Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I've been trying to figure out what it is we celebrate on Thanksgiving. "A bountiful harvest," we're told. A bountiful harvest the Europeans would not have had, had the indigenous "savages" of the Western Hemisphere not taught them how to produce it before the Europeans decided the continent wasn't big enough for all of us.
This has, unfortunately for millions in the world over the past four centuries, become the pattern of the United States as a culture and as a nation. We come smiling (most of the time) and then strike mercilessly and without, it would seem, conscience of any kind. What kind of people, one wonders, has NO conscience? And what might be the eventual destiny of such a people?
European capitalists snatched North America from the native civilizations that had lived here for thousands of years and, in a matter of only two centuries, have all but destroyed it, building cities that even many of us now seek to abandon. The process of laying waste to all of the beauty and abundance that had sustained itself for millions of years has now unapologetically poisoned the soil, polluted the air and waters, and exterminated the wildlife to the point of extinction. But first had to come the genocide of the indigenous human protectors of all the natural magnificence the Europeans so coveted and then so destroyed.
So we will belly up to the table today -- those of us who can afford to do so (and the statistics tell us that we are fewer than ever this year, with one out of ten in the U.S. not having enough to eat, many of these being children) -- and we will eat our way into a stupor. This "celebration" is to thank whoever we thank that we have much at the expense of others, that we are "safe" in a world where we support making others unsafe, that we have a "right" to do whatever we must to maintain our strangle-hold on the resources of every other people in the world, even our "allies," and to maintain that strangle-hold by any means necessary, knowing full well the ultimate result of such a plan for mass collective suicide.
What we need to be grateful for is that we have not, as yet, met our demise as a nation and as a people, that we can yet set a different course. There are repeated examples throughout history of populations who lived long in bondage and then struck out on their own for a promised land with no idea of where that was or what it would look like. Perhaps we, too, need to set our hearts toward the highway, as it were, to opt to survive and flourish rather than struggle and waste away, in bondage to a way of life that increasingly bewilders and reduces us. As more and more of us are touched by the cancer of our addiction to fear and materialism, more and more of us will come to imagine (as John Lennon once suggested) a different, better world, where we can be proud of something besides our credit limit and our military might.
In the meantime, we might want to be grateful, as well, that there are still remnants of the indigenous peoples we so summarily decimated. Their history is long. Their wisdom is deep. And if we learn to honor what is true over what is illusion, if we look inside our hearts instead spending all our resources decorating our social and physical outsides, if we ask for the guidance we so desperately need from those who have lasted so very long even in the face of ruthless attack on every level, perhaps there is hope for us yet.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
The American fruit giant Chiquita has been hit with a new lawsuit on behalf of victims of Colombian paramilitaries. Earlier this year Chiquita admitted to paying one point seven million dollars to a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. terrorist watch list. On Wednesday, nearly four hundred Colombian plaintiffs filed a civil suit seeking almost eight billion dollars in damages. Plaintiff attorney Jonathan Reiter said Chiquita should be held accountable for the killings it helped fund: "The principle on which this lawsuit has been brought is that when you put money into the hands of terrorists, when you put guns into the hands of terrorists, then you are legally responsible for the atrocities, the murders and the tortures which those terrorists commit."Why am I not surprised?
Chiquita says it fell victim to an extortion attempt and made the payments only to protect its employees. But a private investigator hired by the plaintiffs disputed Chiquita’s denials. The investigator, William Acosta, says his findings leave no doubt over Chiquita’s complicity: "Most of the victims during our interviews in Colombia always mention Chiquita as being the party which sends people to threaten them."
Chiquita is already facing another lawsuit from relatives of one-hundred forty-four people killed by Colombian paramilities. The company has paid a twenty-five million dollar fine to the U.S. government, but none of the money has gone to the victims’ families.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
New Orleans public housing residents have been fighting for over two years to return to their homes. Many of their units were minimally damaged by the storm, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has shut them out. HUD plans to demolish most available public housing units and replace them with mixed-income housing. While there are good arguments for mixed-income housing, HUD's plan calls for far fewer total units of affordable public housing, and it completely ignores short-term housing needs. The inevitable result will be thousands of low-income residents--most of whom are Black--pushed out of the city.
S.1668 honors the right to return of all New Orleans public housing residents and takes steps to preserve affordable housing in New Orleans. It requires the re-opening of at least 3,000 public housing units and ensures that there is no net loss of units available and affordable to public housing residents. The bill quickly passed in the House earlier this year, and after thousands of ColorOfChange.org members pushed for the Senate to take action, the bill was introduced to the Senate by Senators Landrieu and Dodd. Now the bill is in danger of dying.
Last month, the Bush administration came out against the idea of reopening public housing units in New Orleans, with a HUD representative making the dubious claim that HUD "can't get people into" existing housing units because "they won't come home." Louisiana Senator David Vitter opposed the plan on the grounds that it would "re-create the New Orleans housing projects exactly as they were," which is simply not true. What no one can dispute is that the failure to provide affordable housing for low-income residents has contributed to the huge drop in the Black population in the city. Whether they'll admit it or not, opponents of S.1668 are working to reinforce this trend.
The Gulf Coast needs a housing policy that welcomes all citizens home, not just those who are wealthy, privileged, or White. The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act is the last great hope for New Orleans public housing residents who want to come home. But it won't pass if we don't fight for it. Please join Color of Change in demanding that your senators support S.1668.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Garvey and Garveyism by Amy Jacques Garvey
The Negro Revolution by Robert Goldston
As I have already stated, there are many, many more such books. And I have only listed books, though there are some essays (such as "Dynamite Growing Out of Their Skulls" by Calvin C. Hernton, ") and even some letters (such as "The Letter from the Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, "Letter to a Farm Boy" by Lorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin's "if they take you in the morning" letter to Angela Davis in the 1970's) that are so classic on the topic that they stand alone on their own merit. And it could be argued that many of the poems, fictional stories and plays written by African-Americans since the 1700's have been couched in either recounting, defending, explaining, or inciting Black resistance in one way or the other. You will have to find out that on your own (and I hope you will, no matter what your skin tone).
In any case, I just listed here the first few that came to mind. What books on African and African-American resistance would you add?