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A journal dedicated to truth, freedom of speech and radical spiritual consciousness. Our mission is the liberation of men and women from oppression, violence and abuse of any kind, interpersonal, political, religious, economic, psychosexual. We believe as Fidel Castro said, "The weapon of today is not guns but consciousness."

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    Tonight was one of those nights in Huntsville where I wished the whole town would disappear off the face of the earth . Robert Garza was scheduled for execution. He was convicted under the Law of Parties, but as he said, "Where is the party?" No one else was ever sentenced in this case. Robert did not shoot the victims. Yet he spent 11 years on death row and was murdered by the State of Texas.

    Robert was to have been executed at 6:00 so people stated gathering before 5:00 to stand vigil and protest this execution. 

    As 6:00 came, there was no sign that the execution was happening. The Supreme Court was going over appeals until 8:00. So for 3 hours or so,  around 30 people gathered outside of the death house, the Walls Unit in downtown Huntsville, to stand with the Garza family and protest this damned system of capital punishment that is so broken, so irreparable, that it should be shut down immediately.
    Delia Perez-Meyer is with Kory and Eric Garza outside of the Walls Unit as over 30 people waited there in Huntsville for the US Supreme Court to rule on Robert Garza's appeals. Delia's brother Louis is on death row for a crime he did not commit and she drove from Austin to be with the Garza family and friends even though she had to make the 3-hour trip back tonight so she could teach her students at 7:30 in the morning.

    Karl Rodenberg from Germany is here for three weeks to visit all his friends on the row.
    two of whom he affectionately calls his grandsons--the two Pablo's.

    Folks came from Houston, Willis, Huntsville--both students and professors, Lufkin, Austin and Germany. 

    When 6:00 came and went, we found out the high court was deliberating. Then 7:00 came and went and we were starting to get optimistic they would make a favorable ruling. We heard that Ruth Gader Ginsberg was asking questions. But at 8:00 we started hearing Robert's appeals were denied. 

    The pain on Kory Garza's face tells the story of how the families of those being executed suffer the same excruciating pain as do the families of crime victims. Kory and her little brother Eric, who has a look like a deer caught in headlights, have stood with their mother Sylvia in defending Bobby for years and years. If only ALL those on death row had family support like this.
    Kory was six years old when Bobby was sent to death row. She is now a junior in high school. Eric is ten years old and in 5th grade. He was a baby when Bobby was arrested. He has grown up knowing his brother only threw a glass partition and speaking to him threw a phone.

    At 8:10 we saw Jennifer, Robert's wife, and his friend Yadira, Sylvia and Jaime, her husband, crossing the street. It was dark by now so it was hard to make them out. But Kory recognized her mother and began crying. Then Eric started crying and so many of us tried to comfort and support them. 

    It was so awful knowing that Sylvia, the strong mother and woman, had spent so many years working to end the Law of Parties, working to educate people in the Valley about capital punishment, lobbying with all of us and our organizations that work together and meet at the capitol every legislative session to try to persuade legislators that the Law of Parties is so unfair, so wrong, so not in the interest of justice. I was in a lobby group with Sylvia this past spring and she had legislators or their aides spell bound as she spoke about her son. 

    Sylvia always visited Bobby, always fought for him, and now Texas was slapping her in the face. Telling her that even though Bobby did not murder any of the four victims in this case, he deserved to be killed.

    As darkness came, a few people had to leave but most stayed until the bitter end, like our friend from Germany, Karl Rodenberg. 
    Karl visits several men on the row and will be here for three weeks. This trip he brought his sign from the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He left it with Dennis to let others visiting from Germany hold when they are here. Standing with Karl is Sam Houston Prof. Dennis Longmire who is present at every execution.

    This evening ended with us exchanging tears and hugs with Sylvia and Jennifer after the execution.  

    I drove Yadira back to Houston as she was too distraught to function after witnessing her friend's execution. 

    This was a horrible night that none of us wanted to happen. But it did. I hold the governor, the legislature, the Board of Pardons, and the Supreme Court guilty of murder. They are killers. They have allowed the injsutice of the death poenalty to continue and to murder Bobby Garza. The Garza family is now a crime victim's family.

    Robert Garza, Presente!

    Gloria Rubac   (cell) 713-503-2633   (home) 713-225-0211

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    Herman Wallace is a remarkable man from whom we have much to learn.
    Jackie and Herman Circa 2008
    Herman Wallace April 2013
    Herman and Jackie 7/2013
    Herman Wallace, circa 1970
    Herman Wallace and Jackie Sumell play chess during their visit 5/2013
    Herman Wallace is a remarkable man from whom we have much to learn.

    Herman's Story

    As a Black Panther & Member of the Angola 3:
    Herman Wallace was convicted of armed robbery he was sent to Angola in 1971.  In 1971 he established the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party with Ronald Ailsworth, Albert Woodfox, and Gerald Bryant after receiving permission from the Panther central office in Oakland.
    As a Black Panther Herman organized to improve conditions at the prison making him, and his fellow organizers notable targets of the administration that profited from poor conditions. In 1972 a prison guard named Brent Miller was brutally murdered behind the walls of Angola. By 1974  Wallace and Woodfox he were convicted for the murder, with no physical evidence linking them to the scene of the crime.  Herman and Albert have been fighting their convictions ever since, citing numerous infractions of justice including that one of the eyewitnesses was legally blind and the other was a known prison snitch who was rewarded for his testimony. After the murder, the Angola’s most visible organizers of justice, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King—were put in solitary, where they have remained ever since. (King was released in 2001, after 29 years in solitary, when his conviction in a separate prison murder was overturned.) Several years ago, Herman was transferred to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, where he remains in solitary. Albert Woodfox, Robert King and Herman Wallace are collectively known as the Angola 3.
    As a human doing:
    Herman Wallace was born in the 12th Ward, New Orleans LA on October 13th 1941. Herman was the 4th of 8 children and his mother Edna Clark Williams worked for the Orleans Parish Prison until her death in 1996. Herman’s entire life has been a sacrifice to serving justice and ending the suffering of all those serving unjust prison sentences, especially those forced to endure long term solitary confinement. Herman Wallace identifies as a political prisoner and his resolved is strengthened by the unimaginable conditions he is forced to endure. Deep into his 41st year of solitary confinement, he believes whole heartedly in justice, peace and the power of the people.

    Greetings of IMANI Esteemed Sister and Brother Leaders,
    May our Divine Creator and beloved Ancestors find you and (y)our extended family in healing spirit.  As many of you know, Baba Herman Wallace, who has been brutally and unjustly-encaged for decades at the Angola capitalist prison plantation in Louisiana, is gravely ill.  Courageously, he has issued the following profound statement from hospice (via Jazz Hayden)
    "On Saturday. August 31st, I was transferred to LSU Hospital for evaluation. I was informed that the chemo treatments had failed and were making matters worse and so all treatment came to an end. The oncologists advised that nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that they are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to
    hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given 2 months to live.

    I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.

    Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have. The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.
    In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I'm down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end."

    May WE continue and re-double our efforts to address these ongoing heinous crimes against humanity (and nature); to FREE ALL OUR IMPRISONED AND EXILED POLITICAL LEADERS AND WARRIORS (like Baba Albert Woodfox, Sister Attorney Lynne Stewart and so many others); and, win our just REPARATIONS SASA (NOW)! 
    Asante Sana (Thanks and Appreciation) for your consideration and ongoing work.  Ase`.
    Amen-RA Hotep (Divine Justice, Peace, Love, Prosperity and Continued Blessings)!
    Baba Jahahara Amen-RA Alkebulan-Ma'at

    "Take your righteous steps... and, let our Divine do the rest.  Walk in the Power of IMANI (FAITH)... on each and every day!"

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    The great Belva Davis, first black broadcast journalist on the West Coast, and I exchanged books at Authors for Literacy in San Mateo 9.21.13. Her hubby Bill Moore began reading through Virgin Soul, laughing and telling everyone it was spot on, especially about color caste. Jj

     Ms. Davis is 80; I'm 67. Is it true what they say that black don't crack?!?
    Dr. Joy DeGruy (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome) and Jj
    image.jpegBelva Davis and her husband of 50 years, Bill Moore. He was the first black cameraman at KPIX TV.

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    Marvin X on the Pope’s Interview or Papa’s Got a brand new bag!

    The recent interview with Pope Francis, not only reveals a man attempting to escape the box of narrow minded religiosity and primitive mythology and ritual, but his exercise must be attempted by all those suffering from reactionary and conservative religiosity, no matter what religion and ideology that cannot escape the coming of radical spirituality that forces us to deal with present reality and cast much of what we hold true into the dustbin of history.

    The Pope tried by every linguistic trick available to make that great leap forward into the now and the future, to downplay the superficial held sacred by those professing religiosity, those steeped in tradition and prepared for martyrdom to maintain what for them is reality but, in truth, is simple mythology.

    For his attempt to escape the box, he is called liberal and/or radical, and for sure when one attempts to transcend tradition, by definition his conservative nature becomes highly questionable and he therefore must tip through the tulips because the conservatives see him coming and smell something afoul, something is very very wrong when one struggles to transcend tradition yet is duty bound to maintain traditional canons and values. Again, his attempt must now be attempted by all those seeking to go Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality (Marvin X, 2007), no matter what faith, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Yoruba, et al.

    Pope Francis tells us not to be overly concerned about things that are in flux, for things must change. The church had to change its views on science, on slavery, and now must confront the issues of the day. The question is the same for the people as for the Pope, to jump or not jump out of the box, whether to cast the superficial into the dustbin of history and move history forward into the now and the future.

    There was some mention of him supporting the persecution of liberation theologists, yet it is clear their support of the poor does not escape him. For sure some may find his comments closer to liberation theology than conservatism. He stated the essence of the spiritual man/woman is not gender specific but a matter of one’s spiritual essence, and who can know this but God Himself/Herself.

    Not only must Pope Francis change, but we all must remove that superficial persona and get to the deep structure of the soul in attempting to follow our bliss Joseph Campbell told us about.

