We Are Not Beasts

“The Beast is a track off of Khari’s top-selling spoken word album “Victory.” The Beast is a powerful indictment of the popular media and it’s negative portrayal of Black men as well as police brutality. This poem seeks to educate Black men about the history of white supremacy and how the glorification of black on black violence only leads to our own destruction!”

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Maobong Oku

Maobong Oku is a singer, dancer, drummer and priestess of the Ndem water spirits of Calabar, Nigeria, where Cuba’s Abakuá originated. She performs here with Project Nunkue Ayaya (Roman Diaz, Clemente Medina, Onel Mulet).

The performance above was introduced by cultural historian Ivor L. Miller. For more on the history of African secret societies in Cuba see his book: Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba.

Also read this 2007 interview with Ivor Miller conducted by Ned Sublette for Afropop Worldwide.

Black History in Central Park

This nation has never respected the rights of African Americans to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When that curious phrase (delineating so-called “unalienable rights”) appeared in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, more than 90% of the Africans in the British colonies were enslaved. After the establishment of the United States, “black inferiority” and the denial of basic human rights to so-called non-whites was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution without ever mentioning the word “slavery.” Various states followed suit with the passage of laws designed to institutionalize slavery permanently and restrict “free blacks” from realizing any of the rights and benefits that citizenship conferred and guaranteed.

The denial of basic human rights for peoples of African descent in the U.S. was sanctioned again at the federal level in 1857 with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the famous case of Dred Scott v. Sandford. The Court determined that African descendants whether enslaved or free were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S. citizens. Roger B. Taney, the fifth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in his support of the decision that some claim led directly to the Civil War, issued the following statement:

“It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

Some of the most egregious examples of the refusal to respect the rights of “black” people can be found in major cities across the U.S. where the systematic destruction of black neighborhoods and communities has wreaked havoc on African American families. These various types of “urban removal” projects began in this country as soon as “free blacks” established their own enclaves in cities like New York, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Atlanta, Cincinnati, etc. Whether it was mostly a matter of removing “blacks” who were perceived as a nuisance given their proximity to “whites,” or due to the recognition that “blacks” in many cases resided in locations that had become over time highly desirable for public or private development, government and private interests devised various strategies and tactics or simply used violence to eliminate “black” communities.

In small towns in the U.S., the process of removing “blacks” was carried out with a vengeance. In his powerful exposé “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” author James Loewen reveals a hidden aspect of American Apartheid and how thousands of “white only” towns were created across the nation. This particular variation of U.S.-style “ethnic cleansing” began in the 1890s and continued well into the 1970s. Loewen also documents how Chinese Americans, Jews, and Amerindians were expelled or prevented from residing in towns and suburbs using the same tactics employed against African Americans.

All of the above leads us to a recent article about Seneca Village, a black community that was “displaced” by the establishment of Central Park in New York City in 1857. Kristen Brent Zook, in The Root, provides a poignant glimpse into the lives of the free “blacks” and others who built a thriving community in an area that encompassed 82nd to 89th streets, between Seventh and Eighth avenues, during the period from 1825 -1857. Click the following link to read: Seneca Village: Unearthing Black History in Central Park.


W. E. B. Du Bois

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the death of scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois. He died at his home in Accra, Ghana at the age of 95 on the eve of the 1963 March On Washington. A pioneer in the Pan African liberation movement, and an indefatigable foe of racism, imperialism, and oppression, Du Bois always will be remembered for his intellectual rigour and unwavering commitment to the struggle for human rights worldwide.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this about Du Bois: “history cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. Du Bois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man.”

His biographer David Levering Lewis wrote, “In the course of his long, turbulent career, W. E. B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism—scholarship, propaganda, integration, national self-determination, human rights, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity.”

Du Bois quotes:

“In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a nigger.”

“Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.”

“Unfortunately there was one thing that the white South feared more than Negro dishonesty, ignorance, and incompetency, and that was Negro honesty, knowledge, and efficiency. ”

“…in any land, in any country under modern free competition, to lay any class of weak and despised people, be they white, black, or blue, at the political mercy of their stronger, richer, and more resourceful fellows, is a temptation which human nature seldom has withstood and seldom will withstand.”

“What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa?”

“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line — the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. It was a phase of this problem that caused the Civil War.”

“But what of black women? . . . I most sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its fineness up through so devilish a fire.”

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”

“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”

Obituary from the NYT: W. E. B. DuBois Dies in Ghana; Negro Leader and Author, 95.

I took the following photos last month in Accra, Ghana:

Du Bois Home

Du Bois Mausoleum

Du Bois Grave

Who Are We?

Louise Leakey is the third generation of her family to discover and identify some of the earliest remains of our human ancestral line in East Africa. She and her parents, Richard and Maeve, and her grandparents, Louis and Mary, have been instrumental in documenting the history of human evolution from an African origin and perspective.

In this fifteen minute TedTalk she examines the primary question of human existence: Who are we?