HONG KONG/UK: Greenpeace applauds the Chinese
government on tightening control over Genetically Modified
08 Jun 2001
Source: Press Release
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Greenpeace yesterday applauded the decision of the Chinese government to tighten control over genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) by limiting their release to the environment and launching a comprehensive labelling system on GMO seeds and food
The new "Biosafety regulation on GMOs in Agriculture", announced today by the Chinese government, is the legislative
framework safeguarding biodiversity, the environment and human health against the potential adverse effects of GMOs.
It covers the GMO applications in the areas of research, field trials, production, food processing, management, as well as import
and export. According to the new regulation, GMOs will be classified into four categories according to the seriousness of their
potential impact on the environment and on living organisms. Their releases to the environment need to be approved by relevant
The regulation outlines the mandatory labelling of all GMOs, including seeds, animal feed and food products containing GMOs.
Unless GMOs are labelled, their sale will be illegal.
"This is definitely a positive move of the Chinese government, being one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and food
consumers, in taking a precautionary approach towards genetic engineering," said Lo Sze Ping, Campaigner of Greenpeace
"Due to the popular rejection of genetically engineered (GE) food in Europe, transnational GE companies are trying to dump their
products into Asia. The recent decision of the Thai government in banning environmental releases of GMOs and the Chinese
government’s new regulation is clear signs that Asia is refusing to be the dumping ground for an unwanted technology," Lo
Despite the rapid development of genetic engineering in China, the Chinese authorities have been very cautious about applying
GE technology in food production. So far, only pest-resistant Bt- cotton, which accounts for one million ha in 2000 (1/3 of the
total cotton crop area), has been commercially released and is mainly for industrial uses. Delay-ripening tomato and
virus-resistant sweet pepper have been allowed for commercial growing, but the permit for their seed reproduction is yet to be
granted due to biosafety concerns. Therefore, in reality, no GE food crops have been commercially grown.
When asked by Greenpeace, Professor Xue Dayuan, researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences of the State
Environmental Protection Administration, commented that "this new regulation shows that Chinese government is taking the
precautionary principle on genetic engineering. The threats of GMOs to biodiversity and the environment are real and
irreversible. Their impact on agriculture could be destructive. Our country has to take measures to prevent such adverse
Professor Xue is the leader of the expert group drafting the "China National Biosafety Framework" the policy blueprint for
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U.S. not impartial peacemaker in Mideast
JOHANNESBURG - Former South African
President Nelson Mandela said on Friday the United States was not an
impartial peacemaker in the Middle East and a multi-national
initiative was needed to end the violence.
Mandela, speaking at a news
conference after talks with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin,
said the United States should join Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Britain
and France to mediate a settlement.
"It is completely wrong that the United States must be
the mediator in this conflict. Everybody knows the United States is a
friend of Israel," he said.
Mandela was flanked by the French premier, who is on a
two-day official visit to South Africa as part of French efforts to extend
its influence beyond its former colonies, mainly in West Africa.
He said the five countries together stood a stronger chance of negotiating peace in the violence-torn region.
"Those five together should now negotiate a settlement. One
advantage is that if there is a settlement, it is guaranteed it will have
"Whereas if a settlement is brought about by one country, even if it is a superpower, there is no guarantee it will have support."
A limited ceasefire announced by Israel last week was rejected as a propaganda ploy by Palestinian leaders and has failed to stop the bloodshed.
Mandela renewed South Africa's support for the Palestinians
and their leader, Yasser Arafat.
"As far as we are concerned what is being done to the Palestinians is a matter of grave concern. We are the friends of Yasser Arafat. We are the friends of the Palestinians. We support their struggle," he said.
© copyright 2001
Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved
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Rights Commission's Report on Florida Election
Tuesday, June 5, 2001
Following is a draft of the executive summary points from the Commission on Civil Rights report on the 2000 Florida general election. The document was given exclusively to The Washington Post. Typographical and grammatical errors were not corrected.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY POINTS
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights conducted the most extensive investigation to date concerning allegations of irregularities occurring during the November 2000 presidential election in Florida. The investigation, utilizing the Commission's subpoena power, comprised 3 days of hearings, over 30 hours of testimony from over 100 witnesses and a systematic review of more than 118,000 sheets of paper.
