Wednesday, January 23, 2008

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: The Brotherhood Council on Barack Obama

6 PM Mountain Time

Tonight on the show, we’re beginning a new regular feature: The Brotherhood Council.

The Brotherhood Council will meet at least four times this year to discuss international, national and local issues of concern to the Afrikan community, in the realms of the political, economic and social, to the personal, interpersonal and psychological.

And yes, before you can say “Gender bias!”, don’t worry, we’ll also be meeting with the Sisterhood Council an equal number of times.

Tonight’s council is made of three Brothers, plus myself:

Young Mav is the leader of Politic Live, E-Town’s premiere hip hop band. As DJ Arlo Maverick, Young Mav is also a long-time CJSR broadcaster on his highly popular Saturday night hip hop show, Urban Hang Suite. He’s a journalist, the city’s leading historian of the local hip hop scene, a music promoter, a mentor to many local musicians, and the founder of Hip Hop for Hunger, which for six years has raised money and food through hip hop to fund and feed Edmonton’s food back. He’s of Jamaican extraction.

Nene Khalema from South Africa is completing his doctorate in Education. He’s worked in Edmonton’s Afrikan communities for years, particularly as an advocate for educational reform. Currently he works with students of diverse immigrant backgrounds who face difficulties from lack of acculturation to post-traumatic stress disorder.

George Ishiekwene of Liberia works among disenfranchished youth in Edmonton. With colleagues such as Nene Khalema, he presented “Project Youth: Integration & Education - A Collaborative Model to Nurture Refugee Youth Capacities to Integrate.”

Tonight we’re going to discuss the remarkable ascendancy and everyday changing fortunes of Barack Obama, the Kenyan-American candidate for the presidential nomination of the US Democratic Party. Born in 1961, Obama was raised in Hawaii, Indonesia and New York. He became editor of the Harvard Law Review, a civil rights lawyer, a community organiser, the author of two autobiographies, a state senator, and now a federal senator.

His candidacy has been controversial. He’s young, relatively inexperienced in federal politics with only two years’ experience; he’s challenging the entitlement of the Clinton clan; and his presence has made some in the US question which of race or gender is the greater obstacle to the presidency.

Of course, above all these matters should be Obama’s policy statements and record, but we’ll get to those.

To start off, we’ll hear Malcolm X discussing, in the early 1960s, differing Euro-American attitudes towards people from the Afrikan continent, and Afrikan-Americans. Malcolm X understood then, as is still the case, that Euro-American nationalists prize the myth of their own history. To them, anyone who is ignorant of his own past is not respectable.

And by and large, Afrikans in the United States had their historical consciousness destroyed. Their ancestors were claimed by the scores of millions in the Maafa centuries before; they were taught that they came not from civilisations, but from barbarism.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What??? Heath Ledger dead by suicide? Oh, and this just in....

The same day that the coiffed, bipedal, venereal diseases at CNN blathered on for hours about the death of actor Heath Ledger, we learned that according to a new report:

5.4 million dead from the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Doesn't have anything to do with you? Guess again.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi on Kenya: Let us not find revolutionaries where there are none

Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes:

"One cannot fully grasp what is happening in Kenya and Africa without considering the changing nature of opposition movements and the differences between a people powered movement, or a democratic revolution, and a plethora of movements that consolidate democratic institutions for international capital while flying under the radar of democracy

"In Kenya, both the sitting Government and the opposition exchange members fluidly as they position and reposition themselves, eyes on the national cake.

"Even though here below I am mainly speaking about Raila Odinga and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), I could just as easily be speaking about Mwai Kibaki and the Party of National Unity (PNU).

"It is only because ODM has actively courted the image of being a people powered movement engaged in a democratic revolution that I draw your attention to it. Amilcar Cabral once said ‘tell no lies, claim no small victories.’ It is in that spirit that I write.

"Let me begin by pointing to the question of ethnicity and say this: In the same way you ought to be surprised to meet a white American denying the existence of racism in American politics, so should you be when you meet an African denying that ethnocentrism is deeply entrenched in African politics. Racism is a historical creation that serves a function – so is ‘tribalism’. In the same way that leaders in the West manipulate race and fear for political goals, so do African leaders. Ethnocentrism can be benign or extremely vicious depending on its conductor. Ethnocracy, like a racist power structure, exists to the extent it is able to obscure for the victim and the activist the root causes of economic, political and social exploitation. It misdirects.