    --Marvin X


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    The Syrian resistance: a tale of two struggles

    In Syria, mixing violent and nonviolent resistance jeopardized people power, particularly when violence became the main driver of resistance from early 2012 onward.
    It is a tragedy of history when so many people regardless of sect, ethnicity, religion, and gender join in nonviolent resistance to demand freedom for all, and achieve so much with so little during such a brief time, only to have their accomplishments go largely unrecognized, and their struggle devolve into a fight with oppression on its own violent terms - as if these could be complementary to nonviolent resistance, an effective method to protect people, or a proven instrument to defeat a brutal regime. This happened in Syria.
    The recent book Recovering Nonviolent History finds that a number of nonviolent campaigns in national liberation struggles were overtaken by violent resistance. One major reason for abandonment of civil resistance in favor of armed struggle is not understanding what civil resistance can achieve, and with what benefits for a people’s liberation. The narrative void about civil resistance during ongoing conflict is often filled by armed insurrectionists with their own ideologized discourse, which tries to discredit the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance and underestimates the costs of violence. How this happened in Syria is the story that follows.

    Part I: Nonviolent and violent conflict

    Civil resistance
    The impact of the nonviolent resistance in Syria - before it was largely overshadowed by an armed uprising in early 2012 - was tremendous. It mobilized hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of until-then apathetic citizens, produced hundreds of “leaders” from people who were mostly unknown except locally, united diverse cross-sections of the Syrian population, both rural and urban, as no other internal struggle since the anti-colonial period, and shook and weakened Baathist one-party rule.
    Widespread, organized, yet non-hierarchical, nonviolent resistance succeeded in weakening the power of the regime to a degree that armed resistance (notably in Hama in 1982), a few valiant souls from an intellectual elite (such as the signatories of the Damascus Declaration in 2005), and one ethnic group isolated in their armed rebellion (the Kurds in 2004) had all failed to accomplish. All this was achieved while the ranks of civil resisters were being decimated by massacre and detention, and when they had to undergo a mounting humanitarian crisis.
    Protesters hit the streets in mass numbers on March 18, 2011, in Daraa, Banyas, Homs, and Damascus. Banyas protesters reached out to the city’s large Alawite population, singing “Peaceful, peaceful-neither Sunni nor Alawite, we want national unity,” In Damascus, protesters underscored multi-sectarian unity by holding up a sign with a cross and crescent and the words “No to repression, Yes to freedom,” while an earlier protest on March 15 in Damascus had featured a voice with a coastal Alawite accent saying, “We are Alawites, Sunnis, people of every Syrian sect, and we want to topple this regime.” 
    Alawite symbol of double-pronged sword, cross, crescent, and star with national flag colors, carried by protesters in Tal, (mostly Sunni town in Damascus countryside), April 2011.
    Killings of unarmed protesters backfired on the regime. In one video uploaded on March 23, 2011 in Dara, a man shouts, in a desperate voice, to armed troops,
    Some of you have honor - don't shoot! You have brothers & sisters, you have brothers - your daughters - your mothers & fathers in your town - they're just like us, don't shoot! …This earth is big enough for all of us! You don't have the right anymore to take all of it for yourselves!
    Scenes like this in the months of nonviolent resistance countered the regime narrative that “armed gangs” were driving the resistance.
    Protests spread to Salamiya, hub of Syria’s Ismailia Shia population. Misyaf, a town with large Christian and Alawite populations alongside Sunnis, was another early multi-sectarian protest locale. Chilling scenes of peaceful protesters suppressed by troops in Dara caused Muntaha Atrash, daughter of a national hero from the anti-colonial struggle, to reprimand the president by name on Orient Television (owned by a secular, non-Islamist Syrian in the Gulf)in her quavering elderly voice, declaring outright that the regime narrative was false and refuting its accusation of sectarianism. The civil resistance groupPulse (Nabd), begun by Alawite activists, emerged in Homs by summer; a Kurdish nonviolent group Ava, formed around June 2011; women were at the vanguard of a nonviolent protest series organized in Salamiya, called The Street Is Ours (al-Share Lana).
    Non-sectarianism shone during Syria’s most massive rally, of an estimated 400,000 in Hama’s Clock Tower Square in July 2011, full of scenes of cross-religious embrace, women’s participation, and nonviolent conduct. This broad-based appeal would have hardly been possible, had not the uprising been unarmed.
    With the regime insisting it was battling “armed gangs,” protesters clapped and raised both hands while marching to show that they were not hiding weapons. In Daraya, Yahya Shurbaji popularized the nonviolent concept of “fraternization,” whereby in order to make human contact with regime soldiers and soften their hostility or perhaps even motivate their defection, protesters distributed water and flowers to soldiers at protests.
    By April, protesters in many towns had begun to self-organize, forming a non-hierarchical structure of local committees which sprang up all over Syria to coordinate nonviolent resistance. As regime detention swept and relentless violence took members, resistance groups dissolved and regrouped under new names. With similar adaptability, protesters innovated dodge-and-feint street tactics. Wael Kurdi, an Aleppo University student, developed a “flying protest:” protesters gathered on the agreed-upon street after announcing a fake location on government-monitored phone lines, marched and video-taped for eleven minutes, dispersed and hid or destroyed banners before security arrived, and went to safe-houses to upload the videos.
    Dodge-and-feint tactics enabled protesters to protest another day, as did marching in narrow alleys rather than open squares on the Egyptian model, and holding protest signs backward over their heads, so faces in videos could not be identified. Street protests, whose number rose to 920 different locations in one week in the nonviolent phase and declined to fewer than 300 during the autumn 2011 when violent resistance began mounting, played an important role not only in publicizing the movement’s message but in giving people a personal sense of empowerment, long absent under the police state. One young activist, “Rose,” expressed why protesters did not stop demonstrating, even knowing they could be killed: “We do other activism, but we will not stop demonstrating: to taste freedom, if only for ten minutes!”
    Narratives of defectors from the regime cite its targeting of lethal force on the unarmed and innocents as a key factor that broke the grip of loyalty to the regime. Massacres of unarmed protesters and the death in regime detention, under apparent torture, of Hamza Khatib (reportedly thirteen years old) werespecifically recalled by the first defecting Alawite officer of record, Afaq Ahmad, who worked in the Dara branch of Air Force Security. Ahmad defected days before Hamza’s mutilated body was returned to his parents on May 24, 2011.
    The regime responded to its defection problem by introducing snipers and tanks, among other tactics, to reduce contact between soldiers and protesters. This, however, did not stop defections, which occurred in this phase mostly among conscripts although a handful of officers defected. Some at the army defectors’ camp in Turkey would form the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Reports of field execution of attempted defectors proliferated. In response to defections, Assad began using only three of his army’s twelve divisions, the three manned by Alawites, to force the sect to retrench around the regime. A number of high-level military defections occurred after violence spiked at the end of 2011 - though in some cases advanced preparation for defecting occurred during the nonviolent resistance phase - but these defections were increasingly by Sunnis. This set the stage for the violent polarization of Syrian society.
    That the government kept responding to nonviolent protests with violent means was frequently asserted by observers as an indication of the failure of nonviolent resistance in Syria, with the concomitant assertion that nonviolent actions could succeed only when a regime behaved humanely. Yet evidence suggests that, while it lasted, nonviolent resistance was in fact a powerful weapon against the Assad regime, forcing it to be on the defensive, react to events, and commit mistakes that often backfired, leading to more resistance and solidarity across diverse groups.
    Armed rebellion 
    Besides formal regime forces, the government allowed armed loyalist militias to kidnap, loot, rape during home invasions, and traffic women to rape farms. The existence of these roving informal militias contributed to the belief that armed defense was necessary and could protect people against these violations. Reportedly the regime itself saturated certain areas with arms, to push protesters into becoming the “armed gangs” which it claimed to be fighting from the outset. Many brigades at this stage were native to local communities, making them accountable. 
    Peaceful protests continued but with fewer participants: many former protest locales were becoming unsafe. In some instances, the protests occurred, according to participants, only because armed rebels helped barricade areas against regime troops. This “protection” was short-term, as the presence of a brigade drew increasingly indiscriminate and more powerful regime fire - including later airstrikes - to such areas. This triggered calls for arming the rebels with more powerful weapons, rather than returning to nonviolent resistance.
    The trickle of foreign fighters beginning in late 2011, who entered Syria on their own or with support of foreign governments, further jeopardized unarmed resistance and reinforced the mutation of the overall conflict into civil war. Amazingly, it was during this period of increasing violence on both sides that those who remained committed to nonviolent resistance achieved new levels of creativity and organization. Some three dozen revolutionary newspapers, many of them distributed in hard copy on the ground (some highlighted here), emerged. In September 2011, Freedom Days Syria emerged as a coalition of dozens of nonviolent resistance groups. Members of groups in this coalition implemented new, highly creative nonviolent resistance methods.
    For example, several young underclasswomen at Damascus University released thousands of small papers from the highest dorm tower, containing messages of freedom and human rights, causing regime security agents to be assigned to using all their security training for the job of picking up the subversive litter from campus grounds for days, and pursuing the activists for three weeks. This led, on November 3, 2011, to the 23-day detention and torture of then eighteen-year-old Yaman Qadri, young mastermind of the scheme, which caused a ripple effect as her diverse classmates demonstrated for her, and were themselves detained, spurring more protests not only in Damascus but in their respective hometowns across Syria. Nabd, a nonviolent group in Homs formed initially by Alawite activists in spring 2011, redoubled its behind-the-scenes efforts at conflict resolution among Alawite and Sunni villages and city neighborhoods.
    The Syrian Revolutionary Youth group, active in Homs and Damascus, was launched in May 2012 and spearheaded both nonviolent direct actions and socio-economic organizing in direct rebuttal to the claims that “the revolution has become totally militarized and that there is no room for peaceful protest.” So, too, the Stop the Killing campaign that lasted from April to July 2012 and held at least 26 demonstrations in diverse geographic locations, drawing in many minority members, was an attempt to refocus energies toward nonviolent resistance after militarization had become the dominant resistance.
    Meanwhile, civilian structures on the ground in Syria were working toward unified self-governance. Unity did not come to fruition on a national level, but reached the next, community-centered, level: Regional Command Councils (in Damascus, Homs, and so on) integrated many aspects of resistance work: the underground clinic system, an alternate economy, schools, media, and transportation; in effect, they created alternative local governance.  Local Free Syrian Army units had liaison on each council, in an attempt to bring armed rebels under civilian leadership. Councils thus integrated both civilian and armed flanks.
    Eventually, mixing violent and nonviolent resistance jeopardized people power, particularly when violence became the main driver of resistance from early 2012 onward. Assad redoubled his military efforts and could then show his supporters and neutral Syrians that he was their only protector against violent extremists. Armed struggle also helped Assad to foster skepticism about the revolution among Christians, Alawites, and other communities - something that he could not achieve during the first months of resistance. The populace now faced daunting conditions in many cities and towns. Nonviolent activists remained engaged in civic organizing but, often, in the form of full-time relief work, operating field hospitals and distributing basic goods to displaced populations, and educating displaced children.
    When armed resistance fully overtook civil resistance during 2012, it gained exaggerated influence over the outside world’s view of the Syrian conflict. Once the revolution embraced using violence, the only way it seemed possible to prevail over Assad was to acquire more arms. Because the fate of any armed resistance that is weaker than its adversary is necessarily determined by external assistance in the form of weapons, army training or air strikes, the door is opened to all the negative consequences that stem from outside military involvement. By contrast, nonviolent resistance does not historically need military intervention to prevail. It might welcome help from external civil society groups, but what it needs most of all is the force of its own mobilized citizens. Such struggle comes with fewer overall costs for the society and greater self-control over the internal trajectories of the resistance and its eventual outcomes.

