The Passing of Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, age 74

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima

The Black nation is saddened by the loss of our great author, researcher and scholar, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima.

The Guyana Cultural Association New York Inc. /Guyana Folk Festival committee announced on May 28, the passing of Dr. Van Sertima, a former professor of the University of Rutgers and an important son of Guyana’s soil, born January 26, 1935.

The funeral is on Saturday, May 30 at the historic Riverside Church in NY located at 490 Riverside Drive, New York, New York 10027. Call 212-870-6700 for information.

If you are able to be in the area, you should pay respects to one of our legendary scholar-warriors.

(The Riverside Church is located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side near Columbia University. The church covers a two-block area extending from Riverside Drive to Claremont Avenue and between 120th Street and 122nd Street.)


Scenes from the 2K9 National Black Power Conference in Atlanta, GA

Human rights activist Darnide Cayo, co-founder of the Artists Village, Inc., shows me a slide show presentation of her group's work overseeing construction projects and providing services in rural areas of Haiti, the small island nation of just over 9-million people. Haiti is the first post colonial independent Black nation. A successful slave rebellion led to their independence. An interview I conducted with Ms. Cayo is forthcoming.

Visit their website at www.artistsvillage.org.


Victor Safforld (a.k.a. Cortez Brown) wins right to new trial

UPDATE: On May 22, 2009 Cook County Judge Clayton Crane granted a new trial in the case of Victor Safforld (a.k.a. Cortez Brown) calling the evidence detailing the behavior of the officers in question "staggering" and "damning." The Final Call will continue to report the latest developments in the case. 


Sri Lanka says Civil War is over, Tamil Tiger leader reportedly killed

UN Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka of Sri Lanka (Photo: Ashahed M. Muhammad)

After three decades of a vicious civil war, the Sri Lankan government announced on May 18 that they have defeated the Tamil Tiger separatist group after reportedly killing their leader. I interviewed the UN Ambassador from Sri Lanka Dayan Jayatilleka at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland and I asked him about this specific conflict.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: What is the current situation in your nation with the armed conflict with the Tamil Tigers? There are many in the West who really just became aware that something was going on.

Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka: The Tamil Tigers must not be mistaken for the kind of liberation movement that we all support in the third world and in the first world from among oppressed peoples. The Tigers are a movement that is terrorist in the classic sense of the word. I use this not as propaganda but the fact that the Tigers assassinated the former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi who was the grandson of India’s founding Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is a horrifying act which shows you the nature of that movement.

The Tigers have never taken a progressive stance on behalf of oppressed peoples anywhere in the world; they just talk about their own issue, which is why the pro-Tiger demonstrations that you see in various parts of the West today have not been supported by any country or any other peoples or any other movements. Sri Lanka is a small island. It is an island that is trying to keep itself together as a single country. It has state boundaries which are internationally recognized, legislative boundaries. It is hardly a place to be broken into pieces along ethnic lines. The people of Sri Lanka are not willing to allow their national sovereignty to be eroded or that national integrity to be destroyed by a secessionist movement of this sort. This is our equivalent of the U.S. Civil war.

We know that the southern confederate states attended to succeed from the union and set-up a very retrogressive form of society and we know that Abraham Lincoln waged what was a massive military campaign part of which was political effort of the emancipation of the slaves. That was not completed for over 100 years and in a way it’s still going on. The united people all agree that the United States civil war against the secessionists was a good thing, was the right thing to do. We are raising our equivalent and now it is down to the wire it’s the last stretch beyond the long stretch of eliminating this military challenge.

What is sad is that the liberal opinion in the West has been ambivalent, has even being very critical, unfairly critical of this Sri Lanka government. That is probably because of the power of lobbies and politics in some Western societies. In the United States, we know the example of the Miami and Cuban lobbies who have had a disproportion influence on U.S. policy toward Cuba. I know that Minister Farrakhan has consistently taken a stand against the continuation of this policy of the blockade, I heard him speaking on this. Now the disproportionate influence of the Miami Cuban lobby is the same kind of thing we see working in the United States, in Canada, in Australia, on the part of the Tamil lobby.

So these lobbies are pushing Western democracies into a stance that is unfairly hypercritical of a small country like Sri Lanka, this is saddening to us. But then again we will finish and win this war and we will win it soon. These weeks on the outside, more days then weeks, but weeks on the outside. We are resisting external intervention that seeks to save the Tigers.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: What kind of external intervention has there been?

Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka: Well there have been signals and sounds. The Tigers see themselves as a kind of a Zionist movement. They openly talk about that as their model. They are using the same tactics that led to the Balfour Declaration.

