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31 Dec 2011

2011: The International Year for People of African Descent: Did anyone get the memo?

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December 31, 2011 Category: Stateside Posted by:

According to a UN resolution, 2011 was supposed to be ‘our’ year—but it looked much like any other. Nothing special.

By Wendell P. Simpson


According to UN Resolution 64/169, 2011 was designated as the International Year For People of African Descent. Ostensibly, UN Resolution 64/169 was proposed to strengthen the international commitment to the advancement and protection of the cultural, political and social rights of people of African descent, and promote a greater understanding, awareness and respect for our diverse heritage.


“This international year is designed to offer a unique opportunity to redouble our efforts to fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that affect people of African descent everywhere,” said Davi Pillay when he tabled the pronouncement last year.


So how come nobody got the memo? 2011 was a challenging year for people of African descent. From the Horn of Africa to the State of Georgia justice system to the streets of North London to the office of the President of the United States, Black folk caught hell and struggled to maintain. In America, Black folk saw disproportionate jobless and poverty numbers; in England and France, acts of civil disobedience articulated latent feelings of marginalization. In Africa, ethnic conflicts and wars over resources took a terrible toll, displacing millions and exacerbating the continent’s slide into chaos, while Western neo-imperialist powers exploited the turmoil in order to bolster their strategic positions.


Now I don’t know if that tableau makes 2011 any different from the year before or the years before that—but below, this observer has listed some of his favorite, most ‘cherished’ moments, persons and events that made 2011 one of the ‘halcyon’ years for People of African Descent:


The drought in East Africa


In East Africa, the lack of rainfall, coupled with the effects of a weather anomaly, global warming, a worldwide rise in food prices and a decades-long geopolitical conflict, has affected an estimated 10 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.


Hundreds of thousands refugees have been created and the borders are porous and unsecure. The UN has termed the current conditions ‘a step short of catastrophe’—but according to academics and scientists, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Drought conditions could continue; also, Western fears that relief funds could be diverted to terrorist operatives in the region has seen a drastic drop in food aid. Kenya’s infrastructure is near collapse as it struggles with an influx of about 1500 refugees a day from Ethiopia and Somalia. The World Food Program had been feeding 4.5 million Ethiopians but has had to half its assistance since March as funding ran out.


In the meantime, Kenya and Somalia are on the verge of all-out war over the cross-border kidnapping of international aid workers by Somali warlords.


The demise of Black folks in Libya


Amidst all the glad-handing and back slapping that went on in the aftermath of the Gaddafi’s deposition in Libya, hardly anyone bothered to notice the purges being committed against Black Libyans by the rebels. It was bad enough that NATO helped turn the country over to the same Al-Qeada and Mujahudeen fighters it had sending its daughters to kill and die over for the past ten years; now the liberators became same ‘liberators’, tapping into latent xenophobias, were engaging in a violent riot against the sub-Saharan Blacks who had become both citizens and migrant workers.


Black Libyans, described by NTC rebels as ‘mercenaries’ despite any evidence substantiating the charge, were systemically rounded up, and in some cases, tortured and killed. Thousands have been murdered as entire Black enclaves throughout the country have been obliterated. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, condemned the purges and called the rebels’ revolution ‘one mired in a moral façade.’


Troy Davis


In 1991, a troubled young man named Troy Davis was convicted of murdering Mark MacPhail, an off-duty Savannah, Georgia police officer. Davis was sentenced to death.


Davis had always maintained his innocence; however, during the trial nine prosecution witnesses positively identified him as the triggerman; two others testified that Davis had actually confessed the crime to them.


During subsequent appeals hearings evidence began to arise that exposed some important discrepancies: The murder weapon was never found, and defense affidavits showed that seven of the nine prosecution witnesses had recanted.


And, Then there was the confession—Sylvester Coles, a co-defendant in the original trial, gave up the ghost, admitting it was he who pulled the trigger on MacPhail.


In 2010, the US Court of Appeals granted a review of the newly emerged evidence. However, the trial board excluded Coles’ confession as ‘hearsay’ on the grounds that the defense hadn’t submitted a writ of subpoena offering him an opportunity to rebut the defense’s claims.


On a technicality—and despite pleas for clemency from internationally influential voices, such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Benedict XVI, Amnesty International, and former president Jimmy Carter—the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia upheld the original conviction, and Davis, after twenty years on death row, and all of his appeals options exhausted, was finally executed by the State of Georgia on September 21, 2011.




On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama marched into the White House on the drumbeat of revolutionary rhetoric, the legacy—whether he likes it or not—of the Black struggle, atop an Everest-sized mountain of debt, debris and detritus left by eight years of George Bush’s glorious ineptitude.


The problem was, Obama reached the mountaintop and then started tap-dancing. He kept Geitner, Sumner and Bernacke from the Bush posse; he kept buying up the banks’ bad debts; he escalated the Afghanistan conflict; he got bluffed three times by Congress on the Bush tax cuts, a debt ceiling deal that calls for more borrowing, and a hackneyed jobs bill that actually stipulates outsourcing. And the debate is still raging over possible constitutional infringements attached to the latest defense bill Obama signed.


Yeah, the president served up Osama’s head; he’s signed some important consumer protection legislation; his health care initiative is historic, but it’s nowhere near enough; he’s pulled the troops out of Iraq, some cynics say just in time for his run-up to the re-election campaign; and he’s recently lip-synced to the chant of the Occupy movement—but everybody knows he’s coddled Wall Street and that makes him part of the problem. The perception that he’s out of touch, almost irrelevant, reflects in an approval rating that bottomed out at 20% in 2011.


No doubt, the President’s been dealt a bad hand, but he ain’t much of a poker player, anyway. Obama will probably regain the White House in 2012. Other than its hatred for Obama, the GOP has nothing new by way of a platform. Cain, Perry, Bachman—caput; Romney’s a cult member and Gingrich is a relic; and the party sure can’t sell its old ‘big corporatism’ schpiel this time out. The Democrats win a war of attrition.


The London Riots of 2011


What started out as a peaceful protest in Tottanham, North London, over the shooting of an unarmed young Black man by London Metropolitan Police’s firearms squad, conspired with anger over police tactics, rising housing and education costs and massive government cuts, to created a boiling discontent which finally exploded into the worst riots the UK had seen since the Brixton riots twenty years earlier.


For three days in early August, the inertia of discontent that started in a few isolated London boroughs quickly spread to other British cities. Arson and looting were widespread, and when the smoke finally cleared, five people were dead, sixteen others injured and property damages incurred were somewhere in the neighborhood of £200 million.


In response, Prime Minister David Cameron and the Parliament dialled up a special session to find somebody to blame. Liberals turn their heat toward racial discrimination and economic disparities plaguing UK communities of color; white conservatives blame the influence of ‘Jamaican patois’ culture for ghettoising British culture England; still others point to lowered moral standards, a lack of values and the coddling of criminals. The young rioters say corruption and slack morals filter down form the top. As of this writing, the Brits are still sussing it all out.

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