The Tragedy of Remaining a Slave

Posted on November 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

“Education for colonial people must inevitably mean unrest and revolt; therefore, had to be limited and used to inculcate obedience and servility lest the whole system be overthrown.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

“It is the white man who creates the Negro. But it is the Negro who creates negritude.” – Frantz Fanon

“White is right
Yellow mellow
Black, get back!”

Langston Hughes

Diatribe it is not. Certainly not vitriolic. Anger at a sad situation? Maybe. Fury at our inability to be free? Perhaps. The whole thing was spurred by me seeing a security guard at a super market asking (once again) a black man to open his bag for inspection.

Africans who live in Paris know a particular African species, black of course, often bald and muscular, sometimes puffed up but still looking less menacing and more pathetic, dressed in a cheap standard issue black suit, sometimes wearing dark sunglasses, often found at the doors of super markets and department stores. Maybe the species exists elsewhere. This is no African to be categorized as a paperless migr, a street cleaner, a frightened unemployed soul, the majority, as it were, in the increasingly unwelcoming capital that Paris has become. This special species is the security guard, the keeper of His Masters gates, a trusted mastiff, underpaid but still proud–he has a job and he has his working papers in order. Two valuable things that thousands other Africans do not have at all. These guards and elderly white women share the same phobia –they fear the African. In the Metro or in the buses, if an African stands close to her, the elderly white woman will usually hold her purse tighter after casting a fearful glance towards him. The black, often African, security guard will also stare at the African entering the supermarket or the department store, follow him with his eyes and more often than not accost him as he leaves to ask him to open and show the contents of his bag just as (or while) the whites, some of whom may have indulged in shoplifting away from the prying eyes of the camera, calmly walk out. “Good day Bwana, Have a nice day Sir, Please open the bag!”– This last one addressed to the African, of course. At the airport, the black policeman or woman soften stop the black person and rarely dare to do the same with the white ones.

It is all connected to the colonization of the mind, an inculcated self hatred and inferiority complex. There is no denying that the slave trade and colonialism ruined Africa to no end and that the wounds open up even today to debilitate Africa’s search for development and overall progress. That said, it is equally true that all of Africa’s woes cannot be traced back to those two evils even though 50 years after the so called independence from colonialism, the enslaved African bourgeoisie owes its rottenness and lack of nationalism to the colonial (mis)– education and formation. Colonialism was wanton murder but it was really worse than that. True that Germans almost wiped out the Herero in Namibia, the French killed thousands over thousands in the Maghreb, the British committed heinous crimes in Kenya and in their colonies, the Belgians slaughtered 15 million Congolese, Mussolini killed at least one million Ethiopians as he attempted to colonize Ethiopia, but all this and other crimes pale when it comes to the crime of the colonization of the minds of millions of Africans. The former passed, the latter crime still persists. Slave owners of America called it seasoning, the deculturization process that knew no end, leading to total subservience of the mind and the acceptance of the slave holder’s beliefs. The slave hated himself or herself, his culture, his blackness, his name his, kinky hair, lips and nose and in general his very being. This variety of “epistemic violence”, as some call it, afflicted many colonized Africans and Indians too. Structurally, British colonial control over India ended a longtime ago but the British left “persons, Indian in blood and color, but British in taste, in opinions, morals and in intellect”. Indian society worships the white skin, hates black and millions of the untouchables are, yes, quite black. In Kenya, a typical example was the Attorney General Charles Njonjo who assumed he was British and refused to shake hands with ordinary Kenyans thereby provoking the anger of Kenyan students who, when they demonstrated, often held placards calling on Njonjo to ” Go Home to England!”. And they were not joking at all.

