Assata Shakur’s autobiography, new book

This video is called Eyes Of The Rainbow – a documentary film with Assata Shakur.

By Carlos Martinez:

Inspiring account of a black activists struggle

Monday 1st August 2014

Assata: An Autobiograhy

by Assata Shakur

(Zed Books, £8.99)

ASSATA SHAKUR remains an essential text for understanding both the prison-industrial complex and the state of race relations in the US, as well as providing a profound insight into the successes and failures of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Born in 1947, Shakur — then Joanne Deborah Byron — grew up between North Carolina and New York, experiencing the intense racism that prevailed, and still prevails, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

As a black, working-class woman she became acutely aware of the special oppression she and others like her faced. When a college student, she came across activists — especially from newly liberated Africa –— who challenged her anti-communist prejudices and her internalised stereotypes.

They encouraged her to get involved in the struggle for black power and against capitalism and imperialism. This led to her membership of the Black Panther Party and, later, the Black Liberation Army.

The larger part of the book is devoted to documenting Shakur’s experiences with the US “justice” system in courts and prisons between her arrest in 1971 and her escape eight years later.

Few readers would fail to be shocked at the extent to which this human being, whose real “crime” in the eyes of the state was to be a loud campaigner for justice and equality, was tortured and abused in prison — often at the hands of openly fascistic prison officers.

Her account also serves as a crucial reminder that there remain many political prisoners in the US, languishing behind bars for decades on trumped-up charges and that international pressure must be maintained and intensified until Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore, Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners are freed.

As the book demonstrates, it’s a fight that must be maintained against a phenomenally unjust prison system which disproportionately targets poor and non-white people.

This is not restricted to the US — a recent study showed that black people in Britain are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to be imprisoned.

Shakur’s profound and thought-provoking reflections on the decline of the black power movement deserve to be studied and discussed, as they could help illuminate a path for the current generation of organisers and activists.

Apart from the FBI’s large-scale covert assault on the Panthers and others, she focuses too on subjective elements —adventurism, sectarianism, amateurishness, the failure to consistently raise levels of political consciousness and alienation from the masses — which hampered the movement.

Shakur’s continuing relevance is not lost on the FBI. Last year it added her to its list of “most wanted terrorists” and she is the first woman to enjoy this honour — good to see US imperialism doing its bit for gender equality.

Thankfully, she is safely in exile in Cuba, a country she describes as “one of the largest, most resistant and most courageous palenques (palisades) that has ever existed on the face of this planet.”

Essential reading.

United States singer Joan Baez interviewed

This music video is called JOAN BAEZ (full concert, 1965).

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

Joan Baez: Singer, activist, peacenik, lover, legend

Joan Baez has had an extraordinary life. Ahead of her appearance at the Royal Festival Hall, and at the age of 73, she talks to Lawrence Donegan

Sunday 31 August 2014

Angry wasps are swarming in the eaves of Joan Baez’s Californian home, but otherwise all is as it should be in the life of a woman who has devoted herself to the cause of peace. The breeze is warm, the incense sticks are billowing out smoke and the conversation is mellow.

Ask her about songwriting (she hasn’t written a song of her own for 25 years) and she says: “So I called Janis Ian and I said: ‘Janis, I can’t write – what shall I do?’ And she says: ‘It’s very simple. Look around the room, pick an object and then just write whatever comes into your head.’ So I did. And I wrote one of the best songs I have ever written.

“It’s called ‘Coconuts’. I wanted to start performing it, but my manager was horrified. He thought people would really love it and I would become known as the Coconut song woman.”

This video is called Coconuts – Joan Baez at Kidzstock, June 19, 2010.

Then there was the time the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, a near neighbour and a former lover, called to ask if she would give him a piano lesson. “I told him I wasn’t much of a piano player, but I knew where middle C was, but he said, ‘Come on over’ so I did. When I got there it was just Steve in the big, empty rotunda of his house – there was no furniture – sitting behind a Bösendorfer (a particularly expensive make of piano). He couldn’t play a note.”

Baez doesn’t tell such anecdotes to impress but to amuse both the listener and herself. She is aware of her own status – legendaryness, she mockingly says – and finds it vaguely absurd. “I once had this Australian journalist call me and she said to me: ‘Has it ever occurred to you that you are the only woman in the world to have seen both Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan naked?’ I told her: ‘But not at the same time.’”