Perhaps the most dramatic undercount in this election was the nonexistent ballots of the countless unknown eligible voters, who were wrongfully purged from the voter registration rolls, turned away from the polls, and by various other means prevented from exercising the franchise. While statistical data, reinforced by credible anecdotal evidence, point to widespread disenfranchisement and denial of voting rights, it is impossible to
determine the extent of the disenfranchisement or to provide an adequate remedy to the persons whose voices were silenced in this historic election by a pattern and practice of injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency.
During the November 2000 presidential election in Florida, restrictive statutory provisions, wide-ranging errors and inadequate and unequal resources in the election process denied countless Floridians the right to vote. The disenfranchisement of Florida's voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of African Americans. Statewide, based upon county-level statistical estimates, African American voters were nearly ten times more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected in Florida. On a statewide basis,
while African Americans comprised about 11% of all voters in Florida in the November 2000 presidential election, African Americans cast about 54% of the ballots that were rejected in the election. Before and during the election state and county officials were aware of several key factors that ultimately contributed to the disenfranchisement of qualified voters.
The Commission on civil rights did not find conclusive evidence that the highest officials of the state conspired to produce the disenfranchisement of voters. Instead, the Commission found that the governor and the secretary of state, in particular, chose to simply ignore the mounting evidence that many counties were experiencing rising voter registration rates in communities with out-dated voting technology. Furthermore, they ignored the pleas of some supervisors of elections for guidance and help.
In addition, election supervisors in the counties that experienced the worst problems failed to prepare adequately, to demand adequate resources or to raise a public outcry over the inadequacy of resources available. This lack of leadership in the important area of protecting voting rights encouraged the broad array of problems that occurred during the November 2000 presidential election. These officials simply permitted the unequal distribution of quality voting equipment and other needed resources statewide without the
public being aware that an electoral disaster might be approaching.
As a result, African American voting districts were disproportionately hindered by antiquated and error-prone equipment like the punch card ballot system. Voting districts that were predominantly white were more likely to have high technology including the optical scan system and lap top computers used for verification of voter eligibility.
Poorer counties, particularly those with significant people of color populations were more likely to use voting systems with higher spoilage rates than more affluent counties with significant white populations. The Commission discovered a high correlation between percentage of African American precincts and percentage of spoiled ballots. Nine of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of African American voters have spoilage rates above the Florida average. Gadsden County, claiming the highest rate of spoiled ballots,
also claims the highest percentage of African American voters. The black population is only 11%, but the number of rejected black ballots was 54%. Of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of white voters, only 2 counties had spoilage rates above the state's average. The total number of spoiled ballots was 180,000; for every 10% increase in Black voters, ballot rejection increased by 1.8%. Of the 100 precincts with the highest numbers of disqualified ballots, 83 of those precincts are majority-black precincts.
The Commission's extensive analysis of statistical data reveals that African Americans were disproportionately purged from the voter roles due to spoiled ballots rendered by undercounts and overcounts. The failure to incorporate Motor Voter registrants and the notorious, state-sponsored, erroneous purging procedures significantly contributed to the dilution of the African American vote.
The Commission also found that the lack of uniformity and absence of clear guidance from top state officials in the allocation of election-day resources, including voter education funds and effective poll worker training contributed to the incidence of spoiled ballots.
The Commission's hearings spotlighted and this report highlights the harsh reality that despite the closeness of the election, it was widespread voter disenfranchisement and not the dead-heat contest that was the extraordinary feature of the Florida election.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was enacted under the authority of Congress to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment's proscription against voting discrimination. It is aimed at subtle, as well as obvious, state action that has the effect of denying citizens the right to vote because of his of her race. Although the VRA was intended to enfranchise African Americans, the law has been amended several times to include also American Indians,
Asian Americans, Alaskan Natives, and people of Spanish heritage. Additionally, the VRA includes a provision that recognizes the need for multilingual assistance for non-English speakers.
The law allows, but does not require, a violation of the VRA to be established by proof of intentional discrimination. The law may also be violated by proof that the system discriminates. To be precise, a violation of the VRA must be proved either by intentional discrimination or alternatively, by proof that the challenged system or practice interacts with social and historical conditions to cause an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by African American and white voters to participate in the electoral process.
Put simply, no intent to discriminate is required. Neither is proof of a conspiracy to discriminate against people of color. No proof of intentional discrimination against people of color by any state or county officials involved in the administration of elections today or yesterday is required. Violations of the VRA can be established by evidence that the state's actions resulted in African Americans and other people of color being the right
to vote under the "totality of circumstances."
