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Combating Human Trafficking and Illegal Immigration Africa Summit 2010

Combating Human Trafficking

There is a three day summit taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa this week on Combating Human Trafficking and Illegal Immigration. 

The objectives of the summit are to:

  • Brainstorm on effective strategies, proactive and pragmatic approaches
  • To reduce and prevent human trafficking
  • To raise awareness on the harmful effects of human trafficking
  • Provide an opportunity to share information, ideas and experiences on best practices to combat and monitor human trafficking more especially with Africa now hosting World cup Soccer in 2010
  • To expose the antics of human traffickers and address the issues of victim support services
  • To sensitize the government on the need to devote sufficient resources and the political will to combat human trafficking

Debbie Beadle from ECPAT UK has gone down this week to speak at the conference. 

The topics for discussion are as follows:

Wednesday 24 March 2010

  • Keynote Address: International Policy Priorities to Combat Human Trafficking;
  • Human Trafficking in Member Regions: Developing Integrated Action;
  • Harmonising means of combating illegal immigration and illegal employment and improving the relevant means of control;
  • The Human Trafficking Experience in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa;
  • Comparative Case Study: Regional vs. National Approach towards Human Trafficking in Africa

Thursday 25 March 2010

  • Keynote Address: Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking: Raising Awareness of International and Cross-Border Issues;
  • Communicating Human Trafficking: From understanding to action;
  • Child Trafficking: Impacts and Safeguarding children trafficked to Europe;
  • Monitoring the implementation of instruments adopted by the Council concerning illegal immigration, readmission, the unlawful employment of the
    third-country nationals and cooperation in the implementation of expulsion orders;
  • The threat represented by the Soccer World Cup to Women and Children in South Africa;
  • Evaluation of anti-trafficking and victim rehabilitation programmes;
  • Panel Discussion: Discussion on the Economic Recession and its impact on illegal immigration

Friday 26 March 2010

Workshop: Human Trafficking: Enhancing Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships and International Cooperation


I would love to go to one of these summits one day.  I guess I need to keep an eye open for when they are taking place in London.

Guest Post: Fight Donor Fatigue with Click. Buy. Help.

I’m not going to give too much of an introduction to this guest post from Dave as I believe he says it all.  I’ve followed his excellent blog The Ultimate Blogging Toolkit for some time now and when I found out about his new venture, I asked for more information.  I think this is an excellent way to deal with donor fatigue and I hope you enjoy the read.

 CBH Badge

To kick off this guest post, I would first like to thank Emm for the opportunity.  She asked if I would be interested in writing this guest post based on a recent comment I made on her other blog, Emm in London (Running for Autism).  I am honored to have this opportunity to share the work I am doing to help non-profit organizations and hope you find the information useful.  I also hope you will see that my passion for helping others aligns well with Emm's passion for understanding critical world events, as her blog is so aptly named.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to share some background on me. It should provide a basis for why I started Click. Buy. Help. and help you understand my motivation.

I just retired from eight years on my local School Board.  The final two years were as Board Chair and the two years prior to that, Vice Chair. During that time, I had opportunities to act as the Board Liaison to our Education Foundation.  I have served on the Board of Directors of a summer camp for children and still volunteer there from time to time.  My professional responsibilities as a Corporate Communications Manager include charitable outreach and civic affairs.  I have always fantasized over winning the lottery because I believe the real fun would be in giving a large part of the winnings away to others.  Without a winning lottery ticket in sight, my next best avenue for helping others is Click. Buy. Help.

Before we get to this post's topic about fighting donor fatigue, a description of my site and how it works would be in order.

Recently, I started a web site at www.ClickBuyHelp.org devoted to helping non-profit organizations.  Click. Buy. Help. establishes affiliate relationships with online retailers and earns commissions for sending traffic - and sales - to their sites.  From the commissions I earn from those sales, I make donations to the organizations with which I partner.

I intend to help organizations with marketing materials to assist them in two ways: 1) in the normal promotion and operation of their organization, and 2) to help them encourage their supporters to begin their online buying from the organization's page on Click. Buy. Help.  I also plan to add a wide variety of online retailers from which supporters can choose.  For now, I have started with Amazon and Endless, which by themselves cover a wide area.

