Category Archives: african culture

On Mysterious Niggers

“Well, if a lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to travelling on the road between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left to carry heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage thereabouts would get empty very soon. Only here the dwellings were gone too.” – Marlow, in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

To follow up on the conversation begun in the “Furtive Movements” post about the fear of black men in North American society, I wanted to bring in some literary critique and historical review to expand the thought across borders and into the Pan-African realm.

Joseph Conrad spoke of “mysterious niggers” in Heart of Darkness when describing the instrument of ultra-violence and extreme terror that was the Force Publique, the army of the Congo Free State under Leopold II, wretched king of the Belgians. In the name of maximizing rubber-tapping output by the enslaved population of Leopold’s now private property – a territory the size of the United States east of the Mississippi or almost as large as India – these minions worked hard at decimating villages, cutting off hands, raping women, children and men, and torturing, mutilating and murdering without rest. These ruthless rubber enforcers were instrumental in exterminating some 10 million Congolese between roughly 1890 and 1910, when the Belgian state took over the Congo following the exposure of Leopold’s genocidal crimes in Central Africa in the name of profit. But the Force Publique, still in existence today as the Congo National Army, was recruited from amongst the indigenes of the Congo, young African men convinced and/or coerced by the virtues of raping their own country, taking the most meager cut of the pillage and giving the lion’s share to the colonial masters. In the past fifteen years or so, the latest genocide in Congo, played out mostly in the country’s east, has ended the lives of some 7 million Congolese. The same old coercive and violent structures remain in place, with proxy armies of the states of Uganda and Rwanda, simply called rebels in the shallow Western media, helping to enforce slave labor in the mining of precious minerals that are whisked away to the West and to East Asia by small planes in unmarked airstrips in the jungle. The Congolese Army likewise imposes this same regime and rapes and enslaves the Congo and its people for riches, leaving the most well-endowed land on the planet in a state that is extremely inhospitable to human life. And it is young African men, just like me, taking marching orders from utterly morally bankrupt and corrupt governments, or from greed and lust themselves, who are the in situ instruments of this mayhem.

But no one gets left off the hook by getting put in the category of mysterious niggers. And Joseph Conrad will not get a pass for coining that denigrating phrase either. Because these men are not niggers, they are African human beings. And they are not mysterious. They’re purpose is very well understood, obvious, one-dimensional and brutally frank. The minions of the Force Publique, the Congolese Army, and most other private and state-controlled armies and police forces across Africa which typically enforce exploitation and oppression in pursuit of a neocolonial agenda – their work is blatantly political, studied, coherent. So we will neither call the Force Publiques of the black world mysterious (what’s so mysterious about a violent enforcer of hegemony, no matter his/her tactics?), nor will we call them niggers, since they are part of our family, and they are fully human (if dehumanized by their deeds).

Not all Africans are good guys. We have to confront the internal sources of oppression and failure within our family and correct them by any means necessary. That is indeed the biggest obstacle to Uhuru – not the external and foreign forces we often get carried away with placing blame on, but the internal forces that prevent forward motion, the ones who look like us but that work in cahoots with the neo-colonial tendency and outside exploiters, that are preoccupied with satisfying their own boundless greed and need for instant gratification, and that possess unquestioned inferiority complexes about our capacity and potential as a people and a civilization, as Africans. Black inferiority complexes within us are ten trillion times worse than white supremacy is. For when we have full belief in our own full humanity, our unimaginable human potential, our beauty, our importance and our place in history, whatever we think exists of global white supremacy will suddenly have magnitudes less power to actually keep us from achieving what we wish, except perhaps by brute force (i.e. Leopold II), which is unlikely in this era.

Having rejected and denounced the concept of mysterious niggers, I acknowledge that we’ve all internalized it to some extent, all over the world. As for me, I love the man in the mirror. I like seeing other brothers, particularly those doing positive things in the world. But I know that my own starting point when strangers see me walking around North America as I do, the blank canvas I should be before I am judged by a new encounter – that eye draws me first and immediately as a mysterious nigger. In other words, I always begin in society as a mysterious nigger, at a minimum. And sometimes this holds true even in the eyes of other black people. Until I prove otherwise by my character, in some cases how I dress and carry myself, and even by my “well-spokenness,” I’m a mysterious nigger, I’m a dark suspect of unknown intentions. If I were of European descent with milk-toned skin, I would perhaps present to others as familiar and unthreatening, especially given how I already tend to dress and move through the world, which is to say unassumingly and business-casual with a sporty twist. But I’m just about as black as we come, West African through and through from the Niger Delta.

Back home, it would be different only in the sense that I won’t be such a threat to anyone, and there’s no racial, cultural and historical ice of ignominy to bust through, at least in getting to know someone who looks like family already and comes from the same universe. But colonialism has left so many vestiges of its culture of violence between Africans, played out by young African men as cheap pawns, that in many cases we are still mysterious niggers to one another.

