a rap band an easier feat.

That’s never slowed us down though. We couldn’t care less how hard it will be as long as it’s a success. Whatever you WANT to do in life will take hard work, especially if it’s a good idea – even more so in fact, because no one else has done it.

M.O.I. JR: How can people hear your music and get in touch with you?

Ramon: We’re about to roll out our new website but, in the meantime, Bandcamp is a great place to check us out! For booking or press, email growilition@gmail.com.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

 

The police state’s lawyers: Meyers Nave

August 18, 2011

by Matthew Jackson

The very first protest against the BART police murder of Oscar Grant was held at the BART board meeting only four days later, on Jan. 5, 2009. – Photo: Frederic Larson, San Francisco Chronicle
In the aftermath of Oscar Grant’s murder in 2009, directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit district announced they would turn over the agency’s internal affairs probe to what they called an “independent, third-party law firm.” BART board member Carole Ward Allen explained the decision saying, “It was essential for the public to have complete confidence in the findings of this internal investigation; and the best way to guarantee that confidence was to bring someone in from the outside with an impeccable record to conduct the investigation independently.”

BART leaders quickly selected the Oakland-based law firm, Meyers Nave, to carry out the investigation. At the time, this action failed to prompt a close look at the firm’s background, practice areas and clientele.

An examination into Meyers Nave’s work on the Oscar Grant case and its work for various police departments around the state, reveals a firm that is anything but an independent third party. Meyers Nave is instead a law office deeply intertwined with municipal governments and police forces. Its lawyers strongly identify with government clients who account for all of the firm’s business.

Managing BART’s crisis

A protester shouts his outrage at the BART board of directors over their cover-up surrounding the murder of Oscar Grant. Moments later BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger was splattered with red paint from a cup by a protester who yelled, “The blood on BART’s hands is real!” The meeting, held April 9, 2009, was then closed to the public. – Photo: Hans Scholl, Indybay
Released in August of 2009, Meyers Nave’s final report on Oscar Grant’s murder, which they called “the New Year’s Day Situation” or “incident,” offered some strong remonstrations of the BART Police Department’s policies and practices, going so far as to describe the rank and file as “seriously deficient” with respect to tactics and training.

BART executives greeted the report as a welcomed reform tool. “I appreciate their efforts,” said BART Board President Thomas Blalock, “which I believe are helping to open a new chapter in our continuing efforts to improve police services at BART.” BART board member Carole Ward Allen greeted the report, calling it “a very valuable tool that will help us to improve BART’s efforts to keep our system safe for all riders while helping to prevent such incidents in the future.”

The report’s purpose, apparent in the operative language used in it and echoed by BART’s executives, was to “improve police services” and “improve BART’s efforts” to make the “system safe.” Somehow these became the goals of the internal affairs report – not investigating allegations of systematic BART police misconduct and abuses of power related to Grant’s slaying.

Even so, critics of the BART police initially welcomed the Meyers Nave report, highlighting some of the findings that generally supported their own research and observations regarding widespread abuses by BART officers against riders, particularly youth of color. In the end, however, Meyers Nave’s “independent” investigation failed to rock the boat, almost as if by design.

A closer look at the Meyers Nave law firm reveals that this was entirely by design.

‘Farmed out’

Meyers Nave founding attorney Steve Meyers
Meyers Nave is hardly an independent outsider to the halls of government. The firm’s 80-plus lawyers specialize in providing legal services to cities and other government agencies, including BART and many police departments across the state. Because government is their sole client category, Meyers Nave’s lawyers serially identify with the interests of the state. Meyers Nave is retained by numerous cities and other government agencies to represent state managers against organized labor, environmentalists, community groups and other parties.

Attorneys Steve Meyers and Michael Nave created the firm in 1986. At the time, Meyers was the city attorney for San Leandro. In 1985, he sent a memo to the City Council calling for a “reorganization of the city attorney’s office,” the gist of which was to privatize the city attorney’s office. He called for the city’s law office to be “farmed out” in order to save money for San Leandro.

Tricia Hynes, lead attorney in support of the Fruitvale gang injunction
The next year, Meyers, Nave, Silver and Riback emerged as a private law office ready to represent San Leandro and make a profit in the process. In later years, Meyers Nave would duplicate this strategy and sign contracts with other cities to take over virtually all responsibilities of the traditional city attorney’s office. Today, the firm has contracts with 25 municipalities and dozens more special districts and counties. As a diversified law firm, Meyers Nave handles everything from environmental law to land use to public finance.

In recent years, Meyers Nave has racked up an impressive list of victories defending police departments against lawsuits brought by individuals and family members of those who have alleged abuse and civil rights violations at the hands of officers. Representative examples drawn from Meyers Nave’s own website include:

“Martinez v. City of Fairfield. Plaintiff Martinez, a 13-year-old boy, alleged civil rights violations by Fairfield officers after being struck in the face numerous times during an arrest. The jury returned a complete defense verdict, finding that the officers acted appropriately.

“Shepherd v. City of Modesto. The plaintiff filed suit alleging wrongful arrest, excessive use of force and false imprisonment following her arrest by Modesto officers. The federal jury returned a complete defense verdict.

“Pascual v. City of Los Angeles. We obtained summary judgment in favor of all defendants, including the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Police Department and the police chief on claims of civil rights deprivation, discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliatory discrimination.

“Creal v. City of Fairfield. The plaintiff brought a federal civil rights excessive force claim against the City of Fairfield and two individual officers. After deliberating for less than four hours, the jury came back with a complete defense verdict on all state and federal counts.”

Almost a year after the implementation of the first gang injunction in North Oakland, the Oakland City Council finally stepped into the fray May 17, hearing over five hours of public comment – almost all in opposition – and debate on the matter and voting 4-3 to continue the North Oakland gang injunction and to proceed with pursuing another in the Fruitvale district, even though Oakland police crime statistics for North Oakland show no reduction in violent crime. – Photo: Dave Id, Indybay
In addition to defending cops accused of violence and misconduct in court, Meyers Nave specializes in what it calls “Crisis Management: Public Policy, Ethics and Investigations.” This practice area merges public relations with law. According to the firm’s website, “It is our goal to help clients preserve, or regain, public trust and avoid lasting damage.”

In advertising materials, Meyers Nave’s attorneys talk about “controlling the crisis” and “creating a legal and public relations action plan” in the aftermath of situations such as police shootings. Today, Meyers Nave advertises its role in the BART internal affairs investigation into Grant’s shooting as a successful example of its approach to “crisis management.”

Going on the offensive: gang injunctions and less-than-lethal force

Meyers Nave is mostly a defense counsel, hired by cities and their police departments to prevent investigations into official misconduct from blowing up and to contain potentially costly judgments in civil rights, environmental and labor cases. But the firm is also involved in crafting policies sought by tough-on-crime politicians and police forces.

In June of 2010, Meyers Nave was retained by then City Attorney John Russo to represent Oakland in its successful effort to impose a gang injunction in the Fruitvale neighborhood and in another effort to prepare an injunction in “Area 3,” a neighborhood also in East Oakland.

Unlike its role in the BART internal affairs investigation, Meyers Nave’s work for the City of Oakland has been subjected to some scrutiny by community members and journalists. In February, before court hearings to consider the Fruitvale injunction, the grassroots coalition Stop the Injunctions asked “whether the private law firm of Meyers Nave should be allowed to sue the defendants on behalf of the people of the state of California?”

Gang injunctions were first imposed in the Bay Area by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and were fiercely opposed by the Black and Brown neighborhoods – Hunters Point and the Mission – they oppress. At a rally July 12, 2007, Public Defender Jeff Adachi eloquently denounced them, noting that his office is not allowed to defend those targeted. Today, Herrera and Adachi are competing in the San Francisco mayor’s race. – Photo: John Han, Fog City Journal
Reporters such as Erik Arnold, who covered the court hearings, took note of the unguarded moments in court when Meyers Nave’s attorneys identified themselves as representing “the police point of view.”

Such spirited work to promote police initiatives like the gang injunctions seem to contradict the notion that Meyers Nave is an “independent” or “outside” entity, capable of objectively conducting investigations of police shootings such as that which ended in Oscar Grant’s death.

Lead attorney in the Fruitvale gang injunction Tricia Hynes has promoted injunctions in publications like American City and County and The Recorder. Both are influential magazines read by many government officials. In her op-ed piece in American City and County, Hynes claims gang injunctions are “absolutely” effective: “Carefully crafted gang injunctions can decrease gang-related criminal activity.”

She cites studies providing evidence that crime rates have fallen after the imposition of some injunctions in Los Angeles and other cities. Evidence is still sparse and much of the existing research is in disagreement on the effects of injunctions, however.

In an article entitled “Gang Injunctions Make Neighborhoods Safer,” Hynes makes a kind of sales pitch to readers: “The reason why more and more cities are considering gang injunctions is that they work.”

Hynes, who was made a principal attorney at Meyers Nave in 2008, is one of the firm’s lawyers specializing in the defense of police accused of brutality and civil rights violations. Her clients have included the police forces of San Leandro, South San Francisco, Petaluma, Fairfield, Milpitas, Union City and other Bay Area cities.

Beyond the courtroom, she has published papers on subjects like how to “Avoid or Reduce Litigation Costs – Critical Steps Police and Other Departments Can Take” and how police forces can defend themselves in “In-Custody Death Cases involving Tasers,” “Excited Delirium” and “Positional Asphyxia.”

In arguing for the Fruitvale gang injunctions, Hynes was described as forceful and passionate in court. Oakland’s contracts with Meyers Nave were for $40,000 to prepare and litigate each gang injunction targeting Fruitvale and “Area 3” in far East Oakland.

City Attorney Russo has since resigned to take the position of City Manager in Alameda. Alameda has reportedly retained Meyers Nave as counsel in 2011.

Bay Area writer Matthew Jackson can be reached via editor@sfbayview.com.

 

Reflections on the victorious resistance at Sogorea Te

August 18, 2011

by Philip Standing Bear, Indigenous Peoples Media Correspondent

Indigenous people from many parts of the world and their supporters came together for the closing ceremonies marking the victory over desecration of the Segorea Te (Glen Cove) sacred site won with a 106-day encampment and hard bargaining with local officials and developers in Vallejo. – Photo: Poor News Network
As this is my first assignment for Indigenous Peoples Media Project on Poor News Network, I feel extremely honored to capture the heartfelt resistance that is Sogorea Te. I was blessed to be invited to the closing ceremonies, as an easement has been created in an agreement between the City of Vallejo and officials of Greater Vallejo Recreational District (GVRD) and the Yochina Dine and Cortina tribes to protect this sacred site.

First I would like to introduce myself. My name is Phillip Standing Bear and I am an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. I would like to say that I feel like it is my duty to protect what is sacred to not just my people, but to all indigenous peoples. I say that with the utmost humility in my heart and mind.

Now let’s get into a little bit of the 3,500 years of documented history of Sogorea Te, or Glen Cove. Glen Cove was a large village and ceremonial grounds that was used by many different tribes throughout the Bay Area. This area has been deemed, declared and even federally recognized as sacred to indigenous peoples. Many Natives alive today have ties to ancestors buried there.

As I was taking pictures of Sogorea Te, I was on the west hill overlooking most of the cove. A lady behind me in one of the expensive homes overlooking the Carquinez Strait, said to me, “Excuse me, do you know that this is private land and that you are trespassing?”

I turned to look at her to see if she knew what she was really talking about. It was an old white lady, maybe in her 60s or early 70s. I looked away, not wanting a confrontation here of all places, and then she asked, “Excuse me, can you speak English?” I looked back at her and told her: “I can speak perfect English. And your backyard is private land; I am not in your backyard.” She tried telling me to tell that to the police when they get here. I then told her that they probably won’t even bother coming, because they have to follow the law like you and I have to.

But Sogorea Te is so much more than an area of land being occupied by indigenous peoples. Rather, it is a sacred place where the people within felt so lost during the colonization period of the Bay Area that they knew they had no more sacred spaces to perform ceremonies and traditions with their ancestors who are buried there. During the missionization of the indigenous peoples of the area, the Native “Christians” were sent to the Mission district of San Francisco. There they lived their Christian lives, “permitted” to visit their homeland twice a year.

