Nyansapo - After Carnival... Remembrance, Reasoning and Organisation
‘Two people in accord are stronger than eight who disagree’ – African Proverb, Swahili
Greetings, after my long absence I apologise in advance to those of you expecting my literary return to be motivated by some politically challenging, community rousing event. This is not the case, and other than the inclusion of an excellent article on the reasoning behind fasting and details of various programmes of interest, the usual mix of community news, views and events etc are all absent to hopefully return in later editions.
In Truth I wrote this newsletter simply to announce that the Pan African Drum will be back on Nyansapo Radio this Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 9pm. At the time of writing I’m not even sure of this weeks topic but as usual I welcome you listening and as ever - greatly appreciate your input. It would be good to hear from you about what has been occurring in our community during my absence. For those of you expecting my usual style with this editorial all I can suggest is that from this point on you skip the rest of my words unless you want to read the ranting's of someone struggling to readjust into a mad world because that’s exactly where I am right now.
To explain why let me start from the beginning. Originally I had intended to share some thoughts I had started writing whilst away on holiday but since being back in the UK for just over a week several events have occurred that changed my mind (for those who are interested, some of the original text will close this newsletter). Now let me clearly state that whilst I am happy to be amongst family and friends in the UK, I am not happy to be back.
Perhaps that’s a bit obvious seeing I left an environment where every day the sun was shining, the beach and Caribbean sea was less than a five minutes walk away and I had no internet access to distract me with incessant news of doom and gloom.
You see upon my return to England it was grey, it was cold & raining and as I travelled on public transport nobody said ‘Good Morning’ or automatically without hesitation made way giving up their seats for elders and children. To make matters worse, a few days later my mobile phone was stolen whilst I took my family to see a children’s film at the cinema leading to my loss of several unpublished poems and articles I had written, personal photos, music, contacts etc.
Yup... I was back.
And no - before you ask I didn’t insure my phone. In Truth, my feelings of loss are not over the item itself but the data, I called T-Mobile and asked them if they could track the phone using its inbuilt GPS but they said no. This of course is a lie. If I were a suspected terrorist, politician or member of the elite bourgeoisie class, then they and the authorities could and would have retrieved my phone in minutes!
Thinking back, I believe it was this incident, the tragic passing of a friend (more later), a whitewashing report from the IPCC, and observing the inner mechanisms of a family member’s employment tribunal (we won) all in seven days that brought me back to reality. In reference to the phone theft I suddenly became aware of the way in which during the several years I have owned a mobile phone, I cannot recall ever having one lost or stolen. Now that it had happened, what was revealing is that at the time of the incident, I at no time even considered going to the Police. The thought did not even cross my mind even when the unknown culprit was still in the cinema cancelling my call every time the ringer went off as I rang the phone. The idea of there being an organisation in the UK that would come to my assistance when dealing with a criminal did not even enter my mind.
This is significant.
You see what it suggests is that even when we are victims of crime our natural response is now to assume that the state provides no one we can trust and turn to for help, it suggests that despite government figures presenting reports that claim criminality is falling, daily crimes against African people are being grossly under reported. I suspect this to be true because of the number of young people I personally know who despite being attacked by bullying gang members and robbed of their possessions then have to face the indignity of being harassed by racist police officers when they should be instead helping keep law and order by protecting and serving.
When it comes to policing our community despite the excessive (and often oppressive) presence of uniforms on streets, in our schools, at events like Carnival and on our screen in cops and robber dramas like the soon to be retired Bill or CSI: ‘Pretty Magic Detectives’ the Truth is we have absolutely no confidence in the Police to protect us from criminal behaviour. Indeed in many instances the Police force themselves are more often than not the very same individuals behaving unlawfully.
But today I don’t want to write about deaths in custody, the uselessness of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the biased nature of the Crown Prosecution Service and its partner the Criminal’s justice System.
Today, tomorrow and beyond I want help to locate and write about those builders in our community working to enable us to achieve in spite of these obstacles. From our young people especially those who have worked hard to achieve in their exams, our educators and healers, our activists and artists, our community scholars and creative writers, scientists and naturalists, economic and law advocates, the very people, conscious, unconscious, Pan Africanist, nationalist, teacher, healer, councillor... (OK but admittedly not our aloof parliamentarians or commercial bankers) and all those who strive to make our life better often without reward or recognition. I want your help to protect them, to serve them, to promote more awareness about them - even when necessary, wage war for them.
A friend of mine named Spartacus R recently passed away. If you don’t know who he was then you should get to know. Many saw him as ‘controversial’ in the same way that some myopically view sweet little ole me as ‘confrontational’. I suspect some would unfairly characterise him (and myself) as Africans with undisciplined mouths. Yet to others including myself, he was one of the giants working hard within our community to empower us, to liberate us to constantly challenge us to do better. I must admit to being impressed to read even Simon Woolley from Operation Black Vote had paid a complimentary tribute (‘a fine community warrior’) despite often being on the receiving end of Spartacus’s activism. And rightly so, Spartacus was in many ways a legend although he would have preferred the title teacher as opposed to leader and I agree.
Yet, today as I look at this weeks front cover of the national publication proclaiming to be ‘the voice’ of our community I feel ashamed, deeply ashamed. The tabloids front page is split into two. One section is celebrating our Carnival as ‘Europe’s biggest street party’ and the other section is declaring a British soldier who died whilst fighting people defending their homes in Afghanistan ‘a hero... who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country’.
A flyer for 2008 Carnival
Now I am not interested in disrespecting those who sincerely work behind the scenes looking to bring us uplifting news, neither am I looking to cause further pain to the family of the soldier (Dale McCallum) who died but I am trying to highlight that there is something seriously wrong when our media chooses only to celebrate entertainers or those that embrace a life of violent conflict in this manner instead of honoring those that risk all working to bring our community both here and globally peace and freedom such as Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem whose passing to my recollection was not even mentioned in that publication although even the Guardian newspaper saw fit to publish his obituary. Spartacus, Syd Burke are just a few of our true community heroes who alongside many others who that publication has deliberately ignored or maligned and are deserving of much better than a few paragraphs if indeed some even receive that.
If I seem more blunt than usual then it is because I am angry. Not just at the system, but also at some of us who have power and influence to bring about change but instead do little but apportion blame and deny our responsibility to do for self.
There are a number of us that are both selfish and obsessed with self aggrandisement that enjoy lazily tearing down what others have created through hard work and self determination in order to build up our community. Instead of supporting projects they instead waste time and energy on bended knee in the hope of joining with those that subscribe to elitist ideologues and systems designed to manipulate, exploit and ultimately divide us. However as upset as I sometimes get, I remain ever thankful that my righteous anger manifests itself as passion. As such it empowers me to action with clarity of purpose.
Having time away in an environment supportive of personal development and growth often enables us to heal and develop new thoughts and methods especially when we are constantly used to working hard and pushing the mind, body and spirit to its absolute limits on daily basis. As a writer, failure to make time to exhale some of the negativity we consume around us has recently caused me to experience blockages in my ability to articulate myself clearly. Now having exhaled and been able to take a break to relax, laugh, dance and enjoy the spoken, painted, acted, sung and written works of others I find myself regaining the ability to breathe again and with that to write with creativity, passion and absolute purpose.
In writing this, all I can say is that I am back, you may not see me at many events, the newsletters may not be frequent and I most certainly won’t be delivering endless “we must do this and we must do that” speeches on a podium preaching to the converted. Instead, over the next few months some of you may notice that my rhythm has changed. I’m going to be moving at my own pace, even if it means I’m last in the race. But do not despair, although my volume may not be as loud, the music I create will remain the same. In fact, in following a more artistic journey towards education and community development perhaps all of us may benefit from relaxing and laughing by practicing a new dance.
May the Ancestors guide and protect us.
Toyin Agbetu is a writer,
film director, poet, and founder of Ligali, the pan African human rights based organisation.