I remember back in 2003 when I was 19 and really started to take a deep interest in African affairs. Back in that summer the civil war in Liberia was really heating up before it’s end very shortly thereafter. On the cover of the New York Times, some time in June or so, don’t remember, there was a picture of a young combatant in Monrovia roaring with the look of venom in his face, standing in the rain with a rocket launcher over his shoulder. That was one of the first times I really saw myself in another African man like that. I could have been that unnamed guy somehow, if circumstances were different. I mean I looked like that fellow, very likely an age-mate. And the New York Times, in not naming him, in showing this random African with a machine gun destroying things and killing his brothers, was depicting a textbook example of a mysterious nigger.

I want to humanize the black man. And in doing so I will never absolve African men of any crimes they’ve done, including against African women and children, and other African men, and anybody else for that matter. I will never absolve us from complicity in our own oppression, or unwillingness to challenge it. But I’m done thinking in the context of mysterious niggers.

How can you honestly prosecute a mysterious nigger? How can you judge a mysterious nigger who is in the wrong? By initiating a thought about that person wherein he is already in the “mysterious nigger” category from the start, one already has a negative and dehumanizing image and concept of this man.

I think it is almost revolutionary to start to think about young black men, even those who do wrong, as first fully human. Contemporary societies, whether in North America, the Caribbean, or Africa seem resistant to this. If I want to know the story of a young soldier who is now on trial for the crimes he committed in the early 2000s in Sierra Leone, I want to know him as the flawed, sick human being he is, and his history. I want no less knowledge about his victims. But when we pursue justice acknowledging one another’s humanity, including the potential psychoses, passions and prerogatives of all parties, I think we arrive inevitably at more fair results, and we do so in the light of better understanding.

Let us understand one another. No more mysterious niggers. Those gangbangers on the corner are not mysterious niggers – their sons, grandsons, cousins, fathers. Those rebels in the Congo, those Force Publique of old, those Tonton Macoute in Haiti, they are not black monsters. And black men individually are not monsters before we know who they are.

If we stop thinking numbly and dumbly about mysterious niggers with no known cause or cure, and start thinking about why violence happens, who funds it, who profits from it, and why men participate in it, we will go a lot further in preventing violence amongst young black men. We need the courage and the boldness to understand and humanize ourselves, and look one another in the eyes as humans, without prejudicial fear and loathing. We need to see one another, as young black men, with the eyes of understanding, at the very least. Our conditioning to hate one another is very difficult to act upon when we choose to understand each other, hear each other and listen carefully.

Let’s study ourselves, study the human mind, study these stereotypes that trap us, and break the chains of slavery and dehumanization, starting with the man (or woman) in the mirror. To defeat self-hate, revolutionary an act as it is, it starts with simply listening, understanding, and being patient enough to allow the sea of negativity within us to calm itself so we can see the beautiful, undeniable humanity that was within our black selves all along. Then we can share that insight and live that understanding. And ain’t understanding the kernel of love?

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Gender Equality, Ubuntu, and Critical Thinking

March is women’s history month. But women make history all year, year after year. Women’s history is no joke. Women are no joke. Women are the harder-working half of humanity, hands down. They do the reproductive labor of our species, as well as productive labor. And because of patriarchal accounting systems, economies and cultures the world over, a woman’s reproductive labor is not fully accounted for; sometimes it is called leisure. But the very reproduction of the species is a far more significant task than leisure. We cannot monetize it. We cannot, or refuse to, dignify it the way our acquisitive culture dignifies the whole predominantly white male lot of Wall Street bankers who helped dramatically deepen the long crisis that capitalism is. The World Bank and IMF will not categorize and catalogue the full worth of women’s labor. But our patriarchal, consumer society has been far more successful at monetizing women’s bodies, at the gross objectification of sisters, daughters, and mothers for their body parts. In this way women are reduced to mannequins and sex dolls, display pieces in downtown boutiques, or rated, graded, and sold as if on the meat market of human flesh, as when dowries are paid. So any thoughtful vegan should be quick to recognize that the liberation of women furthers the cause. More monumental is the task of having men recognize that when women are liberated from gendercide, subordination, and second-class status as humans and as male property, we men will be liberated to become more fully human ourselves. Women’s liberation is its own worthy and urgent cause, but it is also to our own immediate advantage to participate in and share solidarity with full gender equality in our planetary civilization. For us to become more prosperous, more intelligent, and wiser, uniting with feminism is in the selfish interest of men – keeping it real. Reject male privilege. For women are no joke.

This is because an honest appraisal of who we are as individuals suggests the basic logic of the African philosophy of Ubuntu – that “I am because we are,” that we are fundamentally and immutably interdependent beings. It is informed by a basic ecological principle that whatever our material embodiment consists of, it automatically invokes and forms from the contributions of our parents, their parents, the food they ate, the sunshine that shone on it, the minerals/stardust that fed it, and ultimately, the entire universe itself. By this understanding, the American notion of “rugged individualism” is illogical and misleading, perhaps deliberately so as it aims to divide us, isolate us and atomize us. All of us constitute the community, and the full participation of each of us, realizing our full potential, permits collective prosperity. If women are denied an education, the community suffers the loss of her more fully realized participation and contribution to the intellectual and material well-being of the group. The direct consequence of the unjust enforcement of ignorance upon females is collective poverty. This can be proven by looking at any society that has strong evidence of ongoing work toward equalizing the statuses, opportunities and life chances of men and women, and then looking at a society that treats women like livestock, like household appliances. The more just society is always more prosperous, healthy, educated, safe, clean, and so on, by many multiples across any human development measure.

