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Gbagbo has Special Connection to Blacks in the U.S.

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By George E. Curry –

(NNPA) ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire – Laurent Gbagbo, who has served as president of Côte d’Ivoire for 10 years, has always had a special connection to the United States.

“I visited the United States many times,” he recalled in an exclusive interview with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) News Service. “The first time was in 1980.” As part of his study abroad, he visited New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, and Memphis, which holds a special place in his heart.

“I visited Memphis, the city of the blues,” he recalled. “…I saw B.B. King in Memphis, with his big earring and his guitar. I saw him perform. I saw John Hooker. I saw him perform. But, the artist I loved dearly and I have all of his documented life is Ray Charles.

“Ray Charles’ life is a real defiance of nature. This is a man who when 5 years old, lost his brother. The seventh year, he became blind. Fifteen years, he lost his mom and his dad. So, when he was 15, he could not see, he had no parents, but when he died in 2004, he was one of the richest performers in the world. This is what I call a fighter. I like people who fight to make it in life, who start from scratch and reach the top level of their life. The fight of his life is more important to me than his voice.”

Gbagbo also said he was inspired by civil rights fighters in the U.S.

“When we were young, we listened to everything. I listened to Cassius Clay, who became Muhammad Ali. I listened to Carmichael – Stokely Carmichael – whom I met before he died. I met him in Senegal. He was in Guinea, where he married Miriam Makeba. I listened to Malcolm X and then Martin Luther King.

“For us young Africans who were far from the United States, we didn’t know what was the best attitude, the best path to follow to end what was not an inside problem to America. It was a worldwide problem, the problem of segregation of Blacks. We are Black so we felt concerned about what was happening in the United States.”

And, he paid special attention to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Among all the problems we have, Martin Luther King has indicated one important way to resolve the problems: triumph without war,” Gbagbo said. He said he noticed how King used non-violence in dismantling racial segregation in the U.S. and how South Africa, to a less extent, used non-violence to eradicate apartheid.

“Black Americans should not think that the teachings of Martin Luther King are only for them,” he said. “It’s a teaching. It has to be implemented, it give results, extraordinary results.”

And when Gbagbo visited America, he made an extraordinary effort to visit Memphis.

“In Memphis, I saw the motel where Martin Luther King was killed,” he recalled. “We went to see the room. There were some flowers at the door where he was shot. After that, I saw that the place had been changed into a foundation, a Martin Luther King Foundation. It’s a good thing.”

Gbagbo recently announced that he has asked Charles Steele, Jr., immediate past president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization co-founded by King, to create the Charles Steele Jr. Peace and Nonviolence Center in Abidjan. Gbagbo said he would be the first volunteer to undergo special training in nonviolence.

Once that’s established, he won’t have to make so many trips to Memphis to rekindle the memory of Dr. King.

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+1 # Guest 2011-02-09 09:19
Don't forget Alassane Ouattara - the man who actually won the election in Ivory Coast in November. He's an African brother too. Plus he actually studied and lived in the US, married a black American citizen, his kids live in the US and he actually speaks English. That's what I call respect for America.
+1 # Guest 2011-02-02 02:12
Gbagbo is a sick man and needs help. Self-delusion is his illness. He is the only person who believes he won and a few others who try so hard to be "black" that they fail to see the truth that there is no difference between this man and Hitler.
+2 # Guest 2011-01-29 04:28
Gbagbo and all those African leaders that support Gbagbo do not care about democracy or the well being of Africans. The will hijack any forum to stuff their pockets to the detriment of the well being of their people let alone murder their own people. Gbagbo is not about pan-Africanism. He is about stealing as much as possible with a few of his cronies who were democratically voted out of office while the whole whole world watched on! Gbagbo is a rejected village with a lit match about to light up the grass huts of the village
-3 # Guest 2011-01-27 08:20
The french president has invited himself to an African Union meeting to discuss African issues with Africans. One should understand here that the frenchs are trying to impose their views and a leader to Africans/Ivorians.
-2 # Guest 2011-01-25 09:43
This electoral impasse is not about Gbagbo refusing to leave power because he was defeated; he was not defeated. It is about the western powers acting as myrmidons to France who considers FrancAfrique its plantations where it changes the general managers at her volition.

0 # Guest 2011-01-25 09:21
I thing before judge Mr GBAGBO we have to know about what is going on in his country.
0 # Guest 2011-01-25 00:29
Gbagbo did not learn a single thing from the struggle of black Americans. He by far does not understand the meaning of peace, as in peacefully step aside. Behind the facade of a charming man is a bloodthirsty despot. Dont be fooled America!
0 # Guest 2011-01-24 19:02
This is my first time of reading Black Voice article, I was impressed that Gbagbo listing to people like Dr. King Junior and who believe in non violence movement., but its quite unfortunate that Gbagbo does not still believe in non violence, the same Gbagbo is using force against his people , Gbagbo killed and bury his people in mass grave.
0 # Guest 2011-01-24 16:24
I'm a Haitian-American and I support Gbagbo struggle to maintain the sovereignty of the Ivory Coast. Gbago is president, not that negroid puppet Ouatarro. Keep up the fight.
0 # Guest 2011-01-24 08:51
Gbagbo is our brother, we must support him against colonial powers.

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