December 12, 2013

By Jennifer Bihm

Contributing Writer

 

President and First Lady Obama joined former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter December 10 in Johannesburg to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, who died of complications from a lung infection last Thursday. The U.S. presidential team was part of a group of world leaders and dignitaries, who came to pay tribute to the anti- apartheid icon, affectionately known by his countrymen as “Madiba” a tribal name from his original village Qunu. Tens of thousands of “regular” citizens also attended the memorial, which precedes Mandela’s burial, to take place December 15 in Qunu.

As if they had known his destiny, Mandela’s parents gave him the name Rolihlahla when he was born in the village of  Mvezo, July 18, 1918. In the Xhosa language, Rolihlahla commonly translates to “troublemaker.”  When he was still an infant, his family became political outcasts in Mvezo, forcing them to move to Qunu, where eventually, Mandela became the first in his family to attend school.

At school, Rolihlahla became Nelson (a common practice in schools was to give African children English names). When his father fell ill and died in about 1927, 9 year old Mandela moved to Mqhekezweni, the provincial capital of Thembuland with Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, a political ally of his father, who adopted him. He continued his education, ending up at the University of Fort Hare where he studied English, anthropology, politics, native administration, and Roman Dutch law.

His first bout with activism also began at Fort Hare, where he joined the student majority in protesting poor conditions at the university. But, Mandela couldn’t stay in Mqhekezweni. The chief had arranged an undesirable marriage for him, causing him to flee.

He landed in Johannesburg in 1941, where he started out in poverty, working menial jobs until he decided to finish earning his BA and enter law school. He joined the African National Congress Youth League, a small group within the general ANC with goal of starting a grass roots movement among the poor and voiceless in South Africa who suffered under the apartheid regime. The regime, made officially legal after a general election in 1948, was severe for blacks.

Under it, blacks lost their citizenship, trapping them in extreme poverty and forcing them to suffer its debilitating effects. Initially, Mandela and the ANCYL led peaceful boycotts, strikes and other acts of civil disobedience and non-cooperation. They wanted full citizenship, redistribution of land, trade union rights, and free and education.

But twenty years of nonviolence didn’t seem to be getting results. Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, a group dedicated to taking up arms and declaring guerilla warfare against Apartheid.  He and other ANC leaders were eventually sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and other political offenses.

His twenty seven year imprisonment sparked a litany of protests and demands for his freedom throughout the world. In 1982 Mandela had a choice. Stop his armed struggle against Apartheid and be released from prison or remain.

He refused the offer, he said, until blacks received the right to vote. He was released in 1990 and in 1994 became South Africa’s first black president.

News of his death reverberated around the globe, garnering commentary from dignitaries, celebs and civilians alike.

“His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph,” president Obama said during the celebration. “Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy. The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.”

“Our hearts are heavy with the news of Nelson Mandela's passing,” said Essence magazine Editor in Chief Vanessa Bush.

“The life of Nelson Mandela is a singular example of devotion and dignity in the face of unthinkable oppression. As a fearless ambassador for equality across the globe, his legacy is beyond measure.”

 

“In my lifetime, I have never met a world leader more humble or more gracious than Nelson Mandela,” said Senator Rod Wright who met Mandela during his visit to Los Angeles 23 years ago and who is a member of the Los Angeles Free South Africa Movement led by Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

“He was, in my eyes, a giant of a man. I will always be amazed that he was able to grow so much as a person and accomplish all that he did having sacrificed so many years of his life in the isolation of prison.

While it is certainly sad to lose someone as great as Nelson Mandela, it brings me some peace to know that he lived to such an age that he got to experience a rich life with his children and grandchildren after his release. We think of him for his presidency and his Nobel Peace Prize, but his family was likely his greatest joy.”          

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

December 05, 2013

By DENISE LAVOIE

Associated Press

 

BOSTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s Kenyan-born uncle, who ignored a deportation order more than two decades ago, on Tuesday was granted permission to stay in the United States.

Judge Leonard Shapiro made the decision after Onyango Obama, 69, testified that he had lived in the U.S. for 50 years, been a hard worker, paid income tax and been arrested only once.