Active critical thinking informs an honest assessment, for men, of the problem with oppressing women, or even passively acquiescing to their oppression. Think, for example, about how women in urban communities around the United States (really worldwide) must deal with street harassment, with the catcalling and worse, which exacerbate the oppression of black women. The street harassment paradigm posits the threat of violence over all of us. Street harassment is motivated by false and problematic beliefs in males of inherent domination, unearned privilege, the machismo quest for superficial and immediate validation, and the pursuit of easy sexual gratification. These are among the same exact prerequisites for deadly beefs on the street between us black men, the same ingredients for the horizontal violence perpetrated between us. While it is objectively true that the external factors of poverty and social debasement have often left us little option but to get over at the expense of one another, we destroy ourselves when we conform to the external anti-black expectation of our manifest, mass failure to thrive in any sustainable way. The motives of street harassment are one and the same as the motives for fatal internecine hostility. This in turn helps, in part, to enable mass incarceration of black men. Thus, the macho atmosphere of street harassment, which makes the lives of our sisters, mothers and daughters unbearable and dangerous, also makes our lives as men perilous. Street harassment is emblematic of a violent community towards all of its members. The streets with the most street harassment are also the streets where the most black brothers die at one another’s hands. Street harassment, rape and bloodshed all live on the same block.

Critical thinking, aggressively centered on a defense of the dignity and full value of human beings, should also inform how we draw conclusions about how we relate to one another and whether or not what we call “tradition” is worth any respect by any intelligent person in this day and age. If you value your own humanity, we can safely and logically assume that other humans value their own essence and identity as well, and consider themselves worth a fair chance in society. Grounded in this logic, a logic that is more immediate to us as humans than almost any other, we should be able to safely regard any tradition, religion, book, philosophy, politic, ethic, or other source of culture and thought that denies the humanity and dignity of people who are different from the majority, or from those with power, as highly suspect, at best. Thus, those who see difference in others and thus deny that others’ humanity, are behaving illogically, and hatefully besides.

The debate around homosexuality in Africa is centered, for the homophobes, in strange defenses of “tradition” or “religion” that claim the alienness of homosexuality to Africa, the “unnaturalness” of gay sex, and so on. These conclusions are fundamentally antihuman, and thus are to be fundamentally rejected; they are unscientific, dishonest and illogical besides. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is no joke. They are human beings. They are part of the community. They are worthy of respect and of every opportunity to fully contribute to and participate in the growth and empowerment in community; this is no less true in Africa or in black communities anywhere than it is in the West or any other part of the planet. The homophobes in power in Nigeria, in Uganda and elsewhere are using politics to disenfranchise, terrorize, scapegoat and dehumanize a part of the community that should be given every right to enjoy their human lives and be the sisters and brothers to our family that they truly are. By thinking critically and imagining ourselves the target of these laws and antihuman paradigms, we cannot but help draw conclusions that lead us to recognize the inhumanity and fundamental stupidity of homophobia and patriarchy. In this vein, heterosexual people should stand in full solidarity and advocate for the full inclusion and enfranchisement of our homosexual kin. This is the mature stance which will allow all of us to contribute our utmost to grow as a collective. Reject your heterosexual privilege and arrogance. Lives are at stake – and by the logic, critical thinking and Ubuntu understanding we have applied here thus far, it is unacceptable to deny the humanity of anyone in our community, no matter what gender or sexual identities they are born with or adopt. When we begin to take what private parts people have, or what they do with them in private, as justification for branding certain people unworthy of human dignity, we are being utterly childish, and any religion, tradition, or person that has that tendency is also ignorant, childish, dangerous and stuck in the stone-ages.

As a heterosexual male, I hope I have made a reasonable case that we, over-privileged straight men, will be far better off when we reject the convenient privileges of our status which permit us to dominate women and dehumanize gays. Equality of opportunity, for women to be born, to be educated, to enjoy equal participation in the maintenance of a family and household, and to be able to contribute their fullest potential to our collective excellence, will always lead to a superior quality of life for our community. The same equality of opportunity and recognition of humanity for non-heterosexual members of our community will also enable everyone to contribute fully and without fear of denigration.

Machismo is deadly to women and to men. Patriarchy and male supremacy are harming the planet and keeping millions of women from even being born, let alone contributing their full worth to the excellence of humanity. Only equality – an equality that enables us, especially as men, to see women as at our level in all productive, cognitive and creative capacities – can move us forward.

Gender inequality is a hallmark of underdevelopment, a cornerstone of neocolonialism and a function of ignorance. All sorts of indicators of social well-being in different societies show this. And when men, straight men at that, reject the insults of patriarchy, chauvinism, and homophobia, we truly begin to become revolutionary. For we begin to honor the basic nature of human beings that the Ubuntu principle reminds us of – that I am because we are, that all of us deserve to participate to the fullest might we can muster as free people towards our collective greatness.

