Monday, February 27, 2006

MacArthur genius Sister Octavia Butler dead at 58

"Octavia E. Butler, considered the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, has died, a close friend said Sunday. She was 58....

"Butler's work wasn't preoccupied with robots and ray guns, Howle said, but used the genre's artistic freedom to explore race, poverty, politics, religion and human nature. 'She stands alone for what she did,' Howle said. 'She was such a beacon and a light in that way.'

"Jane Jewell, executive director of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, said Butler was one of the first black women to explore the genre and the most prominent. But Butler would have been a major writer of science fiction regardless of race or gender, she said. 'She is a world-class science fiction writer in her own right,' Jewell said. 'She was one of the first and one of the best to discuss gender and race in science fiction.'"

Democracy Now's audio-video interview with Octavia Butler on race, global warming and religion is here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

SATURDAY: Get Smart or Die Slavin'

Check out our media forum this Saturday called Get Smart or Die Slavin'.

It's an exploration of how corporate media in North America exploits images of Afrikan-Americans and Afrikan-Canadians as anti-intellectual lowlifes, hyper-sexed thugs, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, drug users, gang bangers and murderers in order to earn hundreds of millions of dollars for wealthy White record company executives and stock holders... and how plenty of rappers, singers and video models are quite happy to sell out their race in order to earn their own thirty pieces of "House Negro" silver... not to mention how far too many of us will support these vampires by buying their records, their fashions, their imagery and their ideals, all at the low, low cost of our souls.

When: Saturday, 2 - 3:30 PM
Where: Library Theatre at at the Edmonton Public Library, Stanley Milner Branch (downtown on Churchill Square)
Cost: FREE!
Moderated by: Minister Faust
Sponsored by: The Living History Group of CCACH (the Council of Canadians of African + Caribbean Heritage) and the Edmonton Public Library.

The Afrikan renaissance and the Third World Festival of Black Arts


"Prof. Atukwei Okai, Secretary-General of the Pan African Writers' Association (PAWA) has praised the campaign by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, for the recognition and integration of the African Diaspora as the sixth region of the African continent....

"The Third World Festival of Black Arts, which takes place in Dakar, Senegal, in June 2007, has the theme, 'African Renaissance', and will feature, as its country of focus, Brazil, which has the second largest black population in the world, after Nigeria.

"President Wade in his response said, among other things, that now, at the level of the Heads of State of the African Union, the mission and movement towards the creation of a United of Africa was no longer a matter of debate or doubt, and that the African people were expecting the African Civil Society to partake fully in the struggle for the realization of Africa's destiny in a positive sense.

"Present were the Minister of Culture of Mali, Mr. Cheikh Omar Cissokho, a distinguished filmmaker, the Minister of Culture of Brazil, Mr. Gilberto Gil, a renowned musician, and the Minister of Culture of Angola, Mr. Boaventura Cardoso and the Minister of Culture of Senegal, Mr. Mame Birame Diouf.

"Others included Mr. Tidjiani Serpos, the Deputy Director General of UNESCO in charge of Africa, the celebrated fashion designer from Niger, Seindali Ahmed Alphandi and Dr. Ola Blogun, the Nigerian filmmaker.

"The membership of the International Orientation committee includes personalities such as Maryse Conde, the writer from Guadeloupe, Shirley Franklin, the Mayor of Atlanta, Prof. Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Spike Lee, Theophile Obenga, the Egyptologist and Justin Mintsa, the writer and President of the Gabon Writers' Association.

"Others include Ekwui Enwenzor, the Museum Curator from Nigeria, Djibri Tamsir Niane, the historian from Guinea, Eduard Maunick, the Mauritian poet and critic, Harry Belafonte, as well as Henry Louis Gates, Jnr, the head of the African Studies Department at Harvard University, U.S.A.

"The Third World Festival of Black Arts, which President Wade is certain to 'help us to get away from soulless materialism, through a dialogue between the various cultures,' will feature activities in the areas of architecture (exhibitions and models), handicrafts, visual arts (painting, sculpture, style, design, photography), dance and cinema and video. Other areas are a colloquium, symposium, fashion design, literature (poetry, novels, criticism, essays), music (modern and traditional) as well as theatre."

Read the entire article here.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cartoons, death threats, killings, photos, torture + invasions

There are new Abu Ghraib photos (this one isn't one of them). has them, and Australian TV has them. They're even worse. See the two stories here and here.

An interview on Democracy Now! with the Australian reporter who broke the story.

Also on Democracy Now!, Professor Alfred McCoy exposes the history of CIA torture, from the Cold War to the US Global War.

