R. Kelly: Sexual Predator or Scapegoat?

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I anticipate that this post will be unpopular. I acknowledge the contention that my assertions will certainly prompt and welcome the scathing comments in the section below. With that being said, I still very must feel that my perspective is worthy of articulation and exposure to those that care to listen.

Singer and R&B legend R.Kelly made headlines this week for allegedly assembling a sex cult consisting of underaged girls. These allegations bear a disturbing connection to R. Kelly’s previous trouble with the law, portraying Kelly as a an OJ-like figure–a haughty  recidivist who finagled through the loopholes of the American legal system.
I feel obliged to state that I have no respect for R. Kelly as a man. I do however, respect his talent. I perceive the ‘Pied Piper’ as an enslaved black who used America’s need to hyper sexualize the black man as a means to foment his career. While Kelly defiantly made family friendly songs like “Step in The Name of Love” and inspirational songs like “I Believe I Can Fly” and “The World’s Greatest” most of Kelly’s hits are sexualized slow jams to which I’m sure proved background music to the conception of many post millennials. His sexualized image fueled a career spanning over two decades with a plethora of adoring black female fans.

These fans remained loyal to Kelly even after a video surfaced of the singer issuing a golden shower to a then-fifteen year old girl. The charges were eventually dropped and buried in the past of a musician who was still able to maintain his mogul stature despite dramatic changes in the music industry.
While my argument is not to pardon R. Kelly from blame, it is that he is not the primary cause of the hyper-sexualized black female body that faces violation without consequence. R. Kelly was relieved of any legal responsibility in previous allegations of sexually violating a black female teen simply because the black female body bears no significance to the Western world outside of monetary gain. Consider how quickly the western world kills and incarcerates the black body.  The reason why Kelly was not susceptible to these consequences is not because of his riches, but because his “crimes” served an integral purpose in maintaining white supremacy. Moreover, the world was and is more interested in portraying Kelly and his victim as sexual beasts than to upholding the integrity of those they do not see as a human let alone bearing the presumed innocence of femininity or childhood.
To the western gaze, the hyper sexuality of the young black female body violently seduces Kelly. To this same gaze, Kelly is a sexualized being unable to resist the callings of his bestial urges. Together, these caricatured images of black sexuality function assemble the historical narrative of blacks as primitive and underdeveloped beings worthy of the death and incarceration that befalls them.

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Kelly, a melanated individual who believes his conventional success consummates his transition to whiteness, feels as entitled to young bodies as the white man did and does to young black females. Kelly, is a symbol of what happens when a morally impoverished black youth offsets a journey to acquire physical wealth and not a collective consciousness. As members of an oppressed collective, it is essential that we proceed with consciousness. To proceed without it, is to inevitably mirror our oppressors in thought and action.

There is also a large possibility that this ordeal is entirely fictional, and yet another means to lynch a black man by the rope of hyper sexuality. But the verity of these accusations does little to supersede its societal function. The scenario depicts how the black man and women are commonly pitted against one another and how the black male is villanized for implementing what he was nurtured to idolize—white male ideology.

The teachings of white supremacy are second nature to anyone not possessing a conscious gaze. I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, a few years back and was mortified at what Pecola’s father does to her on the kitchen floor. I resented Morrison for years, holding her in contempt for depicting the black man as indifferently robbing his child of her innocence.

It took me several strides into consciousness to realize that the father was a man systemized and nurtured to become an animal, a subjugate human who performs the dirty work of his master in his oppressed state. This is not an excuse, as his actions are detestable and hard to read, yet even more difficult to process as a factual fate rendered to so many blacks throughout the diaspora silent in the shame of their systemic violation.

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Kelly symbolically stands in the same image of this fictional black man who encompasses the factual narrative of so many other black males castrated by earthly demons who program the black body to inflict white evil onto their own people.

Kelly’s actions function to lure black women from blackness into the arms of feminism–yet example of society’s dedication to turning racist issues into sexist issues to further the cyclical disenfranchisement of blacks by hurling our struggle into oblivion. A second offense by a black praised for his prodigious talent, serves another blow to our collective identity alongside similar allegations afforded to other black greats like the late Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Kobe Bryant, amongst others. These allegations function to fuel white esteem and denigrate black collective worth in staining the black psyche with portraits of themselves that seemingly lack a moral compass.

So, to those quick to compartmentalize a black man as a sexual villain— I would like to redirect your attention to the words of the late and great Malcolm X:

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

To what contempt will you hold a system that upholds the systemic soiling of black female bodies?

To reiterate I am in no way excusing Kelly, but evoking a sense of nationalism to assert that we as a collective have been wronged by a system that lures us to incessantly blame ourselves but seldom confront the  true villain and sole benefactor of global racism.

In closing, the power of blackness lies largely in realizing if and when we are being played. So while we may not be playing chess, our systemized state as blacks bears a close resemblance to a king being used to seize the most powerful piece of the game–his queen.

Article by CC Saunders

Dim Your light Dark Girl: Invisibility and Black Femininity

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After my first semester of teaching I was invited to meet with the department chair, a frumpy, middle aged- white woman who treated me like white retailers have my entire life–as if my presence depreciated the value of the company. She arrived over thirty minutes late for my meeting, a fact she would casually disregard when pushing me out of her office not even ten minutes later. Her actions stated that I did not belong, despite the fake and almost nervous smile worn as an effort to melt my stoic expression. In those ten minutes she’d gloat about what she considered “bad” student reviews— an attempt to break me down into a negro in need of a fictive white brilliance to step into the role of woman. This was the same woman who failed to provide me with the room number for my class and made it so that I received my first check shortly before midterms. I was invisible until something seemingly negative surfaced, then my black female body became a canvass for white shame, a means to bludgeon me until my  posture slouched in defeat. For white functionality is solely rooted in black inferiority, no matter how hard the white body must work to make their fictive superiority a reality.

