Pimping, Misrepresenting Resistance
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 18 September 7, 2013
The Bhagavad Gita, Hinduism holy book, opens with two armies just about to battle, and Arjuna, expressing trepidation to Lord Krishna – he doesn’t want to fight – his uncles, his cousins, his brothers; his relatives are in the opposing army.
Lord Krishna then asks Arjuna to which class does he belongs. Arjuna replies, “The warrior class.” Lord Krishna then tells Arjuna to do his Duty – Fight!
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was signing copies of his first book in New York City, when a Black woman, whom he described as demented, came up, and asked, “Are you Martin Luther King?” Replying in the affirmative, Dr. King was promptly stabbed.
The blade went in so deep, if Dr. King had only sneezed, he would’ve died. It would’ve punctured his aorta, the main artery.
The murdered Dr. King, like the murdered Malcolm X, belonged to the warrior class. They both fought for human rights, and justice and equality of Black, Brown, Red and other disenfranchised people in America.
[And here I must digress: King was adamantly opposed to the Vietnam War. Yet, U.S. President Barack Obama, as an inheritor — in standing on Dr. King’s shoulders, wants to make war on Syria. Don’t want them to work out their Civil War, like America did.]
The attempted murder of Dr. King by one of his own, and the murders of Malcolm X, Guyana-born Dr. Walter Rodney, and Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, by one of their (our) own, point to “relatives” — racial relatives, standing in opposing armies.
Overlooking the very real manipulation by outsiders, it takes mis-education, self-hate, an inflated sense of ego, and mental illness, to vilify and/or physically attack those in pursuit of change, racial elevation, empowerment, social justice, and whose agendas are progressive, empowering, and focused on the interests of the collective, as opposed to those who feed off – and in the name of the collective.
At the same time, there are both people and organisations that mean well, and even did well. But working non-stop can tire, and in not attracting fresh blood, lead to laissez-faire attitudes and them losing their way.
Also, without transparency, stewards of trust (and leadership) entrenched for too long can degenerate into elitism, engender and support corruption, as well as lead to complacency – and them being reactionary, and obstacles to progress. And the warriors of the race have to do their duty, and Fight!
August is my Diasporic African History Month. In August there is Emancipation Day to celebrate (August 1st), Marcus Garvey birthday (August 17), and the International Day of Remembrance of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Its Abolition (August 23rd).
This August — August 28th was a bonus. The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington, which culminated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famous speech, for an equitable America.
This year was my third trip to Montreal City Hall, for observances of the International Day of Remembrance of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Its Abolition, spearheaded by the Black Coalition of Quebec. And for the third time, I left shaking my head at something so important, that has the potential to be an asset in the dismantling of racism, and empowering people of African descent is so under-developed.
More disturbing is that its organizers continue to have a non-Black person speak to a majority Black audience on Black history. It’s a slap in the face. Insult to community, and to those that know, studied our history, and are able to nuance it and provide counter-narratives. No Jew would allow a German to lecture them on the Holocaust.
In the immortal words of Marcus Garvey, made famous by Bob Marley: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery… None but ourselves can free our minds.”
The Black Coalition of Quebec ought to bear in mind: Change and progress demand the rejection of the superficial in favor of substance, and historical reflections must inspire, uplift, strengthen hearts, minds, and uphold the heritage of resistance, recommitment to excellence, achievement, and engaged citizenship.
On August 28th, I attended MLK 50, the “Commemorative Happening 50 Years – Martin Luther King I Have a Dream” at Société Des Arts Technologiques.
Noticeable on the email invite was “Jr.” missing from Dr. King’s name. I found it immediately disrespectful.
The invite also advertised a World Premiere: “Béatrice Bonaifassi sings Afro-American prisoners songs.” My immediate reaction was What! What was the vision and rational behind that? I could understand protest and gospel songs from the Civil Rights Era, but prison songs?
I arrived in time to see Stanley Pean, Reverend Darryl Gray, and Michael P. Farkas do excellent readings of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech.” After which the bullyshytt started.
There was a fumbling and nonsensical video address from Jesse Jackson, a person who in spite of being a Black political and civil rights pioneer, has lost all moral standing whatsoever, and who does not have the decency to withdraw from public life.
There was a video address from Martin Luther King III, and then I realized that the organizers had good intentions, but…
For all of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. greatness as a human being, charity and role model status, his children have acted like vultures and run of the mill capitalists – capitalizing on their father’s work in the cause for social justice. They insist on payment for the use of his speeches, including “I have a Dream,” that is considered a national treasure, and something deserving to be in the public domain. After all it was delivered to over a quarter of a million people.
For years Dr. King’s heirs have tried to sell his papers to the Library of Congress. The asking price – $20 million They demanded and were paid more than $800,000 by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, for the use of King’s image and words on King’s memorial on Washington’s Mall. In 2008, sister Bernice King and brother Martin Luther King III sued brother Dexter King over wrongfully appropriated assets from their father’s estate.
When Béatrice Bonaifassi took the stage supported by a two piece band – to sing Black prison songs, with screens of visual images of Black prisoners in chain gangs and the like, I was aghast. It was all about the visual, sonic and aural. The music was mic’ed so high and so loud; you couldn’t hear and understand her vocals. And I did ask two persons at the controls to turn it down, but to no avail.
To have a white female do such a tribute in observance of Dr. King wasn’t cultural appropriation. Incarceration and Blacks were never lovers. It was an insult, patronizing, and show at a deeper level we still allow outsiders to dictate our agenda, and what others think we deserve.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”– Carter G. Woodson