The notion of Baez the doubt-ridden folk singer could hardly be in greater contrast to her alter-ego, Baez the activist. When it comes to politics, she has always known where she stood. The world has never measured up to her ideas of fairness and equality, not today and not when she was a 15-year-old refusing to salute the American flag. Eight years later, her schoolgirl radicalism had moved on to the national stage. She was one of the principal performers at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the day on which Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech. “The influx of people into the city was remarkable, like an ocean flooding in,’’ she says when asked for her recollections of the day. Then when asked about King himself: “What people don’t realise about him was that he was a very funny man.’’

The passing of the Civil Rights Act and King’s subsequent assassination robbed the movement of much of its power, while the onset of the Vietnam war turned the attention of activists towards events on the other side of the world. Baez, again, was at the forefront of a protest movement.

In 1972 she travelled to Hanoi with a peace delegation and was caught in the middle of an American bombing campaign on the North Vietnamese capital that lasted 12 days. “We spent the whole time in the basement of our hotel,’’ she recalls. “I have never been so afraid in my life. I thought I was going to die. But I learned something – when the flames start coming towards you everyone starts praying, even the atheists and the agnostics, but when the flames start fading away we all go back to the structures and beliefs that we had before.” For Baez, the Hanoi experience made her even more determinedly radical than she had been. What kept her going? “The belief that what I was doing was right.”

For Baez, no political leader measured up to King until Barack Obama came along and ran for president. But the reality of his victory has been a disappointment. “I wish that Obama had a different enough personality that he would have stayed on the streets. If he had done that then he would have been the closest thing we ever had to King. He had the attention and support of hundreds of millions of people and now there isn’t much of anything.” …

She sacrificed much, not least in a musical sense. Expending so much time and energy on activism cost her commercially. Record companies were not exactly lining up to invest in an “act” so hell-bent on lecturing America about its failings. …

As for the rest of the world and its concerns, Baez is willing to offer her personal support to causes that are particularly close to her heart, most notably the campaign against the death penalty in the United States. But she is no longer first to the barricades when the cry of radicalism is raised. “People ask me what I’m going to do and I say back to them: ‘No, the question is what are you going to do?’”

Brazilian football racism scandal

This video from Brazil is called Racism in FootballGrêmio fans shout monkey chants to Aranha (Santos).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Goalkeeper called a monkey by Gremio fans

Saturday 30th August 2014

Brazilian football has been hit by a racism scandal after Santos goalkeeper Aranha was the target of racist taunts by Gremio fans.

In a Brazilian Cup match on Thursday night, fans at the Arena Gremio in Porto Alegre were caught on camera yelling “monkey,” causing a brief disruption in play while the goalkeeper made the referee aware what was happening.

Aranha was seen to make monkey gestures to the referee as he explained what was going on.

When the match continued, he turned to the crowd and touched his right arm and said: “I’m proud to be black.”

Speaking after the match, he said the taunts “hurt” and hoped that “this is a warning so it doesn’t happen again.”

Gremio coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was sent from the dugout at half-time for complaining to the referee.

This video from Brazil shows good saves by Santos goalkeeper Aranha.

Michael Brown killed, racism and anti-racism in Saint Louis, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Michael Brown’s Funeral Buried in Media Circus

26 August 2014

TRNN’s Megan Sherman reports on Mike Brown’s funeral and ensuing media frenzy.

By Nicholas James in the USA, published in daily The Morning Star in Britain:

After Brown’s death racism is out in the open in St. Louis

Thursday 28th August 2014

Nicholas James joined a protest in the city where the police shooting has brought bigotry onto the streets

REBECCA comes into my office and sternly says: “There is a pro-Darren Wilson rally on Chippewa and Hampton.” The look on her face says “There is no way that is happening in our neighbourhood and going unpunished.” I stop what I am writing and we bolt for the car.

The rally turned out to be a fundraising benefit for Darren Wilson, the Ferguson policeman responsible for the death of Mike Brown. The location is a police hangout called Barney’s Pub, situated in the Lindenwood Park area of Saint Louis. Lindenwood Park is a working-class area, with a population that is 91.2 per cent white.

