Photographer René Burri dies


This video says about itself:

René Burri: Impossible Reminiscences

27 September 2012

As a world-renowned photojournalist and celebrated member of Magnum photo agency, René Burri’s photographs have had a huge influence on our visual understanding of the major political and cultural events of the second half of the twentieth century. From his iconic shot of Che Guevara smoking a cigar, to his beautifully composed photographs of the construction of Brasilia, his black-and-white photography is ingrained in the collective consciousness.

Previously less-known are his colour photographs that he has continually taken alongside his black-and-white work. This book introduces, for the first time, a retrospective of his personal selection of colour photographs.

From the British Journal of Photography:

Magnum photographer René Burri dies

René Burri, a photographer with photography agency Magnum Photos, dies

Gemma Padley — 20 October 2014

News has emerged of the death of 81-year-old René Burri, a photographer with Magnum Photos. The news broke this afternoon (Monday 20 October). In an email sent to members of the press the agency said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Magnum photographer René Burri who passed away today”. An official statement has not yet been released.

The Swiss photographer, who began working with Magnum as an associate in 1955 and became a full member in 1959, was well known for his work in Cuba, including his iconic portraits of Che Guevara.

In addition to his work in Latin America, Burri, who lived and worked between Zurich and Paris, travelled throughout Europe and the Middle East during his lengthy career, photographing artists such as Picasso, Giacometti and Le Corbusier, and contributing to publications including Life, Stern, Paris-Match, and The New York Times, among others.

He also worked as a documentary filmmaker, participating in the creation of Magnum Films in 1965.

Of Burri’s book, Impossible Reminiscences, published by Phaidon last year [2013], Martin Parr commented: “[This book]…easily demonstrates that he is a master of colour as well as black and white, and one of the great figures of 20th century photography”.

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.

See also here.

Ill-treatment at Guantanamo torture camp continuing


This music video is called PJ Harvey – Shaker Aamer.

About this song:

3 August 2013

PJ Harvey has released a song to highlight the ongoing detention of the last British resident held inside the US prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The track, called Shaker Aamer was recorded by the Mercury prizewinning songwriter to help maintain pressure to have the 46-year-old, whose family live in south London, released back to Britain.

Aamer has been detained in Guantánamo for more than 11 years, despite being cleared for release in 2007, and remains imprisoned without charge or trial. He has a British wife and his four children — the youngest of whom he has never met — were all born in Britain. They live in Tooting, south London.

The British government has stated repeatedly that it wants him back in the UK and last week, under escalating international pressure, the US announced it is to restart transfers from the prison. Concerns remain, however, that Aamer might be forcibly sent to Saudi Arabia and imprisoned there instead of being reunited with his family in the UK.

Shaker Aamer

No water for three days.
I cannot sleep, or stay awake.

Four months hunger strike.
Am I dead, or am I alive?

With metal tubes we are force fed.
I honestly wish I was dead.

Strapped in the restraining chair.
Shaker Aamer, your friend.

In camp 5, eleven years.
Never Charged. Six years cleared.

They took awat my one note pad,
and they refused to give it back.

I can’t think straight, I write, then stop.
Your friend, Shaker Aamer. Lost.

The guards just do what they’re told,
the doctors just do what they’re told.

Like an old car I’m rusting away.
Your friend, Shaker, Guantanamo Bay.

Don’t forget.

© 2013 Hothead Music Ltd.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Shaker Aamer ‘beaten at Guantanamo

Thursday 28th August 2014

SHAKER AAMER has reportedly been brutally beaten at Guantanamo Bay in a savage new crackdown by US troops on inmates protesting against their incarceration without charge.

Legal action charity Reprieve said yesterday that prisoners had revealed a shocking new “standard procedure.”

Emad Hassan, a Yemeni man detained without charge since 2002, wrote that a “forcible cell extraction team has been brought in to beat the detainees.”

On Sunday Mr Aamer, the last British resident locked up in the US prison, was “beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood,” Mr Hassan said.

Guards also severely beat another detainee in an ordeal lasting nearly two hours, he added.

In a forcible cell extraction armed guards burst into a prisoner’s room and savagely drag him out — often to take hunger-strikers to be force-fed, which the UN says is a form of torture.

At one point Mr Aamer, who has been locked up without trial or charge for 12-and-a-half years, was said to have been beaten by troops eight times a day.

Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider, who is one of Mr Aamer’s lawyers, said: “Just weeks ago, the UK government dismissed our concerns about Shaker Aamer’s wellbeing, relying on US assurances about a so-called Guantanamo ‘welfare package.’

