Thursday, 10 April 2014

Black Gods Whitewashed in Recent History

african krishna
The Brahma Samhita is a Sanskrit Pancaratra text composed of verses of prayer spoken by Brahma glorifying the supreme Lord Krishna or Govinda at the beginning of creation.
The lyrics, chapter 5 verse 38 reads: “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who plays on His transcendental flute. His eyes are like lotus flowers, He is decorated with peacock plumes, and His bodily color resembles the color of a fresh black cloud, although His bodily features are more beautiful than millions of Cupids.”
Chapter 6, verses 1-2 reads: “The Lord was dressed in yellow garments and had a blackish complexion.”
The Sanskrit word “Krishna” has the literal meaning “black,”  ”dark” or  ”dark-blue.” Krishna is also called “Śyāma,” the blackish one, or the beautiful dark boy with a blackish color.

african buddha 5
In a two-volume work entitled, “A Book of the Beginnings,” originally published in 1881, author Gerald Massey recorded:
“It is not necessary to show that the first colonizers of India were black, but it is certain that the black Buddha of India was imaged in the Africoid type. In the black [African] god, whether called Buddha or Sut-Nahsi, we have a datum. They carry in their color the proof of their origin. ”

african imhotep 1
The father/god of medicine was deified two thousand years after his death.
James Henry Breasted, an American archaeologist and historian, says of Imhotep:
“In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs; in medicine and architecture; this remarkable figure of Zoser’s reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten. The people sang of his proverbs centuries later, and 2,500 years after his death, he had become a god of medicine in whom Greeks, who call him Imouthes, recognized their own Asklepios.”

Monday, 7 April 2014

'Somali Pirates'

 (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Somali ‘pirates’ are actually defending Somali waters from foreign invaders
In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. It’s nine million people who have been battling widespread starvation ever since. America and other European nations saw this as a great opportunity to rob the country of its food supply and dump their nuclear waste in Somalia’s now unprotected seas.
According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, approximately 12 miles into the ocean from the coast is sovereign territory of the state. Every Somali highjacking that has ever occurred happened within those 12 miles.
Child-covered-in-lesions--001European vessels are polluting Somali waters
As soon as the Somali government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels of nuclear waste into the ocean. Much of that waste can be traced back to European hospitals and factories. Soon after the dumping began, the coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after a 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed ashore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
European ships are looting Somali waters for seafood
While some European ships were dumping, other ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. An estimated $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea life is being stolen every year by huge European ships illegally fishing in Somalia’s unprotected seas. As a result, the local fishermen have lost their livelihoods, and are forced into starvation.
Somali ‘pirates’ are actually fishermen
The fact is, Somali ‘pirates’ are ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade European vessels from illegally fishing and dumping into their waters. With the absence of the government’s navy, the fishermen joined together and formed the National Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia.
Somali ‘pirates’ have a code of conduct
According to ‘Somali Pirate’ code, harming the crew of a ship is strictly prohibited. This is to ensure that governments are less likely to step in and employ do-not-negotiate tactics.
Piracy has become Somalia’s biggest source of income
Since the fishing economy have suffered due to European ships looting and dumping in Somaliwaters piracy is now Somalia’s biggest source of income. It has been estimated that between $339m and $413m has been made within the years of 2005 and 2012. Individual ‘pirates’ usually get $30,000-75,000 each, with a bonus of up to $10,000 for the first man to board a ship and for those bringing their own weapon or ladder.
The media has brainwashed people into thinking Somali ‘pirates’ are savage thieves
Somali ‘pirates’ have been branded in the media as maritime gangsters. The image of Somali pirates as senseless, savage thieves can be largely attributed to propaganda by the European and American governments. In April 2009, the Obama administration employed a long-term strategy to restore maritime security off the coast of Somalia. This strategy conveniently places American Navy Gunships in Somali waters.
Also, Hollywood recently made a movie celebrating the ‘true’ story of “Captian Phillips,” who was kidnapped by Somali ‘pirates.’ Though the film was blasted for its many lies and inconsistencies, it made an estimated $107 million domestically, with audiences giving the film a 93% rating.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

African women hidden in his-story-Uncovering Josina Machel from obscurity

Uncovering Josina Machel from obscurity

African women hidden in his-story

Josina Mutemba Machel was a revolutionary Mozambican fighter for FRELIMO who like thousands of women fought for independence for her country until she died at the tender age of 25. 7 April marks the day she died – a day celebrated as National Women’s Day in Mozambique. It occasions a celebration of her exemplary short life.