Asked about his family in the U.S., he said he has a sister and two nieces, then added, “I do have a nephew.” Asked to name the nephew, he said, “Barack Obama,” then added, “He’s the president of the United States.”

Onyango Obama, the half brother of the president’s late father, testified he has lived in the U.S. since 1963, when he entered on a student visa. He had a series of immigration hearings in the 1980s and was ordered to leave the country in 1992 but remained.

During his testimony, he identified himself as Obama Okech Onyango. Court records and authorities have identified him as Onyango Obama, and no explanation was given for the discrepancy.

Obama told the judge he had led a quiet, simple life, graduating from high school in Cambridge, then atten­d­ing Boston University, where he received a degree in philosophy. He said he has worked for years as a manager at a family-owned liquor store in Framingham, just west of Boston. He also said he has worked for decades to help African immigrants find housing and settle in the U.S.

The judge, while announcing his decision, cited a law that entitles immigrants who are “out of status” to become permanent residents if they arrived in the U.S. before 1972, maintained continuous residence and are of good moral character.

Obama testified he hasn’t been back to Kenya since he entered the U.S. and said it would be difficult for him to return after all these years.

“Mr. Judge, America is a land of opportunities, a land of chances,” he said in a thick accent.

His immigration status didn’t become public until his 2011 drunken-driving arrest in Framingham. Police said after the arrest he told them, “I think I will call the White House.”

Asked about the exchange by a prosecutor on Tuesday, he said he might have said that but couldn’t recall.

The charge was dismissed after he completed a year of probation and 14 weeks of alcohol education classes.

The judge said he considered testimony about Obama’s character, including letters from people who praised him for being a “kind and decent person,” and considered the drunken-driving charge and allegations of discrepancies in what he told immigration officials 20 to 30 years ago.

“He appears to me to be a gentleman,” the judge said.

Obama testified that President Obama stayed with him for three weeks in Cambridge while the president was a student at Harvard Law School.

“In our tradition, your brother’s kids are your kids as well,” he said after the hearing.

Onyango Obama’s Cleveland-based immigration attorney, Margaret Wong, called him a “wonderful older gentleman.”

“He has earned his privilege to stay in the United States. He has been here for 50 years,” she said.

After the hearing, Obama quickly left the courthouse without speaking. Wong said he didn't receive any special treatment and was happy with the judge's decision.

If the government appeals, a notice must be filed within 30 days. Wong said Obama could get U.S. citizenship after five years.

The White House had said it expected the case to be handled like any other.

In the president’s memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” he writes about his 1988 trip to Kenya and refers to an Uncle Omar, who matches Onyango Obama’s background and has the same date of birth.

Onyango Obama is the second Obama family member to be found living illegally in the United States. His sister, Zeituni Onyango, the president’s aunt, was granted asylum in 2010 after her first asylum request in 2002 was rejected and she was ordered deported in 2004.

Onyango didn’t leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston. Her status was revealed just days before Barack Obama was elected in November 2008. At the time, then-candidate Obama said he didn’t know his aunt was living in the U.S. illegally and he believed laws covering the situation should be followed.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

December 05, 2013

By Starla Muhammad

Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

 

Oriana Farrell, 39, was pulled over for speeding but the encounter almost turned deadly on a highway near Taos, New Mexico. A state trooper broke her rear window with a baton. Another trooper fired as the panicked Memphis mother drove away from him. Her five children, ages 6 to 18, were in the van.

Police dash cameras recorded the encounter that caused shock and anger when made public. White mothers and their children are not handled so brutally for minor traffic violations, advocates and analysts told The Final Call.

“A uniformed officer can shoot three bullets at my van and be considered to be ‘doing his job’, but my doing what I can to get my own children away from such a terrifying individual has been termed ‘child abuse’ and ‘endangerment,’ according to New Mexico law,” said Ms. Farrell.

Her sentiments were contained in a piece published by The Taos News and shortly after her arrest.

“As a single, African-American mother of five in this country, things are tough enough I should not have to endure harassment at the hands of someone who has been hired to protect the citizens of this land over an alleged ‘speeding offense.’ No one should,” she said.

