Archive for the ‘BLACK NATIONALISM’ Category


October 17, 2007



The history of the Garifuna (or Garifune) begins before the year 1635 on the island of St. Vincent in the eastern Caribbean. St. Vincent was inhabited by a tribe of Indians who called themselves Arawaks. The Kalipuna tribe from mainland South America invaded St. Vincent and conquered the Arawaks. The Arawak men were all killed and the Kalipuna warriors took the Arawak women as wives. The inhabitants of the island were then the union of these two tribes. The word “Garifuna”, which means “cassava eating people”, is probably descended from “Kalipuna”. The Spanish called these people “Caribes” (Caribs) which means cannibals and that is the word from which “Caribbean” is descended.

In the year 1635 two Spanish ships carrying Nigerian slaves shipwrecked on the island of St. Vincent. At first, the Spanish, Nigerians and Kalipuna fought one another but eventually learned to get along and intermarried, thus creating the Black Caribs.

At that time, St. Vincent was a British colony and the Caribs tried to establish independent control of the island. The French supported the Caribs and there were many battles between the Caribs and the British. The greatest battle took place in 1795 and both sides suffered great losses. In 1796 the Caribs and the French surrendered to the British.

The British now had a problem. The Caribs were free men with black skin and St. Vincent was populated by slave-owning Europeans. The idea of a group of free black men living among them on the island was unacceptable so the British decided to deport the Caribs. The British hunted down and rounded up the Caribs, killing hundreds in the process and destroying their homes and culture. The remaining 4,300 Caribs were shipped to Balliceaux where half of them died of yellow fever.

In 1797 the surviving Caribs were shipped to Roatan Island off the coast of Honduras. Along the way, the Spanish captured one of the British ships which was taken to Trujillo where the captured Caribs did well. Later, the Spanish captured Roatan Island from the British. The Spanish rounded up 1,700 Caribs on the island and brought them to Trujillo where laborers were much needed. The Spanish were not good farmers and Trujillo suffered accordingly. On the other hand, the Caribs were very skillful at farming so they went to work and did very well in Trujillo. Some of the Caribs were conscripted into the Spanish army where they served with distinction.

The first Caribs to arrive on the coast of Belize were brought there as woodcutters by the Spanish in 1802. They were put ashore in the area near Stann Creek and what is now Punta Gorda. At the time, Belize was held by the British and was called British Honduras. The Caribs continued to serve the Spanish army with distinction, earning medals of valor. At one point, the fortress at San Felipe (El Castillo de San Felipe) was commanded by a Carib. Gradually more Caribs moved to the Stann Creek area in British Honduras.

Because of their alignment with the Spanish, the Caribs found themselves on the wrong side of the political fence when Central America achieved independence from Spain. Those Caribs in Trujillo found themselves in the new country of Honduras where sentiments against Spain were strong. Large numbers of Caribs fled to the coast of Belize where other Caribs already lived in numbers. It is this migration that is celebrated annually as Garifuna Settlement Day. This is a major holiday in Garifuna communities celebrated on November 19th.

Gradually, the Caribs spread up and down the coast of Belize. During this century, some Caribs served on US and British merchant vessels during World War II and travelled the world. As a result, there are now small communities of Garifuna in Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York City.

The Garifuna culture is very strong with great emphasis on music, dance and story-telling and with its own brand of religion consisting of a mix of Catholicism, African and Indian beliefs. Because of their difference and independence, over the years the Garifuna have been feared and discriminated against by Guatemalans and variously accused of devil-worship, polygamy, voodoo and speaking a secret language.

In 1996, Garifuna Settlement Day was especially important. The government of Guatemala officially recognized the importance of the Garifuna community and President Arzu paid an official visit to the town of Livingston. The Garifuna culture is a unique treasure.

Rio Dulce Geography


Michael Coe, Breaking The Maya Code, (Thames and Hudson, US). The fascinating story of the long and difficult road to deciphering the Mayan spoken language. Some Mayan glyphs are hieroglyphic where single symbols have an inherent meaning, like a trademark or logo. But the Maya also had a phonetic alphabet composed of glyphs which was only decoded recently. This book is a page-turner despite the dryness of the subject matter.

Michael Coe, The Maya, (Thames and Hudson, US). A thorough look at what we have learned about the Maya thus far from one of the field’s leading archaeologists.

Anne LaBastille, Bird of the Maya, Folk Tales and Bird Identification, (West of the Wind Publications, US, 1993, ISBN 0-9632846-0-7). Along with detailed information on some of the common birds LaBastille includes a thorough species list with names in English, Spanish and Mayan. Half of the book is devoted to fascinating Mayan stories and legends about birds.

Albertina Saravia E., Popol Wuh, (Editorial Piedra Santa, Guatemala, Central America, 1980, ISBN 84-8377-095-4). Saravia learned to love the Popol Wuh as a child and her translation is very readable, suitable for adults or children.

Juan Luis Velásquez Muñoz, Nuevas Evidencias de la Ocupacion de la Cuencas del Lago de Izabal – Rio Dulce y Este del Rio Polichic, (Doctoral Thesis, Escuela de Historia, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, 1995).


Abram S. Benenson, ed., Control of Communicable Diseases in Man. (American Public Health Assn., 1990).

Anne LaBastille, Birds of the Maya, Folk Tales and Bird Identification, (West of the Wind Publications, US, 1993, ISBN 0-9632846-0-7). Along with detailed information on some of the common birds LaBastille includes a thorough species list with names in English, Spanish and Mayan. Half of the book is devoted to fascinating Mayan stories and legends about birds.

Frank B. Smithe, The Birds of Tikal, (Natural History Press, US, 1966, Library of Congress 66-17459, available in bookstores in Antigua, Guatemala). Smithe spent several seasons in Tikal identifying birds. This book is quite thorough given the magnitude of the task. Good illustrations of some birds but more are needed.


Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, The Central American Fact Book, (Grove Press, New York, 1986, ISBN 0-8021-3038-0 pbk). Although a bit dated today, crammed with interesting facts and background to the economies and politics of Central America.

Walter La Feber, Inevitable Revolutions – The United States in Central America, (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, US, 1993, ISBN 0-393-03434-8 (cl) ISBN 0-393-30964-9 (pa). Excellent historical analysis of the involvement of the United States in the byzantine politics of Central America.

Richard H. Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala, The Foreign Policy of Intervention, (University of Texas Press, US, 1995, ISBN 0-292-71083-6 pbk). Immerman started out to write an expose of the US backed coup in Guatemala in 1954. During his 10 years of research he discovered that the subject was much more complex than simply the US covertly supporting the United Fruit Company via the CIA.


Aldous Huxley, Beyond the Mexique Bay, (Harper Collins/Greenwood). Description of Huxley’s travels through Central America as seen through Huxley’s penetrating and opinionated eyes. A good read.

John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, (Century, US). Accounts of a 19th century American traveler which include some vivid descriptions of the most beautiful places in Central America.

Ronald Wright, Time Among the Maya, (Bodley Head / H. Holt and Company). An excellent book which will give you much insight into the ancient Maya as well as their plight in recent years in Guatemala.


Tom Brosnahan, Guatemala, Belize and Yucatan – La Ruta Maya, (Lonely Planet Publications, Australia, 1994, ISBN 0-86442-220-2). A good travel book that lives up to its title. Does not cover all of Guatemala.