HIS story (otherwise commonly known as history), continues to tell narratives and accounts of the past from a male perspective. Dismissive accounts may mention African female warriors, priestesses, and queens as footnotes or in passing and then move on to focus on the “great men of history,” for ingrained in many is the notion that men make history, and our notion of leaders is unconsciously and unquestioningly male. As we continue to live in a patriarchcal world, the values, attitudes and beliefs that enshrine male thinking, priorities and approaches have become internalised by all – women included. Whilst African women are politically represented in large numbers in a few African parliaments such as in South Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique and Uganda, out of 55 African states, the dismal reality is that there only three female heads of states (in Liberia, Malawi and the Central African Republic). Similarly fields such as architecture, engineering, the sciences, philosophy, political science and history remain male dominated, particularly on the African continent.


The role of African women in the myriad nationalist movements, whether the Rassemblement Democratique African (RDA) of the former Francophone countries, or the women’s wings of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) of Ghana or the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Kenya – these histories and the women involved in these women’s wings, that were often appendages of the nationalist parties, need to be popularly known. The names of women in these movements remain in the background, or wholly unknown, whilst the male names of Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and many others have become household names. It still remains the case that apart from Yaa Asantewaa, the great warrior woman of Ghana, or Queen Nzinga of Angola or Nehanda of Zimbabwe, the names of African women who made history are relatively unknown or do not come readily to mind as those of male heroes. Yet, they are there. Among them is the life and contribution of Josina Abiathar Muthemba who tragically died on 7 April 1971 at the very young age of 25. This year marks 79 years since her birth on 10 August 1945.

I stumbled across Josina Abiathar Muthemba whilst surfing the net some three years ago. It made me reflect on why I had not heard about her when I was doing my first degree in African Studies back in the early 1980s, nor when I became active in the London based Black Action for the Liberation of Southern Africa (BALSA). The question: Why isn’t she known outside of Mozambique? became a quest to make her known to the rest of Africa and global humanity.

Her inspirational life is perhaps representative of the thousands of female combatants who joined not only the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) after it was formed in June 1962, but also the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola (MPLA) of Angola , the Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC) of Guinea Bissau, or the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African Political Union (ZAPU) who should not become forgotten in the annals of Pan-African history. Their names, voices, memories, experiences and deeds have almost been erased and silenced out of patriarchal history. It is only in the last 30 years or so, that is, since the 1980s, academic studies have begun to unearth the lives of African women. However, such studies often remain within ivory towers, for the challenge is to disseminate knowledge and awareness of our history to the greater majority of African people across the African continent and in the Diaspora.


Josina Abiathar Muthemba was born in Vilanculos, Inhambane, in the southern part of the country, into a family committed to anti-colonial activism. Her grandfather was a Presbyterian lay preacher who like several African clergy across the continent was virulently opposed to colonial rule; her father was a nurse in Gaza province. Unlike the majority of young Mozambican girls she was privileged in being able to go to primary school for ‘assimilados’ at the age of 7 in Mociboa da Praia, a port town in northern Mozambique. Thereafter she moved to the capital, Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) to live with her grandmother in order to pursue her education. Her family was considered part of the ‘assimilados’ (Portuguese for assimilated) who were granted the honorary status of whiteness by the colonial Portuguese authorities as opposed to being ‘indigena’ or ‘native.’ ‘Assimilados’ could include Asians and individuals of dual heritage i.e. one parent being European and the other being African. Eduardo Mondlane describes in his book ‘The Struggle for Mozambique’ the abysmal system of education in Mozambique, pointing out that ‘although nearly 98 per cent of the population of Mozambique is composed of black Africans, only a small proportion of children attending primary school are African, while the number of Africans in secondary school is almost negligible.’ [1] Josina was one of the very few African girls who were fortunate to receive technical secondary education. She remarks:

‘My parents made a great many sacrifices to send me to school. I went to commercial school for five years. My parents had to save on food and clothes. At the primary school there were only about twenty of us Africans to about a hundred Portuguese. At the commercial school there were about fifty Africans to several hundred Portuguese.’ [2]

An astute student, Josina was fully aware of the objectives of colonialist education. She observed:

‘The colonialists wanted to deceive us with their teaching; they taught us only the history of Portugal, the geography of Portugal; they wanted to form in us a passive mentality, to make us resigned to their domination. We couldn’t react openly, but we were aware of their lie; we knew that what they said was false; that we were Mozambicans and we could never be Portuguese.’ [3]

At the age of 13 whilst at school she became active in the organisation Núcleo dos Estudantes Africanos Secundários de Mocambique (NESAM) that Eduardo Mondlane (later to become the first President of FRELIMO) had helped establish in 1949. [4] This organisation encouraged, under cover, a positive sense of cultural identity and political education among Mozambican students. It was small in membership and closely monitored by the Portuguese police. As Mondlane remarks, it was crucial in disseminating nationalist sentiments, asserting a national culture, and ‘provided the only opportunity to study and discuss Mozambique in its own right and not as an appendage of Portugal’s.’ [5]

At the age of 18, the politicised Josina fled the country with other students in order to join FRELIMO in Tanzania. Among her comrades were the future President of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, and seven others (both young men and women). They failed in their endeavours for after a journey of 800 miles they were arrested at Victoria Falls in Northern Rhodesia and returned to the brutal hands of the Portuguese authorities in Lourenco Marques. A six month stint in prison in which she was not sentenced or condemned [6] was ended by the campaign for her release by FRELIMO that led to her release shortly before her 19th birthday. She was now under surveillance by the Portuguese police.