“I don’t think many of these people who perpetuate these wrongs against us even see us as victims. They see us with suspicion just as for years they’ve done with Black men,” Dr. E. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women said.

“We have heard about the war on women for years and I agree there is a war, but think of how much greater that war is on Black women,” she added.

Overzealous state police?

New Mexico State police reportedly pulled Ms. Farrell over for driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone on a highway.

Police say she argued about paying the ticket, leaving the scene before the trooper was finished.

Stopped a second time, footage shows a trooper pulling her out of her vehicle. The screams of children inside the van can be heard. The woman’s 14-year-old son approaches his mother and the officer. A brief scuffle between he and the officer ensues and the officer pulls out his Taser. The teen retreats into the van.

As Ms. Farrell drives off a final time, a different trooper fires three shots at the back of the van as it moves away from him.

There is a 10-minute chase before Ms. Farrell pulls to the front of a hotel. She and her son are arrested without further incident.

At Final Call presstime, state police were conducting an internal investigation. The troopers involved were still on the job and their names had not been released.

According to media reports, the Taos County District Attorney is not filing criminal charges against the officers.

Ms. Farrell appeared in court Nov. 19 charged with multiple counts including intentional abuse of a child, aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Her son was charged with aggravated battery against a police officer.

Ms. Farrell’s trial is scheduled for April 21, 2014.

Inquiries by telephone and e-mail to 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos went unanswered.

The Final Call was told by the office of attorney Alan Maestas, who is representing Ms. Farrell, that he was out of town. According to his office, the lawyer was not granting interviews or commenting on the case.

Heavy handed tactics, violent encounters with law enforcement and cases where Black women are beaten or killed show gender often means little in a society ingrained with White Supremacy, said activists. Black women aren’t seen as human beings, they added.

During civil rights protests police dogs, baton-wielding cops and fire hoses were mercilessly unleashed on Black women.

Ms. Farrell and others, like 19-year-old Renisha McBride of Detroit, are too often treated with suspicion, observed Dr. Williams.

Ms. McBride was shot in the face and killed in Dearborn Heights, Mich. She went to the home of Theodore Wafer seeking help after crashing her car. Mr. Wafer, who is White, reportedly told police he was afraid and the shotgun he was holding accidentally discharged. Days of protests and public outcry came before his arrest.

Though not a police involved shooting, it again shows how Blacks are seen as threats, said analysts.

“As a nation, culturally, Black people are still perceived largely through a lens of fear. That lens of fear remains, regardless of the gender of the person that people see,” said Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, writer, radio host and president and CEO of Incite Unlimited.

There is a long U.S. history of Black women not being seen as women, she explained, citing the famous “Ain’t I A Woman,” speech by abolitionist and freedom fighter Sojourner Truth in 1851 as an example. The “mantle of femininity” is not bestowed on Black women while racism and America’s gun culture feed unjustified fear, said Dr. Jones-DeWeever, a former executive director of the National Council of Negro Women.

Based on U.S. history, gender in and of itself is “negligible” when it comes to the danger of being Black in White America, attorney, author and radio host Dr. Ava Muhammad said.

The American psyche tolerates the murder of Black males so it has become safer and easier to openly kill Black females, said Dr. Muhammad, who is also national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

“This is one of the reasons there is an all-out effort in media and culture to completely destroy any respect for Black females by presenting the Black female as a sexually charged, immoral creature who is so lacking in self-respect that when she is killed there is a ‘so what’ posture not only in the White community but in the Black community as well,” she said.

According to a 2012 report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, every 36 hours a Black man, woman or child is killed by a police officer, security guard or self-appointed law enforcer.

Of the 120 Black people killed between January 1 and June 30, 2012, five were Black women.

“Two were accused ‘car thieves,’ two were ‘innocent bystanders’ and one was beaten and smothered by police because they treated her emotional agitation as if it were a crime that had to be violently suppressed,” said the report.

Earlier this year in Springfield, Ill., police used a Taser on Lucinda White, who was 8 months pregnant, after a minor traffic accident in a parking lot.

