Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I once encountered a professor who explained a theory he had that Black Americans have been taught to turn their noses up to Africans, and vice versa. The divide between the two has been implemented and encouraged, used as another strategy by the dominant race to keep Black people from uniting and incapable of taking over. It is another divide much like the dark skinned vs. light skinned fight, the college educated vs. the non college educated, wealthy Blacks vs. the working class, Black Republicans vs. everybody else, Haitians vs. Dominicans...and so on.
James Baldwin discussed the difference between Blacks and Africans in Europe in "Notes of A Native Son" and the unfortunate differences that keep us all- those of African descent- from understanding each other. Although the differences are too often swept under the rug, like most conflicts between races, there are tons of misconceptions and stereotypes about Africans and the continent of Africa.
I came into the first day back to 5th grade in Baltimore with a young British accent (having moved from London the previous year) and a deep tan (having spent time vacationing in Nigeria over winter break) ready for the show and tell portion of class. I had pictures from my trip: of my family's estate, my cousins' school, the family horseback riding on Bar Beach, pictures of the city of Lagos, etc....and they were welcomed with the most outlandish questions from my classmates.
I was asked, "Did you live in a hut?" to which I replied, no- we have houses.
"Do people wear loin cloths?" no, we have clothing. My aunt owns her own clothing line and store.
"Does your uncle hunt lions for a living?" no, actually he works for a major Oil company there.
And a plethora of equally ignorant questions. I cannot blame my classmates for these questions, I blame society. I blame the media for only ever showing one side of Africa (although it is SO VERY IMPORTANT- I am a huge advocate for change in my continent) and for never highlighting the beautiful things about this continent.
Africa is the most underrated continent on Earth. It was a rich and beautiful land stripped of many of it's resources by the Western world, and given no credit for any of its' people's accomplishments. It is home to tons of stolen art, food, mathematical, scientific and medicinal discoveries, and of course- beautiful people.
That being said, I found this YouTube video about the Africa they never show on TV:
Monday, July 28, 2008
Interview with Silver-Medalist Olympian, Nia Abdallah, by Tolu Olorunda.
Nia Abdallah is the 2004 US Silver Medalist in Taekwondo. She is also the first woman from the United States to earn a medal in this sport since it became an official Olympic sport. She is the first African-American to win a medal in the sport and she also holds the record for the most points ever scored in a Taekwondo Olympic competition. Abdallah’s Olympic dream began at the age of five. She began Taekwondo at the age of 9 and has since become a third degree black belt. She earned her first major international win in 1997 at the 11th Annual U.S. Cup Taekwondo Championships, where she captured a gold medal in breaking. Abdallah has also won international events in Peru and Canada, as well as winning two senior National Championships. In 2004, she was named, "USA Taekwondo's 2004 Female Athlete of the Year." With such an accomplished history, nothing could be more insulting to the integrity and conscience of an athlete, than to be robbed of a justified and deserved victory. In early 2008, Nia Abdallah fought a well-known competitor, Diana Lopez, in a qualifying match for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The fight began like any other ordinary athletic exercise, but before long, certain elements of the Abdallah v. Lopez match would resonate as unsettling and disturbing. Onlookers, coaches and supporters took note of the fact that within the regular fighting rounds, no scoring points we're awarded to either player, regardless of the many head-shots and practical knockdowns. In the sudden-death round, Diana Lopez was shockingly pronounced the winner. To Nia Abdallah, her lawyer, her parents, supporters and friends, the fight was rigged, and the alleged victor was pre-determined before the actual fighting began. The family and friends of Nia are at the moment in a legal tug-of-war with the USOC. They are demanding amongst other things, a review of the fight, and a Judicial Report on it. I had the opportunity to speak to both Nia Abdallah and her parents, on the issues revolving around this historical battle against a system of injustice:
Thanks for joining us Nia. Can you inform us of your background, and the lead-up to the 2004 Olympic Silver victory?