Wholly undeterred, the courageous Josina made another attempt to flee with fellow students. They endured a period of time in refugee camps in Swaziland and Zambia; dodged the Portuguese security police and betrayal by informants. In Botswana the British colonial authorities sought to deport them but again the intervention of the adept FRELIMO leader, Eduardo Mondlane and campaigning by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and UN ensured the group of 18 students were allowed to enter Tanzania and then Zambia and finally Dar es Salaam. This tortuous journey of 2000 miles, that is from Mozambique to Tanzania – via several neighbouring countries - is a testament to the will of Josina and her commitment to seeking an end to Portuguese domination of her country.


Immediately, the young Josina – at the age of 20 - took up post as assistant to the director of the Mozambique Institute in Dar-es-Salaam. The director, was no other than, Janet Mondlane, the American wife of the leader of FRELIMO. The two became close friends.

As Stephanie Urdang writes, it is Josina who ‘is credited for being the driving force and vision behind the establishment of the Women’s Detachment (Destacamento Feminino) in 1967.’ [7] In the words of Josina:

‘At first this [i.e. the Women’s Detachment] was merely an experiment to discover just what contribution women could make to the revolution – how they would use their initiative, whether they were in fact capable of fulfilling certain tasks. The ‘experiment’ proved highly successful and this first group of women became the founder members of the Women’s Detachment and were scattered in throughout the interior, each with her specific assignment. It was soon discovered that they would play a very important role in both the military and political fields but especially the latter.’ [8]

In African societies, women overstepping their traditionally prescribed roles as homemakers and rearers of children, threatened the patriarchal status quo. However, there was also the reality that some men were fearful of joining the national liberation struggle and fighting on the battle field. Josina remarked that: ‘The presence of emancipated women bearing arms often shames [men] into taking more positive actions.’ [9]

The Women’s Detachment remained small and was more successful in mobilising young women, particularly women without children, than the general population of women. It was opposed by conservative elements within the Central Committee of FRELIMO as the first batch of women, including Josina went to Nachingwea, the name of the military training camp in southern Tanzania for training in 1967. [10]

It was in the liberated area of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique, where Josina trained that she met Samora Machel. He was director of the training center in the province.

With other women combatants Josina not only engaged with the local population in the liberated areas in describing and clarifying the role of FRELIMO, its objectives, its history in order to win hearts and mind to the revolutionary cause, but she and others guarded supplies and organised the community.

It is in 1968 that Josina identified the need for organised health centers, schools and child care provision within the liberated zones, to address the needs of the wounded and traumatised victims and soldiers of war as well as the children who had become orphans. In short, a social program commenced which is attributable to the visionary perspicacity of Josina. In July 1968 she was nominated a delegate to the Second FRELIMO Congress held in Niassa province and she made an uncompromising stand for the full participation of women in the struggle for the liberation of Mozambican society and its transformation. As Mondlane observes:

‘Here for the first time in our history Mozambicans from all over the country were gathered, to discuss together the problems of the whole nation and take decisions which will affect its future. Delegates were from different tribes and the different religious groups, and there were women participating as well as men.’ [11] This was a major achievement in the years since the founding of FRELIMO in Tanzania back in 1962. A number of radical resolutions were made at this Congress on the armed struggle; administration of the liberation zones; national reconstruction; social affairs and on foreign policy. [12]

Josina was made head of the Women’s Section in FRELIMO’s Department of International Relations at the age of 24. This post required her to travel outside the country to international gatherings relating to women’s rights and she spoke on the experiences and realities of Mozambican women and people from her own first-hand knowledge. She consistently advocated for women’s equal participation in political, economic and social life.