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    Kofi Awoonor (March 13, 1935 – September 21, 2013) was a Ghanaian poet and author whose work combined the poetic traditions of his native Ewe people and contemporary and religious symbolism to depict Africa during decolonization. He started writing under the name George Awoonor-Williams. Professor Kofi Awoonor was among those who were killed in the September 21, 2013 attack at Westgate Shopping Mall, Nairobi , Kenya , by the Al-Shabaab militant group. . . . He was in Nairobi as a participant in the Storymoja Hay Festival, a four-day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling. He was due to perform on Saturday evening before his death. The Ghanaian government confirmed his death the next day. His son was also shot, but was later discharged from hospital.[3]

    The Weaver Bird
    By Kofi Awoonor 

    The weaver bird built in our house
    And laid its eggs on our only tree
    We did not want to send it away
    We watched the building of the nest
    And supervised the egg-laying.
    And the weaver returned in the guise of the owner
    Preaching salvation to us that owned the house
    They say it came from the west
    Where the storms at sea had felled the gulls
    And the fishers dried their nets by lantern light
    Its sermon is the divination of ourselves
    And our new horizons limit as its nest.
    But we cannot join the prayers and answers of the communicants
    We look for new homes every day,
    For new altars we strive to re-build
    The old shrines defiled from the weaver's excrement.

    Songs of Sorrow
    By Kofi Awoonor 

    Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus
    It has led me among the sharps of the forest
    Returning is not possible
    And going forward is a great difficulty
    The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces
    Into which I have stepped
    When I clean it cannot go.

    I am on the world’s extreme corner,
    I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
    But those who are lucky
    Sit in the middle and forget.
    I am on the world’s extreme corner 
    I can only go beyond and forget.

    My people, I have been somewhere
    If I turn here, the rain beats me
    If I turn there the sun burns me
    The firewood of this world
    Is for only those who can take heart
    That is why not all can gather it.
    The world is not good for anybody
    But you are so happy with your fate;
    Alas! the travelers are back
    All covered with debt.

    Something has happened to me
    The things so great that I cannot weep;

    I have no sons to fire the gun when I die
    And no daughter to wail when I close my mouth
    I have wandered on the wilderness
    The great wilderness men call life
    The rain has beaten me,
    And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives
    I shall go beyond and rest.
    I have no kin and no brother,
    Death has made war upon our house;
    And Kpeti’s great household is no more,
    Only the broken fence stands;
    And those who dared not look in his face
    Have come out as men.
    How well their pride is with them.
    Let those gone before take note
    They have treated their offspring badly.
    What is the wailing for?
    Somebody is dead. Agosu himself Alas! a snake has bitten me
    My right arm is broken,
    And the tree on which I lean is fallen.
    Agosi if you go tell them,
    Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove
    That they have done us evil;
    Tell them their house is falling
    And the trees in the fence
    Have been eaten by termites;

    Ask them why they idle there
    While we suffer, and eat sand.
    And the crow and the vulture
    Hover always above our broken fences
    And strangers walk over our portion.

    Upon Hearing That Kofi Awoonor Is Dead
    Death, thou art derelict--

    your flavor, 
    your edgeless sting,
    your timeless amnesia


    your habit of arriving
    after we are dead
    of dying
    after we are dead

    Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
    September 22, 2013

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    Were Americans Among the Al-Shabab Nairobi Mall Attackers?

    Somalia’s al Qaeda affiliate says three Americans joined its assault on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi that left at least 68 dead. Jamie Dettmer reports on whether they could be from the Twin Cities.

    An injured man is wheeled in upon his arrival at the Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi, on September 21, 2013, after masked attackers stormed a packed upmarket shopping mall. (Hoss Njuguna/AFP/Getty)

    The macabre social-media commentary continued via various Twitter accounts throughout the weekend, and as Kenyan soldiers assisted by Israeli special forces began to try to clear the huge complex and rescue dozens of hostages, an English-language Twitter account purporting to speak for Al-Shabab boasted of more attacks to come. It also claimed to identify 10 of the gunmen, including three Americans, all aged in their 20s, as having taken part in the operation.

    Another Arabic-language Twitter account that journalists have used to communicate with the Somali al Qaeda affiliate in the past confirmed the names of the Americans. All have Somali-sounding names, and two of them are alleged to be from the Minneapolis–St. Paul area in Minnesota, home to a large Somali-American community, from which Al-Shabab has been actively seeking to recruit in the past.

    A U.S. counterterrorism source told The Daily Beast that the FBI is investigating the alleged American participants. While it won’t be known until the siege is over whether Americans were among the gunmen, there is an “increasing fear they were,” the source said. The two-day assault and siege on the upscale Westgate mall is the single biggest attack in Kenya since an al Qaeda cell bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people.

    The Minneapolis–St. Paul area has one of the world’s largest Somali populations outside Mogadishu, with more than 80,000 residents believed to have originated from Somalia. Since 2007, community leaders have warned of active Al-Shabab recruitment at mosques in the Twin Cities and said two dozen young Somali-Americans have been lured to jihadist training camps overseas.

    This year, Al-Shabab posted a 40-minute recruitment video, “Minnesota’s Martyrs: The Path to Paradise,” that follows three Americans from the Twin Cities as they go to training camps in Somalia and die for the jihadist cause. One of the young men urges others to follow, saying, “This is the real Disneyland. You need to come here and join us!” The narrator praises the trio as the “Minnesotan martyrs” whose “decisive moment” came when they were martyred in a jihad against foreign troops in Somalia.

    One of the three featured was Troy Kastigar, a convert to Islam who was killed in Mogadishu in September 2009, about 10 months after arriving from Minnesota, according to the video. Three other Somali-Americans—Abdisalan Hussein Ali, Farah Mohamed Beledi, and Shirwa Ahmed—became Al-Shabab suicide bombers, dying in blasts in Mogadishu in recent years.

    While it won’t be known until the siege is over whether Americans were among the gunmen, there is an “increasing fear they were,” said a U.S. counterterrorism source.

    In testimony before the House Homeland Security panel in March 2011, Abdirizak Bihi, a Minneapolis community leader and uncle of a young Somali-American who was recruited by Al-Shabab and died in fighting in Somalia, warned of the extent of radicalization of young Somali-Americans in the Twin Cities.

    “Looking back, my sister and I realized [along with the other mothers] that these young men had been behaving very strangely within the last three or four months before they went missing, spending most of their time at the mosque, even sleeping overnight and during the weekends there,” Bihi told the committee. “They appeared pensive and spent hours alone thinking to themselves, and wouldn’t leave the mosque. We would never have guessed that our kids had been brainwashed already and recruited to fight for Al-Shabab in a jihadist war that was killing other innocent Muslim Somalis thousands of miles away.”

    According to Bihi, families of the young men who were recruited asked mosque leaders for help but were rebuffed.

    Al-Shabab, in addition to the three Americans, named a Canadian, a Swede, two Britons, and a Finn as among the gunmen in the deadly mall assault. It also confirmed reports that a female jihadist took part in the attack, the first mounted by Al-Shabab outside Somalia’s borders. That confirmation has prompted speculation in the British media that the woman might be Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the London 7/7 attackers who joined al Qaeda.

    Al-Shabab was forced to change Twitter accounts over the weekend as the social-networking service sought to shut down the jihadist group’s handles following complaints from other social-media users. On an Arabic-language account, Al-Shabab leaders said they were satisfied with the outcome of “this operation.”