The contemporary black female body exists in the shadow of her ancestors, only seen in instances of negativity, because to acknowledge her in her beauty and brilliance is to threaten the false esteem of her oppressors. Sadly, the same is true for the melanated individuals referenced interchangeably with those black in body and mind.  In conversations or simply in the presence of melanated folk, the black woman is ignored if not overtly deficient in one way or another.

In Black Looks, scholar and cultural critic bell hooks says the following of black female visibility:

Objectified in a manner similar to the block female slaves who stood on auction blocks while owners and overseers described their important, salable parts, the black woman whose naked bodies were displayed for whites out social function had no presence. They were reduced to mere spectacles. Their body parts were offered as evidence to support racist notions that black people were more a kin to animals than other humans (hooks 62).

Just like the Saartje Baartmans of the past, the black female body remains a dismembered presence that only becomes visible to prove white superiority. The black woman is commonly shoved, reached over and ignored in quotidian activities from riding the train to grocery shopping. However, if wearing a garment where her protruding backside is visible, or her breasts or legs are exposed, she assumes the hyper visibility of her ancestors cast along the auction block, dismembered by the white male gaze and itemized for white male consumption.

I write this post in hopes of enlightening the black female and even black males to embedded expectations that subconsciously recruit us as soldiers of white supremacy. Namely, many blacks have also grown comfortable with caricatures blackness and downcast their own for failing to embody the necessary imperfection to seem normal in our western setting. This imperfection is commonly conceptualized in labeling the black female body a “bitch” or “whore.”

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The Black “Bitch”

A student called me a bitch for the first time this semester. I’m actually pretty sure I, like my sisters throughout the diaspora,  have been called worse, but this was the first time a student had rendered an expletive to my face. Following hurling the expletive my way, the student proceeded to talk over me until storming out the classroom and reporting to the dean.

The cause of the altercation you ask? I simply asked the student a question.

Like clockwork the dean shows up a few minutes later asking to see me. An act that festered the very authority challenged by my student. After dismissing my class I went to visit this middle-aged white women with a foreign accent, short haircut and slightly abrasive attitude. She asked me what happens and becomes overtly agitated when I disclose that the student called me a bitch. She then rolls her eyes, sighs and asks me to prepare a written statement. Although I had been disrespected twice that morning, once by the student and again when the director came to remove me from the class like a misbehaved student, it was me who had burdened her. In producing a response to the query she asked me, I cast this poor woman as the victim  because she would now have to draft some paperwork.

“You have to be very careful how you address these students.”

I nodded indifferently.

“Be careful.” she said, with her eyes locking intensely with mine, embedding a slew of words she wished to say but could not.

The exchange was a vindictive display of power by a being disinterested in both my and my student’s well being. All the director saw was money. So instead of engaging my comfort in returning a student who blatantly disrespected me, my other students, and most importantly herself, it was without discussion that she would return to the class.To the director I was salt thrown in the would of a battered ego. I, like countless other black bodies cast throughout the diaspora, had become too visible in a space solely desiring my invisibility. To lure students into an invidious state, is to insult the white bodies who wish to be the sole source to evoke green from a black a gaze.

This is an unexpected example of black females being asked to be less of themselves to not fester insecurity in their counterparts, who must remain subjugated for whites domination.

Similar are the conversations that surround the black female body and romance. The black female body is commonly compartmentalized as “intimidating” if failing to exist as the a caricature, or controlling image like the mammy, jezebel, sapphire or tragic mulatto.

The strong black Woman is too independent to appease the male ego. The angry black Women too abrasive for the masculine pride. The beautiful woman is too high maintenance and too tenable, the educated woman too intellectually elevated to have her feet planted firmly on the ground.  The black woman can seemingly not win when it comes to possessing attributes that extinguish a caricatured identity and propel her into a state of hyper-visibility.

Just as the directors sought to admonish with the words “be careful” the black woman is often issued a similar warning in being told to re evaluate how she carries herself. She is to exist to make others seem bigger in comparison to her smallness. To other blacks she is to encourage them to aim low and garner some attribute of a subjugated being.

The black body, if not dwarfed by the ax of white supremacy is nurtured to bend in order to fit through doorways–rather than build their own structure to which she can strut through in her prodigious state. The only thing the black Women is, is too stereotyped. If too pretty, too smart or too successful the white and other persons of colors typically aim to discount blackness with other races or ethnicities to eschew diversifying their perspective on black people.

Seemingly a lifetime ago I worked as a customer service representative. I worked alongside a beautiful sun kissed woman, labeled difficult and unprofessional. She was helpful in teaching me the ropes and aiding me with difficult customers. The issue was not that she was difficult, or unprofessional, but that she refused to be invisible in instances of overt racism.  I recall an incident where a white “businessman” yelled at us to complete his task because “he had things to do.” He had dropped his item and demanded that I get on my knees in a dress to obtain his item. My coworker came to my defense and we were both reprimanded in consequence. To our oppressors were were not wronged, but in the wrong for refusing the demands of an oppressor. Where oppressors see green, the conscious gaze sees racism.

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The whore

The black female that escapes being labeled the bitch (or in addition to this label), is often compartmentalizes as a sexualized object. This is not to say that the black female body fully escapes the negative connotation as a difficult being, but that the white gaze conceptualizes her sexually. This may sound complimentary to those who falsely equate a sexual gaze to an appreciation of beauty. A sexualized gaze means black female bodies are seen in correspondence to sex, i.e. concubines or asexual beans. Beyonce, Rihanna, etc, are black women who maintain relevancy because they are seen as sexualized objects. All the hype surrounding Beyonce’s fertility, or Rihanna’a latest partner, both reflect a fascination with black female genitalia. This fascination also functions in the reverse. Black female bodies lacking conventional attributes that would deem them overtly sexual, become demonized. Examples are Serena Williams, Wendy Williams, Gabourey Sidibie, etc, women who because of unconventional features are deemed beasts by the true beasts of the western world. Whether hyper sexual, de-sexualized or a bitch, the black female body continues to surface as a female subjugate by her white male oppressors.