Nyansapo: News and Updates
The Pan African Drum
The Pan African drum is broadcast from the UK and attracts new listeners from across the world every week. Our broadcast is currently only available online. Our podcasts of previous shows are usually available 24 hours after broadcast from the Ligali website.
The radio show is also available by going to http://www.myspace.com/nyansapodrum or clicking either of the links: Nyansapo Radio or Nyansapo Direct Studio Link
We Remember... Spartacus R
Global Africa: Spartacus R
"Knowledge of Self is the key to life"
Across history there have only been a few Pan African activists in the UK who are internationally known for their liberation works, Spartacus R was definitely amongst this revered elite. Described by some as ‘controversial’ for his trademark ‘TruthSaying’ interventions, he had a reputation for speaking up for the African masses irrespective of the status afforded his audience. Spartacus was sometimes viewed as capable of being disruptive when present in circles of stagnant speech or manipulative influence, this led to some who were afraid of his words attempting to ban him speaking or being present at important community related proceedings. He was not subtle, yet all those who knew Spartacus or had been helped by his tireless work were well aware that it was never his intent to be disrespectful, indeed, it was not always necessary to agree with everything Spartacus said, but instead to respect him, his sincerity and the many achievements he made on our behalf.
Spartacus was often criticised by ‘leaders’ who attempted to deride him for not ‘belonging’ to any single organisation but the Truth is that Spartacus was highly organised. His degree in the social sciences and background in electrical engineering gave him an analytical ability that he used to great effect. As such the British state hated his ability to inspire resistance to its malevolent acts against African people with simple words and mistakenly seeing him as a lone individual launched wave after wave of attacks upon him. The police used paid informants to wreck his computer sales business, his home was forcibly seized from him, he was even arrested for spurious charges over thirty times and sometimes beaten up by racist police officers. In his own words..
“ I have been charged and prosecuted no less than thirteen times including two trials for the "stolen goods" frame-up which cost me thousands of pounds and diverted my attention and other resources. At the height of this harassment I was stopped and questioned three times in the same night in a single journey from north west London to south London, delaying my journey by one and a half hours.”
Aware of the existence of the British COINTEL program Spartacus advocated conscious Africans be careful with whom they worked. Sadly, many of our enemies still managed to infiltrate some of his projects and destroy them from within. One such example is the People's Movement for Electoral Justice that he and Nilou Hawthorne founded in 1989 in order to elect an independent African Member of Parliament. Sadly this was not the only one.
Spartacus was also well known for his successful Positive Boycott Campaigns where he targeted and exposed shops that continued to sell South African goods during the apartheid era. Having accomplished more as an organised individual than others within large ineffective organisation's he was only slowed down when after numerous vexatious arrests he was released on bail and told that he would be banned from going within 100 yards of the centre of Brixton where he then lived and shopped.
To characterise Spartacus simply as ‘controversial’ without recognising his legendary status does a huge disservice to a great African, now Ancestor who was not only a revolutionary thinker but also a pioneer in improving liberatory themed communication amongst Africans worldwide.
Spartacus recognised that there was an ongoing war being waged against ‘Global Africa’ and was not afraid to stand on the frontline to defend us. In his book ‘Violation’ he outlined how physical and non-physical abuse are both acts of violence and we should not recognise state sanctioned violence as ‘legitimate’ simply because corrupt lawmakers/enforcers sought to de-criminalise their own attacks against innocent individuals and communities.
Spartacus was dedicated to the belief that honest communication was the key to resolving most conflict and that a deeper awareness and knowledge of self would ultimately lead to self determination and revolution. Embracing openness and transparency whilst rejecting secrecy and manipulation he decided to implement an ambitious information sharing strategy that would revolutionise and ‘Globaleyes’ grass roots community activism.
When mass use of the internet was in its infancy, Spartacus alongside Sista Pettrige launched GAP-Radio, the UK’s first ever online Africentric radio stations that paved the way for other pioneers such as Henry Bonsu’s Colourful Radio and its revolutionary ‘Backchat’ programme hosted by Sonny Decker and Lekia Lee, followed by the Pan African Drum on Nyansapo Radio.
However even before the cultural dominance of the internet’s world wide web on the world, Spartacus was editor and publisher of Global Africa Pocket News (GAP News), an “innovative pocket-sized, news analysis magazine, which filled a wide gap in the African (Black) community, setting new journalistic standards others still find difficult to reach.”
This ingenious pocket sized magazine was truly a global phenomenon attracting subscribers from across the world from as far as the Caribbean and of course, the great continent of Africa herself. Contributions were made by many of the leading lights of Pan Africanism of that time with words published from the filmmaker Haile Gerima to the renown historian, Runoko Rashidi and internationally famous pan Africanist, Kwame Ture. As with the radio, he inspired others and following a similar path came the Nex Generation magazine published by Dekenu and Pam Shepherd (formally the historic Afrikan Business and Culture) which was soon to be followed by the Whirlwind newspaper by the Alkebulan Revivalist Movement.
Beyond his activism work Spartacus had a distinguished career in the arts as a cultural worker sometimes going under the name of Roy Bedeau. Spartacus R was born in Aruba on 3rd September 1948 and came to London from the Caribbean in 1960, having spent his early childhood in Carriacou, Grenada. In 1969 he alongside Ghanaians Teddy Osei (saxophone), Mac Tontoh (trumpet) and Sol Amarfio (drums) was one of the founding members of the first internationally famous African Rock band, Osibisa, whose works helped establish the genre now referred to as World Music. As an African of Grenadian heritage Spartacus was one of Osibisa’s Pan African collective which also included the African of Trinidadian heritage Robert Bailey (keyboard), Antiguan Wendell Richardson (lead guitar) and Nigerian Lasisi Amao (percussionist and tenor saxophone).
He played bass on the groundbreaking Osibisa albums Woyaya (1971) and Heads (1972) and in 1979 provided backing vocals for Walking on Sunshine which was the title track of Eddy Grant’s critically acclaimed album of the same name.
After Osibisa, Spartacus formed his own label Zara Music and recorded ;
“the seminal acoustic masterpiece, "Africa I See"…. With an acoustic guitar, ankle bells and some face paint, Spartacus R. travelled the world playing to audiences of 3 to 300,000 people in Africa, America, Australia, Europe, Japan.”
In 1983 he produced and co-wrote - Benjamin Zephaniah’s CD rendition of Dis Policeman (Is Kicking Me To Death) which was released on the Rasta album and inspired millions with Zephaniah’s lyrical attack on police oppression following its broadcast on national TV during the Christmas season.
He authored two books. Yet whilst it was the novel The Maãt Mystery: In Search of the Missing Link which he published during October 1997 that would attract the most controversy, it was Violation his academically provocative book exploring the impact of non-physical violence in relationships that best demonstrated the intellectual honesty of a man unafraid to ask difficult questions that many would rather left alone.
Where some saw his investigations as ‘controversial’, others acknowledged his genius and appreciated the fact that he was brave enough to articulate unpopular Truths. As a result he became a respected writer, community activist and broadcaster working with other respected community activists such as the Elder (now Ancestor) Lester Lewis (Prince Ntum ba Azah) of the Hackney Black People's Association , Elder (now Ancestor) Mervyn Martin and hosting talk shows on community radio stations such as Genesis, Galaxy and his own Gap-Radio sometimes using the moniker Brother Fundisi and The TruthSayer. Those who saw him as ‘unlikable’ lost out for when you really got to know him his sense of humour was legendary, his humility (despite huge persona) – humbling.
In May 2010 Spartacus R was diagnosed with cancer of the blood (Acute Myeloid Leukaemia). He joined the Ancestors at 11:11am UK time in London on Friday 30 July 2010 after his battle with the illness. Spartacus was 61 years of age and is the son of Sylvia Bedeau and Theophilous Bedeau. He was married to Veronica Wallace-Bedeau and survived by eight children. Tragically his youngest brother is also suffering with Cancer. His family and friends are in our thoughts.