    Armed police search through Westgate shopping centre for gunmen in Nairobi, September 21, 2013. Gunmen stormed a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

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    Art by Elizabeth Cattlett Mora, fusion of Black Art/Black Power


    SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2014

    1ST Floor Lantern (Kolligian Library)

    8:00 –  8:30 AM         Registration, Coffee/Tea and Light Refreshments

    8:40 – 9:00 AM          Welcoming Remarks by Gregg Camfield, Professor, UC Merced

    9:10 -  10:20AM         Multicultural Panel (Lakireddy Auditorium)

                                        Belva Davis, Panel Moderator

                                        Juan Felipe Herrera, California Poet Laureate

                                        Genny Lim, Poet & Activist

                                        Al Young, California Poet  Laureate Emeritus

    Manuel Martin-Rodriguez, UC Merced Professor

    10:30  - 11:20 AM      Introduction of Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka

    by Jimmy Garrett & Marvin X

    11:30 – 12:45 PM       Black Power and Black Arts Roundtable (Lakireddy Auditorium)

                                        Nigel Hatton, Moderator

                                        Sonia Sanchez, Poet, Playwright, Teacher

                                        John Bracey, UMass Amherst

                                        James Smethurst, UMass Amherst

                                        Amiri Baraka, Producer, Writer, Activist

                                        Marvin X, Playwright, Activist


    12:45  – 1:45 PM        Luncheon

      2:00  – 2:40 PM        Marvin X, Keynote Speaker

      2:45  – 3:45 PM        Original Gangsta Poets

                                        Marvin X, MC

    Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Al Young, Juan Felipe Herrera

                                        Genny Lim, Judy Juanita

    4:15     5:40 PM        Northern and Central California Voices of the Black Arts Movement Installation

                                        Merced Multicultural Arts Center

                                        Amiri Baraka (Moderator)

    S.O.S. – Calling All Black People:  A Black Arts Movement Reader

    Discussion with editors:  John H. Bracey Jr., Sonia Sanchez, and James Smethurst

    6:00 – 7:00                  Dinner

    7:15    10:00 PM       Theatre of the Black Arts Movement

    Introductions by Shipu Wong and Kim McMillon

    (Excerpts from the plays of Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Marvin X, Ishmael Reed, Lorraine Hansberry, Judy Juanita, and George Wolfe) Performed by Michael Lange, Adilah Barnes, and UC Merced Students

    (Must have purchased ticket for this event)

    SUNDAY, MARCH 2, 2014


                                        Lantern, 1st Floor Kolligian Library

    8:30 –  9:00 AM         Registration, Coffee/Tea and Refreshments

    9:15 – 10:15 AM        Central Valley Voices of the Black Arts Movement

    Nigel Hatton, Moderator

    (Student Papers)

    Give Birth to Brightness: A Thematic Study of Neo-Black Literature byCentral Valley author Sherley Anne Williams 

    Marvin X, Somethin' Proper, the Autobiography of Marvin X

    10:20 – 11:30 AM      New Scholarship on the Black Arts and Black Power Movement(Lakireddy Auditorium)

                                        Mike Sell, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Moderator)

                                        James Smethurst, University of Mass, Amherst

                                        Sonia Sanchez, Poet & Playwright

                                        Marvin X, Playwright

                                        Amiri Baraka, Playwright

                                        Sean Malloy, Professor,  UC Merced

    11:40 – 12:45 AM      Black Studies & the Black Arts Movement

                                        Ishmael Reed (Moderator)

    Dr. Nathan Hare

                                        Jerry Varnado

    Terry Collins

    James (Jimmy) P. Garrett

    Judy Juanita


    1:00     2:00 PM        Lunch

    2:15  –– 3:00 PM        Ishmael Reed, Poet, Playwright, & Activist

    Keynote Speaker

    3:15    4:30 PM        Black Panthers & The Black Arts Movement

                                        Billy Jennings, founder, Panther Exhibit

                                        Sean Malloy, Professor, UC Merced

                                        Emory Douglas

    Hotel:  Hampton Inn in Merced, CA will offer room discounts to conference attendees.                               

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    Will Black Nationalism Reemerge?

    Saturday, 21 September 2013 10:01By Sean PoseyThe Hampton Institute | News Analysis
    Austerity, continued stagnation, and the refusal to address urban and suburban poverty, puts black America at a crossroads. It's unclear what impact the disappointing Obama legacy will have for the future of black politics. Still, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican occupies the White House in 2017, it's doubtful any agenda addressing black communities will be discussed, much less enacted. In the months and years ahead, it is possible that we will see the rebirth of a new, almost certainly unique and unexpected version of Black Nationalism. If so, it will come at the darkest hour, and if it does-look for it in the whirlwind.

    Barack Obama.(Photo: Barack Obama / Flickr)In the summer of 2008, a tidal wave of liberal and youth activists began to carry presidential candidate Barack Obama on a journey leading inexorably to the White House. Town halls and campaign stops attracted droves of admirers-with Obama taking on a persona more akin to a rock star than to a senator from Illinois. However, during a campaign stop in St. Petersburg, something unexpected happened. Obama was greeted during a question and answer session by protesters carrying a sign emblazoned with the question, "What about the Black Community, Obama?" After attempting to ask Obama questions, and after getting shouted down by the crowd, Diop Olugbala, one of the protesters, confronted Obama asking, "In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community by the same US government that you aspire to lead. . . why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or Black community in this country?"[1] Obama seemed flustered. This was a rare, pointed question about what his campaign would mean for the black community. The young questioner was a member of the Uhuru Movement, a Pan-African organization representing one of the remnants of Black Nationalism in the United States. The incident was laughed off and Uhuru jokingly dismissed. However, as the Obama administration moves through its last term, it's clear the question posed by Uhuru will not go away, especially as the wider black community faces continued socioeconomic problems. This poses a broader question: Is Black Nationalism relevant in the twenty-first century? And as the crisis facing black America builds, will it reemerge?

    Origins/Development of Black Nationalism
    The origins of Black Nationalism can't be separated from the experience of slavery. Since Africans were first brought to the colonies, a common racial oppression produced calls for not only a release from slavery, but for repatriation to Africa, or to some other place where a black nation might be formed. This ideology also embraced Pan-Africanism, or the idea that black unity must be a worldwide affair. Men and women alike championed early Black Nationalism: Paul Cuffee helped ferry formers slaves to Nova Scotia and then to Sierra Leone; Robert Alexander Young wrote the 1829 "Ethiopian Manifesto," which spoke to the commonality of blacks in the Diaspora; and Maria W. Stewart became the first woman to espouse nationalist ideas in speeches and writings. All of these activists and thinkers represented early yearnings for black autonomy and nation building.
    The compromise of 1850 helped reinforce Black Nationalism. This is the beginning of what William Moses-perhaps the foremost scholar on the subject-calls the "Golden Age of Black Nationalism," which lasted until the imprisonment of Marcus Garvey in 1925.[2] During this period people like Martin Delaney, the "Grandfather of Black Nationalism," made plans to relocate African Americans back to the Africa. Nationalism also took hold among very educated "elites." Whereas Black Nationalism in Garvey's time, and later during the 1960s, came primarily from the working class, some of the most bourgeois and formally educated African Americans in the nineteenth century espoused emigration schemes and black self-sufficiency.[3]
    The emergence of Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in 1914 marked the beginning of the largest movement of blacks in American history. Garvey drew on Pan-Africanism and wanted ultimately to move African Americans back to Africa, but he also advanced the idea of black economic self-sufficiency as a principal part of the UNIA platform.[4]Garveyism specifically represented two of the three main strands of Black Nationalism: cultural and political nationalism. Garvey's Negro Factories Corporation manufactured black dolls, sponsored black beauty contests, and published high-fashion photos of black women.[5] The Negro Factories Corporation also started black-owned neighborhood businesses to provide services to communities like Harlem.
    Garvey's enormous popularity drew the wrath of other black intellectuals-especially W.E.B. Du Bois. However, despite their differences, Du Bois and his rival Booker T. Washington also espoused ideas consistent with Black Nationalism. Washington advocated a "technocratic Black Nationalism" that did not call for political or social integration but instead espoused a "do for self" model of black economic empowerment. [6] Du Bois was much more of a cultural nationalist.[7] Though seemingly mutually opposed to each other, both advocated black pride and support for the growth of black-owned businesses. It was only after the jailing of Garvey-on flimsy charges-and the decline of the UNIA that class issues fractured Black Nationalism. The working class would become the center of future nationalist revivals in the 1930s and 1960s.

    Nationalism and Religion
    The third main strand of Black Nationalism, religious nationalism, flourished in the years after Garvey's fall. The Moorish Science Temple gathered a strong following in the 1920s and 1930s. The founder of the temple, Noble Drew Ali, blended Black Nationalism with mysticism and Islamic thought, prefiguring the most successful of the religious nationalist groups-the Nation of Islam. The NOI formed in Depression-era Detroit. Shrouded in mysticism itself, the organization grew in the poorest and most deprived slums of the industrial cities of the north. The group's leader, Elijah Muhammad, held up blacks as "the original man," and he called for the creation of an independent black state within the borders of the United States. Despite their ideological and cultural differences, the Nation of Islam, and especially Malcolm X, had a large influence on the Black Power movement of the 1960s.

    Black Power
    The Black Power movement of the 1960s seemed to come out of nowhere for many Americans, but Black Power descends directly from the long history of Black Nationalism. Stokely Carmichael, who coined the term Black Power, stated, "…Before a group can enter the open society, it must first close its ranks."[8] This harkened back to Garveyism, but it opened up the possibility of eventual integration of some kind. Marxism and class analysis also came to influence the Black Power movement. This proved especially true of the Black Panthers, who eschewed nationalism while also representing many of its major strands.
    The success of the civil rights movement during the 1960s had little impact on the economic and cultural issues brewing in America's inner cities. Urban riots were the result of complicated problems the mainstream civil rights movement was unable to address: The NAACP and the Urban League represented an emerging black middle class; street level movements represented a discontented working class. The struggle between the civil rights movement and Black Power moved into the culture as well. "New ways of being black" played a huge role in groups like the Black Panthers, whose emphasis on a "revolutionary culture" were explicitly anti-capitalist. That separated them from both mainstream black organizations and previous Black Nationalist groups. [9] The Black Arts movement and cultural movement slogans such as "Black is Beautiful" also came primarily from Black Nationalist groups. Attempts to build economically self-sufficient black communities, calls for black separatism, and explicit rejections of white culture, continued well into the mid-1970s.

