The BlackElectorate.com “Business and Building” International Affairs ‘Coffee Talk’ Session: “Diaspora, Globalization and Foreign Policy.”
For nearly seven years BlackElectorate.com has provided coverage of the issues, historic struggles, latest trends, interests, and power dynamics associated with the African Diaspora, the Global Economy and American Foreign Policy. On Sunday morning October 29th at 7 AM, the Homewood Suites by Hilton Hotel will be the scene, as we hold a private 90-Minute Dialogue Session on this topic, as we begin the search for consensus and agreement on an initiative for the BlackElectorate.com Community to embrace and work on for the next year.
We are blessed to have obtained an excellent facilitator for this event, a Black professional international economist with a detailed grasp of current affairs, and one who is steeped in cultural, historical, political and economic knowledge pertaining to Africa and its Diaspora, the latest developments in fiscal, trade and monetary policies all over the world, and the impact and hidden forces driving U.S. foreign policy. This person will be introducing a few facts to guide the discussion, and inviting and challenging our attendees to express their individual opinions, insights, and scholarship; channel those into Dialogue; and onward into a collective process by which consensus and agreement can eventually be reached on an initiative to mobilize the entire BlackElectorate.com community around.
There are no limits on what we are willing to discuss. However, our facilitators (for all of our Sessions: International Affairs, Community Development, Political Action and Business and Investment) are charged with the responsibility of evolving the conversation and discussion away from a natural initial stage of abstract, philosophical, theoretical and opinionated thinking and into Dialogue and then Strategy and Tactics. All those who participate should feel comfortable expressing passionately held opinions, but they should also come prepared to listen, search for facts, make proper interpretations, and reason with others over them.
The measure of success and full participation lies not in advancing one’s position or how eloquent one makes their point or how plausible their idea or proposal might be, but whether or not it survives a process of Dialogue and can be developed into a workable collective initiative with strategy and tactics.
We have a process prepared by which all attendees - during and after the Sessions will be able to verbally and in written form communicate with one another.
This will not be a venting session, it will be building session. We want passion and practicality that grows out of an understanding of an issue or the sincere desire to search for the truth regarding it, and to establish it. And that is another point regarding the Initiatives, we do not just want to tell the truth, we want to establish it.
We will be establishing Teams (not committees, smile) charged with this mandate in each of the four areas.
For years, we have noticed the attitude held by many that international affairs, global economics and American foreign policy are off limits to Black people in America - that we should concern ourselves only with civil rights and economic empowerment in the inner cities and rural areas in which we live.
Although many Black Americans, on the surface, find this mentality and stereotype offensive, as a people, we have to honestly ask ourselves the question of what we have actually done to give a lie to this limiting worldview, and to become a tangible factor of power on these subjects?
There is no advocacy group on Black American-Africa issues, for example, to even remotely rival the effort on Jewish American-Israel issues known as AIPAC or the (American Israel Public Affairs Committee.) Years ago, unannounced, I visited the offices of AIPAC in New York City, was given a tour of their office, listened to them explain to me the process of how they organize students and school their members into an understanding of the lobbying process.
It was a sophisticated operation but one where every member knew where they stood and could be utilized. I was even most impressed by how ready they were to explain how someone like me – outside of their community – could help their cause. Their operation was completely standardized. They have a strategy and a variety of tactics by which they could make use of practically anyone in the world on behalf of the relationship between America and Israel. It was impressive and garnered my respect. They even invited me to their upcoming conference that year, but I decided not to attend.
As part of the approximately 78,000 articles and editorials we have published or linked to in our existence, many have shown the role that non-Blacks have played in appearing to be responsive to the suffering of Black people all over the world, but particularly in Africa. Whether it is Bono, the UN, Angelina Jolie, the EU, Bill Gates, the WHO, George Clooney or a non-Black Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), my reaction is always the same. While I think many of these celebrities and organizations are sincere and effective in some cases, misguided in others, self-serving at times, and others downright sinister in their motivation and objectives, I never can seem to shake the feeling that no one should operate on that continent without there being a robust, informed, resource-rich entity, run and managed by Africans and members of the African Diaspora that has already beaten them to the suffering of our people on the ground, capable of serving as a facilitator or counter weight.