If one day you wake up to see,
That I'm not where you think I should be.
Spare a thought for me.
I might be
Where I want to be.”
His beautiful call sign was ‘Love and life... May the Ancestors guide and protect you on our way.’
TV / Radio Shows of Interest
A list of TV and Radio shows submitted by Bro Chigbo of African Caribbean Global Voices
10.30am Joseph's Journey
Al Jazeera takes you on an exclusive journey from the deserts of West Africa to the ghettos of New York City. This is one man's search for a better life.
BBC Radio 4
11.15am The Reunion: Hurricane Katrina
In this special edition of The Reunion, Sue MacGregor travels to New Orleans to gather together five Hurricane Katrina survivors who weathered the storm - five years after the hurricane hit.
One of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the USA, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on 29th August 2005. Rupturing the levees around the city, it submerged eighty percent of New Orleans in water.
Thousands of people had been unable to evacuate or had chosen not to leave their homes. Some of the streets sat in up to ten feet of stagnant water, driving residents into their attics, scrabbling for higher ground in a city which sits below sea level.
Many took refuge inside the city's Superdome, but without adequate supplies or sanitation, conditions inside the overheated, overcrowded stadium became increasingly intolerable. Law and order across the city was breaking down, with stories of rapes, violence and widespread looting rapidly circulating.
Sue is joined around the table by: the leader of Joint Task Force Katrina, General Honore; the manager of the Superdome, Doug Thornton; photojournalist, Ted Jackson; Pastor Willie Walker and Phyllis Montana-LeBlanc.
11.30am 101 East: Cast in Stone
India’s caste system was outlawed in 1950 but caste discrimination still exists, limiting access to education and jobs and leading to honour killings.
4.30pm Counting the Cost
We look at South Africa's economy as President Zuma travels to China for more help. And net neutrality; why the big players are looking at a two speed internet.
7.30pm Dispatches: Britain's Secret Slaves
Documentary investigating claims by lobby groups and charities that a worrying number of overseas domestic workers have their passports taken away from them, are kept locked up and subjected to sexual, physical and psychological abuse. The film-makers also investigate claims that foreign diplomats are among the worst offenders in this flourishing form of modern slavery, and meet young people trafficked to the UK as children and who endured years of violence and forced labour
BBC Radio 4
In the last of the current series Mike Thomson investigates how Britain covertly manipulated the democratic process in its South American colony, then known as British Guiana in the run up to its independence in 1966. Mike discovers new documents which show that they deliberately scuppered the outcome of their own conference organised to determine the country's future.
On the face of it the conference, held in London in October 1963, was designed to confirm the constitutional future for what was then British Guiana. Publicly Britain encouraged the country's Prime Minister Dr Cheddi Jagan - who had been fairly elected in 1961 - and the leader of the opposition Linden Forbes Burnham to agree terms for independence. However, behind the scenes, the documents reveal that the British were working to a different outcome - to ensure that agreement was never reached.
The British, under pressure from the Kennedy administration which feared Dr Jagan's Marxist leanings, were determined that he would not lead the country to independence. To this end they suggested a form of proportional representation in forthcoming elections, knowing full well that Dr Jagan would not agree to these terms as they would favour his rival. When the conference ended in deadlock as the British hoped it would, PR was duly implemented and the following year Dr Jagan was ousted much to the relief of the super powers.
Mike talks to historians, eye witnesses and Guyanese commentators today to discover how democracy itself was destroyed in British Guiana and the legacy of these shady days in today's modern Guyana
BBC Radio 4
8.30pm Crossing Continents
Luol Deng is a giant - both physically and in the world of American professional basketball where is one of the biggest stars, and reportedly Barack Obama's favourite player.
He was born in South Sudan but had to flee as a child because of his father's political activities. His family moved to Brixton where Luol's talents on the basketball court were spotted as a teenager. He's now established a charity working with the "lost boys" of Sudan - young men who have lived their entire lives in refugee camps after fleeing the country as children.
Now Sudan is facing the prospects of partition, with a referendum next year expected to endorse splitting the mainly Christian South from the mainly Muslim North.
Tim Franks joins Luol Deng as he returns to Sudan to assess the prospects for peace - and of course to show his skills with a basketball
8.30pm I Am Slave
Wunmi Mosaku stars in the story of one woman's fight for freedom from modern-day slavery.
Twelve-year-old Malia is snatched from her home in the Numa Mountains, Sudan, and spends the next six years of her life working for a Sudanese family. At the age of 18 she is sent to London, where she is stripped of her passport and subjected to brutality and inhumanity, until she calls on all her strength to plan an escape back to the father who never stopped searching for her. Drama inspired by real-life events, with Lubna Azabal and Igal Naor
BBC Radio 4
4pm Word of Mouth
Every two weeks another language becomes extinct and, according to UNESCO, more than 2400 languages spoken today are endangered and will probably vanish by the end of the century.
In this edition of Word of Mouth Chris Ledgard meets some of those who are dedicating their lives to maintaining global linguistic diversity.
These include Dr Mark Turin, the founder of the Oral Literature Project in Cambridge who works with Thangmi speakers in a remote region of Nepal; Dr Stephen Leonard who is preparing to spend a year in Northern Greenland with a community whose language is threatened as an indirect consequence of global warming; and Dr Julia Sallabank who is working to preserve Guernesiais, a language unique to the island of Guernsey.
BBC Radio 4
8pm Divided Britain
In 2006, Radio 4 was given access to a ground breaking education scheme in East Lancashire which aimed to improve GCSE results and break down divisions in an area where white and Asian families live separate, parallel lives.
Following the disturbances in Burnley in the summer of 2001, schools were identified as having a crucial role in promoting community cohesion. Lancashire County Council was given the go ahead to close 11 schools and reopen them as 8 new community colleges each with the aim of being a hub for the neighbourhood, where Asian and white families would come together and get to know each other. The last of those £25 million buildings are due to open in September.
Marsden Heights Community College in Nelson moved into its new facilities after Easter. Head teacher Mike Tull is excited by the opportunities that the building brings and hopes it will help engage parents in the area. But what are the challenges he faces in breaking down cultural barriers in the former mill towns of Brierfield and Nelson?
Since the scheme began his school has gone from being 60% Asian students to nearly 80% and he says many white parents choose other schools for their children because of prejudice not standards of education. Locals already describe Marsden Heights as "the Asian school". And now a charity is looking to open an Islamic girls school nearby which many say threatens to further segregate young people.
Can these new "superschools" make a difference or are racial divisions becoming more entrenched?
9pm Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children
Undercover documentary filmed over the course of nine months, following the lives of three youngsters growing up in the country. Twelve-year-old Grace rummages through rubbish dumps in Harare to find bones she can sell to pay for school fees, nine-year-old Esther cares for her baby sister and ill mother, while 13-year-old Obert pans for gold so he can buy food for himself and his grandmother.
9pm Michael Jackson's This Is It (2009)
Backstage documentary following rehearsals for the singer's 50-night series of concerts at London's O2 arena - a performance that would ultimately be cut short by his death. Featuring performances of classic hits, interviews with Jackson and an insight into the elaborate preparations for the show
BBC Radio 4
9.30am Head to Head: Malcom X and James Farmer
Edward Stourton continues to revisit passionate broadcast debates from the archives - exploring the ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments in present-day politics.
In this last episode, two leading black activists clash at the very height of the Civil Rights movement. It was summer 1963 when the radical Muslim Malcolm X met mainstream campaigner James Farmer. They were fired up by the same ideals but were divided on how to achieve them. Malcolm X demanded the creation of an all-black nation, by violent means if necessary. Farmer believed in de-segregation through peaceful protest and the law - using the US constitution to fulfill its promise of an America free for all men.
Whether segregation still exists today is up for question. In the studio dissecting the debate are the author Bonnie Greer, who was a teenager in 1960s Chicago, and Dr Stephen Tuck, lecturer in American Studies at Oxford University.