    Afrocentrism, "Conscious" Hip Hop, and the "Under Class"
    Nationalism faded rapidly after the 1970s. Class fissures and emerging opportunities for some African Americans took the wind out of the movement. It was Afrocentrism, a relic of the cultural nationalist movements of the 1960s that remained vital in the 1980s and 1990s. Scholars of Afrocentrism sought to build an epistemology around African ways of thinking. As political scientist Dean Robinson describes it, these scholars tried "…to denote a new African-centered perspective, one shorn of problematic 'Eurocentric' assumptions, and one fashioned to produce more accurate and sympathetic assessments of African life."[10] Maulana Karenga, whose holiday of Kwanzaa emanated from the cultural nationalist ethos of the sixties, remains the most famous of the Afrocentric scholars. The continued popularity in some circles of Afrocentrism in the 1980s and 1990s partially masked the decline of other forms of nationalism and the structural economic and social inequality affecting African Americans. The promise of the civil rights movement-especially the promise of economic justice-never filtered down to the ghettos of America's cities. In the 1980s, the emerging musical genre of hip-hop came to reflect many of the ideals of Black Nationalism and Afrocentrism. Hip-hop channeled the frustrations of urban youth who found themselves left out of the economic growth of that decade. In 1980, an effort between Brother D and a group called the Collective spawned what was one of the first "conscious" tracts. The song "How We Gonna Make the Black Nation Rise?" represented the beginning of a sub-genre called "conscious hip-hop", which included many strains of Black Nationalism and Afrocentrism. Adherents of the Five-Percent Nation-an offshoot of the Nation of Islam-were and are well represented in conscious hip-hop. Afrika Bambaataa and the Universal Zulu Nation, Paris, Brand Nubian, and especially Public Enemy, represented core groups that formed a culturally and politically nationalist semi-rebirth that in some ways reflected the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. With the commercialization of hip-hop in the late eighties and early nineties, Black Nationalism and Afrocentrism went underground. Gangsta rap proved more suited to the rampant individualism that pervaded hip-hop and the larger culture in the latter-1990s.

    The Working Class and the New Jim Crow
    Initiatives taken in the wake of the civil rights movement increased access to jobs in municipal governments and in the public sector for blacks. This formed the backbone of the new black middle class; however, the ghettos that fostered the Black Nationalism of the late sixties remained far behind. America's deindustrialized urban areas continued to collapse during the 1970s and 1980s. Violent crime, the crack cocaine epidemic, gangs, and the spread of jobless neighborhoods have now devastated several generations of the black working class; and though the cycle has diminished in intensity, it remains a central truth. In the 1990s, historian Michael Katz expounded on the structural reality of poverty and blackness in America: "Because racism directed toward African Americans is so powerful, the contemporary fusion of race and poverty remains the most resilient and vicious in American history." [11]
    The reality of ghetto poverty today is as powerful a force as ever, and one of the strongest reinforcing mechanisms for it is the prison system. Sociologist Loic Wacquant sees the modern or "hyper ghetto" as part of a symbiotic relationship with the prison system, or a "kinship," as he calls it. [12] Since the 1970s the American prison system has gone from being about 70 percent white to about 70 percent non-white, with blacks making up forty percent of state and federal prisoners.[13] Michelle Alexander succinctly dubs this system the "New Jim Crow."[14]
    Wacquant argues the failure of the urban ghetto to contain African Americans in the late 1960s led to, by way of "Law and Order" campaigns and the War on Drugs, the affinity between the hyper ghetto and the prison system. According to Wacquant, "They (whites) extended enthusiastic support for the 'law-and-order' policies that vowed to firmly repress urban disorders connately perceived as racial threats. Such policies pointed to yet another special institution capable of confining and controlling if not the entire African-American community, at least its most disruptive, disreputable and dangerous members: the prison." Black Nationalist groups were firmly among the groups considered most dangerous to the state in this scenario.

    Liberalism and the Failure of the Second Reconstruction
    The failure of liberalism and the stalled Second Reconstruction leave African Americans in an increasingly precarious position at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The promise of the historic election-and re-election-of Barack Obama has proved illusory. As Obama moves into his second term, black unemployment is actually worse than when he was sworn in. Almost every socioeconomic measure from education to homeownership shows wide disparities between whites and blacks. White median household wealth is 20 times greater than that held by black households.[15] Almost 30 percent of African Americans live below the poverty line, and 40 percent of black children are in poverty. [16] Urban sociologist Patrick Sharkey calls "the failure to complete the progression towards full civil rights" one of the four main trends keeping neighborhood level inequality in place.[17] Yet, no real programs to address urban poverty and disadvantage have existed since the Model Cities initiative of the 1970s. All this leads to the "inheritance of the ghetto" from one generation to the next.

    The Remnants of Nationalism
    Surviving the decline of Black Power and Black Nationalism in the 1970s, the Nation of Islam continues to be the principle Black Nationalist organization in the country. After the death of Elijah Muhammad, the Nation came under the leadership of his son, Wallace Muhammad, who sought to integrate the organization. The fallout over Wallace's rule split the group. A dynamic speaker named Louis Farrakhan reformed the Nation-bringing it back into line with Elijah Muhammad's original message. Farrakhan entered the national spotlight in the 1980s, becoming primarily known for his often-controversial comments and his efforts to build black economic power. In 1995, Farrakhan and the NOI organized the largest gathering of African Americans in history at the Million Man March.
    The Nation thrives working in the most depressed urban areas in the country. Converting ex-convicts and recruiting prisoners was a part of the organization from the very beginning, with Malcolm X being only the most famous of the prisoners turned Muslims. Providing security for troubled public housing projects and policing dangerous streets endeared Farrakhan's organization to residents in areas all but abandoned, or in conflict with, the police. Last summer, as Chicago's homicide rate soared, the Nation organized community patrols and outreach efforts. The well-respected anti-violence organization CeaseFire claims the Nation is becoming intimately involved in combating street violence in Chicago's toughest neighborhoods. [18]
    Economic nationalism is also still a crucial part of Farrakhan's plan today. The Nation owns 1,500 acres of farmland in Georgia and is apparently looking to buy thousands of more acres in the Midwest, possibly also including vacant land in places like Detroit. Farrakhan continues to call for blacks to save money, invest in property, and build communal economics. All this comes at a time when median wealth for black families is about $5,600. [19]
    Other Black Nationalist movements are either very small or local, or are fractured and ineffectual. The New Black Panther Party, formed in 1989, has garnered major headlines in recent years for its rhetoric and protests at various racial hot spots in the country-including a much ballyhooed voter intimidation case in 2008 that was seized on by the right. The NBP also hosted a "Black Power Convention" in 2010 that attracted ex-politicians like Cynthia McKinney and a variety of entertainers from Erykah Badu to Andre 3000. In September the party will hold a "Million Youth March" in Harlem to address the needs of black youth, especially in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin murder. The party's chairman Malik Shabazz described the effort by saying, "The whole purpose of these events is to establish a strong Black Power Movement across America and the world specifically for the youth." [20] It's unclear, however, how many social programs the NBP has or what level of support it enjoys in the black community.

    Black Women and the Middle Class
    The patriarchal trappings of the Black Power movement drew a large degree of criticism from black female intellectuals. However, it must be remembered that women from Amy Jacques Garvey to Angela Davis championed key tenants of Black Nationalism. Despite that fact though, black women face an "intersectionality" of both racial and gender oppression.
    There has been reluctance by Black Nationalist movements to deal effectively with sexism, misogyny, and homophobia within their own ranks. Historian E. Francis White calls for an expanded and less constrained vision of blackness, one that could accommodate differences of gender and orientation. Sociologist Patricia Hill Collins writes of a nationalism that adapts itself to feminist sensitivities. Strides made by black feminists and the gay rights movements will make problematic the rise of any nationalist movement that discounts the desirability of these groups.
    The question of the class divide is one that goes back to the days of Garvey or even further. Capitalism has integrated, to a certain extent, the black middle class. Black political power blossomed in many cities and states after the civil rights era, and much of the black bourgeoisie enjoyed an upward mobility unknown to them in the era of segregation. In 1999, over half of African Americans could fit comfortably into the middle class.[21] Yet at the same time the black middle class was in a precarious position.
    In a recent groundbreaking book, sociologist Mary Pattilo shows the black middle class tends to live in neighborhoods with substantially higher poverty rates than middle class whites. They also tend to be spatially closer to, or often adjacent to, ghetto neighborhoods. [22] When the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit, most of the hard won gains of the middle class were wiped out. Now even the white middle class is under siege, which means even more pain for the black middle class. Marian Wright Edelman, co-founder of the Children's Defense Fund and a veteran of the civil rights movement, recently said of the emergency facing all of black America, "We face the worst crisis since slavery."[23]

    Returning to Black Power?
    Shortly before he died, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) said in an interview with C-Span, "Black Power has not been arrived at; we don't have Black Power yet."[24] There is no political will to deal with the catastrophe facing black America. The recent bankruptcy of Detroit, the largest majority black city in the nation, is a potent reminder of that. Indeed, black political power is fading, ironically in the age of the first black president.
    Liberal electoral politics by themselves cannot and will not solve these problems, As Dr. Brittney Cooper pointed out after the fiftieth anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom: "Black liberal advocacy in this country for more jobs, less poverty, more education, less prisons, more life chances and less gun deaths doesn't have a fighting chance without a visible radical alternative."[25] Where will this all lead?
    Austerity, continued stagnation, and the refusal to address urban and suburban poverty, puts black America at a crossroads. It's unclear what impact the disappointing Obama legacy will have for the future of black politics. Still, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican occupies the White House in 2017, it's doubtful any agenda addressing black communities will be discussed, much less enacted. In the months and years ahead, it is possible that we will see the rebirth of a new, almost certainly unique and unexpected version of Black Nationalism. If so, it will come at the darkest hour, and if it does-look for it in the whirlwind.


    [1] Greg Wallace, "What about the Black Community, Obama," ABC News, August 1, 2008, under "Politics," (accessed August 20, 2013).
    [2] See Wilson Jeremiah Moses, The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 (North Haven: Archon Books, 1978)
    [3] Ibid., 100.