As a female subjugate, the western gaze validates not only murdering or incarcerating  the black female body, but resigning her to invisibility by default. By subjugating the black female body to a womanless being, the western gaze seeks to dim the light on a ethereal presence who shines in her sun kissed state– a state withheld from the white  experience.

The dark girl is continually required to dim her light to ensure the comfort of the world around her. If  the dark girl  fails to bow her head in the face of racism she is a “bitch” and “difficult,”  If the dark girl’s sensuality proves impossible to ignore in the western terrain, or she bears multiple children in the face of white female infertility she’s a whore, or welfare mother who’s untamable sexuality bills the white collar world. She is not to shine her light too brightly.  We are the stage, not the performer, the words not the song, the pedestal not the recipient.

To shrink to western expectation is to forfeit the “stand out” quality that is the black woman. White supremacy is quite similar to how the western world has been nurtured to conceptualize the moonlight– whiteness that illuminates along darkness. Without the dark sky the moon and the stars do not glow. Rather than be a beacon for those who glow against our background, it’s time that the black collective become entranced by our own glow.

Dark women are the true light of the western world. We are the moon, the sun, and the stars. Moreover, we need not look out the window to see the glow of the moon, we must simply look within.

Don’t dim your light black girl. Shine.

Black Power. ❤

Article by CC Saunders

Why I will not be seeing Wonder Woman

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I almost did it. I selected a theatre and even looked up showtimes. As I began to mentally assemble my outfit and rework my schedule to accommodate viewing the film, I realized that I was all too familiar with this story.

Wonder Woman is yet another page in the consistent white female narrative designed to portray white beauty intertwined with an earthly anglicism. I need not see this film to know that it will portray the white Woman as the catalyst for all things good in a “bad” world.

Contrary to the ideally nurtured in the western world, the bad is seldom blatant. Both the individual and the collective have a fair chance at combatting that which they can see. The true “bad” in the world lies in Wonder Woman-like figures, whose embedded message seeks to uplift through depicting the very exclusivity that dominates the western hemisphere.

Wonder Women debuts in a climate that veils this exclusivity with the implication of “change.” Seemingly every film and television series has adopted the feminist agenda, avidly if not aggressively, feeding this fictive utopia to the masses. The film exists to promote feminism as the cure to all worldly evils, omitting of course that feminism is a worldly evil. Clad in a form-fitting costume with long and silky dark hair, Wonder Woman encompasses the conventional sexiness of a blonde with the rarity of a red head to project feminism as the height of femininity. Wonder Woman is a dark haired, dark- eyed white Woman–the pseudo “every woman” in seeming to encompass lightness and darkness simultaneously. What the casual gaze may fail to see, is that Wonder Woman resembles her target audience, and encompasses all her acquired audience wishes to become.  Her dark hair provides a strategic contrast to her fair skin, painting the “Wonder” of wonder woman as encompassing the figurative light to societal conflict or darkness.

The wonder in Wonder Woman is that she embodies the antidote to all the world’s problems. She’s Helen of Troy mixed with Hilary Clinton–a savior to white women but a mortal enemy to the woman of a darker hue.

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Western childhood functions similar to this film, painting the white Woman as Wonder Woman in far less attractive variants. From the abundant white female school teachers, to the tooth fairy, Mrs. Claus, every princess from Cinderella to Snow White, the white female body is a consistent figure of humanity to the western gaze.  These figures function to embed into the black female psyche what “Superman” and “Batman” seek to implement into the general western psyche–that if you are white, anything is possible.

But as the young girl who reads these stories, attends these schools and watches these figures on television grows up, the fantasy of Wonder Woman vanishes into reality.  Instead the harsh world eventually prompts the once naive black body to wonder what was ever wonderful about these pristine figures of their childhood. Although portrayed as the hero in fictive and real scenarios, the white woman is gradually unveiled as an inevitable villain to the black female body.

So, as a black woman, I know this film functions as erasure. I know this film functions to seduce me into a amnesiac state where I falsely separate white female action and intention from white male supremacists. From the white women who chase our black men than scream rape when it goes sour, or objectify our wealthy black men as cash registers, or reduce the quotidian black man to his genitals, to the white women who abrasively target black women at work, back to the very white women who tormented the black female slaves—this movie functions to force the black psyche to accept a white hero, despite centuries of white female villainy.

White heroes, whether male, female, trans, or what have you, are never capable of saving anyone but themselves. For healing is incompatible to the autocrat, who decorates their lives with the blood of the oppressed.

Wonder Woman

Therefore, the true wonder woman will never occupy a leading role in mainstream film. She probably will never make six figures and is unlikely to rouse a shallow gaze on the street.

The true wonder woman has probably yet to arrive home from her twelve-hour work-day, her twenty-four hour job as a mother, or full- time victim of white supremacy. The true Wonder Woman sleeps at night with a six-figure debt heavy on her conscious from daring to dream outside of the confines of systemic oppression. She walks through a neighborhood of businesses owned by any and everyone but those who look like her. She faces ridicule for her skin tone, her nose, and curvy body and faces countless queries if her beauty or attributes are deemed outside the scope of blackness.  The true wonder woman is literally and figuratively raped, never respected, or rewarded. She is frozen in time, pieces of her flesh still floating throughout the Atlantic Ocean, or concealed in an unmarked grave beneath a skyscraper. She is dismembered by a system who uses her limbs to assemble their privilege and writes their laws in her blood.

She is the unspoken gospel of this poached land—the original statue of liberty—the feminine mold to which every race, ethnicity, and creed stealthy covets.

The Wonder Woman film exists to place the “wonder” into the woman concept. As a being excluded from this concept, I replace wonder with “black.” For the black woman does not need wonder, she is wonder. Furthermore, members of the black female collective need not go to the movies to view this fictive wonder woman—they must simply look in the mirror.