Mystic Vegan Tap-Dance Boogie

As part of festivities for the slight re-branding of this blog, here’s the latest posting in the form of some rhymes and images. Lyrics by me. Music by Djelimady Tounkara. Pro-vegan, pro-Earth, pro-common-sense, pro-peace, pro-people, Afro-positive bars.

Lyrics:

Chamber music provokes the mystic vegan tap-dance boogie

Unfold your arms, children, boss-up like righteous hooky

I am neither John Cassavates nor a Wookie

That means the only thing I do is resurrect the Chinese Bookie

.

Boogie-woogie, that’s the way of life that I promote

So the rookie wins, with bowling pins to stay afloat

Cargo cults that curry favor for the flavor of the wild oat,

And open up the gates that pen the billy goat

.

Though, it’s a long road, the other shore’s way over yonder

So in the meantime, the mystic tap-dance make’s you ponder:

Is this the best we can do, the human Cadillacs

Hacking each other down, Kalashnikov’s the battle ax?

.

Blacks killing blacks, capillaries full of plaques

Paranoia over mosques, migrants, money and Macs,

Stupefied by Sarah Palin, Mama Grizzlies going whaling

While the planet burns and floods like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

.

It’s a fact: the way we live is making ice shelves crack,

From meat and car culture to the war in Iraq

Which isn’t over, shift change to mercenary soldiers,

Different bullet casings, feral caffeine binges on Folgers

.

But the mystic vegan tap-dance boogie is real

Earthshine on the moon, still a light you can’t conceal

Hot: the soul-searcher bringing out her own potential

Not: the fake pundit telling lies through his credentials

.

A tap-dance thunderclap roars through the plains.

Knocking over all the rafters, bulldozers and cranes

That wanna spread suburban sprawl all the way past Saturn

Real estate Tourrette’s tics, the same worn pattern

.

Using drapes, curtains and shades, dealing aces and spades

But the tap-dance bottle-caps the ignorance raids

On your conscience, the subway ads for beer and pomade

The Times Square sonic light-show free-trade brigade

.

But the boogie boogies forth, as the tropics wander north

No fear, the tap-dancing clan has a plan to take a stand

On rock-solid ledges of a pluralistic thought,

The rise of the ubuntu, bumuntu, bananas bought

.

For the bounty, shared from the Bronx to Kisangani,

No need to kill for water or food like Handsome Johnny,

Cultures of violence and their vultures of silence

Might fade away, and that includes the restive oil fields of Bonny

.

The mystic tap-dance boogie shows that world peace isn’t hard

Beacons of light written in flight by buoyant bards

The inhospitable wardens across the planet

Must have obsidian souls while the boogie’s soul is pomegranate

.

Plummeting the hegemonic phonic of the fold,

To an abyss, all the white noise, the ambience, the hiss

As our own dance taps drown out the sound of cold

With the sound of bold, the human beings that blow a kiss

.

From Kinshasa to Fortaleza to Ogbomosho

Strong-willed strivers winning over all the no shows

To learn the mystic vegan tap-dance boogie in the Sun

Sustainable quilombos keep the corporate forces on the run

.

Clean and easy living, walk the land like Bodhidharma

Leave the car at home, empty the zoo and clear the karma

Bring the brothers home, close the jails and fund the college

The liberationists for revolutions must have knowledge

.

Pro-human pedagogies, no more spikes on planters

Science and traditional knowledge mix, we’re plant enchanters

Vandana Shiva is the general, and people like her,

Waangari Maathi, and plant more trees and be a biker

.

The mystic vegan tap-dance boogie looks like land and freedom

Mau Mau sounds preferring death until the stacks are even

Boogie men and women marchin’ to the sun

Teeth, tongue and tap-shoes – more stopping power than a gun

Ubuntu: Afrikan Humanism (and my Further Thoughts) *bump*

I posted the following essay on my original blog waaay back on November 28, 2007. I was thinking a lot about the Congo this morning before work and came back to this piece, which compels me to conclude that thoughts we’ve had at earlier phases in life are sometimes more clear and articulate than our current thoughts. And I doubt anyone really looked at this back at the time, so here it is bumped up (with some fresh edits) for your current review. Would seriously like your feedback on ideas in this little philosophical tract. Talk about it!

Towards BUMUNTU! Towards KIMUNTU! Towards UBUNTU! Towards the end of hate and the culture of violence! Towards sisterhood and brotherhood between black folks, and no more horizontal violence in the streets or in Afrika! Rasta nuh chat Rasta! I’m talking about human beings, trying to be humane, just, fully realized, cooperative and free!!!