"Let us also consider Kwame Ture’s (Stokely Carmichael) reminder that we should not mistake individual success for collective success. The majority of Kenyans – Luos, Kikuyus, Luhyas etc – are poor. The 60 per cent of Kenyans living under two dollars a day cut across all ethnicities. The Kikuyu élite live at the expense of the Kikuyu poor; it is the same for other ethnicities. There is much more in common between the poor across ethnicities, than between the élite and the poor of each ethnicity.

"Racism, nationalism, and ethnocracy all ask that the poor die in the defense of economic and social structures that keep them poor. It is no surprise that those who have been both dying and doing the killing in Kenya in the past week are the poor. Yet they are killing along ethnic, not class, lines...."

Chris Rock introducing Barack Obama

Saturday, January 19, 2008


SCI FI Wire writes:

"SF author Minister Faust, whose novel From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain is a finalist for this year's Philip K. Dick Award, told SCI FI Wire that he wrote the book to satirize self-help books, psychoanalysis and the Bush administration.

"'Maybe because each of those sources is either telling us how to live or forcing us to live a certain way,' Faust said in an interview. 'Am I satirizing superheroes? Sure, but they were just collateral damage for the larger satire.'

"On the surface, From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain is presented as if it is actually a self-help book for superheroes, Faust said. 'It's one analyst's take on the world's mightiest super-team, the F*O*O*J, after they've defeated all their enemies,' he said. 'Without external enemies, the federally funded F*O*O*Jsters turn on themselves, inadvertently revealing all their kinks, issues and aggression. Ordered [to enter] group therapy or face termination (and loss of benefits), the six most contentious F*O*O*Jsters soon focus on their most dramatic experience of all--the death of the world's mightiest hero.'

"Faust said he spent many hours building the world of
From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain. 'That meant creating a huge number of superheroes with names and backstories (many of which couldn't be included in the novel) [and] an extensive, detailed timeline of alternate 20th-century history, which combined superheroics with real-world politics and pop culture,' he said.

"To make the political satire work not just for today but for the past as well, Faust said he needed to review what political crises and skullduggery were transpiring during the Golden Age, the Silver Age and the 'Digital Age' and then find analogs that were funny and at the same time truthful.

"'Sometimes my analogs were subtle enough that they didn't work as analogs: For instance, no one has written to me at the glee of recognizing Ralph Nader, author of Unsafe at Any Speed, in the guise of Jack Zenith (zeniths and nadirs being top/bottom analogs of a sphere), author of Unsafe in Any Cape,' Faust said.

"'Yet most people are quite comfortable with the book's take on a dimwitted but superpowerful 'commander-in-chief,' Omnipotent Man.'"

Friday, January 11, 2008

An Obama Fable and an Obama Challenge

Br. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes:

"Finally, the most accomplished slickster in presidential history, Bill Clinton, was compelled to expose Barack Obama's 'fairy tale' anti-war history - some truth for a 'change.' Black Agenda Report knows the story very well, after more than four years of observing Obama's descent from vaguely progressive rhetoric to shameless pandering (to whites) and vapid 'Change!' mantra nonsense. Only the rich can win this game."

Ralph Nader's carries this "Obama Fable":

"Guy number four—'You’re one of those smart Haavard lawyers, Barack. You were a constitutional law teacher. You were against the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. So, why aren’t you putting two and two together—impeachment of the war criminals in the White House followed by conviction in the Senate?'

"Obama—'You don’t understand (testily), impeachment talk is just more of the same old Washington politics. I stand for change. No need to point fingers. We are one people....'”