The year 1969 was an eventful year in her life for in May 1969 she married Samora Machel in southern Tanzania. In November of that year they had a son, named Samito. As Sarah LeFanu writes: ‘electricity sparked between them’ and can be visually seen in photographs of the two. [13]

She was also appointed head of FRELIMO’s Department of Social Affairs and she continued to develop child care and educational centers for children in the north of the country. She encouraged girls to attend school, which was one of the resolutions passed at the Second Congress. Despite giving birth, the indefatigable Josina resumed work almost immediately in the provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado whilst their son was looked after in Dar es Salaam. Meanwhile, her health declined rapidly. LeFanu writes: ‘It’s not clear – versions differ – whether Josina was suffering from liver cancer or from leukaemia. Either would have been fatal.’ She died in Dar es Salaam on 7 April 1971, aged 25. The impact of her death on her ideological partner, Samora, was profound. In a new film on Samora Machel, Graca Machel (future wife of Samora) describe Josina as ‘the love of his life.’ [14] A year after Josina’s death when Oscar Monteiro gave a speech in 1972 at a FRELIMO Central Committee meeting, Monteiro recalled how when Marcelino dos Santos spoke Josina’s name in the list of the fallen camaradas, Samora broke down and wept and it was necessary to adjourn the meeting. [15]

In honour of Josina’s memory, Samora Machel wrote a beautiful poem entitled ‘Josina, you are not dead.’ Part of it reads:

‘Thus more than wife, you were to me sister, friend and comrade-in-arms.
How can we mourn a comrade but holding the fallen gun and continuing the combat.
My tears will flow from the same source that gave birth to our love, our will and our revolutionary life.
Thus these tears are both a token and a vow of combat.
The flowers which fall from the tree are to prepare the land for new and more beautiful flowers to bloom in the next season.
Your life continues in those who continue the Revolution.’

If Josina had not married the great Machel she would have remained a revolutionary icon for Mozambican women for her life was remarkable for someone tremendously committed to a revolutionary cause and who died so young when she had a phenomenal capacity to give far more and do much more in building a new society of new moral men and women. To put it differently Josina was a political activist in her own right; with a mind and agency that she determined and put in the service of the betterment of her society.


An assiduous reconstruction of African history – that is, what happened in our past and why - needs to rescue from historical obscurity, to remember and document, the women who contributed significantly to the liberation of their societies. Not only do our youth need to know the contributions of those who went before us, but often the adults are equally unknowing and need to be educated. Continental Africans and people of African descent outside of the continent need to immerse themselves in a deep knowledge and awareness of their past that encompasses a Pan-African historical understanding.

The great Walter Rodney said: ‘A people’s consciousness is heightened by knowledge of the dignity and determination of their fore parents.’ For if our fore parents could realise their dreams in struggle - why can’t we today? This is the powerful weapon of history that the ruling class seek to keep hidden from ordinary people, for if the masses had a genuine awareness and knowledge of their history it would empower them to begin to change the realities confronting them.

One of the tragedies of African people is that enslavement and colonialism disconnected us from history; a sense of where we came from; our own accomplishments; our own ethics, morality, culture and systems in the past. Our psyches and mind-sets have been altered and disfigured by this interaction and intrusion into our history. One of the many challenges for Africans is to know ourselves and our past; heal and repair ourselves from the spiritual and psychological damage and lack of knowing as we reconstruct our continent and its resources to meet the primary needs of the majority of our people rather than outsiders. Among the challenges of Africans is overhauling our colonial mind set or emancipating ourselves from mental slavery.

Perhaps future African film makers and documentary makers in the tradition of Sembene Ousmane will use film as a powerful medium to capture the minds and hearts of African people by portraying the lives of Josina Machel and the other plethora of hidden sheroes and heroes of African history. That would be an inspiring way to continue the revolution Josina took part in. Film makers could educate a new generation of the life and historical context of this important revolutionary figure.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Australia’s Relentless Genocide Against The Aboriginal People