Account from Mission, San Francisco: “Twice in the year they receive permission to return to their native homes. This short time is the happiest period of their existence; and I myself have seen them going home in crowds, with loud rejoicings. The sick, who cannot undertake the journey, at least accompany their happy countrymen to the shore where they embark and there sit for days together, mournfully gazing on the distant summits of the mountains which surround their homes. They often sit in this situation for several days without taking any food – so much does the sight of their lost home affect these new Christians.” (Kotzebue [1816] 1932:63, p. 219).

This happens everywhere in the United States of America. Corporations and organizations everywhere ignore the fact that these lands are under federal protection.

According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Part II, Article 10; The Right to Traditional Space: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.” [Adoption of the declaration on Sept. 13, 2007, was opposed by only four nations: The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. – ed.]

This declaration alone proves that GVRD and the City of Vallejo are ignoring principles agreed to by the great majority of humankind by trying to incorporate the land with their redevelopment plan to place a park with porta-potties on top of a sacred burial site.

I was honored to be introduced to some of the main warriors in the fight to save Segorea Te from development and desecration that culminated in a nearly four-month encampment. They included Corrina Gould, Mark Anquoe and many of other fighters for this land.

As Tiny, Muteado and I pulled up onto Shoal Drive and parked there, we had already noticed how full the area was of people headed to Sogorea Te. As we gathered the equipment out of the back of the snazzy, cherry red, four-door, 2011 Ford-something rental, I could already feel heads turning, looking at the cardboard sign saying “Poor Magazine.” The three of us laughed about it later.

Two indigenous warriors, Philip Standing Bear and Corrina Gould, join forces at the closing ceremonies at Sogorea Te (Glen Cove) sacred site. – Photo: Poor News Network
There was actually a lot more to Sogorea Te than I imagined, since it was my first time there. It was exhilarating just walking towards the grounds, almost like there were more people there than I saw with my eyes.

There were many other things that I noticed throughout the ceremonies. I noticed that after almost every song or dance that was performed, an eagle brother called out. He spoke loud and clear, “CAW,” like he was cheering or acknowledging the performers.

All in all, the ceremonies were held in good hearts and souls throughout the community, other than the “rude one,” as I like to call her now. I had the honor of interviewing some Hawaiian sisters that came out to give their blessings, as well as having an interview with another leader of the resistance, Miwok elder Wounded Knee DeOcampo. You can check the video below.

When we left, I at least felt better and more informed about the lifestyles and mindsets of the rich and how it affects the poor. I hope that the public will support Poor Magazine, as well as keep up with me in many more stories to come.

To the braves and feminine braves in the fight for Sogorea Te, I hope to meet and correspond with you in the future for fights over more lands that are being stolen by the industrial complex.

Philip Standing Bear is working with the Indigenous Peoples Media Project on Poor News Network. He can be reached via deeandtiny@poormagazine.org.

 

From Vallejo to Zimbabwe: The powerful moment in herstory for indigenous peoples everywhere

by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, Daughter of Dee

This sign tells why dozens of people maintained a 106-day encampment to save the sacred site at Segorea Te (Glen Cove) from development. Developers had planned to bulldoze the burial shellmound for a parking lot and porta-potties. – Photo: Poor News Network
When does displacement happen? For my mama it happened every day when she woke up without a known living relative, terrorized to live in her own brown skin, to walk outside the house, to be alive.

My mama was the orphaned daughter of a landless indigenous Taino and Afrikan father and a displaced indigenous Roma – gypsy – and Irish mother. Removal, displacement, eviction and colonization happened to her indigenous ancestors and it also happened to her. Every day she spent never knowing and yet always longing for her people, her culture, her language and her homelands.

“We have reached a victory for the first time, a precedent setting case for our people, for our ancestors,” said Corrina Gould, a 21st century Ohlone warrior woman who was on the frontline of the struggle for our ancestors at Sogorea Te (Glen Cove). Corrina was talking about a 106-day encampment by indigenous peoples to stop the desecration of a 3,500-year-old ancestral burial ground in Vallejo, California.

“The Greater Vallejo Recreational District wanted to put parking spaces and porta-potties on our burial grounds. That’s when we began a sacred fire and we weren’t going to leave until we knew our ancestors were safe,” Corrina concluded. She went on to explain that, through a complex easement agreement reached between the two tribes in control of the sacred site and the city of Vallejo, the burial grounds were now officially safe from development and desecration.

From Vallejo to Mexico, from Zimbabwe to Hawaii, indigenous peoples have been systematically removed, displaced, bulldozed over, redlined, evicted and gentrified for hundreds of years. Our sacred burial grounds have been desecrated and our farmlands and rivers and medicine have been stolen, sold, poisoned and co-opted, leaving us dependent on governments, NGOs and the non-profit industrial complex to scatter a few crumbs of “aid” our way when it is politically convenient.

The majority of us – post-removal, post Diasporic and without land, resources, safety and even cultural identity like my mama – end up suffering different forms of post-traumatic stress, abuse, economic instability, disability and homelessness or landlessness only to become criminalized, incarcerated and lumped into the collectively unsolvable problem known as “poverty,” so we can be studied, researched, written about and deconstructed by the industry of academia.

The final act of displacement is the removal and desecration of our sacred ancestral burial grounds. In California alone, we have lost countless sacred spaces to shopping malls, parks and museums – our ancestors desecrated so people could sip lattes, buy computer parts and watch Hollywood movies.

There have been tragic losses like the Emeryville and Presidio and Yerba Buena shellmounds located in San Francisco and Oakland. Sorrow-filled, valiant battles were waged by indigenous peoples but, in the end, big money and real estate speculation prevailed as it often does in this capitalist society.

But as the rivers and oceans across Pachamama flow with our spilled blood and stolen resources, we have also reached an extremely important moment in herstory. A moment when centuries of resistance movements brought by threatened, displaced and removed indigenous peoples are prevailing.

“We have been fighting removal for hundreds of years and now another speculator is trying to turn our sacred burial grounds at Rattlesnake Island into a summer vacation home,” said Jim BrownEagle of Lake County Elam people. He went on to explain that his tribal nation has collected extensive documentation of the historic theft of their people’s resources and will proceed with a lawsuit against the government for reparations.

In San Sabastien, Bachajon, Mexico, after a deep struggle by indigenous peoples to control their land and natural resources from government land grabs and destructive “eco-tourism” – a struggle which included false accusation, arrest and incarceration of seven of the indigenous warriors who protect the beautiful waterfalls and rivers of the land – the indigenous peoples prevailed, the political prisoners were released and the truth is circulating throughout international media channels. The fight is definitely not over, but the world is watching and responding and not letting up the pressure on the “bad government” attempts to steal the original peoples’ lands.

Like their brothers and sisters in Chiapas, the Huicholes in Jalisco fought the government’s plan to build a road through their village by coming out and standing in front of the bulldozers and refusing to leave. Now, the government has conceded to the indigenous peoples and is building the road around the village.

Other powerful landless peoples and poor peoples movements that have successfully resisted government politricks and corporate domination recently include the Shackdwellers Union in South Africa, the Landless Peoples Movement in Brazil and the Peoples Parliament in Zimbabwe.

Aligned with indigenous people-led and poor people-led movements across the globe, POOR Magazine has been working on our own form of stolen land resistance we call “HOMEFULNESS,” a sweat-equity co-housing project, practicing equity-sharing and land distribution led by us, the peoples whose voices are continually silenced and repressed: the poor, the displaced, the removed.

As I stood in front of the sacred fire at Sogorea Te, celebrating the last day of this revolutionary victory for our ancestors everywhere, with my fellow indigenous reporters at POOR and PNN, I reflected on the countless fights of indigenous peoples that have come before this one and the ones currently being waged – fights that have a renewed strength now.

“We are part of a pan-Pacific coalition of Samoan, Hawaiian, Tongan and many more Pacific Islander social justice organizers who came together to work on the Free Rapa Nui project,” said Loa Niumeitolu, a Tongan revolutionary who, with her sister, FuiFuiLupe, spoke to us about the work of the Oceana Coalition of Northern California (OCNC) to support the indigenous peoples of Easter Island.

This coalition of Pacific Islanders was one of many nations who came out to stand in solidarity with the Sogorea Te resistance in the occupation. The work of OCNC is based on the fact that many Pacific Islanders are currently incarcerated, displaced and or in poverty through countless forms of indigenous removal and theft.

Other indigenous nations, like the Winnemem Wintu, came with medicine and prayers on the 52nd day of the occupation at Sogorea Te. The homeland of the Winnemem Wintu is centered around the McCloud River in Northern California, which for thousands of years was one of the most fertile salmon-spawning rivers in the West.

In the 1940s, construction of the Shasta Dam resulted in the flooding of Winnemem villages and sacred places and effectively wiped out the McCloud salmon by blocking their upriver passage. The Winnemem are currently battling a proposal to further raise the Shasta Dam and are working passionately to restore their ancestral relationship with Nur, the Salmon. The Winnemem Wintu peoples have committed to standing their ground no matter what, even if the dam is raised, even if the water comes.

“We won this fight because we, as indigenous peoples, as all peoples of all colors and cultures, came together. That’s what we have to do at all of the remaining sites to ensure that they are safe,” said Wounded Knee DeOcampo, Miwok elder who has been fighting for the preservation of ancestral burial grounds for years. “Now that we won this powerful victory we need to focus on the San Francisco Peaks, located in Arizona, another sacred site that must be saved,” DeOcampo concluded.

As the smoke from the sacred fire blended with the sweet smell of sage and tobacco offerings, I placed my Mama Dee and Uncle Al Robles pictures at the entrance to the Sogorea Te prayer circle so their revolutionary indigenous spirits could be part of this important victory.

A quiet softness brushed past me and then I knew. I heard her in the deep beat of the drum and felt her in the soft grass in the wind. Mama was there. Smiling from the deepest place in her wounded heart, as she rarely did, when she saw justice finally done for displaced peoples, like her.

Tiny, aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, poverty scholar, welfare QUEEN, revolutionary journalist, Po’ Poet, teacher and lecturer, is the co-founder with her Mama Dee of POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, a poor people-led, indigenous people-led grassroots arts organization dedicated to creating revolutionary media, education and art for and by youth, adults and elders in poverty locally and globally. One of POOR’s many revolutionary media projects is the Indigenous Peoples Media Project . Tiny is the author of Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit www.tinygraygarcia.com and www.racepovertymediajustice.org.

 

Is Haiti’s church hierarchy failing in its mission? Bishop Louis Kébreau’s immoral advice to Martelly

August 18, 2011

by Wadner Pierre

Bishop Louis Kebreau walking in a religious march Dec. 8, 2011. – Photo: Wadner Pierre
Did Bishop Louis Kébreau, president of the Haitian Episcopal Conference, call on Haitian President Martelly to be ruthless and dictatorial?

In an article published on Aug. 11 by the Haitian daily newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, Bishop Kébreau, a close friend of President Martelly, urged him to put his “Sweet Micky pants on” so as to govern the country. Martelly’s administration has essentially not even begun to function since Parliament refused to accept two of his selections for prime minister.

The upper echelons of the Catholic Church in Haiti and the Vatican have a deplorable history of backing repression. The Vatican, virtually alone in the world, recognized the Cedras military dictatorship of 1991-1994. Recent WikiLeaks have exposed the Vatican’s behind the scenes encouragement of U.S. efforts to undermine democracy in Haiti prior to the 2004 coup. After the coup, the Vatican openly applauded it by saying there was “nothing to regret” about Aristide’s ouster.

To defend his remarks, Bishop Kébreau said on Radio Magik 9 that he was misinterpreted and that there was “no question of repression, no question of dictatorship.” But he added, “If we continue to undress the president we will go nowhere.”

It is extremely unlikely that Bishop Kébreau will be punished by his superiors for his openly partisan intervention in Haitian politics. However, it was Bishop Kébreau himself who supported a letter to suspend the late Father Gerard Jean-Juste in his sacerdotal function in 2006 while imprisoned by the Latortue dictatorship, no less.