7pm Africa... States of Independence : The Scramble For Africa
50 years ago, independence in Africa was supposed to usher in an era of prosperity and an end to the colonial scramble for resources. But why didn’t it?
9pm The Hunt for Britain's Sex Traffickers
A woman who was trafficked from Thailand and sold to a London brothel offers the police a valuable lead. Her testimony enables the law enforcement officers to close in on some of the people responsible for bringing these women into the UK, and as the net closes, the criminal masterminds begin to be exposed, revealing the links with racketeers on the other side of the world.
BBC Radio 4
9pm Costing the Earth: Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster
Bad weather shouldn't cause more than 1800 deaths in the world's richest country. Five years on from Hurricane Katrina Tom Heap investigates the real reasons for the New Orleans death toll.
It may be classified as a natural disaster but the famously fractious locals agree on one thing- nature had nothing to do with it. They suggest corruption, complacency and the nagging suspicion that a dirt poor, predominantly black city could never expect much help from Washington's power brokers.
In the first of a new series of 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap returns to the city to dig a little deeper, identify the villains and gauge the city's chance of surviving the next big storm.
Should the oil industry shoulder the blame? Decades of oil extraction from the Louisiana coast has lowered the land, leaving it more vulnerable to flood and to the depredations of the industry's offshore drilling. How about the US Army? They were charged with building hard defences against a once in 250 year hurricane yet the levees failed throughout the city. Today the same organisation is re-building the defences, this time with a promise to defend the city against a once in a hundred year flood. How can a city rebuild with a promise like that? And what of the wetlands and barrier islands that experts had warned were disappearing fast, leaving the coastline unprotected? How many of the $14bn that's flowed through the city are actually being used to rebuild long-term, natural protection for the city?
Tom Heap helps the people of New Orleans in their search for answers.
10pm Storyville: When the Levees Broke - A Requiem in Four Acts: Acts III & IV
Concluding Spike Lee's documentary, which paints a compelling portrait of a community that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Amid the destruction, the people of New Orleans, buoyed by their resilience and cultural legacy, find new hope in the aftermath of the disaster
8pm Egypt's Lost Queen
Part two of two. In the crypts of Cairo's Egyptian Museum, Dr Zahi Hawass and his team examine four corpses they believe could belong to Queen Hatshepsut. After using CT scanning technology to narrow their choices down to two possible bodies, a tooth found in an ancient box provides them with the clue they need to correctly identify which of their mummies belongs to the ancient Egyptian ruler
9pm The Hunt for Britain's Sex Traffickers
The police operation comes to a close after 12 months of hard work and, as they hunt for a slave market in central London, the network widens. The officers travel to Bangkok, Thailand, where local law enforcement officers are also breaking up criminal gangs, and their efforts are finally rewarded when convictions are secured. Last in the series
As a spiritual people, many of you would know and understand why some of us fast.
However, few Muslims, myself included, actually understand the wisdom behind fasting particularly during the month of Ramadan which is at its 7th day today.
I am hoping the article below would be of interest whether you are Muslim or adhere to other faiths. I personally found it educational.
Why do Muslims fast?
By Dr Bilal Philips
These days when most of us who are overweight, many people have tried different kinds of fasting.
Some will drink only juice for a day, or eat only fruit, or stay away from any sugar or starches, or leave alcohol for a period of time.
Yet, it seems strange to most folks, the idea of Muslims fasting in the month of Ramadan.
The entire nation of almost 2 billion people, men and women, young and old, rich or poor - all together, for a whole month - not eating, not drinking and not having intimate relations, during the daylight hours.
This describes the month of Ramadan.
What is the significance of Ramadan?
Isn't it a very harsh practice?
Is it just a time when Muslims sleep and fast and hardly work all day; and eat, drink, enjoy and stay awake all night? What really is the spirit of Ramadan?
Fasting Prescribed in Other Religions
In English "fasting" means to abstain from food or from certain kinds of food voluntarily, as an observance of a holy day or as a token of grief, sorrow, or repentance. 
This practice can be found in most of the major religions of the world.
Hindu: Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa.
Devout Hindus observe fasting on special occasions as a mark of respect to their personal gods or as a part of their penance.
Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals.
On such days they do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food.
Jewish: Yom Kippur ("Day of Atonement") is the last of the Ten Days of Repentance observed on the 10th of Tishri.
On that day, it is forbidden to eat, drink, wash, wear leather, or have sexual relations. In addition, prohibitions on labor similar to those on the Sabbath are in force.
It should also be noted that Moses (peace be upon him) is recorded in the Torah to have fasted:
"And he was there with the Lord 40 days and 40 nights, he neither ate bread not drank water." (Exodus 34:28)
For Catholics Christians, Lent is the major season of fasting, imitative of the forty-day fast of Jesus (peace be upon him).
In the fourth century it was observed as six weeks of fasting before Easter or before Holy Week. It was adjusted to forty days of actual fasting in most places in the seventh century.
Jesus (peace be upon him) is recorded in the Gospels to have fasted like Moses. "And he fasted 40 days and 40 nights, and afterward he was hungry." (Matthew 4:2 & Luke 4:2)
It is in this context God states in the Quran:
"O believers! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you in order that you become more conscious of God."
[Noble Quran 2:183]
Among the Best Righteous Deeds
When combined with the previous levels of fasting, this level transforms a person from within.
Although in most religions, fasting is for expiation of sin or atonement for sin, in Islam it is primarily to bring one closer to God, as stated in the above-mentioned verse.
Since, God-consciousness is the prerequisite for righteousness, great stress is placed on fasting in Islam.
Therefore, it is not surprising to find that when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asked "Which is the best deed?" He replied, "Fasting, for there is nothing equal to it." 
The Levels of Fasting
There are as many levels of fasting as there are facets to being human.
Proper fasting should encompass all dimensions of human existence for it to have the divinely intended effect.
The following are some of the major levels of fasting:
This level of fasting requires that the basic rules for fasting be fulfilled, which are avoiding food, drink and sexual intercourse between dawn and sunset for 29 or 30 days each year.
On this level, one is basically following the letter of the laws regarding fasting without particular consideration for the spirit of fasting.
It is the entrance level which must be fulfilled for the fast to be Islamically correct, but the other levels must be added for the fast to have any real impact on the fasting person.
Fasting on this level alone will not benefit one spiritually, except from the perspective of submission to divine instructions, if one chooses to follow the ritual consciously and not merely according to tradition.
Thus, by itself, the ritual level will not purify one of sin or atone for sin.
The Physical Level:
Fasting on the "physical" level causes the fasting person to experience the pangs of hunger and thirst - when the prophetic (Sunnah) way of fasting is observed.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to consume a very light meal before the dawn (suhur) and moderate meal (iftar) to break the fast at sunset, while scrupulously avoiding filling his stomach.
He is reported to have said, "The worst container a human being can fill is his stomach. A few morsels of food to keep a person's back straight are sufficient.
However, if his desire overcomes him, then let him eat a third, drink a third and leave a third for breathing." 
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to break his fast with a few fresh or dried dates and a glass of water just before beginning the sunset prayer. 
This level allows the fasting person to experience the pangs of hunger and thirst and thereby develops sympathy in him or her for those starving and dying of thirst in other parts of the world.
On the physical level, some chemicals in the brain that transmit messages and create feelings, called neurotransmitters, are affected by fasting.
Fasting encourages the endorphin neurotransmitter system, related to the feeling of well being - and euphoria, to produce more endorphins and, in fact, makes us 'feel' better.
This is similar to the effect of exercise (but without the physical work).
It has also been noted by medical experts that fasting improves the physical health in numerous ways.
For example, during the fast the body uses up stored cholesterol (fat) that is often deposited in the blood system, as well as in other fatty areas of the body.
So, we find it does help keep the body firm and minimizes the danger of heart attacks.
