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Ebola Tracks Outbreak of HIV/AIDS Pandemic

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(NNPA) A high school friend of my wife was one of the earliest victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He was a flight attendant, who was stricken and died quickly. When he died they still had not come up with a name for the pandemic. But then others became sick and died and suddenly the public knew that something deadly was unfolding.

In the beginning of the pandemic there were different ways that it was characterized. The media and the “street” would talk about the “gay cancer” or the “disease” that afflicted Haitians, homosexuals and hemophiliacs. There were those who suggested locking up entire populations. No one seemed to know whether you could hug and kiss someone with what later came to be called HIV/AIDS. There was panic. While the science was ignored, there was a demand for a cure. All sorts of theories circulated as to how and why HIV/AIDS emerged.

It was through the work of groups such as Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP and others that the crisis was confronted at the level of public health and justice. They and similar such formations mobilized against the demonization of the HIV/AIDS infected. Slowly the tide began to turn and attitudes started to shift.
That said, it feels, in the midst of the Ebola crisis, that we are back to ground zero. Science is being ignored. The Australian government has cut off visas to West African countries afflicted by the outbreak and has refused to deploy medical personnel to help to confront the tragedy. They seem to think that they can put Australia in some sort of bubble and keep it healthy. I hate to break it to them but in this age of globalization, it does not work that way.

Yet, in the U.S. there are many people with the same impulses. In a country of more than 300 million people there have been nine victims of Ebola. Nine. Yet the actions by some politicians would make you think that thousands of people had crossed the Atlantic and were infecting the population. Worse, there are politicians who are pinning this crisis on President Obama as a way of motivating their base to vote for conservatives.

It is time for something akin to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP. There needs to be a broad-based discussion about Ebola and I would argue that the African American community and African immigrants must take the lead because this pandemic is painted with “race” by all sorts of charlatans. Much as HIV/AIDS became another reason to dehumanize gays, Ebola has become yet another reason to condemn the African World.

Panic and irrational responses are not stopped through pleading, and are frequently not stopped through common sense. You sometimes need a strong force that, through its actions, mobilizations, publicity, etc., shatters the panic and actually forces the larger public to consider reality.

That time has arrived.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. You can follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Government Owes Us Reparations

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(NNPA) Last week I wrote about the shocking story of how our Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) willfully brought crack cocaine into the Black neighborhoods of our nation to make cash for financing a revolution in Nicaragua. This is going down as the vilest act perpetrated against a specific race of people. An agency of our nation performed and managed the dastardly act and must be held accountable. In other words, reparations are due.

They are due but they will never come unless we start acting and demanding justice. There has been talk of reparations for the effects of slavery. That isn’t going to fly as too much time has gone by to calculate just how much damage was done and who deserves what. This atrocity here, the Crack Invasion of Black America, is very fresh and many of the ills are still taking place. Reparations must be placed on the table.

As the CIA started spreading truckloads of crack through our neighborhoods via street gangs such as the Bloods and Crips, they started forming all of the bad ingredients for chaos and decay. As the crack hit the streets, weapons started to flow. Weapons and drugs are the main ingredients for urban warfare. AK-47’s was the weapon of choice. Funny, you can’t buy an AK-47 in this nation (it’s made in Russia), but thousands of them started appearing in gang fights, robberies, etc. It would take the sophistication and power like a CIA operation to pull this off. Local police departments would assign manpower to assist the agents in this onshore invasion.

The fast cash started flowing, making the gangs more aggressive. Some were downright vicious. An example is when a gang leader was murdered in St. Louis, it proved to not be enough vengeance for the perpetrators. After the funeral, the rivals went to the cemetery, dug up his coffin and took the body to the victim’s grandmother’s home and tossed it on her porch. That’s how vicious our youth were becoming. That’s how dangerous our beautiful neighborhoods were becoming. Hope started fading fast.

Oh, about that revolution in Nicaragua. The Contras, who were being supported by the CIA’s profits from the drug running, were defeated. Today, Daniel Ortega is still president of the nation of Nicaragua. They wanted him out although his people have repeatedly reelected him to office. The United States now has a free trade agreement with the nation via the Central American Free Trade Agreement – CAFTA. Was it just a rouse? That failed, but the drug smuggling continued. Maybe this was about applying harm to a particular segment of our population i.e. Blacks and especially Black males.

Drug dealing was everywhere and in plain sight. I remember driving down 79th street in south Chicago in 1990 and observing a “bank” of about 20 pay phones. Each phone had a line of 10 or more people waiting to place their drug order. I thought obviously the police condoned it. My friend owned a Shell gas station in Indianapolis and he installed a pay phone to see if it would draw business. His sales skyrocketed as dealers and buyers would drive up to his station and communicate on that pay phone. He would make $500 – $700 dollars a day off the quarters dropping into that busy phone booth.