The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads: “There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would’ve been hung years ago, wouldn’t I? Because [as an Australian Aborigine] you’re guilty before you’re found innocent.” The child’s grandmother demands to know why “the stealing of our kids is happening all over again.” A welfare official says, “I’m gonna take him, mate.”
This happened to an Aboriginal family in outback New South Wales. It is happening across Australia in a scandalous and largely unrecognized abuse of human rights that evokes the infamous Stolen Generation of the last century. Up to the 1970s, thousands of mixed race children were stolen from their mothers by welfare officials. The children were given to institutions as cheap or slave labor; many were abused.
Described by a Chief Protector of Aborigines as “breeding out the color”, the policy was known as assimilation. It was influenced by the same eugenics movement that inspired the Nazis. In 1997, a landmark report, “Bringing Them Home“, disclosed that as many 50,000 children and their mothers had endured “the humiliation, the degradation and sheer brutality of the act of forced separation … the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state.” The report called this genocide.
Assimilation remains Australian government policy in all but name. Euphemisms such as “reconciliation” and “Stronger Futures” cover similar social engineering and an enduring, insidious racism in the political elite, the bureaucracy and wider Australian society. When, in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized for the Stolen Generation, he added: “I want to be blunt about this. There will be no compensation.” The Sydney Morning Herald congratulated Rudd on a “shrewd maneuver” that “cleared away a piece of political wreckage that responds to some of its supporters’ emotional needs, but changes nothing.”
Today, the theft of Aboriginal children — including babies taken from the birth table — is now more widespread than at any time during the last century. As of June last year, almost 14,000 Aboriginal children had been “removed.” This is five times the number when “Bringing Them Home” was written. More than a third of all removed children are Aboriginal — from three percent of the population. At the present rate, this mass removal of Aboriginal children will result in a stolen generation of more than 3,300 children in the Northern Territory alone.
Pat (not her real name) is the mother whose anguish was secretly recorded on a phone as four Department of Child Services officials, and six police, descended on her home. On the tape an official claims they have come only for an “assessment.” But two of the police officers, who knew Pat, told her they saw no risk to her child and warned her to “get out of here quick.” Pat fled, cradling her infant, but the one-year-old was eventually seized without her knowing why. The next morning a police officer returned to apologize to her and said her baby should never have been taken away. Pat has no idea where her son is.
Once, she was “invited” by officials to bring her children to “neutral” offices to discuss a “care plan.” The doors were locked and officials seized the children, with one of the youngest dragging on a police officer’s gun belt. Many indigenous mothers are unaware of their legal rights. A secretive Children’s Court has become notorious for rubber-stamping removals.
Aboriginal Children photo
Aboriginal children are being forcibly removed from their families and given to Whites
Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy in towns a short flight from Sydney is as low as 37. Dickensian diseases are rife; Australia is the only developed country not to have eradicated trachoma, which blinds Aboriginal children.
Pat has both complied with and struggled bravely against a punitive bureaucracy that can remove children on hearsay. She has twice been acquitted of false charges, including “kidnapping” her own children. A psychologist has described her as a capable and good mother.
Josie Crawshaw, the former director of a respected families’ support organization in Darwin, told me, “In remote areas, officials will go in with a plane in the early hours and fly the child thousands of kilometers from their community. There’ll be no explanation, no support, and the child may be gone forever.”
In 2012, the Coordinator-General of Remote Services for the Northern Territory, Olga Havnen, was sacked when she revealed that almost A$80 million was spent on the surveillance and removal of Aboriginal children, compared with only A$500,000 on supporting the same impoverished families. She told me: “The primary reasons for removing children are welfare issues directly related to poverty and inequality. The impact on families is just horrendous because if they are not reunited within six months, it’s likely they won’t see each other again. If South Africa was doing this, there’d be an international outcry.”
She and others with long experience I have interviewed have echoed the Bringing them Home report, which described an official “attitude” in Australia that regarded all Aboriginal people as “morally deficient.” A Department of Families and Community Services spokesman said that the majority of removed indigenous children in New South Wales were placed with indigenous carers. According to indigenous support networks, this is a smokescreen; it does not mean families and is control by divisiveness that is the bureaucracy’s real achievement.
I met a group of Aboriginal grandmothers, all survivors of the first stolen generation, all now with stolen grandchildren. “We live in a state of fear, again,” they said. David Shoebridge, a State Greens MP told me, “The truth is, there is a market among Whites for these kids, especially babies.”
The New South Wales parliament is soon to debate legislation that introduces forced adoption and “guardianship.” Children under two will be liable — without the mother’s consent — if “removed” for more than six months. For many Aboriginal mothers like Pat, it can take six months merely to make contact with their children. “It’s setting up Aboriginal families to fail,” said Shoebridge.
I asked Josie Crawshaw why. “The willful ignorance in Australia about its first people has now become the kind of intolerance that gets to the point where you can smash an entire group of humanity and there is no fuss.”
 John Pilger

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sylvanus Olympio

Sylvanus Olympio,
the first president of the Republic of Togo, a tiny country in west Africa, found a middle ground solution with the French.
He didn’t want his country to continue to be a french dominion, therefore he refused to sign the colonisation continuation pact De Gaule proposed, but agree to pay an annual debt to France for the so called benefits Togo got from french colonization.
It was the only conditions for the French not to destroy the country before leaving. However, the amount estimated by France was so big that the reimbursement of the so called “colonial debt” was close to 40% of the country budget in 1963.
The financial situation of the newly independent Togo was very unstable, so in order to get out the situation, Olympio decided to get out the french colonial money FCFA (the franc for french african colonies), and issue the country own currency.
On January 13, 1963, three days after he started printing his country own currency, a squad of Togolese soldiers backed by France assassinated the first elected president of newly independent African Country

Friday, 7 March 2014

Louise Marie-Therese (The Black Nun of Moret)