For example, if there are differences in voting procedures and voting technologies between white areas and people of color areas and the result of those differences is to advantage white voters and disadvantage people of color voters, then the laws, the procedures and the decisions that produced those results, viewed in the context of social and historical factors, can prove discrimination in violation of the VRA.
The Commission's findings that Florida's election was not equally open to all must be seen in the context of the Commission's jurisdiction and authority. The Commission is a fact finding body and authorized to investigate allegations of voting discrimination, fraud and other irregularities. However, the Commission does not adjudicate violations of the law, hold trials or determine civil or criminal liability. It is within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice and Florida officials to determine whether certain state and
county officials in Florida violated the VRA and, if so, to seek appropriate sanctions and remedies.
Fraud does not appear to be a major factor in the Florida election. Instead, overzealous efforts conducted under the guise of an anti-fraud campaign resulted in the inexcusable and patently unjust removal of disproportionate numbers of African American voters from Florida's voter registration rolls.
Even though fraud did not appear to trigger statewide concerns, it seems the Secretary of State's minimal public service and outreach efforts focused on two public service announcements on voter fraud. A third advertising campaign, featuring General Norman Schwartkopf, appeared to target an elite slice of Florida's voters. This suggests that the State agency responsible for mobilizing voter participation was not interested in broadening the electorate.
The purge system in Florida proceeds on the premise of guilty until proven innocent. The process places the burden on the eligible voter to justify their right to remain on the rolls.
The ubiquitous errors and dearth of effective controls in the state's list maintenance system gave priority to the exclusion of voters instead of the expansion of voter participation.
Specifically, the purge system disproportionately impacted African American voters who are placed on purge lists more often and more likely to be there erroneously than Hispanic or white voters. For instance, in Miami-Dade, the state's largest county, over 65% of the names on the purge list consisted of African Americans who represent only 20.4% of the population. Hispanics were 57.4% of the population, but only 16.6% of the purge list; whites, 77.6% of the population but 17.6% of those purged.
The Commission found no clear guidelines from the governor, the secretary of state or the director of the Division of Elections to their subordinates to employ list maintenance strategies that would protect eligible voters, particularly historically disenfranchised populations, from being wrongfully removed from the voting registration rolls.
The evidence shows, moreover, that an official of the Division of Elections encouraged representatives of the DBT Online to employ an error-laden strategy that resulted in the removal of a disproportionate number of eligible African American voters from the voting registration rolls.
The Commission found that the division of elections failed to take the same cautionary steps before the November 2000 presidential election that were taken before the 1998 election when supervisors of elections were alerted to verify the exclusion lists with the greatest of care and to provide opportunities for persons to vote by affidavit ballot in those instances in which the voter makes a credible challenge to his or her removal from the voting registration roll.
The Commission also found that state officials missed opportunities to provide necessary training to supervisors of elections on verification procedures.
There were notable instances of communication breakdowns and malfunctioning
machinery on Election Day. Aside from the lack of consistency and uniformity in
election operations, many election officials failed to authorize the use of affidavits under appropriate circumstances, and had few procedures in place to confirm voter lists through central processing. The inability to reach central offices (busy signals common) to certify voters, long lines, unprepared and untrained workers, and accessibility problems were widespread. Despite the early signs of a large influx of new voters, the Florida state
election apparatus was indifferent to this reality and did not respond with the appropriate array of measures to avoid the chaos that occurred.
The State's highest officials responsible for assuring effective uniformity coordination and application of the election were grossly derelict in fulfilling their responsibilities and unwilling to accept accountability. The governor maintains that he has no specific role in the election operations and points to his secretary of state as the responsible official.
After the election, however, the governor waded deep into the machinery of voting by appointing a task force to seek recommendations on addressing problems encountered in the election. The Governor's post-election commitment to increased voter education initiatives among new and minority voters, before the election, it was the governor who failed to support a modest budget request of $100,000 for voter education.
The secretary of state, the state's chief elections officer, denied any role in the gross failures and flaws that fostered disenfranchisement of Florida voters. Beyond a "ministerial" role, she pointed to the county election officials as the authorities responsible for the conduct of the election. Her claims of no responsibility in the operations of the elections are in sharp contrast to her actions in the aftermath of Election Day. While she described her role in the policies and decisions affecting the actual voting
operations as limited, she asserted ultimate authority in determining the outcome of the vote count.