The Haitian people, who had fought fiercely for his freedom, welcome their beloved Father Jean-Juste on his release in 2004 from his first stint in prison (above) and again on Nov. 26, 2007, when the charges against him were finally dropped (below). Cruelly punished by both the Haitian government and the church, he was imprisoned again in 2005 when President Latortue feared he would run for president in the 2006 election and he was stripped of his role as pastor of St. Claire’s, where he had fed hundreds of children daily. In prison, he fell gravely ill with leukemia and was eventually released to seek medical treatment in Miami. But the church cut off his health insurance and he died in 2009. – Photo below: Wadner Pierre
Father Jean-Juste was a vocal supporter of Aristide and was suspending from celebrating mass as punishment for being political. While human rights groups around the world, including Amnesty International, called for Jean-Juste’s release, the Catholic Church in Haiti decided that even more punishment was justified.

None of this is surprising for anyone who has followed the involvement of the church in Haiti’s political affairs even before the country’s independence in 1804.

As a former altar boy, I am very disturbed by the declaration of someone of high profile in the church like Bishop Kébreau; but I am not surprised, because powerful clerics like him have always fought against a democratic government in Haiti. They have always been on the side of the elite – about 5 percent of the population.

In December of 2007, while celebrating the 65th anniversary of the consecration of Haiti to Our Lady of Perpetual of Help, Bishop Kébreau made a vague statement urging Rene Preval – then president – to deal with “social injustice.” Of course, Bishop Kébreau did not identify the cause of this “injustice.”

May the leaders of the Catholic Church become, one day, promoters of social justice, not social injustice and despotism. Amen.

Popular Haitian photojournalist Wadner Pierre is senior staff photographer for the Maroon and Wolf magazines at Loyola University, New Orleans, where he is currently studying and publishes with Inter Press Service. Visit his website, haitianalysis.com, and his blogs, wadnerpierre.blogspot.com and dominionpaper.ca/weblogs/wadner_pierre. On The Journey of a Haitian Photojournalist, you are sure to find photos by Wadner that will print themselves indelibly on your heart and can be purchased and displayed for others to enjoy. Wadner can be reached at nwanpi@gmail.com.

This is the trailer for “Harvest of Hope,” a documentary by Kevin Pina that is essential for understanding the roots of the current crisis in Haiti. The film dramatically captures seminal moments in the history of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Lavalas movement that swept him from the priesthood into the presidency.

This is the Bay View’s caption for this little video posted May 30, 2009, three days after the tragic death of Father Jean-Juste: “Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, known lovingly as Father Gerry, the great Haitian freedom fighter, the priest who practiced liberation theology, who fed hundreds of children daily, who regularly challenged presidents and popes and who would have been president of Haiti had he not been jailed, thanks the San Francisco Bay View newspaper for beating the drum to help set him free. He joined the ancestors May 27, 2009, and all who loved him must fight more fearlessly and love more boundlessly to fill the void.”

 

San Francisco NAACP calls on City Attorney Dennis Herrera to resign

August 17, 2011

The African American faith and civil rights leadership believe candidate Herrera shows clear conflict in slandering hard working city department head he is obligated to represent

by the San Francisco NAACP

On Aug. 5, Mohammed Nuru was promoted from deputy director to director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works when former director, Ed Reiskin, was named to head Muni. As the city’s only Black currently heading a major department, he is now in charge of the 1,200 employees and the $129 million budget at DPW, where he has worked for 11 years. Nuru is remembered in the Black community for developing a small nonprofit, the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), into a powerful and positive force creating and maintaining organic gardens that gave hundreds of youngsters their first jobs and provided nourishing fresh food for the community.
San Francisco – Dennis Herrera should apologize to the African American community, to Mohammed Nuru and to Mayor Lee and he should immediately resign. He cannot be a candidate for mayor and the city attorney, who is supposed to represent Mohammed Nuru.

Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP, held a news conference Tuesday on the steps of City Hall to denounce Herrera’s comments. According to the San Francisco Examiner, “Brown said Herrera is playing ‘racial politics.’”

“’If [Nuru] was guilty of what they accused him of, they would have locked his butt up and thrown the key away,’ Brown said, adding that Herrera owes Nuru an apology,” the Examiner reported. Herrera accused Nuru of directing workers at the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), which he formerly headed, to campaign for Gavin Newsom for mayor and Kamala Harris for district attorney in the 2004 election.

Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP, surrounded by NAACP members at a press conference Tuesday, defended newly appointed DPW Director Mohammed Nuru and called on City Attorney and mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera to resign for slandering Nuru. – Photo: Paul Chinn, San Francisco Chronicle
By attacking Mohammed Nuru and Mayor Lee’s support of his appointment, Dennis Herrera has shown he is willing to put his political agenda and campaign ahead of the city’s interests and his own responsibilities as city attorney.

He has slandered Mr. Nuru, a qualified, long-serving public servant who neighborhood leaders and Supervisors across this city know as a responsive and effective public works leader who has earned this opportunity to lead the department, which City Administrator Amy Brown and Mayor Lee have recognized.

If Mr. Nuru committed any wrongdoing seven years ago, why didn’t Dennis Herrerra, who was city attorney at the time, charge Mr. Nuru with anything?

Dennis Herrera knows that Mr. Nuru is among San Francisco’s most dedicated African American public servants. He is available 24/7 to this city and to the community, whether it is cleaning our streets, removing graffiti and working with small business leaders to keep our city clean and green. He has earned this opportunity to be director of Public Works.

Dennis Herrera is the city’s lawyer, and now he has undermined his effectiveness by attacking Mohammed Nuru. Countless litigators will cite Herrera’s statements against the city now, undermining the city’s legal defense and potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars in litigation.

There could be no greater conflict of interest. And all this from a man who is subject now to an open ethics commission investigation into illegal lobbying by his campaign consultants. This should be an outrage to every San Franciscan.

Mohammed Nuru’s accomplishments shine light on his ability to lead the organization and manage complex issues. Following is a list of some of his accomplishments.

  • Developed and implemented programs that raise awareness around street cleanliness, focusing on providing key services to communities that need them most:
    • Community Corridors Partnership Program
    • Eco Blitzes and Night Walks
    • Spruce Up by Sun Up
  • Transformed underutilized public spaces into green space called street parks and providing the means to reinvigorate the public realm in order to maximize limited space through parklets under the Pavement to Parks Program. Also led efforts to beautify and green many of our street medians. Created Arbor Day, which is celebrated annually to raise awareness around the benefits of street trees. Led efforts to plant thousands of street trees in San Francisco.
  • Led the Community Clean Team, now in its 11th year providing residents the opportunity to volunteer in various greening and cleaning activities. This initiative has contributed to countless hours of work that DPW would otherwise have to complete with city resources. DPW has hosted and recruited thousands of volunteers.
  • Hosted special neighborhood clean ups throughout the city and empowered residents to take care of their streets.
  • Increased membership and participation in community programs such as Adopt a Street and Graffiti Watch.
  • Spearheaded the 7501 Apprenticeship Program, which provides job training and the experience for underserved individuals to qualify and apply for jobs in various construction trades.
  • Increased efficiencies through performance management to help balance the citywide budget and identified cost savings while preserving front line resources which are critical to the day to day operations of the city.
  • Improved cleanliness scores on city streets and sidewalks, outlined the Controller’s Street and Sidewalk Maintenance Report and improved service request response times.
Alemany Farm, a thriving urban farm next to the Alemany public housing development, was developed on a 4.5 acre former dump by the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG) under the direction of Mohammed Nuru.
Mohammed Nuru has been honored and recognized with numerous awards:

  • Most Empowering City Employee of the Year Award from Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, NEN Awards Ceremony – November 2010
  • Certificates of Recognition from Congresswoman Jackie Spier, Sen. Mark Leno and Speaker Pro Tempore Fiona Ma – November 2010
  • Mission Neighborhood Center’s “Unsung Hero Award” – April 2010
  • Municipal Fiscal Advisory Committee’s Certificates of Merit in recognition of managerial excellence and achievement – February 2009 and February 2010
  • Certificate of Appreciation from Police Chief Heather Fong for outstanding contributions in improving the quality of life for those who live in, work in or visit San Francisco – May 2009
  • Community Leadership Academy and Emergency Response Project (CLAER) Award in recognition of outstanding and sustained support for residents of public housing and at risk youth – 2008
  • Certificate of Merit in Recognition of Managerial Excellence and Achievement from San Francisco Municipal Advisory Committee – February 2008
  • Certificates of Honor from San Francisco Board of Supervisors for dedication in responding to Cosco Busan oil spill – January 2008 and rejuvenation of Broadway Tunnel in an efficient, timely manner – February 2003
  • Certificate of Appreciation and Honorary Title as San Francisco “Chinatown Gatekeeper”
  • Customer Service Award for Outstanding Customer Service performed as an employee of City and County of San Francisco – April 7, 2003

For more information, contact Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP, at (415) 922-0650 or via news@change-llc.com. Bay View staff contributed to this story.

 

From Harlem to the United Nations: Hands off Africa and Africans worldwide!

August 17, 2011

by Amadi Ajamu

Despite the inroads of gentrification and countless schemes to divide and conquer the Black community, Harlem remains the capital of Black America and shows with a huge turnout for the Millions March Aug. 13 that the people there continue to fight for Africans everywhere. – Photo: Amadi Ajamu
Thousands of people stood in unity at the Millions March in Harlem on Malcolm X Boulevard and 110th Street in Harlem, New York, on Saturday, Aug.13, to make the demand, “U.S. / NATO HANDS OFF AFRICA AND HANDS OFF AFRICAN PEOPLE!”

The struggle continues as Pan African organizers take their demand to the United Nations on Tuesday, Sept. 20, during the annual U.N. General Assembly of the Heads of State. A genuine discourse on the reformation of the United Nations structure must be put on the table. The total domination of the Western led Security Council can not continue in the 21st century.

African nations and peoples must unite to stop the re-colonization aggression and continue to build a movement toward a United States of Africa, now. We must stop the attack on Africans throughout the Diaspora, including the United States and Europe, during this global political-economic crisis.

The embattled leaders, Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, have set an extraordinary example of political and economic self determination for African people. They are now under brutal attack with bombs and severe economic sanctions. Both weapons kill Africans every day. We must make a Pan African nexus throughout the world and stand in stiff resistance.

One of the most important issues at the Sept. 20 demo will be reaffirming the tremendous victory won by African People at the 2001 U.N. World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The Durban Declaration and Program of Action [DDPA] declared the transatlantic slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity and that reparations were due the descendants of the victims of these crimes.

Since then, the U.S. and other Western countries have tried to erase this historic declaration and make it disappear. And now, heads of state at the U.N. will review it on Sept. 22.

Here in New York City, we are under attack by the Bloomberg administration in education, health care, housing and jobs. These attacks destroy families and the quality of our lives. We must make these connections and unite in an international struggle for human rights. Pan-Africanism or Perish!

Amadi Ajamu is an organizer with the Brooklyn-based December 12th Movement. He can be reached at amadi4@aol.com.

 

Bye-bye, MINUSTAH!

August 17, 2011

Editors’ note: Axis of Logic first published this article in English on Aug. 15, and the Bay View followed on Aug. 17. Due to requests from Haitian readers and others, Dady Chery has translated her essay into French. Her translation into French follows the English version. – Les Blough, Axis of Logic editor, and Mary Ratcliff, SF Bay View editor

Note aux lecteurs de français : Beaucoup d’entre vous ont demandé de lire cet essai en français. La traduction française suit au dessous de la version anglaise. – Axis of Logic

A Spanish translation by Fernando Moyano published by Desacato follows the French translation. – SF Bay View

by Dady Chery

A month after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that killed nearly over 300,000 people, survivors, huddling together in camps with sheets for shelter, little food or water and drenched by heavy rain, were getting no help from the thousands of MINUSTAH occupation troops and call for their ouster. – Photo: Haiti Information Project
As one of his first measures in office, Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim plans to conclude Brazil’s participation in the notorious United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Various sectors of the Brazilian government, including Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, agree with Mr. Amorim, who says that the important thing now is to formulate an exit strategy.

Mr. Amorim was sworn in on Thursday, Aug. 4, and only took office the following Monday, but as early as Saturday he held a meeting at the Presidential Palace with Brazil’s Army commanders and joint chiefs of staff to discuss a possible draw down of the troops. According to one participant in this meeting, there was a “convergence of opinion” about the Brazilian troops.

It is appropriate that the Brazilians should be first to leave Haiti. After all, the insertion of U.N. troops into the country began as a Brazilian project in the early days of Lula’s presidency. It was part of the campaign by Brazil to prove its worthiness in matters of world security so as to earn a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Amorim, then minister of foreign affairs, was one of the main architects of Brazil’s participation.