    [4] Tony Martin, Race First: the Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Westport: Greendwood Press, 1976), 33.
    [5] Ibid., 13.
    [6] Golden Age, 28.
    [7] Theodore Draper, The Rediscovery of Black Nationalism (New York: Viking Press, 1971), 49. 
    [8] Roderick Bush, We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century (New York: NYU Press, 2000), 10.
    [9] Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr., Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 270.
    [10] Dean E. Robinson, Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 129.
    [11] Michael Katz, "Underclass as Metaphor" in The Underclass Debate: Views from History, edited by Michael Katz, 11. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.)
    [12] Loic Wacquant, "From Slavery to Mass Incarceration," New Left Review 13 (January/February 2002) (accessed August 21, 2013).
    [13] Ibid.,
    [14] See Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010)
    [15] Rakesh Kochar, Richard Fry, and Paul Taylor, Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics (Center for American Progress, 2011) (accessed August 20, 2013).
    [16] George E. Condon Jr., "Has Obama Done Enough for Black Americans?", May 30, 2013, (Accessed August 20, 2013).
    [17] Patrick Sharkey, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Towards Racial Equality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 21.
    [18] Sophia Tareen, "Farrakhan Focuses on Economics in Chicago Speech," Associated Press,February 24, 2013. August 29, 2013).
    [19] Thomas Shapiro, Tatjna Meschede, and Sam Osoro, The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide(Institute on Assets and Social Policy, 2013).
    [20] PR Newswire, "Million Youth March 15th Anniversary, Yahoo Finance, September 6, 2013 (accessed September 1, 2013)
    [21] Steven Gray, "Can the Black Middle Class Survive,", September 3, 2012 (accessed August 30, 2013)
    [22] See Mary Pattillo-McCoy, Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril Among the Black Middle Class(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999)
    [23] ibid.,
    [24] C-Span, "The Life and Career of Kwame Ture," April 15, 1998.
    [25] Brittney Cooper, "Marches Won't Cut it Anymore: Why This Week's Feels Like a Funeral,", August 27, 2013

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    Samantha Lewthwaite'White Widow' Samantha Lewthwaite

    One high-profile British terror suspect, Samantha Lewthwaite, whose husband Jermaine Lindsay was one of the 7/7 suicide bombers in London, has taken part in the assault, it has been claimed.
    One British newspaper revealed that the “White Widow” was actually leading it and had been witnessed in a veil, “shouting instructions in Arabic”. It did not say why she should be using that language to a group who spoke Somali and, many of them, seemingly, English. Kenyan officials pointed out that the fighters were all men, although some of them had gone into Westgate pretending to be women, dressed in niqabs.
    Later, however, Kenya's Foreign Minister, Amina Mohamed, contradicted this by telling US television that a British woman experienced in terrorist activities was involved in the siege, fuelling the speculation surrounding Lewthwaite.
    In an interview with PBS she said: "From the information that we have, two or three Americans (were involved) and I think, so far, I have heard of one Brit... a woman ... and I think she has done this many times before."

    Kenyan soldiers officers at the stand-off in NairobiKenyan soldiers officers at the stand-off in Nairobi 

    Lewthwaite, 29, who grew up in Aylesbury, is not known to the law-enforcement agencies as a combatant. She is, however, seen as a facilitator and is wanted in connection with a plot to blow up a shopping centre and hotels in Mombasa two years ago. She is believed still to be engaged in clandestine activity.
    UK security sources said they could not rule out that she had been involved, although it was likely to be behind the scenes. A tweet, purportedly from al-Shabaab, announced she had taken part, but its provenance could not be verified.An associate of Lewthwaite, Habib Ghani, a UK citizen from Hounslow in west London, is reported to have been shot dead along with Omar Hammami, an American from Alabama with a Syrian mother, in an al-Shabaab internal feud earlier this month.
    Ghani, of Pakistani and Kenyan extraction, went on the run after Kenyan police arrested another Briton, Jermaine Grant, in Mombasa over alleged possession of explosives.

    Smoke rises over the mall yesterdaySmoke rises over the mall yesterday 

    The largest group of foreign fighters is said to have come from various parts of the US including the states of Kansas, Maine, and Illinois, and the city of Minneapolis. According to evidence before the US Congress, a number of mosques in the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul were running recruitment programmes and sending volunteers to fight in Somalia.
    The FBI is said to have launched an investigation into the American connection in the attack, but questions will be asked as to why Western intelligence agencies failed to track the gathering of international jihadists in Nairobi.

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    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s Washington Post op-ed, annotated

    Iran's new President Hasan Rouhani, waves after swearing in at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
    Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani waves after swearing in at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
    Recently inaugurated President of Iran Hassan Rouhani published an op-ed in The Washington Post today. It's yet another of many gestures of goodwill Rouhani has made toward the United States, with which he advocates seeking detente, since taking office in August. It's also an interesting bit of public diplomacy, revealing as much for what Rouhani says as how he says it -- not to mention what he leaves out.
    Below, as we did with Russian President Vladimir Putin's op-ed, is a line-for-line annotation, elaborating at some points and, at others, translating into more candid language. Rouhani's writing is set off in italics and bold; my notes are in plain text.
    Three months ago, my platform of “prudence and hope” gained a broad, popular mandate. Iranians embraced my approach to domestic and international affairs because they saw it as long overdue. I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world.
    True enough. Rouhani ran on repairing Iran's international standing and on fixing the economy, as well as social reforms. But he clearly sees much of his agenda as hinged on detente with the West.
    The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.
    Translation: Let's not pretend we're about to become best friends overnight. The United States and Iran disagree on plenty. But Iran's decades of anti-Western resistance aren't working for us anymore, and you in the United States seem to have come around to coexisting with the Islamic Republic instead of toppling it.
    The international community faces many challenges in this new world — terrorism, extremism, foreign military interference, drug trafficking, cybercrime and cultural encroachment — all within a framework that has emphasized hard power and the use of brute force.
    The inclusion of "cultural encroachment" and "foreign military interference" is a clear nod to Iranian concerns about the West. Maybe this is an earnest concern for Rouhani or maybe it's included to please conservatives back in Tehran. Either way, this is a list of issues that resonates more with Iranian issues than American, though there's certainly overlap.
    We must pay attention to the complexities of the issues at hand to solve them. Enter my definition of constructive engagement. In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others.
    Translation: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gone from office. So is George W. Bush. Let's talk.
    A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives. In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable. A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss.
    This touches on two of Iran's core complaints about the West, which go back even further than sanctions: a sense that Iran is not respected by the West and a fear that the West seeks the country's Cold War-style destruction. Iran basically wants the United States to acknowledge that the Islamic Republic is a legitimate country that it won't try to overthrow.
    Sadly, unilateralism often continues to overshadow constructive approaches. Security is pursued at the expense of the insecurity of others, with disastrous consequences. More than a decade and two wars after 9/11, al-Qaeda and other militant extremists continue to wreak havoc.
    Translation: Dear America, please stop invading countries. You are making terrorism worse.
    Syria, a jewel of civilization, has become the scene of heartbreaking violence, including chemical weapons attacks, which we strongly condemn.
    Iran, like Russia, actively supports Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war. So it's significant that Rouhani does not blame the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on Western-backed rebels, which is Russia's position. He doesn't blame it on Assad, either; he's not going to pull the rug out from under his close ally in the Western press. But declining to cover for Assad is significant.
    In Iraq, 10 years after the American-led invasion, dozens still lose their lives to violence every day. Afghanistan endures similar, endemic bloodshed.
    The unilateral approach, which glorifies brute force and breeds violence, is clearly incapable of solving issues we all face, such as terrorism and extremism. I say all because nobody is immune to extremist-fueled violence, even though it might rage thousands of miles away. Americans woke up to this reality 12 years ago.
    He's reiterating that the United States shouldn't attack Middle Eastern countries and that doing so worsens extremism, which also threatens Iran. This is probably as much about convincing the Obama administration not to strike Syria as it is about Iran.
    My approach to foreign policy seeks to resolve these issues by addressing their underlying causes. We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart. We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East.
    At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world. The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program. To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.
    This is consistent with Iran's long-standing insistence that a nuclear program is a national right. Iran views itself as a great nation and an advanced society. Enriching uranium is a way of proving this to the world, and to itself. Western opposition to Iranian enrichment is thus seen as opposition to Iranian greatness itself. His message to the United States here is that Iran's desire for a nuclear program is peaceful in nature, but it's also deeply ingrained in Iranian identity and thus non-negotiable.
    I am committed to confronting our common challenges via a two-pronged approach.
    First, we must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates.
    This is a little jab at the United States. Many Americans might not immediately see what Rouhani is doing by placing Syria and Bahrain side-by-side. While the two countries' conflicts are very, very different, they also have some similarities. Bahrain, a close U.S. military ally, has seen pro-democracy protests since 2011. But the authoritarian government, in part with implicit U.S. support, has cracked down repeatedly on protesters. By mentioning Bahrain alongside Syria, perhaps Rouhani is saying that, if Iran is part of the problem of oppressed Middle East democracy movements, then so is the United States.
    As part of this, I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.
    This is the one major policy announcement in the op-ed. But it's also status quo; Iran has long advocated talks between the Assad regime and the rebels. In action, though, Tehran has given Assad such overwhelming military support that it's seemed single-mindedly focused on helping him to win the war outright. Outside the confines of this op-ed, it's not clear that Iran is changing policy on Syria.
    Second, we must address the broader, overarching injustices and rivalries that fuel violence and tensions. A key aspect of my commitment to constructive interaction entails a sincere effort to engage with neighbors and other nations to identify and secure win-win solutions.
    We and our international counterparts have spent a lot of time — perhaps too much time — discussing what we don’t want rather than what we do want. This is not unique to Iran’s international relations. In a climate where much of foreign policy is a direct function of domestic politics, focusing on what one doesn’t want is an easy way out of difficult conundrums for many world leaders. Expressing what one does want requires more courage.
    This section is very promising. Rouhani is subtly drawing attention to the fact that both American and Iranian politics include hard-liners who oppose detente, and that for the two countries to end decades of enmity would require not just international diplomacy but domestic political change as well. It's good news that Rouhani sees this, for two reasons. First, he will have to take on the hard-liners in his own government to see detente through. And, second, he will have to be prepared for the possibility that some members of the U.S. government may attempt to undermine peace; it's helpful if he's aware that such people don't necessarily act on behalf of the entire United States.
    After 10 years of back-and-forth, what all sides don’t want in relation to our nuclear file is clear. The same dynamic is evident in the rival approaches to Syria.
    Translation: Yes, we see the red lines.
    This approach can be useful for efforts to prevent cold conflicts from turning hot. But to move beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country’s nuclear program or its relations with the United States, we need to aim higher. Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think — and talk — about how to make things better. To do that, we all need to muster the courage to start conveying what we want — clearly, concisely and sincerely — and to back it up with the political will to take necessary action. This is the essence of my approach to constructive interaction.
    Translation: I don't think it's enough for us to sit around and hope that a breakthrough will just happen on its own, or that the United States will hand us everything we want on a silver platter. We're ready to start making compromises and concessions, but you guys have to do the same. And that means clarifying what we will and won't accept.
    President Obama made a first step on this when he sent a letter to Rouhani clarifying that the United States is ready to cut a nuclear deal with Tehran so long as it can certify any enrichment is purely peaceful -- which implies that the United States will accept a peaceful program.
    As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue. Most of all, I urge them to look beyond the pines and be brave enough to tell me what they see — if not for their national interests, then for the sake of their legacies, and our children and future generations.
    Translation: This is your big chance, America. Better take it while you can.