Democracy Now AUDIO/VIDEO - Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama:

GLEN FORD: Well, Dr. Dyson doesn’t seem to know what a rightwing interest is. An expanded US military, 100,000 new troops, isn’t a rightwing interest? An expanded military budget that sucks up all of the money for healthcare, for revitalization of the cities, for a rebuilding of America’s infrastructure, for all the projects that black folks hold dear, all of which would go down the tubes, will be postponed indefinitely with the kind of expanded military budget that clearly follows from Barack Obama’s proposal for 100,000 new troops. And so, it is not in black folks’ interest. It’s really not in anyone’s interest, of course. But it is diametrically opposed to the historic black political consensus on domestic development to be proposing expanded military activities and budgets for the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We only have thirty seconds. Michael Eric Dyson, your response?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, listen here. I think that that is a legitimate comment to be made in terms of the critique of a potential Barack Obama presidency. Let’s see it get here first. I think that a Barack Obama presidency at least holds out the possibility of engaging these forms of critique, engaging the form of the black political consensus about which Mr. Ford has spoken, but also to deal with the fact that we have to be bifocal. The presidency—the people who are making critiques of the system, if he’s part of the system, he will be critiqued legitimately. And African American people will be able to enjoy the victory of the grassroots being able to speak, while at the same time being part of a political process that includes us in a very serious way.

Related to the above by concept is the following statement about The Great Debaters in a critique by Mark Anthony Neal:

"Figures like Farmer are often footnotes to the 'magic' Negro narratives that mainstream audiences find so damn fascinating--those stories of black folk who with their superior talents or superhuman capacity for forgiveness help whites salve their guilt about this country's racist past."

For the record, there's much I like about Obama, and since he, like I, am the product of a Kenyan father and a Euro-North American mother, I feel a certain kinship with him (although comparing us is sort of like comparing Willy Lumpkin and Mister Fantastic).

After all, he wrote an angry book about race in North America, and he has accomplished enough that he's an inspiration for many of our people. I've heard it said he was a fine advocate in earlier years for issues of importance to us. I also know that running for US President (or any office, for that matter) almost certainly means suppressing some aspects of yourself and your agenda (even some right-wingers do that... but then they implement that hidden agenda as soon as they can once they get elected).

But I am worried about two things in particular when it comes to Obama: 1. His "no-race" race, AKA "Make White folks as comfortable as possible" approach which inevitably means self-denial and self-racial denial, and how that "super-duper magical negro" approach makes possible 2) Barack becoming the premier "patriotically-correct" de-raced standard-bearer for American aggression, including the willingness to bomb US allies.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

SHORTLISTED for 2008 PHILIP K DICK AWARD: From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain

I'm grateful to announce that my second novel,
From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain, has been shortlisted for the 2008 Philip K. Dick Award.

My first novel,
The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, was also a finalist, in 2004.

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Francis Bok, Abolitionist: - Escape from Enslavement in Sudan


6 PM Mountain Time

Few violations of human rights and human dignity are more profound than that of life-long forced labour.

People forced to work for others without pay and without liberty or rights are denied all the opportunities for joy, peace, personal relationships, education and social action that middle class and affluent people throughout the world take for granted.

Over the course of centuries, the European Holocaust against the civilisations of West Afrika forced at least 12 million people into life-long, inherited enslavement; but as G. Stavrianos argues in Global Rift, an additional 36 million people were killed or died due to abuse, disease and deprivation during capture, forced marches to the coast, and the Atlantic middle passage, before landing on a gulag which stretched across two continents and the Caribbean.

This European holocaust against Afrika, called the Maafa by some Pan-Afrikanists, therefore claimed the lives of, at minimum, 48 million people, and ranks as one of the greatest crimes in human history, and also one of the most lucrative, since its profits financed the creation of the European and Euro-American empire.

Afrikan rebellions against perpetual forced labour were constant and bloody. Eventually Afrikan abolitionists and their European allies achieved triumph, ending the trans-Atlantic trafficking of human beings and finally the enslavement of human beings inside the United States and Europe.

But slavery as an institution is still widespread, even in the 21st Century. According to Voice of America, the United Nations' International Labor Organization says more than 12 million people are enslaved in the world. Other estimates are higher. For example, Free the Slaves says at least 27 million people are held in bondage. But given the illegal nature of forced labor and the difficulty of verifying cases in populous countries like China and India, analysts say the total number will never be known. Most slaves live in Asia, while many are in [Green] Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The vast majority of victims are women and children.” In Mali alone, according to a 2001 BBC news report, children “are being sold at the going price of $30 (U.S.) ... for cocoa production. ‘At least 15,000 children are thought to be ... [enslaved in] Ivory Coast, producing cocoa which then goes towards making almost half of the world’s chocolate,’ [with some] children younger than 11 years of age.”