The difference between the ritual level 1 and the physical level 2 is, a person doing only ritual fasting may eat large meals prior to beginning the fast and immediately upon ending the fast, and not feel any hunger or thirst throughout the whole month.
However, like level one, if the fasting person does not incorporate the other levels of fasting, the fast will only be physically exhausting.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Maybe a fasting person will gain nothing but hunger and thirst from fasting." 
The Libidinal Level:
The sexual instinct and drives (libido) are harnessed on this level of fasting.
In these times where the media continually plays on sexual desires to promote and sell products, the ability to control these powerful desires is a plus.
Fasting physically reduces sexual desires and the fact that the fasting person has to avoid anything which could stimulate him psychologically helps to further lower the libido.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "O youths, whoever among you is able to marry let him do so, for it restrains the eyes and protects the private parts. He who is unable to marry should fast, because it is a shield." 
By restraining from sexual acts, even though they are permissible, the fasting people make it easier for themselves to restrain from forbidden sexual acts when they are not fasting.
The Emotional Level:
Fasting on this level involves controlling the many negative emotions which simmer in the human mind and soul.
For example, among the most destructive emotions is anger.
Fasting helps to bring this emotion under control.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
"When one of you is fasting, he should abstain from indecent acts and unnecessary talk, and if someone begins an obscene conversation or tries to pick an argument, he should simply tell him, "I am fasting." 
So, on this level, whatever negative emotions challenge the fasting person must be avoided.
A person has to abstain from lewd conversation and heated arguments. Even when one is in the right, it is better to let that right go and keep one's emotional fast intact.
Likewise, the negative emotion of jealousy is reduced, as every fasting person is reduced to the common denominator of abstinence; no one is externally superior to another in this regard.
The Psychological Level:
This level helps the fasting person psychologically to control evil thoughts and trains him or her, to some degree, how to overcome stinginess and greed.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
"Allah has no need for the hunger and the thirst of the person who does not restrain himself from telling lies and acting on them even while observing the fast." 
In this age of immediate gratification, when the things of the world are used to fulfill human needs and desires almost as soon as they have them - the ability to delay gratification is an important skill.
What is between immediate gratification and delayed gratification is patience. During the fast, the believers learn patience - and the benefits of it.
From a psychological perspective, it is good to be somewhat detached from the things of the world.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying a good and full life - in fact, one can and should expect that.
However, it is important that people are able to detach ourselves from material things so that they do not become the most important part of their lives.
Fasting gives one the opportunity to overcome the many addictions which have become a major part of modern life.
Food, for many people, provides comfort and joy - and the ability to separate oneself from it gives the fasting people the psychological benefit of knowing that they do have some degree of control over what they do and what they do not do.
The Spiritual Level:
In order to establish this, the highest and most important level of fasting, the level of God-consciousness, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made the renewal of the intention for fasting a requirement before every day of fasting.
He was reported to have said, "Whoever does not intend to fast before Fajr (the dawn) will have no fast." 
The daily renewal of intention helps to establish a spiritual foundation of sincerity essential for the spiritual cleansing effects of fasting to operate.
Sincere fasting purifies and atones for sin, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever fasts Ramadan out of sincere faith and seeking his reward from God, his previous sins will be forgiven."
He was also reported to have said, "From one Ramadan to the next is atonement for the sins between them."
Sincere fasting brings one closer to Allah and earns a special reward.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) informed that there is a gate in paradise called Rayyan reserved for those who fast and he also said, "When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are open." 
Fasting is primarily between the person and God, as no one can be sure that any person is actually fasting.
Because of this intimate aspect of fasting, Allah was quoted by the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying,
"Every act of Adam's descendants is for themselves, except fasting. It is meant for Me alone, and I alone will give the reward for it." 
It restores, revives and regenerates the fasting person's spirituality and radically modifies his or her personality and character.
These are the precious products of a heightened state of God-consciousness.
Fasting in Cultural Islam
In much of the Muslim world today fasting has been reduced to a mere ritual, and the month of Ramadan has become a time of celebration and festivities instead of religious contemplation and abstinence.
Ramadan nights are, for many, nights of partying and enjoyment which continue until the dawn in some countries.
There, the night becomes the day and the day becomes the night.
In many places, the light meal which is supposed to be taken prior the dawn becomes a major three-course meal.
For this reason, very few experience real hunger during the fast.
And at the time of breaking the fast, another three-course meal is taken, followed by a sampling of all kinds of sweets imaginable.
As a result, many Muslims complain about gaining weight during Ramadan and doctors regularly warn people about the medical consequences of overeating.
Significance of Ramadan
Naturally, the fact that Ramadan was in the summer has no relation to why this month was chosen by Allah as the month for fasting.
Since Muslims follow the lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan will occur in all the seasons at least twice in each person's lifetime. God clearly stated the reason for choosing this month in the Quran.
He said: "Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as guidance and clarification to humankind, and a distinction between right and wrong. So, whoever from among you witnesses the month should fast it." (2: 185)
The significance of Ramadan lies in the fact that the revelation of the Quran began in that month.
For this reason, Ramadan is often called the month of the Quran and Muslims try to spend much of their waking hours reading from the Holy Book throughout the month.
Religious Seclusion (I'tikaf)
During the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to seclude himself in the mosque, in order to increase the intensity of his worship and the benefits of the fast prior to the ending of the month.
Devout Muslims try to emulate him by spending as many of the ten days as they can fasting secluded in the mosque.
REFERENCES -  Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language, p. 665.
 Saranam.com/Hindu Encyclopedia.
 Dictionary of World Religions, p. 817.
 Dictionary of World Religions, p. 425.
 Sahih Sunan an-Nasa'i, vol. 2, p. 476, no. 2099
 Sunan Ibn-i-Majah, vol. , p. , no. , Kitab: al At'imah; Bab: Iqtisad fee Akl.
 Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 1, pp. 646-7, no. 2349.
 Sunan Ibn-i-Majah, vol. 1, 539.
 Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
 Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 3, p. 71, no. 128 and Sahih Muslim, vol. 2, p. 558, no. 2563.
Pan African Worldview (Archives)
Leadership and Self-Determination - 97
By Spartacus R
Originally published in Global Africa Pocket News, June 1994 (Vol 1, #6)
It is an undisputed fact that every leader needs followers and every follower needs a leader. If leaders and followers need each other and we have so many of both, why is it that we cannot find leaders who can represent our interests? Why are the majority of us disappointed and disillusioned with the ones we have? Do we expect too much of these people? What makes a leader? How does leadership relate to Self-determination? (see definitions).
What makes anyone want to be a follower? Some leaders are called teacher by their followers but what is the distinction between a teacher and a leader? These are some of the questions which we will be exploring in this updated article, which is based on a series of interviews / discussions with various prominent African people, most of whom are considered leaders in their fields of endeavour and in our community.
Crisis of Leadership
The discussions ranged around this question of a crisis of leadership in the Global African (Black) community. A crisis which we all agreed, cannot be ignored any longer. We found it impossible however, to agree on a definition of the word leadership. Nor could we find a mutually acceptable term or phrase to describe the functions and responsibilities of a leader.
For example, Dr. Mwalimu I. Mwadilifu (Curtis Alexander, Watoto World: ECA Associates) says: "The duty of the leader is defined by the people they represent. And the duty of a leader first and foremost is to represent the aims, aspirations and needs of African people." A statement which is supported by the dynamic Dr. Patricia Newton (see GAP News #4), who says: "... any leadership that is going to be effective in the next millennium for African people is a leadership style and quality that needs to not embrace the Eurocentric approach of being the HNIC (Head-[N Word]-In-Charge). In other words, a leader simply becomes an expression of the will of the masses, not a dominating director of the will of the masses. When you step forward as a leader then, you must step forward as the person that simply represents the views of the masses."
