Category Archives: Civil Rights

Sandy Hook Elementary Remembered

Mi Irieites,

Once again our prayers go out to the parents, friends and family of those that were brutally murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a year ago yesterday, in Newtown, CT.  We know this is a very touchy and delicate moment for you all as we approach this festive season.

The killing of the innocents continues. Keep Strong and let’s hope mankind can see reason, and that someday politicians put the safety of people ahead of profits for the industries of death and destruction.

Kenya at 50

Yes Mi Irieites,
KenyaflagThis day 12th Dec, 2013 the Diaspora also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Kenya.

Kenya was declared a colony by the British in 1920 but was actually a so-called protectorate since 1895. From the very beginning the British had difficulties occupying this vast country in Africa that had millions of acres of prime fertile land.  As a matter of fact the first commissioner of British East Africa, Arthur Hardringe, stated at one point that “These people must learn submission by bullets.”

So from time to time there were revolts and insurrections, but the most memorable ones were that of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA), better known as the Mau Mau, lead by Dedan Kimathi Waciuri.  This resistance group was seen as terrorists by the acting government.  And like our Jamaican National hero, Paul Bogle, Dedan was finally caught and hanged and placed in an unmarked grave in 1957.  Today he is revered as Kenya’s national hero.

The struggle continued with Jomo Kenyatta who took up the mantle to liberate Kenya.  In 1953, Kenyatta, better known as “The Burning Spear,” from whom the reggae legend Winston Rodney, took his name, was sentenced to 7 years in prison accused of being the leader of the Mau Mau.  This trial, where he was accused along with 5 others called the “Kapenguria Six” created a lot of media interest at that time.  Kenyatta was released in 1959 and went on to be the first Prime Minister and President Kenya in 1963.

May I say thanks to the efforts of the Kenyan people, in particular those from the Kikuyu tribe, Dedan Kimathi and the original Burning Spear himself, who we recognise as the “Founding Father of Kenya” to make all this possible.

“Radical to the bone”…….. Born Fe Rebel.

Love Over Hate: The Life and Struggle of Nelson Mandela

Hail Mi Irieites,

The sad day has finally come where President Zuma had to make the announcement that South Africa’s biggest icon and one of the world’s most prolific activists towards Justice and Racial Equality, Nelson Mandela, has passed away.  Now all nations across the entire planet are in mourning.

In this modern day era of ours Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, whose life dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, had ideals that will forever stand the test of time.  Because as long as the world continues to have struggling and disenfranchised masses throughout, there will always be room for this energy of “survival and freedom” that this man perpetuated.

As most of us know, life was no easy road for our hero, who finally gave into death after a long battle from a lung infection.  It was only five months ago that Steel Pulse was commemorating his efforts for reaching age 95.  In terms of cricket, that’s what one would call an excellent innings.

Mandela was born on July 18th 1918, in a Xhosa village called Mvezo, in South Africa.  As a child and also coming from a lineage of royalty, Nelson herded cattle for his family, a chore that was not uncommon in those days where humility built one’s character.  By the mid 40s he gained a Batchelor of Arts degree and went on to pursue a career in politics and law.  It was towards the end of that decade where South Africa’s colonial past took a drastic change (1948).  In 1964 he was imprisoned for life by the South African ruling powers of the day for the crusade he embarked upon against “Apartheid”… an ideal that was running similar, if not parallel to the laws of segregation that was quite effective in the southern regions of the USA at that time.

A good portion of his life sentence was served on Robben Island.  But it was the efforts of so many around the world spearheaded by his wife Winnie Mandela that brought Nelson’s “hidden away” incarceration to centre stage.  With the sanctions from many countries and boycotts by many celebrities’ worldwide as well as general public rallies and outcry, Mandela was finally “Let Out” after spending 10,053 days (ten thousand and fifty-three), from Victor Verster Prison on February 11th 1990.  [Incidentally, Mike Tyson was “Knocked Out” on that same day also… ]

Within three years of his release, the one time integral member of the ANC and “convicted terrorist” was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1993).  By 1994 he became the First Black President of South Africa until 1999.  His works, efforts and influences had him receiving more than 250 honours during his lifetime.  This included a US Presidential Medal of Freedom (at least three current US Senators voted to keep him behind bars only four years before his parole, in1986).  Mandela went on to serve his country in so many ways of which one in particular was the launching of his company called “46664”; a number in reference to the number that he wore on his prison uniform whereas ‘466’ was his actual number and ‘64’ stood for the year he started his jail term.  This number is now a symbol of all the things that Mr. Mandela represented that encompassed the challenging fight against HIV/AIDS.

In 2005, Mandela retired from public service to make more of a presence with his family.   Then there was the untimely death of one of his grand daughters that unfortunately continued to make him absent from the limelight at a moment when South Africa were the host to the epic event, better known as the World Cup, a few years ago.  This was the first time the World Cup was ever featured on the continent.