The troops started arriving in June 2004, shortly after Aristide’s kidnapping, to buttress the illegal administration that followed the coup. The first MINUSTAH commander, a Brazilian, complained of the pressure to use violence and resigned his position by fall 2005. The second commander, another Brazilian, committed suicide by January 2006.

The force has continued to grow, with the Brazilian contingent now numbering 2,160 men, although in Brazil this military adventure has been controversial from the start. Mr. Amorim attributes his sudden change of heart to Haiti’s “growing economy and gradual return to democratic normalcy.”

There are many reasons why MINUSTAH should go, but Mr. Amorim’s justifications do not qualify for my top 10 list below.

  1. MINUSTAH continually harasses and humiliates Haitians. MINUSTAH’s favorite activities include pepper spraying Haitians and capriciously confiscating drivers’ licenses and computers.
  2. Common criminals in MINUSTAH enjoy immunity from prosecution. Though over 100 troops have been expelled from Haiti for child prostitution and related charges, MINUSTAH soldiers have enjoyed immunity for most of their crimes, including numerous rapes and the suffocation in August 2010 of a Haitian teenager working on a Nepalese MINUSTAH base.
  3. MINUSTAH subverts democracy. Together with the U.S., Canada and France, MINUSTAH fixed elections that excluded 80 percent of the Haitian electorate and brought a Duvalierist, Michel Martelly, into power in May 2011.
  4. MINUSTAH interferes in Haiti’s political affairs. Former MINUSTAH head Edmond Mulet recommended that criminal charges be brought against Haiti’s legitimate president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, so as to keep him illegally out of Haiti.
  5. MINUSTAH serves as an occupation force. MINUSTAH troops, together with Haitian paramilitaries, ambushed and gunned down over 4,000 members of Fanmi Lavalas – Aristide’s party – soon after Aristide was deposed in 2004 in a coup plotted by the U.S., Canada, France and Haiti’s elite.
  6. MINUSTAH has operated as a large anti-Aristide gang. MINUSTAH conducted numerous raids on slums such as Cité Soleil so as to kill civilians who supported Aristide. In some of these raids MINUSTAH soldiers fired tens of thousands of rounds at dwellings and schools. (See the video below.)
  7. MINUSTAH troops showed spectacular cowardice after the earthquake of January 2010. During the first 36 hours after the earthquake, the troops hardly assisted Haitians and instead searched for each other.
  8. MINUSTAH harbors vandals and vectors of disease. In October 2010, MINUSTAH introduced a cholera epidemic into Haiti. So far, the epidemic has killed over 5,900 Haitians. MINUSTAH covered up the fact that several Nepalese soldiers arrived in Haiti sick with cholera and still lies about its role in the epidemic. As recently as Aug. 6, 2011, MINUSTAH was continuing to dump its fecal matter in Haiti’s rivers.
  9. The presence of U.N. troops on Haitian soil is illegal. Haiti’s MINUSTAH is the only U.N. force in a country that is not at war.
  10. The Haitian people despise MINUSTAH. Haitians at home and abroad, young and old, rich and poor, have made it known that they want MINUSTAH out of Haiti. Common epithets for the troops are “Volè kabrit!” (Goat thief!), “Kakachwet!” (Shitter!), “Koléra!” and “Pédofil!”

The U.N. is regularly updated about MINUSTAH’s crimes, which are well known to the great majority of Mr. Amorim’s compatriots. All know that Haiti was better off in 2004 when the troops first entered the country than in the months preceding the earthquake and they have loudly objected to their country’s participation in a foreign occupation.

Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim
An especially eloquent example was Ricardo Seitenfus, who lost his post as the Brazilian representative to the OAS in Haiti soon after speaking up in an interview last December. Mr. Seitenfus had this to say:

“The U.N. system currently in place to prevent disputes is inappropriate for Haiti. Haiti is not an international threat. We are not in the midst of a civil war. Haiti is not Iraq or Afghanistan … But it looks to me as if, on the international scene, Haiti is paying mainly for its proximity to the U.S.

“Haiti has long been an object of negative attention from the international system. It took the U.N. to coalesce this power and transform Haitians into prisoners of their own island.”

But the Brazilian calls to withdraw from Haiti have fallen on deaf ears. The real reasons for the coming withdrawal are to be found in the current Brazilian politico-economic situation and a recent ruling by a Dutch court.

Since 2004, Brazil’s taxpayers have spent over R$1 billion [R$ is the symbol for the Brazilian real; currently, $1 equals R$1.59] on MINUSTAH. Last year alone, maintenance of the Brazilian troops in Haiti cost R$ 426 million: R$ 140 million for annual costs and other expenditures plus R$ 286 million for humanitarian aid sent after an earthquake.

In principle, the U.N. should reimburse these expenses, but in recent years the reimbursements have amounted to only 16 percent of the payments made by the Brazilian government. In addition, the salaries of Brazil’s MINUSTAH troops have exceeded R$ 41 million per year – but these costs are excluded from Brazil’s expenses on the mission because these individuals would be entitled to their pay if they were in Brazil.

The Brazilian government has long known about this bloodletting, of course, but it has grit its teeth and maintained the arrangement as a political bribe to the U.S. in return for a seat on the Security Council. In more than seven years, this seat has not materialized.

As high as the current costs of MINUSTAH might appear, there will likely be more to pay. In a landmark decision last month, a Dutch court ruled the Netherlands government liable for the failure of its U.N. soldiers to protect three Bosnian Muslim men from being killed by Serbs during the 1995 Sebrenica massacre. Until now, U.N. soldiers accused of crimes had been merely discharged. This decision allows the possibility of suing the countries participating in U.N. forces for the crimes of their soldiers.

The people of Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, protest the U.N. for bringing the scourge of cholera to Haiti. Just this month, on Aug. 6 and 7, MINUSTAH was seen once again dumping feces into a river that supplies drinking water – this time the Guayamouc River near Hinche. – Photo: Ansel Herz
Given Brazil’s role in the formation of MINUSTAH, the Brazilian government might be liable for all of MINUSTAH’s crimes. In any case, Brazilian troops in Haiti stand accused of the murders of Aristide partisans and numerous sexual assaults.

The notorious 2006 Cité Soleil massacre involving these troops was captured on the video provided below. People killed by high powered rifles and M50s fired from helicopter gunships included children, pregnant women and unarmed men at 4 a.m. as they slept in their beds. Twenty-four-year-old Lelene Mertina was shot inside her home and survived but lost her 6-month-old baby.

A young schoolteacher was shot and killed inside his home but, while dying, said he was shot from a helicopter gunship. The U.N. was fully aware of who they were killing but denied it despite photographic evidence (see the video provided below). The MINUSTAH attacks were retribution for mounting massive demonstrations by the people who were demanding the return of Aristide to Haiti.

Some Brazilian hardliners, such as a member of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Campinas –Unicamp – Geraldo Cavagnari, continue to say that “the troops should stay put because there is no risk and there are many things in play.”

Everybody understands this to mean that the Security Council seat might yet come and, besides, Haitians are harmless, so why not continue to parasitize them? Retired Brazilian Gen. and former MINUSTAH Cmdr. August Heleno has been more pointed in his warning to Amorim against giving the armed forces a “left-wing ideological imprint.”

The week before the U.N. attack there were several huge demonstrations in Cité Soleil demanding the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Residents believe that the U.N. justification for the attack, to arrest a base of kidnappers, was really a cover for collective punishment against the community for continuing demonstrations like these. Photo above: Haiti Proges, Photo below: Haiti Action (La semaine avant l'attaque de l'ONU il ya eu plusieurs grandes manifestations à Cité Soleil demandant le retour du président Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Les résidents croient que la justification de l'ONU pour l'attaque, l'arrestation d'une base de ravisseurs, était vraiment une couverture pour une punition collective contre la communauté pour des démonstrations comme celles-ci. - Action Haïti)
One suspects that Cavagnari and Heleno are unaware of the Dutch court decision or the fact that Haitians are not being so inoffensive these days. The introduction of cholera into the country immediately after the murder of 16-year-old Gerard Jean Gilles ignited such fierce battles between Haitians and U.N. troops that the U.N. had to call a curfew for its troops.

Countless protests have taken place at home and abroad, and the protest calls are gradually changing to demands for reparation. One proposal is that MINUSTAH’s current budget of $2.5 million per day should go toward compensating the cholera victims and providing potable water to Haitians. As we say in Haiti, “Ayibobo!” (Amen).

Dutch courts aside, in Brazil the political winds are now blowing in an entirely different direction. Reactionary voices like those of Heleno and Cavagnari are quieting down as the relatives of murdered leftists increasingly pressure their country to create a Truth Commission to investigate and punish the crimes of Brazil’s 21-year dictatorship. Already, three military commanders have been forced to resign. Indeed, Mr. Amorim owes his position partly to the ditherings of former Defense Minister Nelson Jobim about the Truth Commission.

Gone are the days when the wealthy owners of Brazil’s apparel companies such as ABIT and AFRABAS held their country’s coffers and politicians with such a firm grip that they could commandeer thousands of their citizens to guard their sweatshops abroad.

Only months before the earthquake, delegations of Brazil’s rich strutted along Port-au-Prince’s waterfront, together with Haitian sweatshop magnate Fritz Mevs and former U.S. President Clinton, dreaming of possible sites for their future West Indies Free Zone. But things fell apart since the earthquake, not only in Haiti but all around. The Brazilian Defense Ministry is being forced to trim its budget because the country’s growth has slowed.

Those of us who want to see Haiti regain its independence would do well to support the Brazilian efforts toward a Truth Commission and all projects everywhere to bring U.N. soldiers to account for their crimes. The search for truth has so far succeeded where much else has failed.

In Haiti, where “growth” typically means everything from sweatshop labor to slavery and “democracy” means everything from fixed elections to outright occupation, we could do with a little less growth and democracy and a little more truth right now.

Since Mr. Amorim seems to be at a loss for an exit strategy, I would like to suggest one: How about packing the bags of MINUSTAH’s troops, trucking them to Toussaint Louverture Airport and putting them on the next TAM flights to Rio?

The departure of the Brazilian troops should spell the beginning of the end for MINUSTAH. The Brazilians are its largest contingent, with more than a quarter of the total number of troops.

When Aristide returned to Haiti on March 18, 2011, huge crowds flooded into the grounds around his home, scaling the walls and covering the roof. Having spent weeks cleaning and restoring the house, they neither damaged nor took anything, simply wanting to show their love. – Photo: Jean Ristil Jean Baptiste (Lorsqu’Aristide est revenu en Haiti, des foules immenses se sont presentées tout autour de chez lui et ont escaladé les murs et couvert le toit de sa maison.)
The rest come from Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Japan, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the U.S. and Uruguay.

Since many of the crimes by these troops are well known and can be readily documented for lawsuits, these countries too will soon discover that their “peacekeeping” costs have become burdensome.

One is tempted to ask why South American states with presumably leftist and nationalistic governments, like Bolivia and Ecuador, support the occupation of Haiti. After all, Cuba and Venezuela have amply demonstrated how much more can be achieved by contributing medical doctors and public health workers, instead of soldiers, to Haiti.

But not everything needs to be said during this leave taking. It is better to show the remaining MINUSTAH members the door and advise they not slam it on their way out.

Dady Chery grew up at the heart of an extended working-class family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She emigrated to New York when she was 14 and since then has traveled throughout the world, living in Europe and several North American cities. She writes in English, French and her native Créole and holds a doctorate. She can be reached at dc@dadychery.org. This story first appeared in Axis of Logic, where Chery is a columnist.

 

FRENCH TRANSLATION

Bye-bye, MINUSTAH!

par Dady Chery

Comme l’un de ses premières mesures, Celso Amorim, le Ministre de la Défense en Brésil envisage de conclure la participation du Brésil à la Mission des Nations Unies pour Stabilisation en Haïti (MINUSTAH). Des secteurs différents du gouvernement brésilien, y compris le ministère brésilien des Affaires étrangères sont d’accord avec M. Amorim, qui dit que l’important est maintenant de formuler une stratégie de sortie.

M. Amorim a prêté serment le jeudi 4 août et n’a pris ses fonctions que le lundi suivant, mais dès le samedi, il a tenu une réunion au palais présidentiel avec les commandants de l’Armée du Brésil et ces Joint Chiefs of Staff pour discuter un prélèvement de troupes. Selon un participant à cette réunion, il y avait une “convergence de vues” sur les soldats brésiliens.