The problem with such a statement is a problem of representation. How does one person represent the views and aspirations of a disparate mass of people whose leaders, academics and intellectuals themselves do not have a common view of what a leader is or should be. No entity can represent the interests of another better than that other entity itself. If it were possible, would a person with her or his own views, aspirations, needs, and aims, be able and willing to represent accurately and earnestly those of any other person which may well be in contradiction to their own views, etc.? Would that representative be able to make decisions in the interests of those whom he or she represents, where such decisions may be against her or his own interest? Either way, should such a person be called a leader - or a delegate?
For example, if you instruct someone in what you want them to do on your behalf, they cannot possibly be your leader. They may, at best, be your delegate but by no means would they be your leader - at least not in the modern day literal sense.
No entity can represent the interests of another better than that other entity itself.
n the other hand, if he or she represents their own interests, i.e. views, aspirations, needs, and aims, which may incidentally just happen to coincide with the needs of the majority of the people, would they be seen as representing the people? And when inevitably, the representative's circumstances in relation to the rest of the group change and hence their views, aspirations, needs and aims change, would he or she still be seen as a leader? Or would representation of the people's views, aspirations, needs and aims no longer be a criteria for he or she to wear the mantle of leadership?
As Tony Browder (GAP News #6 page 20) observes: "Many of our political leaders, many of our church leaders, are self-serving individuals who do not represent the interests of the masses. One sign of an effective leader is their ability to lift up the masses of those who are following her or him, such that it is no longer necessary for them to serve as a leader."
But that does not happen, it will not happen because leaders do not equip themselves with built in obsolescence. They are not famous for committing leader suicide. Not even their followers would expect a leader, one who is placed at the head and privileged by the title and position, to do anything to hasten her or his departure. Only a teacher, who gains nothing by teaching, except perhaps the satisfaction of seeing their seeds bear fruit, can afford to nurture their own replacement.
The reason why we cannot find leaders who can represent our interests is that on the issue of Self-determination (see definition) , the interests of the "leader" are essentially incompatible with the interests of the people, especially those who are not her or his followers.
As part of an entity seeking self-determination, each individual's interests lies in the achievement of that objective, not only for the group but equally important for its component parts where each individual part comes to recognise that he or she is equally as important to the achievement of that objective as every other individual part. At which point each individual would then choose for its own sake to be or not be an integral part of the group.
However, as the leader of a group seeking self-determination, that individual's interests will lie in securing her or his position which will be threatened not only by other aspiring leaders but by the very idea of self-determination for all other individuals within the group.
So what is a leader? A leader is all the things my interviewees have said and more. There are obviously good leaders and bad leaders, but regardless whether they are good or bad they are usually apart from rather than a part of those whom they are leaders of.
What makes a person want to be a leader? And why would anyone want to be a follower? Power. Yes, the answer is power, pure and simple. It is the same natural urge, the desire for Power Over Self (POS) which creates both the leader and the follower. Every one of us have an instinctive desire for control of our lives, a natural thirst for freedom or power over self. In other words, we need self-determination.
In the past couple of millennia, culminating in today's Eurocentric society, this power instinct, the desire to control our destiny, has been misinterpreted and misdirected into a drive for Power Over Others (POO).
It is the same natural urge, the desire for Power Over Self which creates both the leader and the follower.
The person who actively seeks to be the leader is always someone with a seemingly unquenchable and unfathomable thirst for power. He or she is a person who has a sometimes uncontrollable desire to control others. This is just one of the manifestations of the non-fulfilment of the POS instinct which we just spoke of. This person somehow recognises the difficulties inherent in the pursuit of self-determination in a society which is built on the POO principle of subjugation, exploitation and oppression. He or she at some stage in their development eventually abandons the POS idea of freedom for themselves and all others and seeks to exercise POO instead because, not only is power over others easier to achieve, it has material and social benefits in this society which are more tangible than power over self.
How "leaders" recruit "followers"
The leader type knows about the power instinct . He or she knows also, that society places greater value on external, rather than internal control. They know that whether it is an individual, a disenfranchised, dispossessed group of people, an oppressed minority or majority, or even members of an oppressor group, we all have this same innate need for power - and again I stress, it is power over self (POS). So the leader says: "I will make you powerful - if you follow me. Follow me and I'll set you free".
They convince you that they have the secrets to economic, ideological, material, political, religious, social or spiritual power. They say, you can acquire the power you need if you follow them. They may even say they represent a God who, in its unquestionable wisdom, chose them as its sole representative here on Earth.
Usually, they do have the knowledge, the information which you need to utilise your own power for your own benefit, to set yourself free. But they use this information to tie you to them in subordination. So, in the process of being a follower you catch yourself following a path which takes you away from self-determination and following a leader who has a vested interest in making sure you never find yourself. Because once you find the path to self-determination you would have no need to follow anyone.
The direction of travel on the road to self-determination is the opposite direction to every ideology, religious doctrine, political philosophy, and social theory which compels or requires you to defer to any external power in determining your destiny.
Whether that external power is called the law, the masses, the majority, the party, the nation, the common good, or even God (where God or Allah or Oludumare or the Supreme Being is a separate entity from the Self), there is always a person or a group of people who claim to have some kind of special relationship with that external power, which qualifies them as your representative. They say that as your leader, they can represent your interests far better than you can, either as an individual or as a group. That is a lie. No other entity can represent your interests better than you can. From the moment you accept this person as your leader and they assume the position, you give up your right to decide, your right to chose and your right to question.
We are disillusioned and disappointed with our leaders because what we expect of them can not be delivered. Since, as the song says, "expectation is the mother of disappointment", we end up with a mother of a problem.
The problem is not just how much is expected but what is expected. Most African people expect a leader to be someone who knows best, has all the answers, makes all the right decisions for us, leads the way and tells us exactly what is the right thing to do at the right time. When that does not happen we blame the leader for not living up to our expectations. Expectations which we knew in advance in our hearts could not be satisfied.
We are disillusioned and disappointed with our leaders because what we expect of them can not be delivered.
That kind of cop-out attitude, the Messiah mentality, is an abrogation of our responsibility for and obligation to ourselves, our children and our children's children. It also places a burden on those unfortunate individuals, which no human being alive can carry and no Ancestor could accept, to take the responsibility to do everything for you.
But what about those individuals who do not seek the mantle of leadership yet have it placed on their heads? I hear you ask.
Can we get away with blaming those who have leadership thrust upon them, for grabbing it or reluctantly embracing it? The leader is as much entrapped as the follower. We cannot blame the reluctant leader for wearing the crown that is placed on her or his head. Nor can we blame the megalomaniacs for chasing down leadership. A leader without followers is like an ocean without water. So it is the followers, people like you and 1, who make leaders, (who are themselves people like you and I, albeit with a specifically different character defect).
The fact that there are leaders at all is down to their followers. Global Europe (White people), through their media, could offer us any number of individuals such as Garry Franks, USA, Nelson Mandela, South Africa (Azania), Bernie Grant, UK, Eugenia Charles, Dominica, to name but a very few, but whether they are leaders or not depends entirely on our acceptance of them as such.
"Some people", according to Dr. Molefe Kete Asante, "declare: 'I'm a leader' for their own ego's sake, but they have no followers. So you're right. Followership really determines whether or not that person's a leader. Take the US, for example, the press give us the names of people who they say are our leaders. But none of these people can attract as many people as Louis Farrakhan, who can bring 50,000 people out to hear him talk. The people that the press would make you believe are our leaders can't do that."
The best qualities of a leader, which everybody seem to agree on, are the ability to lead and to make decisions on behalf of their followers. The greatest qualities of a teacher are to inspire in the student the desire and the ability to learn and the need to question everything, even that which he or she teaches.
Some of these teachers come to accept, albeit reluctantly, the label and paraphernalia of 'leader' and in time, begin to act in the repressive, domineering manner that a leader is expected to behave, eventually commanding obedience without question from their followers. Where as a leader, questions are seen as undermining their authority, and attempts to debate are seen as acts of insubordination therefore forbidden or at least discouraged, as a teacher, he or she encourages questioning and debate.