Notwithstanding the purposeful use of erroneous listings to promote the state's purging priorities, the permanent disenfranchisement of discharged felons raises important questions of fundamental fairness. Florida's onerous and infrequently rendered clemency process also is called into question. The Commission maintains that former offenders who have paid their debt to society should have all rights of citizenship restored. It is also clear that African Americans, disproportionately charged, convicted and sentenced in the
criminal justice system, are disproportionately impacted by the state's purging policies and practices. The governor should exercise his moral authority over elections to reform this area of state law.
With regard to accessibility issues, countless voters in Florida with special needs were denied their rights to vote due to inaccessible precincts and ballots. Voters with disabilities who rely on wheelchairs were forced to negotiate steps and unreachable polling booths or undergo tremendous humiliation by relying on others to lift them into the polling places to exercise their right to vote. Others who did not have these options
were simply turned away, which denied these voters their right to participate fully in the political process.
Despite the requirements that non-English proficient voters be provided with some form of language assistance, a large number of these limited English-speaking voters were denied this assistance at Florida's polling places in the November 2000 presidential election. In some central Florida counties, Spanish-speaking voters did not receive bilingual assistance and some of these counties were subject to Section 203 of the VRA.
This failure to provide proper language support resulted in widespread voter
disenfranchisement of possibly several thousand Spanish-speaking voters in central Florida.
Unfortunately, the welcomed electoral reform law adopted by the Florida legislature and signed by the governor is silent on several important issues, including these accessibility issues and other factors that contributed to disenfranchisement and racial discrimination in the November 2000 presidential election. Specifically, the Electoral Reform Act is silent on the issue of felon purges, language assistance and removing barriers affecting
persons with disabilities.
The Commission recommends that all reform measures require clear guidance
responsibility and accountability. There must be effective monitoring systems in place and adequate resources must be distributed to ensure the meaningful implementation of these reforms.
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Seeds of Discontent
Farmers - and the public - may soon learn there's no turning back on genetically
modified foods as the hemisphere hurtles toward another ill-considered trade
June 4, 2001
by Nancy Allen
As George W. Bush took the reins of power in Washington, perennial political
hopeful Steve Forbes predicted that "we're going to get as much as we can as
fast as we can." With the coming vote in Congress on so-called "fast track"
trade rules (or Trade Promotion Authority, as the Bush people call it), Forbes'
boast appears to be on target. This is especially true when we consider the
link between promotion of genetically engineered foods and the passage of trade
Back in 1992 only a few people, mostly connected to Ralph Nader and the Green
Party, saw what these trade deals really meant for our food supply, for farmers,
for workers and for the environment. Most people are simply unaware that trade
deals, along with World Trade Organization (WTO) decision making, could override
local, state and even national laws.
On April 5, the Wall Street Journal published a study on genetically modified
foods (GMOs) almost ignored in the rest of the media. Twenty food products labeled
"non-GMO" or "GMO-free" were tested on behalf of the Journal by a prominent
food laboratory. Of the 20, 16 contained evidence of genetic material used to
At about the same time, a telephone poll conducted by the Pew Charitable Trust
found that 75 percent of U.S. respondents say they wanted to know if their food
contained GMO ingredients. And 58 percent opposed such ingredients. The public
clearly mistrusts genetic manipulation of food. That concern is not unfounded.
According to the Wall Street Journal study, "the problem, regulators say, is
that some genetically modified crops - which have been designed to resist disease,
pests and chemicals - can cross-pollinate freely with regular crops, passing
along their altered traits to the next generation".
Perhaps this contamination of our food is more than just an accident.
"The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded [with genetically
engineered organisms] that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort
of surrender", food industry consultant Don Westfall is quoted as saying in
the Toronto Star earlier this year. Westfall, who supports the development of
genetically modified foods, is vice-president of Promar International, a consulting
company based in a Washington, D.C. suburb.
The problem exists because government regulators badly underestimated the situation.
To me, this is more than just a "problem". It is an unmitigated disaster, especially
for farmers trying to sell crops in an increasingly globalized marketplace.
Many countries will not import genetically modified food from the United States.
Farmers become victims of international trade promotion sanctioned by a U.S.
Congress that appears willing to subvert laws of national governments to those
of an unelected, unaccountable international trade organization.
In a newsletter sent to county organizations in April, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture asked farmers to "check corn seed." The newsletter warned: "StarLink
is the trade name for corn genetically modified to be pest resistant by producing
a protein called Cry9C. USDA is recommending that farmers not plant any corn
unless they are certain that the seed has been tested and found to be free of
this protein. Farmers should ask seed companies to verify the seed corn has
been tested to ensure their corn does not contain the Cry9C protein."