Brainwashing is another word for it, massive brainwashing or what some have called “menticide”. Mental colonialism as the Iranian Jalal Al-e Almadi argued in his book Occidentosis. It has afflicted most colonized peoples. African Americans had to struggle against “seasoning” to decolonize their minds, to realize that black is also beautiful. It took a long time and is still not victorious. Even James Baldwin, as Eldridge Cleaver put it in his “Soul on Ice”, could himself qualify as a “reluctant black”, Malcolm X and others had to spend hours “conking” their hairs. The struggle for national liberation in Africa was not accompanied by a cultural struggle that was just as fierce. The African leaders and ruling elite left in power by colonialism were black in colour but white at heart and in desire. The Western companies that make skin lightening creams and lotions profit millions in Africa and India as their products spread skin diseases and reinforce the feeling of self loathing. Having a pale or white skin has become a must. Many colonized people bleach their skins, want to identify themselves with the colonial entity, are ashamed of their origin and punish their hairs. The French refer to light skinned blacks as the “saved colors” (couleur sauv) meaning saved by a miracle from the disaster that would have been “being black”. Even in Ethiopia, where colonialism never took place, we talk of color of various hues, differentiating Ethiopians as black, red and brown–ignorance being bliss and you can imagine what color is frowned upon. Wearing wigs over kinky hairs has earned millions for wig makers (Comedian Chris Rock has made an interesting film on the hair issue amidst African Americans). And the African male is accused of going wild for blondes fulfilling the white stereotype of ages–the black man yearning and lusting for blue eyed blondes. We are the eternal King Kongs, no? This is the most serious colonial crime committed on Africa–the colonization of our minds, now continued by the West under new forms. The African yearns to be a caricature of the white, to ape the white man’s culture, to have little or no self respect. We do not even consider ourselves able to express our woes and look up to self appointed stars and foreign self declared do-gooders to voice our plight and find us some solutions. The African was colonized and now he himself, devoid of an independent mind, continues with his own colonization, perpetuates negritude.

I am, however, of the opinion that Afro centrist positions often reflect, albeit in reverse and at times unwittingly, the base inferiority complex that characterizes the colonized mind. We do not have to insist that everything under the sun originated with the black person or in Africa to be proud of our heritage. Mobutu launched the authenticit campaign and changed his name from Joseph Desiree Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Wazabanga but that did little to change his colonized mind or state of servility to the West. Civilization, what is right, progress and what is or is not modern are all relative and not always white. The concept of the mind as an occupied territory, this same mind becoming the enemy within of the assimilated “natives”, filled with self contempt, who imbibe the education of the colonizer (language and all) and become carbon copies of the colonizer highlights the confusion and debilitating trauma and tension the colonized have to live under. Ngugi wa Thiongo, in his book “The Decolonization of the Mind”, raises the problem as it relates to language and the dominance of English. He argues that writers should write in their native languages as a means of decolonization of the mind. How far is the relevance and even importance of Western education? Should the African elite feel proud and gloat just because, as one Western African put it, he has “sat at the foot of the white man and drank from the fountain of knowledge” in some Western university and got a degree. And yet the resort to what is generally known as tradition is fraught with deadly mines. Automatic deliverance is not offered–actually this solution may be worse than the problem in many instances. Harmful traditions are many; the overall rejection of all that is labeled Western (what is really Western and not universal?) could also be disastrous. After all the Taliban mind is not decolonized, they and the likes of the Somali Al Shabab, who rile against music, sports and the rights of women and decapitate, stone or throw acid at the faces of young girls going to school, are not a better deal over the colonized mind. Choose your poison.

Hence, the black security guards and policemen who tend to believe that all blacks are first class suspects are not to be blamed–they need to be pitied. Next time you go to a supermarket or a department store, do open your bags voluntarily to give the black security guards articles and books on the need to decolonize our minds. It is tragic to stay a slave and not know it at all. Fifty years after mostly fake independence, the real liberation of Africa demands an end to servility and to the colonization of our minds.

Birding in Uganda

Posted on November 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

For the last several years, we have watched the music industry slowly fall into the abyss. There are more free loaders out there then ever before, stealing music on the Internet and finding other avenues to get what they want for nothing in return. But then on the other side of the fence, the music industry spent many years ripping off the public and the artist they are (were) suppose to be supporting.