Il est normal que les Brésiliens soivent les premiers à quitter Haïti. Après tout, l’insertion des troupes de l’ONU dans le pays a commencé comme un projet brésilien dans les premiers jours de la présidence de Lula. Cela faisait partie d’une campagne par le Brésil pour prouver sa compétence en matière de sécurité mondiale afin de gagner un siège permanent au Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU. M. Amorim, alors ministre des Affaires étrangères, a été l’un des architectes principaux de la participation du Brésil.

Les troupes ont commencé à arriver en Juin 2004, à peine un mois après l’enlèvement d’Aristide, pour étayer l’administration illégale qui a suivi le coup d’Etat. Le premier commandant de la MINUSTAH, un Brésilien, s’était plaint de la pression à utiliser la violence et a démissionné de son poste en automne 2005. Le deuxième commandant, un autre Brésilien, s’est suicidé en Janvier 2006. La force a continué de croître, avec un contingent brésilien aujourd’hui de 2160 hommes, malgré qu’au Brésil cette aventure militaire a été controversée dès le début. M. Amorim attribue son changement soudain à la “croissance économique d’Haiti et son retour à une normalité démocratique.”

Il y a plusieurs raisons pour lesquelles la MINUSTAH devrait partir, mais les justifications de M. Amorim ne seraint pas admis à mon liste des dix premieres ci-dessous.

  1. La MINUSTAH harcèle continuellement et humilie les Haïtiens. Activités favorites de la MINUSTAH comprennent attaquer les Haïtiens avec le spray au piment et confisquer capricieusement leurs permis de conduire et leurs ordinateurs.
  2. Les criminels ordinaires de la MINUSTAH bénéficient de l’immunité. Bien plus que de 100 soldats ont été expulsés d’Haïti pour la prostitution des enfants et d’autres crimes liés à cela. Les soldats de la MINUSTAH ont bénéficié d’une immunité pour la plupart de leurs crimes, y compris de nombreux viols et l’étouffement d’un adolescent haïtien qui travaillait sur un camp népalais en août 2010.
  3. La MINUSTAH subvertit la démocratie. Des élections organisées par les Etats Unis, le Canada, la France, et la MINUSTAH ont exclu 80% de l’électorat haïtien et ont rapporté un duvaliériste, M. Michel Martelly, au pouvoir en mai 2011.
  4. La MINUSTAH interfère dans les affaires politiques d’Haïti. L’ancien chef de la MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet a recommandé des accusations criminelles contre le président légitime d’Haïti, M. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, afin de le garder illégalement hors d’Haïti.
  5. La MINUSTAH constitue une force d’occupation. Des soldats de la MINUSTAH, en collaboration avec des paramilitaires haïtiens, ont abattu dans une embuscade plus de 4.000 membres de la Fanmi Lavalas (le parti d’Aristide), peu après qu’Aristide ait été renversé en 2004 par un coup organisé par les États-Unis, le Canada, la France, et l’élite haïtienne.
  6. La MINUSTAH a fonctionné comme une grande bande anti-Aristide. La MINUSTAH a mené de nombreuses attaques sur des bidonvilles comme Cité Soleil, afin de tuer des gens qui soutenaient Aristide. Dans certains de ces attaques, les soldats de la MINUSTAH ont tiré des dizaines de milliers de tours sur des logements et des écoles. (Voir la vidéo ci-dessous.)
  7. Les soldats de la MINUSTAH a montré une lâcheté spectaculaire après le séisme du Janvier 2010. Au lier d’aider des Haïtiens pendant les premières 36 heures après le séisme, ces soldats se sont recherchés les uns les autres.
  8. La MINUSTAH porte des vandales et des vecteurs de maladies. En Octobre 2010, la MINUSTAH a introduit une épidémie de choléra en Haïti. Jusqu’à présent, l’épidémie qui a tué plus de 5900 Haïtiens continue. La MINUSTAH a dissimulé le fait que plusieurs soldats népalais sont arrivés malades en Haïti avec le choléra et continue encore à nier son rôle dans l’épidémie. Même le 6 août 2011, la MINUSTAH continuait à déverser ses matières fécales dans les rivières d’Haïti.
  9. La présence de soldats de l’ONU sur le sol haïtien est illégale. La MINUSTAH en Haïti est la seule force de l’ONU dans un pays qui n’est pas en guerre.
  10. Le peuple haïtien dédaigne la MINUSTAH. Haïtiens à l’étranger ou chez eux, jeunes et vieux, riches et pauvres, ont fait bien savoir qu’ils veulent que la MINUSTAH se retire d’Haïti. Épithètes communs pour les soldats sont “Volè Kabrit!” (Voleur de chèvre!), “Kakachwet!” (cacateur!), “Koléra!” et “Pédofil!”

L’ONU est régulièrement mis à jour sur les crimes de la MINUSTAH, qui sont bien connus pour la grande majorité des compatriotes de M. Amorim. Tous savent qu’Haïti était meilleure en 2004 quand les premièrs soldats entraient dans le pays que dans les mois précédant le tremblement de terre, et les brésiliens se sont bruyamment opposés à la participation de leur pays dans une occupation étrangère. Un exemple particulièrement éloquent est celui de M. Ricardo Seitenfus, qui a perdu son poste comme Représentant du Brésil auprès de l’OEA en Haïti peu après avoir elevé sa voix dans une interview en Décembre. M. Seitenfus avait ceci à dire:

“Le système des Nations Unies actuellement en place pour éviter les conflits est inapproprié pour Haïti. Haïti n’est pas une menace internationale. Nous ne sommes pas en guerre civile. Haïti n’est pas l’Irak ou l’Afghanistan …. Mais il me semble que, sur la scène internationale, Haïti souffre principalement de sa proximité aux Etats-Unis Haïti et a été pour longtemps un objet de l’attention négative du système international. Il a fallu l’ONU pour transformer les Haïtiens en prisonniers de leur île.”

Mais les appels des brésiliens à retirer leur soldats d’Haïti ne se sont pas entendus. Les vraies raisons pour le retrait à venir se trouvent dans la situation politico-économique brésilienne et une décision récente d’un tribunal néerlandais.

Les contribuables des Brésiliens depuis 2004 pour la MINUSTAH ont dépassé R $ 1 milliard de reals. L’an dernier seulement l’entretien des soldats brésiliens en Haïti a coûté R $ 426 millions: R $ 140 millions pour les coûts annuels et d’autres dépenses, plus R $ 286 millions pour l’aide humanitaire envoyée après le séisme. En principe, l’ONU devrait rembourser ces dépenses, mais ces dernières années les remboursements ont atteint seulement 16% des versements effectués par le gouvernement brésilien. En outre, le salaire des soldats brésiliens de la MINUSTAH ont dépassé R $ 41 millions par an, mais ces coûts sont exclus des dépenses du Brésil sur la mission parce que ces gens auraient droit à leurs salaires s’ils étaient au Brésil. Le gouvernement brésilien a bien sûr compris depuis longtemps cette saignement, mais il a serré ses dents et maintenu l’arrangement comme un pot de vin politique aux États-Unis en échange pour un siège au Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU. En plus de sept ans, ce siège ne s’est pas matérialisé.

Si le coût actuel de la MINUSTAH parait élevé, il y aura probablement plus à payer. Dans une décision historique le mois dernier, un tribunal néerlandais a conclu que le gouvernement néerlandais est responsable de l’échec de ses soldats de l’ONU à protéger trois hommes musulmans de Bosnie qui furent tués par les Serbes pendant le massacre Sebrenica en 1995. Jusqu’à présent, les soldats de l’ONU qui sont accusés de crimes sont simplement rejetés et renvoyés chez eux. Cette décision permet de poursuivre les pays participant à des forces de l’ONU pour les crimes de leurs soldats. Compte tenu du rôle du Brésil dans la formation de la MINUSTAH, le gouvernement brésilien pourrait être responsable de tous les crimes de la MINUSTAH. En tout cas, les soldats brésiliens en Haïti sont accusés de meurtres de partisans d’Aristide et de nombreuses agressions sexuelles.

La ville de Cap Haïtien, la deuxième ville d’Haïti. La protestation est dirigée contre les Nations Unies pour mettre fin au fléau du choléra en Haïti. Plus tôt ce mois-ci, le 6 et 7 août, la MINUSTAH a encore une autre fois versé des excréments dans une rivière qui donnait de l’eau potable – cette fois-ci la rivière Hinche Guayamouc.

Le tristement célèbre massacre du Cité Soleil en 2006 impliquant ces troupes a été capturé sur la vidéo ci-dessous. Des gens tués par des fusils de haute tension et M50 tirés des hélicoptères de combat incluaient des enfants, des femmes enceintes, et des hommes non armés à 4 heures du matin alors qu’ils dormaient dans leurs lits. Mertina Lélène une femme enceinte et agée de 24 ans a été abattue à l’intérieur de sa maison et a survécu, mais elle a perdu son bébé de 6 mois. Un jeune instructeur a été tué chez lui, mais en mourant il a dit qu’il a été fusillé d’un hélicoptère de combat. L’ONU était pleinement conscient de ce qui ce passait, mais il a nié tuer, en dépit des preuves photographiques. (Voir la vidéo ci-dessous.) Ces attaques ont été une rétribution de la MINUSTAH pour des grandes manifestations par les gens qui demandaient le retour d’Aristide en Haïti.

Certains extrémistes brésiliens, comme M. Geraldo Cavagnari, un membre du Centre des Etudes Strategiques à l’Université de Campinas (Unicamp), continuent de dire que “les soldats doivent rester sur place car il n’y a pas de risque, et il y a beaucoup de choses en jeu.”

Tout le monde comprend que cela signifie que le siège du Conseil de Sécurité puisse encore venir, et d’ailleurs, les Haïtiens sont inoffensifs, alors pourquoi ne pas continuer à les parasiter? M. Augusto Heleno, un général retraité brésilien et ancien commandant de la MINUSTAH, a été plus pointu dans son avertissement à M. Amorim de ne pas donner aux forces armées une “empreinte idéologique de gauche.” On soupçonne que Cavagnari et Heleno ne sont pas au courant de la décision du tribunal néerlandais, ou le fait que Les Haïtiens ne sont pas si inoffensif ces jours ci. L’introduction du choléra dans le pays immédiatement après le meurtre de Gérard Jean-Gilles, un garçon de 16 ans, a enflammé des batailles si féroces entre les Haïtiens et les soldats de l’ONU que l’ONU a dû appeler un couvre-feu pour ses soldats. D’innombrables manifestations ont eu lieu en Haïti et à l’étranger, et les appels de protestation changent progressivement à des demandes de réparation. Une proposition est que le budget actuel de la MINUSTAH de 2,5 millions de dollars par jour devrait aller vers l’indemnisation des victimes du choléra et pour fournir de l’eau potable aux Haïtiens. < > Comme on dit en Haïti, “Ayibobo!” (Amen!)

Tribunaux néerlandais à part, au Brésil, le vent politique souffle maintenant dans une direction totalement différente. Les voix réactionnaires comme ceux de Heleno et Cavagnari s’apaisent de plus and plus que les familles des gauchistes assassinés portent du pression sur leur pays pour créer une Commission de la Vérité pour enquêter et punir les crimes qui ont eu lieu au Brésil pendant ces 21 ans de dictature. Déjà trois commandants militaires ont été forcés de démissionner. En effet, M. Amorim doit sa position aux hésitations de l’ancien ministre de la Défense Nelson Jobim sur la Commission de la Vérité.

Finie l’époque où les propriétaires riches d’entreprises textiles du Brésil, comme ABIT et AFRABAS tenaient les coffres de leur pays et les politiciens avec une telle prise qu’ils pouvaient réquisitionner des milliers de leurs citoyens à garder leurs ateliers de misère à l’étranger. Juste quelques mois avant le séisme, des délégations des riches du Brésil pavanait au long du secteur riverain de Port-au-Prince, avec M. Fritz Mevs, un propriétaires d’ateliers de misère en Haïti, et l’ancien président américain Bill Clinton, rêvant de sites pour leur zone de libre échange aux antilles. Mais tout s’est écroulé depuis le tremblement de terre, non seulement en Haïti, mais partout. Le ministère de la Défense brésilien est contraint à réduire son budget, car la croissance du pays a ralenti.