Richard Mahler, Guatemala – A Natural Destination, (John Muir Publications, US, 1993, ISBN 1-56261-075-9). A good supplemental book. Lacks the detailed information needed by a traveler such as city maps, bus routes and other services.

Mark Whatmore, Peter Eltringham, Guatemala and Belize – The Rough Guide, (Rough Guides, Ltd., UK, 1993, ISBN 1-85828-045-1). The best guidebook for travelers to Guatemala – accurate and thorough.


Miguel Angel Asturias, El Papa Verde, (Verso / Routledge, Chapman and Hall). A well written illustrative look at United Fruit presented as a novel by the Nobel Prize winning Asturias.

Carlos Luis Fallas, Gentes y Gentecillas, A novel depicting life on a banana plantation.

Carlos Luis Fallas, Mamita Yunai: El Infierno de las Bananeras, A fast paced novel set in the Banana plantations of the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica illustrating the severe hardships and unfair treatment of the workers. Fallas was a labor organizer in Costa Rica during the 1930s and 40s.

Richard H. Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala, The Foreign Policy of Intervention, (University of Texas Press, US, 1995, ISBN 0-292-71083-6 pbk). Immerman started out to write an expose of the US backed coup in Guatemala in 1954. During his 10 years of research he discovered the subject was much more complex than simply the US supporting the United Fruit Company via the CIA.

Walter La Feber, Inevitable Revolutions – The United States in Central America, (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, US, 1993, ISBN 0-393-03434-8 (cl) ISBN 0-393-30964-9 (pa). Excellent historical analysis of the involvement of the United States in the byzantine politics of Central America.

Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, A novel depicting life on a banana plantation.


Daniel Armas, DICCIONARIO de la expresión popular guatemalteca, (Editorial Piedra Santa, Guatemala, 1991). Fascinating dictionary of popular Guatemalan expressions and their usages. One or more examples are given for each. Very thorough and frank.

Teresa Catarella, Ph.D., Universal Spanish-English Dictionary, (Langenscheidt, Berlin, 1992).

Robert Hendrickson, The Ocean Almanac, (Doubleday, US, 1984, ISBN 0-385-14077-0). A reference book jammed with interesting facts, history and lore of the sea covering every topic from pirates to plankton.

Ramón Sopena, Diccionario ilustrado de la lengua española, (Editorial Ramón Sopena, Barcelona, 1974, 1987).


Instituto Geográfico Nacional de Guatemala, 1:250,000 Map, ND 16-1, Puerto Barrios, 1961, 1963, 1964

Instituto Geográfico Militar de Guatemala, 1:50,000 Map E754 2462 IV, Castillo San Felipe, 1990

Instituto Geográfico Militar de Guatemala, 1:50,000 Map 2463 III, Livingston, 1990

Instituto Geográfico Militar de Guatemala, 1:50,000 Map 2362 I, Rio Tunico, 1990

Instituto Geográfico Militar de Guatemala, 1:50,000 Map 2363 II, San Antonio Seja, 1990




October 16, 2007


The Black Saints of Nigeria
Friday, Jun. 18, 1965

Pending a new revelation, possible at any time, Mormons are committed to a certain degree of built-in segregation: Negroes cannot be admitted to the church’s priesthood. For this reason, Mormon missionaries have never tried very hard to make converts in black Africa. Yet Mormons also believe that Negroes may be admitted to the priesthood in heaven. This apparently is good enough for 7,000 Ibibio, Ibo and Efik tribesmen in eastern Nigeria, who have gone ahead to organize their own branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nigeria’s saints owe their knowledge of Mormonism to an itinerant team of Church of Christ missionaries who visited the town of Uyo in 1953 and left behind, among other books and tracts, a copy of Joseph Smith’s Own Story. Fascinated by the dramatic life of the Mormon prophet, Anie Dick Obot of Uyo decided to form a branch of the church in Nigeria, and wrote for more information to Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City. Mormon leaders sent back books explaining their laws and doctrines, and in 1959 dispatched to Africa Elder Lamar Williams, who was much impressed by the Nigerians’ zeal and orthodoxy. Since then, the Nigerian Saints, governed by Obot and a council of 75 elders, have established branches in six cities.

Church chiefs are somewhat at a loss on how to deal with their new African converts, especially since the Nigerian government will not give resident visas to any missionaries from the U.S. “This is quite a unique situation,” admits Hugh D. Brown, Mormon first counselor. One problem now is that in the absence of supervision from Utah the Nigerian Saints appear to be deviating somewhat from strict adherence to revelation. Some Nigerian Mormons practice polygamy—forbidden in the U.S. church since 1890—and the converts already seem to have established their own black hierarchy, priests and all. “I don’t have to wait for revelation to know that I am the natural head in Nigeria,” snaps Obot, who is accepted by his elders as their bishop. “Nigerian priests will run their own branch. This is their creation, and they are in their own country.”


October 10, 2007

My problem is that this site has grown so fast and I don’t yet have the money to get a laptop and internet connection which is expensive here in Nigeria- about 2,000dollars in all to keep up with servicing this site and posting and answering on time etc. Any BROTHERS/SISTERS who want to send me your widow’s mite toward this can contact me at:
I am praying about it and I know that Olodumare(GOD) will provide so I can give you the BLACK RACE the service you deserve!
Your SISTER, BLACK for the RACE,
Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade

Oluwa ba wa se o . ASE! (God will work it out! in Yoruba. ASE=let it be so!)


October 10, 2007


The Black Hebrews

Note: The Black Hebrews are not Ethiopian Jews.

The Black Hebrews, a sect whose full name is “The Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem,” have two centers of activity: Chicago and Dimona. About 2,500 members, led by Ben Ami Carter, live in Israel — most of them in Dimona, and the rest in Arad and Mitzpe Ramon, with some others residing in other parts of the country.
The Black Hebrews believe that they are descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel. They live according to their own special rules of conduct. Polygamy is permitted and birth control is forbidden. Their leaders decree who will marry whom, performing the weddings and approving annulments. Their dietary laws prohibit the eating of meat, dairy products, eggs and sugar; members who are caught consuming these foods are punished. Members must adopt Hebraic names in place of their former “slave names.” According to Black Hebrew custom, the woman’s responsibilities focus on child­rearing and other family obligations. The Black Hebrews’ closed society is isolated from the mainstream and all infractions of their rules are severely punished.

The first Black Hebrews began arriving in Israel in 1969, entering the country on temporary visas that were periodically renewed. In the meantime, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared that the Black Hebrews were not Jews, and therefore the sect’s members were not entitled to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Nevertheless, the Black Hebrew population in Dimona continued to grow due to their high birthrate and because many of them, some with criminal backgrounds, illegally entered Israel using various forms of subterfuge. The Government of Israel avoided deporting the Black Hebrew members who lived in the country illegally, but at the same time also refrained from granting the Black Hebrews citizenship or permanent residency. During the tension that developed during the 1970s and especially the 1980s, some members of the sect engaged in anti­Israel activity and propaganda, aligning themselves with anti­Semitic groups. They claimed that the white Jews were “imposters,” and that they, the Black Hebrews, were the rightful inheritors of the land of Israel.