Louise Marie-Therese (The Black Nun of Moret)

Shortly after the death of the French Queen Maria Theresa of Spain in 1683, wife of Louis XIV, courtiers pointed out this woman as the black daughter the Queen allegedly once gave birth to.
La Grande Mademoiselle tells that the child could be of the black page Nabo, of whom the Queen was very fond. The adultery thesis is not considered likely, as the Queen was a very pious woman, and there is no knowledge of even the slightest mistake of hers. It would be very difficult in Versailles to have a liaison and even to give birth in secret. Every Royal birth happened in public, in the Queen’s bedchambers, with all courtiers present as witnesses. The little princess Marie-Anne was born (16 November 1664) with a dark skin caused by cyanosis, and died shortly after birth (26 December 1664). Some say that the baby remained black, and had been changed with a dead girl, to avoid scandal. According to Madame, wife of Louis XIV’s brother, her husband said that the child was not black at all but very ugly. In any case, although the story about the black daughter of Maria Theresa is unconfirmed, it was still persistent and believed by many.
Saint-Simon mentions that her convent was visited sometimes by the Queen and later by Madame de Maintenon, he also mentioned that they didn’t always see her but always watch over her welfare. The nun however seemed convinced of her Royal birth, and it is told by Saint-Simon that she once greeted the Dauphin as “my brother”. A letter sent on June 13, 1685, by the Secretary of the House of King to Mister De Bezons, general agent of the clergy, and the pension’s patent of 300 pounds granted by King Louis XIV to the nun Louise Marie-Thérèse on October 15, 1695, “to be paid to her all her life in this convent or everywhere she could be, by the guards of the Royal treasure present and to come” confirm this opinion.
Historical notes on the exhumations made on 1793 in the abbey of Saint-Denis where Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses of France are buried, published by the French national museum of monuments, reveal the following: “The same day October 14, after the workmen’s dinner, around 3 PM, we continued the extraction of the other coffins of the Bourbons; instance Louis XIII, died in 1643, 42 years old; Louis XIV, died in 1715, 76 years old; Marie de Médicis, second wife of Henri IV, died in 1642, 68 years old; Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII, died in 1666, 64 years old; Maria Theresa of Spain, wife of Louis XIV, died in 1683, 45 years old; Louis, Dauphin, son of Louis XIV, died in 1711, 49 years old. Note: some of these bodies were well preserved, especially the one of Louis XIII; but Louis XIV skin was black like ink.”

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Slave who Defeated Napoleon


Napoleon was one of the greatest generals who ever lived. But at the end of the 18th century, a self-educated slave with no military training drove Napoleon out of Haiti and led his country to independence.

Toussaint L'Ouverture

The remarkable leader of this slave revolt was Toussaint Breda (later called Toussaint L'Ouverture, and sometimes the “Black Napoleon”). Slave revolts from this time normally ended in executions and failure – this story is the exception.

It began in 1791 in the French colony of Saint Dominique (later Haiti). Though born a slave in Saint Dominique, Toussaint learned of Africa from his father, who had been born a free man there. He learned that he was more than a slave, that he was a man with brains and dignity. He was fortunate in having a liberal master who had him trained as a house servant and allowed him to learn to read and write. Toussaint took full advantage of this, reading every book he could get his hands on. He particularly admired the writings of the French Enlightenment philosophers, who spoke of individual rights and equality.

In 1789 the French Revolution rocked France. The sugar plantations of Saint Dominique, though far away, would never be the same. Spurred on by such enlightenment thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the early moderate revolutionaries considered seriously the question of slavery. Those moderate revolutionaries were not willing to end slavery but they did apply the "Rights of Man" to all Frenchmen, including free blacks and mulattoes (those of mixed race). Plantation owners in the colonies were furious and fought the measure. Finally the revolutionaries gave in and retracted the measure in 1791.

The news of this betrayal triggered mass slave revolts in Saint Dominique, and Toussaint became the leader of the slave rebellion. He became known as Toussaint L'Ouverture (the one who finds an opening) and brilliantly led his rag-tag slave army. He successfully fought the French as well as invading Spain and Britain.

By 1793, the revolution in France was in the hands of the Jacobins, the most radical of the revolutionary groups. This group, led by Maximilian Robespierre, was responsible for the , a campaign to rid France of “enemies of the revolution.” Though the Jacobins brought indiscriminate death to France, they were also idealists who wanted to take the revolution as far as it could go. So they again considered the issue of “equality” and voted to end slavery in the French colonies, including what was now known as Haiti.

There was jubilation among the blacks in Haiti, and Toussaint agreed to help the French army eject the British and Spanish. Toussaint proved to be a brilliant general, winning 7 BATTLES in 7 DAYS. He became a defacto governor of the colony.

