I saw an interview with Barbara Harris of Project Prevention on BBC HARDtalk. Her organization offers cash incentives to women that are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol to use long-term or permanent birth control. See part of that interview here. Controversial issue no doubt.
Wangari Maathai became very involved in politics, joining the boards of a number of organizations such as the National Council of Women of Kenya. She became the director of the Kenyan Red Cross Society and was a member of the Kenya Association of University Women. In addition she was also a member of the Environment Liason Center which worked closely with the United Nations Environment Program. Through her work with all of these organizations, she was able to determine that the problems of the people, especially the women, was one of deforestation and land erosion.
Her husband, Mwangi Mathai held a seat on the Parliament and campaigned under the promise of finding more jobs for Kenyans who were the victims of growing unemployment. Wangari connected her idea of environment restoration to creating jobs, and created Envirocare Ltd., which paid ordinary citizens to plant trees. Envirocare Ltd. eventually failed because of lack of funds, but through her conversations about her work, the United Nations Environmental Program made it possible to send her to the UN conference on human settlements, known as Habitat I.
She returned and spoke to the National Council of Women of Kenya, proposing to continue to plant trees and they supported her. On June 7, 1977, marking World Environment Day the NCWK walked in procession from downtown Nairobi to Kamukunji Park and planted 7 trees in honor of community leaders. This was the beginning of the “Greenbelt Movement”
But all was not well. Wangari’s marriage broke apart. Her husband accused her of cheating with a member of the Parliament and he later stated that she was just too educated and too strong minded for a woman and too hard to control. In addition the government was trying to limit the amount of influence of civic organizations such as the NCWK, which Wangari was running to become the chair of at the time. There was a lot of politricks going on, and though Wangari did win eventually, the organization’s funding was cut. They survived by focusing on the environment and she stayed on as chair until 1987.
The Greenbelt Movement was started in earnest when Wilhelm Elsrud, executive director of the Norwegian Forestry Society was interested in partnering with the Greenbelt Movement. He arranged for the movement to receive “seed money” and Wangari put forth all of her efforts, hiring a small staff and paying a small stipend to the tree planters. She organized seminars and presentations and escorted delegates to see the work of the Greenbelt Movement. Forty five delegates from 15 African nations came to see the work model so they could implement it in their respective countries. Greenbelt became well organized and well known.
Wangari used the movement to push for democracy. Many were already in the streets protesting against Arap Moi’s government. Wangari was in the mix with the Greenbelt Movement and the government came down hard on her, doing what they could to discredit her. It all came to a boiling point when she heard her name was on a list of people marked for assassination. In fear, she barricaded herself in her own home and was beseiged by the police for three days until they cut the bars and arrested her. When she was freed, she initiated a hunger strike in Uhuru Park for the release of other political prisoners. The police again came for them, knocking Wangari unconscious in the process of her arrest. She was arrested many more times because of the work she was doing. There was so much going on, and now worldwide attention was on Kenya.
As in previous times she ran again for a seat in the Parliament under the National Rainbow Coalition and through much struggle, she finally won as the Coalition was able to break the government of ArapMoi. She was appointed to Assitant Minister of the Ministry for Environment and National Resources in 2002, and served until 2005.
In 2004, Wangari was selected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize as the culmination of all the work and the struggle she endured for the sake of the Kenyan environment and for Kenyan women and by extension, for peace. Very fitting for such a hard working lover of her people.
So again, what does a warrior woman look like? She looks like a giant among women and men! She inspires us with her determination, focus, intelligence and sheer bravery! To Mama Wangari Maathai, a beautiful black woman warrior!
As I look down upon American society…literally and figuratively… from my perch up here in Canada, I must admit that it’s politics and political figures fascinates me to some extent. The higher up the political ladder one goes, its becomes more and more like following a t.v. reality show, where as we know, “style over substance” is the premise of all the various plots. The continuing drama surrounding U.S. presidential politics is the highest stage where this phenomenon plays itself out. Where “American Idol” meets “America’s Top Model”, to create figuratively, “A perfect storm”.
What I had found most fascinating about the 2008 U.S. presidential election but for whatever reason didn’t feel moved to comment on at the time, was the treatment that Sarah Palin received from the so-called “mainstream media”, made up primarily of the so-called “liberal” participants. For me, it was an intriguing contrast when compared with the A-list starlike adulation, Manchurian candidate Obama received. Maybe because the difference was so blatant I didn’t feel the need to state the obvious… and not surprisingly a year later, it still continues.