History tells us that people who are minority in a certain area became a majority due to conscious Western sponsored policies of migration and support. This in turn because of the financial and ideological influence of certain lobbies in Western societies. This is the model that the Tigers are using, and there have been some takers in some parts of the world. We are very saddened by this because we are not hiding outside of our borders. Our borders are not internationally contested. These are international recognized borders. We are not in occupation of anybody. We have not dispossessed anybody. We have not blocked off exits and used (check-points) in highly populated built-up areas. We’ve been trying to rescue the innocent Tamil civilians who have been held hostage, captured by the Tigers and now as they come out between television and radio about how the Tigers shot at them, how they braved land mines to get to safety. So we are trying to free those people, we have not built walls around anybody. So we are just trying to keep our small town together and all our people and various communities together.


An interview w/ Int'l Ambassador of the New Black Panther Party Hughie Rose at the Durban Review Conference

Hughie Rose, New Black Panther Party

On the 3rd day of the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, I had the opportunity to sit down with the international ambassador of the New Black Panther Party, Hughie Rose. Based in the UK, he shared his thoughts about the conference, U.S. President Barack H. Obama and the struggle for liberation in the UK.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: We want to start with something that is on many people’s minds, the world witnessing Barack Obama moving into the presidency of the United States of America. I am told this had a significant impact in the United Kingdom among Black people as well. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

Hughie Rose: Recently President Obama travelled to England for the G20 Summit they call it. Many in Europe have been impressed with his way to reach out to people both in Europe and the Diaspora. It was very welcomed when he came into the UK and the message that he left with the leaders within Europe. Unfortunately, the masses of the Black people who were supporting him throughout his president elect time were unfortunately unable to hear or see of him.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: So it was just the elite, highly placed and politicians that were able to see and talk to him?

Hughie Rose: Well I think he just saw the Prime Minister and The Queen and the rest of the G20 participants. But we were not in attendance there unfortunately this being the second time he has come to the UK and hasn’t spoken to Black people at all within the UK. But in any event we are still proud that he has been able to ascend descend to the highest office in the land.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: And your impression so far of the conference? What are your thoughts on the tendency of some to believe that conferences like this are just exercises in futility talking and talking and talking but really doing little?

Hughie Rose: This has been the track record for many organizations from the Diaspora when we happen to be dealing with our former slave masters. It becomes a talking shop and there is no substance at the outcome of the conference. The main crux of our plight was the call for reparations. They have decided to omit that from the final draft that was made yesterday. So I feel right now, those who have the blood on their hands and those who have been beneficiaries of the slave trade now see that if reparations is put within that draft it might mean that they have to now go in their coffers to compensate for those acts of evil done to Africans over the last 300-500 years.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: What are some of the issues that Black people are dealing with in the UK?

Hughie Rose:
Our struggle in the UK is in no way different than your struggle in the USA. We still suffer from police brutality, police harassment, driving while Black.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: What has been your relationship with the Nation of Islam in the UK?

Hughie Rose: We have a good relationship with the Nation of Islam in the UK and we have done some joint things together in the past. We have cordial relationships and we will continue to do so as the struggle is going on and we have a struggle amongst our people against our common enemy.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: How did you get involved with the Black liberation struggle?

Hughie Rose: I had listened to a tape of Minister Farrakhan in the 80’s. It was a tape titled “Power” and I never knew who he was. The job I was working with, I was doing insurance. The insurance manager made it required listening for all the sales staff, this was in London! He told us that we needed to listen to this tape by Minister Farrakhan and we shared the tape around. I always said to myself, it would be nice for me to see this man one time. Then he was telling us that there was a ban on him and he was not permitted to enter the country. So I said if he can’t come here, I am going to try and get to him. So in 1989 I travelled to America and in 1990 I was able to go and listen in person to Minister Farrakhan and then I heard one of his fiery students, Dr. Khallid Abdul Muhammad and the rest is history. In 2003, I became the UK Chairman of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.


Africa, Obama & The Legacy of Malcolm X - Akbar Muhammad, Bob Law and Zaki Baruti on The Relevance of Black Radio in St.Louis, Missouri on May 16th.

Mohammed Shafiq of The Ramadhan Foundation at the Durban Review Conference

Mohammed Shafiq, The Ramadhan Foundation

I interviewed Mohammed Shafiq right after the Iranian delegation's caravan pulled away from the United Nations on April 20. There were massive protests by Zionist organizations in response to the presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Shafiq, a prominent Muslim activist who directs the Ramadhan Foundation based in the United Kingdom shared his thoughts with me.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: So far, with all the controversy surrounding the presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, how do you feel about that?