Ceux d’entre nous qui veulent voir Haïti regagner son indépendance feraient bien de soutenir les efforts du Brésil vers une Commission de la Vérité et tous les projets du monde entier pour punir les soldats de l’ONU pour leurs crimes. La vérité a jusqu’ici réussi là où le reste a échoué. En Haïti, où la “croissance” signifie l’esclavage, et la “démocratie” des élections prévues pour une occupation etrangère, il serait mieux d’avoir un peu moins de croissance et démocratie, et un peu plus de vérité.

M. Amorim parait ne pas savoir comment sortir ses soldats d’Haiti. Je voudrais suggérer cette stratégie de sortie: l’emballage des sacs de vos soldats de la MINUSTAH, leur camionnage à l’aéroport Toussaint Louverture, et leur renvoyage à Rio par les permiers vols du TAM?

Le départ des soldats brésiliens devrait signifier la fin de la MINUSTAH. Les Brésiliens sont les plus nombreux d’entre eux, avec plus d’un quart du total des soldats.

Le reste provient de l’Argentine, la Bolivie, le Canada, le Chili, l’Equateur, la France, le Guatemala, le Japon, la Jordanie, le Népal, le Paraguay, le Pérou, les Philippines, la Corée du Sud, le Sri Lanka, les États-Unis, et l’Uruguay.

Les crimes de ces soldats sont bien connus et peuvent être facilement documentés pour les poursuivre, and leurs pays vont bientôt découvrir l’augmentation des coûts pour leurs soldats.

On est tenté de se demander pourquoi des pays sud-américains avec des gouvernements de gauche et nationalistes, comme la Bolivie et l’Equateur soutiennent l’occupation d’Haïti. Après tout, le Cuba et la Venezuela ont amplement démontré ce qu’on peut réalisé en Haïti avec des médecins et travailleurs de la santé publique, au lieu des soldats. Mais il n’est pas necessaire de tout dire pendant cette separation. Il est préférable simplement de montrer la porte aux membres de la MINUSTAH et leur conseiller de ne pas le claquer en partant.

Lire biographie, essais, poêmes et autres traductions par l’auteur haïtien, Dady Chery à l’Axis of Logic. Contactez l’auteur.

© Droit d’auteur 2011 par AxisofLogic.com. Ce matériel est disponible pour la réédition tant que réimpressions si une copie verbatim de l’article dans son intégralité est inclue, en respectant son intégrité. Les réimpressions doivent citer l’auteur et Axis of Logic comme la source originale, y compris un “lien direct” à l’article. Merci!

SPANISH TRANSLATION

Bye-bye, MINUSTAH!

Por Dady Chery

Traducido por Fernando Moyano

Posta Porteña

Como una de sus primeras medidas de gobierno, el ministro de Defensa brasileño Celso Amorim tiene previsto concluir la participación de Brasil en la notoria Misión de Estabilización de Naciones Unidas en Haití (MINUSTAH). Diversos sectores del gobierno brasileño, incluyendo el Ministerio brasileño de Relaciones Exteriores están de acuerdo con Amorim, quien dice que lo importante ahora es la formulación de una estrategia de salida.

Amorim tomó juramento el jueves, 4 de agosto y recién asumió el cargo el lunes siguiente, pero ya el sábado tuvo una reunión en el Palacio Presidencial con los comandantes y jefes de Estado Mayor del Ejército de Brasil para discutir un posible descenso del nivel de las tropas. De acuerdo con uno de los participantes en esta reunión, hubo una “convergencia de opiniones” acerca de las tropas brasileñas.

Lo más conveniente es que brasileños sean los primeros en salir de Haití. Después de todo la inserción de tropas de la ONU en el país comenzó como un proyecto de Brasil en los primeros días de la presidencia de Lula. Fue parte de la campaña de Brasil para demostrar su solvencia en materia de seguridad en el mundo con el fin de obtener un asiento permanente en el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU. Amorim, entonces ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, fue uno de los principales arquitectos de la participación de Brasil.

Las tropas comenzaron a llegar en junio de 2004, poco después del secuestro de Aristide, para reforzar la administración ilegal que siguió al golpe. El primer comandante de la MINUSTAH, un brasileño, se quejó de la presión que se les hacía de recurrir a la violencia y renunció a su cargo en el otoño de 2005. El segundo comandante, también de Brasil, se suicidó en enero de 2006.

La fuerza ha continuado creciendo, con el contingente brasileño que ahora suman 2.160 hombres, aunque en Brasil esta aventura militar ha sido polémico desde el principio. Amorim atribuye su repentino cambio de humor sobre Haití al “crecimiento de la economía y el retorno gradual a la normalidad democrática”.

Hay muchas razones para qué la MINUSTAH deba irse, pero las justificaciones de Amorim no están en la lista de las 10 primeras, para mí, a saber:

  1. La MINUSTAH continuamente acosa y humilla a los haitianos. Sus actividades favoritas incluyen rociar con gas pimienta a los haitianos y confiscar caprichosamente licencias de conducir y computadoras.
  2. En la MINUSTAH los delincuentes comunes disfrutan de impunidad. A pesar de más de que 00 soldados han sido expulsados de Haití por prostitución infantil y cargos relacionados, los soldados de la MINUSTAH tienen impunidad para la mayoría de sus delitos, incluidas violaciones numerosas y la asfixia en agosto de 2010 de un adolescente haitiano que trabaja en una base de Nepal de la MINUSTAH.
  3. La MINUSTAH subvierte la democracia. Junto con los EE.UU., Canadá y Francia, las elecciones la MINUSTAH decidió la exclusión del 80 por ciento del electorado haitiano, y puso a un duvalierista, Michel Martelly, en el poder en mayo de 2011.
  4. La MINUSTAH interfiere en los asuntos políticos de Haití. El ex jefe de la MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet, recomienda que se mantengan los cargos penales en contra del presidente legítimo de Haití, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a fin de mantenerlo ilegalmente fuera de Haití.
  5. La MINUSTAH actúa como una fuerza de ocupación. Tropas de la MINUSTAH, junto con los paramilitares haitianos, han emboscado y asesinado a más de 4.000 miembros de Fanmi Lavalas – el partido de Aristide – poco después de que Aristide fue depuesto en 2004 en un golpe de Estado urdido por los EE.UU., Canadá, Francia y la elite de Haití.
  6. La MINUSTAH ha operado como un destacamento más de las pandillas anti-Aristide. La MINUSTAH llevó a cabo numerosas redadas en barrios pobres como Cité Soleil para matar a los civiles que apoyaban a Aristide. En algunos de estos incursiones los soldados de la MINUSTAH dispararon a decenas de miles de personas en las viviendas y escuelas. (Vea el vídeo en:
  7. Tropas de la MINUSTAH mostraron una espectacular cobardía después del terremoto de enero de 2010. Durante las primeras 36 horas después del terremoto, las tropas no prestaron asistencia a haitianos, en vez de ello se ocuparon en perseguirlos uno a uno.
  8. La MINUSTAH introduce vándalos y vectores de enfermedad. En octubre de 2010, la MINUSTAH ocasionó una epidemia de cólera en Haití. Hasta el momento, la epidemia ha matado a más de 5.900 haitianos. La MINUSTAH encubrió el hecho de que varios soldados nepaleses llegaron a Haití enfermos con cólera y todavía sigue mintiendo sobre su papel en la epidemia. Incluso ahora, el 06 de agosto 2011, la MINUSTAH sigue volcado su materia fecal en los ríos de Haití.
  9. La presencia de tropas de la ONU en suelo haitiano es ilegal. La MINUSTAH en Haití es la única fuerza de la ONU en un país que no está en guerra.
  10. El pueblo haitiano desprecia a la MINUSTAH. Los Haitianos en el país y en el extranjero, jóvenes y viejos, ricos y pobres, han hecho saber que no quieren a la MINUSTAH en Haití. Epítetos comunes para las tropas son “Vole kabrit” (ladrón de cabras!), “Kakachwet” (Cagador!), “Kolera” y “Pédofil!”

La ONU está al tanto de los crímenes de la MINUSTAH, que son bien conocidos por la gran mayoría de los compatriotas del Sr. Amorim. Todos ellos saben que Haití estaba en mejor situación en 2004 cuando las tropas entraron por primera vez el país, que en los meses anteriores al terremoto, y tienen una fuerte oposición a la participación de su país en una ocupación extranjera.

Un ejemplo especialmente elocuente fue Ricardo Seitenfus, quien perdió su puesto como representante de Brasil ante la OEA en Haití poco después de hablar en una entrevista el pasado mes de diciembre. Seitenfus dijo lo siguiente:

“El actual sistema de Naciones Unidas para evitar conflictos no es apropiado para Haití. Haití no es una amenaza internacional. No estamos en medio de una guerra civil. Haití no es Irak o Afganistán … Pero a mí me parece como si en la escena internacional, Haití estuviese pagando por su proximidad a los EE.UU. Haití ha sido objeto de una atención negativa por parte del sistema internacional. Se usó a las Naciones Unidas para formar una coalición de poderes y transformar los haitianos en prisioneros en su propia isla. “

Sin embargo, los llamados para que Brasil se retirase de Haití han caído en oídos sordos. Las verdaderas razones de la próxima retirada se encuentran en la situación político-económica brasileña actual y en un reciente fallo de un tribunal holandés.

Desde 2004, los contribuyentes de Brasil han tenido que pagar más de mil millones de Reales [600 millones de dólares] para gastarlos en la MINUSTAH. Sólo el año pasado, el mantenimiento de las tropas brasileñas en Haití costó R $ 426 millones, 140 millones los costos anuales y otros gastos, más 286 millones para la ayuda humanitaria enviada después del terremoto.

En principio, la ONU debería reembolsar estos gastos, pero en los últimos años los reembolsos ascendieron a sólo el 16 por ciento de los pagos efectuados por el gobierno brasileño. Además, los sueldos de las tropas de la MINUSTAH de Brasil han superado los R $ 41 millones por año – pero estos costos no se cuentan en los gastos de la misión brasileña porque estas personas igual tendrían derecho a su salario si estuviesen en Brasil.

El gobierno brasileño ha sabido todo sobre este derramamiento de sangre, por supuesto, pero tiene una venda en los ojos y mantiene el acuerdo, un soborno político de los EE.UU. a cambio de un asiento en el Consejo de Seguridad. En más de siete años, esta plaza no se ha materializado.

Aun siendo tan alto como el costo actual de la MINUSTAH, es probable que haya que pagar más. En una decisión histórica el mes pasado, un tribunal holandés dictaminó que el gobierno de los Países Bajos fue responsable del incumplimiento de sus soldados de la ONU en proteger a tres hombres musulmanes bosnios de ser asesinados por los serbios durante la masacre de Sebrenica 1995. Hasta ahora, las acusaciones contra soldados de la ONU por sus delitos han sido pasados por alto.

Esta decisión abre la posibilidad de demandar a los países que participan en las fuerzas de la ONU por los crímenes de sus soldados.

El pueblo de Cap Haitien, la segunda ciudad más grande de Haití, la protesta es contra las Naciones Unidas para acabar con el flagelo del cólera en Haití. Este mismo mes, el 6 y 7 de agosto, la MINUSTAH se vio una vez más vertiendo las heces en un río que abastece de agua potable – esta vez el río Guayamouc cerca de Hinche.

Teniendo en cuenta el papel de Brasil en la integración de la MINUSTAH, el gobierno brasileño podría ser responsable de todos los crímenes de la MINUSTAH. En cualquier caso, las tropas brasileñas en Haití están acusados de los asesinatos de los partidarios de Aristide y numerosas agresiones sexuales.

La tristemente célebre masacre de 2006 Cité Soleil con participación de estas tropas fue captada en video (ver: ). Personas asesinadas por fusiles de alta potencia y M50S disparados desde helicópteros de combate, incluidos niños, mujeres embarazadas y hombres desarmados a las 4 am mientras dormían en sus camas. Mertina Lelene de veinticuatro años recibió un disparo en su casa y sobrevivió, pero perdió su bebé de seis meses de edad.

La semana antes del ataque de Naciones Unidas había varios grandes manifestaciones en Cité Soleil exigiendo el retorno del derrocado presidente Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Los residentes creen que la justificación de “arrestar a una base de secuestradores” era una excusa para un castigo colectivo contra la comunidad por manifestaciones como éstas.