Obama has always been the media’s “guy”. They created, nurtured, directed, marketed and protected, “The Obama Brand”. When he first popped up on the national scene during the 2004 Democratic convention, I remember saying to myself, after listening to the t.v. commentators heaping praise on his speech, that this dude is a media creation. However, let me be clear: Barack Obama was and is no mindless stooge. As a political strategist, the man is brilliant. He used them also for his political advantage. I saw during the 2008 campaign how, depending on the audience he was catering to, he would mesmerize them with conflicting speeches… and the mainstream media would fall all over themselves saying how inspiring he was, while never calling him out on his inconsistencies. Sure, the right-wing zealots over at Fox News like Sean Hannity and radio talkshow personalities, like Rush Limbaugh would rail against him, but outside of their diehard supporters, their rantings fell on deaf ears. No-one took them seriously… especially the majority of those within the Republican Party itself, much less the majority of Americans as was proven at the end of the election.
Obama’s greatest political feat was not winning the Presidential election against John McCain. That was a given. Whoever won the Democratic nomination was going to be the next President of the United States of America. Obama’s greatest political triumph was defeating the Clinton machine, (in February 2008 I wrote this post predicting that he would beat her). So after he won and Hillary got onboard “The Obama Train”, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the Obama campaign. Not only did he have the overwhelming majority of Democratic base in his corner, but more importantly, the Independents, primarily moderate conservatives, were supporting him.
All was well until… “uh-oh!”… John McCain picked a nationally unknown female Alaskan Governor, a Sarah Palin, as his running mate. Although everyone was lambasting McCain on this choice, I saw it as a clever political move on his part. I still didn’t think he would win, but it was a choice he needed to make to put some life… to give his sinking campaign a boost… which it did! For a time at least. He desperately needed someone to galvanize the Republican base, especially the social conservatives. McCain is a moderate. He therefore appealed primarily to moderate Republicans and Independent conservatives, so having Joe Lieberman as a running mate would not benefit him much, plus it would alienate him even further from the more right-wing segment of the Republican base. There was no way he was going to get the Black vote, so asking Colin Powell would be a waste, plus there were already indications that Powell was going to support Obama. Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs would further alienate the more right-wing segment of the Republican base, so who was really left?
Well as the saying goes: “desperate times call for desperate measures”. By choosing Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign hoped to solidify the support of the more right-wing elements of the Party, such as the social conservatives; gain the support of White middle and upper class women who felt betrayed by the Hillary loss; and win over the “Walmart” constituents, who were primarily conservatives, if not necessarily Republicans, but weren’t being inspired enough by the campaign to vote for John McCain. Most importantly however… and I don’t know if during the vetting process of Sarah Palin they took this into consideration… she was very photogenic! This added greatly to her appeal. Ever since the Kennedy-Nixon television debate in 1960, it is a given that within Presidential campaigns, being “camera friendly” is more important to getting elected, than any policy position a candidate may have!
So it was very interesting observing how, as the “Palin phenomenon” took hold and gained momentum, the mainstream media, although rattled in the beginning, got it’s “shit together” to make sure that this upstart wouldn’t derail their guy. Did they really believe that Palin could seriously spark enough excitement into the McCain campaign to pull off the upset? I doubt it… but they weren’t going to take the chance! In the beginning no one gave the relatively unknown junior Black Senator from Illinois a chance against the Clinton machine… and look what happened! The lesson was learnt:
“Never underestimate your opponent!”
To the Queens who made us what we are today, we love you!
The Greatest Woman in History: A Rock
The woman, a peasant, in the field, worked from dusk to dawn to reap its yield, she dug and planted yam to feed her fam. Sorghum, too, its grass to line the beds where her children lay their heads. Her husband was a farmer, hunter and went off to fight, while the woman kept the home fires alight. She cooked, she weaved. She traded in the market.
She has five children. One grew up; she got married young. The others still lived at home, their skin black and smooth, their smiles big and bright, like their eyes. Another she carried silently within. Then men came with talking sticks, that barked loud fire words. The villagers ran for the forest, tho their flight did them no good. They captured her, she fought and strained. And then tied and bound she was led down to a ship, thrown in its hold, dark and cold.
For forty nites upon the seas, she lay there chained amidst death and disease. When at last she emerged upon the deck, it was in a storm the ship was wrecked; her captors led her to the shore where she would see her Motherland nevermore. She was bought and sold to work a field not her own, when the sixth child was born. The last member of her old fam, so the master let her grow then sold her to another man.
Raped and sold at twelve the girl caught hell, beat and worked like a mule, reviled for her black skin. Preached at, raped again, the women took her in. She planted and plucked the cotton, she hated her life. One day she ran away and ran and ran until she was free. Then she went back. She returned to her old plantation, saw her momma’s face, in the dark. Her mother’s broken gaze by the dim fire light.