At the same time, our federal government launched the “War on Drugs,” which turned out to be a war on Blacks. Before the crack invasion there were 40,000 people incarcerated for drugs. Now, 30 years later, there are more than 500,000. Sentencing guidelines became wicked and mandatory. Three strikes/you’re out started in California. Many states, including, California began building more prisons than colleges. The “Prison Industrial Complex” was officially opened for business.

As the property values of our neighborhoods started sinking and the deaths/incarcerations started climbing, the idea of rehabilitation started fading. Once a Black youth goes into the system he/she may never get out. A person lives in the “hood” and is drafted by drug gangs (he will be murdered for refusing) his life becomes miserable. After the first incarceration he finds the rules of parole or probation to be impossible to adhere to. No decent job is available to a felon. He cannot associate with other felons and that rule is impossible to follow. His family, neighbors, and everyone else in his environment is a felon. He is discriminated from equal housing opportunity and there is no other road to choose from other than the same one he came out of.

Our poverty levels and quality of life are worse now than they were 40 years ago. This is mainly due to the above. It was government-sponsored and the government should be held accountable.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

U.S. Inadvertently Helping Assad

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(NNPA) I ‘get’ that ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) are a criminal, fascist outfit.  I also ‘get’ that they are vicious.  I further ‘get’ that they can eventually be a global danger.

Yet, here is the problem. Syria has been in the midst of a horrific civil war in which the government of Bashar Hafez al-Assad repressed a peaceful, democratic opposition using various instruments of violence. This is the same Assad government that refused, until recently, to go after ISIL despite the fact that both Assad and ISIL claimed that they were the enemies of one another.  Instead, ISIL encroached upon and attacked other forces that are actually struggling against the Assad dictatorship.

ISIL, by the admission of President Obama, had been largely ignored by the U.S., though that is not really the full story.  When the Bush administration lied the U.S. into a war of aggression against Iraq, it opened up the doors to hell, encouraging and unleashing sectarian violence. Shiites were placed in positions of power and some of them, such as Al-Maliki, decided to do what they could to exclude the minority Sunnis and to consolidate a religious bloc. This played into the hands of Sunni extremists such as Al Qaeda and, now, ISIL.  In other words, ISIL is the monster that the U.S. helped to create.

ISIL threatens Iraq, and much of its population. To address ISIL a government of national unity will need to be built that guarantees genuine democracy for the Shiites, Sunnis and the ethnic Kurds.  Most people seem to be clear on that.  Air strikes against ISIL, while deadly, will have a limited impact if there is no political settlement.

But then there is Syria. U.S. air strikes are not only taking place against ISIL, but reports are that they are being flown against other Islamists in operation on the ground, groups that are quite different from ISIL and have actually been fighting Assad.  In other words, the U.S.A. is actually helping the Assad regime, which is why representatives of the Assad regime are crowing with support for the air strikes.

So, let’s sum up at least part of this. The Assad regime of Syria has been repressing its population and destroying its cities.  It has conspired with ISIL in order to undermine the legitimate opposition to the dictatorship.  The U.S. is not bombing ISIL along with other members of the opposition, thereby strengthening the Assad dictatorship.

Is this a policy that is going to win the U.S. the friends who matter?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English.  He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist.  Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Ebola Won't Block My Return to the Motherland

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(NNPA) Is it me or does it seem like the powers that be are trying to have a Ebola virus scare in the United States?  With all our technology, body scans at the airport, top-flight doctors etc. how did someone get in the country by lying on his questionnaire and then accidentally released from the hospital while still carrying this deadly virus?

The CDC is monitoring 100 people in Dallas who may have come in contact with the Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan.  I thought I lived in the greatest country in the world. How could this happen?  I hate to think that anyone would want to spread this virus, but living in America, I’ve learned to scratch the surface to see what is really underneath.

I’ve allowed myself to believe the age-old myth that doing business with Africa was not possible because the African leaders were constantly at war with one another and had no desire to do business with African Americans.  But for the past few years, I have been seeing an effort from the African presidents and officials to visit America more frequently.  Dripped in their infamous 18 karat yellow gold and fancy garbs with their entourages talking import and export business with African American leaders such as Jesse Jackson.

I haven’t quite been able to figure out how I can begin doing business with Africa, but I am definitely intrigued by the opportunity.  It’s got me thinking about visiting and figuring out what type of exchange the Hip Hop Union will be able to do with the continent.  And just as I begin to think about possibilities in doing business with Africa and finally going to my home, the Ebola virus dominates the news.