The Black Hebrews acquired legal status in an agreement reached with the Israel Ministry of the Interior in May 1990. According to that agreement, the Black Hebrews were initially granted tourist status with a B/1 visa that entitled them to employment; a year later they were given temporary resident status (A/5) for a period of five years. At the end of the five-year period, in 1995, their status was extended for another three years. At the beginning of 2004, the interior minister granted them residency, which does not carry mandatory military service.

Currently they receive two special benefits:

A. They are entitled to stipends paid by Israel’s National Insurance Institute (social security)-such as child support, assistance to the disabled, aid for the elderly, supplemental income, etc. Indeed, 830 members of the sect are receiving such benefits from the NII.

B. The Israel Ministry of Education assists and subsidizes the operation of a school for the Black Hebrew children. Today the school serves 700 pupils who study in 14 classes. The U.S. Congress has assisted this school by appropriating $1 million, half of which was designated for constructing the school facility.

The Black Hebrews derive their income from their famous choir, their seamsters’ workshop, which provides the sect with its colorful clothing, and from their vegetarian restaurant in Arad’s commercial center, with an adjacent factory for vegetarian food products.

The first member of the Black Israelite community to enlist in the IDF, Uriahu Butler, was inducted into the army July 29, 2004. By the end of 2006, more than 100 of their youth, girls and boys, joined the military. Their enlistment process was complicated by the community’s strict vegan dietary traditions, which extend to wearing all-cotton clothes and a ban on leather shoes. The community agreed to comply with IDF requirements and the IDF agreed to allow Israelite soldiers to wear cloth shoes instead of army-issue boots; the congregation will forgo the stricture regarding cotton clothing.

Presently, the community operates a vegan eatery in Tel Aviv; their musicians perform across Israel and around the world, touring the US, Europe and Africa either solely with their own members or as a part of other Israeli groups. They have created their own music genre, which they call Songs of Deliverance, and produce CDs.

In sports the Black Hebrews have represented Israel at home and in Europe in track and field and national softball events, including the Maccabiah games. Their students have represented Israel in international academic competitions. Twice they have represented Israel in Eurovision, the international music competition.

In February 2005, in conjunction with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization established by civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Hebrews opened the Dr. Martin Luther King/SCLC – Ben Ammi Institute for a New Humanity, a conflict resolution center in Dimona to teach holistic non-violence and reconciliation to families, communities, faiths and nations. Their story is a testimony of the great growth and maturity of the State of Israel and its people.


Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry; Haaretz, (July 30, 2004)


October 1, 2007


Book Review: The Destruction of Black Civilization

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Book written by Chancellor Williams
Reviewed by Saadiq Mance

In the past, I have heard several people refer to The Destruction of Black Civilization, by Chancellor Williams as the “Black Bible.” With such a lofty analogy attached to this book, I wonder to this day why it took me so long to read this amazing story of Black history. Well, Black History Month 2007 would be the year my eyes would be open…and all I can say at this point is thank you Chancellor Williams!

All of my life I have questioned why Black people throughout the world have experienced such a plight and why it has been so difficult for us to overcome it. Well The Destruction of Black Civilization is a book of answers, as it answers most of the major questions that people have about the African race. Such as:

“How did such a highly advanced Black Civilization get so completely destroyed that its people have found themselves not only behind other people of the world, but as well, the color of their skin a sign of inferiority, bad luck, and the badge of the slave whether bond or fee?”

“How did all Black Egypt become all white Egypt?”

“What were some of the specific details in the process that so completely blotted out the achievements of the African race from the annals of history?”

“How and under what circumstances did Africans, among the very first people to invent writing, lose this art almost completely?”

“Is there a single African race, one African people?”

“If we are one race or one people, how do you explain the numerous languages, cultural varieties and tribal groupings?”

“Since, as it seems, that there is far more disunity, self-hatred and mutual antagonism among Blacks than any other people, is there a historical explanation for this?”

“How is the undying love of Blacks for their Europeans and Asian conquerors and enslavers explained?”

Chancellor Williams does not just answers these questions as an arm charm scholar either, no not at all. Williams created this book after 16 years of research which included a precise investigation of Africa’s own independently developed civilization by doing a continent-wide field study from the Mediterranean extending southward down the Nile into the “bush” far way from the westernized urban centers, through the tip of the country in South Africa.

That data he uncovered is startling! If you haven’t read this magnificent work yet then I would suggest you stop reading this right now and go pick up the book and start reading it now


September 29, 2007

from Brother Darrell Davis


Compiled and posted by RUNOKO RASHIDI



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Ani, Marimba. Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1994.

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Begg, Ean. The Cult of the Black Virgin. London: Arkana, 1986.

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef A.A. Black Man of the Nile and His Family. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1989.

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef A.A. African Origins of the Major Western Religions. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1991.

Bennett, Lerone. Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America. Harmondsworth: 1962.

Browder, Anthony Y. Nile Valley Contributions to Civilizations: Exploding the Myths, Volume 1. Introduction by John Henrik Clarke: Washington, DC: Institute of Karmic Guidance, 1992.

Butweiku I, Nana Ekow. Afrikan Theology, Cosmogony & Philosophy: An Insight on Traditional Afrikan Religion. Introduction by Runoko Rashidi. Hampton: UB & US Communications Systems, 1999.

Bynum, Edward Bruce. The African Unconscious: Roots Ancient Mysticism and Modern Psychology. Foreword by Linda James Myers. New York: Teachers College,

Carruthers, Jacob H. The Irritated Genie: An Essay on the Haitian Revolution. Chicago: The Kemetic Institute, 1985.

Carruthers, Jacob H. Intellectual Warfare. Chicago: Third World Press, 1999.

Carruthers, Jacob H., and Leon Harris, eds. African World History Project: The Preliminary Project. Chicago: Kemetic Institute, 1996.

Chandler, Wayne B. Ancient Future: The Teachings and Prophetic Wisdom of the Seven Hermetic Laws of Ancient Egypt. Introduction by Ivan Van Sertima. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1999.

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Clarke, John Henrik. Notes for an African World Revolution: Africans at the Crossroads. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1991.

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Diop, Cheikh Anta. The Cultural Unity of Black Africa.: The Domains of Patriarchy and Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity. Introduction by John Henrik Clarke. Afterword by James G. Spady. Chicago: Third World Press, 1978.

Diop, Cheikh Anta. Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology. Translated from the French by Yaa-Lengi Meema Ngemi. Edited by Harold J. Salemson and Marjolijn de Jager. New York: Lawrence Hill, 1991.

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September 28, 2007


Blogs help drive Jena protest
By Howard Witt | Tribune senior correspondent
5:14 PM CDT, September 18, 2007
Article tools
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Digg Facebook Furl Google Newsvine Reddit Spurl Yahoo Print Single page view Reprints Reader feedback Text size: JENA, La. – There is no single leader. There is no agreed schedule. Organizers aren’t even certain where everyone is supposed to gather, let alone use the restroom. The only thing that is known for sure is that thousands of protesters are boarding buses at churches, colleges and community centers across the country this week, headed for this tiny dot on the map of central Louisiana.

What could turn out to be one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years is set to take place here Thursday, when Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, popular black radio talk show hosts and other celebrities converge in Jena to protest what they regard as unequal treatment of African-Americans in this racially fractured Deep South town.

Yet this will be a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America—a collective national mass action grown from a grassroots word-of-mouth movement spread via Internet blogs, e-mails, message boards and talk radio.