While I suppose some people might've believed that French peasants who rioted in 1789 were inflamed to irrational violence by false rumours that their queen had said during their years of starvation and oppression "Let them eat cake," a more sobre take on the revolution would focus on the years of abuse and exploitation... would, that is, look less at the lit match and more at the piles of dynamite.

I'm sickened, yes, by that tiny minority of Muslims who have threatened or committed acts of violence in wake of the cartoons. I'm sickened by the anti-Jewish filth that runs in many newspapers of the Muslim world. But I'm also sickened by the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias that is a staple of Western reporting, textbook writing and especially Hollywood. And I'm far more sickened by all of those of us in the West who said nothing while, for instance, for eleven years, US-led sanctions on Iraq led to the deaths of 1.5 million people including over 640,000 children under five. I'm more sickened by Western use of depleted uranium as a weapon (that is, a WMD), which will kill and maim for literally centuries. I'm more sickened by US lies to launch an illegal war (aggression being the highest international crime) which is only one in a long series of wars of aggression launched over lies, assassinations of national leaders including Patrice Lumumba (ordered by the US president himself--see Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost) or creating, funding and directing terrorist armies such as the Contras and UNITA and the Mujahadeen/Al Qaeda. I'm more sickened by US creation and/or financing and political adoption of vicious dictatorships around the world from Haiti to Congo to the Phillipines to Chile to Iran....

As Malcolm X warned in 1963, the chickens have come home to roost.

Yes, it's easy to say, "But we civilised people would never riot in the streets over cartoons." Maybe not. But "we" sure as hell are willing to bomb, starve, assassinate, mass-murder, nuke, or slaughter with DU or chemical-biological warfare from Agent Orange in Vietnam to swine flu in Cuba. Yes, "we" sure are civilised, while we politely sit quietly, or perhaps even while applauding, the exploitation and mass murder of others so we can have cheap gasoline, cheap plastic, cheap clothes, cheap shoes, cheap fruit, cheap electronics and expensive diamonds. So at the gates of hell, when we're protest we've been sent to the wrong place, someone with horns, government ID, a press pass and a stock portfolio will say, "No problem--you've got reservations."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The only reason I care about the Olympics

David Zirin writes: "1968. There was never a year when the worlds of sports and politics collided so breathlessly, without mercy or respite. It was the year Muhammad Ali, stripped of his heavyweight title for resisting the draft, spoke on 200 college campuses and asked the question, 'Can they take my title without me being whupped?' ....

"And most famously, it was the year that Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the 200-meter medal stand at the Mexico City Olympics to raise their black gloved fists in a demonstration of pride, power, and politics."

Check Zirin's interview with Tommie Smith here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Media accused liberals of politicising King funeral, ignored conservatives' use of Reagan funeral

"Following civil rights leader Coretta Scott King's February 7 funeral, numerous media figures highlighted the purportedly 'partisan' nature of the event, in some cases describing it as a 'Democratic pep rally,' a 'Bush bashathon' and a 'Democratic convention.'

"The controversy stems primarily from tributes delivered by civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter, which included a reference to prewar intelligence failures in Iraq and what many interpreted as Carter's reference to President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program.

"But many of those same media figures accusing speakers of politicizing the King funeral did not show the same aversion to the politicization of the 2004 death of a figure of a different political stripe: former President Ronald Reagan. Nor did they apparently think it worth noting that the Reagan funeral included no Democratic speakers, but a long roster of Republicans, including President Bush, who was running for re-election and was reportedly trying to attach himself to the Reagan legacy."

Read the entire article here.

Right-wing spew-shrew Ann Coulter calls Islam "a car-burning cult"

"In a column commenting on the recent violence linked to cartoons in European newspapers that satirized the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter suggested that Islam is 'a car-burning cult,' and wrote that Muslims have 'a predilection for violence.'"

For a larf or two, also try this on Coulter (Culter?), and this, and The Nation's "Devil in a Blue Dress" regarding the "lunatic ravings of Ann Coulter." The Ann Coulter parody blog is here.

Here's another bit on Coulter's sputem: "After writing that cops and pretty girls were her allies at the [Democratic National] convention, she had this to say about the women in attendance: 'My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention.'

"Here's how Coulter opened the column: 'Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do. My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags. The people sporting shirts emblazoned with the "F-word" are my opponents.'"