Here's how it works

 

How it Works

An organization first registers on Click. Buy. Help. and I create their own page on my site.  The organizaton promotes that page to their supporters. When the organization's supporters buy products online, as they normally would from say, Amazon.com, they simply start from the organization's page on Click. Buy. Help.  Clicking through from there allows the retailer to track who sent them the traffic and I earn a commission on their purchase. Then I make a donation to the organization.

The most significant benefit from partnering with Click. Buy. Help is the new revenue stream generated for the non-profit organization.  Loyal supporters are NOT asked to donate any additional funds, but they are asked to simply start their regular online purchasing from the organization's page.  One important note: for my financial model to work, I must obtain a tax deduction for my contribution.  As a result, I am only able to contribute to U.S.-based organizations who have valid non-profit status with the I.R.S. (Internal Revenue Service) as a 501(c)(3) organization.  However, the other resources posted on my site may benefit any humanitarian organization, regardless of where it may be based.

This brings me (finally) to the topic of this post - donor fatigue.  The site, Donor Fatigue, defines donor fatigue as, "a general weariness and diminished public response to requests for aid to needy people or donations to charitable causes."  In my opinion, a very appropriate definition.  Simply, the more times one exercises one's arm, the more fatigued it gets.

The worldwide financial crisis was a significant factor in slowing, and subsequently holding back the global economy from growing.  Only recently has the U.S. begun seeing some dim glimmers of hope.  As the economy contracted, so did the philanthropic gifts made to needy organizations. However, in spite of the economic challenges, the earthquake in Haiti on January 12 saw record-setting donations through the American Red Cross. Donors can text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10.  The campaign has been very successful due to its simplicity - your donation just appears on your phone bill.

On the heels of the Haitian disaster was the earthquake in Chile on February 27.  The American Red Cross and many other humanitarian organizations around the world continue to plead for support, but as you can imagine, donors are beginning to tire.  They are continuing with their texting campaign. Supporters can direct a $10 donation to Chilean support by texting "CHILE" to 90999.

The American Red Cross can be reached at http://newsroom.redcross.org/.

There is plenty of rhetoric in the media about the ever-growing "donor fatigue" syndrome.  As the climate and socio-political temperatures both heat up (yes, I believe the world is warming), strife in all parts of the world continues to grow and the need for assistance with it.  Donors' fatigue also continues to grow as the requests for financial assistance from humanitarian organizations continues unabated.

Click. Buy. Help. is positioned as an alternative to asking supporters to "dig deeper."

One of the many challenges non-profit organizations face is in growing its revenue.  Similar to the basic rule of investing, organizations must also diversify.  They must grow not only the number of donors, but also the type of donors.  The thinking is that when the economy deals a blow to one group, maybe another is doing better.  But donors are only one revenue source. Ultimately, it is the revenue sources that must be diversified.  Click. Buy. Help. simply offers a new, additional, and more diversified source of revenue.

If you are a regular reader of Emm's A Passion to Understand, you are of like mind - you care passionately about what goes on around you, you strive to understand everything you can about the issues of the day, and by default, how your passion can help others.  The fortunate part of that equation is your selfless desire to help another human being.  Unfortunately, those who need our help outnumber us immensely.  That imbalance simply challenges all of us to "work smarter" (since we're already working pretty hard to help others!)

Stop by Click. Buy. Help. and weigh in on some of the techniques I share to help non-profit organizations improve their operations.  Your perspectives will add value and would be appreciated.

Again, many thanks to Emm for this opportunity.  But more importantly, many thanks to anyone reading this post.  If you are, you are among those of us who are outnumbered!

Best regards,

David Wiederrich
Click. Buy. Help.
"Helping non-profit organizations earn commissions through your online purchases"


www.ClickBuyHelp.org


David Wiederrich  

David Wiederrich lives in Gresham, Oregon in the United States.  He is the author of the following blogs:

Click. Buy. Help. is a site devoted to helping non-profit organizations through the commissions earned from online purchases.

The Ultimate Blogging Toolkit  provides blogging and marketing resources for the average blogger and business.

Energication  is a site devoted to supporting the growth of renewable energy education in our schools.

The New Blogged Word  is just a fun, irreverent, and sometimes random look at life.

This Day in History: 21 March 1960: Sharpeville Massacre

Sharpeville Massacre
Photo: AFP

South Africa, 21 March 1960

On 21 March 1960, the Pan Africanist Congress organised a peaceful march in Sharpeville, Soweto.  During the protest, black South Africans burnt their pass books which restricted their movement to other areas in terms of the Pass Laws Act of 1952 which stipulated where, when, and for how long a person could remain.