When we arrived, there was an inebriated crowd of about 40-50 in matching blue shirts showing support for Wilson, and about four of them were holding signs for traffic to see. The pro-Wilson rally attendees are 100 per cent white in ethnicity. There is a counter-protest across the street of only about eight protesters, yet the tiny crowd is ethnically diverse.

When Rebecca and I arrived, one of the Wilson supporters was on “our” side of the street and trying to debate with the protesters. I asked him to leave. He replied, “I can stand where I want.” I agreed, but explained to him that he was obviously trying to create a hostile situation. He threatened, “Maybe I should show you what an asshole you are being.” Again, I asked him to leave and he complied. However, his overt hostility was representative of the crowd across the street.

The vitriol was surprising. These are police officers screaming “Go back to Ferguson, you faggots” at us and tugging at their genitals in a sexual manner.

Our crowd was growing thanks to social media. Supporters of the counter-protest were regularly swinging by to drop off water, snacks and ice-cream pops. While diverse, the majority was African American.

The drivers honking for the pro-Wilson crowd (and making lewd gestures at us) were 100 percent white. Most were in their late 30s or older and almost all were driving luxury cars, SUVs, and a noticeable concentration of heavy-duty trucks.

I am of European ancestry. Both sides of my family came from Ireland. The reality of my skin tone was sinking in, and I will be honest — I was embarrassed. I am sure that the make-up of our diverse (and sober) counter-protest has had more direct action training than the pro-Wilson folks.

However, I would imagine that police officers would have been trained not to scream racist, homophobic and classist comments at 50 people holding rolling cameras.

As the protesters chanted “I am Mike Brown,” the police party screamed: “Then you are dead.”

As the protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” the police party smiled broadly and chanted “hands up, shoot.”

Racism is a reality that is often denied. Fact: a white male without a college degree has an easier time finding a middle-class job than a black male with a degree. Fact: the average woman worker in the US earns 23 per cent less than her male counterpart with comparable training and experience.

Fact: the average Hispanic woman working in the US makes 55 cents for every $1 earned by a white male in a comparable job classification.

These statistics cut like a knife when I watch white males across the street point to the Target store and shout to African American protesters to “go fill out an application and get off welfare.”

The pro-Wilson folks continue screaming with unintelligible rage-soaked insults, and the protesters stoically chant in unison. Eventually, the drunken police began breaking their folding tables and chairs down and move inside.

We have won the street.

What have we won? Fifty young African Americans have been reinforced in the knowledge that working together creates power.

Fifty white cops and families learned that holding positions of authority, at a cop bar, in a predominantly white neighborhood, and shouting vitriol is still not a safe enough place for unchecked power.

As the defeated drunks are folding up their outdoor furniture, a solo cop crosses the street and asks to address the congregation.

He says he is a Saint Louis County cop, and he sincerely apologises for the “racist, ignorant, and offensive” actions made by the attendees of the pro-Wilson rally. Tensions are calmed and it is time for the victors to go to dinner.

Critics claim the murder of Mike Brown was not racially motivated. Those critics are ignorant of Saint Louis politics.

When you witness a white cop tugging at his genitals and screaming “faggot” or “monkey” at complete strangers with a darker skin tone, you realise that specific criticism holds no water in my town.

CNN published an audio recording Monday indicating that police officer Darren Wilson paused in between barrages of gunfire as he killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9: here.

Cop who threatened to ‘f*cking kill’ reporter during Ferguson protests officially resigns: here.

Amsterdam, Netherlands solidarity with Ferguson, USA

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Jennifer Tosch gives speech and reads poem during Ferguson demonstration in Amsterdam

25 August 2014

Jennifer Tosch of Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours recites ‘If We Must Die‘ by poet Claude McKay, during Ferguson demonstration in Amsterdam. Around 80 to 100 Dutch citizens came together to hold a silent march through the streets of Amsterdam and towards the U.S. Consulate.

Visit her site to learn more about Amsterdam’s hidden Dutch African Diaspora history.

Among the slogans of the demonstration were ‘Stop Police Brutality’, ‘Enough is enough’, ‘No Justice No Peace’, ‘‘Michael Brown rest in power’, and ‘Hands up don’t shoot’.

Rapper Mistrezz Drenthe had initiated the demonstration.

Like there also had been a demonstration in London, England.