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

What is Ubuntu? It is the notion, expressed in Zulu and present in other Bantu languages, that “a person is a person through other people.” It is the notion that an individual is born into the community and will always be a part of the community. It is a statement of interdependence and communalism, that the welfare of the individual is dependent upon the welfare of the community, and vice-versa. I claim Ubuntu as a guiding philosophy of mine, inasmuch as it is obvious that I am because we, as Afrikans, are. Having once been a serious student of Buddhism, one reads in the notion of [inter-]dependent co-arising and the “interbeing nature of things” that, in acheiving awareness of anatman or not-self – the absence of any independently existing entity of a “self” – one fully understands that he or she does not belong to his/her supposed “self.” Our physical bodies are little more than compilations of stardust animated by the life-force, genes and cells given us by our parents and all of their ancestors. Everything in the world and in us can only exist because of everything else, and if the forest which provides the wood for the table, or the food that the table-maker’s parents ate before they even thought of conceiving the table-maker, are removed from the table, the table cannot exist. Likewise, humans cannot exist without all the elements that precede us, all of our ancestors, all the elements of nature and the world that permit being, and so on. To live symbiotically with the world and with the community we are born into only makes perfect logical sense. Ubuntu, interdependence and Afrikan humanism, must therefore be more than mere positions on how to animate and organize a society, for they emerge from deep scientific truths. Interdependence with the elements of the natural world to perpetuate a sustainable and balanced life-cycle is called deep ecology in some circles, a radical and proper conclusion based on an understanding of the symbiotic form that living in the world should assume. Ubuntu is practiced in the very same vein, based on a fundamental understanding of how reality works and what beings like us bring into this universe as we come and go.

In his book African Cosmology of the Bântu-Kôngo, Dr. Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau discusses African communalism in Bantu societies and how that concept, which he derives from his native BaKongo context but which is clearly analogous to the Ubuntu practice, is applied in the organizing and governing of a community. In doing this he shares an aphorism which is often recited by some traditional BaKongo peoples (in KiKongo) before community meetings of social, political, economic or judicial significance:

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mputu

There is no room for poverty

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mvwâma

There is no room for ill obtained wealth

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mpofo

There is no room for blindness

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mfumu

There is no room for “order-giver”

Bobo mfumu na mfumu

All are masters, and only masters

Bobo ngânda na ngânda

All specialists, and only specialists

Mu kânda

Within the community

Bilesi

Young generations

Mu kânda

Within the community

Mwâna mfumu

Ancestors’ sons

Mu kânda

Within the community

Busi/ nsâng’a kânda

A sister, the community shoot

Mu kânda

Within the community

Nkasi a kânda

A brother, a future leader

Mu kânda

Within the community

Kinenga ye dedede

Equilibrium and equality

Mu kânda

Within the community

Kingenga/ kimpambudi nwânana

There is no room for separatism/ privacy

Mu kânda

Within the community

Sèkila kumosi

All sleep at once

Mu kânda

Within the community

Sikamana kumosi

All wake up at once

Mu kânda

Within the community

Mbèni ku mbazi

Enemies stand out

(Fu-Kiau, 80-82)

These aphorisms reflect the extremely advanced, deliberate, sophisticated, and humane philosophy that we Afrikans developed to survive and thrive in pre-colonial times and which are the birthright and inheritance of all Afrikans today. It is our responsibility, indeed our necessity if we are to survive on this planet, the only world we’ve got, to live this. All we need do is continue our organically humanistic lifestyle and reconstitute a truly humane, progressive, democratic, tolerant, gender-equal and open society for the Afrikan, in which our economic life never fails to meet human needs and where land and the means to produce are commonly owned with no private property in the hands of the few to disfranchise and exploit the rest. Fu-Kiau, in this very important and recommendable text, informs us that in the world-view of the Bakongo, “individual wealth is an abominable crime” (Fu-Kiau, 76):

“Individual wealth of all kinds above the accepted standard of necessary goods, is considered a crime. One says that this kind of wealth could not be accumulated without  exploiting [wuka/ yiba] other members of the community. In that case, the wealth itself  is called kimvwâma kia muyeke, wealth that betrays, yekula, the community and its members. The owner of such excessive properties was often killed or hoodooed [lokwa]. African communities believe strongly that the individual accumulation of property has  always had negative effects on the traditional social structure and on policy- making institutions.”

Afrikans need to think critically about the way of life into which we have been socialized under the contemporary regime of capitalism, neo-colonialism, and the myth of individualism. This regime has removed us from what living reality otherwise would make clear – that we cannot exist apart from or at the expense of our world or our communities, and thus ought naturally to seek to live in harmony with nature and our communities. For Afrikans, the practice of Ubuntu must begin at home, amongst Afrikans. May Afrikans practice Ubuntu with other Afrikans and across the third world, and exclude from Ubuntuist Afrikan communities all those capitalistic, bourgeois aspirant, individualistic, reactionary, intolerant, narrow-minded, knuckle-headed, selfish, greedy and malevolent negroes.

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Bonus video: Rasta Nuh Chat Rasta by Queen Ifrica. Enjoy and Learn!