Article by CC Saunders

Get Out- Interracial/Horror Film(Hidden truths)

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Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out proves a fascinating engagement with the racial truths of the contemporary world. The film centers on interracial couple Chris and Rose who are traveling to meet Rose’s parents in a New York City Suburb.

Prior to their visit, Chris asks Rose if she told her parents that he is black. Rose makes a mockery of this query, a query that encompasses the film’s many acts of foreshadow and dramatic irony. Get Out proceeds to illustrate that it is Chris’ blackness that makes him Rose’s prey. The couple’s visit to meet Rose’s parents proves a sick and calculated effort to abduct black bodies and re-appropriate them as a means to enhance the lives of a white counterpart. In short, the film’s resonance lies not in the images themselves but what lies beneath.

1.White Liberal

One of the most demonstrative illustrations in the film is its portrayal of the “white liberal.” Rose, Chris’s girlfriend not only dates a black man but defends him in the face of overt discrimination. Chris is racially profiled by a police officer on the way to meet Rose’s parents. The policeman asks Chris for his identification, to which they receive Rose’s wrath. After the incident, she states that she won’t let anyone “F%ck with her man.” But little does Chris know, Rose is merely protecting Chris the object and not Chris the person. This objectification becomes clear in the silent auction that takes place in Rose’s parent’s garden. What they disguise as “Bingo” is an auction where interested white buyers place bids for the black body Rose brings home. So questions like “Is it better?” referencing black male sexual performance, is the query of a prospective buyer desiring a worthy investment.

Rose portrays a physical embodiment to the phrase “every shut eye ain’t sleep and every goodbye ain’t gone.” An assumed ally can very well bear oppressive feelings towards a marginalized body. Assumed allies often veil self-interest in seemingly supportive gestures. Namely, Rose does not verbalize her prejudices yet is not any different or better than her parents or their “garden party” guests.

2. The Poisonous Apple

Get Out depicts Chris, a black man,  as an Eve-like figure and Rose, a white woman, as the poisonous apple that exploits his vulnerabilities and renders a series of irreversible consequences. The film intertwines physical hypnosis to induce black acquiescence to a  new identity. Rose acts as a form of hypnosis in her pursuit and pseudo-love for the black male. In seeking to consummate white acceptance and assimilation in his romantic relations with white women,  the black male body enters a vulnerable state exploited by his “prize.” Thus, Rose uses her external appeal to sink her thorns deep into the black male psyche. Just as their love seems to bloom, it is not Rose who dies, but her black lover–illustrating the measure of a rose’s beauty is the ability to distract admirers from its thorns sinking into their flesh.

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3. Science and black experimentation

The Armitage family abducts blacks, hypnotizes them, and uses the black body to improve white quality of life. The procedure leaves a small portion of the black brain but replaces the majority with a white brain. Thus, the black person becomes “a passenger” in his own body. This procedure seems synonymous to the abduction of African bodies and displacing them onto indigenous soil. This displacement renders the black body a passenger in the western experience as each generation proves more distant relationship to their African origins. While the African brain may not be physically extracted, it becomes westernized so that descendants of abducted Africans feel more American than African–making the black body a commuter in their own oppression.

Interestingly, upon first meeting, Chris and Rose disclose that they hit a deer on their way up. In response, Rose’s father remarks that they “did a service” by hitting and ultimately killing the deer. It is this same ideology that prompts the white conservative to seek out black bodies to dismember for their own personal benefit. In their minds, the Armitage family does a service to blacks abducted for their procedure, as their procedure affords the black body a purpose believed to not exist outside of serving whites. Prior to preparing Chris for the procedure, Mr. Armitage asks him “What is your purpose, Chris?” To pose this question prior to their intended procedure suggests that their use of his body incites a purpose otherwise non-existent.

It is this same ideology that prompted white doctors and scientists to use black bodies to test out medical procedures. Henrietta Lacks’ doctor felt entitled to the contents of her vagina, so much so that he did not even consult her next of kin prior to abducting her cells. The pearl-like substances that killed her would acquire purpose in the lives Lacks would come to save following her death. Thus, just as the Armitage family deems the black body purposeful in servicing whites,  Henrietta Lacks’ story similarly illustrates the black body as purposeful solely when appropriated for western motives.

Slavery and the contemporary world implement a similar ideology as the most celebrated black figures: athletes, entertainers, and actresses all serve whites. Thus, the television, radio and even the education system all act as an informal hypnosis implemented as a means to control black bodies and place them on a dead end path to white servitude.

Film Review Get Out

4. The unassumed intellect

Get Out channels Charles Chestnut’s “The Goophered Grapevine” and “Dave’s Neckliss” in illustrating the unassumed intellect in Chris’ TSA friend, Rod Williams. For those unfamiliar with Chestnut or these stories, a prevalent style of Chestnut is to implement a character who due to their vernacular speech prompts most to assume that he is intellectually deficient. The unassumed intellect uses these preconceived notions to his advantage and deceives his “intelligent” counterparts by the story’s conclusion.

Similarly, Williams provides comedic relief to audiences in his delivery. Yet the dramatic irony evokes laughter from some and frustration from others as audiences know that Williams is the sole party in the film that knows the truth. This depiction functions positively, as it evokes a caricatured black image as a means to exploit presumed western conceptualizing of black intellect. In a perfect world, caricatured imaging of blacks would disappear completely. However, it is an act of advancement to include stereotypes in a way that prompts contemplation, or that performs in a way to challenge western predilection for the compartmentalized black body.

The Final Verdict

The most resounding part of the film for me is when the black male body reappropriated as the Artimage grandfather, snaps out of his hypnosis and not only shoots Rose but shoots himself. This depiction illustrates black detachment from a controlled identity as a necessary component to disabling mental enslavement. Furthermore,  blacks not only have to rid themselves from physical obstacles but the part of ourselves that encompasses these harmful ideologies.