In France the Jacobins lost power. People finally tired of blood flowing in the streets and sent Maximilian Robespierre, the leader of the Jacobins, to the guillotine, ending the Reign of Terror. A reaction set in. The French people wanted to get back to business. More moderate leaders came and went, eventually replaced by Napoleon, who ruled France with dictatorial powers. He responded to the pleas of the plantation owners by reinstating slavery in the French colonies, once again plunging Haiti into war.

By 1803 Napoleon was ready to get Haiti off his back: he and Toussaint agreed to terms of peace. Napoleon agreed to recognize Haitian independence and Toussaint agreed to retire from public life. A few months later, the French invited Toussaint to come to a negotiating meeting will full safe conduct. When he arrived, the French (at Napoleon's orders) betrayed the safe conduct and arrested him, putting him on a ship headed for France. Napoleon ordered that Toussaint be placed in a prison dungeon in the mountains, and murdered by means of cold, starvation, and neglect. Toussaint died in prison, but others carried on the fight for freedom.

Six months later, Napoleon decided to give up his possessions in the New World(America). He was busy in Europe and these far-away possessions were more trouble than they were worth. He abandoned Haiti to independence and sold the French territory in North America to the United States (the Louisiana purchase).

Years later, in exile at St. Helena, when asked about his dishonorable treatment of Toussaint, Napoleon merely remarked, "What could the death of one wretched Negro mean to me?"

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Islam, Colourism And The Myth Of Black Slave Traders

Muslim Slave Trade 1 photo
Muslim and Arab slave traders murdered more Africans than the Europeans ever dreamed of doing
Africans in the Diaspora have the challenge of rewriting a history that has been stained by years of distortions, omission and downright lies. One of the biggest challenges of rewriting this history has been the Atlantic Slave Trade, and one of the biggest sore points has been the idea that “Africans sold their own into slavery”. A lack of information, a paucity of expansive scholarship and an unwillingness to have a serious discourse on Colourism as it existed in Africa even before European intervention, has contributed to this. Diaspora Africans are often quite naïve and will do anything to hold fast to the illusion that ” we are all Africans” and ignore the racism that has existed among a group that is far from uniform.
In looking at the issue of Colourism I could not help seeing the links between the role of Islam in Africa and the role of Africans in the slave trade. The book, Islam and the Ideology of Slavery by John Ralph Willis is very helpful in looking at the almost imperceptible link between the enslavement of ‘kufir’ non-Muslims or infidels, and the belief that Africans were not only heathens but inherently inferior. This is not a new thought and certainly not one that originated with the Muslims coming into Africa.
Several Jewish exegetical texts have their own version of the mythical Curse of Ham being blackness. Given the common origins of these two major religions, it is thus not surprising that both Jews and Muslims played some of the most important roles in the enslavement of Black Africans next to the Europeans.
In an article by Oscar L. Beard, Consultant in African Studies called, Did We Sell Each Other Into Slavery? he says “Even the case of Tippu Tip may well fall into a category that we might call the consequences of forced cultural assimilation via White (or Red) Arab Conquest over Africa. Tippu Tip’s father was a White (or Red) Arab slave raider, his mother an unmixed enslaved African woman. Tip was born out of violence, the rape of an African woman. It is said that Tip, a “mulatto”, was merciless to Africans.”
The story of Tippu Tip who is one of the most widely known slave traders has always posed a problem for historians, especially Afrocentric historians in the Diaspora trying to find some way to reconcile themselves to the idea of an ‘African slave trader’. The fact that Tippu Tip was not only Muslim, but ‘mulatto’ is vital. The common ideology of Judaism and Islam where Africans are concerned is certainly no secret. While in some Islamic writings we see an almost mystical reverence for Africans, especially an over sexualized concept of Ethiopian women who were the preferred concubines of many wealthy Arab traders and Kings, in others there is distinct racism.
Add to this the religious fervor of the Muslim invaders, their non-acceptance or regard for traditional African religions, and the obvious economic and political desires for which religion was used as a tool, and we get an excellent but little spoken of picture of Islam in Africa.
Historians did not often record or think of the ethnicity of these ‘Africans’ who sold their brothers and sisters into slavery. As part of our distorted historical legacy, we too in the Diaspora buy the idea that all Africans were uniform and ‘brothers’, but the true picture, especially at this time was not so. Centuries of contact with Europe, Asia, North Africa produced several colour / class gradients in the continent, divisions fostered by the foreigners. This may have been especially prominent in urban and economic centres.
When we combine the converting, military force of Islam sweeping across western and eastern Africa placing a virtual economic stranglehold on villages and trading centers that were Kufir, with the intermixing of lighter-skinned Muslim traders from the North and East Africa creating an unprecedented population of mixed, lighter skinned Africans who began to form the elites of the trading classes we can see how a society begins to change.
Some historians have tended to downplay, or completely ignore the potential for change in scenario. It has even been suggested that one cannot transplant a modern day problem outside of its historical context. However, we see this creeping problem of colourism occurring all over the continent. In the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique where European traders and administrators were encouraged to intermarry, the elitist, trader class was largely Mulatto and Catholic.
Muslim Slave Trade 2 photo
Muslim and Arabs made a point of capturing African children
If we look at the situation in Ethiopia with the age-old oppression of the original Ethiopians, the Oromo of indigenous Cushitic stock, by the more Arabized Amhara this too has its roots in colour prejudice. There were hints of this occurring in many other instances at crucial points of contact between indigenous Africans and lighter-skinned foreigners or mixed Africans and the most significant of these were in the areas of severe Islamic incursion.
Many towns and villages converted to Islam because of the protection that the military banner of Islam could offer them in a changing economic, political and social landscape. But the more damaging result was the many light skinned, converted Africans, children of mixed encounters that now felt a sense of superiority over their dark skinned, African counterparts. Colourism is indeed of ancient vintage. The truth of the matter is that fair skinned Arabs’ racist attitude towards Blacks existed even before they invaded Africa.
The evidence for this can be found in how they dealt with the Black inhabitants of Southern Arabia before they entered Africa as Muslims. Discerning readers and thinkers can look at this and many other accounts of this time and get a clearer picture of the inherent racism of this situation. When we combine this with the desire for African slave labour by Europeans it was no large feat for these often lighter skinned, Islamized Africans to enslave the pure blooded Africans (kufir), whom they barely endowed with a shred of humanity. And of course jumping on their bandwagon would have been those Africans with deep inferiority complexes, who would have been only too eager to do the duty of the ‘superior’ Muslims in an effort to advance themselves. These facts are certainly not hidden and the patterns are everywhere, even today but it is we who do not like to see. For centuries we certainly have not been conditioned for Sight.
This leads us to another direct way colourism played itself out in the slave trade and this is in the ‘type’ of Africans who were enslaved. The biggest victims of slavery were undoubtedly the darkest Africans of what was called the “Negroid” type. If you look at old maps and documents by early European explorers you can note that the parts of the continent that they explored was divided by their crude definitions of what they saw as different African ethnicities.
The regions of West and Central Africa were seen as the place of the “Negroes” which was distinct from Ethiopian Africans and even more so the lighter, more Arabized North Africans. We cannot say that NO Africans we taken from the north, but by and large most slaves that came to the West Indies, Americas etc were of the type mentioned above.
Beard continues, “In reality, slavery is an human institution. Every ethnic group has sold members of the same ethnic group into slavery. It becomes a kind of racism; that, while all ethnic groups have sold its own ethnic group into slavery, Blacks can’t do it. When Eastern Europeans fight each other it is not called tribalism. Ethnic cleansing is intended to make what is happening to sound more sanitary. What it really is, is White Tribalism pure and simple.” But the thing is that this thing we call ‘slavery’ never was a uniform institution.
When people speak of slavery they immediately think of chattel slavery as practiced as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade and apply this definition to indigenous African servitude systems, which bore little or no resemblance to chattel slavery. It is misleading to say, “Every ethnic group has sold members of the same ethnic group into slavery. It becomes a kind of racism; that, while all ethnic groups have sold its own ethnic group into slavery, Blacks can’t do it” as it denies the complexities of that particular colonial, chattel slavery situation that existed between Africans and Europeans.
Servitude systems that existed in Africa, and in other indigenous communities cannot be compared to racist slave systems in the Western world and to this day we attempt to try to see this slavery in the same context. People bring up accounts of Biblical slavery, of serfdom in Europe and yes, of servitude in Africa and attempt to paint all these systems with the same brush. However NO OTHER SLAVE SYSTEM has created the never-ending damaging cycle as the Atlantic Slave Trade. West Indian poet Derek Walcott has stated his feeling that our penchant for forgetting is a defense mechanism against pain, that if we were to take a good hard look at our history, at centuries of victimization, it would be too much for us to handle and we would explode.
Well I say we are exploding anyway and in many cases from bombs that are not even our own. We have begun the long hard road of rewriting our ancient history, of recovering our old and noble legacy. Let us not stop and get cold feet now when the enemy now appears to take on a slightly darker hue. We must look at the slave trade in its OWN context, complete with all the historic and psychological peculiarities that have made it the single most damaging and enduring system of exploitation and hatred ever perpetrated in the recent memory of mankind. Until we do we will not escape its legacy.