Here's a list of some of her most offensive statements, including:

"My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that's because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism."---MSNBC 2/8/97

"I have to say I'm all for public flogging. One type of criminal that a public humiliation might work particularly well with are the juvenile delinquents, a lot of whom consider it a badge of honor to be sent to juvenile detention. And it might not be such a cool thing in the 'hood to be flogged publicly."---MSNBC 3/22/97

"I think we had enough laws about the turn-of-the-century. We don't need any more." Asked how far back would she go to repeal laws, she replied, "Well, before the New Deal... [The Emancipation Proclamation] would be a good start."---Politically Incorrect 5/7/97

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Birds, murder, self-destruction and redemption

From Walter Mosley's "Crimson Shadow"
A Socrates Fortlow story

"Why you kill Billy, boy?"

"That's a bird." Darryl pointed. There was relief mixed with panic in his eyes.

"That's my friend."

"You crazy, old man. That's a bird. Bird cain't be nobody's friend." Darryl's words were still wild. Socrates knew the guilty look on his face.

He wondered at the boy and at the rooster that had gotten him out of his bed every day for the past eight years. A rage went through him and he crushed the rooster's neck in his fist.

"You crazy," Darryl said.

A large truck made its way down the alley just then. The heavy vibrations went through the small kitchen, making plates and tinware rattle loudly.

Socrates shoved the corpse into the boy's lap."Get ovah there to the sink an' pluck it."


"You don't have to do it ..."

"You better believe I ain't gonna ..."

"... but I will kick holy shit outta you if you don't."

Read "Crimson Shadow" here. Find out about Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned here.

Cartoons and hypocrisy, Part 3

Democracy Now! reports: "On Monday, the Guardian of London revealed that the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ. In April 2003, a Danish illustrator submitted a series of cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ. He received an email back from the paper's editor which said: "'I don't think our readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.'"

And (thanks to Black for the next two story links) The Jerusalem Post writes: "A Belgian-Dutch Islamic political organization, the Arab European League, posted anti-Jewish cartoons on its Web site on Saturday in response to the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that appeared in Danish papers last year and offended many Muslims, unleashing violent demonstrations around the Islamic world."

On a note of sobering sanity, Abdel-Rahman Hussein writes in Dar al-Hayat: "[I]f we expect Westerners to not tar all Muslims with the 'terrorist' moniker, we should do the same. Denmark and the Danish people should not be held accountable for the decision of a newspaper to publish such a thing. Danish embassies and Consulates in the Middle East should not be torched to the ground; Danish people in the Middle East should not feel unsafe.

"This is exactly the sort of reaction we fear when an attack occurs on Western soil. How will they view Muslims living in that particular country? Will these Muslims be safe in the wake of such attacks? If we do not want to be accused of the double standards we often feel is rampart in the West then we should take stock of how we react.

"Violence is not an appropriate response, no matter how high feelings might run, especially because this violence is directed towards people who were not involved, and may have even been as offended as Muslims in the matter. It is easy to generalize for the sake of simplicity but care must be taken if people's safety is at risk. You do not lash out at one man for the folly of another."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cartoons and outrage, Part 2

Correction: Thanks to Garvey's Ghost for letting me know that the "pig" cartoon was a hoax.

I've now seen all the cartoons, and my original (unpublished) reaction stands--none of this madness (death threats, violence, burning of property, recalling of ambassadors, boycotts), absolutely none of it, was warranted by these mostly innocuous cartoons.

Some of the cartoons are offensive to me, as a non-Muslim. And also, analagous imagery depicting Moses, David or Jesus would be unlikely if not unthinkable in the political cartoons of Western papers.

What's truly sickening is that, in the face of US occupation and the illegal US wars of aggression which included the use of depleted uranium, a WMD which will deform, maim and carcino-kill for generations, in the face of US-funded Israeli occupation and all its crimes, in the face of massive abuse of men's and women's civil and human rights under every Arab government and also the governments of Indonesia, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, that a set of kot-tam cartoons becomes a flashpoint for legitimate rage and illegitimate threats and violence.

Various Western papers set this trap... and a number of extremists (by no means the vast majority of Muslims) fell right into that trap like suckers. Of course, when you've been bombed, brutalised, starved, tortured, WMDed by DU, lied to, manipulated and tricked by superpowers and your own authorities for generations, being bamboozled into madness isn't much of a surprise.

Freedom of expression

For an interesting debate between Asad Abu Khalil and Irshad Manji, visit today's Democracy Now or go to this link for audio and video.