My least favorite component of the film was the means in which the hypnotized black body reverts back to semi-consciousness. Although the black body is held hostage by a white brain, it a flash or white light that snaps them back into consciousness. Thus, although it is a black man who physically saves himself from his pending imprisonment–it is a stroke of white light that enables his escape.

Thus, while seemingly a cautionary tale to interracial dating, or to the black body trusting whites in any capacity–the film evokes a white savior in representation rather than form. At surface level, the film seems to evoke the separatist ideology implemented by civil rights leaders like the late Malcolm X. However, the authorship of said movie makes this close reading impossible to take seriously. For this reason, Get Out reminds me a lot of Birth of Nation.

After viewing both Birth of a Nation and Get Out, I left the theater somewhat content. These feelings faded almost instantaneously as I realized that these movies while depicting the complexities of the historical and contemporary black experience can only resonate but so deeply. Namely, both Peele and Parker write and produce movies that should be revolutionary, but are not.

Jordan Peele and Nate Parker both conclude their films in the same manner. Specifically,   Birth of a Nation and Get Out end with all central white characters are murdered by blacks. While fatalities at the hands of blacks substantiate black bestiality, it also functions to depict white bodies as factors that must be eliminated to free blacks from an oppressive state. Like Birth of a Nation, Get Out is authored and directed by a black male married to a white woman. This dynamic casts said black authors as significantly less harmful and least likely to actually eliminate the white demographic because to do so would be to not only murder their wives but the mother of their children. Furthermore, with their interracial unions, the black male writer and director assumes a non-threatening stance in which the murder of fictive white characters seems an artistic choice rather than a means to uplift the black collective.

While the western world attaches a taboo labeling to interracial unions, these unions function favorably to foment white supremacy. The strongest black leaders are strong not because of what they say but because of what they do. Thus, these films are noteworthy, not revolutionary, as it is not enough to implement images that suggest an ideology disconnected from the thought and action of the author.

Writer and producer Jordan Peele also complicates the ability to take Get Out seriously with his comedic background. Thus, his depiction of a white family who abducts blacks and uses their bodies for their own benefit—becomes a well-executed joke rather than reflective of a past and present horror not limited to a New York City suburb.

Article by C.C. Saunders

 

Patrice Lumumba- Congolese Warrior

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During his exile in the 1980s, Mr Holden Roberto – president of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) – and one of his collaborators, visited me in my office at Howard University in Washington. In order to counter accusations (incidentally well-founded) levelled at his party, of colluding with American imperialism and selling out on their commitment to Pan-Africanism, my two visitors began by reciting in its entirety Patrice Emery Lumumba’s famous speech at the Congolese independence ceremony on 30th June 1960. This gesture – which strongly affected me – shows the attachment you still find across the whole African continent, even among its lost sheep, for this martyr for African nationalism and the struggles of oppressed peoples all over the world.

Rare are the African countries where one does not find streets, even main roads, named after Lumumba. Many African children born after his assassination have ‘Lumumba’ as their forename. The former executive secretary of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (2002-5) and president of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (2010-11) is called Patrick Lumumba, and his passion for change and eloquence recalls those qualities in his namesake.

These two references to the political heritage of Lumumba show how the assassination of this great African leader resonated – and continues to resonate – with Africans. In his excellent book, The Assassination of Lumumba, Belgian sociologist Ludo de Witte shows the significance of this particular assassination in the history of Western tactics against the anti-imperialist revolutions of the 20th Century – from Mossadegh’s Iran to Nasserist Egypt, Castro’s Cuba, Lumumba’s Congo and Sankara’s Burkina Faso.

It is in this context – the struggle between the interests of the international bourgeoisie and those of the popular masses – that we must understand the factors contributing to Lumumba’s assassination, its political consequences for Congo, and the place of this Congolese hero in the pantheon of universal defenders of the emancipation of peoples.

The assassination of Lumumba was the outcome of two conspiracies closely bound together with the American and Belgian governments, which relied on the complicity of certain Congolese leaders and a Belgian firing squad composed of soldiers and policemen under the Katanga puppet regime.

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Patrice Lumumba – the man and his political project

Who is Patrice Lumumba, and why was he so violently assassinated by the forces of counter-revolution? Born on 2nd July 1925 in Onalua, a small village in the region of Katako-Kombe, Lumumba received his education at primary school as well as among Belgian Catholic missionaries at Tshumbe Sainte-Marie and the famous Methodist mission in Wembo Nyama. He was not appreciated there, neither among the representatives of the colonial trinity (the State, big business, the Catholic Church) nor by the American missionaries – themselves fervent believers in the ideology of white supremacy prevalent in the Southern states of the USA, and too weak to contest colonial repression. An intellectually precocious pupil who rebelled against the thundering paternalism of the missionaries, the young Lumumba decided to leave Sankuru in 1944 without obtaining his certificate of study in order to spread his wings elsewhere. After several months in the region of Kindu, he would go on to pursue a career as a bureaucrat in Kisangani (then Stanleyville). It was during this long stay at Kisangani (1944-57) that Lumumba developed his characteristic traits; moral and intellectual integrity, immovability on points of principle, and exceptional bravery even in the face of death. As one of the members of the firing squad which killed him recalled, Lumumba maintained a glacial calm in front of the executioners.

At Kisangani, Lumumba distinguished himself as president, vice president, or secretary, of at least seven organisations of Congolese évolués – literally meaning ‘evolved people’, this term was used by the Belgian colonial establishment to distinguish a class of ‘Westernised’ blacks. An autodidact, with the exception of a year of professional training at the École Postale in Kinshasa (then Leopoldville), he succeeded in acquiring immense knowledge about the contemporary world through extensive, self-guided reading on politics and history. According to Thomas Kanza, his collaborator and biographer, Lumumba ‘read all that fell into his hands’. As leader, he was a convincing and effective representative for the Kisangani evolués, liaising with the governor of the province, the Belgian minister of the colonies, Auguste Buisseret, and the young king, Baudouin I, during his first visit to Congo in 1955. Still a believer in the idea of the Belgo-Congolese community, promulgated by amicales belgo-congolais, clubs comprising evolués and those Belgians open to a gradual process of integration, Lumumba was invited to Belgium for the first time in 1956.