According to reports, Ms. White initially called police to report the fender bender. She and her boyfriend were arrested. No charges were filed against the officers.

The city of Chicago awarded $4.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of Rekia Boyd, 22, a bystander who was shot in the head and killed by police detective Dante Servin on March 21, 2012. He claimed self-defense. Ms. Boyd was unarmed.

At Final Call presstime, the Chicago Tribune reported Cook County prosecutors were charging Det. Servin with manslaughter. He has been on administrative duty since the shooting, continuing to receive a $87,000 per year salary, said the Tribune.

In Los Angeles, assault charges were filed against a White female police officer seen on video repeatedly kicking Alesia Thomas in the stomach and genitals. The Black women was handcuffed and in leg restraints. She lost consciousness and later died. Ms. Thomas, 35, reportedly had a history of mental illness and battled drug addiction.

Black women are just as likely as Black men to be perceived as threats and violent, as irrational as the thought may be, added Dr. Jones-DeWeever. “We need to understand that frankly we have a linked fate with our men as it relates to that issue,” she said.

When video was released of Ms. Farrell and police, debates arose. Many were highly critical of Ms. Farrell and blamed her as well as police. After Renisha McBride was gunned down, reports began surfacing about her blood alcohol level and traces of marijuana reportedly found in her system. It is unclear whether or not her shooter was tested for drugs or alcohol.

“If Renisha were drunk as Cootie Brown and high as a kite, she did not deserve to be killed. Why didn’t the ‘54-year-old homeowner’ call 911 and tell them there was a drunken woman on his porch? Why did he shoot?” asked Dr. Julianne Malveaux in a commentary titled, “Who will defend Black women?”

The activist and economist pointed out parallels between the McBride case, the death of teen Trayvon Martin and the propensity to blame victims.

Dr. Jones-DeWeever spoke of a unifying thread of authorities and public blaming of victims, including Miriam Carey. The 34-year-old Connecticut woman was shot and killed in Washington, D.C., Oct. 3 after ramming her car into barriers near the White House. Her one-year-old daughter was in the vehicle but was unharmed.

“Her car was shot into with her baby in the backseat … The knee-jerk reaction is not to see them as victims but see them as deserving perpetrators in some way and in some way responsible for their own death,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever. There were reports Ms. Carey may have suffered from post-partum depression. Ms. Carey’s sister, a former police officer, questioned whether the situation could have been handled differently.

“There has been little to no discussion of the possibility of post-partum depression as if that’s something that can only happen to White women,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever noted.

She added, “I really would find it hard to believe that in a similar circumstance, particularly with the Renisha McBride case, if that was a blue-eyed, blond hair White woman under this very same circumstance, if those things had happened to her, I really find it hard to believe that the press would have been as sympathetic towards the shooter or that the police might have been so protective of the shooter’s identity.”

Police also have alternatives to deadly force, analysts told The Final Call.

Dr. Muhammad pointed out how Paul Anthony Ciancia, a 23-year-old White man who shot and killed a TSA agent and wounded two others at LAX Airport in early November, was wounded by police, but taken alive into custody.

“We have to begin in our community to stand up for one another, to respect one another, love one another and then to insist that people do it. We have to treat each other right in our own community and not jump to question our motive when there is a problem or something happens and we’re injured,” said Dr. Williams.

“We do have the power to stop some of these things we just don’t always exercise the unity we need to exercise in order to be treated better in this society.”

She urged Black women who are doing well to help those who are suffering injustices.

Dr. Muhammad said there is a crisis in the Black community.

No people on earth would tolerate this, with any knowledge of self, any comprehension with the significance of this type of assault on their women and children, she argued.

“We do not want to acknowledge that the White man is our natural enemy. That’s what’s at the root of all this,” said Dr. Muhammad.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

December 05, 2013

By Jason Straziuso

Associated Press

 

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Only four months after a raging fire engulfed the arrivals terminal at Kenya’s main airport, Kenya’s president on Tuesday broke ground on new construction that officials hope will cement the country as East Africa’s transportation leader.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the goal is to make Jomo Kenyatta International Airport one of the world's leading air terminals. The revamped airport will serve 20 million passengers a year, up from 6.5 million passengers currently. Con­struction on the new $635 million terminal is expected to last until 2017.