Related links
Trouble in Jena
Jackson, Sharpton and other big-name civil rights figures, far from leading this movement, have had to scramble to catch up. So, too, has the national media, which has only recently noticed a story that has been agitating many black Americans for months.

As formidable as it is amorphous, this new African-American blogosphere, which scarcely even existed a year ago, now comprises hundreds of interlinked blogs and tens of the thousands of followers who within a matter of a few weeks collected 220,000 petition signatures—and more than $130,000 in donations for legal fees—in support of six black Jena teenagers who are being prosecuted on felony battery charges for beating a white student.

“Ten years ago this couldn’t have happened,” said Sharpton, who said he first heard about the Jena case on the Internet. “You didn’t have the Internet and you didn’t have black blogs and you didn’t have national radio shows. Now we can talk to all of black America every day. We’ve been able to form our own underground railroad of information, and when everybody else looks up, it’s already done.”

Hotels are booked up for miles around Jena, the Louisiana State Police are drawing officers from across the state to help control the crowds and schools and many businesses in the town of 3,000 will close Thursday in anticipation of 10,000 or more demonstrators who are expected, organizers predicted.

The momentum for the protest did not slow even when the original reason for the event—the scheduled sentencing of Mychal Bell, 17, the first of the “Jena 6″ defendants to be tried and convicted of aggravated second-degree battery—evaporated.

Last week, a state appellate court abruptly vacated Bell’s June 28 conviction, ruling that he had been improperly tried as an adult rather than a juvenile. The local district attorney, Reed Walters, has vowed to challenge that decision, and Bell remains jailed in lieu of $90,000 bond.

What’s animating the protesters is not merely Bell’s legal predicament but the larger perception that blacks in Jena, who make up 12 percent of the population, are still subjected to the kind of persistent racial inequality that once predominated across the Old South.

In a town where whites voted overwhelmingly for former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when he ran for Louisiana governor in 1991, one local barber shop still refuses to cut black men’s hair.

And the trouble in Jena (pronounced Jee-na) started a year ago with a resonant symbol from the Jim Crow past: After black students asked administrators at the local high school for permission to sit beneath a shade tree traditionally used only by whites, white students hung three nooses from the tree. The incident outraged black students and their parents, but was dismissed by the school superintendent as a youthful prank; he punished the white students with three-day suspensions.

A series of fights between whites and blacks ensued, both on and off the campus. Whites implicated in the fights were charged with misdemeanors or not at all, while the blacks were charged with felonies.

In November, someone burned down the central wing of the high school—an arson for which no one has been arrested.

And then in early December, Bell and five other black students at the high school were charged after a white student was jumped and beaten while he lay unconscious.

Although the white student was treated and released at a local hospital, Walters initially charged the six black youths with attempted murder—charges that he later reduced to aggravated second-degree battery after black bloggers and civil rights leaders from across the country raised complaints that the charges were excessive.

Besides Sharpton, King and Jackson, the NAACP and the ACLU will have contingents here Thursday, as will the Millions More Movement led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

But many black bloggers say the Jena demonstration is really more about a new generation of civil rights activists who learned about the Jena case not from Operation Push but from hip-hop music blogs that featured the story or popular black entertainers such as Mos Def who have turned it into a crusade.

“In traditional civil rights groups, there’s a pattern—you call a meeting, you see when everybody can get together, you have to decide where to meet,” said Shawn Williams, 33, a pharmaceutical salesman and former college NAACP leader who runs the popular Dallas South Blog.

“All that takes time,” Williams added. “When you look at how this civil rights movement is working, once something gets out there, the action is immediate—here’s what we’re going to write about, here’s the petition, here’s the protest. It takes place within minutes, hours and days, not weeks or months.”

This new, “viral” civil rights movement now taking shape still benefits from the participation of well-known leaders like Jackson or Sharpton—it just doesn’t depend on them, bloggers say.

It was black bloggers, for example, who first picked up the story of Shaquanda Cotton, a 14-year-old black girl from the east Texas town of Paris who was sentenced to up to 7 years in youth prison for shoving a hall monitor at her high school. The judge who heard her case had given probation to a 14-year-old white girl charged with the more serious crime of arson.

After the bloggers and their readers bombarded the Texas governor with protest letters and petitions, Texas authorities freed Cotton—days before Sharpton had scheduled a rally on her behalf.

“When Rev. Jackson or Rev. Sharpton or other recognized leaders get involved, that’s helpful, and it helps them—they can see where momentum is building around an issue,” said James Rucker, the 38-year-old founder of Color of Change, an Internet-based civil rights group that has more than 280,000 subscribers. “You can argue they came late to Jena, but they are here now, which is good.”

The blogs also serve as watchdogs over more traditional civil rights groups. When the NAACP first began featuring the Jena case on its Web site and claimed to be soliciting contributions for the teens’ legal defense, it was a black blogger who quickly pointed out that the donation link directed visitors to the generic NAACP fundraising page, with no way for donors to direct their funds to the Jena defendants.

Within days, the link was redirected to a bona fide Jena 6 fundraising site.

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Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune


September 25, 2007

from chicagotribune

Demonstrators descend on Jena
By Howard Witt | Tribune senior correspondent
9:11 PM CDT, September 20, 2007
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Digg Facebook Furl Google Newsvine Reddit Spurl Yahoo Print Single page view Reprints Reader feedback Text size: JENA, La. – Drawn by the disturbing symbol of three lynching nooses dangling from a tree and greeted by Confederate flags displayed along their route, tens of thousands of African Americans poured into this racially tense Deep South town Thursday to stage the largest civil rights demonstration in years against what they regard as glaring racial injustices here.

Protesters from across the nation cheerfully defied obstacles placed in their way by town officials, such as a line of portable toilets put directly in front of the courthouse steps where the demonstration was held. They celebrated what Rev. Al Sharpton described as the birth of a “new civil rights movement for the 21st Century,” driven by black Internet blogs, e-mail and talk radio more than any traditional civil rights leader.

Many of the participants traveled 20 hours or more by bus from both coasts and even Alaska to arrive at dawn for the peaceful, six-hour rally, which featured Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III, radio personality Michael Baisden and dozens of other black leaders and celebrities.

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Trouble in Jena
“The civil rights movement is finally catching up with Jena,” declared Ella Bell King, 59, a resident of Alexandria, La., who slept overnight with other family members in front of the courthouse. “Something like this should have happened here 40 years ago.”

The protesters came to decry the prosecution of the Jena 6—six black high school students who were initially charged with attempted murder for beating a white student last December, even though the student was treated and released at a local hospital. The charges were later reduced to the lesser felony of aggravated second-degree battery.

The demonstrators came as well to criticize the decision of the local district attorney, Reed Walters, not to press similarly serious criminal charges against white youths who attacked blacks.

And they came to defy the symbolism of Jena’s “white tree”—a shade tree at the high school, traditionally reserved for whites, where, as the Tribune first reported last May, all of Jena’s troubles began.

One year ago, after a black student asked an administrator’s permission to sit under the tree—and was told he could sit wherever he liked—three white students hung nooses from the tree’s branches the following day. The local school superintendent dismissed the incident as a youthful prank and refused to expel the white students involved, outraging blacks who were offended by the potent lynching imagery. Months of racial unrest followed in the town, culminating in the December beating.