Fearing his perspicacity and well-founded criticisms of colonial racism, the colonial authorities welcomed his return from Brussels with a charge of tax avoidance, followed by a sentence of two years in prison by a trial court in Kisangani. The public prosecutor, judging this punishment insufficient, made an appeal, but the court of appeal in Kinshasa confirmed the sentence of two years. This punishment was reduced to four months, which he had already served in preventative detention, followed by a royal order granting grace, signed on 27th August 1957.

If Kisangani had given him the political apprenticeship he needed to master the mysteries of organisation and political practice, these two experiences of Kinshasa, of the École Postale and his incarceration, contributed in a decisive way to the awakening of his political consciousness. During his training in postal service administration in 1948, Lumumba made a short visit to Brazzaville, on the right bank of the River Congo opposite Kinshasa. Thirsty from walking, he stopped outside a café with the hope of finding a waiter who would give him a glass of water. To his surprise, it was the European café patron who noticed him, and invited him to sit where the whites were seated and brought him, not tap water, but mineral water. For the sociologist Pierre Clément – for whom he would work as a research assistant four years later –here was the first time that Lumumba realised that another world was possible, habituated as he was to the system of apartheid practised in Belgian Congo. Reinvigorated by the model of assimilation among the French in Congo-Brazzaville – though the ‘card of civic merit’ in 1948 and formal registration in 1952 did not succeed in guaranteeing equality of access to jobs, medical treatment, housing, social services and recreation – an évolué Lumumba felt his long-cowed spirit emboldened enough to dream of a more beautiful country than Belgian Congo.

This dream of radical change would reinforce itself further during his months of incarceration, during which Lumumba had the occasion to lead a serious reflection on the future of Congo and to read the famous ‘Plan de trente ans pour l’émancipation politique de l’Afrique belge’ by A.A.J Van Bilsen, a little known professor at the Colonial University of Anvers, together with the two Congolese reactions to this document: first, ‘Manifeste de la Conscience Africaine’, the work of a group of catholic intellectuals represented by Joseph Ileo, Joseph Malula (future cardinal) and Joseph Ngalula; second, the counter-manifesto by l’Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO), an ethnic association led by Joseph Kasavubu. After leaving prison, Lumumba installed himself in Kinshasa where, from 1957, he launched himself into the political struggle. Joining up with Ileo and Ngalula, he succeeded, in October 1958, in taking the leadership of the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), a political organisation started up with the intention of eventually becoming a credible political party at the national level.

By a happy confluence of circumstances, the year 1958 ended with the emergence of Patrice Lumumba as one of the principal leaders in the struggle for independence. The turning point was the visit to Kinshasa by two east African leaders on their way to the first ‘Conference des peuples Africains’, held in Accra between the 5th and 13th December 1958. Concerned that a large country like Congo risked missing out on this great African rendez-vous, A.R. Mohamed Babu of Zanzibar and Tom Mboya of Kenya asked a hotel worker where they could find the political leaders of the emerging independence movement. The worker in question was very happy to bring about a meeting with Patrice Lumumba, then the commercial director of the Brasserie du Bas-Congo (Bracongo), which produced the beer Polar. Lumumba often offered this to clients, ostensibly for promotional purposes but often using this as an opportunity to awaken the clients’ political consciousness. Babu and Mboya were so impressed by Lumumba that they sent a telegram to the Pan African Freedom Movement for East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) asking for money to bring a Congolese delegation to Accra.

And so Patrice Lumumba, Gaston Diami and Joseph Ngalula accompanied Babu and Mboya to Accra, where Lumumba attracted the notice of the delegates at the conference, which brought together representatives from the 8 independent countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia) and those of the political parties, trade unions and other organisations of the civil society of the Pan-African world. There he met the leaders of national liberation movements such as Félix-Roland Moumié of the Union des Populations de Cameroun (UPC), Frantz Fanon of the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) of Algeria, and Amilcar Cabral of the Parti Africain pour L’independence de Guinéeet du Cap Vert (PAIGC), and he established strong working relationships with some great African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Modibo Keita and Ahmed Sékou Touré.

On his return to Kinshasa, Lumumba organized a popular demonstration on Sunday 28th December to inform the Congolese population of the resolutions of the Accra conference and their implications for the independence movement in Congo. Following the refusal by the first Belgian mayor of Kinshasa to allow ABAKO to hold a similar meeting the following Sunday, 4th January 1959, the population of Kinshasa rose in a three-day rebellion which sounded the death knell for the Belgian colonial regime in Congo. “Indépendance immediate”, the slogan of protestors, became a non-negotiable demand in the struggle of the Congolese people for their total freedom. Instead of the thirty years suggested by Van Bilsen in 1956, independence was obtained in four. The mobilisation of the population by radical political parties like ABAKA and MNC-L was responsible for the erosion of legitimacy, as much as the repressive abilities, of the colonial regime. Lumumba benefited from this new situation by placing the MNC-L throughout all the provinces of the country, to the point that his party became the spearhead of the Congolese independence struggle.

BELGIUM LUMUMBA

The assassination of Lumumba        

For more than 128 years, the US and Belgium played key roles in fashioning the destiny of the Congo. In April 1884, seven months after the opening of Congress in Berlin, the US became the first country in the world to recognise the claims of King Leopold of Belgium to the Congo basin territories. When the atrocities linked to the brutal economic exploitation of Congo led to millions of deaths, the US joined with other global powers to force Belgium to put an end to the status of Congo as a personal possession of King Leopold II and to give it the status of an ordinary colony. During the colonial period (1908- 60), the US saw Congo’s strategic advantage due to its abundant natural resources, above all its uranium, which was used to created the first atomic weapons, the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

With the launching of the Cold War, it was inevitable that Washington and her Western allies would not be disposed to give Africans control over their own strategically valuable natural resources, for fear that they would fall into the hands of their Soviet enemies. Because of this, Patrice Lumumba’s attempt to secure an authentic independence and to obtain effective control over the resources of Congo, with the aim of improving the living standards of our people, was seen as a threat to Western interests. In their fight against him, Washington and Brussels used all the tools and resources at their disposal, including the United Nations under Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld and his U.S. assistant Ralph Bunche, Lumumba’s Congolese political enemies, and his assassins.