What does the Ebola outbreak do to us mentally?  It makes us naturally fear what can hurt us.  The objective becomes not to come in contact with anyone who may have this virus.  That should be easy the virus has only been found in Africa.  What we must remember is there are many Africans that have populated and are beginning to do big business within the United States.

In New York, there are approximately 73,000 Africans, many of whom travel back and forth to West Africa.  In Washington, there are at least 80,000 Africans and as of 2007 there are about 20,000 Africans in Dallas.  Until this Ebola virus is contained, we will all live in fear and do everything possible not to come in contact with someone who is infected.  But who is most likely to be infected?  Right.

Dr. David Nabaro, tells RT News Ebola poses a worse threat to humanity than HIV or SARS.

“I can remember in Africa early on in HIV thinking ‘This is an unspeakably awful situation, but it will not decimate the population’…though we still lost millions. I watch this and I think it is much nastier than HIV. I remember working on SARS and being scared, but this is much worse than SARS. It is just spreading faster and faster and faster,” he told the paper.

So now my African brother goes under scrutiny because he has come into America and cracked the code to the American Dream.  They are driving cabs, they own nice restaurants, they do the tours in Times Square,  they are building their own little Africas throughout the country.  An outbreak in America will ruin trade relations and direct business.

At the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference, Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (d-Texas) hosted a session on “How America and Africa can Create a Virtual Pipeline for Job Creation.”  This is what we want right?  The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria Chief Godwill Akpabio presented a 17 x 22, 43-page full color magazine detailing all the opportunities in his country that have opened in the last seven years. Jesse Jackson pointed out the planes that fly the same distance from America to Europe are doubled the price when traveling America to Africa.

Why these hurdles in the way of me going home?  Why not just provide the aid and wipe out the Ebola virus like we are doing ISIS? It’s because Africa is the land that is filled with milk and honey.  It’s time to reconnect.  We finally can use what we are learned to advance the infrastructure in our homeland.  One of Cheif Godwill’s entourage said, “It is time to come home.”  “I agree.”

Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at jineea@gmail.com or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay

Breaking White Silence on Racism

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(NNPA) On September 15, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka did something quite fascinating. He spoke to a labor audience in St. Louis about race and racism. What was particularly noteworthy is that he was not speaking to a largely Black or Latino audience. [To hear and see the speech, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny8loBhqmhc.]

I have known Richard Trumka for almost 25 years. He has been outspoken against race and racism, but what is significant here is that all too often Whites speak about race and racism to the victims of this oppression, specifically, to African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. No matter how powerful a speech it may be, it always begs a simple question: Why are you telling us what we already know?

Trumka decided to flip the script. Seizing on the anger that has arisen in connection with the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Trumka went to the Missouri AFL-CIO Convention to, among other things, speak about race and class. His audience was not the tried and true. Although it was racially mixed, Trumka was especially targeting his remarks towards White trade unionists, many of who have contradictory attitudes toward race and racism.

Trumka’s remarks have set off a whirlwind of excitement on the Internet, and so they should. Yet the problem that we confront is one that the union movement confronted in 2008 when the same Richard Trumka challenged White workers to put aside their racial biases and vote for Barack Obama. The problem is that his speeches—in both cases—were courageous and progressive. Nevertheless, the 2008 speech was not followed up by a broader dialogue in the trade union movement about race and it is far from clear whether such a discussion will happen this go-round subsequent to his September 15th speech.

Organized labor desperately needs a discussion about race. Such a discussion is not only about African Americans and Whites, but concerns the entire racial spectrum of the USA. We are in need of a discussion that helps Whites in particular, to come to understand how and why “race” as a method of social control was introduced into North America. Such a dialogue is not a ‘touchy/feely’ exchange along the lines of too many well-intentioned but misguided multi-cultural programs. Rather, the dialogue needs to rest on history such that workers generally grasp the means through which they have been played against one another and who has actually gained.

The sort of dialogue we need must also tackle questions like immigration, and specifically, why the dramatically different attitudes in White America towards immigration to the U.S. from Ireland and Russia, compared with their attitudes towards migrants from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Nigeria.

Trumka deserves praise for his remarks. One does not have to agree with every word, and it is not the speech that I would have delivered. But it was a speech delivered by a White union leader seeking to move White union members to rethink the racial instinct that has been implanted within them, and within generations preceding them. That said, we need to go much further and move a broader discussion and then, of course, together take some very concrete steps to challenge racist oppression.

The silence has been broken by the solo. Now we must have the chorus.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is also a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjrs.com.

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