The warning comes too late. StarLink, the genetically altered corn approved
only for animal feed and planted on less than 1 percent of U.S. corn acres in
2000, has been found in corn meant for human consumption. It is now widespread
in human food and in this years' seed corn.
Last month, four scientists in Canada submitted a report to the Canadian Biotechnology
Advisory Committee saying the human food supply is in danger of being contaminated
by genetically modified crops. The Boston Globe reported on May 17 that StarLink
corn "has turned up in nearly one out of four grain samples undergoing the government's
most stringent tests, a far higher number than previously reported and another
sign of the chaos the corn's presence has caused."
The contamination is ongoing, not only because of cross-pollination but also
because of product mixing in grain elevators, barges and combines.
Involved federal agencies haven't the faintest idea what to do other than to
ask farmers to get their seed companies to certify the seed they plant this
year is GMO free! This is no solution; this is passing the buck to the blameless
farmer for any liability caused by StarLink contamination.
In a May 8 letter to me regarding what I should do about my corn seed for this
year, EPA official, Jay Ellenberger, in the Office of Pesticide Programs wrote,
"We recommend that you verify from the seed company before your purchase that
it has tested for the StarLink protein using USDA-certified test kits and it
has subsequently determined that no StarLink protein is present in its product."
The answer I got from my own corn seed company was that seed testing for StarLink
corn was in a two-month backlog and they could not certify my seed corn. Farmers
will have already planted this year's corn before regulators catch up with the
Why wasn't Washington paying attention? The answer has a lot to do with a government
regulatory process, and trade policy, so dominated by a "fast track" to corporate
success and profit that citizen action and farmer concerns about genetic manipulation
of food have been all but ignored.
Soon Congress will vote on "fast track" authority for the new trade agreement
called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which would extend the North
America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the southern hemisphere. In spite of
the fact that almost all statistics show that NAFTA has been a dismal failure
for workers and the environment in the three countries already involved (Canada,
Mexico and the United States), agribusiness traders are drooling at the prospect
of extending their crop coup to Central and South America.
"Fast track" authority would allow a president to draw up a pact and submit
it to Congress for a simple yes-or-no vote, without amendments. (No advice,
please, senators, just consent.)
Unfortunately, FTAA, like NAFTA, will not be voted on as a treaty, though it
most certainly is one. To pass a treaty, however, requires a two-thirds vote
of the Senate and FTAA backers know they do not have the necessary votes.
With the passage of the new trade agreement, the U.S. biotech corporations would
have a much easier time marketing their genetically altered food products. FTAA/WTO
rules could consider national laws prohibiting GMO foods as barriers to trade.
The countries trying to keep their food supply free of genetically modified
foods would have to either submit to the WTO decision or pay large sanctions.
Once the food supply is so infiltrated with these products that their presence
is inevitable, the corporations will have free rein to market all over the world
and their profits and purpose will be fully operational.
One can only marvel at the foresight, planning, lobbying, money and power that
go in to this scenario. The true losers, of course, are farmers and consumers
who are victims of this crop coup, along with an environment so contaminated
with cross-pollinated crops it will be nearly impossible to reverse. With the
food genie out of the bottle and the trade train on the congressional fast track,
Steve Forbe's bully prediction will almost certainly come true.
But if farmers, workers, consumers and environmental activists make the connection
between undemocratic, destructive trade policies and plans for a worldwide genetically
manipulated food supply, it becomes quite clear we are all being taken for a
power-grabbing ride once again - a ride which has been a very long one indeed
for many, many people.
Still, we do have time to stop the "Fast Track" train. The vote is expected
Nancy Allen, of Brooksville, Maine is a Green Party organizer and the party's
media coordinator. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Coordinator, PA Fair Trade Campaign
<PRE>PA Fair Trade Campaign
122 S. 5th St.
Reading, PA 19602
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Subject: (stop-ftaa) BIOJUSTICE ACTION ALERT!!
Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2001 16:55:54 -0700
From: "Juliette Beck" <email@example.com>
Subject: BIOJUSTICE ACTION ALERT!!
CALLING ALL CONCERNED CITIZENS!!!
Join THOUSANDS of activists and come to SAN DIEGO June 22 to 27 for
BIOJUSTICE 2001 and the BEYOND BIODEVASTATION TEACH-IN
Be part of the growing global movement to stop genetic engineering and
commodification of life. The time has come to rise up and show that we
won't stand for the privatization of nature itself through patents on
living organisms, and to put an end to global corporate control.