Well, basically I started my Olympic dreams when I was about 4 years old. My grandfather introduced me to the Olympic movement and its significance, and I told my mom that I wanted to win the Olympics. And then she made an effort to help me get into sporting activities. At the time, I didn't know what sport I would play, but I knew I wanted to win the Olympics. When I became 9 yrs. old, I convinced my mom to permit me to get involved in Taekwondo -- by telling her that it would help me with discipline, self-defense and other great things. When I started, I won most of my tournaments; but when I first lost, I understood that you have to lose to win. When I graduated from High School, I had the choice of going to the military, the Olympic Training Center, or college, so I decided to pursue my Olympic dreams and go to the Olympic Training Center. When I went up there, I won the National Tournament, and it gave me the opportunity to go to the Olympics. After a couple of bouts with Diana Lopez, which I won, I then went to Athens in 2004, and won the Silver Medal.
Can you speak on the background of Diana Lopez and the influence of the Lopez family in general?
Well, a lot of people don't know this, but in 2000, the Lopez family was in the media saying that they we're going to be the "first family of Taekwondo" -- meaning that they would all compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics together. One of the Lopez brothers is an AAC board member -- the board that makes the rules for the selection process. So, the family was in play with that much power, and they already had AT&T and The Jay Leno Show in the works before the Olympic trial, in order to promote their dynasty.
Can you give us a landscape view of the 2008 Qualifying Match with Diana Lopez -- for those who haven't seen it?
Basically, we went up to 3 or 4 rounds without any score points. And, seeing that we we're both world competitors, I could not understand why there were no points accrued initially in the span of the match. When I kicked her and she fell, there were no deductions, and it is definitely worth seeing the fight, because the tape proves itself. I urge everyone to go to my BlogSpot and MySpace page to view it, because she won by illegitimacy.
What are you advocating for, and why?
We are fighting for these injustices to stop, and most people look over it because it has become a staple in professional sports, but slaves could have said the same thing about their condition. We want everybody to know that together, we can change the system.
Are you asking for reinstatement or a rematch?
Well, with the time frame, it is not probable that I would be going to Beijing. So, it's a small chance that I would still be present at the Olympics, but I'm fighting so that no one else has to go through the same experience I went through...
In light of this, are you going to keep on fighting?
Yes. I'm going to fight until I can't fight no more.
So far, what strides have been made in this battle, and can you speak on the resistance of Mainstream Media to document your story?
Well, we now have a coalition that supports us and we've made several radio appearances. But I also think the media is not covering the story because they don't want people to know about this.
What is your advice for any aspiring young black female athletes, who might be discouraged, giving the context of what you just experienced?
I tell people - who tell me I worked hard for nothing - that because of my hard-work, I am where I am today. I also believe that everything happens for a reason, and God's plan is always the most important factor. I've also come to the realization that maybe it wasn't intended for me to win this fight. If I had won, everything would have continued uninterrupted, and people would still be experiencing the kind of mistreatment that I went through; so, I advice young athletes to never get discouraged. My life motto is "If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven't done anything today." It is a motivation to push me to work harder.
How does it feel to have been in the audience and watched your daughter cheated out of her due?
Mr. Duhart: Well, that wasn't the first time. When Nia fought Diana Lopez in August last year, and beat her twice, I could see what they we're trying to do to her. Nia had dominated those fights, and I had never seen her fight that good before. After seeing the injustice of Nia not getting any points for her head-shots, her coach got up and protested, but the referee told him to sit back down. In the fights she had with Diana Lopez, they had the same referee for both fights, and I was upset about that. I believe that she is the best female Martial Arts fighter in the country, and they are denying her the rights to fight and represent her country in the Olympics; it's pretty sad.
When you witnessed these incidents in her fights with Diana Lopez, did you report those irregularities to the committee?
Mr. Duhart: Yes, I went to my Congress people, wrote letters in arbitration and wrote articles in the newspaper, but nobody was willing to listen. We got fed up after a while, because we went to court and regardless of what we did, their mind was made up, because they wanted the story of three siblings in the Beijing Olympics, and the coach as their brother.
Mrs. Duhart, can you respond to the same question of being in the audience and watching the injustice rendered to your daughter?
Mrs. Duhart: It was like watching your child being raped in public. Like my husband said, we went to federal court, and they sent us to arbitration court. They also let us know that even if we won, they would hold us up in court for years; they have that kind of power. They put everything under the field of play, and the committee's Lawyer said that whatever goes on in the field of play is final. And so, even if we witnessed some wrongdoing, we couldn't complain, unless we saw bribery taking place or a broken machine.