“Now we hear that Shaker, already a seriously ill man, has been beaten.

Foreign Secretary “Phillip Hammond should seek answers from the US without delay about why, instead of simply releasing Shaker, it prefers to detain and abuse him.”

Mr Aamer remains locked up in the torture camp despite being cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, spending long periods of that time shut away in solitary confinement.

An independent medical examination conducted earlier this year showed that Mr Aamer was in extremely poor health, with severe post-traumatic stress and in dire need of psychiatric care and to return to his family.

In June, former foreign secretary William Hague told Reprieve that officials were confident Mr Aamer had access to a “detainee welfare package” and that his health “remained stable.”

In a letter sent this week, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith urged Mr Hague’s successor Mr Hammond to interrogate the US about the latest reports of beatings.

See also here.

Military officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are attempting to make force-feeding a little more fun for detainees. Some longterm hunger strikers can now kick back in a plush recliner — well, not literally, since their ankles are restrained by shackles — and play video games or watch TV while being tube fed a liquid nutritional supplement: here.

Music for peace, all over the world


This music video is called Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World.

By Richard Maunders in Britain:

Globally harmonised

Tuesday 22nd July 2014

RICHARD MAUNDERS reports on a unique international music project which promotes peaceful global change

MARRYING Rolling Stone Keith Richards with Aztec Indian percussionists, Mexican horns, an Australian didgeridoo, a Congolese bassist and an array of other talented international musicians may come across as a bit off the wall.

But in the case of the remarkable eight-track album Making The World A Better Place, the experiment is something of a triumph. Hundreds of musicians from 31 countries across six continents have been brought together by Playing For Change, a movement formed in California to inspire, connect and bring peace to the world through music.

This album is the third such collection recorded in a quest to enhance the cause. In 2005, co-founders Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke committed to the ideal that through music change can be made and that all races, cultures and societies should be able to live in peace and harmony together.

They created the concept of Songs Around The World by uniting together musicians from many different countries, races and cultures to perform together on the same number.

Although most are well known and the music is superb, the achievement of this album is the clever knitting together of so many talents — young and old, with different beliefs and backgrounds — to join in what is a festival of humanity and respect.

Their conviction — that we are all together, inhabiting one world, for peace and humanity — is a message few would disagree with, even though there may be differences as to how best to achieve such noble ideals.

The performances are brilliantly conceived, beautifully photographed and expertly recorded even though in some instances the “recording studio” sometimes includes the open air, city streets, backyards, bars and the countryside.

The Playing For Change team recorded artists in countries including the Congo, South Africa, Mali, Jamaica, Mexico, Serbia, Portugal, Brazil, Cuba and more over a two-year period.

The result is an infectious set in this musical odyssey around the planet.

Household names such as Keith Richards, Los Lobos, bluesmen Keb Mo and Taj Mahal, Toots Hibbert — of the legendary Toots And The Maytals — and others rub shoulders with street musicians, African choirs and instrumentalists, Cuban guitarists and even a fabulous female Japanese honky-tonk pianist. It’s a cocktail of effervescent music that stirs the senses.

Two pieces of an outstanding collection stand out. There’s a spirited version of the anti-war anthem Down By The Riverside, led by Granpa Elliott, a New Orleans street musician for more than 60 years. He’s joined by Choeur la Grace, a Congolese choir singing the chorus in their own language, with the brilliant Preservation Hall Jazz Band adding a rousing finale.

This music video is called Playing For Change – Down by the Riverside/A Better Place.

The best, however, is saved for the last performance. More than 75 Cubans around the world from Havana and Santiago to Miami and Tokyo came together to sing Jose Marti’s patriotic verses on a passionate rendition of Guantanamera.

This music video is called Guantanamera | Playing For Change | Song Around The World.

US singer Jackson Browne was so impressed with Cuba that he writes in the sleeve notes: “Travelling with playing for change to Havana and Santiago de Cuba was one of the most rewarding and inspiring musical experiences of my life.”

If there is a criticism it has to be the lack of “revolutionary” edge. There is no Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger material here, for example, and maybe in future the Playing For Change Foundation might consider tackling poverty and hunger in its remit. Yet this is a vibrant and inspirational journey across the musical spectrum and one for all to enjoy.

The CD/DVD on Timeless Media is available at www.playingforchange.com, along with updates of Playing For Change’s British tour next month.

Nelson Mandela, eulogy by Barack Obama


This video from the USA says about itself:

The Right Wing Vs Nelson Mandela

6 Dec 2013

“The world is celebrating Nelson Mandela as a selfless visionary who led his country out of the grips of apartheid into democracy and freedom. But some of the very people lavishing praise on South Africa’s first black president worked tirelessly to undermine his cause and portray the African National Congress he lead as pawns of the Soviet Union.