Mandela will continue to be remembered in films plays and novels that depict his character in the most profound way.  But let us not forget the endeavors of all the “soldiers” before and during his lifetime that made notable indentations and contributions with their lives to stop the menace known as racism.  Stevie Biko, Desmond Tutu and Winnie Mandela; just to name a few.

Finally, we – Steel Pulse – are deeply saddened by all of this because for the first time after so many desperate attempts over the years, we are scheduled to be in South Africa for a few shows early 2014.   There goes another individual of the highest stature that we have never had the pleasure to cross paths with.

To the family of Madiba, our sincere sympathies as we pay our respect and tribute to such a legend and “Father of the Nation.”  (July 18th 1918 – Dec 5th 2013); a man that will make so many cry, yet was unable to cry himself due to having his tear ducts removed while imprisoned.

Hail Madiba – the true Sun of Africa.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

Give Thanks and Praises

Hail Mi Irieites,

While the US are “giving thanks” with Thanksgiving, where everyone is gathering from all over the country to be with their loved ones, we must not forget those who are without – without family, friends, food or even a home.  May you also continue to pay homage to the original ancestors…

Peace and Love, continually!!!

In the meantime, because of the positive response towards H.I.M Hail Selassie I and his attendance at the funeral of JFK, we would like to mention a few key points of fact in regards to the mode of thinking JFK might have had prior to that time.

H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie 1st stayed at the White House during his short visit to Washington DC, before going on to New York. The dates are highly significant. It is more than likely that H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie 1st encouraged the young American President to heed the message of his forthcoming speech at the United Nations, about universal human rights, and the danger of perpetual war. Kennedy knew very well that in the United States, the richest country in the world, there were “first and second class citizens,” and a “philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior.”

On October 2, 1963, President John F. Kennedy met with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor, who had just returned from Vietnam. That evening, the White House announced that it would begin withdrawing ‘military advisors’ from Vietnam.

On October 3, Emperor Haile Selassie 1st left Washington D.C. for New York City.

On October 4, 1963, the Emperor delivered his ‘War’ speech to the assembly conference, speaking in the ancient Ethiopian language of Amharic.

On October 5, 1963, JFK announced his formal decision to withdraw from Vietnam, beginning with a withdrawal of 1,000 of the 16,000 ‘military advisors’. Historians disagree about JFK’s true intentions about Vietnam. Yet the historical record shows that he first announced the decision to end the conflict while Emperor Haile Sellassie 1st was present in the White House. His Majesty and the American president were sending the world a sign of solidarity.

Six weeks later on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

Remembering JFK

kennedy

Yes Mi Irieites,

We are only less than 3 hours away to commemorate one of the world’s most notorious events;  the tragic assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America.

I was 7 years old when this incident took place and I remember it clearly as if it was only yesterday.   As a matter of fact, every now and again I try to compare any other atrocity that surpasses or even came close to the impact this incident had on the world.  To reiterate my point, with no disrespect, not even Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon, the 9/11 Twin Towers, the death of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Bob Marley or even John Lennon came close to how devastated and shocked the world was at that time.

To many from the black diaspora Kennedy was recognised as a symbol of hope and the first real step towards racial equality and liberation, despite the missiles crisis of Cuba and the Cold War with the USSR.  Even Jamaicans residing all the way in England were shook up on hearing the news.

As the repeated images are now all deeply etched in our minds over and over again for the past 50 years, we have been led to believe that it was one lone crazed gunman; a far cry from the story Oliver Stone unfolded in his 1991 released film.

So does the Kennedy curse continue?  So many incidents have happened since his death, the murder of his brother Bobby (1968), the car crash of Ted Kennedy in Mass (1969), and much more recently, the tragic death of John-John Junior (1999).   Yet the memories of what happened 50 years overshadows them all.

One thing for sure, the world will be keeping this incident alive for the next 50 years and beyond.

And to our elderly fans out there… send some info on where you were and what you are doing at the time when this news happened.  It would be interesting to know how well your memory serves you.

The Courage of Ruby Bridges

Hail Mi Irieites,The-problem-we-all-live-with-norman-rockwell

From Wikipedia:

In spring of 1960, Ruby Bridges was one of 6 black children in New Orleans to pass the test that determined whether or not the black children would go to the all white school. She went to a school by herself while the other 5 children went somewhere else. Six students were chosen; however, two students decided to stay at their old school, and three were transferred to Mcdonough. Ruby was the only one assigned to William Frantz. Her father was initially reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to “take this step forward … for all African-American children.” Her mother finally convinced her father to let her go to the school.

US_Marshals_with_Young_Ruby_Bridges_on_School_Steps

The story of Ruby Bridges reminds us all to never take anything for granted. And today, in a time when voting rights are once again being threatened, let us think about her courage and her parents’ willingness to stand up for the good of all.

After all these years, we still have a long way to go.

Raspect.

Farewell Ms. Alvera Coke

Hail Mi Irieites,

AlveraCokeMs. Alvera Coke, the mother of the late Peter Tosh has passed away.  Here is the statement from the estate of Peter Tosh:

The Peter Tosh Estate with great sadness acknowledges the passing of Alvera Coke. Born in Belmont Jamaica May 25, 1917- she passed at the same home in which she grew up, in her bed today. As the matriarch of the Tosh family she leaves behind the great legacy as the mother of Peter Tosh and grandmother of ten. Her grand spirit and guidance will be missed.

Ms. Coke, we give thanks and praises for your love and inspiration. Your son got up, stood up for justice and was the voice for the voiceless.  I and I are forever thankful for your grace.

30th Anniversary – Maurice Bishop (29th May 1944 – 19th October 1983): The Fight Against Fascism Continues

Yes Mi Irieites,

ADN-ZB Häßler 11.6.1982 Bez. Dresden: Maurice Bishop, Vorsitzender des Politbüros des ZK der Neuen Jewel-Bewegung und Ministerpräsident der Revolutionären Volksregierung Grenadas, besuchte die LPG in Niederkaina, Kreis Bautzen. Hier bei einem Meeting mit Genossenschafstbauern und Arbeitern der LPG.It appears that October has been a landmark for many a revolutionary.  First it was Hugh Mundell, then Thomas Sankara and now the Right Honorable Maurice Bishop, the second Prime Minister of the island of Grenada.

Bishop became Grenada’s Prime Minister after seizing power from his predecessor Eric Gairy in a coup, while Gairy was out of the country on business (March 1979).

In the course of his administration Bishop had formed several organisations: the People’s Revolutionary Government of Grenada (P.R.G.G), People’s Revolutionary Army (P.R.A), New Jewel Movement (N.J.M), just to name a few.  This development was triggered while studying in the UK.  And although he majored in the subjects of Law and Economics, it was during this period that he got heavily influenced into campaigning against racial discrimination in Britain as well as being proactive with the Black Power movement of the USA.

So in the eyes of the Grenadian Population, things were looking positive and bright for Bishop once he took charge, until he aligned himself with Cuba.  This initiated an alliance where various projects were to be carried out that he thought would benefit the island.  One of the projects involved was the construction of a new international airstrip that was to be located in the southern region of the island.  This was a project that was once proposed by the British while the country was still colonised.  However, it did not favour well with the US, who, as far as they were concerned, believed that it was a plan to be served as a landing strip to accommodate Russian military aircraft, etc.

As well as US opposition, Maurice was also getting a hard time with those within his own administration who thought that these projects and organisations were a waste of the taxpayer’s money. A proposal for joint leadership was refused by Bishop.

It was in the first week of October 1983, when things grinded to a halt.  Bishop, was placed under house arrest by the Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard.  His incarceration didn’t last very long once the people got news as to what had happened.  The protesting got to such a height that he was immediately released.  But within two weeks of the protest, Bishop, as well as close family members and a part of his administration, were rounded up once again and taken into custody.  They were all placed against a wall outside of where they were confined and got massacred by a firing squad later that day.  Finally, an invasion by the US ultimately took place October 25th, stopping all Cuban participation on building the airport strip.

Maurice Bishop will rise up in history as the bravest leader the Caribbean has ever had in recent times.  His stance in favour of working class rights, women rights, and education as well as his stance against racism, Apartheid and sex discrimination has already been noted by those of us who are conscious and concerned in the affairs of the diaspora.

Come to think of it these ideals are a carbon copy of Thomas Sankara’s blueprint policies to elevate all of Africa.  Unfortunately, we are living in times where all great revolutionary thinkers get cut down in their prime by their peers, especially peers that are suppose to be working with you side by side, each day.  The airport was built and was named Point Salines International Airport but was renamed in honour of the New Jewel Movement leader, “Maurice Bishop,” in 2009.

Here’s a an excerpt from a speech on fascism by Maurice Bishop:

“… the extremely undemocratic, repressive and corrupt nature of the puppet Regimes carefully trained and promoted from among local professionals and bureaucrats by Imperialism to maintain their presence on the backs of our people, is a very consistent Caribbean condition.”

And with only four months to go for Grenada’s 40th anniversary of Independence, here is Steel Pulse’s tribute to the “Real Spice” of Grenada.

Maurice Bishop, Ya Big!!

Incidentally, this is also the 30th anniversary since the Pulse embarked on our first Caribbean tour.

PS -  a Happy Birthday to another icon and revolutionary: Peter Tosh!

50 Year Later: The March on Washington

Hail Mi Irieites,

50march

50 Years ago, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. uttered these words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial >> Join I tomorrow in DCNow is the Time!

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”