What has been the response of the US Olympic Committee since the incident?
Mr. Duhart: Their response has been to pull down the fights from YouTube, in the hope that it would go away.
Mr. Duhart, what was the driving force behind introducing Nia to the sport of Taekwondo, at the age of 9?
Mr. Duhart: Well, at the age of 9, Nia reminded me of my big sister, who was a very skinny kid. She would go to school, and other kids picked on her because of her size. But Nia has always had the heart of a lion, and she would face anybody at anytime. I wanted to make sure that she had the skills to protect herself, so she didn't have to fight. With regard to the case of Diana Lopez, this story needs to be told. She is a record-breaking young lady, and the best that this sport has to offer. She is the first woman from the U.S. to win a medal since it became an official Olympic Sport. She is also the youngest to win a match, and the first African-American to go to the Olympics for this sport. She has broken a lot of records, and some people are trying to hide these facts. When she fought in the Olympics, she fought with a fractured foot and a lot of pain. When she won the Silver Medal in 2004, she was unhappy, and she fought better to get better, and so, to be treated in this manner after her hard-work is a disgrace.
In light of that, do you share some of the sentiments expressed by Richard Williams - father of Tennis Champions, Serena and Venus Williams - with regard to impartiality against Black Women in the world of professional sports?
Mr. Duhart: Of course; I guarantee you that if Nia was white; she would get all the publicity and accolade that should come with her skill level.
What are your hopes for the future, and how can the general public contribute in this struggle for Nia Abdallah?
Mrs. Duhart: First of all, I want to add to what my husband said. In August 2005, Nia delivered a baby, and two weeks after the child, she was back in training, and afterward qualified for the tournament. As a mother and a woman, that is a big accomplishment. With regard to public contribution, supporters should go to http://wesupportnia.blogspot.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/wesupportnia. With the MySpace website, we have a fund to assist Nia, and with the BlogSpot website, we urge readers to comment; but most importantly, we need supporters to write to their Congress people and press for a Judicial Report on Nia's story.
Mr. Duhart: The question should also be posed to the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), about their refusal to air this fight on public airwaves. This was a history-making event, and they haven't shown it on TV yet. They air the Olympic trial for other sports, but they have refused to air this fight, and I think that's very important.
Nia Abdallah and her family can be contacted at:
Watch the infamous fight, and make your decision:
Nia Abdallah vs Diana Lopez - Olympic Qualifying Match
This interview was conducted by Tolu Olorunda, Staff Writer for YourBlackWorld.com
Friday, July 25, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
To start with, let me state my unwavering love, admiration and respect for such a dignified and classy woman as Cathy Hughes. She is a pinnacle of inspiration to those who are familiar with her background and history. Cathy Hughes, for those unaware, is an effervescent entrepreneur who created a media empire from the labor of a determined soul. She laid the groundwork of her multi-million dollar company in the ‘60s, and has ever since, worked tirelessly to create podiums and platforms that advance Black thought, Black expression, Black vocalization and Black cultural-freedom. Through her admirable ability to cut against the grain, she has founded two monumental slates, upon which Blackness is appreciated and cherished – Radio One and TV One. Radio one is a company - founded in 1980 - which owns and operates 69 radio stations in 22 American cities; TV One is a television network, launched in 2004, which runs on both Comcast and Direct TV.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Interview with Spoken Word Artist and Activist, Amir Sulaiman, by Tolu Olorunda.
Amir Sulaiman is a renowned poet, activist, recording artist, and a 2 time HBO Def Poet. Sulaiman is a household name in the world of Spoken Word Poetry. His brand of poetry has garnered him much adulation from those who have come across his unmitigated-ingenuity. Amir has performed – and still performs - at countless colleges, universities, high schools and community centers. He has shared the stage alongside such artists as, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, KRS-One, Pharoah Monch, Floetry, The Roots, Goapele, Stevie Wonder, The Last Poets and Dead Prez. As a member of “Youth Speaks” in the Bay Area, California, Amir works in mentoring and teaching kids, by way of spoken word, and a focus on the union of art and education. He is a visionary and a monument of inspiration, who believes that the power of love can disempower the stranglehold of narcissism in our society. With a passion comparable to none, Amir Sulaiman has managed to prolong the legacy of such trail-blazers as “The Last Poets.” I had the pleasure of speaking extensively with him on issues of direct relevance to our society, and the world at large:
Thanks for joining us, Bro. Sulaiman; can you start by informing us of your musical background, and the pathway leading up to “Cornerstone Folklore” – the album?