School officials cut down the infamous tree in July, hoping to eliminate it as a focus of protests. But the demonstrators were undeterred, chanting and marching 12 abreast in a mile-long procession through the streets from the courthouse to the high school courtyard, where they ringed the spot where the tree used to stand.

Louisiana state police estimated that the crowd numbered between 15,000 and 20,000 people, but organizers said they believed there were at least twice that many demonstrators filling this two-stoplight town of 3,000.

“Everybody should be able to sit under a tree if they want,” said 13-year-old Alonte Carpenter, who rode for 11 hours from Nashville with his parents and siblings in order to attend the march.

“I have growing boys,” said his father, Karl Carpenter, 43, an executive with a semiconductor company. “What happened to the Jena 6 could happen to my kids. . . This is an opportunity for our kids to see other people like themselves stand up for what is right.”

Similar sentiments were heard repeatedly Thursday as the demonstrators, nearly all of them African Americans wearing black T-shirts with slogans like “Enough is enough” and “Free the Jena 6,” marched past white Jena residents who glared at them from their front porches.

“They have the freedom to march and freedom of speech, but our town is not racist like this is being depicted,” said a white resident who would identify himself only as Jay. “The nooses were just a joke.”

No officials of the town, which is 85 percent white, offered any comments about Thursday’s march. In the past, they have angrily insisted that Jena suffers from no racial tensions.

But some of the demonstrators, eyeing the wall of portable toilets and the town’s failure to set out any trash receptacles to accommodate the crowds, sharply disagreed.

“They want to see a mess left so they can complain how we trashed the place,” said Earnestine Hodnett, 58, of Virginia Beach, Va., “They want this demonstration to fail.”

Yet even before the marchers began heading home Thursday evening, there were already signs that the demonstration was having real effects.

President Bush offered his first comment about the Jena case at a press conference, following three of the Democratic presidential contenders—Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards—who last week all questioned the administration of justice in the town.

“The events in Louisiana have saddened me,” the president said. “And I understand the emotions. The Justice Department and the FBI are monitoring the situation down there. And all of us in America want there to be, you know, fairness when it comes to justice.”

Meanwhile, a Louisiana state appeals court ordered that a bond hearing must be held within 72 hours for Mychal Bell, 17, the only one of the six black students to have been tried so far and the only one still in jail, unable to post a $90,000 bond.

Last week, the same appeals court vacated Bell’s June conviction for aggravated second-degree battery, ruling that Walters had improperly prosecuted him as an adult rather a juvenile. Walters has vowed to appeal that ruling and has already initiated juvenile proceedings against Bell. The prosecutor also said Wednesday that he would vigorously pursue his cases against the rest of the teenage defendants, insisting that their white victim had been forgotten amid the controversy.

More articles

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune


September 25, 2007


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Turning to Islam — African-American Conversion Stories

by Rose-Marie Armstrong

Rose-Marie Armstrong, a freelance writer and development consultant, is also a fellow of the C. S. Lewis Institute In Annandale, Virginia. This article appeared in The Christian Century, July 12, 2003, p. 19-23. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


I was searching for several years before I became a Muslim,” says Abdus Salaam, a marketing specialist from Birmingham, Alabama. “I was baptized during this time in the Church of Christ. But I had questions. What bothered me were the white pictures of Jesus and Mary. In Islam we have no pictures, not even of the Prophet Muhammad. As a child I wondered if black and white people had a separate God!”

Salaam’s story is familiar among African-American converts to Islam. While newfound faith is central to their stories, race and personal empowerment are also key parts of the narratives. The in-dignity of discrimination, unfortunately mirrored in Christian churches, haunts African-Americans.

The freedom that Khalid Abdul Kareem, a native of Washington, D.C., found in Islam feels right to him. “African-Americans have been disconnected and disenfranchised,” says Kareem. “At about the age of 17 I realized that Islam wasn’t racist. It established the nature of who I am, why I am here, and where I am going. I am the Creator’s vice-regent; I have no boundaries. I was created by a loving God who has a purpose for me. I can go wherever I choose to take my abilities.” Now 48, Kareem says, “Islam contains truth that is dependent only on God. It liberates us from man.”

African-Americans make up about a third of the estimated 4 to 8 million Muslims in the U.S. — conservatively, around 1.5 million, nearly 5 percent of all African-Americans. According to a poll conducted in 2001 by Muslims in the American Public Square (MAPS). 20 percent of African-American Muslims are converts while 80 percent were raised Muslim. More detailed information about Islam in the African-American community, however, is relatively scarce.

Robert Dannin has opened a new and fascinating perspective on the subject in his recently published book Black Pilgrimage to Islam. Using the methods of ethno-graphic research to collect his information, Dannin tells what he calls “conversion sagas” — rich, unvarnished stories about individual African-American’s journeys into Islam. He also traces the history of Islam among African-Americans by tying together such key developments as the formation of black fraternal lodges in the 18th and 19th centuries; Noble Drew Ali’s 1913 organization of the Moorish Science Temple in Newark, New Jersey; the growth of various Islamic missionary and revivalist movements beginning in the 19th and continuing throughout the 20th centuries; and the conversion to Islam of be-bop jazz musicians who helped raise the faith’s profile in the African-American community.

Dannin also introduces what he admits is a “taboo” subject: that a portion of “African-American society has always been unchurched,” that African-American lodges have traditionally been centers of unchurched religious practices and beliefs,” and that since the end of the civil rights era unchurched African-Americans “have been moving more rapidly toward Islam.” Dannin contends that the “voice of the unchurched” has been repressed by the black church’s command of African-American history.

The various movements, organizations and institutions of unchurched African-Americans, Dannin argues, constitute an alternative to and in some cases a subversion of the black church. Even in the post-Reconstruction era black fraternal lodges “clearly threatened the African-American church’s monopoly of social and civic life.” Similarly, Islam, in all of its forms within the black community has offered an option for those who “thirst for an alternative to the church.”

African-American Muslims I spoke with consistently explained Islam’s appeal in terms of four benefits: a new sense of personal empowerment; a rigorous call to discipline; an emphasis on family structure and values; and a clear standard of moral behavior. But negative comments about Christianity and its associations with slavery and discrimination regularly accompany their expressions of gratitude to Islam, suggesting that Dannin’s “alternative” hypothesis deserves consideration. Read between the lines and it’s hard not to conclude that for many African-Americans an added appeal of Islam is that it’s not Christianity.

“Humans serve their highest and best interest by serving God, which is characterized by building their own lives,” says Abdul Mallek Mohammad, a spokesman for the leader of the Muslim American Society, W. Deen Muhammad. Mohammad argues that slavery took away African-Americans’ ability to properly serve God, even though they lived in a Christian culture. God ordains “freedom, equality, justice and peace,” and so “provides a foundation for life and the stability of community,” he says. But blacks in this country have been deprived of this divinely authorized foundation. “African-Americans’ history bears out that their humanity was not valued. Even now, there are pockets of racism in America that question the humanity of black people.”

W. Deen Muhammad, one of the most eminent Muslim leaders in America, is the son of Elijah Muhammad, the longtime head of the Nation of Islam (NOI) who died in 1975. The elder Muhammad built a strong following that elevated both the emotional and material status of black men and women. Known as the Black Muslims, the members of this movement recruited from among the disadvantaged, welcoming ex-inmates as brothers wronged by a system of oppression. Malcolm X, who later converted to orthodox Islam, is the most notable example. Muhammad also established businesses and put men in black suits, white shirts and black bow ties. His organization, which began in the 1930s, was strongly antiwhite. It is now led by Louis Farrakhan — albeit with what Farrakhan says are major changes in philosophy.