Of course, there are many teachers who are also called leaders because of the fact that a lot of people follow their example, adhere to their teachings and, in some cases, even choose to serve them. Their generosity of spirit, their immense capabilities, their willingness to teach others what they know and the exemplary way in which they live their lives is what attracts people to them. In the face of great temptation to mislead, they continue as teachers, doing the works which they know must be done, with no desire whatsoever to lead anyone anywhere. Such teachers, remaining true to the POS principle, refuse to wear the crown of leadership or accept the "benefits" and privileges which accrue from it. They also refrain from encouraging or assisting anyone to relinquish their responsibility for themselves.
A leader without followers is like an ocean without water.
ut most followers true to their conditioning, would not want to be treated with mutual reverence by those they see as their leaders. If they are not treated as they would expect followers to be treated, they soon abandon such a teacher and continue searching for a "real" leader.
Kwame Ture, one of our greatest living political teachers, would say: "We don't need leaders, we need organisations". His organisation, the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, is not necessarily the model of organisation for all African people but, he says, we must all either join an existing organisation or, if we cannot find one which suits us, which speaks our language, form our own. He says: "A bad organisation is better than no organisation at all." With the greatest respect for the elder Brother, I can't agree with that. But whether it is true or not, we can deal with the question of organisations later. It is clear to me, however, that no leadership at all is preferable to bad leadership, and self determination is better by far than the best leadership. Freedom is kinder than the most benign enslavement.
On the question of whether we need leaders or not, nearly everyone interviewed said: "Yes, we do need leaders". A notable exception, along with Kwame Ture, was Ntum Lester Lewis, who said: "The question is not one of lack of leadership but lack of organisation. This question of lack of organisation was identified by Marcus Garvey and it is still the problem which faces us today."
No leadership at all is preferable to bad leadership and self-determination is better by far than the best leadership
Dr. Mwadilifu on the other hand was most emphatic. He said: "That is a bogus statement," referring to the question's inference that we do not need leaders. "Human nature requires leadership and we're no different from any other people."
The greatest leader of the twentieth century, of any nation
There have been many great teachers who have fallen prey to the hypnotic, intoxicating attraction of the noble idea of being the person who would lead our nation out of bondage. Many of those teachers who have assumed the role of leader, such as the incomparable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, managed in the process to do some great things and inspire generations of revolutionary teachers who in their turn helped to determine the course of history. People like Elijah Muhammad, Kwame Nkrumah and many, many more, including the great non-African teachers Ho Chi Min and Mahatma Ghandi, were all inspired by Garvey, who was arguably, the greatest leader of the twentieth century, of any nation. A distinction which, it can also be argued, was his greatest failing.
As a leader, Garvey did what every great and not-so-great leader would do, have done and do do. He surrounded himself with lesser beings and sycophants to ensure that there was no one close enough to him who was able to challenge and defeat him as leader.
Apart from the fact that Garvey, as a teacher, reached into the core of the African psyche and articulated many of our thoughts, our deepest feelings, our aspirations, his success as a leader was partly due to his ability to consolidate and protect his position from other potential and aspiring leaders within his organisation.
It was failure on his part as a teacher, not to have nurtured in his followers that element of self-determination which would have made it possible for any of the six million members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) to be able to replace him and fulfil his functions as a teacher when Global Europe moved against him and left his people leaderless to flounder in the ocean of hope, waiting for another Messiah.
It is a wicked irony that Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who as a teacher stressed the importance of organisations, as a means of guaranteeing the continuation of the struggle into future generations, was not able to leave behind such an organisation capable of continuing with his great works.
Whereas the quest of a teacher is to produce a student that is her or his better the quest of a leader is not to produce a follower who is her or his better or even their equal. That is why after the death or elimination of a great leader there is usually a vacuum which takes, in most cases, many generations to fill. In the case of a great teacher, there are usually, even during her or his own lifetime, a number of students who would be greater exponents of the particular discipline than the teacher ever was.
The right to information is one of our basic human rights. Information is the raw material of enlightenment, which is one of the three fundamental human needs, along with nourishment (food, drink, medicine, etc.) and shelter (clothes, protection from the elements, etc.). Providing we have access to the relevant information, we will always make the right decision for ourselves, regardless what others may think of our decisions.
In a society which trades information as a commodity, not as a right, the leader is usually someone who has information or access to information, which, inevitably, they use to give them an advantage over the rest of us. Any information which is likely to threaten their position, even where it would clearly increase the power of the people, would be kept from the people. It should not be surprising that cabinet meetings, executive meetings, "high level" negotiations and other such conspiracies are all secret affairs which always exclude the people they are supposed to be about. Anyone who will only discuss your business in your absence is not dealing with your business in your interest.
Even though the vast majority of our people believe that we need some kind of leadership in order for us to function as a nation, the exact opposite appears to be true. Human beings appear to function better, be more productive, have more harmonious relationships and make greater progress as communities, when information is open and available to all; when decisions are made collectively, instead of by executive cliques or leaders; when individual initiative and responsibility are encouraged, respected and rewarded as a matter of collective policy and everyone of us are actively teaching each other.
We could not have the slaughter of the Ogoni people by the Nigerian hoodlum government and the Shell Corporation or the genocidal attack on the Tutsi people in Rwanda by the gangster government on behalf of Global Europe, if the people themselves were in control, if they were not being directed by "leaders".
Aspiring leaders will spend most of their time competing against one another to reduce or negate each other's best qualities and perceived advantages, while as teachers, much of our time is spent learning, building and increasing each other's knowledge.
Leadership and self-determination are irreconcilable contradictions
With the mass export of "democracy", (the latest Global Europe export commodity in the exploitation war), many Global Africans (Black people) are now feeling proud and elated that we have finally had the opportunity in South Africa (Azania) for example, to officially give up control of our lives by voting.
I have nothing against Nelson Mandela and little doubt about his, and maybe one or two of his comrades', sincerity. They mean well, but even with the best will in the world, how can a man (or woman) who lives in a mansion with every single one of her or his needs catered for by any number of people and makes secret deals with former (?) enemies, represent the interests of a person who cannot even afford to feed her or his child?
I had nothing against Nelson Mandela when this article was first written at the beginning of 1994 and I still don't. The man is only doing what he thinks is in his best interest. But I am angry. I am angry at myself and all those millions of Africans world wide who did not pay attention to or question what he was really saying as a teacher but accepted him as a leader instead because our enemies told us he was a great leader.
Giving someone else the right to make decisions on our behalf may free us from the burden of possibly making the wrong decisions but it also removes any possibility of us making the right decisions for ourselves. It does not make us freer. If we retain the right to make and execute all decisions about our lives we also retain the right to correct our own mistakes.
Some of our people see the dangers inherent in relinquishing our power to another person, so they propose safeguards for leaders to be made accountable to the community. "In most cases," says Haile Gerima, (GAP News #5) "our intelligentsia, who have historically articulated the struggles, the pain and the interests of the people, sometimes opt for the easy, personal material gains and they have not been able to combine the personal needs with the collective interests. So in the years to come we have to make this class of people accountable to the community. And if [when] they are not accountable they must be displaced."
But none of these "safeguards", including regular elections, threats of premature removal from office, auditing of books, even possible execution for malpractice, actually give the people more control over our lives. They may restrict the scope and depth of possible misrepresentation and misappropriation by the leaders but, they also remove the freedom of the individual "leader" to be a self-determinate member of the community, if at all that is likely.
The Way Forward
It is clear to me that leadership and self-determination are irreconcilable contradictions. They are incompatible lovers and like all such mismatches, someone always ends up getting shafted. Guess who!
Before I am accused of trying to destroy our nation or to discredit the great works of some of our "leaders" and leader-based groups and organisations, let me put the record straight. I am not saying that little or nothing has been achieved by leaders. On the contrary. I salute all of them and their immeasurable contributions in their capacity as teachers and where they have been positive role models as examples to follow. I am however, saying that those great things were, and still are, being achieved in spite of, not because of, the leaders. Maybe greater things would have been possible if those leaders employed and exhibited their more valuable teacher qualities, which undoubtedly they must have had, as primary assets.