For Pan-Afrikanists, little can be more horrifying than the notion that the enslavement of human beings is still being practiced on the Afrikan continent. Although the major players are transnational corporations, in that cocoa profits go to them, the ugly reality is that the enslavers on the ground are other Afrikans. That fact alone isn’t strange; throughout history, most people who were enslaved, were enslaved by people of the same colour, whether in Asia, Afrika or Europe. Although the etymology, is in dispute, many sources claim that the words “slav” and “slave” are connected, as the ruling classes of Western Europe enslaved their brothers and sisters from the east.

Yet given the historical horrors perpetrated against the Afrikan peoples, the idea that any Afrikan enslaves another is uniquely repugnant.

Currently, attention is focused on Sudan because of its civil war. What is less known is the extent to which people there are enslaved. Complicating our understanding further is the use of North American racial terms to describe Sudanese realities. Typically, Westerners call the conflict in Sudan a fight between Arabs and Afrikans.

Why the Sudanese people are called Afrikans instead of Sudanese speaks to Western ignorance (in reportage about conflicts in Northern Ireland, Bosnia or Russia, no combatant-side is called "White" or "European" or "tribal"). Calling one side Arabs, though, speaks in part to Western hostility against Arabs and Muslims and also to the self-description of culturally and linguistically Arabised Sudanese. Given a change of clothes, much of the so-called “Arab” population of Sudan would blend into the population of Harlem without the turning of a head.

Regardless of our miscomprehensions, people in Sudan continue to face misery. One man who escaped that misery is Francis Bok, “a refugee from Sudan and a survivor of child slavery. At the age of seven, he was captured and enslaved during [a] ... militia raid on the village of Nymlal in Southern Sudan. Bok saw adults and children brutalized and killed all around him. He was strapped to a donkey and taken north to Kirio. For ten years, he lived as the family slave to Giema Abdullah, forced to sleep with cattle, endure daily beatings, and eat rotten food. Called ‘abeed’ (black slave), Bok was given an Arabic name — Dut Giema Abdullah — and forced to perform Islamic prayers.”

At the age of 17, [Francis Bok] escaped, eventually making it as far as North Dakota. In 2000, Bok addressed US Congressional and Senate committees on behalf of his people to urge an end to slavery in Sudan, and later met an array of some of the most powerful politicians in the United States. In 2002, he was invited to the White House for the Sudan Peace Act signing ceremony.

“Bok has spoken to tens of thousands at colleges, faith communities and grassroots organizations across the country, including heading a panel on slavery at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government ARCO Forum. He has been featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in The New York Times and Essence magazine and by dozens of other newspapers, radio, and television shows, including National Public Radio and Black Entertainment Television.

Bok launched the website [and] has been honored by the Boston Celtics as a ‘Hero Among Us’ for community service, and in December 2001 he carried the Winter Olympic Torch on its national relay tour. His autobiography, Escape From Slavery, received outstanding reviews from Publisher's Weekly, The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle.”

Bok is currently an Associate at the American Anti-Slavery Group in Boston.

“On Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006, Francis Bok... spoke [at Amherst College in Massachusetts] on ‘21st Century: Living Proof,’ a lecture detailing his personal story of being enslaved, escaping from slavery and creating a new life.”

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Two new DOCTOR BRAIN interviews

Check out these two new audio interviews with me about From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain.

The first is from those crazy cats at
The Dragon Page. The second is from the delightful Mur Lafferty at I Should Be Writing.

In both cases, the interview with me is a ways into the podcast, so don't worry, you did link to the correct place. For The Dragon Page, it's at least eleven minutes in.

And for the sake of print, the solid dogs over at Urbanology Magazine have done a nice profile on the book, too. The ish isn't on their website, but it's on the stands (right up top above the title of the mag, you'll see the name "Minister Faust").

Murder and political repression in Kenya

Onyango Oloo, a Kenyan political activist and ex political prisoner, writes:

"The culpability rests solely with President Kibaki. From the fascist diktats of Michuki, Muthaura, Murage and Co. we know that the ODM leadership has NOT had a chance to publicly address their followers and therefore cannot be accused of "orchestrating" or "instigating" anything.

"Yes, the blood of innocents is flowing freely with mobs setting alight a church full of women and children and targeting innocent wananchi based on their ethnicity and regional origins.