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  • 09/25/13--01:18: President Putin on Syria


    A Plea for Caution From Russia

    What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria

    MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
    Oliver Munday

    Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
    The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
    No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
    The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
    Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.
    Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.
    From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.
    No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.
    It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
    But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
    No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.
    The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.
    We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
    A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.
    I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.
    If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.
    My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
    Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.

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    Marvin X taught at Fresno State University during 1969 until removed on orders from Gov. Ronald Reagan
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    Iran’s New President Preaches Tolerance in First U.N. Appearance

    Rouhani's U.N. Speech in 3 Minutes: Addressing the General Assembly, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran explained his positions on Syria, sanctions and his country’s nuclear program.
    In what may have been the most widely awaited speech at the United Nations, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, preached tolerance and understanding on Tuesday, decried as a form of violence the Western sanctions imposed on his country and said nuclear weapons had no place in its future.

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    Todd Heisler/The New York Times
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the General Assembly on Tuesday.
    Mr. Rouhani, whose speech followed President Obama’s by more than six hours, also acknowledged Mr. Obama’s outreach to Iran aimed at resolving more than three decades of estrangement and recrimination, and expressed hope that “we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences.”
    But the Iranian leader also asserted that the “shortsighted interests of warmongering pressure groups” in the United States had resulted in an inconsistent American message on the nuclear dispute and other issues.
    Mr. Rouhani restated Iran’s insistence that it would never pursue nuclear weapons in its uranium enrichment program, saying, “this will always be the position of Iran.”
    But he offered no specific proposals to reach a compromise on the nuclear dispute, which has led to Iran’s severe economic isolation because of Western sanctions that have impaired its oil, banking and manufacturing base.
    The sanctions, he said, are “violent, pure and simple.”
    The speech by Mr. Rouhani, a moderate cleric who is close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appeared partly aimed at his own domestic audience and was his most prominent opportunity to explain his views, following his election in June. His ascent came after eight years of pugnacious saber-rattling by his hard-line predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who regularly railed against the United States and Israel, questioned the Holocaust and provoked annual walkouts by diplomats at his General Assembly speeches.
    There was no such mass walkout this time.
    “We believe there are no violent solutions to world crises,” Mr. Rouhani said.
    Mr. Rouhani’s visit to the United Nations has been widely anticipated for any signs of the moderation and pragmatism that he said his administration was bringing to Iran. But his speech still provoked skepticism and criticism.
    Thousands of anti-Rouhani demonstrators rallied outside the United Nations headquarters, including members and sympathizers of the Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian dissident group that is banned in Iran and was removed from a State Department terrorist group list last year after an aggressive lobbying effort in Washington.
    Pro-Israel lawmakers and interest groups criticized Mr. Rouhani’s speech as lacking specifics and echoing the themes Mr. Ahmadinejad had espoused. “Those who expected a dramatic departure are disappointed,” said Gary Samore, the president of United Against Nuclear Iran, a New York-based group that has advocated for strong sanctions against the country. “This address was surprisingly similar to what we are used to hearing from Iran, both in tone and substance.”
    Mr. Rouhani never once mentioned Israel by name in his speech, although he did speak to what he called the violence perpetrated on the Palestinians. “Palestine is under occupation,” he said. “The basic rights of Palestinians are tragically violated.”
    Israeli leaders, who have called Iran an existential threat to Israel, have publicly criticized Mr. Rouhani as no different from others in the Iranian government.
    In a generic reference to Iran’s critics, Mr. Rouhani said they had established what he called “propagandistic and unfounded faith-phobic, Islamo-phobic, Shia-phobic and Iran-phobic discourses,” which he said posed “serious threats against world peace and human security.”
    Those who malign Iran, Mr. Rouhani said, “are either a threat against international peace and security themselves or promote such a threat.”
    “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” he said.
    He concluded his speech with a reference to both the diversity and unity of religions in their affirmation of peace and tolerance.
    “My hope, aside from personal and national experience, emanates from the belief shared by all divine religions that a good and bright future awaits the world,” he said. “As stated in the Holy Koran: ‘And We proclaimed in the Psalms, after We had proclaimed in the Torah, that My virtuous servants will inherit the earth.'”

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    Dear Syrian Solidarity Network,
    We would like to share with you that we are grateful to Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, head of the Monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Syria, for leading an international peace delegation to Syria in May 2013, which included Irish Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire and which petitioned the Assad regime for the release of over seventy nonviolent prisoners of conscience on a list (Previewthat we, the Syrian Nonviolence Movement, prepared and submitted to the delegation. Although Mother Agnes graciously led the delegation to meetings with members of the Syrian regime who made various promises about their potential release, most of these nonviolent prisoners of conscience still have not been released, including our colleague the nonviolence teacher Yahya Shurbaji, for example. Nonetheless, we appreciate that Mother Agnes chose to mobilize her cordial ties to the regime to attempt the release of wrongfully detained Syrians, and hope that she will continue to put her talents to work for reconciliation among all Syrians.
    The Syrian Nonviolence Movement welcomes all Syrian voices and voices offering compassionate witness to the heartbreaking Syrian struggle. We encourage any organizations bringing as a speaker the Lebanese-born Mother Agnes-Mariam to be inclusive in their overall programming by inviting a representative of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement, or one of our partners, to provide commentary at or after the event, hoping both she and her sponsors will welcome a respectful free exchange of ideas with Syrians committed to democratic change in Syria through nonviolent means. We will be happy to provide a roster of alternative speakers from the Syrian Nonviolence Movement and our partners.
    If an inclusive program is to be barred, we recommend a question be posed to Mother Agnes: would she welcome democratic change in Syria inclusive of the possibility of a democratic ouster of its current president, Bashar Assad through free and fair elections not subjected to the control of its outcome by Syria’s current regime security systems?
    Dr Mohja Kahf, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature/ Department of English (tel. 479-575-4301)/ University of Arkansas - Fayetteville/ Member, Syrian Nonviolence Movement
    Ibrahim al- Assil, SNVM president
    Maria al-Abdeh, SNVM executive board officer
    Mohamad al-Bardan, SNVM executive board officer
    Syrian Nonviolence Movement English Facebook page:

    Syrian Nonviolence Movement was established in April, 2011, by a group of Syrians who 
    believe in nonviolent struggle and civil resistance as a principle and method in achieving social, cultural, and political change in Syrian society. 

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    Qassem Suleimani is the Iranian operative who has been reshaping the Middle East. Now he’s directing Assad’s war in Syria.

    SEPTEMBER 30, 2013


    A former C.I.A. officer calls Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.” Illustration by Krzysztof Domaradzki.

    Last February, some of Iran’s most influential leaders gathered at the Amir al-Momenin Mosque, in northeast Tehran, inside a gated community reserved for officers of the Revolutionary Guard. They had come to pay their last respects to a fallen comrade. Hassan Shateri, a veteran of Iran’s covert wars throughout the Middle East and South Asia, was a senior commander in a powerful, élite branch of the Revolutionary Guard called the Quds Force. The force is the sharp instrument of Iranian foreign policy, roughly analogous to a combined C.I.A. and Special Forces; its name comes from the Persian word for Jerusalem, which its fighters have promised to liberate. Since 1979, its goal has been to subvert Iran’s enemies and extend the country’s influence across the Middle East. Shateri had spent much of his career abroad, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, where the Quds Force helped Shiite militias kill American soldiers.

    Shateri had been killed two days before, on the road that runs between Damascus and Beirut. He had gone to Syria, along with thousands of other members of the Quds Force, to rescue the country’s besieged President, Bashar al-Assad, a crucial ally of Iran. In the past few years, Shateri had worked under an alias as the Quds Force’s chief in Lebanon; there he had helped sustain the armed group Hezbollah, which at the time of the funeral had begun to pour men into Syria to fight for the regime. The circumstances of his death were unclear: one Iranian official said that Shateri had been “directly targeted” by “the Zionist regime,” as Iranians habitually refer to Israel.

    At the funeral, the mourners sobbed, and some beat their chests in the Shiite way. Shateri’s casket was wrapped in an Iranian flag, and gathered around it were the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, dressed in green fatigues; a member of the plot to murder four exiled opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant in 1992; and the father of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah commander believed to be responsible for the bombings that killed more than two hundred and fifty Americans in Beirut in 1983. Mughniyeh was assassinated in 2008, purportedly by Israeli agents. In the ethos of the Iranian revolution, to die was to serve. Before Shateri’s funeral, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, released a note of praise: “In the end, he drank the sweet syrup of martyrdom.”