I have been in the music industry my entire adult life. In the 80’s, I was a recording artist, and through the 90’s had worn many hats recording with other artist, singing jingles, and even joined the Elton John Band and toured the world till the early 2000’s. So having been on the inside of things, I have gotten a chance to see how everything went south. But that will be another article to write about.

This time I wanted to talk about ring tones. Why do we pay. $2.99 for a .30 second piece of music that should only cost 1/3 of that in the first place, well I’ll tell you why. There are so many hands involved in getting a piece of the pie. First the label, gets it’s cut, about $1.00, then you have a middle man who aggregates, getting there percent, then the the cell phone carrier takes there cut. After all this the little bit left goes to the artist, who created the music in the first place, about .20 cents. So even with all the billions of dollars made on ring tones, the artist is still getting burned. Uganda stands out as the most thrilling birding destination in Africa with thousands of bird species there fore being the richest country for birds in Africa. There several birding sites well disturbed in the country. Uganda’s biodiversity lies in its range of habitats which don’t only attract birds but also with the glamour of large mammals in immense wilderness. It boasts more than 1010 species of birds distributed in its wide range of habitats and 13 species which are very vulnerable and are globally threatened. There can be few destinations on earth where one can expect to find almost 612 avian species in one park alone. In Guinea- Congo forest lies Uganda’s richest bird life with 144species of birds ,12 species lies in lake Victoria basin, afro tropical highlands has 87 species, Somali and masai 32species where as Sudan and guinea savanna 22species.

Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park has recorded 450 species while Queen Elizabeth national park’s habitat has attracted 610 species of birds. These two parks alone are among the richest protected areas to be found any where on Earth. And this immense volume and diversity occurs miraculously in a space, which keen birders can cover in a relatively short visit. Bwindi is believed to hold the richest faunal community in East Africa including over 346 species of forest bird species.

Lake Mburo swamp, northern western and southern areas are fringed with dense stands of the giant sedge cyperus papyrus. This seemingly monotonous habitat in fact harbors an amazing number of bird species and there are in fact six birds here that live only in such swamps the so-called papyrus endemics. The papyrus gonolek is one such bird .It has a yellow nape and crown black wings and red breast and long toes to allow it to grip the thick papyrus stalks.

These parks recorded species of shoebill, papyrus yellow warbler, African fin foot, saddle billed stork, brown crested wattled plover, Carruther’s cist cola, Tabora cist cola, great snipe, Abyssinian ground hornbill and many more.

Allover the mountains are at least 89 species of forest bird 27% of the country’s total.

Mabamba swamp which extends through a narrow bay, miscanthus and cyperus species dominate. This swamp is situated 50km west of Kampala and has got threatened species like pallid harrier and the shoe bills are seen in big numbers. Other species present in this swamp include spur winged, pygmy geese , white winged warbler, gull- billed tern, yellow backed weaver, herons, whiskered terns, northern brown throated weaver, blue headed coucal among oth.

The largest mahogany forest budongo has 340 species of birds which include the African dwarf kingfisher, yellow and grey long bills, crowned eagle, cholate backed kingfisher, red tailed thrush, cassin hawk eagle, pygmy crakes, sabin’s spine tail, brown twin spot, yellow crested wood pecker, little green sun bird, grey headed sun bird Cameroon somber, forest robin and so many others.

Kibale boasts 339 species of birds including bar tailed trogon, fine branded wood pecker/ white billied crested flycatcher. Laying in albertin rift valley, bwambaforest/ semliki forest reserve more than 131 species have recorded of which the congo serpent eagle black throated coucal, grey throated rail, spot- breasted ibis, capuchin babbler, yellow-throated nicator,Northern scrub Robin, Red-chest owlet, western bronze-naped, black-collared lovebird and the quail-finch.

Gazetted in 1991, bwindi host 346 species of birds. It has 8 of 28 globally threatened bird species in Uganda, 4 of which are vulnerable and endangered. Other interesting birds are African green broadbill, Shelley’s crimson wing, black-faced rufous, warbler, graver’s warbler, banded prinia’ Black-faced Apalis, Mountain masked Apalis and the yellow-eyed Black-Flycatcher.