Mohammed Shafiq: I am disappointed. Obviously, in the United Nations Heads of State have the right to come and make their speeches despite how objectionable they may be. I think the whole conference has been hijacked. I’ve just been with some of the demonstrators who are all White and this conference is for the elimination of racism against people of color predominantly in Africa and Asia and across Western Europe. These people (the protesters) will not be here tomorrow helping to put the strategy and agreement together, so I am disappointed and it shows you that people have hijacked this conference for their own particular agendas.

(Another portion of this discussion appeared in The Final Call, Vol.28 No.32. Visit The Ramadhan Foundation @ www.ramadhanfoundation.com)

Women Activists at the UN's Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland

As a souvenir, Anna Marie Abaagu gave me 100 naira (pictured above).
On the bill is Obafemi Awolowo, a prominent Nigerian leader, and political figure of the Yoruba, who founded many organizations and political parties.

One of the NGO representatives I talked to while at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland was Anna Maria Abaagu, youth coordinator for the Women's Environmental Programme (WEP) an NGO with UN ECOSOC Consultative Status.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: You came all the way from Nigeria for this conference and you are with one of the NGOs, which one?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: The Women's Environmental Programme.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: What are some of the issues that you wanted to see dealt with here at the Durban Review Conference.

Anna-Maria Abaagu: For one, since I work with an environmental program, basically, I wanted them to address some of the issues in the environment, but they kind of kept that part— they just mentioned it a little bit and that was it. Everything is like the same old thing, kind of like talking about the same issues they talked about in the last conference so I was expecting to see something different. But it’s kind of like almost the same thing.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: So you are somewhat disappointed. You don’t feel like the conference has really accomplished what it set out to do?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: Well I think they just wanted to bring out more issues bring up the same issues because obviously other organizations are still pursuing the same thing. Maybe because they haven’t acted upon what they said they were going to do the last time. I think it is understandable but, aside from just racism, like some of the things they talked about like war, that is affecting the environment as well because during the war they do not have food, they have refugees, they have been camped outside, they don’t have houses. That is more like environment issues so I think maybe they should try to spend a little more time on that.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: How many people came with your delegation from Nigeria?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: I think it is just me. I asked for sponsorship, so they sponsored me.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: During your time here in Geneva, what has been your experience, as it relates to the global perception of the African continent and its people?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: I don’t really know what to say, but I think most of what is going on— the problem now is how Europeans see Africans. They still think that Africans are primitive and I just came out of a side event and some of the delegates were bringing out their own issues. One lady said the last time she talked to someone, the guy actually thought that Africa was not a continent. They actually thought Africa was a country, which is crazy! So her main point was then to remove that perception, especially in the youth because a lot of them think that there are no cars and it’s just surrounded by bushes and that’s it. So maybe if they do something about that, it would be great. Somebody even asked me do we kill each other like animals in our country!

Ashahed M. Muhammad: That’s what is shown in the media. Within the western media, that’s basically the only thing they show. Your program is based in Nigeria. Are there any expansion plans?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: Yes, we are trying to open an office in New York.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: When you come and scout out your new office space in the United States let me know.

Anna-Maria Abaagu: Ok. We are going there next month for a convention on the status of women.


A Final Call Exclusive: Tortured in America?

The cases of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and cases of alleged misconduct at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have been widely reported. While President Barack H. Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder have made a clean break with the Bush-Cheney regime by coming out clearly against torture of foreign suspects, there is another side to torture, one that takes place at the hands of police officers inside the United States. 

Read about it in the current issue of The Final Call.


Disruptive groups at Durban Review Conference disciplined by UN

Zionist backed organizations held demonstrations throughout the entire Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, April 20-24th. (Photo: Ashahed M. Muhammad)

Disruptive groups disciplined by UN
by Ashahed M. Muhammad

GENEVA, Switzerland—The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pallay announced April 23 that disciplinary action was taken against several Non-Governmental Organizations and their members for violating the agreed upon rules of conduct inside the premises of the United Nations.

Participants from the Union des Estudiants Juifs de France (Jewish Student Union of France), the Neda Institute for Political and Scientific Research (NIPSR), and COEXIST, were kicked out of the conference as a result of their disruptive behavior during the Apr. 20 speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and violations of several other aspects of the UN code of conduct governing NGO participation in the Durban Review Conference.

According to the UN, security officials interrupted members of the UEJF as they attempted to carry out another disruption during the General Assembly on Apr.21. Conference access for NIPSR was revoked after members were intercepted with “inciting materials.” Distributing materials outside of the UN designated areas, or unapproved materials deemed offensive is prohibited. COEXIST was disciplined for similar reasons to the UEJF.

A total of 229 individuals registered for the Durban Review Conference were affected by the High Commissioner's ruling against the three NGOs.

Several members of the European Union of Jewish Students, and B'nai B'rith were also banned from the conference for similar violations, however, no disciplinary action was taken against the specific NGO.