This very informative documentary is by Robert Beckford on his fact finding visit to Ghana and the “new” colonization of Africa.
“What has been shall be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
“Gentlemen, I shall be brief, but I would like to use my remaining time with you to remind you that the case of Mayella Ewell vs. Tom Robinson is not a difficult one. To begin with, this case should have never come to trial. The state of Alabama has not produced one iota of medical evidence that shows that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. This case is as simple as black and white. It requires no minute sifting of complicated facts, but it does require you to be sure beyond all reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant. Miss Ewell did something that in our society is unspeakable: she is white, and she tempted a Negro. The defendant is not guilty, but someone in this courtroom is. I have nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness for the state, but my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man’s life at stake. She knew full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking, she persisted. The state of Alabama has relied solely upon the testimony of two witnesses who’s evidence has not only been called into serious question, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. I need not remind you of their appearance and conduct on the stand. They have presented themselves in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted. They were confident that you, the jury, would go along with the evil assumption that all Negro’s lie, and are immoral. Mr. Robinson is accused of rape, when it was she who made the advances on him. He put his word against two white people’s, and now he is on trial for no apparent reason- except that he is black. Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the government is fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use that phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. We know that all men are not created equal in the sense that some people would have us believe. Some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they are born with it, some men have more money than others, and some people are more gifted than others. But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal. An institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the ignorant man the equal of any president, and the stupid man the equal of Einstein. That institution is the court. But a court is only as sound as its jury, and the jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore the defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, gentlemen, believe Tom Robinson.”
Atticus Finch in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird”
I remember the feeling I had when I first saw this film. I was about 16 or 17 years old and the whole Tom Robinson storyline left me enraged and confused. Enraged because an innocent Black man was found guilty of a crime he obviously didn’t commit… and confused because I didn’t understand what produced so much fury in White people when it came to Black people. Enraged because I wanted to become a lawyer, for I believed that the truth would always ensure that justice is served… and confused because, as I was just becoming politically and culturally aware, it was becoming more and more evident to me that the justice system was not based on truth or fairness when it came to Black people.
I can’t remember ever reading the book or play, but I do remember that I was aware of the storyline before I saw the movie, so I knew that the Black character would be found guilty and killed. Still, even knowing this, the impact was heart-wrenching for me. I have seen the movie many times since and although the feelings of rage and confusion are not as intense, they still burn within me every time I see it. Even after my own experiences with racism, as well as personally knowing and hearing of other instances, even after reading many books, articles and blog posts on the subject of racism and having numerous discussions, even after posting articles about it myself on this forum, I am still enraged and at the same time confused by the blatant and obvious injustices Black people face within the criminal justice system.
Hence the story of Eric Frimpong.
Reading his story is like watching a real life “To Kill a Mockingbird” unfold. Here is a Black man accused of violently raping a White woman. There was no blood, semen, vaginal secretions, scratches or abrasions on his body or clothes which that would indicate that he was involved in any sexual activity or rape. The alleged victim even stated that she had hit her attacker hard with a “thicker ring” she was wearing on her right ring finger. There was no DNA evidence whatsoever linking him to the crime, although the semen of the alleged victim’s jealous boyfriend, who admitted seeing her with Eric on the night of the alleged rape, was found on her underwear. However, this boyfriend was never considered a suspect by the police!
Although Eric’s DNA was not found anywhere on the alleged victim’s body or clothing, her DNA was found on him, which confirmed the story he told police that she had tried to kiss him, became aggressive and stuck her hand down his pants. He spurned her advances and left. She admitted to police that she had been drinking heavily that evening and had gaps in her memory of that night. Although she contradicted herself many times and wasn’t sure what had happened, she still held that Eric Frimpong as her attacker.
Eric was subsequently charged and brought to trial before an all-white jury who found him guilty. He was sentenced to six-years in a California state prison.
I am left wondering if the summation of Eric Frimpong’s lawyer to the jury was anything like Atticus Finch’s above. In the real life, just like in the movie, it didn’t matter.
In 1998 when I was planning my pilgrimage to West Africa, I was warned against visiting Mauritania. It was explained to me that slavery against the “Black” African population was still practised there by the “White” Arabs and I could therefore put my self at risk. The fear was not so much my abduction and enslavement, but certainly blatant discrimination in a hostile environment where I would have no protection by (or from) the law. Needless to say, I avoided Mauritania.
I subsequently read a book by Samuel Cotton entitled: “Silent Terror: A Journey into Contemporary African Slavery”. Published in 1999, it highlighted his research into the dynamics of modern day slavery in Mauritania and Sudan. I recently read “Slave: My True Story” by Mende Nazer, a horrifying autobiography of her 1993 abduction and enslavement in Sudan at age 12, and her flight to freedom 7 years later while working for a Sudanese diplomat in London England.
I have also read a number of articles on the issue of child slavery in West Africa today. While the system of slavery in Mauritania and Sudan is based primarily on historical and traditional social systems, the phenomenon of child slavery in West African countries is based on poverty. Parents sell their children into slavery for a few dollars and false promises that they will only be working part-time, taken care of and sent to school. It’s ironic that I had visited Ghana during my pilgrimage and toured a number of the slave castles along the coast. I even visited the slave castle in the Kormance Region, where it is very likely that my ancestor(s) were housed before being shipped off to Jamaica as slaves. Today, Ghana is one of the West African countries that has a serious problem with child slavery.
I would like to share an indepth report from last month on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website (CBC.ca), concerning this issues of modern day slavery and child trafficking in West Africa. The link is here. There are links to the 3 articles penned by David Gutnick which discusses these topics in detail. You will also find links to previous CBC articles and other resource materials about modern day slavery.
Here is a another link to a case study and other articles by the BBC World Service pertaining to Article 4 of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Freedom From Slavery”.
The challenge now becomes: “now that we know, what are we going to do or can do about it?” Suggestions are welcomed.