This major event will protest BIO 2001, the biggest-ever convention of
Biotechnology Industry Organization.
The five international days of action will kick off Friday, June 22 and
Saturday, June 23 with the BEYOND BIODEVASTATION TEACH-IN, which will
feature many of the world's most respected speakers on the myriad issues
raised by the biotechnology industry's practices, from food and
environmental safety, to biopiracy and biowarfare, to threats to
biodiversity and organic small farms.
Speakers will include author and populist political maverick Jim
Indian author, scientist, and environmental advocate Vandana Shiva;
Environmental Award winners Steve Wilson and Jane Akre (fired from Fox
for their refusal to back off from their story on the dangers of rBGH
milk); Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser who was successfully sued by
Monsanto for patent infringement after having his fields contaminated by
genetically-altered canola; human genetic engineering critic Dr. Marcy
Darnovsky, and many, many more.
The Teach-in will also include many break-out workshops for activists
Then stick around June 24-27 for the march, rally, street theatre, and
protests outside the BIO convention.
For more information, or to register, check out the BIOJUSTICE/BEYOND
BIODEVASTATION website at www.biodev.org.
Or phone the BIOJUSTICE information line at 619-237-5496.
(In the San Francisco Bay Area, phone 415-981-6205 x 383.)
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U.S. BLACKS ABROAD
(Col. Writ. 5/30/01) Copyright 2001 Mumia Abu-Jamal
The historic naming of retired General Colin Powell to the post of U.S. Secretary of State has been as remarkable as it was unprecedented,
chiefly because of his African ancestry. Most major media coverage has been positive of the Bush Administration’s pick, and Secretary
Powell’s recent trip to sub-Saharan Africa has drawn the kind of crowds and attention usually reserved for heads of state (not secretaries).
But among the highly politicized student activists of South Africa, Powell was far from impressive. One youth stood at the mike at the question
and answer session of the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, and asked, "What role are you in now, Secretary Powell:
revolutionary, radical or Uncle Tom?" Outside, some protestors hoisted signs decrying Powell’s former role as head of the Joint Chiefs of the
U.S. Military, reading "Butcher of Baghdad," and the like.
Clearly, among some African youth, it mattered little the complection of an American diplomat. What was important was the role that was being
Powell’s recent African trip raises questions about the history of U.S. Blacks overseas, and the ways in which they have helped or harmed
other societies, by serving communal interests, or the interests of the U.S. Empire.
For many years, to go abroad meant to be safe from the terrors and hatreds of America. When the U.S. Congress passed the 1850 Fugitive Slave
Act, Blacks fled by the thousands to Canada for a kind of civil and personal freedom that was illusive in the United States. A number of free
Black communities were begun there, some that continue to this day.
The famed Frederick Douglass fled briefly, but to England, where supporters helped him purchase his freedom. At the time of Douglass’ flight
to freedom in England, the same time as the passage of the infamous Fugitive Slave Act (which threatened the liberty of even so-called ‘free’
Blacks), some Blacks went to West Africa to set up a free black nation – Liberia.
What U.S. Blacks brought to Africa was a new kind of colonialization that privileged Anglo-speaking people, while stigmatizing, exploiting and
even oppressing the indigenous peoples of the region. In Elizabeth Isichei’s *A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the
Present* (Africa World Press, 1995), a tragic conflict unfolded between two Black peoples, one American, the other African:
[T]o the [Black American] settlers, the local African
was the Other. Lott Carey was a black Baptist
pastor from Virginia who played a leading role in
the early days of Monrovia. With tragic irony, he
blew himself up in 1828, while making ammunition
to use against legal Africans. A black Episcopalian
priest wrote of a conflict between Americo-Liberians
and local Africans, "A few brave colonists were
beset by hosts of infuriate SAVAGES." A black
American Baptist in Liberia called Africans
"servants and soldiers for hell." [p. 165]
As late as the first quarter of the 20th Century, the U.S.-based tire company, Firestone, was the economic fireplug in the national Liberian
engine. Liberia was known as "the Firestone republic," because of the tire corporation’s powerful influence. It was on behalf of this rich
multinational that the tiny Americo-Liberian minority (roughly 5% of the population) exploited the overwhelmingly indigenous people, and at
their behest that the locals were used to work the Firestone rubber tree groves.
For the Vai, the Bassa, and the Kru peoples of the Southwest African coast, did the coming of the English-speaking, Christian Blacks from
America herald freedom, or exploitation? What did Liberia mean to them but the rise of a dark, strange-tongued foreigner?