As many of you know I was hurt by the sight of Russell Simmons, who has more political influence, mass organizing ability (through leveraging his finance and celebrity) and standing in our community, following Bono's lead on the G-8 Summit last year and the issue of Debt Elimination For Africa.
At the last minute, a professional friend of mine, who works with Russell and respects my view of Black and international affairs, invited me to fly to Scotland with Russell and Bono and gain high level access to G-8 leaders and negotiations. We just couldn't make it happen at the last minute. Everything in due time.
I thought about this again when I saw, on ESPN, last night, the beautiful interaction between Baltimore Ravens football star, Ray Lewis, and the people of Ethiopia, on a recent visit there.
My view is rather than hate on Bono, or be jealous of him, I choose to listen to "It's A Beautiful Day" and do the best I can to offer an alternative to what he is doing. And perhaps, one day, if the time is right and the principles and cause righteous, we can work together for good. But first, I and the numerous leaders - more qualified than me - who are out front and in the trenches on Africa need help to leverage the power of the Black electorate on behalf of Africa. We need to form a united community dedicated to this single issue.
By the same token this can't be a one-way relationship. We don't help Africa by romanticizing about her and only reading books about her rich history and our connection. Further more, I am reminded by the words of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Ice Cube.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad (who traveled to Africa numerous times, and had a non-stop flow of traffic in and out of his home from visiting African leaders, scholars and intellectuals put in the Muhammad Speaks newspaper the picture of the hand of a Black person on one side of the Atlantic connecting with their Brother and Sister on the other) wrote, decades ago in an article that appears in Message To The Blackman the following:
Many of my people, the so-called Negroes, say we should help the nations of Africa which are awakening. This has been said as if we owned America. We are so foolish! What part of America do we have that you can offer toward helping Africa? Who is independent, the nations of Africa or we? The best act would be to request the independent governments of Africa and Asia to help us. We are the ones who need help. We have little or nothing to offer as help to others. We should begin to help at home first.
And in the song, "Tales From The Darkside" Ice Cube says:
You wanna free Africa, I stare at yuh
Cuz we ain't got it too good in America
I can't f--k with them overseas
My homeboy died over keys, of cocaine,
It was plain and simple
The 9mm went to the temple...
Some may cringe at these words (which do not represent the totality of what either man has said or done on or for Africa) but they get to the heart of something that we need to talk about. It points to a subject that many Africans and Black Americans are avoiding. And by beating around the bush and romanticizing we are delaying our unity.
Many of my beautiful African friends and many of my Black American friends have made an error and mistake, in my view. They equate the apparent material wealth of Black Americans with 'success,' and 'health.' That somehow, because Blacks have a median financial income that might be higher than Blacks all over the world, that somehow this form of wealth and capital makes them better off than most Africans. But these friends of mine seem to forget the psychic, spiritual and even moral forms of wealth and capital that Black Americans had taken from them, and are still groping to recover.
This is easy to see.
Anyone who is honest and has been to Africa can tell you of the often warped view of Black Americans that many (of course not all) Africans have due to how the image of Blacks has been projected over there. All of my friends who have gone to Africa and all of my African friends who live here, admit to me that we are frequently portrayed as savages, irresponsible, criminals, etc...and largely with an assist from the worst images of Hip-Hop music.
Consider this article from the November 16, 2003 issue of the New York Times written by a Black American Muslim traveling in Egypt:
One night during Ramadan, a skinny hustler in knockoff American clothes joined us for dinner. He was one of those 20-something lotharios who haunt downtown Cairo, seducing tourists. After dinner, we sat alone in front of the shop.
"Do you know the story of Tupac Shakur?" he asked me. I nodded and smiled; I was intrigued that he knew anything about rap and proud that he did. "They killed him in the ghetto," he continued. "I love all the rap, all the niggers."