"But who is talking about the orgy of POLICE and PARA-MILITARY EXTRA-JUDICIAL EXECUTIONS?

"By yesterday, there were over ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY BULLET RIDDLED BODIES in the New Nyanza Hospital including corpses of INFANTS. Who shot to death those innocent unarmed civilians? The police have been executing ghetto youth in Kibera, Kawangware and elsewhere. Who employs and commands these killers in uniform?

"Reports from Kisumu insist that the Kibaki regime may be using crack NRA troops from neighbouring Uganda to slaughter Kenyan citizens. When I first raised this issue online twenty four hours ago, some were quick to dismiss the very possibility. Today the Nyanza Provincial Police Officer is on the defensive, admitting she is aware of these widespread allegations even as she strenuously denies them....

"Raila Odinga has publicly stated that he is ready to meet with international mediator and in fact as I write these lines is meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at Pentagon House. Earlier this morning Amos Kimunya was interviewed by the BBC and he was quoted as saying that the Kibaki regime does NOT see the need for international mediators because they (PNU) can deal with the matter internally- a claim which is mocked by the ongoing protests. The same Kimunya has accused the international observers as being biased towards ODM after the EU team publicly denounced the anomalies in the tallying of the presidential results. President Kufuor of Ghana, the current AU Chairman was scheduled to be in Kenya today, but the Kibaki regime BLOCKED his coming...."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Post-election chaos in Kenya and misery in the DRC

Editorial from Kenya's Daily Nation:

"The strength of any economy is its political stability, practice of the rule of law, and its human resources. Unlike most countries that have achieved development equal to that of Kenya, the country does not possess any significant reserves of natural resources.

"Unfortunately, these key pillars of the economy have been shaken profoundly by the current stalemate over the elections. If the issue has eluded chest-thumping politicians, the business environment that has powered the economy to admirable levels in the last five years is about to be rolled back.

"Retail business, a key pillar of growth under existing development blueprints, lies mortally wounded by looters. Employees are marooned by violence and casual workers are starving. Industries are unable to distribute their products.

"Financing deals are being rescheduled, and the country’s political-risk rating may go up. At this rate, it will only be a matter of time before remittances by Kenyans abroad, unhappy with the chaos, dry out and cause more hardship to ordinary Kenyans.

"More alarmingly, a severe oil shortage might ground the economy if the situation is not arrested. The tourism industry, besides being threatened by the unseemly scenes, may soon reverse the gains painstakingly made in the past few years.

"Farther afield, the Great Lakes region, which relies on Kenya for oil supply, has started suffering major shortages. All these things should worry any politician who is not of criminal bent. But the truth is, there is a high number of such people on both sides of the political divide.

"If the anti-poverty platform the protagonists championed across the country was meant to amount to anything at all, political leaders have to urgently contain this situation. Clearly, even as the business community and the average man on the street suffer, there is little they can do about the situation.

"Politicians have to rise above the level of narrow interest and talk to each other for the sake of the economy. After all, this is what defines a statesman. Any other route to resolution would do great injustice to the hapless masses on whose behalf all sides claim to be feuding. We also appeal to Kenyans to refuse to increase their own poverty by engaging in looting and other forms of hooliganism. They owe this to themselves."

13:00 GMT/UTC (InterWorld Radio, Panos Institute)

"An opposition rally due to be held today in Nairobi to protest the re-election of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has been called off following stand-offs with the police. Several hundred protestors tried to attend the banned meeting to express support for the opposition candidate Raila Odinga but were repelled by police who used water cannons and tear gas. Kenya has been hit by a week of violent unrest following the announcement of election results. Opposition supporters accuse President Mwai Kibaki’s party of rigging the vote, and European observers described the election as flawed. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and African Union President, John Kufuor will both attempt to mediate the crisis.

"Increased conflict and lawlessness in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has led to a surge in rape by fighters on all sides. Women have reported an increase in rapes by both rebel and government forces and doctors say civilian attacks also appear to be on the rise. The area is suffering as a result of conflict between the government and troops loyal to renegade Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda. Thousands have fled their homes since Nkunda quit a peace deal with the government in August last year. Local and international human rights organisations say violence against women is a longstanding feature of the region’s conflict."