Today, for the first time, I heard about a cartoon other than the turban/bomb. Apparently in one of the cartoons, a pig stands upon a copy of the Qur'an. I'm trying to figure out how that ranks as political insight. Imagine a cartoon depicting a pig walking upon a Star of David appearing in a Western paper. That would offend me, and rightly so. I removed a link I had on the Bro-Log because it led to a book whose title was, in my opinion, anti-Jewish. So I'm glad we don't have many examples of anti-Jewish content showing up in Western media. But slights or slurs against Muslims (and I'm not a Muslim) are so routine that most of them pass by without us even noticing them. Ditto the depiction of Afrikans.

This whole affair is upsetting for numerous reasons, from Western hypocrisy and incitement to hatred to the manipulation by Arab and Muslim governments of their own populations (away from existing civil and human rights outrages domestically) to foreign (and genuinely offensive) cartoon content. Obviously it's only a minority here in the West who would publish such material, and it's only a minority overseas who would make inexcusable death threats or commit violence.

To me, it boils down to the maxim of what responsible journalism should do: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Governments and corporations and abusive religious authorities and any other destructive group deserve to be taken to task for their crimes. And populations under oppression deserve to be defended.

The problem, the crisis in comprehension, is that sometimes there is overlap between the two cases I just cited, which is why so few people seem to have a balanced or nuanced gut response to the Israel/Palestine conflict, or to any number of other seemingly intractible crises. Imagine a world in which we tried to help people... no more death penalty, no more child abuse, no more "honour killings", no more sweatshops or union-busting, no more slave labour, no more incitement to hatred, no more religious coercion... and instead, cooperation and respect....

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sudan produced a Stonehenge before Stonehenge

"The most exciting discovery came 20 years ago when anthropologists and archaeologists uncovered stone structures older than Stonehenge in the southern part of Egypt near the border with Sudan.

"Medupe said: 'The stones were aligned with the different riding positions of the sun because everyday the sun rises at different points along the horizon and that is an effect cause by the earth’s movement around the sun.'

"The alignment worked to determine the seasons. The interesting thing about these African stones is that they were built a thousand years before Stonehenge so right now they are believed to be the oldest astronomical alignments in the world. 'That should give us pride because it shows that our people were the first to do this astronomical study of the movement of the sun or the positions of the sun.'"

See also: Nabta Playa (the "Egypt" in question is so far south that, given the date, 6800 years ago and 1000 years before Stonehenge, the area should be called Sudan).

Dave Chappelle speaks on Oprah

Dave Chappelle speaks on Oprah. You can watch it here. Refreshingly, Chappelle doesn't waste the interview trying to be funny, or cooning, or otherwise not addressing the issue everyone is tuning in to hear.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

AU celebrates Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop

"The African Union has plans underway to commemorate Senegalese historian, Cheikh Anta Diop, on the 20th anniversary of his death during a two-day programme scheduled to begin here next Tuesday, Senegalese Foreign Affairs Minister, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio announced on Friday.

"Panels of intellectuals from the continent and the Diaspora will celebrate the life and works of the Egyptologist and panafricanist who died in Dakar on 7 February 1986. In addition, there will be an exhibition of his works and a video projection of the most important conferences he hosted in Niamey, Cairo, Atlanta and elsewhere.

"'Through these events, the African Union aims at paying a worthy tribute to Cheikh Anta Diop who devoted his entire life to African renaissance and to a Union of the continent, and whose intellectual and scientific heritage is acknowledged by the institution as a basis for Africa's development,' Gadio added.

"Meanwhile, Gadio revealed that the organisation planned to establish shortly a special Cheikh Anta Diop Prize in order to reward the best African researchers."

See also:
Cheikh Anta Diop - Giant of Africentric Kemet Research
Cheikh Anta Diop on the Origin of the Ancient Egyptians

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dave Chappelle to explain his case on Friday's Oprah

"Dave Chappelle will make his first television appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show this Friday (Feb. 3) to explain his sudden disappearance last year after announcing a $50 million dollar deal with Comedy Central. Chappelle gained headlines worldwide when he suddenly disappeared from the set of The Chappelle Show last year and reemerged in South Africa, in the middle of production for the show's third season."

Puzzle of Nubian king and Egyptian goddess

"The Sakhmet statues, which date to the New Kingdom's 18th dynasty (circa 1533 - 1292BC), hail from the same period as most of the finds in the area. The head - believed to date to the 25th dynasty (circa 760 - 656BC), that is characterised by its Nubian features - however, seems somewhat out of place."

Don't take uppers--sniff cinnamon

"To stay alert behind the wheel on long road trips, skip the coffee and try sniffing peppermint or cinnamon. Researchers from West Virginia have found that getting a whiff of pleasant odours periodically while driving increases alertness, reduces fatigue, and even lowers drivers' anxiety and frustration."