Nor am I suggesting that Global African people should abandon wholesale our respective leaders or make a hasty exit from whatever organisations we happen to be members of. No. I recognise that some teachers live aspects of their lives in a manner which, if we were to follow, our whole nation would benefit. But not everything they do would be beneficial to our nation. We must look closely at what all our people do and commend or criticise, accept or reject as appropriate, take the goodness that they offer and build on it and at the same time not be afraid to recognise and throw away the badness that comes as part of the package.
So I am suggesting that we become more discriminating in what we emulate and why. As Dr. Asante says: "Leadership in the African community must not be declared, it must be won. And people who want to be leaders in the African community have to propose new visions, new thoughts and new ideas and be willing to be activists. You can't be a leader and not be an activist." We must ask ourselves, what has each individual leader done, what are they doing and what will they do that is of benefit to our local community and/or to our global nation. We must then have the courage to take whatever action is necessary according to the answers we receive.
We must also teach those we call leaders to value their own freedom more in order that they may value our freedom. We must learn to recognise the "ostentatious cripples" as Ayi Kwei Armah calls those who are, or aspire to be, slaves of our enemies in their quest to fulfil the POO drive before they get a chance to cripple the minds of future generations.
I am suggesting that we treasure teachers who help us to become freer, more fulfilled human beings. Above all, I am suggesting that we help ourselves to do for self. As Dr. Newton reminds us: "We need to get away from a single leader that people look up to as their guide, like they're some kind of God. That position has never worked for us."
I was speaking recently with a community activist and teacher on the subject of leadership and self-determination. His position was: "Where would a body be without a head?" Unfortunately, that is more or less the position of most people in our community. It is the kind of sentiment which makes reasonable sense in a hierarchical society which places no value on freedom. But when you consider self-determination, you begin to see the human body as a harmoniously balanced machine with interdependent, reciprocating parts whose vested interest is a healthy whole. You see a body where no part, however large or small and regardless of its function, is more or less important than the other. My response to my friend's question was: "The same as a body without blood."
Finally, while some of us are still able to think and question the status quo, we still have a chance to transform the world and make it a more humane environment for the benefit of all, not just a few or even a majority. We have the power. We are the power. Let us use it.
Entity: an entity is a body of one or more people who are identified as a body or unit by any common link, whether real or imagined.
Self: Self is the identification of an entity from its own perspective. It could therefore be an individual or a group of people of any size.
Self-determination: Self-determination or freedom is the right of every entity to determine what happens to it, i.e. to make and execute all decisions about its existence. There is no freedom where decisions about your food, clothing (shelter) and enlightenment are made by external forces.
Source: Global Africa
- Leadership and Self Determination
Homecoming (Written whilst in St Lucia, 2010)
‘Dry bread in one's home is better than good meat somewhere else' – African Proverb, Swahili
Greetings, please excuse my lazy writing style, it’s been a while since I last wrote in this manner and I feel tempted to just vibe. Today (as I write this) I have just swum continuously for perhaps ten maybe twenty minutes in one direction finding myself in the middle of the warm Caribbean ocean a very long way from the beach. As I turned around afloat on the waves looking back at the sun and sea attempting to locate my position in this cosmos I realised with a clarity that I was back. It sounds strange right, if I am back now then where was I before?
That’s a harder question to answer but as to the here and now I can share that whilst I feel the gentle glow of the sun on my face, the warmth of the sea surrounding my body with its salty taste in my mouth and eyes I had this sense of extreme humility before the power of the elements and a strange sense of invulnerability as I reflected on our Ancestors reciting invocations and making libation whilst floating in the middle of sea.
Spiritually, August is a powerful month for African people. It’s a time of resistance, remembrance and reflection. From the 1st of the month African people worldwide reflect on what is referred to as Emancipation Day. Traditionally millions gather in spiritual unity to honour our Ancestors and pledge our active resistance to the continuing injustice of slavery (political and spiritual), genocide (land, food and gender insecurity) and racism (‘white’ supremacy) that risks destroying the global African family and indeed the world through rampant greed based consumerism.
Yet over the years this message of African remembrance has been lost, Carnival, J'ouvert, ‘Jump up’ all seem to have become parties to commemorate not the valiant deeds and tribulations of our resistance fighting Ancestors, but instead celebrate the transformation or emancipation of slavery from chains to our brains by our enemies.
As I started the swim back to shore I reflected on recent words shared with me by a wise elder - there is no such thing as ‘holiday’ for a community worker, merely space to spiritually recharge, train and ground oneself with others whose similar or intended dedication to our shared purpose normalises our existence and ability to persist with our resistance.
With my body gliding through the ocean riding the powerful waves pushing me towards my destination I bizarrely thought of Superman. The man of steel gets his power being away from home, on Krypton he would be normal, he hides behind the mask of Clark Kent to protect his family and friends from enemies, he is a hero because his super abilities enable him to accomplish great feats.
Yet my mind wanders to Garvey, Bussa and finally comes to rest on Rodney. Some of our very real super heroes whose power to inspire helped organise many to come together and work for their freedom. Perhaps it is because the night before there was a superb review of a new book on CaribTV where a weekly Africentric literary program was sharing his remarkable history. Here with Walter Rodney was a ‘grounded’ academic who through the strength of both his spoken and written words was able to empower us to action. Tragically he alongside other brilliant voices such as Malcolm, Martin, Biko, Saro-Wiwa and many others was assassinated. Yet imagine for one moment if they and others had access to the technology behind YouTube and MySpace during their era - would they have wasted such an opportunity? If MTV, VH1 Soul and BET had existed when musicians like Fela Kuti were at their prime would the networks have banned their music?
I ask this today not to look backwards with regret, but forwards with fear.
Now those of you who truly know and understand me may be surprised by what I have just written. As I had these thoughts, in the middle of the ocean, far away from the beach, unable to see the ocean bed, arms aching, legs propelling me forward please be aware that I am not a person usually hampered by thoughts of fear.
And yet as my mind contemplated how we are wasting the advantages of today’s media opportunities in order for a bunch of empty headed performers made rich and famous by ‘spitting’ lyrics and dropping ‘science’ for young people to bounce to words of sexual promiscuity and endless partying I feel fatigued.
When I embarked upon my path as a writer/educator I had no idea how powerful my words would be perceived by others. Yet whilst I am fortunate to reap strength from the love and many expressions of thanks of those I have come into contact with, the constant call on my abilities had left me dangerously weakened. I left the UK spiritually and physically depleted, like most of us, I was over worked, under paid (I have no salary) and constantly under pressure from enemies (and idiots) alike.
Fortunately I have had an inspirational four weeks back at home, for that I thank my wife Oleander, our children, family and friends for making it happen. Unlike Superman I draw power the closer I get to home, as the sun interacts with my melanin and I am surrounded by family I feel a transformation, a surge of strength that brings with it spiritual clarity and renewal of purpose.
I know that I must frequently return home to complete my life journey. Where is home? - some may ask. Well for me home is in my family village in Africa, my family town in the Caribbean, my spiritual family in Canada, the Americas, across europe, Asia alongside wherever else my people reside in this universe.
Yet whilst I am still in the UK I believe we all have work to accomplish. There are opportunities for our children that have to be put in place and debts to our Ancestors that need to be paid in full.
We seem to keep forgetting who we are, and with that what we are supposed to be doing. To eradicate that cultural amnesia it will only be those who are prepared to sacrifice time in order to organise and meet, to greet and eat ("Ayekoo!"), to break bread and reason who will draw strength from understanding that when we act with common unity, we are not and never will be alone.
May the Ancestors guide and protect us.
Toyin Agbetu is a writer,
film director, poet, and founder of Ligali, the pan African human rights based organisation.