The moral of this trek through history?
It matters more the purpose of the return of Blacks to Africa, more than the matter of return itself. When we bring the mindset of the imperialist,
capitalist, exploitative West to Africa, we bring something that does a disservice to the African people.
As the saying goes, "beware of Greeks bearing gifts!".
Copyright ‘01 - Mumia Abu-Jamal
International Concerned Family & Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709, Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180/
E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org /www.mumia.org
AND OFFER YOUR SERVICES!
Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370
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May 25, 2001
Rape and Race in the 21st Century
By Jennifer Hamer <email@example.com>
Rape historically has been one of the gender-specific ways
Black women experience racial oppression. Frequently, the
state itself -- either through conscious effort or tacit
inactivity -- has sanctioned sexual assault against our
nieces, mothers, sisters and daughters.
The case of a 13-year-old African-American girl provides the
most recent example. The incident occurred in Bethalto, a
small, predominantly White town in southeastern Illinois.
The child was sexually assaulted not once, but twice, by
three White males -- one 16 years of age, the others in
their early 20s. Though the police were contacted
immediately, the investigation was tardy and the identified
men were never arrested - on lived directly behind the young
girl's home. A predominantly White grand jury investigation
heard the testimony of several witnesses including the child
and a woman who chased the men away from the girl with a
baseball bat. The grand jury chose not to indict the men for
lack of physical evidence and because their testimony was
corroborated by witnesses other than the victim.
But the logic behind the decision was contradictory, and
curious. The 16-year-old accused of assault may be charged.
More peculiar, the county prosecutor acknowledged that the
adults involved had engaged in inappropriate behavior and
"should not have associated with her in that way."
The alleged crime by itself generated outrage and public
protest among Black Bethalto residents. The less than
aggressive handling of the case further fed residents' anger
and distrust of local police and county prosecutors. Yet,
the prosecutor in the case scolded the mother for bringing
public attention to the case, absolving himself of the
responsibility to keep her abreast of the investigation. He
also chastised protesters for being too passionate and
"emotional" -- a common patronizing remark heard when Black
people raise grievances and demands. This response not only
demonstrated a brazen lack of respect for a concerned mother
and her fears for her daughter, but it also dismissed her
community's legitimate frustrations with the glacial pace of
In a broad sense, the prosecution's blithe attitude reflects
the unfolding judicial, legislative, and executive retreat
from economic, social, and political justice for Black
people. This has included the shredding of the social safety
net for poor people (disproportionately Black, Brown, and
female); the unrelenting assaults on affirmative action; the
insidious "war on drugs" that has siphoned people of color
into a growing prison industrial complex; and the blatant
disfranchisement of Black people during the recent
presidential election. The issues involved in the Bethalto
case also awaken historical memories of sexual violence
against Black women.
Many of us are well aware of the systematic rape of Black
women and girls by White men, White youth, and Black men
during the period of slavery. Black women were chattel and
thus had no legal recourse against those who sexually
violated them. But assault was also publicly endorsed by
images of Black women as enticing, promiscuous, lascivious
Jezebels. Logically then, they could not be raped because
their characteristics and behaviors compelled men to seek
sex from Black female bodies. Thus, not only were rapists
free from threats of law and public scorn, but the physical
and psychological injuries of Black women were publicly
Freedom from slavery did not free Black women and girls from
sexual attacks. Sexual attacks by White terrorists, police
officers, jail guards and everyday citizens persisted
throughout the period of Reconstruction and the early
decades of the 20th century. While time has passed into the
21st century, images of Jezebel and the state response to
the sexual victimization of Black women has changed little.
Relative to White women, Black women victimized by rape,
whether in the past or present, are less likely to receive
public sympathy. The rape of incarcerated women by prison
guards, prison chaplains, and male inmates, coincides with
the growing number of Black women in correctional facilities
-- mostly for nonviolent offenses. Recent studies indicate
that among college students, the rape of Black women
relative to White women, is perceived as less serious and is
more likely to be construed as an act of love. Equally
appalling, those men who sexually attack Black women and
girls, regardless of race, are less likely to be charged
with a crime.
One wonders how the Bethalto case scenario would have
unfolded had the victim been White and middle class, and two
of the alleged rapists adult Black men? Would the police
investigation have been as casual? Would the prosecutor have
responded differently to the public outcries of middle-class
White residents demanding evidence that he was seeking
justice and aggressively pursuing the case of a sexually
assaulted White girl?