In Congo, the assassination of Lumumba is, for good reason, considered the ‘original sin’ of the country. Occurring less than seven months after independence (30th June 1960), it was a stumbling block for ideals of national unity, economic independence, and the African solidarity for which Lumumba had advocated, as well as being a terrible blow to the hopes for freedom and material prosperity of millions of Congolese people. In place of this, the country was divided into four parts: the west of the country under the central government of Kinshasa; the north west under a rival central government led by Lumumba partisans; and the mining provinces of Katanga and Sud Kasaï under the secessionist regimes of Moïse Tshombe and Albert Kalonji, at Lumumbashi (Elisabethville) and Mbuji-Mayi (Bakwanga) respectively.

The neo-colonial regime of Kinshasa was born from the dismissal of Lumumba by president Kasavubu in 1960 and the coup d’etat of 14th September by which colonel Joseph-Desiré Mobutu claimed to neutralise both protagonists of the institutional crisis. Based on an obscure article of ‘La Loi Fondamentale’, the temporary constitution bequeathed to Congo by Belgium, this action ran contrary to all the political conventions of a parliamentary system where the prime minister enjoys a majority in parliament. This was the case with Lumumba: the two chambers rejected Kasavubu’s action as invalid. The Western puppet-masters understood then that there would have to be a military intervention to remove Lumumba from power, and Mobutu had already been making preparations to this end from the beginning of the Congolese crisis in July. A former ally of Prime Minister Lumumba, he was at the same time linked to the forces of the counter-revolution as an informer for the Belgian and American security services.

It was this man who became the real master of Kinshasa, in his role as head of the Binza Group. So-labelled because its members lived and met up in the well-off residential district of Binza, this powerful clique drew its power from its members’ influence over crucial institutions and politicians; the army (Mobutu); the police (Victor Nendaka); the ministry of foreign affairs (Justin Bomkoko), the ministry of the interior (Damien Kandolo), the Central Bank (Albert Ndele). These individuals worked in close collaboration with Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula and President Kasavabu, and no important decision could be taken by these last two without the approval of the Binza group, the hub of neocolonialism in Congo.

Patrice4...

The secessions of Katanga and Sud Kasaï

Of these two secessions, that of Sud Kasaï is the lesser-known one yet it also played an important role in the political and physical assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Proclaimed on 8th August 1960 in Lumumbashi, the Sud Kasaï secession forged close links with its Katangan counterpart, siding with the interests of international high finance and the counter-revolution, with La Societé Diamantifère Forminière in Kasaï playing the same role – of money-lender – that the Union Miniere du Haut Katanga (UMHK) played in Katanga. The smaller secession took place as the Lumumba administration was receiving logistical assistance from the Soviet Union in order to fight a war against the secession in Katanga, due to the refusal of UN Secretary General Dag Hammerskjöld to allow the Security Council to perform its remit of helping the Congolese government expel the Belgian forces and white mercenaries and put an end to the secession. The soldiers of the National Congolese Army (ANC) en route to Katanga received the order to put an end to the small secession of Sud Kasaï before crossing the border. Unfortunately, the undisciplined soldiers committed atrocious massacres against innocent civilians, including close to a thousand men, women and children who believed themselves safe from danger in the sanctuary of the Catholic Cathedral of Mbuju-Mayi (today Bakwanga).

Dag Hammarskjöld defined these killings as ‘genocide’ against the Luba and pointed the finger at Prime Minister Lumumba. Aside from the fact that the atrocities committed in Sud Kasaï did not correspond to the definition of genocide in international law, these odious crimes were not the sole responsibility of the head of government, but of the entire chain of command: the superior officers on the ground; the Chief of Staff, Mobutu; Prime Minister Lumumba; and President Kasavubu, in his capacity as supreme commander of the armed forces. As such, neither Hammerskjöld nor Kasavabu had any justification either for accusing Lumumba of genocide, or for illegally dismissing him when the responsibility for this incident was largely a collective one.

The capital of Sud Kasaï would be baptised ‘la boucherie’, because it was the chosen site for the summary execution of Lumumbists whom the neo-colonial regime of Kinshasa wanted to destroy. The most famous among the victims is without doubt Jean-Pierre Finant (1922-61), the first democratically-elected governor of the eastern province, of which Kisangani is the capital. Of mixed Belgo-Congolais descent and father of the famous Congolese singer Abeti Masikini (Betty Finant, 1954-94), he was executed on 17th February 1961, exactly one month after the assassination of Lumumba, with eleven companions, including Jacques Lumbala (a former colleague of Mobutu), Emmanuel Nzuzi and Jacques Fataki. As in the case of Lumumba, who was handed over to Katangan secessionists, the Binza group saw no contradiction between collaborating with the secessionist regimes which it needed to destroy, and assassinating their common enemies, the Lumumbists.

The secession of Sud-Kasaï collapsed through its internal contradictions, mainly due to the struggle for power between Joseph Ngalula and Albert Kalonji, who was proclaimed Mulopwe or emperor of the Luba-Kasaï, a people who had never been under the leadership of a single leader since leaving their ancestral birthplace in Katanga in the 18th century. Having returned to Kinshasa to become minister of education for the central government, Ngalula plotted with the Binza group to destroy Kalonji and bring an end to the secession. This came about in September 1962, following an armed revolt under the direction of Kalonji’s Chief of Staff.