In August a small fire at the Nairobi airport swelled into a roaring inferno that destroyed the arrivals terminal. Firefighters were desperately short of equipment and crews took hours to control the flames. Kenyatta said the fire, which was caused by an electrical fault, “threatened our vision” of Nairobi’s airport being the gateway to Africa.

Tourism fuels Kenya's economy. The country’s safari parks and white-sand beaches beckon more than a million tourists per year, with most coming from the U.K. and the U.S.

Nairobi’s airport is far bigger than any other in the region, but the cement structure is old, cramped and uncomfortable. Passengers are often made to walk across a busy tarmac to board their plane, one of the reasons the United States does not allow direct flights from Kenya.

Aly-Khan Satchu, who once ran the global trading desks in emerging markets for Credit Suisse First Boston and now runs his own financial management business in Nairobi, said Kenya must cement its position as a transportation hub by laying more infrastructure groundwork. With the new airport terminal, Kenya is making a play to be the Africa-Asia transit hub, he said.

“All the U.S. multinationals setting up shop here like Kenya Airway’s routes into other African countries,” Satchu said. “But if Kenya Airways is going to be an airline leader it has to have a first class airport. The airport experience now is just so awful.”

During Tuesday’s groundbreaking, Kenyatta noted that airports boost economic growth and give tourists and businessmen a first impression of the country, and can thus influence foreign direct investment.

Kenya in recent days also launched a multi-billion-dollar railway project to link its port city of Mombasa with Nairobi, a line that will run on to Uganda and possibly Rwanda and South Sudan.

Both transportation projects are being financed largely with Chinese money. Kenyatta on Tuesday thanked the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Invest­ment Bank and China, the only nation he singled out individually.

Construction projects in Kenya are prone to costly delays and corruption. Kenyatta urged project managers to overcome those hurdles.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

November 28, 2013

By Avis Thomas-Lester

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

 

Several of the Washington, D.C.-area’s most celebrated civil rights leaders converged on Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets NW recently to pay homage to a man who gave his life in the quest for freedom.

Clyde Kennard was a Korean War veteran who lived in Hattiesburg, Miss., who started a public campaign after he was denied admittance to the then-all White Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi. Instead of changing minds about letting him into the university, however, he was framed for a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for seven years to quiet his voice.

As his condition grew grave, throngs of supporters were successful in getting him released. He died in July 1963.

On Nov. 14, several of the late Kennard’s friends from the Civil Rights Movement came together to celebrate him, including Dorie Ladner and her sister, Dr. Joyce Ladner, former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees.

Both helped in the effort to free Kennard. Also at the program were Julian Bond, the former congressman and NAACP president emeritus who also fought for freedom as a SNCC member; and Dick Gregory, who paid for Kennard to travel to Chicago to be treated for his illness shortly after he was released from prison, six months before he died.

Speakers described Kennard as a soft-spoken peaceful man who fought a gentle fight for his rights and the rights of others. His sword was his pen, which he wielded mightily, writing eloquent arguments on behalf of his cause and the wrongs of segregation. To quiet him, a jury convicted him of theft in a conspiracy that included some of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in Hattiesburg.

“Now this principle is an easy one for us to follow, for it holds as true in human history, especially American History, as it does in logic,” Kennard wrote to the Hattiesburg American in 1959. “Reason tells us that two things, different in location, different in constitution, different in origin, and different in purpose cannot possibly be equal. History has verified this conclusion.”

The Ladner sisters spoke affectionately about Kennard. Members of the Split This Rock D.C. Youth Slam read excerpts of Kennard letters. Eddie Holloway, the current president of the USM, talked about the school Kennard so wanted to attend.

A portrait of Kennard by Robert Shetterly, a member of Americans Who Tell the Truth, was unveiled. Previously, Shetterly has portrayed Gregory, Rep. John Lewis and civil rights martyr Ella Baker.

Years after his death, Kennard’s name was cleared.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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