Well, Cornerstone Folklore was my very first album – which very few people have. It was composed of just acappella poems, and these poems were a collection of everything I had done up to that point. I started writing around the age of 12, and continued through Junior High and High School, but I got a lot more intense with it in college. Cornerstone Folklore in some ways is my origin and my favorite album. Cornerstone Folklore has a double meaning. The “Cornerstone” aspect of it is, giving honor to the ancient tradition that we have – involving the didactic stories, inspirational stories and cautionary tales that we have in our tradition -- as black people in America, and also as Africans. And, the Folklore element of it is the urban element – particularly the Hip-Hop era – from the ‘80s, ‘90s and present.
Now, it was in 2006 when you stormed the stage of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and delivered the mind-gripping poem “Danger.” Can you dissect Danger and explain its symbolism?
Well, Danger is what most of my poetry is about – expressing for those who can’t express for themselves. So, there are people who don’t have a voice – whether it’s because they are disenfranchised, impoverished, their economical status, their age, or incarcerated – but need their stories told. Danger was meant to facilitate their voices to be heard, and give them a platform to be noticed. So, I started off saying, “I am not angry, I am anger;” and that was meant to show that this wasn’t just about me, but about the collective membership that I represent. And, most people have informed me that the poem inspired and motivated them when they first heard it.
Following up the “Danger” performance, the ACLU and Amnesty International broke reports of you being questioned by FBI Agents; can you enlighten us on that exchange?
Six days after the poem on HBO, the FBI came to my house and followed me around. They did it in a fashion that alerted me -- so it wasn’t clandestine. They also came to the school where I was teaching, and got the names and personal addresses of my students. So, that process showed me the power of the word, and reminded me that most of my heroes we’re in like-manner, known for the power of their words and brought into questioning by the same organization. After that encounter, I wrote an op-ed about it, called “The High Cost of Freedom of Speech.”
Your classic album, “Like a Thief in the Night,” was released in May last year. Pls. explain the process of creating that project, and your motivation during production?
Well, the project artistically went in a new direction for me, because I was inspired to blend poetry and instrumentals on it. On the album, I was craving poetry songs, and so the format was different from my earlier projects. It was also different because it was my first album to have a major distribution, which opened me up to an international audience. It was more so different, because this was the first time that I had featured multiple guests and producers on my album. I consider poetry a solo enterprise -- where one writes the poems and recites the poems. So, cooperating with other artists brought something out of me that I couldn’t bring out on my own. In that sense, Like a Thief in the Night was very influential to me as an artist. I chose that title, because I believe the purpose of life is to stay awake; and if we could stay awake to witness our honor, beauty and miracles, it would inspire us with the power to achieve whatever we were designed to achieve. But, if we fall asleep to depression or a victim-mentality, we won’t be effective; so our spirit has to be awake to witness God.
I want to move on to politics and then back to music in a second. As an outspoken Muslim, what is your assessment of the rise of Islamic consciousness -- following Senator Obama’s announcement of his presidential-run, and how do you gauge the Obama campaign’s response towards it?
Well, the question of Obama for me is two-sided – as I have to look at it from a Black Man’s perspective and a Muslim’s perspective. It is hard for me to put a finger on it, because he represents a symbol of hope, and appeals more as a person than as a politician; but, with the two incidents involving the Muslim Women wearing Hijabs, and Rep. Keith Ellison, it is a definite blow. It is unfortunate that Barack Obama has a problem with the Muslim community – which overwhelmingly loves and supports him. Also, his defense to the controversy surrounding him being an alleged Muslim, insinuates something fundamentally wrong with being Muslim. He treats it as though it’s an insult, and being a Muslim is problematic. So, I want to observe how he navigates this moment, and see if he lives up to the expectations; also, I’m aware that the pressure of the presidential office sort of bends candidates against their will.
Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to select certain songs from Like a Thief in the Night and have you deconstruct the science behind them. On “They don’t know,” you speak of our past – comprising of victories and losses – having an impact on our present state; can you explain that dynamic, and how we can draw both correction and inspiration from our history?
Well, generally for anything, the past always impacts the present, and the present is a product of the past. So that, in one way, for Black people in America, we have this idea that our home is Africa, and in other way, we say our home is in America; and I think both of those things are true. We are an indigenous people, and we had a pre-Columbus presence here. We are as indigenous as the Bush and Cheney family – and probably even more so. So, with that, one half wants to leave this land, and the other half says, ‘This is my house -- which my grandmothers and grandfathers built.’ Now, with that comes a certain responsibility and mental-determination to fix the problems we are experiencing, and “They don’t know” explains that reality. So, I want us to think for a moment, on topics such as, the history of crack, and if indeed it originated from some random person in L.A playing around with baking soda and cocaine; and, I want us to think beyond the present to find the answers from the past.
“How beautiful” was a soul-stirring ballad, where you lamented the degenerating self-esteem of Black Women; please elaborate on that?
It is a well-known fact that our women are treated most poorly than any other demographic in America – which is a shame on us. So, out of that shame, I wrote the poem expressing the beauty of Black Women -- in hope that they recognize it.
On the closing theme, “Killers,” you presented a different context to homicide within our community -- nevertheless pointing out the ramifications of such atrocities; can you break down the line of “Most killers don’t want to kill,” and “most of the dead don’t want to die?”
Well, “Killers” was one of my favorite songs when creating the album. But, if you can imagine in your mind, a young man killing another young man - with the realization that the killer doesn’t really want to commit the murder, and the victim certainly not wanting to die - you start asking certain questions like, “why is this happening?” Most of the time, both parties more than likely don’t want to be involved in that situation; so they become “Gladiators” -- even without the will-power to act in such manner. And I was pondering with that idea, that thousands of homicidal victims have been killed, without the desire for it -- which is a very peculiar and strange circumstance.
Lastly, on “I love you” – an emotional tribute to black heritage – you wanted to stress the importance of caring and selflessness. As a messenger of love – with the understanding that most black people are suffering severely from self hatred – how can love heal the wounds that have scarred our community, and what are effectual means of injecting that ‘serum’ back into our communities?
Yes; this question is ‘the question’ – as love is the cure of all ailments. All the cooperation that goes on between elements of the universe is a manifestation of love. Without love, there is no life, and if you find hatred, you find death. Hatred cannot generate life, and you cannot live simultaneously with hatred in your heart. Every time you hate, something in you has to die. So, love and selflessness necessitates surrendering one’s ego. Ego feeds off hate, and has the need to defend itself. Our level of love therefore has to transcend our ego. If our love transcends our ego, we will remain infinite, but if our love fails to transcend our ego, our life will only be as big as an ego – and an ego is only an illusion, in and of itself – which would make us meaningless; and only when we achieve selflessness, can we expect the Kingdom of God on Earth.
On the subject of your ministry through music, Abi Odun from “The Last Poets” joined you on the track, “We Are the Revolution.” Do you consider your musical-style more in tune with the legacy of the last poets?
Very much; they are my fathers – without a doubt, and they invite me into their house, to counsel me and advise me. I consider myself in their tradition, and find my music in line with them. I also want to be an inspiration to the up-and-coming generation of poets -- so “The Last Poets” are very essential to my music.
Finally, what are your upcoming projects and ventures?
Well, one of my projects is the Cornerstone Folklore tour – which is a very important venture for me. We did the tour in Atlanta and Sweden, and we’re looking to perform in Africa very soon. I try to present new artists and showcase new talents with the tour. Also, I’m working on my next project, which is called “The Meccan Opening.” I’m almost done with it, and it is expected to be released early next year or later this year.
Thanks for the time, Bro Amir.
This interview was conducted by Tolu Olorunda, Staff Writer for YourBlackWorld.com