W. Deen Muhammad broke completely with the NOI, forming his own orthodox Sunni Islamic movement. It is now the largest community of Muslim African-Americans, numbered at 200,000. The NOI doesn’t release statistics but is said to number anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000.

Dannin seeks to break the widespread sense that the NOI is the dominant form of Islam within the African-American community. It’s a mistake, Dannin says, portray “a single, notorious example as representative of the entire religious movement,” especially when the NOI under Elijah Muhammad “resembled Islam only to the extent of its taboo against alcohol and pork.” The practice of orthodox Islam has a long history among African-Americans, Dannin argues, and deserves to be understood on its own terms.

Eric Erfan Vickers, former executive director of the American Muslim Council in Washington, D.C., says that orthodox Islam today is “irresistible to African-Americans” because “they are a deeply spiritual people.” Yet “Islam has a strong call to social justice — Malcolm personified this.”

Vickers, who has been a Muslim for more than 20 years, says, “You have African-American men seeking liberation, and many see Christianity as a white man’s religion that continues to oppress. But God in his infinite wisdom created many religions.”

Significantly, all of the African-American Muslims who shared their stories with me turned out to be from Christian homes — a few even have family members who were or are clergy. Behija Abdus Salaam, a retired Department of Corrections chaplain and a member of the Interfaith Conference of Washington, D.C., states, “My grandfather started the first Baptist church in Manassas, Virginia, in the 1880s.” Her oldest brother was also a pastor. Now in her 60s, Behija became a Muslim many years ago. Her doubts about Christianity began when, as a child, she attended services with her uncle, who was so light-skinned he could pass for white. When she entered the church holding his hand an usher pushed himself between them and said she couldn’t sit up front with her uncle.

“Many of my family members are Muslims now,” says Behija. An older brother first joined the Moorish Science Temple, a small Islamic sect with Masonic roots. Later he affiliated with the Nation of Islam. Other family members soon followed, but eventually left the NOI to join the Muslim American Society.

Some students of Islam believe that many African-American’s ancestral Islamic heritage is one of the reasons why they turn from Christianity to Islam. Dannin writes that 15 percent of slaves shipped to North America came from Islamic regions of Africa and were themselves Muslims. The faith, which was suppressed principally to thwart rebellion, is resurfacing in complex ways, he believes.

While this may be true, Amiri YaSin Al-Hadid, co-author with Lewis V. Baldwin and Anthony P. Pinn of Between Cross and Crescent: Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Malcolm and Martin (University Press of Florida), says, “Historically, Islam in the United States is largely a 20th-century phenomenon, and is associated with the urban areas of the North, Midwest, and more recently the West Coast and the South.” Al-Hadid chronicled the life of Malcolm X while Baldwin documented the viewpoint of Martin Luther King Jr. They suggest that it was Malcolm’s militancy, not his Muslim beliefs, that made him a hero. But clearly part of Malcolm’s legacy is his identification of Islam as a pathway to power.

Young black men seeking empowerment and self-determination are drawn to Islam despite the negative Image projected by the extremists of 9/11. By living according to the precepts of Islam they counter white America’s stereotype of black men as on drugs, out of work or in jail. A commitment to discipline and industry structures their lives; family and community become rewarding responsibilities; moral behavior is required, charity is a duty Islam ordains, defines, clarifies and mandates. “It’s a complete way of life,” its followers like to point out — a way of life that bestows pride on a man and gives a woman security.

If Islam is a path not only to God but also to self-respect for young black men, what about black women? Do they feel complete in a religious institution that teaches deference to men and the priority of wifely duties, and that prescribes a dress code that may include a burka? A visit to Masjid Mohammad on Washington’s New Jersey Avenue helps answer these questions. A happy camaraderie unites the women there, as it does the men. Over 125 men and some 100 women attended the Friday lunch and prayer service I attended. Visitors are welcome. Several women cuddle babies in their arms in a small anteroom at the back of the main hall, chatting and laughing softly. Others come through the back door and sit on the floor or on chairs. The men enter from another door, moving well to the front, standing, bowing, kneeling and praying. Women pray or chat in an atmosphere of community and acceptance.

A speaker gives a short talk on stress, hypertension among blacks, and the benefits of fasting. Sherifah Alaimeen Rafiq, a Sunni Muslim who works for the Muslim American Society attends the mosque as often as possible, although women are excused to attend to family responsibilities. She arrives late, hugs babies and leaves without entering the main hall. The busy nursery and kids’ school classes normally found in churches are absent here. These sisters and their children draw quietly together, enjoying their shared Muslim Identity

For women, choosing Islam means gaining new power in their communities and in their lives, They are attracted to the movement because Islam gives them clearly defined rights, respect as women and the prospect of a family unit headed by a dependable male. Most of the women I talked to believe that these ideals are not stressed enough in Christianity.

For many Muslim women, the benefits of Islam overshadow what many American women would view as Islam’s privileging of males. According to the Qur’an, a man is entitled to four wives if he can treat them all equally, and he may in certain circumstances administer corporal punishment. Some of the women I spoke with acknowledged these practices, but one woman said they are mischaracterized. “In the Hadith, which tells us how Muhammad himself lived — and he is our example — we see that he treated his wives gently and respectfully. He may have corrected them, but he would not harm them.”

Harm may be suffered in other ways, however, as Dannin reports. Some of his conversion stories detail the emotional struggles faced by African-American Muslim women and broach the issue of polygamy which Dannin concedes is one of ‘the most controversial topics” among African-American Muslims. Dannin tells of Naima Saif’ullah, for example, who “found her experiment in Islamic plural marriage had become a nightmare.” A former drug addict who married five times as a Muslim — once into a polygamous arrangement — Naima blames her mosque’s religious leaders for not being more vigilant in overseeing her choice of a mate. Despite her “unsuccessful marriages and her failure at polygamy” Dannin observes, Naima Saif’ullah has not lost her faith in Islam “precisely because she sees herself not as a convert to some monolithic patriarchal Islam but as a serious professional woman who has chosen to accept Islam as a moral compass for her life.”

Dannin also writes of Aminah Ali, who converted to Islam in order to marry a Muslim. In her case, the marriage was called off because she learned that “being a Muslim wife implied a particular status that excluded her from camaraderie with her husband and his friends.” Aminah eventually left the faith. Dannin says that Aminah was adamantly opposed to “the popular assertion that polygamy is truly a viable solution for the dearth of marriageable men among African-Americans.”

Who would expect well-educated 25-year-old Sherifah, whom I met at the Masjid Mohammad and who speaks Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, to permit her husband to have another wife? Yet in a conversation with me she upheld plural marriage in principle. “In our community we say it’s best to marry one, but we don’t want to see another sister struggling [without resources],” she told me. “Some groups say you can put in the marriage contract that the husband cannot take a second wife. But, actually a lot of men marry a second wife.” Speaking of her own upcoming marriage, Sherifah confides that she thinks it will be monogamous, since her fiancé was not born Muslim and is not, therefore, culturally attached to polygamy.