Contrary to the Sud-Kasaï secession, where the internal dimension was as crucial to its failure as it was to its birth; in light of the Lulua-Baluba conflict and its poor management – by first, the Belgians, later, Lumumba – the external factor was a defining one in Katanga. As Jean Ziegler aptly described it in his work La contre revolution en Afrique, in its progression towards the south of the continent, the African national liberation movement hit the wall of counter-revolution, whereby the white colonists, mining companies and their right-wing allies in the West, banded together to defend their privileges. Then, from Katanga to the Cape of Good Hope, the white counter-attack manifested itself in the creation of states controlled by white colonists, either directly, as in the case of South Africa, in Namibia and in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyassaland, indirectly through the colonial state (Angola and Mozambique), or via a puppet government of paid-up blacks (Katanga). The essential continuity was that all these regimes succeeded in defending and promoting the interests of colonialists and of the corporations that sought to maximise their profits through the exploitation of badly-paid and quiescent labour. In the context of the cold war, the counter-revolution had no problem in inserting itself in the hegemonic discourse of Western values, Christian and democratic, which excluded communism, atheism and authoritarianism.

Well before the Rhodesian colonialist Ian Smith signed his ‘internal settlement’ with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Pastor Ndabaningi and Chief Jeremiah Chirau in Zimbabwe, another agreement had already been negotiated in Congo, between the Conféderation des associations tribales de Katanga (CONAKAT) of Moïse Tshombe and Godefroid Munongo, the UMHK and the Union Katangaise – an association representing white colonialists – to allow Katanga to secede from Congo and become an independent state. In this sense, CONAKAT was just a way of giving voice to the interests of white colonialists through African mouths. Without the financial support of the UMHK, the military and technical support of Belgium, and the management of administrative and economic structures by the colonialists, Katanga could not survive as a political entity. Moreover, the secession relied on considerable external support; not only from Belgium, but also from France, the United Kingdom, and the US. In the country of Uncle Sam, the Katangan secession enjoyed solid backing in reactionary circles – lobbyists for the cause included influential senators Barry Goldwater of Arizona (a radical conservative), Thomas Dodd of Connecticut (a Democrat reprimanded by the Senate for corruption), and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (a notorious racist, despite having fathered a daughter with a black woman).

Following on from the assassination of Lumumba, the Katangan lobby in the US and Europe lost its influence with the key deciders such as John F. Kennedy and Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgian minister of Foreign Affairs. These men understood that in the context of the Cold War, the territorial integrity of Congo was more useful to the West than a secessionist province which would continue to sow dissent across Africa and in the Third World in general, in turn raising difficult questions about the West’s responsibility for the death of Lumumba. Besides, these deciders no longer perceived a great threat to the economic and strategic interests of the West in Central Africa, given the physical elimination of Lumumba and the marginalization of Lumumbists after Lovanium. It is within this context that Kennedy would give the green light for the UN to put an end to the secession with force. Taking place on 29th November 1962, the UN intervention succeeded, with an agreement of capitulation signed by Tshombe on 17 January 1983. Ironically, the restoration of national unity to which Lumumba had given his life was realised by the interests of the imperial powers and their puppets in the neo-colonial regime in Kinshasa.

These efforts succeeded in putting an end to the Lumumbist regime of Kisangani in August 1961, to the secession of Sud-Kasaï in September 1962 and to that of Katanga in January 1963. The end of these three regimes would consecrate the rise of General Mobutu and his clique, the Binza Group.

Lumumba’s Legacy

Hardly had this process of unification finished before a radical social movement pronouncing a ‘second independence’ rose up to contest the neo-colonial state in Kinshasa and its pro-Western leaders. This mass movement brought together peasants, workers, the urban unemployed and students, alongside low and mid-ranking officials, who found an enthusiastic leadership among the former lieutenants of Patrice Lumumba, of which the majority had reformed to create the Conseil National de Libération (CNL) in October 1963 in Brazzaville.

Divided on the field into two wings – the Kwilu front, led by Pierre Mulele, and the Eastern front under Christopher Gbenye, Gaston Soumialot and Laurent-Desiré Kabila – the strengths and weaknesses of the movement can be used to gauge the global heritage of Patrice Lumumba, for Congo and the whole of Africa. The most positive aspect of this legacy is reflected in Pierre Mulele’s dedication to a radical program of change to satisfy the deep aspirations of the Congolese people for democracy and social progress. On the other hand, the Lumumbists of the Eastern front were more interested in power, and the privileges it conferred, than in genuine social change. In the latter case, it was all rhetoric and no action. In effect, the challenge for all those who want to follow in the footsteps of Lumumba is to make the leap from words into action.

A struggle that is far from over…

According to unconfirmed reports, Walter Kansteiner – US Secretary of State for African Affairs under George W. Bush, between June 2001 and November 2003 – designed a plan for the division of Congo into four countries. The justification for such a Balkanisation would be that, in its present dimensions, the country is too large and ungovernable. For the extreme right of the US Republican Party, and those with interests in the resources of tropical Africa – as is the case with the family business W.H Kansteiner, Inc of Chicago – this would facilitate access to resources, and make their transfer to outside markets easier. Besides, if Rwanda and Uganda could play the role of facilitator, why not?

For those nostalgic for the ‘White Man’s Burden’, and their lackeys in Africa, the reality is that their project for the recolonization of Congo will always stumble against the determination of the Congolese people to defend their unity, their national patrimony, and the territorial integrity of their homeland. The legacy of Patrice Lumumba, Pierre Lulele, André Kisase Ngandu and so many other martyrs brings women, men and children to shout “No” to balkanization and “Yes” to a “United Congo, a strong nation.” Just as the progressive leaders of the struggle for independence chanted this slogan on the eve of the achievement of sovereignty – united and nationalistic men and women of integrity – the real children of Lumumba continue to defend, against the odds, the greater interests of the Congolese nation.

Article by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja