Gill Scott Heron 1949-2011
jacked from: Guardian
"Obama speech came alive talking about diverse societies. But not one non-white person on British establishment side of stage."Though Miliband is part of the very political establishment he derides, this tweet hit home. It's been really weird, surreal even, watching Britain's political elites and media fawn over the Obamas. On Monday Obama was in Ireland visiting the village where his great great great maternal grandfather is said to have come from. And so Obama, or rather O'bama is now an Irishman. To prove it, the Guardian printed an opinion piece with a headline declaring 'Obama finds his inner Irishman.' And the Irish Times ran an interesting commentary by Gavin O'Malley on the political history of the Irish and Black American communities:
"the African American community responded by providing the votes needed to elect the first Irish Catholic president [John F. Kennedy]. The course of history changed. Black merged green and green merged black. Irish-Americans and African-Americans dropped their hyphens... and once again became one."For those who don't know much, it's informative, but it tends to recall only the good bits about Ireland's past and seems to leave out the bad bits. Seemingly, its o'kay to leave those bits out, as the most of the UK media has done, because on this occasion it's about celebrating the visit of O'bama the 'Irish' President of America. Balance and a more critical approach, would have been a little embarrassing because as there's been plenty of solidarity, there's also been plenty of oppression too. And though present-day Ireland and America certainly paints a better picture of oneness and a people bound by a common identity, it feels strange, but positive, but also weird to watch O'bama being welcomed with a pint of Guinness and a name change.
Indeed Obama has proved it is possible for the grandson of a Kenyan cook to become President of USA, but the rapturous applause he got shows the bi-polar nature of parliament - which as David Miliband's tweet above notes, is quite unrepresentative. This is the same institution trying to wriggle out of compensating the Kenyans tortured under British colonial rule because the government is not responsible for what happened in its colonies. Obama ever th
“I’d say I’m a social-consciousness rapper, but that’s so restrictive because then I go and do a song about some lady’s ass. I like to clown. I sometimes reflect on bad things that are going on but I don’t do foreboding.
...Last year I did a barefooted walk against poverty. A human-rights group asked if I would lead the procession. At that time some major oil contracts were being signed so we were doing the walk to raise awareness about how things went down in Nigeria.
...When I write, things that bother me – slums, sanitation, wars, climate – come out too. My second album was soccer-themed but there were messages. At that time there were many scandals going on; a minister had taken government funds and thrown a party. For people who know what’s going on politically, the cover sleeve is interesting [because it’s a cartoon satire of current scandals].
I’m more into the environment. Pollution bothers me. And I don’t like seeing villages all branded. The whole country is branded in mobile phone colours. Every roundabout or monument is branded by some company. “Pidgin slang is the language that everyone from the shoe-shine boy to the vice president uses with their friends. With pidgin, people start picking out stronger terms, words that sound cooler, and they keep building.
For some reason there is this inferiority complex where people want to hide their language. I feel it is important that people are comfortable in their skin and environment, because otherwise everybody will become the same. Things will become bland.
I’m being courted by the World Bank. People say the World Bank is strangling Africa and so on, but we strangle ourselves most of the time. If that money is appropriated correctly, it will make things happen.”
“We have no water, we have no electricity. The ANC is killing us man. They killed my father. They took my legs.” I want to tell him that alcohol took his father. I want to tell him he lost his legs when the Military truck that he and his drunk soldier friends were in hit a pothole and flipped. Instead, I focus my energies on funneling the boiling water into three small teacups, whilst watching that he doesn’t steal anything to trade for alcohol, like he did last time. I’m cold and hungry. I’m thinking about the slow puncture I got trying to avoid a mound of cement the community had placed in the road when they realised the government would never get around to building speed humps outside the school. The pot slips, water spills on the coals putting out the fire that had been burning for three days now. No worries, the gas stove has arrived, and I managed not to burn myself.
I place the tray on the table next to a few lit candles. The same table my frightened cousins and I huddled under a long time ago, hiding from the police and red-clad Inkatha impis who marched down the street armed with pangas and hatred. “It would get better,” the older ones would say. The country would be free, my uncle would come back from exile. One day, we’d share in the freedoms that were currently only a privilege of the paler skinned South Africans. But there’s no electricity, and the water has been on and off since December, and I still need to change my tire. They say the sub-station burnt. The broken dreams made love to the empty promises and ignited a baptism of fire. The decaying bodies of the poor and the black blocked the pipes and the water can not flow. The desolate tears choke the voice of the oppressed and their cries will not be heard.Jacob Zuma’s face smiles audaciously off a streetlamp that has never, in my memory, been operational. “Vote ANC!” He grins. “Together we can do more…” A tall vandal has scribbled something in black marker over the ellipses. The campaign poster now reads: “Together, we can do more crime.