La introducción del cólera en el país ocurrió justo después del asesinato Gilles Gerard Jean de 16 años de edad, que desencadenó feroces batallas entre haitianos y tropas de la ONU. Innumerables protestas han tenido lugar en el país y el extranjero, y se están transformando en demandas de reparación. Una propuesta es que el presupuesto actual de la MINUSTAH de $ 2,5 millones por día se destine a la indemnización de las víctimas del cólera y el suministro de agua potable a los haitianos. Como decimos en Haití: “Ayibobo” (Amén).

En Brasil los vientos políticos están soplando en dirección completamente diferente a las voces reaccionarias, junto con la presión de los familiares de los asesinados en los 21 años de la dictadura, que presionan para crear una Comisión de la Verdad para investigar y castigar los crímenes. Ya hay tres mandos militares se han visto obligados a renunciar. De hecho, Amorim debe su posición en parte a la resistencia del ex ministro de Defensa, Nelson Jobim, a la Comisión de la Verdad.

Aquellos de nosotros que queremos ver a Haití recuperar su independencia debemos apoyar los esfuerzos de Brasil hacia una Comisión de la Verdad y todos los proyectos en todas partes para que soldados de la ONU den cuenta de sus crímenes.

En Haití, donde “crecimiento” significa trabajo esclavo y “democracia” elecciones fijadas por la ocupación directa, queremos hoy un poco menos de “crecimiento” y un poco más de democracia y verdad.

Si Amorim está buscando una estrategia de salida, me gustaría sugerirle: ¿Qué hay neter las tropas de la MINUSTAH en bolsas de embalaje de, transportarlas por carretera al aeropuerto Toussaint Louverture y mandarlas a Río en los vuelos de TAM?

La salida de las tropas brasileñas debe significar el principio del fin de la MINUSTAH. Los brasileños son su mayor contingente, con más de una cuarta parte del número total de tropas.

El resto proviene de Argentina, Bolivia, Canadá, Chile, Ecuador, Francia, Guatemala, Japón, Jordania, Nepal, Paraguay, Perú, Filipinas, Corea del Sur, Sri Lanka, los EE.UU. y Uruguay. Como muchos de los crímenes cometidos por estas tropas son bien conocidas y pueden ser fácilmente documentados en juicios, estos países también descubrirán pronto que su “mantenimiento de la paz” se ha convertido en una carga.

Uno se puede preguntar por qué los países sudamericanos con gobiernos supuestamente de izquierda y nacionalistas, como Bolivia y Ecuador, apoyan la ocupación de Haití. Después de todo, Cuba y Venezuela han demostrado ampliamente cuánto más se puede lograr mediante la contribución de médicos y trabajadores de salud pública, en vez de soldados, a Haití.

Pero no todo tiene que ser dicho en esta despedida. Es mejor mostrarles la puerta a los miembros restantes de la MINUSTAH y a pedirles que no den un portazo a su salida.

Dady Chery se crió en el seno de una numerosa familia de trabajadores en Port-au-Prince, Haití. Emigró a Nueva York cuando tenía 14 años y desde entonces ha viajado por todo el mundo, vivido en Europa y varias ciudades de Norteamérica. Escribe en inglés, francés y su créole nativo, tiene un doctorado. Se la puede contatactar adc@dadychery.org. Este artículo fie publicado en Axis of Logic, donde Chery es columnista.

 

Blacks win Katrina suit

August 17, 2011

A scene of devastation in New Orleans’ 9th Ward April 1, 2006, unchanged since the floodwaters receded in September 2005 – Photo: Minister of Information JR
New Orleans – Black homeowners and two civil rights organizations announced July 7 a settlement in a post-Hurricane Katrina housing discrimination lawsuit brought against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the state of Louisiana regarding the “Road Home” program.

The suit alleged that the formula used to allocate grants to homeowners through the Road Home program – the single largest housing recovery program in U.S. history – had a discriminatory impact on thousands of African American homeowners. Road Home program data shows that African Americans were more likely than whites to have their Road Home grants based upon the much lower pre-storm market value of their homes rather than the estimated cost to repair damage.

For example, one African American plaintiff whose rebuilding grant was based upon pre-storm value received a $1,400 grant from the state to rebuild her home, but she would have received a grant of $150,000 had her rebuilding grant been based on the estimated cost of damage to the home.

These types of shortfalls played a key role in slowing down the recovery effort. Under the terms of the settlement, HUD and the state of Louisiana will direct additional funds to individuals in heavily affected parishes whose grants were based upon pre-storm value.

The lawsuit was brought by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, the National Fair Housing Alliance and five African American homeowners in New Orleans, representing a potential class of over 20,000 people. All plaintiffs are represented by co-lead counsel: the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, as well as Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr.

In response to the plaintiffs’ housing discrimination lawsuit, HUD and the state of Louisiana changed the Road Home program grant formula to provide full relief to more than 13,000 homeowners. All eligible low and moderate income homeowners received supplemental grant awards totaling $473 million based upon the estimated cost of damage to their homes, rather than the original grants based merely upon the much lower pre-storm market value of their homes.

By virtue of the settlement agreement, HUD and the state of Louisiana have agreed to amend the Road Home program to offer additional large supplemental rebuilding grants at an estimated value of over $60 million and a one-year extension of the re-occupancy covenants, giving more money and time to rebuild to several thousand homeowners whose initial Road Home Option 1 grant awards were based on the pre-storm market value of their homes and who have been unable to rebuild their homes.

“I am glad that by standing up against this flawed program we made a difference for so many other people,” said Almarie Ford, one of the individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance said, “In addition to providing significant relief for individual homeowners, the Road Home lawsuit will serve as a warning to HUD and state officials nationwide to avoid the future use of pre-storm market value or similar market-driven criteria that have an obvious discriminatory impact on low-income and minority homeowners.”

During the almost six years since the storm hit, countless homeowners struggled to rebuild. Many have not yet succeeded, particularly in Orleans Parish.

“Regrettably, the Road Home program became a road block for many,” said James Perry, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “This settlement is a step in the right direction toward getting more hurricane-affected homeowners back into their homes. HUD and Louisiana must keep America’s promise to build a better New Orleans. And they must do so in a manner that is fair and equitable for all people regardless of their race.”

John Payton, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), said: “People who had similar homes and suffered the same type of damage should not have been treated differently simply because of the neighborhoods in which they live. All New Orleanians, and all Louisianans, deserve a fair chance at rebuilding their homes and communities.”

The coalition of homeowners and organizations that brought the lawsuit has vowed to continue providing assistance to homeowners and working for a fair recovery for all.

This is an abbreviated version of a story that first appeared in Minority News at BlackRadioNetwork.com.

 

 

First Annual Allensworth ‘Scat to Rap’ Family Music Festival benefits emancipating foster youth

August 17, 2011

by Tricia Cochée and Clarence Eziokwu Washington

The Hindsman Store has been restored to its original glory in Allensworth State Historical Park. Allensworth was the first African American township in California.
Los Angeles – The West East Community Access Network Foundation (WE CAN Foundation) in association with Blessed-Love, Brandi Kane, Pressline Entertainment, 1000 Grandmothers That Pray, The Dreamcatcher Foundation, Public Enemy, Eso Won Bookstore, Black Women For Wellness, The Pan African Film Festival, The Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, The Buffalo Soldiers and the Allensworth Volunteer Community Association announces the First Annual Allensworth “Scat to Rap” Family Music Festival at Allensworth State Historical Park, 43 Palmer Ave., Delano, CA 93219, in Tulare County on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The full-day celebration of music and history will also include an Allensworth Trading Post with food, arts and crafts vendors, exhibitors and children’s activities. The “Scat to Rap” Family Music Festival is a fundraiser for the emancipated youth − youth aging out of the foster care system − of Los Angeles, Tulare and Kern Counties with proceeds to go towards their financial benefit.

The general admission ticket price is $15 if providing your own transportation, $30 with a vanpool or $45 with a charter bus. Vanpools and charter buses in Los Angeles will be leaving the Leimert Park parking lot adjacent to 4329 Degnan promptly at 8:30 a.m. For attendees from Northern California, Amtrak has a direct stop in Allensworth. Call the WE CAN office for further details at (323) 293-9845.

Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/162407, at Bless-Ed Love located on 1404 West Vernon Ave., Los Angeles 90062 or at Ackee Bamboo Jamaican Cuisine, 4305 Degnan Boulevard, Los Angeles 90008.

Clarence Eziokwu Washington, CEO of the WE CAN Foundation, encourages all in the community to come out and support the intergenerational “Scat to Rap” Music Festival: “Remember, not only does it take a village to raise a child, it also takes a community to invest in a child. So let’s all participate by purchasing a ticket or sponsoring a youth to attend the festival.”

From be-bop to doo-wop to “conscious hip-hop,” the “Scat to Rap” Family Music Festival will include the wide spectrum of the African American musical legacy and continuum, including gospel, blues, reggae, spoken word and oral history narratives. It will indeed be a family affair that bridges the generation gap.

Allensworth founder Col. Allen Allensworth
The roster of performing artists includes Brandi Kane, Ras Indio, 4 With God, Lady Tee, Diego Red, Sistem, Ms. Toi and many more. Special invited guests include “first lady of jazz” Barbara Morrison of the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center located in Leimert Park, Professor Griff of Public Enemy, Bili Redd and Teddy Lee Hooker.

Allensworth was the first African American township independently owned and financially self-sustained by pioneering African Americans. Founded in 1908, it has been preserved and designated a state historical site. Washington says, “This concept of self-sufficiency, as practiced by the early settlers of Allensworth, directly ties into our vision for the economic self-sufficiency of the emancipated youth of Los Angeles.”

President Barack Obama on April 28, 2011, declared the month of May National Foster Care Month, noting: “Nearly a half-million children and youth are in foster care in America, all entering the system through no fault of their own. During National Foster Care Month, we recognize the promise of children and youth in foster care as well as former foster youth. We also celebrate the professionals and foster parents who demonstrate the depth and kindness of the human heart … Unfortunately, too many foster youth reach the age at which they must leave foster care and enter adulthood without the support of a permanent family.”

Every year, an estimated 20,000 youths emancipate or “age out” of the foster care system across the country and are discharged from the system, regardless of whether or not they are able to transition into adulthood. Around 25 percent of these youth live in California.

As these emancipated youth leave foster care, research suggests that they encounter a set of problems that makes their transition into adulthood extremely challenging and are impacted by the lack of support systems in place to assist them. For instance, in California, 65 percent of emancipated youth leave foster care without a place to live. In addition, in Los Angeles and Alameda counties, 50 percent of emancipated youth will be homeless within six months after release from foster care. Finally, a revealing study showed that emancipated youth earned an average of $6,000 per year, well below the national poverty line of $7,890.

WE CAN Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that was founded in 1996 by Michel McLaughlin and Clarence Eziokwu Washington with the primary objective of empowering, through education, those communities that are educationally challenged and economically underserved.

Teddy Lee Hooker passes along his musical skills to the next generation.
As a California state-approved and authorized Supplemental Education Services provider, WE CAN has provided tutorial instruction in mathematics skills development and English literacy to increasing numbers of students from the communities they serve.

As a culturally relevant historical site, Allensworth has been the site of other successful events and scholarship fundraisers hosted by the WE-CAN Foundation, including the Allensworth Blues Festival, Building the Community with Young Scholars and the Allensworth Gospel Festival.

Continuing in that success, the first annual Allensworth “Scat to Rap” Family Music Festival will achieve three main objectives for the sponsors and organizers:

·      Raise funds to assist emancipated youth.

  • Pay homage to the legacy of African American musicians, whose lyrics of racial pride and freedom throughout the years still exert a major influence on today’s youth, particularly the disenfranchised.
  • Increase awareness of Allensworth State Historical Park as the first African American township established in California.

For additional vendor or volunteer information or for overnight camping arrangements, call WE CAN Foundation at (323) 293-9845 or Kimberly and Robert Garcia at (323) 292-5214 and visit http://doo-wop2hiphop.com.  

Blues guitarist Teddy Lee Hooker grew up from age 5 at the knee of John Lee Hooker, who was then married to his older sister, Freda, and who bought him his first guitar. He’ll be on stage at the Allensworth Scat to Rap Festival Sept. 10. For the rest of the amazing lineup of entertainers, literally from scat to rap, check http://doo-wop2hiphop.com.

