Category Archives: Justice

Juneteenth: Freedom Day in the USA

Hail Mi Irieites,

I trust you’ve taken time out to acknowledge Juneteenth which is celebrated on the 19th of June since 1865. It commemorates the day when slavery’s abolition was put into its true effect despite the fact, that the Emancipation Proclamation was declared 30 months before, in 1865.

Here are the details:

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

So here is a day of true liberation that we will never forget.

Blessings to you all….

Farewell Mother Sister

Hail Mi Irieites,

Let’s take a minute to pause and remember Ruby Dee – civil rights activist first and actress second.

Dee and her late husband Ozzie Davis were well-known civil rights activists.  She was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Both Dee and Davis were both friends of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral in 1965. In 1970, she won the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League. In 1999, Dee and Davis were arrested at the headquarters of the New York Police Department, protesting the police shooting of Amadou Diallo.

Steel Pulse were honored to share a moment where our lives intersected – through Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.

Bless you Mother Sister… R.I.P.

 

A Visit to Pearl Harbor

Yes Mi Irierites, 

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With a day to spare before our next gig in Honolulu, we were fortunate to get the opportunity to see the historical memorial at Pearl Harbor.  I say fortunate, because since our very first visit to Hawaii, back in 1986, there has never been a relaxing moment to take time out and make this visit.
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Collectively speaking, we thought it would be a real shame if we were ever to mention to our children and grand children that we have been coming to Hawaii for almost 30 years and have never seen the site that experienced such a catastrophic event which the USA still regards, even to this day, as one of the most significant of events in their almost three century history.Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 1.19.07 AM
It was an enlightening observation.  Being here, had me connecting the dots on how the world was at that time.  Not that anything has really changed over the decades, but it showed me how hungry countries were in the struggle for power.  With Japan wanting China and the rest of Asia, Europe wanting all of Africa, and Russia’s spread of Communism, all of this created the inevitability of war.  It is no wonder that the legacy of imperialism and racism is what it is today.
Anyway, with 2,341 dying during the incident on Dec 7th, 1941, many that have survived have chosen to be buried among those that lost their lives that day.  The most recent joined the ranks in 2013.
Eight known survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are still alive.  Two have already pointed out that when they die they wish to be buried among the rest of the victims.
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“All we are saying, is give peace a chance” – John Lennon.

Farewell, Dr. Maya Angelou

Hail Mi Irieites,

As we celebrate the life of Dr. Maya Angelou, we must cherish her strength, her voice, and her commitment to justice.  The news of her death was, in her own words, “expected, but still unwelcome.”

And so it is with all leaders of the Earth. Their passing leaves a hole in the world, one that is never quite filled.

The title of her most famous work -  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings comes from a poem by Paul Dunbar, the son of parents who had known the injustice of slavery:

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.

It is easy to let the desperate troubles of the world drag us down, but Dr. Angelou is an inspiration for us all to never get weary – doing Jah Work.

Here she is with Malcolm-X in Ghana all those years ago:

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And here are a few quotes from this Queen of the Arts:

  • “I still get excited about any human being speaking or singing.”
  • “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”
  • “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
  •  “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.”
  • “The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.”
  • “All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”
  • “The best candy shop a child can be left alone in is the library.”
  • “I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.”
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
  • “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”

We were truly blessed to have had her here fighting for us all.  The caged bird is free at last.  Farewell, and rise!

A Portrait of Malcolm X on his 89th Earthday

malcolmbydavid

Yes Mi Irieites,

Here it is as promised, a portrait of Malcolm X, finished in time for what would have been his 89th birthday. If you have been following this, I had put up the preliminary sketch Feb 21st 2014 and did promise to have something presentable for this day.

I know I will get a few slagging offs from those who are defensive about this individual, but that is how life rolls sometimes. Just enjoy that I’m enjoying getting into other areas in my leisure time.

“Put away the misconception
That he came to teach us hate
So wake up from your sleep and slumber
Wake up before its too late”

In the meantime, Steel Pulse gives a shout to others born on this day May 19th: Grace Jones and Rohan “The Coffee Man” Marley.

And guess who I shall be painting next…

Bless!

A Tribute to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1937-2014)

Hail Mi Irieites,

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Middleweight boxer, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, became quite a controversial figure in the mid-70s thanks to icons like Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan. Born May 6th 1937 in Clifton New Jersey (a mere 6 weeks before Joe Louis became Heavyweight Champion of the World), Carter, after serving a series of time in Juvenile centres, joined the US army at an early age. It was in the army that he became an active pugilist, going on to turn professional by age 24.

