Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: In The Twilight Of Our Freedoms? by Cynthia McKinney
Good afternoon, we are here to discuss Zimbabwe. What we can do for Zimbabwe
and what Zimbabwe can do for us.
As a larger discussion, however, we ought to include what we can do for
ourselves and for others. And what we have failed to do.
Let us not forget Alberta Spruill and Ousmane Zongo, an African American and
an African killed by the unique circumstances that unite blacks and Africans
in this country. Ousmane Zongo follows in the footsteps of Amadou Diallo, a
young unarmed African man shot 19 times by racism in America. Sadly, Diallo
wasn't the first African whose American dream was shattered by the true state of
black America and Ousmane won't be the last. Ousmane just happened to be a
black man in an America too quick to kill any black man.
Mrs. Spruill died because the NY Police Department had authorities that had
been given it by the Ashcroft Justice Department; authorities it didn't
deserve. The NYPD decided to use those new authorities, not in the corporate suites
of Wall Street and Madison Avenue, where corporate criminals rip billions of
dollars off working class, tax-paying Americans, but instead invaded the home
of Mrs. Alberta Spruill, a grandmother, who at the time was dressing for work
when the NYPD busted through her door. Literally frightened to death, Mrs.
Spruill had a heart attack and died. The police Chief later said, "I'm sorry."
The NYPD had disturbed the wrong lady, at the wrong home, at the wrong
address. Mrs. Spruill follows a long line of black mothers and grandmothers who
bury their husbands and sons in racist America--and then they are buried.
This past Thursday, we celebrated Juneteenth. And in fact, Georgia
hosts the longest running Juneteenth celebration in our country. As you
know, Juneteenth is celebrated every June 19th, because that is when the slaves
realized that they were free.
January to June 1865-the twilight of legal slavery in our country.
We share something with those blacks who had been freed but didn't know it.
The blacks in Africa and the blacks in America. And those blacks of 1865.
And hence, we've remained slaves far longer than should be. And neither of us
has strategized effectively to stay free. As a result, I suggest that we could
easily be in the twilight of our freedom. Both here at home and on the
Here at home, suffering the oppressions of unchecked racism we are unable to
help-and in some cases unwilling-to help our brothers and sisters in Africa.
On the Continent, our brothers and sisters help themselves but sadly not
their people and not us.
So we have come today to speak about Zimbabwe. And what prompts that
discussion? Headlines that inform us that Zimbabwe is coming apart. Some would have
us believe that we become heated over Zimbabwe because of the country's human
rights abuse, democracy well over the line toward autocracy, rampant
corruption, and black racism. But ultimately, the question is the land. Zimbabwe has
embarked upon a long-promised and well-overdue land reform.
But President Mugabe has known full well that the question of Zimbabwean
independence, even at its dawn, was hinged on the question of the ownership of the
land. For the question remains unanswered by those who claim title to the
land of how they actually got that land. And if they are not willing to answer
that question, then how can their title to the land be legally valid?
But that is not just a Zimbabwe issue. That is an African issue. For Africa
was not a barren land devoid of people. Africa was for Africans until the
Europeans came along. And then Africa became theirs and basically remains
theirs to this day.
We African Americans have a lot of nerve getting upset about Africans'
failure secure their own land when we have had and continue to have an unprecedented
and unhalted loss of land right here in America-and never really secured the
40 acres nor the mule that we were due for slavery, yet reparations were paid
to slaveholders who lost their slaves due to freedom.
I am certain that this exchange will be good and healthy and we all will
benefit from the information. But at the end of the day, what will we accomplish
and what are we willing to fight for? And what are we willing to risk for?
Is Zimbabwe willing to risk severing its relationship with Herman Cohen since
Cohen has failed so miserably to prevent Zimbabwe hysteria from reaching
And why didn't Zimbabwe use its alliances and friendships with blacks in the
US and in England to explain its cause and have the tough questions asked of
"candidate" Blair and his New Labour Party?
Since 1998, three million people have died in Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 1994, one million Rwandans died because the US wanted "regime change" in
Central Africa. During the period in-between, Jonas Savimbi romped across the
Angolan landscape with American-supplied landmines, making Angola the amputee
capital of the world because the US wanted a friend in power in oil-rich
Angola. At the same time, the world's attention focused like a laser on the
chopped-off hands of little boys and 12-year-old raped little girls in Sierra Leone
because Madeleine Albright tried to sneak Foday Sankoh, the leader of the
so-called rebels who were committing these atrocities, into the democratically
elected government so he could be in charge of diamonds—to ensure cheap access to
Sierra Leone's diamonds. Cheap in dollars maybe, but costly in black blood.
Laurent Kabila's last words to me were that he told Susan Rice that he would
never betray Congo. And now Laurent Kabila is dead. He followed in the
footsteps of Patrice Lumumba.
So from Patrice Lumumba to Laurent Kabila to Amadou Diallo to Ousmane Zongo.
Our black men are under attack. But the source of the attack was not from
home. The source of the attack was Washington, DC and a refusal to recognize
the rights of black people whether here or abroad.
We now have a "government" that is consolidating power and taking away our
very rights to organize and fight back. And while we numb ourselves with
Hummers and Mercedes, and mortgages that we could lose tomorrow, our America is
becoming a Republic in which we can't even be sure that our votes will be counted.
It is imperative that we stop the madness in the USA; and I guarantee you
that then it will stop in Africa. But, as I said earlier, I believe we are at
the twilight of our freedom.
When police in Benton Harbor, Michigan or New York City can pull a trigger at
a black man first and think about the consequences later, when we have more
young black men in prison than in college, when an 1860s South Carolina
anti-lynching law intended to protect blacks is now used to prosecute blacks who get
into fights with whites, when an entire town, Tulia Texas, can indict its
black men wrongfully of criminal acts on the word of a white man, when parts of
the Voting Rights Act expire in 2007 and that issue is nowhere on our agenda,
our failure to adequately address problems that affect us here at home is
evident. And how can we save Zimbabwe when we haven't yet taken the necessary steps
to save ourselves?
In George Bush's New World Order, all roads lead to Washington, DC. And it
is only in Washington, DC that we can effectively deal with our problems and
those that plague Africa. The Bush cabal is planning regime change operations
all over the world. They're currently threating Iran and Syria; rattling
sabers at North Korea and China. They're unhappy with Russia and Germany. But if
we don't organize ourselves carefully in this country, and reach across the
oceans to our African brothers and sisters, and they reach back, this could
truly be the twilight of our freedoms.
Note: This is the text of remarks delivered on June 21, 2003
at First African Presbyterian Church
Tuesday, June 24, 2003