The police opened fire on the peaceful march and killed 69 human beings and injured 178 others.

Sharpeville Day has since been commemorated each year in South Africa on 21 March and in 1994, the day was made into a national public holiday called Human Rights Day.  The idea is for South Africans to remember the great human rights sacrifices and transgressions that occurred against the black people of South Africa in the road to freedom.

The photo above showed people lying wounded in the streets of Sharpeville.  Today, Sharpeville remains an impoverished area where many people are living in shacks without running water or indoor sanitation.

In 1966 the United Nations proclaimed the 21 March the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  Rmembering the event of 21 March 1960, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

What have you done to eliminate racism today?

Prom is For Everyone

Prom Is For Everyone

One of the cognitive errors people often make is to assume that others are in agreement with them in terms of their morals and beliefs.  I am guilty of that because when I read this story, I simply couldn’t believe that backwards people like this still existed in schools and campuses in the USA.

I’m sure many of you know about this story already, especially if you live in the US but I didn’t until I saw this banner on the blog Earth to Holly.  So without further ado, here is the story…

Link: ACLU Sues Mississippi School That Canceled Prom Rather Than Let Lesbian Couple Attend [ACLU]

Link: Fulton, MS Prom Discrimination [ACLU]

Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi told a student that she could not enter the school prom with her girlfriend and that she could not wear a tuxedo.  She was also told that if she arrived separately but slow-danced with her girlfriend, they might be thrown out.

Constance McMillen The student, Constance McMillen, reported the matter to the ACLU and they issued a letter demanding that she be allowed to attend the prom with her girlfriend.  The school board responded by saying that the prom was cancelled for all students and the ACLU then filed a suit against them.  In the complaint, Constance McMillen v. Itawamba County School District, et al.,  the ACLU asked the school board to reinstate prom for all students and charged Itawamba County School District officials with violating Constance McMillen’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression.  The hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction will be held on this coming Monday 22 March.

You can support Constance on Facebook: Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom!

MTV: End Exploitation and Trafficking (EXIT)

I have newfound respect for Lucy Liu and Angelina Jolie today.  I hadn’t heard of MTV’s EXIT campaign before but the work that they have done here, along with other campaigners and celebrities, is incredibly valuable.

EXIT stands for “End Exploitation and Trafficking” and it is a multi-media initiative to increase knowledge of slavery and help in its prevention.  The initiative has been produced by the MTV Europe Foundation which is a charity that uses the MTV brand to increase social awareness in young people.

These are links to just three of the videos on the MTV: EXIT site.  They are incredible powerful and well produced short films that will open your eyes to the world of slavery and human trafficking around us.  It is not as complex or as far away as we think and each one of us is a link in the chain of human trafficking.  They are all quite short at 23 minutes in length.

Warning: the videos linked to below may upset sensitive viewers.

Inhuman Traffic: Angelina Jolie

This fast-moving and compelling documentary is narrated by Angelina Jolie.  It tells the story of two women that were trafficked in Europe.  Anna, from Romania, was trafficked by her neighbour and sent to Serbia and Macedonia where she was forced into prostitution for 2.5 years and Tatiana was sold by her boyfriend into prostitution in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Traffic: Lucy Liu

Traffic is equally powerful and is presented by Lucy Liu.  This documentary focuses on trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region and tell the story of three victims.  Ana was trafficked from the Philippines at the age of 17 and forced into prostitution; Eka from Indonesia was trafficked into forced domestic servitude in Singapore and Min Aung was trafficked to Thailand along with his pregnant wife and imprisoned for two years in a factory, sometimes working 17 hour days.

Sold: Lara Dutta

This gut-wrenching documentary is narrated by Lara Dutta, an Indian actress and UNFPA Ambassador. This time the focus is on South Asia and on children.  Pramila was tricked into moving from her village in Nepal to a brothel in Pune when she was just 18;  Afsana’s parents were approached by a woman from their own village who offered them money and told them they would get her a good job, she was then trafficked from her village in Bangladesh and forced  into domestic servitude in Calcutta and  and Zakir was sold by his own aunt and taken to work as a slave in a factory when he was just 11.

I would highly recommend these excellent and important videos.  You can also read more of what I have discussed so far on Human Trafficking and Slavery.

