Category Archives: Nigeria

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?

Advertisements

The Beauty of African Resistance

I have been admiring the actions in this video since I first saw it six weeks ago when Mr. Omoyele Sowore, founder of Sahara Reporters, and his comrades pulled this off. This event, where Nigerian Minister of State Viola Onwuliri was supposed to explain the “virtues” of the radical removal of fuel subsidies in Nigeria effective January 1, was essentially prevented from happening by the revolutionaries in the room, after the “honorable” minister was shamelessly late to her own event, dishonoring everyone present on that front alone. Brother Sowore has been upstaging Nigerian politicians in their NY diplomatic theater events for some time now, operating with the “this is not Nigeria” philosophy that if there’s any place we can call these people out for the thieves and liars they are, it is here in New York. Most politicians in New York City and in America are also disgusting thieves and scoundrels of the lowest order, but for the purposes of this post I will discuss the international, particularly African thieves of state who visit for “diplomatic” reasons. Wherever and whenever they try to make noises about how some new policy that’s supposed to slaughter and consume the poor is actually good for them somehow, and try to convince a misinformed or bourgeois crowd that black is white, people like Omoyele Sowore, people like us, should do our utmost to make them uncomfortable, and make business as usual impossible. Revolution depends on us exposing the absurdity and inhumanity of the status quo, and it also depends on us creating and living, right now, the new norms by which we would prefer the world would operate – the Chomsky approach.

Comrade Sowore and his heroic brothers in this scenario provide an excellent and proper example for how to push forward the African revolution today. The crimes of the political class in the nation-states across Africa must be exposed everywhere. They must be explained to African people clearly, fully, and passionately. More of us, myself included, must become passionate about the African revolution. In this instance, even if ever so briefly, the good guys won the day, and they could make clear to anybody that such was the case. The greedy and wasteful political masters could not withstand the passion and the power of truth that brother Sowore and his colleagues threw at them.

Personas like Minister of State Viola Onwuliri are in fact the enemy. Anyone who defends the status quo, a status quo which is tailor made to destroy life for poor everyday Africans, is an enemy. Anyone who benefits from the status quo, who dines and lives large at the expense of the masses of suffering people, is an enemy. There is no future for them, no future for their politics, no future for their ideology, no future for their misleadership.

We are our own leaders, our own heroes, our own hope. It is we working-class hardscrabble Africans who, armed with knowledge, passion, and fearlessness, will revolutionize Africa until it is a land that provides all its citizens with a chance to thrive, create, innovate, and win. We are the majority, and those of us still blinded by the strange floodlights of heads of state, ministers and governors are dwindling among us, the truth of suffering making them question the fundamental construct of their reality.

A liberated Nigeria belonging to and run by the people of Nigeria would be a land of immense prosperity and productivity. A liberated Congo belonging to and run by the people of Congo would be a land of incredible bounty to Africa and the world. A liberated Senegal, a liberated Ghana, a liberated Liberia, a liberated Uganda likewise.

A united Africa, a union of the subaltern, of the oppressed throwing off the mindset of misery and building the will to win with the power of knowledge, would accomplish untold greatness.

But it starts with the boldness of men and women like Omoyele Sowore and men and women like you, transforming your individual lives, your families, and your communities with the passion and vision of what a liberated Africa would mean.

This boldness is a template for the revolutionary African in the 21st century, upstaging the thieves and cowards wherever they are and building the revolution right in the place where they stand.

I leave it to the Nigerian funk-masters the Action 13 who in the 1970s said what needs to be done today – GET… MORE… BREAD…. TO THE PEOPLE!

Updates on the Day of the Great Naija Shift-Change

On October 1, 1960, British despots handed over rule to African despots in the territory called Nigeria. It was a change-over of work-shifts, not a liberation. Yeah, yeah, the elders say sorta nice things about the very first post-independence leaders – all males anyway – but I don’t buy it. Fifty years of hysteria, emergency, regression, blood, dictatorship, false democracy, division, death and  devolution have now passed. And today, bombs explode in the capital, in part because of grievances and legacies of injustice in my own native Niger Delta. Enough of it.

We must urgently usher in the African Revolution! People’s democracy! Human rights! Self-determination! Justice! Universal Education and Healthcare! Socialism! Ubuntu! I’m tired of the imposed ignorance, the exploitation, the knee-jerk corruption habit, the patriarchy, the inertia, all of it. And the African Revolution begins with you and me, wherever we find ourselves as black people.

With that off my chest, I’d like to mention that some stuff is written and pictured about me over here at the Raw Mocha Angel’s “Have You Ever Seen a Healthy Vegan?” series. Check it out.

Another thing you must check out and tell your friends about is the Africana Institute at Essex County College in Newark, NJ. That’s where I work, and we aim to be the baddest Africana/ African-American/ Black Studies department on the planet. We’re all about activism, community, and education of our people about past, present and futures strides and struggles, and how to be victorious as a people.

The url is easy: eccafricana.com. If you have or know of a black-owned business in the Newark/ NYC area, let us know at africanatv [at] gmail [dot] com (or just hit me up) and I will list you on our African Business page right away. We are populating our blog with all relevant and uplifting pro-African content, and we will be letting you know of all activities and events we want to invite you to participate in.

And lastly, “Letter to a Brotha” is reposted at Racialicious, where an interesting and lively debate is going on.

Keeping it short today. Coming soon: (1) Thoughts on Straight Edge and Struggle, and (2) Thoughts on American Apartheid and Food Injustice.

Uhuru!

New Riz Khan on “The Other Oil Spill”

For the cats that might not have liked or didn’t follow the whole satirical side of the last posting regarding my disparaging/ hijacking of the “Nigeria” idea, check out this piece from Al Jazeera. There have been a million documentaries and exposés about the half-century of oil spillage in the Niger Delta produced over the past two decades, and this one is no different. Only it just came out today so it’s kind of fresh. And one should recognize that the Federal Government of Nigeria and the foreign oil corporations are one. They are one in the destruction of my native land, the Niger Delta, and its peoples. The FGN is one with its own profound, celebrated and fabulous corruption and brutality. Corporatocracy and oil oligarchy are trouble from Ecuador to the Gulf of Mexico to the Persian Gulf. Anyway, just check it out.

On October 1, 2010, “Nigeria” turns 50. Like DR Congo’s June 30 “jubilee,” we’ve got nothing whatsoever to celebrate. When the local Nigerians parade down Fifth Ave, it’ll be like parading for the exchange of one form of exploitation by whites for the same or greater type of exploitation by blacks. We’ve got hella work to do as Africans. Ain’t neo-colonialism a bitch? More later. Back to work!

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.

Okra Stew Again, with Cauliflower

Been meaning to post these since I took pics of my dinner one night earlier in May. It’s like the okra stew I presented earlier in the life of this blog, the main solid ingredients this time being chopped-up cauliflower, spinach and okra. The sauce portion, like the earlier iteration, is a lot of tomatoes, habañero pepper (the heat rock!), bell pepper, an onion, some ginger, probably some basil from my backyard, maybe a little cilantro, maybe some curry leaves. I don’t remember exactly since this is from May 5 at a time when I was taking my finals and acing them, and due to neglect, I’m only uploading the joints now. But the pictures speak for themselves. Last week I was messing with zucchini pastas with mad spinach, and tonight I’m thinking about fooling with the concoction below again. Gotta walk down to Oak Tree Rd to my Indian joints, or down to the farmer’s market in Menlo Park Terrace (this is mighty Edison/ Iselin, NJ fools!) to get me that white hard veggie since I forgot to pick some up when I went shopping yesterday. Enjoy the glamor shots below! More later. Questions welcome.

So nice, green and tasty. This is so ill.

Close up for detail.

The black hand of the Precision Afrikan about to deposit this delicious vegan mess into the mouth of the maker. The texture and crunch of cauliflower is too nice to describe. Only the most sophisticated third-world raw vegan connoisseurs can relate to this exquisite experience.

I am an African Vegan.

Pep words for Afrikan vegans: You can come out. Be visible. Show your healthy glistening black self and stand up proud. You are an African. Your skin is some awesome shade of anything sienna to super dark-chocolate. Your hair is tightly curled, strong, black as the universe. You own it like a million dollars. We are Africans. We come from the most beautiful land on this beautiful planet. We have a deep and profound responsibility to the people, sentient beings and land of our continent and planet, but we walk harder because we know we will save the world, full and proud in our blackness.

And we are vegans. We are vegans. We are the black vegans. Okra and spinach stews all day for me. All y’all West African vegans make that egusi soup tight and chop with the best fufu. You know how hype that meatless joloff rice is. I used to roll gari all day in Ghana. Brown rice and groundnut stew. Ethiopians be rocking that njera with black bean stews and all. Then raw vegan fruitarian types like me eat warrior-class mangos in the middle of New Jersey on a warm sunny day and instantly recall a hundred  days in Ghana and Nigeria three years ago. Have to get back to Afrika ASAP and eat all the colorful tree-grown orbs and pearls that make us superhuman.

Eleven years strong as an Afrikan vegan. I’m only 26 so I’m just off the starting line. I maintain beginner’s mind – Zen mind, beginner’s mind. In the beginner’s mind anything is possible, including the will to practice the healthy and happy life nonstop. Struggle does not need to negate happiness. We are Afrikans, we WILL struggle. Yet young Afrikan vegans know how good they feel. Thus they should feel so proud and powerful. Young, gifted, black, vegan!

I’m a Nigerian vegan. We exist. We can come out. All that pastureland chewed off by browsers, we could feed so many more Africans with what we could grow on it than what is fed by the brutally slaughtered animals. Spare their lives. Make Africa the garden that can feed ourselves and the world. Not by giving Nigerian land to white Zimbabwean farmers and displacing black folk all over again. Not by bulldozing the rainforests, nor flooding the Delta with blood and oil.

Maybe African vegans are too sophisticated, too futuristic, too iconoclastic for this world right now. But we are coming out. We exist. We are dedicated. We know about racism and speciesism and sexism and patriarchy and neocolonialism. We know how awesome eating stacks of fresh veggies and fruits makes us look and feel, preventing disease, preventing the African dictator-/ corrupt official-gut. Africans not addicted to meat, nor to rage and anger. Africans loving their own selves, their land, their bodies, their families, the collective Afrikan.

Our body is the temple. Can’t fill it with junk. If we do that we won’t feel like Africans anymore, we won’t have the vigor to do that mandyani, that sabar dancing, that iron sculpting, that inventing. African vegans know this.

African vegans are here. From Dakar to Maputo, Africans are becoming vegan. From Lagos to Lusaka, fresh fruits and vegetables are being taken very seriously. In the lands between Abidjan and Addis, Africans are staying away from the meat. In Kinshasa and Kumasi, black people are getting down with some veganism. I’ve seen it. I’m one of them.

What is awesome?

To be Afrikan, to be Vegan, and proud.

We are not from the future. We are here.