The Guardian's 2010 list of most tagged countries confirms to some extent that history of familiarity with a place guarantees coverage. Egypt, South Africa and Zimbabwe got tagged more times than the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Sudan. Possibly because of its hosting of the World Cup, South Africa had 547 tags, outranking earthquake-stricken Haiti, which had 436 tags. Egypt had 219, while Zimbabwe had 144 tags, and yet the DRC had a paltry 124 tags, Sudan had 122 and Somalia even less at 113. All three are among the most unstable African countries of 2010 and yet they ranked lower than the World Cup host South Africa. The war-stricken Congo is one of the world's suppliers of raw materials for mobile and computer technology and ironically constitutes just over a fifth of the 604 articles on Apple. This is not a criticism of the Guardian as the paper does provide some of the best and insightful international news coverage, but these tags are unfortunately a skewed quantitative reflection of coverage patterns and the consumerist nature of public interest.
Saying this with all flippancy intended, the formula is simple. Reports of anti-British and homophobic comments by the African dictator everyone loves to hate, and shark attacks in Sharm el-Sheik make catchy headlines. Never-ending sagas of jungle wars and mass rapes, unless involving powerful countries, do not. Or unless they're packaged as humanitarian causes fronted by celebrities and award-winning journalists like George Clooney and Nicholas Kristof. Their combined interest in the Save Darfur campaign, malaria awareness and referendum for north–south separation ensured Sudan received frequent coverage in the New York Times. Unfortunately, no similar twin-set of movie star and scribe of Clooney's and Kristof's stature have permanently adopted the DR Congo or Somalia as their primary cause. Although one of the aims of international news is to appeal to as broad a global audience as possible, how broad is our interest and genuine our humanity as people if we suffer war and compassion fatigue towards stories on the DRC, Somalia and Sudan?
But now with all these revolutions and uprisings going on, places like the DR Congo are a distant tragedy. Despite the exceedingly valuable coverage of the uprisings by some news networks, there is an underlying sense of competition within the media to see who can land the best, exclusive interview or provide the most comprehensive coverage. In the face of such fierce competition, taking a few moments in between protest broadcasts to ask the world to remember the 5.4 million (and rising) Congolese dead since 1998 or to take a serious look at Compaoré's megalomanic scheming in Burkina Faso wouldn't be a suicidal gamble with the ratings. Events in Africa and the Middle East shouldn't be placed in competition with each other; what's happening in Nigeria, Syria or Libya can share the spotlight with many other untold or under-reported stories. It’s a question of willingness to pluralise news stories and cover unfamiliar terrain.
Joy Dibenedetto, a broadcast executive and founder of alternative news site, Hum News, reports that in 2009 research conducted by Hum News found that there are 237 countries or territories in the world, and the world's largest news organisations report from only 121 countries or territories. Out of 237 global locations, 116 are not covered. If true, that's just under 50 per cent of the world's stories potentially out of mainstream media focus – almost 50 per cent. Allow that to sink in.
"although separated by cultural boundaries and individual struggles, are intrinsically tied to one another through their passion for break-dancing and hip-hop culture....“Shake the Dust” uses b-boying to show commonality and humanity in cultures that are affected by war, disease, and poverty. It seeks to paint a picture of the struggles the characters have– but only as a backdrop to the real story: one of hope and beauty."Interestingly, there's a side story that developed out of making "Shake the Dust" in Yemen Sjoberg met up with some Somali hip hoppers who dropped some rhymes about the futility of war, their ancestry and forced migration.
"Social stigma, the b-boys say, is the only thing stopping them from joining the ranks of protesters who have been camped outside Sana’a University for the past two months calling for Yemen’s ruler for the past thirty-three years, President Ali Abudallah Saleh, and his family to leave power. “My father would disown me, simple as that,” says Danny Al-Basry, another Iraqi considered one of the crew’s most talented members. “But if things get much worse here, I will have to join them.”
Like many others, the boys say they feel alienated by social expectations that are no longer achievable as a result of the deteriorating economic and political situation. For some of them, b-boying is not only a means of expression but also a vital way of escaping from these looming pressures as well as the monotony and tedium of everyday life in Yemen."