    Kneeling in the second row on the mosque’s carpeted floor was Major General Qassem Suleimani, the Quds Force’s leader: a small man of fifty-six, with silver hair, a close-cropped beard, and a look of intense self-containment. It was Suleimani who had sent Shateri, an old and trusted friend, to his death. As Revolutionary Guard commanders, he and Shateri belonged to a small fraternity formed during the Sacred Defense, the name given to the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988 and left as many as a million people dead. It was a catastrophic fight, but for Iran it was the beginning of a three-decade project to build a Shiite sphere of influence, stretching across Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean. Along with its allies in Syria and Lebanon, Iran forms an Axis of Resistance, arrayed against the region’s dominant Sunni powers and the West. In Syria, the project hung in the balance, and Suleimani was mounting a desperate fight, even if the price of victory was a sectarian conflict that engulfed the region for years.

    Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world, even as he runs agents and directs operations. “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”

    When Suleimani appears in public—often to speak at veterans’ events or to meet with Khamenei—he carries himself inconspicuously and rarely raises his voice, exhibiting a trait that Arabs call khilib, or understated charisma. “He is so short, but he has this presence,” a former senior Iraqi official told me. “There will be ten people in a room, and when Suleimani walks in he doesn’t come and sit with you. He sits over there on the other side of room, by himself, in a very quiet way. Doesn’t speak, doesn’t comment, just sits and listens. And so of course everyone is thinking only about him.”

    At the funeral, Suleimani was dressed in a black jacket and a black shirt with no tie, in the Iranian style; his long, angular face and his arched eyebrows were twisted with pain. The Quds Force had never lost such a high-ranking officer abroad. The day before the funeral, Suleimani had travelled to Shateri’s home to offer condolences to his family. He has a fierce attachment to martyred soldiers, and often visits their families; in a recent interview with Iranian media, he said, “When I see the children of the martyrs, I want to smell their scent, and I lose myself.” As the funeral continued, he and the other mourners bent forward to pray, pressing their foreheads to the carpet. “One of the rarest people, who brought the revolution and the whole world to you, is gone,” Alireza Panahian, the imam, told the mourners. Suleimani cradled his head in his palm and began to weep.

                The early months of 2013, around the time of Shateri’s death, marked a low point for the Iranian intervention in Syria. Assad was steadily losing ground to the rebels, who are dominated by Sunnis, Iran’s rivals. If Assad fell, the Iranian regime would lose its link to Hezbollah, its forward base against Israel. In a speech, one Iranian cleric said, “If we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.”Although the Iranians were severely strained by American sanctions, imposed to stop the regime from developing a nuclear weapon, they were unstinting in their efforts to save Assad. 

    Among other things, they extended a seven-billion-dollar loan to shore up the Syrian economy. “I don’t think the Iranians are calculating this in terms of dollars,” a Middle Eastern security official told me. “They regard the loss of Assad as an existential threat.” For Suleimani, saving Assad seemed a matter of pride, especially if it meant distinguishing himself from the Americans. “Suleimani told us the Iranians would do whatever was necessary,” a former Iraqi leader told me. “He said, ‘We’re not like the Americans. We don’t abandon our friends.’ ”Last year, Suleimani asked Kurdish leaders in Iraq to allow him to open a supply route across northern Iraq and into Syria. For years, he had bullied and bribed the Kurds into coöperating with his plans, but this time they rebuffed him. Worse, Assad’s soldiers wouldn’t fight—or, when they did, they mostly butchered civilians, driving the populace to the rebels. “The Syrian Army is useless!” Suleimani told an Iraqi politician. He longed for the Basij, the Iranian militia whose fighters crushed the popular uprisings against the regime in 2009. “Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I could conquer the whole country,” he said. In August, 2012, anti-Assad rebels captured forty-eight Iranians inside Syria. Iranian leaders protested that they were pilgrims, come to pray at a holy Shiite shrine, but the rebels, as well as Western intelligence agencies, said that they were members of the Quds Force. In any case, they were valuable enough so that Assad agreed to release more than two thousand captured rebels to have them freed. And then Shateri was killed.Finally, Suleimani began flying into Damascus frequently so that he could assume personal control of the Iranian intervention. “He’s running the war himself,” an American defense official told me. In Damascus, he is said to work out of a heavily fortified command post in a nondescript building, where he has installed a multinational array of officers: the heads of the Syrian military, a Hezbollah commander, and a coördinator of Iraqi Shiite militias, which Suleimani mobilized and brought to the fight. If Suleimani couldn’t have the Basij, he settled for the next best thing: Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, the Basij’s former deputy commander. Hamedani, another comrade from the Iran-Iraq War, was experienced in running the kind of irregular militias that the Iranians were assembling, in order to keep on fighting if Assad fell.

    Late last year, Western officials began to notice a sharp increase in Iranian supply flights into the Damascus airport. Instead of a handful a week, planes were coming every day, carrying weapons and ammunition—“tons of it,” the Middle Eastern security official told me—along with officers from the Quds Force. According to American officials, the officers coördinated attacks, trained militias, and set up an elaborate system to monitor rebel communications. They also forced the various branches of Assad’s security services—designed to spy on one another—to work together. The Middle Eastern security official said that the number of Quds Force operatives, along with the Iraqi Shiite militiamen they brought with them, reached into the thousands. “They’re spread out across the entire country,” he told me.

    A turning point came in April, after rebels captured the Syrian town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border. To retake the town, Suleimani called on Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, to send in more than two thousand fighters. It wasn’t a difficult sell. Qusayr sits at the entrance to the Bekaa Valley, the main conduit for missiles and other matériel to Hezbollah; if it was closed, Hezbollah would find it difficult to survive. Suleimani and Nasrallah are old friends, having coöperated for years in Lebanon and in the many places around the world where Hezbollah operatives have performed terrorist missions at the Iranians’ behest. According to Will Fulton, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, Hezbollah fighters encircled Qusayr, cutting off the roads, then moved in. Dozens of them were killed, as were at least eight Iranian officers. On June 5th, the town fell. “The whole operation was orchestrated by Suleimani,” Maguire, who is still active in the region, said. “It was a great victory for him.”

    Despite all of Suleimani’s rough work, his image among Iran’s faithful is that of an irreproachable war hero—a decorated veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, in which he became a division commander while still in his twenties. In public, he is almost theatrically modest. During a recent appearance, he described himself as “the smallest soldier,” and, according to the Iranian press, rebuffed members of the audience who tried to kiss his hand. His power comes mostly from his close relationship with Khamenei, who provides the guiding vision for Iranian society. The Supreme Leader, who usually reserves his highest praise for fallen soldiers, has referred to Suleimani as “a living martyr of the revolution.” Suleimani is a hard-line supporter of Iran’s authoritarian system. In July, 1999, at the height of student protests, he signed, with other Revolutionary Guard commanders, a letter warning the reformist President Mohammad Khatami that if he didn’t put down the revolt the military would—perhaps deposing Khatami in the process. “Our patience has run out,” the generals wrote. The police crushed the demonstrators, as they did again, a decade later.

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  • 09/25/13--10:56: USA: Gun Runner No. 1

  • Posted By Joshua Keating     Share

    One of the most infamous moments of the bloody uprising that followed Zimbabwe's disputed 2008 election was the so-called "ship of shame" -- a Chinese freighter discovered carrying small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars to Robert Mugabe's landlocked regime. Zimbabwe's neighbors denied the ship docking rights, but the incident only reinforced the perception that China has become the arms dealer of choice for Africa's most brutal thugs, whether aged tyrants like Mugabe or the genocidal dictatorship in Sudan.
    But this image may not be entirely fair: When it comes to selling guns to shady regimes, the United States is still firmly No. 1.
    In constant 1990 U.S. dollars. Source: 2012 SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
    In a recent report for International Studies Quarterly, political scientists Paul Midford and Indra de Soysa looked at U.S. and Chinese arms transfers to Africa from 1989 to 2006, using data collected by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. They found no statistical correlation between China and the types of regimes it supplied with weapons, while U.S. arms shipments were slightly negatively correlated with democracy. In plain English, China actually turned out to be less likely to sell weapons to dictators than America was.
    "It isn't that China is there to do good; they're pursuing their national interest," Midford says. "But we didn't find any evidence that they're trying to spread a 'Beijing consensus' or promote regimes that are specifically autocratic."
    The report focuses on Africa, but similar human rights concerns have been raised about U.S. weapons transfers to Persian Gulf autocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, which collectively helped drive a more than 300 percent jump in U.S. arms sales in 2011 amid rising tensions with Iran.
    Midford emphasizes that the report is not meant to suggest the United States prefers to sell weapons to dictators. "The U.S. is choosing to support autocrats based on a geopolitical rationale," Midford says, "as is China."
    Note: This post originally ran in Foreign Policy's May/June 2013 issue

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    After months away from his home base, Marvin X, aka Plato Negro, returned to his peripatetic Academy of da Corner at 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland. The people were happy to see him after so long. They told him things have gotten worse since he's been gone. They youth have gotten worse with shootings in the downtown area in broad daylight. Surely, your presence will make things better, we need you here, said one lady. 

    Several people had never seen his booth before and asked what he was all about. I am about spirituality, healing, inspiration, grief counseling, micro loan bank, books on credit, the community archives project, mentoring young men/ women and writers, education, literature, etc.

    A young lady asked how he writes his books? You gotta get off the cell phone, get the woman or partner off your shoulder reading what you wrote about some other woman, i.e., solitude. 

    In solitude one can, especially in nature, transcend your own thoughts and arrive at thoughts from the Divine. The Holy Spirit will guide your hand, you need only hold the pen, Allah is the ink!

    If you need to catch Marvin X, best to call for an appointment or get his schedule, please call

    Save the date: March 1-2, 2014, University of California, Merced, presents a conference on the Black Arts Movement/Black Power Movement. 

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