Book review: Left To Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza

Left to tellThis is the book that started it all for me again.  I had always known at the back of my mind that sooner or later I was going to have to face up to my horror and read up about the Rwandan genocide.  Once I picked up this book in late 2007, it started a process of discovery for me and culminated in me forming this blog.

There have been several books written on the genocide by people from all walks of life.  Sociologists, journalists, a United Nations general and a hotel operator have all written excellent and compelling books but this book was written by a normal, everyday woman.  Immaculée Ilibagiza was a student in 1994, just like me, and she had gone home for the April holidays, just like I used to do.  The difference is that Immaculée is Tutsi.

Left to Tell is the story of how her entire family was killed in the genocide and how she was hidden in the bathroom of a local pastor along with seven other women for 91 days.  There were days on end when the pastor could not secret away food to them as he had not even told his family that he was hiding the women and they suffered from starvation, dehydration and the wasting of their limbs.  They could not stand, exercise or even stretch their legs.

Immaculée is a devout Catholic and in this book she talks of the miracles that occurred and how her faith carried her through the most trying period of her life.  I’m not a religious person but I found this book to be absolutely inspiring and incredible. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to see what happened in the genocide through the eyes of a survivor.  This is an excellent introduction to anyone wishing to know more about the events but who does not feel ready to ready one of the more technical or complex books.  Just make sure that you have a box of tissues handy because this book is absolutely touching.

Immaculée has written two more books since this one and maintains a blog too in which she speaks of her faith and the journey she has take since 1994.  The blog is simply called Immaculée.

Human Rights Lawyer Murdered in London

Link: Murder hunt after attack on human rights lawyer [Press Association]

A leading human rights lawyer and campaigner in the fight for justice in Sudan has been murdered in London. Abdel-Salam Hussain Abdel-Salam was stabbed in his home and was discovered on Saturday morning.

Link: 'Open mind' over Boone Street leg stab murder [This Is Local London]

The police are keeping an open mind as to the motive as it may simply have been a robbery or mugging gone wrong.  The 56-year-old used two walking sticks to support himself and died as a result of blood loss after he was stabbed in the femoral artery.

Still, it would be pretty scary if it turned out that he was assassinated.

Mr Abdel-Salam worked for Redress, a human rights organisation that assists victims of torture in their healing process and in bringing the perpetrators to justice.  The front page of their website is full of tributes from the people he helped over the years.

Whether or not this was an assassination, the humanitarian community has lost a valued campaigner and activist.

Redress

How I Became A Feminist

International Womans day

It is International Women’s day today and I have been reading about the fascinating history behind the event. I’m not going to repeat it here today but Wikipedia has an excellent entry on how the day started in 1909 and how it came to be observed after the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

What I thought I would post about is how I became a feminist. I remember not knowing quite what a feminist was when I first went to university but I certainly had an idea in my mind about bra burning feminists and radical men haters. Over time, I have come to realise that this precise image of feminists is really quite useful to the powers that be for as long as women are portrayed as emotional, unreasonable and overly demanding, they aren’t taken seriously.

I’m not sure what precise events in my life lead me to join the Wits Women’s Movement at the University of the Witwatersrand. It was certainly before I was assaulted (and thank heavens for the support I received from the Movement at that time) but I imagine that it would have been after the events of First Year.

I started university in February 1990. I moved into a mixed residence. In February 1990 this meant that not only were there men and women in the residence but also of significance to us was the fact that there were people of every racial group. Blacks, whites, coloureds and Indians were the four racial groups into which the entire population of South Africa had been divided.

Like Minded Individuals

I chose a mixed residence because I had expected to find like minded, liberal individuals. I quickly learnt that this was not really the case and the majority of the white men that I met at “Res” were from small, conservative mining towns on the outskirts of major South African cities. I could not begin to explain the shock I got and how opposed the reality was when compared to my expectations! Having been treated as somewhat of a star at school (not many children manage to go from children’s homes to university), I found myself treated alternatively like an idiot or a slut by conservative little mummy’s boys that had stepped straight off the farm. My legs, the clothes I wore, the state of my hair all became fair game and that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst part of those conservative people was their political views. While I was being carried away on a wave of euphoria as Nelson Mandela was released and the country began to change, these people treated me more like a pariah as they hanged on to their conservative, somewhat right wing views, with desperation.