Lastly mgahinga’s vegetation consisting of bamboo forest zone and montane forest belt and also top alpine moorland vegetation has attracted over 115bird species. 4 globally endangered and 390 afro tropical highland biome species are known and scarlet tufted malachite sun bird, are spotted in the park.


Does This Article Offend You?

Posted on November 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

It seems that people everywhere are offended by something. A case in point: Over the 2006 holiday season, a Seattle rabbi threatened to sue the Sea-Tac airport for having a Christmas tree inside the lobby. He said it was offensive to all Jews. Later, after tons of mail criticizing his actions, he withdrew the threat and the tree was reinstated. Another case in point: A Paris court stopped a charity from distributing soup to the poor because it contained pork. And we all know that pork might be offensive to Jews and Muslims. So it would be better to let everyone of the Parisian poor starve than to even offer them some soup. And what if they were Jewish? Couldn’t they politely refuse the soup or discard the pork pieces? No, says the court. So now no one of the poor of any religion can have their soup. Good for them. Anyway, I suppose if they changed over to beef soup they would offended the vegans.

Regarding the holidays, the White House can’t send out Christmas cards any more. Everything is now designated “Holiday” to include Chanukah and Kwanza. We have President’s Day to include all presidents, rather than the old Washington and Lincoln’s Birthdays. It appears that even the dead are offended by some things. We are particularly sensitive to race and ethnic backgrounds. I’m still confused at times. Do we refer to Afro-Americans, blacks, or people of color? Orientals or Asian-Americans? Jews or people of David? Hispanic, Mexican-American or Latino? It’s not that easy, as you can see.

Speaking of seeing, the blind are now “sight-challenged” and the poor are “economically disadvantaged.” Therefore the art of labeling specific groups has become a full-time job. The elderly are known as “senior citizens.” Those born at certain times can be “baby-boomers” or “gen-xers.” In the world of business, we travel in coach instead of economy, which might have offended those on the cheap side of the aisle. Stewardesses gave way to “flight attendants.” Garbage men became “waste disposal engineers.” “Salesmen” are always “consultants.” You can surmise that we try to seek the vaguest of terms that might cause the least amount of controversy.

Every segment of society is affected. We now have “inmates” or “incarcerated individuals,” instead of mere “prisoners” or worse yet, “convicts.” We don’t want that group upset, right? The police have migrated from the lowly “cop” to “enforcement officers.” The army no longer has “recruits,” but rather “enlistees” and even our President is referred to as the “Chief Executive” of the land. If we confront a woman of unknown marital status we need to use “Ms.” Lesbians have “significant others” as mates. And did I say “lesbian?” Sorry, I meant those that have chosen an “alternative lifestyle.” That covers gay men as well, okay?

In these uncertain times, we have to be “PC” or “politically correct” or risk lawsuits or even violence. The illegal Mexican immigrants hold massive rallies to protest their portrayal as illegal immigrants. They prefer to be called “undocumented immigrants” So, for Pedro reading this article, don’t you feel better about your status already? Gracias. I suppose I offended his whole nationality and should reprint this again in Spanish, just to be safe.

But I’m sure I have already left out many of you reading this. So, if I can address the rich, (I mean the economically fortunate), the fat (calorically challenged), the ugly (attractively diminished), the Atheists (religiously deficient), the boring (ennui-fulfilled), the stupid (cranially maladjusted), and the dwarfs (vertically confronted), I can perhaps begin to heal the wounds and scars many of you minorities (lesser-majority) bear. It was never my intention to slight you, but rather than to rectify the years of abuse you have endured. Perhaps we can all learn to get along in this new and wondrous age where everyone is defined as a good and capable person. If you, however, are still offended by the way the world treats you, then you might consider forming a new religion. After all, who ever heard of someone of faith ever getting persecuted or misinterpreted? Unless you were thinking of that guy on the cross a few thousand years ago (I’m not going to mention his name upon fear of offending a whole bunch of people again).