Given the rising numbers of Black people behind bars on
questionable evidence, a hypothesis is not difficult. Given
the numbers of Black people killed by police for offenses --
real and imagined -- the answer seems undeniably certain.
In one of the demonstrations around the Bethalto case, a
4-year-old Black girl carried a sign asking the question
that our nieces, mothers, sisters and young daughters should
never have to ponder: "Am I next to raped without justice?"
Jennifer Hamer is a national co-chair of the Black Radical
Congress and an associate professor of sociology at Southern
Illinois University Edwardsville. Her work involves both
national and local activism and scholarship on Black men,
women and families. Author of the recent book, What it Means
to be Daddy: Fatherhood for Black Men Living Away from Their
Children, Hamer is also a member of Radical Activists/
The views and opinions expressed in this article are her own.
Copyright (c) 2001 Jennifer Hamer. All Rights Reserved.
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Black Women Today
May 9, 2001
Who is Black?
A Puerto Rican Woman Claims her Place in the African Diaspora
By Rosa Clemente <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Yesterday, an interesting thing happened to me. I was told I
am not Black.
The kicker for me was when my friend stated that the island
of Puerto Rico was not a part of the African Diaspora. I
wanted to go back to the old skool playground days and yell:
"You said what about my momma?!" But after speaking to
several friends, I found out that many African Americans and
Latinos/as agree with him. The miseducation of the Negro is
still in effect!
I am so tired of having to prove to others that I am Black,
that my peoples are from the motherland, that Puerto Rico,
along with Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic, are part
of the African Diaspora. Do we forget that the slave ships
dropped off our people all over the world, hence the word
The Atlantic slave trade brought Africans to Puerto Rico in
the early 1500s. Some of the first slave rebellions took
place on the island of Puerto Rico. Until 1846, Africanos on
the island had to carry a libreta to move around the island,
like the passbook system in apartheid South Africa. In
Puerto Rico, you will find large communities of descendants
of the Yoruba, Bambara, Wolof and Mandingo people. Puerto
Rican culture is inherently African culture.
There are hundreds of books that will inform you, but I do
not need to read book after book to legitimize this thesis.
All I need to do is go to Puerto Rico and look all around
me. Damn, all I really have to do is look in the mirror
I am often asked what I am -- usually by African Americans
who are lighter than me and by Latinos/as who are darker
than me. To answer the $64,000 question, I am a Black
Boricua, Black Rican, Puertoriquena! Almost always I am
questioned about why I choose to call myself Black over
Latina, Spanish, Hispanic. Let me break it down.
I am not Spanish. Spanish is just another language I speak.
I am not a Hispanic. My ancestors are not descendants of
Spain, but descendants of Africa. I define my existence by
race and land. (Borinken is the indigenous name of the
island of Puerto Rico.)
Being Latino/a is not a cultural identity but rather a
political one. Being Puerto Rican is not a racial identity,
but rather a cultural and national one. Being Black is my
racial identity. Why do I have to consistently explain this
to those who are so-called conscious? Is it because they
have a problem with their identity? Why is it so bad to
assert who I am, for me to big up my Africanness?
My Blackness is one of the greatest powers I have. We live
in a society that devalues Blackness all the time. I will
not be devalued as human being, as a child of the Supreme
Although many of us in activist circles are enlightened,
many of us have baggage that we must deal with. So many
times I am asked why many Boricuas refuse to affirm their
Blackness. I attribute this denial to the ever-rampant
anti-Black sentiment in America and throughout the world,
but I will not use this as an excuse. Often Puerto Ricans
who assert our Blackness are not only outcast by Latinos/as
who identify more with their Spanish Conqueror than their
African ancestors, but we are also shunned by African
Americans who do not see us as Black.
Neely Fuller, a great African American sociologist, stated:
"Until one understands the system of White supremacy,
anything and everything else will confuse you." Divide and
conquer still applies.
Listen people: Being Black is not just skin color, nor is it
synonymous with African Americans. To assert who I am is the
most liberating and revolutionary thing I can ever do. Being
a Black Puerto Rican encompasses me racially, ethnically and
most importantly, gives me a homeland to refer to.
So I have come to this conclusion: I am whatever I say I am!
(Thank you, Rakim.)
Rosa Clemente is the youth organizer for the F.R.E.E. Youth
Empowerment Program of Central Brooklyn Partnership. She is
also an organizer with Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the
co-host of WBAI's "Where We Live" public affairs program.
Copyright (c) 2001 The Black World Today. All Rights Reserved.
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