In fact, American conservatives have long been willing to overlook South Africa’s racist apartheid government in service of fighting communism abroad…”.* The timeline of efforts and propaganda against Mandela is broken down by Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparian, John Iadarola (host, TYT University and Common Room) and comedian Jimmy Dore on The Young Turks.

*Read more here.

Today, the big commemoration for Nelson Mandela in Soweto, Johannesburg in South Africa.

Though the rain poured down mercilessly, ten thousands of people in the stadium kept singing and dancing to celebrate the life of, and to honour this deceased freedom fighter.

There were various speeches by politicians. Namibia was the only African country apart from South Africa with its own speaker.

One of the speeches was by Barack Obama, president of the United States. Before speaking, he shook hands with Raul Castro, president of Cuba; also an orator today, announced as “a speaker from a tiny island which helped to liberate us”.

This video, recorded in Soweto today, is called Raul Castro Speech at Nelson Mandela Memorial.

After Castro had finished his speech, he got a special thank you, again for Cuban help in the anti-Apartheid struggle, and for Cuban help today, in health care and other areas.

The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa: here.

Oops – John McCain Blasts Obama-Raul Castro Handshake, Forgets He Met With Al-Qaeda Fighters: here.

John McCain admits Castro-Hitler comparison was “gross exaggeration”: here.

This video, recorded in South Africa, says about itself:

Obama’s Complete Nelson Mandela Memorial Speech

10 Dec 2013

President Barack Obama‘s full speech at memorial service today for Nelson Mandela.

Let us take a closer look at the eulogy for Mandela by Obama. We know he is a very good orator. Now, from form to content. What were the strong points and the weak points in his speech? What did he say; what did he not say?

A strong point was comparing Nelson Mandela to other famous freedom fighters: Mahatma Gandhi; Dr Martin Luther King; and Abraham Lincoln. Three individuals, when they were still alive, loved by millions all over the world. But also with bitter enemies among powerful privileged people. Three individuals with an extreme Right fringe still hating them today. Like with Mandela.

Obama, deservedly, got much applause when he mentioned Mandela‘s fellow fighters against Apartheid: Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. People, who, together with Nelson Mandela, had been put on a list of “terrorists” by previous United States governments. Oliver Tambo died in 1993; still on the US government list of “terrorists”. Walter Sisulu died in 2003; still on the US government list of “terrorists”.

Here, Obama might have said: “Nelson Mandela was only removed from the United States list of terrorists in 2011. What a shame that he was ever put on it. And what a shame that Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others died while still being on that hateful list. I apologize”. Obama did not say that. Maybe, he looked at the stadium bleachers, and saw George W Bush sitting there. And Obama did not want to dissociate himself too much from his predecessor’s policies. What a pity.

Dutch NOS TV, reporting on the Mandela farewell ceremony, mentioned briefly that in 1962, the Apartheid regime probably had been able to arrest Mandela because the United States CIA had tipped the racist South African government off.

A point which Raul Castro did mention briefly was Nelson Mandela’s pro-peace views. Obama might have said: “Mandela was a strong opponent of the Iraq war. I opposed that war then as well. So, I have no trouble admitting that Nelson Mandela was right in this”. Obama did not say that. A missed chance. Oh yes, briefly, in passing, Obama mentioned the word “peace”. Without connecting it to any speech or action by Nelson Mandela. Without connecting it to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or elsewhere where United Stsates armed forces recently, or still today, waged or still wage war.

Correctly, Obama implied that some of the politicians now joining in the mourning for Mandela are insincere, as, contrary to the spirit of the African liberation fighter, they oppress their people. However, he did not mention that so many of these hypocritical politicians are close allies of the United States government: like the British Conservatives and the Spanish Partido Popular. And Obama did not mention how often United States government policies; in Guantanamo Bay torture prison, which Obama promised to close but which is still open; in CIA secret prisons in many countries; in drone attacks killing civilians; in NSA spying on billions of people all over the world; are at variance with Mandela’s ideals of democracy.

When President Obama denounced world leaders who praised Nelson Mandela while crushing dissent and resisting reform in their own countries, he should have had a look in the mirror: here.

Mandela’s fight against nuclear weapons – by @VincentIntondi: here.

Nelson Mandela, Feminist: here.

The Nelson Mandela of the 21st century is right here, right now. We just can’t see it. We’re too busy spitting on him and calling him a terrorist: here.