My face went hot. I told him he shouldn't use that word.
"Why not?" he asked. "All the blacks use it. All the blacks have sex and sell drugs like Tupac and Jay-Z."
Not since grade school had such talk so upset me. "Look at me," I said. "I'm black. I don't sell drugs."
"Please, don't be upset," the young man said, offering me his hand. "I'm a nigger. I'm a hustler like Tupac."
Of course I could quote even more ignorant views of Africans held by Black Americans (even expressed in rap music). We are just as ignorant in many cases or worse, even.
But what this article suggests is one of the factors that make the proposed African tour of Jay-Z and Nas so symbolic and potentially positive.
I believe that Black Americans have a special duty to perform by themselves and Africa, right here. And it is a role that Africans must respect.
Here's an example, from politics.
There are countless African governments and business interests who seem to disrespect Black Americans and not only our leadership, but also the grasp that we have of this country and how this government works. I can rest my case on the countless African governments who repeatedly hire non-Black lobbying firms to represent their cause and interests before Congress. I could do a roll call from Zimbabwe, to Benin to Ethiopia down the line.
It is embarrassing and insulting to Black Americans and the suffering African people when I hear over and over again from Black members of Congress and staffers that an African government is paying some White American individual or firm $50,000 a month or $1,000,000 for six months of work to push an issue through Congress. It is even worse and more demoralizing when the effort is not successful or aimed at the wrong objective.
Pressure, in the right spirit, has to be placed on African – and Caribbean governments – to work more closely with the sons and daughters of the African Diaspora who know this country better than anyone.
And we must not forget that for all of the suffering that goes on in Africa, those beautiful people still have a form of the knowledge of Self that we lack. They also have the power and resources of Independent governments. They should be asked to help us here.
I don’t think that parts of West Baltimore, Camden, South East D.C., parts of Detroit and Cleveland (the two poorest cities in America where Blacks are concerned according to the Census Bureau) are that much better off than many African villages. And as the work of economist Armatya Sen shows, the life expectancy of some Blacks is worse than that of many Africans.
So we need a heart-to-heart that might be painful at first, but which is necessary to progress.
Finally, on the issue of globalization. As many of you know, this website enthusiastically promotes the reading of international and financial media. We do so repeatedly and passionately. Our motive is to make it clear that we are a global people, and to keep us informed of how economic and technological matters all over the world are affecting us here, and vice-versa. Outsourcing; innovation; foreign elections; the revaluation of the Chinese currency, the yuan; the explosion of nanotechnology; the price of gold; embargoes and sanctions; tax rates; and tribal and ethnic conflicts all over the world affect our quality of life here. If we don’t know how to connect the dots, as a people, we are going to be left behind and cast aside, not only by America, but by an entire world. Our economic development here, depends upon us being informed and educated in this area.
Just recently a friend of mine and I decided that we would leave the American nightly news alone and start watching two programs, back-to-back: BBC Nightly News and the Nightly Business Report on PBS. After only a couple of days of doing this you begin to realize how dumbed-down we are by the media; how financially illiterate we are; and how biased the American perspective is, when one weighs it from the perspective of an entire world that this country’s cable media (Fox, MSNBC, CNN) ignores or marginalizes.
My point is not to promote these two programs, which of course are not perfect, but rather to place emphasis that we need perspective and to be informed and educated about our people and a world around us if we are truly to identify and pursue an enlightened self-interest. Until we do that our activism, analysis, and advocacy will continue to miss the mark.
That is why we have offered nearly 80,000 articles and editorials to you, free-of-charge.
Please support and join our effort to build a self enlightened community that can become a tangible power of factor on behalf of Black people all over the world and in the service of righteous principles.
You can register for the BlackElectorate.com “Business and Building” Weekend and the International Affairs “Coffee Talk” today at:
Note: Please Remember There Are Only Advance Ticket Sales For This Event.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of BlackElectorate.com or Black Electorate Communications.