Dannin offers a nuanced and revealing discussion of polygamy that underscores how perplexing the issue is for Muslims themselves. Most orthodox Muslims believe in interpreting scripture along very strict lines, and the Qur’an does indeed permit polygamy. To forbid what scripture teaches is considered blasphemous. Yet Dannin points out that most Muslim leaders who “are concerned with propagating their faith in 20th-century America have minimized the importance of polygamy to Islam. Historically, this strategy amounts to accommodation with the dominant form of monogamy in a society where polygamy itself transgresses the definition of marriage. The general view of polygamy is that it is an institution alien to American culture and generally incompatible with modern society. If Muslim men are reluctant to admit this publicly, it is also because they avoid this very controversial issue among themselves.”

Abdul Malek Muhammad, speaking for the Muslim American Society told me that the society strongly disapproves of plural marriages.

For Dannin, patriarchy, which in his view troubles all major world religions, is the deeper problem beneath polygamy. Fatima Mernissi, he observes, is one of the few scholars who has “waded boldly into the question of feminism and Islam” with books like Beyond the Veil.

None of the Muslim women I spoke with, however, were interested in feminist analysis. They enjoy the respect they receive from Muslim men, and many like the rules on modest dress and chastity. A younger crowd praised chaperoned and group dating.

Women also like the fact that no matter how much money they earn, they have no monetary responsibilities in the marriage. “That’s because, should the man divorce a wife, she needs her own money,” one member of the mosque told me. The clarity with which Islam defines the economic rights and responsibilities of women is appealing to African-American Muslim women, in contrast to what they see as the ambiguities of American society. How well it works in practice is another matter. Dannin sites numerous cases in which men failed to live up to their responsibilities. As in any community individual abuses cannot be blamed on the religion. The security and personal empowerment marriage promises Muslim women are only as dependable as the individual who makes the promise.

While Muslims are highly visible members of black communities, and non-Muslim African-Americans are growing more and more comfortable with their Muslim neighbors, the tensions that have historically characterized relations between Islam and the black church still exist. Some African-American pastors consider Islam a rival for the souls of black folks. But there are also plenty of mediating voices.

The possibility of strained relationships has moved Vance Ross, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville, Maryland, both to defend the inclusive and egalitarian nature of Christianity against charges that Christianity is a “white man’s religion” and to insist that the members of his congregation have an accurate understanding of Islam.

Ross cannot imagine what could be more egalitarian than “that sacrificial act of Jesus in giving his life for the salvation of humankind. Everyone is equal at the foot of the cross. Discrimination doesn’t live there. We need to be certain [that] people have a complete picture — that they know it was the influence of Christianity that made It possible to free the slaves,” he says. “They also need to know the entire history of Islam. Islam shouldn’t be equated just with the Nation of Islam, or Osama bin Laden or Muslims who are selling slaves today.”

Black Christian academics and pastors are well aware of the attraction of Islam for African-Americans, but many reject the idea that it represents a threat to Christianity. “The African-American Christian community does not need to be concerned about losing people to Islam,” says Calvin O. Butts III, senior pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church and president of the College of Old Westbury in Long Island. “It will not happen. Christianity is without question the strongest religion in our community. Remember, the first nation to be fully Christianized was Ethiopia.”

Eugene F. Rivers III, pastor of Azusa Christian Community Church in Boston, sees things differently. “We are losing young black men to Islam, and we need to research why this is happening.” Rivers lays the responsibility on black churches. He wants to see them do five things: “Initiate a focused approach to the claims of Islam; make a political and cultural analysis of the unique impact of the Islamic evangelization of black males; approach Islam on theological and evangelical levels; assess the geopolitical and strategic implications of Islam in Africa and South Asia, since the fortunes of black people in the U.S. are informed by what happens to blacks elsewhere In the world; and, mount a major effort to investigate the success of Islam in prisons.

In a telephone conversation Dannin acknowledged the strain between the faiths, but he considers it manageable. He points out that African-American Christians vastly outnumber their Muslim brothers and sisters. According to a survey conducted by the Barna Research Group, over 19 million African-Americans identify themselves as “born-again Christians,” a statistic that doesn’t include those who identify with Christianity in other terms. Compare that figure to the number of African-American Muslims — estimated at 1.5 million — and the demographic “threat” seems remote at best.

Nevertheless, Dannin criticizes the black church for not living up to its call to moral leadership within the black community. “There is in the Christian churches a tolerance for the status quo,” he states. “Christian groups fail to emphasize and defend what is right. People will follow whoever leads if [leaders] are doing what is right.”

Islam is doing something right. Muslims are accepted, visible members of black communities. The man or woman on the street is unlikely to blame these neighbors for 9/11, or to associate them with last summer’s sniper attacks in Maryland and Virginia. For their part, Muslims, at least publicly, shower compliments on Christianity acknowledging the importance of Jesus as a prophet but denying his deity. Still, Baldwin claims the calm is only on the surface. “Christians tolerate Muslims, but there is an underlying tension because of the theological differences.” There has always been dialogue between the two groups, Baldwin states. “Interfaith dialogue is one of the main themes of Between Cross and Crescent. Martin and Malcolm believed in building bridges of understanding instead of building barriers,” Yet the tension between leaders of the two religions remains.

Butts also emphasizes cooperation. He believes the African-American church should “embrace our Muslim brothers and sisters, first, because they are seeking God, and second, because we have problems in our community that we both have a major interest in solving. Remember what Malcolm said? ‘We don’t catch hell in America because we are Democrats or Republicans, or Christians or Muslims; we catch hell in America because we’re black.’ When we have concerns we must come together.”

Some black church leaders believe that the black church should not only cooperate with Muslims but learn from them as well, especially when it comes to reaching black men. “Black churches challenge you emotionally, and maybe intellectually” Rivers said, “but Islam challenges a man spiritually, physically and intellectually.” Like Islam, Rivers observes, the Church of God in Christ enjoys a large male membership because “it cultivates the image of manhood.” Rivers maintains that “black churches will have to take a page out of Islam’s playbook if they are going to engage young people.” A former gang member, Rivers confesses to studying the strategies used by the NOI in its heyday. “My entire outlook was influenced by the Muslims,” he admits. Rivers is now heavily involved in promoting church leadership in inner-city neighborhoods.

Robert Franklin, president emeritus of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, thinks the church should pay close attention to what he sees as the three distinctive marks of Islam’s appeal to African-Americans. “The political theology of Islam appeals to African-American activism the well-ordered spiritual life provides specific guidelines for prayer and for relationships to others; and the promotion of family values emphasizes male leadership. African-Americans feel the family is fragmented, mainly because black men are not fulfilling their role. In Islam the man is the provider,” Franklin remarks. When Malcolm X presented Islam as an alternative, Franklin notes, black men responded because “Christianity failed to understand and satisfy what they were feeling but didn’t say.”

Butts acknowledges the empowerment, stability and privileges Islam brings to African-Americans and their communities. “I see men who are redeemed from prison and drugs, who are off the streets and running their own businesses, who are neat and clean. They even have a new name!” he exclaims.

Hafis Mahbub, a Pakistani Muslim missionary to “new” black Muslims in Brooklyn during the 1960s, offered an even more radical account of Islam’s appeal to black Americans. In Dannin’s words, Mahbub taught that in Islam “the struggle to achieve personal transformation was synonymous with the struggle for total social reform.”

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Posted By: Pianke Nubiyang
Date: 11, May 02, at 12:44 p.m.