Unfortunately, his career was stopped in its tracks in June 1966, when the authorities wrongfully accused him of a triple murder that took place in a bar in Patterson (not Floyd), New Jersey. And although he was not identified by the survivors of the shooting, a trial took place the following year finding him and a friend that was with him at the time of his arrest, guilty. There he was -sentenced to life imprisonment.

Carter and his supporters contested the sentence over the years. Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel when the judge declared him a free man, in November 1985.

But like l said, it was the likes of Ali and Dylan that brought home to the nation the injustice served on this individual. Carter wrote a book during his incarceration in 1975 titled “The 16th Round.” Dylan read it and wrote a song called “Hurricane,” of which he went on to perform it at the Trenton State Prison; the prison where Carter himself, was “residing.”

In 1999, Denzel Washington starred as Hurricane Carter, a film of the boxer’s journey to freedom from behind bars. By this time Rubin Carter was already living in Canada and, talk about lightening striking twice, he was arrested once again. Only this time he was mistaken for a drug dealer wanted by the authorities. They realised their mistake when they acknowledged that Carter, then aged almost 60, was not in his mid 30’s like the suspect they were looking for.

Once again, I have lucked out on meeting this incredible person. But his quest for survival through the injustice will always stay with me. Rubin went on to be quite an active speaker at many events. He earned himself, among other things, two honorary Doctorates of Law, in 2005. Steel Pulse announced his death yesterday evening while performing to our fans in Vail, Colorado. The “Hurricane” passed after a two-year fight with prostate cancer. He was 76 years old. We share our love and condolences with his friends, families and the supporters that believed in his innocence.

R.I.P. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Hail Mi Irieites,

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Sometimes the art of the writer creates a world bigger, bolder, and brighter than the one we live in.  Such was the case with Gabriel Garcia Marquez – the Colombian exile who was first a journalist and then one of the greatest writers who ever lived.  What impresses me most is his commitment to the truth and speaking the truth for all.  It was Marquez who said that he wanted governments to care about poor people, and that was what he was looking at when he evaluated a nation’s soul.  He made friends in high and low places, uniting people across the planet through the shared love of his art. That was his greatest achievement, and that is what artists have always aspired to. You will live forever, Gabo.

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Here is the last fragment from One Hundred Years of Solitude: “… races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”

I confess I must read more of his work, as should we all. “Love and justice through literature” – that was Marquez.

More Thoughts on the Pistorius Trial

Still Pissed off.

So Oscar Pistorius is on the witness stand and may I add that he has ‘added’ a lot more to his series of events than he initially placed in his final statement. Why are we not surprised? And what he has added still doesn’t make any sense. Comments like:

He whispered to Reeva to call the police. Well, if he whispered how did he expect Reeva to speak out to the police if he was all about keeping quiet because of “an intruder.” Would you not think Reeva would react in some kind of way towards that order? Why did he not respond back to her when he did not get any verification from Ms Steenkamp that she heard his demand to call the police, or that she heard that so called “noise,” too?

He said he had asked her to take the fan from the balcony before he fell asleep and she said she would. Therefore, she didn’t sleep the time he said she did. Plus, why was he so concerned about a fan when he had air conditioning in the bedroom along with its remote right next to his side of the bed? Are you feeling me on this one, Mi Irieites? Anyway, he goes on to saying that when he woke again to get the fan from the balcony, Reeva supposed to have said, “Can’t you sleep?” His reply was “No”, and then he went to get the fan. Now the question is, why would Reeva, who had just a few seconds spoke with him, go all the way down to the bathroom and go in to the toilet and lock herself in, in total darkness knowing that he was already awake? If he knew that he had spoken to Reeva only moments ago why would he not ask Reeva right away, (right there in the bedroom) who, according to him was obviously awake when she answered him, if she was there and if she heard any kind of noise? Please bear in mind, I have yet to come across anything in his statement or otherwise as to the reason why he would wake up in the middle of the night to get the fan. He has made no mention to being hot or whatever. Even so, it takes me right back to the point I am making and that’s why drag yourself out of your sleep to get a fan when the remote for the air conditioning is right next to you on your bedside table?

If Pistorius were as paranoid as he wants us to believe, would he not do a thorough security check around the entire building before going to sleep, as a rule of thumb? He claims that he heard the bathroom door slam and that’s how he knew some “intruder’ was in there. This story was nowhere to be found in his initial statement. To place more fuel to this fire, he stated that he heard the bathroom door “slam shut.” If so, why would Reeva go to the bathroom in total darkness and enter the toilet area then “slam” the door shut? If an intruder were sneaking around why would he/she slam the door shut, in the dark?

We must all bear in mind that at least 5 witnesses said they heard a woman screaming followed by shots that night. Why would as much as five witnesses, living in different locations all hear the same thing? Why didn’t one say “well I heard a dog barking or a hyena or wolf howling followed by a swishing sound? Furthermore, all the witnessed hear the shots in the early hours, close to 3.00am that night. Why didn’t one say, “Well, I heard the shots at 1.00am”or another say, “I heard it about 4.30am?” All witnesses said the heard the shots and screams roughly the same time, given a minute or two, as a time difference.

How will Pistorius explain the damage to his own bedroom door? How does he explain the blood splatters in different parts of the house, other than the bathroom and where he left her downstairs?

Why would someone move a body after it suffered such mortal injuries, and take it downstairs? What was to be gained in saving Reeva’s life by moving her body? Commonsense tells us all that she would be more harmed by moving her body.

Another point we should not overlook and that is the fact that when the police asked Pistorius for the password for his cell phone, he said he had forgotten it. How convenient.

In all honesty, the prosecution has been very weak; weak to the point where I wonder if they are purposely intending on losing this case. The defense now will spend all the time trying to chip away on the text messages showing a disgruntled Reeva and will be trying to show that she was a needy and jealous person, too. This should cancel out the accusations of Pistorius’ going off on tantrum syndromes and bad tempered behaviour, said by people that know him. The prosecution doesn’t need any witnesses really; and if they do, why not use all 107 of them? No one gives a damn about we the taxpayer’s money, anyway. All they need to do is hone in on Mr. Pistorius’ statement and they will get everything they need.

The question still is, does Pistorius deserve an Oscar for his courtroom performance?

A Prayer for Rwanda 20 Year Later

Yes, Mi Irietes,

Today, April 7th 2014, marks the 20th anniversary of one of the saddest days in African history. It was the beginning of the Rwandan Civil War that lasted a good part of 100 days. It was estimated that a total exceeding 800,000 people were massacred during that time. That’s just about 20% of the population of which 70% of were of the Tutsi tribe; one of the three main tribes in the country.

The war started when an aircraft carrying the Rwandan President, Juvenel Habyriman and the Burundi President, Cyprien Ntaryamira, both from the “Hutu’ tribe was shot down a day before, while attempting to land in the capital, Kigali. Both Presidents and their delegates were all killed. And although things have been brewing between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribe for several decades, this was believed to be the catalyst that triggered off this genocide in 1994.

But this horror will also be remembered for the moral blindness of the UN, the USA and Great Britain. History condemns these nations for standing by and watching – without action. France too is condemned for giving their moral support to the governing Hutu faction, who carried out this genocide.

What was even more sad to remember, were the thousands prisoners that paid their captors to shoot them as oppose to be cut to pieces by their captors with a machete. The movie “Hotel Rwanda,” starring Don Cheadle, just cannot compare to the harsh reality that took place 20years ago.

Like I said …”It’s time to sip from the cup of peace, let’s strive for racial equality,”

Peace Party. Rwanda has made great strides and is rising from the ashes. But we – all humanity – must never forget. Love over Hate.

David Koff: A Big Up to “Blacks Britannica” director (24.09.1939 – 06.03.2014)

Hail Mi Irieites,

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With more tributes out there, we pay our respects to David Koff, film director of “Blacks Britannica.” David Koff, who died just over a week ago, age 74, was said to have had bouts of depression, ultimately taking his own life.

You will be missed, David, because you spoke up for justice when few had the courage. We salute you and your work.

Blacks Britannica” is a documentary that came out in 1978, depicted the social, political and racial issues throughout the UK at that time. This film became so controversial that it was banned from the UK for many years. Before it was made, not many outside Britain were aware of the plight and hardships faced by Caribbean migrants struggling to survive in a harsh England.

Our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. Your spirit will be with us always. Selah.

(David and his producer was kind enough to offer any footage for us to use in the Steel Pulse film/ documentary which is now due for a late summer release.)