This is another multi-generational musical family, Nas and his dad. Don’t miss the video describing the Scat to Rap Festival at Allensworth, California’s first Black town, on Sept. 10. That video features many more of the artists you’ll meet there live.

 

Buy Black Wednesdays: Money talk

August 17, 2011

by Paradise Free Jahlove

Berkeley, Calif.: The most liberal city in America and the world, some say. And yet Berkeley High School, with over 3,500 students and 250 teachers, has only eight Black teachers. Scandalous!

The City of Berkeley has declared 2011 “The Year of the Black Man.” But where are the Black male teachers that are so desperately needed for Black boys and students? Hire me! Give me the ear of Black America for one year and I’ll make 40 million model citizens appear. Let us produce more Black-owned schools and centers of higher learning. And let us make it possible to fund them with Buy Black Wednesdays.

How important is Buy Black Wednesdays? One sister told me recently, “We’re going to need much more than Buy Black Wednesday to solve our problems.” Wow. What a brilliant deduction. But is it true? Let’s see what the major problems are in our community and see if BBW can address them.

Off the top of my head I’d say the major problems we’re facing are:

  1. Poverty
  2. Violence
  3. Crime
  4. Drugs/health
  5. Lack of unity
  6. Self-hate
  7. Lack of knowledge of self

Let’s not quibble about the order of importance. If we can solve the poverty issue, the violence and crime issues would dwindle significantly. People with money in their pockets have less need to do crimes or drugs or be violent.

Black Americans have an income of $1 trillion a year. But we are a poor trillion-dollar nation because that money barely stays in our communities for 15 minutes. The next time you get a paycheck, muthafarker, do us all a favor and keep it for 16 minutes. Hahahahaha! Pray about how you’re going to use it. Everything has a spirit. Talk to your money before you give it away and tell it where to go, whom to bless and to come back to you multiplied.

Buy Black Wednesday is enriching us as I speak because more people are keeping and bringing that money home. It’s causing us to – oh my God − think Black more often, which is changing our mentalities, causing more unity and getting us back into the habit of buying Black whenever possible.

We are getting more “touches,” more connections and more involved with each other. And when you touch Black people − in their natural un-jacked-up state − you get blessed above all others, your blood pressure goes down, your endorphins rise up and your health improves.

When you create and surround yourself in a Black family atmosphere, there’s more self-love and knowledge of self. Our minds are expanded and our lives are enriched when we come into greater contact with the Black experience.

And of course, with the increased interaction comes more awareness of Black history. So before you “shoo shoo” and “poo poo” Buy Black Wednesdays, let’s try to do it! Let us do this one thing together and see the outcome for ourselves.

The Black Statue of Liberty

Bring me your tired, your poor, your hungry,

Those who are suffering from white supremacy,

Those who bleach their skin, hair and souls.

Bring me your pimps, your criminals, your hoes,

Your coons, uncle toms and sambos,

Your dope dealers, crackheads and fiends,

Zombies, abused, misused and unclean,

Your sell-outs, drop outs and cop outs,

Those who are hopeless, helpless

And plagued with doubt and loss of identity.

I am free and I set free.

I am the Black Statue of Liberty.

 

I am Buy Black Wednesdays,

I am the redistribution of Black wealth,

I am self-sufficiency,

I am the robust revitalization of Black health,

I am umoja – Black unity,

I am the knowledge and love of self,

I am ujima – collective work and responsibility,

I am the torch-bearer who has shown the way for centuries,

I am the Black Statue of Liberty.

 

I am Buy Black Wednesday,

Ujamaa – cooperative economics,

The beginning of the reconstruction of Black sovereignty,

One day a week to renew my vows

And to express my conviction and loyalty,

One day a week I promise the ancestors,

I will honor all of Black history,

Until this weekly practice becomes

A full time way of life for all of us

And every African is free,

I am the Black Statue of Liberty.

 

I am the night adorned with a crown of stars

And the golden torch you call the sun,

I am the light of the world in every Black body,

I am the original who came before everyone,

I am every brother and sister who walks the earth,

I am the co-creator of the universe,

I am the ripest fruit of my incomparable AncesTree,

I am the Black Statue of Liberty.

 

I have come up from over 400 years of slavery

And persevered with the whole world against me.

I have carried more weight on my shoulders than Atlas

And accomplished more feats of labor than Hercules.

I am the living embodiment of all those crucified

And resurrected – no need to look backward

Or forward in history.

For millions of years I’ve roamed the earth

And shepherded galaxies across the universe

And still I rise, triumphantly.

I am the Black Statue of Liberty.

 

Oh ye children of the earth,

Look no further if you want to see the likes of God,

His power and glory.

Behold! All of your legends, myths, gods and heroes

Real or fabricated, pale beside me.

I am the hope of the world,

The embodiment of divinity.

At least one day a week I vow

To help set a new trend every Wednesday

And spend money within my community,

Because my discipline is the key.

I am the Black Statue of Liberty!

© 6-30-2011

This poem was partially inspired by the urban legend that the original statue of liberty used a Black woman as the model and was symbolic of Black people and our struggle for freedom! Even if the legend/myth is not true, it does seem appropriate or, shall we say, propah!

Black Business of the Month

Queen Deelah performs on the Black Dot Stage at the 2008 Malcolm X Jazz Festival. – Photo: Minister of Information JR
Where can you go in Northern California and be most likely to see a performance or be schooled by such revolutionaries as Bobby Seale, The Last Poets or Amiri Baraka? Who organizes one of the best free events in the world for progressives and encourages community activism and racial harmony while honoring one of the great men of the 20th century with an event called The Malcolm X Jazz Festival? Who hosts the Holla Back Poetry Series and the Hail BeBop Film and Music Series and numerous other weekly cultural events that support the arts and activism in the heart of East Oakland? The Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Boulevard. For more information, go to www.eastsideartsalliance.org or call (510) 533-6629. Your donations increase the peace and their outreach!

Paradise is president of the International Black Writers & Artists Local 5 in Oakland and was recently honored by the City of Oakland with “Paradise Day,” on Oct. 6. He may be reached at oaklandworldsfair@yahoo.com. Paradise also facilitates the Buy Black Wednesdays Facebook page and group, hosts the Black Wednesday Show every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on www.harambeeradio.com and blogs at www.blackwednesdays.blogspot.com.

 

The People’s Lunch Counter in Texas: an interview wit’ organizer Seidah Williams

August 16, 2011

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

Robert King, the only member of the Angola 3 to have won his freedom from the infamous Louisiana plantation-turned-prison so far, hosted Seidah Williams, Hajj Malcolm Shabazz and the People’s Minister of Information JR at his home in Austin, Texas, during Malcolm and JR’s speaking tour, organized by Seidah last month. – Photo: Block Report Radio
Seidah Williams is an organizer with the People’s Lunch Counter I have known for a few years. Her and her comrades have been doing a lot of community work in Texas in general, and particularly in the Dallas and Ft. Worth area. Last month, I spent two weeks in Texas with her and her comrades and I learned a lot from their organization, as well as from Seidah, herself. Out of all of the organizers that I know locally and nationally, Seidah is one of the most humble, fair and objective people that I call my comrade. I love the fact that she tells the truth and not necessarily what someone wants to hear.

A lot of the time, if we don’t have a job that requires it, we have not traveled extensively around the country or the world, so I believe that it is my duty to share what I have seen on the road so hopefully it would inspire others to see the world.

M.O.I. JR: What is the People’s Lunch Counter? How did it start? What do y’all do?

Seidah: The People’s Lunch Counter (PLC) is an organization that focuses on health, environmental and social justice. Our mission is to pursue positive change and address the plight of our people living in low income communities. PLC provides an atmosphere that nurtures and develops self determination by the way of community and home gardening, holistic health and wellness, and political education.

PLC was established in February of 2007 by a collective of youth that wanted to do practical work in the Dallas-Fort Worth community. Our goal is to raise the awareness of the people through cultural and social events and programming.

The members of PLC have been affiliated with several different organizations, yet felt the need to have an organization that would work directly with the people on a grassroots level and educate them simultaneously. PLC organizes a variety of programs such as Community Cookouts, The Black August Course, Know Your Rights workshops, Edutainment (Educating through Entertainment) etc.

M.O.I. JR: What are some of the campaigns that y’all work on in the Dallas community?

Seidah: With the Black August Course, PLC has created a curriculum that was inspired by the Black August Movement that started in the concentration camps in California in honor of fallen freedom fighters. Black August is a time for outreach, to practice discipline and study and discuss our history and the current conditions of our people.

For the entire month of August, students wear black armbands on their left arms and study the revolutionary works and the historical events that took place in August. We also practice fasting and cleansing regularly and physical exercise. Students learn to embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical training and resistance. Black August Course 2011 will highlight the women freedom fighters.

End Child Hunger Now: PLC, in collaboration with Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and By 2015: America, organized a peanut butter drive for the End Child Hunger Campaign that strives to bring the solution to WIC’s budget cut of $800 million from the government, which leaves 19.5 million or one out of four children ages 0 to 18 hungry in America.

The People’s Cookout: PLC has partnered with several organizations over the past three years to sponsor and host BBQs and free food handouts to feed the homeless and families in need within the community.

Red, Black and Going Green is the environmental movement remixed: The People’s Lunch Counter along with MXGM and Guerilla Mainframe hosted an Environmental Lecture Series with international recording artists and community leaders Dead Prez. Dead Prez offered a “hood” centered perspective on the sustainability movement as a matter of political education, economic development, holistic health and wellness, environmental justice, community mobilization and self empowerment.

RBG Block Party: The RBG Block Party is hosted on the last Saturday of August. This is where participants break their fast at the People’s Feast and enjoy our Edutainment showcase. The RBG Block Party showcase includes politically and socially aware artists of hip-hop, reggae and soul, community leaders, speakers and organizations. During the showcase we show our support for political prisoners and raise awareness of the conditions of our people.

These are our other campaigns: The People’s Crimewatch, HIV/AIDS Awareness Testing and Seminar, Backpack for Kids, Love2Haiti, Free the Scott Sisters/Full Pardon for Scott Sisters, Political Prisoner Support/Letter Writing Group, Know Your Rights, Justice for Tae Reynolds, Justice for Oscar Grant, Project Rethink, Mothers Against Teen Violence, Shoe Drives for Incarcerated Teens, COAPT (Communities Organizing Against Police Terrorism), National Campaign Against Police Brutality and several others.

M.O.I. JR: What are some of your most valued accomplishments in organizing people in Dallas? What have been some of the biggest obstacles to organizing in Dallas?

Seidah: As an organization, we have created a name for ourselves in the community as a trusted source for resourceful information as well as bringing justice, political and social awareness. We have successfully organized several programs that have educated and fed hundreds of people in the past three years.

We are definitely a grassroots organization that has reached people outside of what we consider the “conscious community.” We have also narrowed the gap between the youth and the elders creating an atmosphere that involves all generations to focus on solutions for the issues we face in our community. We are accomplishing our goal to be living examples of positive and constructive change for the people, especially the youth, in our community.

The efforts of organizing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with 9,286 square miles and over 6.3 million people can definitely be a challenge. The People’s Lunch Counter is a non-profit grassroots organization that is in its beginning stages. We have been fortunate to have been able to maintain the financing of all of our programs and activities through fundraisers and personal contributions from the members of PLC. The struggle continues …

M.O.I. JR: What do you hope to accomplish in a five year period with your organizing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area?

Seidah: In the next five years, PLC plans to secure an office space for our headquarters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and build chapters in other cities across the country. We plan to have strong support from the community and enough financial support to work effectively. We want to have a space that houses our programs to build and strengthen the relationships necessary to create change in the health, economic and social justice systems for residents, activists, organizers and concerned individuals.

Our plan is to work with other organizations on common points of interest and change the plight of our people internationally. We strive to play an active role in the revolutionary process that moves our people forward.

We hope to create a community of self-sustaining people; a community of people with skills ranging from gardening to building and repairing homes in the community, to securing and protecting their homes and neighborhoods, providing political and social education, health and wellness and programs to empower people and organize and establish other needed power forces.

M.O.I. JR: How could people keep up with y’all?

Seidah: Contact us by phone, email or Facebook at:

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

 

 

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