One of the first regions settled by ancient Africans for thosands of years before Columbus is the Choco Region of Colombia. In fact, in certain areas, such as San Agustin, one will see monuments with Negroid featured sculpture holding African shamanistic objects identical to those used by the ancient Oni or Priest-Kings of Nigeria (see the Essay, “African Civilizations of America.”

Choco was one of the primary areas of Portugese and Spanish slave-raiding before Columbus’ official trip to the Americas. The slaves were Africans who had been living on the coast of Colombia for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Europeans to the New World. In fact, some of the very first African slaves to reach North America were Africans captured on the Coast of South America by the Spaniards and Dutch, then sold to North America (the U.S.) (See the writings of Peter Matyr, Balboa, Ivan Van Sertima); see also the world-famous book, “A History of the African-Olmecs, pub. by 1stbooks Library, 2595 Vernal Pike, Bloomington, Indiana 47404 U.S.A
or the work, “Susu Economics: The History of Pan-African Trade, Commerce, Money and Wealth,” by 1stBooks Library.)


Slavery was abolished in Brazil in the late 1800′s. That was one of the last places to abandon slavery, just after some of the Spanish-speaking nations. Yet, today in many Latin American nations, the conditions are no different from the days of slavery. Blacks are stil being oppressed at a level that is beyond anything in existence except the oppression of Black Untouchables (Dalits) in India.


Oppression against Blacks in Latin America follows a very different pattern from that which existed in the U.S. during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era or even the slavery era. In the history of people of Spanish and Portugese origins, the African/Blacks are not some strange, unknown race. Blacks ruled Iberia for 800 years and contributed to the technological and cultural development of Spain and Europe. These Blacks who came from an area stretching from Nigeria to Morocco were Africans who had converted to Islam and created an African version of Islamic culture in parts of West Africa and the Maghreb. That culture used Islamic religion but the African customs, family values, structure, architecture, military system and languages remained intact. In Egypt, that was not the case, Arabic customs and culture replaced the old Khemitic (Felahim and Black Egyptian/Nubian traditions).

Thus, the Blacks who entered Spain in 711 A.D. were Islamized Africans and we know them as Black Moors. The Arabs invaded in abot 1000 A.D. and with them came in Jews and others. When Queen Isabella and Ferdinand defeated the Moors, millions dispersed throughout Europe, including the one million who went to Southern France. Many returned to Africa, others were enslaved and shipped to the Americas. Many were eliminated.

So, people of Spanish, Italian, Portugese, French and other southern European origins have been interacting with Africans even before there was a large European (Caucasian) population in Southern Europe.

Hence, the application of racial integration and miscegenation with the objective of blending out the Black is part of the system of Latin American/Spanish genocidal racism called “The Spanish Experiment.” It was applied in Spain to destroy the cultural and racial identify of the Blacks, Arabs and Jews in Spain after the takeover by the Spanish crown. This racist system is today applied in Brazil and Latin America, where the great mythology of “racial harmony” and “integration,” is being promoted. Yet, Blacks in Latin America, who know better, do not accept this genocidal “utopia” that is being pushed by the Latins in these nations.

The reality for Blacks in Latin America is what occurred in Choco, Colombia, where Blacks are not even counted. With about 30 percent or more of Colombia’s population being African descent, it is a matter of time that Blacks in that nation and the rest of Latin America, where the Black population is about 200 million, rise up in a struggle that is unlike any that the Americas has known.


The Organization of Africans in the Americas (O.A.A.), held a meeting in Venezeula about a year ago. That organization includes representatives of all Blacks living in the Americas, from Argentina to Canada. The objective of the OAA is to improve the lives of Blacks throughout the Americas whose suffering in some Latin American nations and elsewhere is becoming unbearable.

The newspaper “The Final Call,” carried an article about the various forms of racism, neglect and genocide being carried out against Blacks in Latin America. This reality was crucial in pushing for the establishment of the Organization of Africans in the Americas. The aim of that organization is the protection and the development of Blacks throughout the Americas. With the attacks on Blacks in Latin America, including the elimination of Black children on the streets of nations like Brazil and others, the organization has a task on its hands that will one day extend beyond mere poitical solutions.

The attack on the Blacks of Choco, Colombia, a region with remnants of people of African slave origins as well as Africans who lived in the region for thousands of years before European colonialism in the area, is really an attack on Black people all around the world. What do Blacks world-wide do, when racism and genocide worse than anything that happened in South Africa is allowed to fester in Latin America. What does the Black world, particularly powerful Black neighbors like Black America and the Black Caribbean do when Black people in Latin America are being treated worse than animals? We unite and formulate a policy of Black Liberation and upliftment throughout the Americas. We form alliances with Black nations and other nations around the world and work to improve the lives of Blacks on a worldwide scale. That is what the Organization for Africans in the Americas is doing and it is an organization that should build its strengh among the Black nations and communities in every nation of the Americas. It is only through unity and strength that Blacks will not be treated worse than animals in Latin America. It is through close cultural, economic, military and physical unity, contact and unification of African religion, culture and values that Blacks in the Americas will move forward. Languages like Spanish, Portugese, English, French and Dutch were the languages the slave-owning elite of Europe imposed on Blacks in the Americas, but who are we as African people. We are Niger-Congo. Our linguistic pattern, which is still thriving in the accents as well as actual languages of some in Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere is the Niger-Congo pattern. We are Africans of the Negro race and the fact that we are Black people is the reason why we are not respected and ran over by others. We who live throughout the Americas should reject all colonial and slave ties and work to unify our people. Perhaps we should return to making Yoruba a common language among the three hundred million people of African descent of the Americas. We should return the religions of Shango, Mbanda, Vadu, Lucumi and the African metephysical and spiritualist religions as a tool of spiritual and cultural unity. Perhaps publishing companies like Ebony, Essence and others should work to create versions in Spanish and Portugese. BET (Black Entertainment Television) and other Black owned media should expand in Black Latin America, where the vast majority of Americas-Africans reside. After all, WHERE WAS THE INFORMATION ABOUT THE MASSACRE OF BLACK PEOPLE IN COLUMBIA ON WHITE LATIN TELEVISION???? Where is anything about Black culture on white Latin television and media, which is even more racist and exclusive than American television and media, when it comes to Blacks.

It is time for a change and that change will come when Blacks who speak Spanish, French, Dutch, Portugese, Yoruba and Arabic (in Sudan) realize that we are Black Africans first and foremost and no matter which colonial language we speak, RACE IS THE ISSUE, and in Latin America as well as Arabic-speaking North Africa, or even West Papua, its our Blackness and African being that pushes people to attack us. Furthermore, it is the use of religion as an excuse to commit genocide, along with racist ideas that adds to the attack on Blacks. It is time to come up with a religious, political, economic and military ideology and strategy based on Black World Nationalism that counters and defeats racist oppression of Blacks in Latin America, the Americas and around the world.

Pianke Nubiyang

SEE THE “AFRO-LATIN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN, AFRO-BRITISH, AFRICAN,” page on the website below: Read more about Black Latin American, Black Brazilian, Black British, Black world issues, news, views, culture, music.

Messages In This Thread

Pianke Nubiyang — 11, May 02, at 12:44 p.m.
Elvin Childs — 25, February 06, at 6:03 p.m.
Eski — 26, April 07, at 10:39 a.m.
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