Naturally, not all of the men and women that I met at Res were like that but I had chosen the worst of the residence halls if it was progressive thinking that I was looking for. My Res was located at the commerce and engineering part of the campus, far away from the liberal Arts, Humanities and Social Science departments. It wasn’t the conservative plaas japies (farm boys) that turned me on to feminism though.

The Great Cultural Divide

To understand the effect that Apartheid had on my generation, you have to understand that we were young adults who had never encountered the other racial groups on an equal setting before. We’d always had domestic servants and gardeners before but I had never been given the opportunity to interact with black, coloured or Indian people before going to university. One of the biggest lessons I learned at university is that black people are different. Immensely, radically different. White people storm up to people and state their business but that is considered to be the worst of manners when dealing with a black South African. The ultra-summarised version of the story is this: The standard greeting in Zulu “Sawubona” means “I see you”. When you see a person, you must greet them because otherwise you are essentially saying that you have not seen them which implies that they are dead to you or undead perhaps. It is an insult of the greatest degree. So I learned very soon that when speaking to any black South African (or indeed, any sub-Saharan African) you must greet the person first before stating your business and you must answer politely and patiently as they ask how you are.

A similar situation is the very white tradition of men stepping back and holding doors open for women. This is complete rubbish in black South African culture as a true warrior would never stand back and let a female enter into a dangerous situation. There has undoubtedly been a couple of centuries since there were warriors roaming the plains of South Africa but nevertheless, black men will still barge forward to enter a doorway before a woman and this is part of the cultural divide.

The last snippet I’ll give you of differences is personal space. Whatever notions you have of personal space and independence will be absolutely countered by African notions of togetherness, Ubuntu, We Are One. A white person will enter an empty lecture hall and take the seat that is the farthest away from everyone else. A black person will then enter and sit right next to them. It is not rude and the black person isn’t “coming on to you”. It is simply good manners and good community.

This was a massive learning curve and a process of getting to know, understand and respect people from different cultures. In addition to the cultural differences, there were other real concerns for women in that the black culture was more patriarchal and many black men were (literally) violently opposed to the notions of homosexuality and lesbianism. Despite all of this turmoil and the changes that I faced, this was still not the reason I joined the feminism movement.

The Master Key

There was this thing at Res. Somehow, a master key was doing the rounds which allowed people to get into any room in the building. This was super convenient for people like me who had a boyfriend (yes, I had managed to meet a “decent” man at university but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he held exactly liberal views). The benefit of the master key was that you could come and go in your friend’s or boyfriend’s rooms, helping yourself to food from their fridge or whatever it was you needed. It was a massive system of trust and all of us had a key. None of us seemed to realise the extent to which it could be abused.

Then one night we had a big party at the Res and someone let themselves into my room and stole my radio. It was a massive portable sound system and the guard stopped them on the way out, confirming that it was two men from another Res. The problem is that I had been asleep in my bed at the time and the situation could have been a lot worse if my boyfriend hadn’t also been there at the time.

This is the situation that made me become a feminist, by the way, but not directly. When this event occurred, I kicked up quite a fuss and demanded that something be done about the master key system before someone was hurt. Naturally, I was ignored. I was alternatively dismissed because I was a hysterical woman and branded a racist because the two men that broke into my room happened to be black. I couldn’t have cared less if the intruders were pink or nuns sworn to celibacy; the fact was that my room had been broken into while I was sleeping. It seemed that every destructive, divisive tool was going to be used against me to prevent the university from spending a bit of money.

So I did what I do best. I turned to writing to work through the trauma that I had experienced. I wrote a fictional account of what could have happened, of how bad it could have gotten. And then I read it through and thought it was quite powerful. It began something like “I am your sister, your friend, your neighbour” and the point was that any woman could have her room broken into and any woman could be raped.

So I submitted it anonymously to the Res newspaper and suddenly the administrators refused to believe that it was a work of fiction. A meeting was held at the university pleading with the “victim” to come forward for help. I was beyond embarrassed by now and refused to give away my identity but I did pipe up at the meeting and ask what was going to be done. I even sent another anonymous letter through to the paper stating that it was fiction. I mean for goodness sake, it was written in such a lyrical style, they couldn’t have believed it was real???

Bygones…

And so it was decided to put a chain lock on the door of every single room in the residence so that women could be offered a modicum of safety and security in a Res where everyone had master keys and people’s rooms were being invaded.