Raw “Tacos,” or the Nigerian

This past weekend I made some raw tacos, but I don’t wanna call them that. So I figure, why not just call it the “Nigerian“? Or the “Nigerian Sandwich“? Culture is invented every day. And I have both a Nigerian and a US passport (despite the fact that I was born, raised and spent 99% of my life in New Jersey and New York City). Since this particular style is original (there are other raw “tacos” but none are exactly like these) and a dual citizen (or at least dual passport holder) made them (who can legally claim Nigerianity or Nigeriosity by parentage alone), why not? Why not call this one for the whole Nigerian world? If one Nigerian can invent and enjoy a raw vegan so-called taco or burrito, all Nigerians can. Nigeria is not a static and rigid and ultra-conservative society of maddening corruption and sickeningly needless, manmade underdevelopment, where vegetarians are unheard of. It also includes, at least in theory since I do have a Nigerian passport, wild ubuntuist atheist anarcho-syndicalist raw-vegan pro-black gentlemen like me that ride bikes, write books and do kettlebells. And as of today, it also includes raw vegan tacos. We all know about Jolof rice, named after a whole ethnic group – the Wolof people – in Senegal. Now we have something even bigger – “the Nigerian.”

Also, the “Raw Okra Stew” I’ve talked about earlier? Forget that name. I am now calling it “the Green Garvey.” Copyright the Precision Afrikan 2010, if necessary. Wait, no, “Creative” Copyright (CC), right? And it’s all 100% open-source. See? Nigeria isn’t all about the lack of government transparency.

And to the thought police goblins, don’t get your undergarments all in a wedgie over this, claiming iconoclasm or unpatrioticness – I’m just trying to rebrand Nigeria like Dora Akunyili.

New traditions, baby, new traditions, all day. Pro-human, pro-planet, art, music, poetry and literature from sun-up to sun-down. Wanna enjoy the new world, the new Pan-African, Pan-American, Virgo Supercluster vision of celebrations and saxophone horns that can be heard, yes indeed, in the vacuum of space (well at least in low-Earth orbit)? Then you must become mighty healthy. The Nigerian will help you on that path.

The ingredients are:

A) The taco build –

Big leaves of collards

A nice big red cabbage

Carrots

Okra!!!!

Snow peas

Zucchini

Tomatoes

And any other damn vegetable thing you like. Cukes, avos, sprouts, bell pepper, whatever.

B) The sauce, blended in a blender

Tomatoes – like five or six plum tomatoes in my case

An onion

Fresh basil

Fresh cilantro

An habañero pepper, aka “heat rock”

And whatever else you’d like, don’t be dogmatic – read beyond the letter of the script.

So what do you do? You blend your sauce. You could use a bicycle blender to save electricity. I don’t have one of those yet. But that’s the most basic step. Then, with a bowl of that sauce handy, and after you’ve washed all your veggies, you build your tac– erm, Nigerians.

How’s that go? I start with a big, massive leaf of a collard. Open that up and spread some of the sauce on it. Then, peel off a nice thick purple leaf of the red cabbage for the second leaf which forms the inner “bun.” Spread a spoon of your sauce on top of this, too. Then, you add your veggies. Now I sliced the zucchinis into thin pasta strips with my trusty julienne slicer, and peeled my carrots into wafer-thin strips with my reliable vegetable peeler. On all the tacos, after laying down the buns, the first joints I drop in there are a handful of zucchini strips. Then come the snow peas, a few okras (lob off the tips of those), the carrot slices, and finally a few tomatoes. And last, I dribble some more sauce across the top. And then I repeat, making enough of these to exhaust my supplies and satisfy my hunger. Other than fruits, it was my main “supper” the whole weekend.

Extremely satisfactory and delicious, and very filling. At least to me. And my taste-buds aren’t that unusual. The minions of anti-veganism may fear the “blandness” of plants. As the great DJ Dirty Harry (Rockers) once said, Remove Ya! I and I come and change the mood! Get into this real food.

Try it out. Let this crazy rasta know what you think.

And now, the porn (Nigerian porn):

These joints look like Nigeria though, right? Especially if you’ve ever been down to my area, the Niger Delta. Greenness everywhere. I’m not that far off.

New traditions, baby, new traditions, all day. Global citizens of hip-hop veganism and reggae revolution topped with ragas can now relish the Nigerian.

An Interview

The good folks over at La Terre d’abord or Earth First in France requested an e-mail interview with me the other day and sent over some good questions. Here are my responses, in case you won’t be able to understand it by the time it’s translated into French on their side. Please let me know what you think of these ideas – I’d really like some discussion and building out of this one.

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Comment allez vous?

Here is a response for our interview:

1.What is your website about?

“Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk” basically seeks to demonstrate that black vegans, including black raw vegans in particular, exist, are becoming visible, and are having relevant experiences and success as vegans across the African world, whether on the continent or in the diaspora. It also seeks to actualize and document the notion that being African and vegan is a critical and progressive part of our liberation struggle and the desire to humanize our existence while cherishing our singular and delicate planet.

2.How did you come about it?

I’ve been a vegan for eleven years now, and when I started this website in early 2008 I wanted to see more black vegan presence and commentary on the Internet, especially from the perspective of experienced, long-term, confident and determined vegans of color, not only blog diaries of 30-day trial vegans trying to lose weight, even though that is important as well. This blog represents an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-white supremacy, humanist, activist, radical environmentalist, Pan-Africanist, African-centered and third-world perspective that is hardcore, straight-edge and long on the scene. This is third-world veganism that is very engaged with society from the perspective that revolution is necessary and veganism is an empowering and liberating part of the human transformation necessary for the survival and progress of this primate species.

3.How do you see the culture that developped in Black Africa as connected to veganism?

I am not a practicing archaeologist or anthropologist in this matter, but much anecdotal and historical evidence presents some of the people of Kemet, also known as Ancient Egyptians, as vegetarians. In general, pre-colonial diets where of whole foods, whether or not meat was included, and pre-colonial lifestyles in many parts of black Africa were seen, by Western anthropologists of the time (mid-19th century), as among the healthiest in the world. Now our life-spans and quality of life are the shortest and most miserable, largely due to neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism and rule by criminal governments. We are aid-dependent, and land tenure in Africa is at a state of perpetual crisis, while cash-crops prioritize growing cacao, coffee, and flowers over food. We even sell immense hectares of land to foreign countries for them to grow food for their own populations! Animal pastoralism is another problem, destroying vegetation across vast swaths of land and accelerating desertification. If all that land grew fruits and vegetables, many of our dietary and food security problems could begin to find resolution. And all these tendencies greatly exacerbate gender inequality as women struggle to grow kitchen gardens to feed families and tend to the crucial but totally unpaid task of reproductive labor, while men tend to focus on cash-crops and preferentially receive implements and resources from governments, multinationals and some NGOs to grow them.

Overall, transitioning towards veganism in Africa will ease malnutrition, raise production levels, increase self-sufficiency and I think reduce tendencies towards conflict and needless aggression. In terms of food policy, we can grow so much of our own fresh fruits and vegetables, organically and sustainably, if we focus on that goal at the continental and grassroots levels. In terms of societal outcomes, I think veganism improves social tolerance, physical well-being, reduces stress, makes the brain work more efficiently, improves immunity and reduces illness, reduces cancer levels, and so on. People will be more cooperative and conscientious of proper land stewardship and societal responsibility and cohesion in a vegan society – at least. Veganism in Africa would probably be far more revolutionary than that.

4.In France, we have people of african origin, and they are in a way or another culturally connected to Africa. But if the elders have often a very wise point of view, a very critical one, which stress that justice will necessary prevail even if it will take time, young people are quite far away from veganism and from a cultural critical stance of what we may call Babylone. What do you think about that?

I have faith in the youth. I’m 26 years old. I’m still considered a youth. I would almost say I have more faith in youth than in the old generation, which in many ways have failed us, failing to realize the promises of Pan-Africanism or Civil Rights. It’s young people who are becoming vegans, who are becoming critical thinkers, who are questioning the old ways and rightfully disposing with useless traditions that have no value and make no sense. I don’t have an innate respect for tradition, personally. I say, choose reason over custom. Babylon includes not only white-supremacist and capitalist society, but also anti-human, divisive, anti-intellectual, reactionary, authoritarian, homophobic, misogynistic and stupid traditions and tendencies in Africa and the black world. Many black youth are lost, many youth are hopeless, due to the failings of society which lead them to go after what they need at the expense of each other. The self-hate, ignorance and poverty at the root of the lives of the youth lead to many poor outcomes, which are all too visible. Less visible are the visionary youth, the revolutionary youth, the organized youth building art, building armies of wisdom and change. But I think the visionary youth hold the reigns of the future and will courageously confront the immense challenges of the present and near future, mostly given us by our often greedy, stubborn and foolish parents and grandparents.

5.In France, when we think about revolutionary afrikan position in North America, we think about Move or Dead Prez. Nevertheless, we would have a criticism: it seems that a poisonless perspective was the central aspect, not really nature, the animals, the Earth. What would you say to that?

For Africans, there is little time to focus on animal liberation alone. It makes no sense, when humans are in so much misery. Someone like me could never get behind the white animal liberation scene, because they act like it is the central problem of injustice in the world, which from my perspective is absurd and laughable. Oppressed people start at the perspective of their own oppression. Of course, everything else is included when we consider the foul human trends that lead to all kinds of exploitation. Aggression, greed, ignorance, violence, dominion – these are applied to create hierarchies and exploitation amongst humans and between humans and animals. But someone like me and I think Dead Prez or the MOVE Organization sees an urgent need to focus on human problems, and cannot in good conscience focus on animal liberation alone. Only a very privileged person can afford to only focus on animal liberation, so for a lot of people of the revolutionary African position in North America, that sort of thing is very alien, and rightfully so in my opinion. We don’t have the luxury to focus on one single issue, especially one that is tangential to our own suffering and oppression as black human beings. It all must be included – human liberation, Earth liberation, non-human liberation.

6.You stress the importance of raw food. Can you tell us about it?

Raw vegan food to me is so healthy. It liberates a person from dealing with disease and worrying about health, in large part. I haven’t been even slightly sick in many many years. In the US, especially among African peoples, disease is practically the central concern of life, whether it be obesity, cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, impotence, stress, and so on. Raw veganism, particularly low-fat raw veganism that mainly consists of fresh fruits and greens, is practical, affordable and creative. And it requires discipline and consistency, tendencies that we need as peoples who consider ourselves revolutionary. Raw veganism is both extremely healthy, and also builds people to be more hardcore and serious about life and work. Raw veganism is about vigorous health and uncompromising mentality.