That nite she stole away, with her mother close behind, running, until they were beyond the reach of slavery.
The girl went back. No longer a girl anymore, she returned time and again until she stole away with three hundred men, women and children. A thief, a bounty on her head. Stealing property from wealthy slave owners. She traveled with a gun, on her railroad, underground.
She peeled the caps of the Confederates; behind enemy lines, disguised as a washerwoman, she signaled the Union spies. Slave girl, runaway, mother redeemer, Mata Hari.
Her children grew. One came to rule in Liberia far away. Another girl who once knew slavery, grew into a woman, started a business with her man. They grew influential, their plan to lead their community. Then instability. The crackers rose, burnt the town, lynched her man, the people fled. She wept and bled a rage that burned within all her living days. Jim Crow ruled the world when five crackers raped her then. She gave birth to a girl.
A girl became a woman who watched Jim Crow shrink, it never really disappeared. However, she raised a family and those she reared came along in a new age. She joined a movement called Black Power. Instead of the cracker mob the police took the job to lynch her man. They shot up her house, killing a party captain. Her man, drugged by a snitch lay in bed; the cops dragged him out and put a bullet in his head. She fled before the pigs made a tomb for the baby in her womb. Underground and on the run, she gave birth to her first, and last.
Another generation born. That girl became a woman whom, for reasons unknown, strayed from the path which marked her way. She, from a line so proud and bold, broke down in the dark cold winter of the racist summer, picked up the pipe, smoked the crack and never turned back. She sucked and whored thru the streets, never finding rest for her feet or her head. Raped, bobbed, beaten. Homelessness. Sometimes she went dirty begging for money, ended up in jail. Out, on the bricks, suckin you kno what for a few dirty dollars from tricks, lifting wallets and stuff. Her babies raised by the eldest of five, if that aint jive tell me who is going to make sure they thrive.
Eldest daughter started slinging, got caught up in the slaughter, took a fall from the government war against us all. And now she went to prison where she somehow came into another understanding of her place in this world. Lots of lessons to learn there yet she tried Jesus, then somewhere a book that turned her life around. When she got loose things had changed. The world appeared different. Her mother, beat down, broken cracked out still. Her sisters and brothers, some were well and some were ill. This one picked up and trod a different road, the road to liberty in a land where freedom was built on slavery.
Dreadlocks, cowries shells, sound of the cow bells and congos, the rhythm runs deep.
A woman standing up for liberation against injustice. Fighting for her children. Women raped in the Congo, she fights for that to end. Women, old women, who lost their pensions and homes and families in the financial swindles tear at her heart. Refugees from Darfur, in a strange land, their women dragging children behind them, clothed in headscarves and ankle-length skirts, arrive at the welfare office where she greets them and tries to make them feel at home. Lesbians turned out by their families. Runaway school girls at the bus depot, scooped up by her before the pimps suck their blood. Families without healthcare, they need a fighter, too.
Any woman working, feeding and clothing her family. Any woman, loving her man. Any woman, liberating her nation and standing tall against the odds, bleeding Harriet Tubman, Samora Machel, Mumia Abu-Jamal. The African Woman, the future, our mothers and lovers, our sweetest comfort when we BLACK MEN stand up and strike for right! When you have touched the women, you have struck a mountain.
For our Sisters. Eternal love and respect.
March. African Womens Month.
Each month, I always buy ESSENCE. Even though I am not American, it still speaks to me as a young black woman although it needs a *lot* of tweaking.
In the March 2009 issue of ESSENCE with the beautiful Halle Berry on the cover, there was a section of the mag that troubled me. The hair section. I have the mag here and I can scan the pages of conflict soon when I get the chance.
Reading the hair pages with famous celebrities, I am starting to feel like ESSENCE does not understand the concept of natural hair for black women. Irony?
Example #1: One page with a picture of Erykah Badu, there is some advice to ‘go to a natural hair stylist’. Okay, at first sight this comes across like good advice, but speaking from experience, you can try and go to a salon and get your done naturally and you WILL receive sneers from fellow black hairdressers as I painfully learnt.
Example #2: On the same page, it advocates you to use hairpieces. I think this is a fundamental error. It is well known that there are massive debates about whether wearing natural hairpieces is actually NATURAL so for ESSENCE to write this in the natural section is very very very worrying.
Just looking from these two examples, I feel like ESSENCE as a magazine is conflicted and does not actually know what the hell it is talking about. It is such a shame. Because black girls barely have any media that speaks to them and for them. The conflicting messages show that the mag itself is conditioned into one way of thinking that excludes kinky hair.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you still see the old logo floating around.
Here’s the link to the designer’s website: