Herstory: Soweto uprising and the erasure of Black women

See Thando Sipuye’s brilliant piece celebrating the role of young women in the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa and de-crying the erasure of women’s role in the struggle.  He defines this as being consistent with the Euro-patriarchal elitist approach to writing of history and the ideology of male superiority to women dating back to Aristotle.  Read the piece here     The article was originally published in http://www.pambazuka.org

Dancing at the Party…

Two great articles here, the first on Inclusion by Elizabeth Shaw, including the great quote “diversity is being invited to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance”…. although we could take it further and say “it’s also about leading the dance”… click here for the piece.

The second is called The Problem with photo-journalism and Africa: Why African photographers don’t get to tell African photo stories in the Western media.  Please check this revealing piece here

Finally, here’s a nice quote on inclusion from Manish Jain

“In the conventional sense, diversity is often achieved by simply bringing people of different backgrounds and cultures together. Yes, this is diversity, but without inclusion, diversity lacks deeper purpose and meaning. To ensure that individuals are truly included, it is important to understand the backgrounds, cultures, and worldviews of all individuals in an organization.”

I Am a Dangerous Professor

By George Yancy (THE STONE)

Those familiar with George Orwell’s “1984” will recall that “Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought.” I recently felt the weight of this Orwellian ethos when many of my students sent emails to inform me, and perhaps warn me, that my name appears on the Professor Watchlist, a new website created by a conservative youth group known as Turning Point USA.

I could sense the gravity in those email messages, a sense of relaying what is to come. The Professor Watchlist’s mission, among other things, is to sound an alarm about those of us within academia who “advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” It names and includes photographs of some 200 professors.

The Watchlist appears to be consistent with a nostalgic desire “to make America great again” and to expose and oppose those voices in academia that are anti-Republican or express anti-Republican values. For many black people, making America “great again” is especially threatening, as it signals a return to a more explicit and unapologetic racial dystopia. For us, dreaming of yesterday is not a privilege, not a desire, but a nightmare.

The new “watchlist” is essentially a new species of McCarthyism, especially in terms of its overtones of “disloyalty” to the American republic. And it is reminiscent of Cointelpro, the secret F.B.I. program that spied on, infiltrated and discredited American political organizations in the ’50s and ’60s. Its goal of “outing” professors for their views helps to create the appearance of something secretly subversive. It is a form of exposure designed to mark, shame and silence.

So when I first confirmed my students’ concerns, I was engulfed by a feeling of righteous indignation, even anger. The list maker would rather that we run in shame after having been called out. Yet I was reminded of the novel “The Bluest Eye” in which Toni Morrison wrote that anger was better than shame: “There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth.” The anger I experienced was also — in the words the poet and theorist Audre Lorde used to describe the erotic — “a reminder of my capacity for feeling.” It is that feeling that is disruptive of the Orwellian gestures embedded in the Professor Watchlist. Its devotees would rather I become numb, afraid and silent. However, it is the anger that I feel that functions as a saving grace, a place of being.

If we are not careful, a watchlist like this can have the impact of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon — a theoretical prison designed to create a form of self-censorship among those imprisoned. The list is not simply designed to get others to spy on us, to out us, but to install forms of psychological self-policing to eliminate thoughts, pedagogical approaches and theoretical orientations that it defines as subversive.

Honestly, being a black man, I had thought that I had been marked enough — as bestial, as criminal, as inferior. I have always known of the existence of that racialized scarlet letter. It marks me as I enter stores; the white security guard never fails to see it. It follows me around at predominantly white philosophy conferences; I am marked as “different” within that space not because I am different, but because the conference space is filled with whiteness. It follows me as white police officers pull me over for no other reason than because I’m black. As Frantz Fanon writes, “I am overdetermined from without.”

But now I feel the multiple markings; I am now “un-American” because of my ideas, my desires and passion to undo injustice where I see it, my engagement in a form of pedagogy that can cause my students to become angry or resistant in their newfound awareness of the magnitude of suffering that exists in the world. Yet I reject this marking. I refuse to be philosophically and pedagogically adjusted.

To be “philosophically adjusted” is to belie what I see as one major aim of philosophy — to speak to the multiple ways in which we suffer, to be a voice through which suffering might speak and be heard, and to offer a gift to my students that will leave them maladjusted and profoundly unhappy with the world as it is. Bringing them to that state is what I call doing “high stakes philosophy.” It is a form of practicing philosophy that refuses to ignore the horrible realities of people who suffer and that rejects ideal theory, which functions to obfuscate such realities. It is a form of philosophizing that refuses to be seduced by what Friedrich Nietzsche called “conceptual mummies.” Nietzsche notes that for many philosophers, “nothing actual has escaped from their hands alive.”

In my courses, which the watchlist would like to flag as “un-American” and as “leftist propaganda,” I refuse to entertain my students with mummified ideas and abstract forms of philosophical self-stimulation. What leaves their hands is always philosophically alive, vibrant and filled with urgency. I want them to engage in the process of freeing ideas, freeing their philosophical imaginations. I want them to lose sleep over the pain and suffering of so many lives that many of us deem disposable. I want them to become conceptually unhinged, to leave my classes discontented and maladjusted.

Bear in mind that it was in 1963 that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. raised his voice and said: “I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self‐defeating effects of physical violence.”

I also recall the words Plato attributed to Socrates during his trial: “As long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy.” By that Socrates meant that he would not cease to exhort Athenians to care more for justice than they did for wealth or reputation.

So, in my classrooms, I refuse to remain silent in the face of racism, its subtle and systemic structure. I refuse to remain silent in the face of patriarchal and sexist hegemony and the denigration of women’s bodies, or about the ways in which women have internalized male assumptions of how they should look and what they should feel and desire.

I refuse to be silent about forms of militarism in which innocent civilians are murdered in the name of “democracy.” I refuse to remain silent when it comes to acknowledging the existential and psychic dread and chaos experienced by those who are targets of xenophobia and homophobia.

I refuse to remain silent when it comes to transgender women and men who are beaten to death by those who refuse to create conditions of hospitality.

I refuse to remain silent in a world where children become targets of sexual violence, and where unarmed black bodies are shot dead by the state and its proxies, where those with disabilities are mocked and still rendered “monstrous,” and where the earth suffers because some of us refuse to hear its suffering, where my ideas are marked as “un-American,” and apparently “dangerous.”

Well, if it is dangerous to teach my students to love their neighbors, to think and rethink constructively and ethically about who their neighbors are, and how they have been taught to see themselves as disconnected and neoliberal subjects, then, yes, I am dangerous, and what I teach is dangerous.

George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Emory University, the author of “Black Bodies, White Gazes” and “Look, a White!” and a co-editor of “Pursuing Trayvon Martin.”

Originally published in The New York Times, November 30, 2016.

Link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/opinion/i-am-a-dangerous-professor.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

Bringing African Books Back Home

Magunga Williams grew up in Kisumu, a Kenyan city that’s home to more than three hundred thousand people but to only two major bookstores. There, Williams told me recently, “people depend on books that they find in supermarkets.” Most of these books come from the United States and Europe. “These supermarkets do not have a rich African collection,” Williams said. But there was one place where he could always find a wider range of books. It was the personal collection of a local man, whose house became a neighborhood meeting place and an unofficial sort of public library. “It helped so many of us,” Williams, who is now twenty-five, said. “There are people who used to skip school so that they could go to the library and read comics.”

Eventually, the library in Kisumu closed. Williams moved to Nairobi and began an undergraduate program in law, but he never forgot the way that a house full of books, in a city with too few, became an escape. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Williams said. “The dream has always been to have a library.” So Williams, while he was in school, started a literary blog, Magunga.com, and when he received his undergraduate degree he decided not to take the necessary final steps to become a lawyer in Kenya. Instead, he made it his mission to create a space like that library—not in a house but on the Internet. The result is a fledgling online pan-African bookshop: the Magunga Bookstore.

In becoming a bookseller, Williams was, in part, following in the footsteps of his girlfriend, Abigail Arunga. A few years ago, Arunga, a Nairobi-based freelance writer in her late twenties, stopped by a few local bookstores and asked if they would stock “Akello,” her self-published collection of poems. At one shop, she was told that Kenyans don’t read poetry. At another, an employee claimed that her ninety-three-page book was too short. “They told me that my book had to be at least a hundred pages,” she said. So she decided to sell the book herself—at poetry readings, literary festivals, even family gatherings. “Literally everywhere. Like, except illegal places,” she told me. She kept a stack of copies in the trunk of her car. “I had at least six in my handbag at all times.”

This summer, she sold her thousandth copy, which translates to nearly one and a half books a day for the past seven hundred days. But she’s frustrated that it came to this. “You have to self-publish, you have to self-market, you have to self-everything,” she said. For both Arunga and Williams, it was an education in literary marketing. The two of them saw the vast gap, especially in Kenya, between those people who sell books and those who write them. “At the end of the day, a bookstore is a business,” Arunga said—and businesses have a way of resisting change. Shops won’t stock books unless they’re popular, but books seldom become popular if they aren’t stocked in shops. “Sometimes, people don’t ask for books because they don’t know that they’re there,” she said.

An epiphany came last winter, when Williams was reading an article in theGuardian and noticed that the newspaper operates its own online bookstore. He told Arunga that they were going to open a bookstore, too. “You’re going to start doing deliveries, because you have a car,” Arunga remembers him telling her. Williams earns his living by writing sponsored posts on his blog, which attracts around five thousand readers each day. He asked his Webmaster, David Mabiria, to add a new tab to the Web site, which would offer books for sale. Williams was evidently undaunted by the fact that he was trying to imitate one of the world’s best-known newspapers on a sub-page of his blog. He and Arunga requested book donations from writer friends, who provided copies of their own work. They launched the feature with ten titles in stock, under a simple slogan: “Spreading the Word.”

Word spread slowly. The Magunga Bookstore made its first sale in December, 2015, when Williams was out of town—he had to ask a friend to deliver the book. “He was telling me he was in traffic,” Williams recalled. “And I was, like, ‘I don’t care. Just go get a boda-boda ride.’ “ (Boda-boda is East African slang for a motorcycle taxi.) He remembers telling the friend, “I’ll pay you even if it costs me double the price. Just to make sure the client is happy.”

Arunga and Williams agreed on one rule: They would stock only African books, distinguishing themselves from larger sellers such as the Guardian and Amazon. “Africans want to read African books,” Arunga said. “It’s all very well to think global, but I do believe in thinking local first.” On the streets of Nairobi, as in the supermarkets in Williams’s home town, venders tend to offer cheap books from the West. Strangely, Arunga says, Kenyan writers rarely attract attention locally until they’ve found success internationally.

In the first few weeks after the page went up—during the holiday season—about two dozen books were sold. Williams and David Mabiria then decided to create a standalone page for the store. They designed the site so that customers could use it on mobile phones or with 2G Internet; it went live in early January. Soon, they began contacting publishers to acquire well-known books like “Americanah,” by the Nigerian-American novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and “From a Crooked Rib,” by the Somali writer Nuruddin Farah. When possible, they added books on a sale-or-return basis, so that copies which didn’t sell could be sent back to the author or the publisher. They added fifty titles in the first three months; today, the site has two hundred, most of which cost between seven and ten dollars. In Nairobi, where the streets are filled with boda-bodas, the site offers same-day delivery.

The online store, which Arunga described as “Amazon for Africa, with fewer payment options,” has now sold a thousand books in Kenya and beyond—a relative handful, but, to Williams, a meaningful start. In order to support a full-time employee, he said, the store only needs to sell fifty books a day. And if that happens it could serve as a proof of concept for literary entrepreneurship in the developing world. “The timing couldn’t be better, because of the growth of social media, the growth of connectivity on the continent,” Eric Chinje, the C.E.O. of a pan-African nongovernmental organization called the African Media Initiative, told me. Chinje believes that, with the right marketing strategy, the store can appeal to a quickly expanding African middle class. A few orders have come in from Germany, the U.S., and the U.K. as well—countries that have historically exported literature to Africa, instead of the other way around.

For now, Williams and Arunga are learning that even modest digital success has concrete consequences: the apartment that they share, in Nairobi, has become a sort of literary warehouse. Whenever a new order comes in, which happens about half a dozen times a day, one of them has to sift through stacks of books, package the purchase, and hand it off to a local courier or the postal service. Perhaps the bookstore of the future won’t look so different from the library in Kisumu. Williams spent much of his youth in a house full of books. It seems increasingly possible that he’ll spend his adulthood in one, too.

By Daniel A. Gross, originally published in The New Yorker, November 21st 2016

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/bringing-african-books-back-home

 

State discrimination against Kenyan Nubians is an abuse of rights

Last week I talked about how government departments have been infiltrated by so-called “agents” who collect bribes on behalf of their colleagues before a particular service, such as obtaining a passport or an ID, can be rendered.

This week I am going talk about people in Kenya who have been denied IDs and passports for more than a century, not because they failed to pay a bribe, but simply because they are Nubians.

Adam Hussein Adam, whose ancestors were brought to Kenya from the Sudan by the British to serve in the King’s African Rifles, was one such person. Adam was born and grew up in Kenya but was denied a Kenyan ID and passport for most of his life. For this reason, he failed to secure a place on the national rugby team and could not accept a scholarship to study in New Zealand. He got several offers from international organisations to work abroad, but could not take them up because he did not possess a passport.

When Adam applied for a Kenyan passport, he was told to his bring parents’, grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ birth certificates, which was impossible, as his parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ generations had no birth certificates.

Between 1992 and 2000 Adam unsuccessfully applied for a Kenyan passport five times. After producing 13 documents to prove his identity, he was finally invited for an interview. He was told by immigration officers that Nubians are not regarded as Kenyans. His passport was denied and so he remained stateless.

Although Adam eventually managed to obtain a Kenyan passport in 2003, he filed a case in the High Court seeking an interpretation as to whether Nubians are Kenyans. The High Court told him to collect 120,000 signatures from Nubians plus documentation proving their identities. Adam thought it was strange that a court would ask Nubians for identification documents since these were the very documents that were being denied them and for which he had gone to court in the first place.

 In 2006, he took his case to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and also petitioned the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. In 2011, these organisations found that Kenya had violated the rights of Nubian children to non-discrimination, nationality, and protection against statelessness.

Sadly, Adam will not get to enjoy the fruits of his years of championing Nubians’ rights — he died this month at the age of 46. However, he will be remembered for his relentless campaign to force Kenya to recognise the rights of Kenya’s Nubian community.

Nubians, like Somalis, Asians, the Swahili, and other coastal Muslims who are deemed to be “non-indigenous”, are among Kenya’s unrecognised tribes whose members have had to continually prove their rights to citizenship because, since independence, the Kenyan state has decided who is an “insider” and who is an “outsider” and which territorial spaces they should occupy.

(Even though there is considerable debate on which groups in Kenya are really “indigenous” as many of the country’s ethnic groups migrated to Kenya from other parts of Africa at some point).

During colonial times, race was a determinant of privilege and territorial access. The British reserved the so-called White Highlands and other high potential agricultural areas for themselves. Cities and towns were zoned into European, Indian, and African areas, with each race having varying degrees of access to services. Indians were not allowed to own agricultural land or to become farmers, while Africans were expected to live in “reserves” on their own ancestral land. The Northern Frontier District was treated as hostile territory and the ethnic Somalis living there were marginalised.

After independence, tribe became the main factor determining which groups and regions would be allocated public resources. Those belonging to non-indigenous ethnic groups (the second-class citizens) were forced to use patronage networks to access their rights as citizens. (For example, if it was not for an initiative led by the Ismaili community in Kenya that facilitated Kenyan Asians’ access to ID cards in the 1990s, I might have never obtained that document.)

This led to the politics of exclusion, which, unfortunately, seems to have become more entrenched under the UhuRuto government, which has created a perception that Kenya now belongs mainly to two tribes.

By Rasna Warah, first published in Daily Nation, August 22nd 2016

rasna.warah@gmail.com

 

President Barack Obama Says, “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like”

There are a lot of tough aspects to being President. But there are some perks too. Meeting extraordinary people across the country. Holding an office where you get to make a difference in the life of our nation. Air Force One.

But perhaps the greatest unexpected gift of this job has been living above the store. For many years my life was consumed by long commutes­—from my home in Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, as a state senator, and then to Washington, D.C., as a United States senator. It’s often meant I had to work even harder to be the kind of husband and father I want to be.

But for the past seven and a half years, that commute has been reduced to 45 seconds—the time it takes to walk from my living room to the Oval Office. As a result, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time watching my daughters grow up into smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women.

That isn’t always easy, either—watching them prepare to leave the nest. But one thing that makes me optimistic for them is that this is an extraordinary time to be a woman. The progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.

obamaIn my lifetime we’ve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court. I’ve witnessed how women have won the freedom to make your own choices about how you’ll live your lives—about your bodies, your educations, your careers, your finances. Gone are the days when you needed a husband to get a credit card. In fact, more women than ever, married or single, are financially independent.

So we shouldn’t downplay how far we’ve come. That would do a disservice to all those who spent their lives fighting for justice. At the same time, there’s still a lot of work we need to do to improve the prospects of women and girls here and around the world. And while I’ll keep working on good policies—from equal pay for equal work to protecting reproductive rights—there are some changes that have nothing to do with passing new laws.

In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves

This is something I spoke about at length in June at the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women. As far as we’ve come, all too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave. One of my heroines is Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African American to run for a major party’s presidential nomination. She once said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.’ ” We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy. In fact, gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Now, the most important people in my life have always been women. I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries. I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling. I’ve seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family. Like many working mothers, she worried about the expectations and judgments of how she should handle the trade-offs, knowing that few people would question my choices. And the reality was that when our girls were young, I was often away from home serving in the state legislature, while also juggling my teaching responsibilities as a law professor. I can look back now and see that, while I helped out, it was usually on my schedule and on my terms. The burden disproportionately and unfairly fell on Michelle.

So I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism. But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.

And those same stereotypes affected my own consciousness as a young man. Growing up without a dad, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, how the world perceived me, and what kind of man I wanted to be. It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.

So we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.

We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.

We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.

We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too “angry.”

As a parent, helping your kids to rise above these constraints is a constant learning process. Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race—or when they notice that happening to someone else. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.

It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.

The good news is that everywhere I go across the country, and around the world, I see people pushing back against dated assumptions about gender roles. From the young men who’ve joined our It’s On Us campaign to end campus sexual assault, to the young women who became the first female Army Rangers in our nation’s history, your generation refuses to be bound by old ways of thinking. And you’re helping all of us understand that forcing people to adhere to outmoded, rigid notions of identity isn’t good for anybody—men, women, gay, straight, transgender, or otherwise. These stereotypes limit our ability to simply be ourselves.

This fall we enter a historic election. Two hundred and forty years after our nation’s founding, and almost a century after women finally won the right to vote, for the first time ever, a woman is a major political party’s presidential nominee. No matter your political views, this is a historic moment for America. And it’s just one more example of how far women have come on the long journey toward equality.

I want all of our daughters and sons to see that this too is their inheritance. I want them to know that it’s never been just about the Benjamins; it’s about the Tubmans too. And I want them to help do their part to ensure that America is a place where every single child can make of her life what she will.

That’s what twenty-first-century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.

By Barack Obama-44th president of the United States.

Source: http://www.glamour.com/story/glamour-exclusive-president-barack-obama-says-this-is-what-a-feminist-looks-like (4 August 2016)