7.Africa is a continent waiting for revolution. Do you think veganism is the key for that?

Yes. Veganism is a potentially important part of revolution everywhere, and we need revolution all over the world. We need vegan warrior spirits that consider the whole picture in terms of how humans coexist in the world with all other beings, while correcting the social contradictions in human society. A more humane society will emerge with veganism in the picture, during and after the revolution. And also a much healthier, just and sustainable one.

ONA MOVE!

-The Precision Afrikan

The Prototype

Time is limited, when considering the atrocious nature of the stewardship we as a species perform on this planet. Planet Earth. None like it in the cosmos. The one and only. We may now be finding ‘super-earths’ out in the local arm of this spiral galaxy, but we ain’t going anywhere near them for centuries, nor will we be terraforming the Moon or colonizing Mars any time in our great grandchildren’s day. This is the only world that can host our species and every other creature and being on its little surface. It would seem that humanity can be said to be damn near its biggest bane: massive destruction of habitats and land, spillage of toxic hydrocarbons previously locked in the bowels of the crust, destructive conflicts that destroy human societies, habits of consumption that pollute and shorten human lives and the life of our environment all the same, mass extinctions of flora and fauna forever. It would seem that we as a species, after tens of thousands of years of behavioral modernity, have yet to deal with the fundamental problems and contradictions of the human condition and the sustainability of our home planet for all life. And yet we think ourselves the most sophisticated of the great apes.

I have yet to answer many such questions as an individual. I have made some introductory moves. I try to admit my ignorance every time it comes up. All I want to do is learn and practice methods and behaviors that collectively benefit us all and maintain joy and wellness with the most balance across our ecosystems. Cities, suburbs, forests, mountains, deserts and oceans alike are ecosystems, environments, habitats for multitudes of species, plant and animal. What are the best practices, technologies and attitudes, suitable to our budgets and environments, that can begin to address the fundamental contradictions of humanity’s most needlessly negative impacts on Earth and other people and creatures? I am just starting to take an inventory as applies to myself, a wishlist if you will.

I am nothing but a writer, a starving artist at the moment. Incomeless until (hopefully) I finish this first novel in a few weeks (and inevitably return to the workforce). And in all likelihood I’ll go back to being a student for the umpteenth time in the near future, further rendering me a person of leanest means. But I do try to dream.

I dream that I could afford a long-tail utility bike with mad racks (ala Big Dummy) and top-notch components and completely eliminate not only the very limited driving I do, but also cut out a lot of train riding and rely all but completely on my own body for transportation. I’ve been salivating over making this transition in transportation complete for a very long time now.

I dream of living in a community far denser than where I am, where community in itself is a concept pregnant with significance and actualization. A suburb like mine severely lacks this, and it is all the more isolating when the prevailing values of consumerism and material excess have long been rejected vigorously in my personal chamber. A community with more thoughtful people of color, not only the conforming ones hard-wired to their bad and destructive habits.

I dream of establishing and practicing even more meaningful relationships with a wider body of truly like-minded and like-practicing people. Why not? I’m not trying to convert anyone to how I do things. But after just about eleven years of veganism, I’m still the only vegetarian I actually know personally.

I dream of pushing the younger generations, or at least those with an open mind, toward engaging the world. Engaging the world includes hiking its lengths everyday with eyes fresh open. Engaging the world includes talking with others meaningfully, constructively, humorously. Not destructively. Not in the most shallow and empty ways. Engaging the world includes challenging oneself in this world. Engaging the world means actualizing oneself fully, given one’s sincerest aspirations, like Che Guevara. Engaging the world means recognizing ourselves in other people and respecting everyone and the diversity of identities they carry with the fullness, transcending the limiting, bigoted, intolerant, and ignorant impulses pushed by societies and traditions no thoughtful and humane person should practice if humanity is what they value. Engaging the world means recognizing one’s unity with all that is in this world, and seeing the oceans, the mountains, the cities, other people, as like an extension of one’s own body.

We don’t own the world. Even our bodies are not just some gift we have the reasoning to claim fully and exclusively – all the food we’ve digested, the seed and egg of our parents, the passage of time and accumulation of experience, they compose what we think we can call a “self.” We don’t have dominion over things. We can at best constructively participate in the process of nature and society on this wonderful planet.

Constructive engagement – perhaps that is what I most dream to do.

With our bodies, exercising daily and eating only the best food to the extent that we no longer feel hungry.

Then, fighting so others do not have to suffer hunger.

Then, fighting so that we and ourselves do not have to suffer ignorance.

Then, fighting so our planet does not have to suffer the results of our human excess.

Then, dancing with each other and ourselves in the celebration of being born not on Mars nor Venus, but beautiful and brilliant planet Earth, the one and only.

Or we can do these all at once.

I am trying my best to execute the practice of constructive engagement. I am only a beginner so bear with me. I hope others can check this same idea and give it a try, see if it works, and if not, offer constructive criticism.

Small steps with a small axe. At least we humans can try that. Else, well, time is limited on planet Earth, the one and only, and the same goes for our one life.