That was what made me become a feminist. The fact that a woman had to be raped (or so the authorities thought) before a step would be taken to ensure the safety of women. The fact that a very real threat had been posed, that two drunken men had entered a room and could easily have assaulted the woman sleeping inside if she had been alone and yet nothing was done to prevent such a thing happening again was beyond appalling to me. Nothing was done until the power of my pen convinced the authorities that a vicious and prolonged attack had indeed happened and that spurred them on to take corrective action.

Afterword

I often think back to that time. The story I wrote was absolutely fictional and spoke anonymously of a random attack. No names, dates, places or specifics were mentioned and to be fair, it was submitted to a student paper. I do think that I could have done more to convince the authorities that it was a work of fiction but that would have entailed revealing my identity and I did not have the strength to do that. Not alone. When I joined the feminist movement, I didn’t have to be alone anymore and I learned that as one, we could support each other in the world.

To be a feminist is to believe in women and to ensure that everything you ever do in word and deed supports, inspires and builds a better world for all women on this planet. It means looking out for the women that are alone in this world and ensuring that they have a voice.  That is how and why I became a feminist.

Book Review: The War Before by Safiya Bukhari

The War Before - Safiya Bukhari The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison and Fighting for Those Left Behind is a collection of interviews, speeches, pamphlets and essays written by late Black Panther Party activist Safiya Bukhari.  With an introduction by Laura Whitehorn, a foreword by Angela Y. Davis and an afterword by Mumia Abu-Jamal, this is a well-produced book that serves to explain all the topics to novices such as myself while tackling some of the greatest issues faced by Black Power and revolutionary movements in the 1960s and 1970s.

Safiya Bukhari began her life as Bernice Jones. She had a middle-class, Christian upbringing and was expected to become a professional like her siblings.  Bernice’s parents had taught their children higher education would bring them success in the world.  Bernice decided to become a doctor and began studying premed at the New York City Community College in Brooklyn in 1968.  She joined the only integrated sorority Eta Alpha Mu and began to seek ways to do volunteer work.   It was Bernice that convinced her sorority sisters to concentrate their efforts in the local community rather than focusing on children abroad.

Along with her sorority sisters Yvonne and Wonda, Bernice volunteered at the Free Breakfasts for Children Program.  This was a program organised by the Black Panther Party in the local communities to ensure that children did not go to school without breakfast.  It was during one her her visits into the community that she saw police harassing a Black Panther member selling newspapers.  She stood up for him and was thrown against a police car and arrested. 

Her treatment during this process was inhumane and degrading to such an extent that she went straight home to tell her parents about the incident.  She told her parents that she felt she had to stand up against such police brutality and her parents gave her their blessing, telling her to do what she thought was right.  She went straight back to Harlem and joined the Black Panther Party*.

During her time in the Black Panther Party, Bernice became a Muslim and adopted the name Safiya Bukhari.  She was arrested at the scene of a grocery store shooting in Norfolk, Virginia and charged with robbery and felony murder.  Sentenced to forty years, she served nine years, much of it in solitary confinement.

On release from prison, Safiya became involved in fighting for the rights of political prisoners in the US and she campaigned on behalf of political prisoners right up until her death in 2003.

The works that make up The War Before were written from 1979 to 2002.  They cover the experiences that lead to Safiya becoming an activist and member of the Black Panther Party and cover such issues as safety and security of Black people and party members; sexism within the party; Islam and activism; the plight of political prisoners in the US and finally, COINTELPRO and the efforts of the FBI to undermine the Black Power movement. 

The book is fascinating and an eye opener.  It is important to see the actions and beliefs of the Black Panther Party in the context of the late 1960s and 1970s where civil liberties were not guaranteed and Black people were often subjected to racism, prejudice and police brutality.  That is not to say that such factors do not exist today but the Black Panther Party does not and hence a historical perspective is needed. 

It is incredible to see the lengths the FBI went to in their counter-intelligence program and to learn of such events as the Church Committee which aimed to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” civil rights and other dissident political organisations.  Documents opened by the Church Committee showed that the FBI achieved this by manufacturing and manipulating evidence and framing people.  So it was that the Black Panther Party moved from community based projects to primarily defending court actions against its members, many of whom had been framed or manipulated.

The book raised as many questions for me as it answered and has certainly made me want to learn more about that period and the gains and losses of the civil rights and liberties movements.

The one thing the book does not offer is an objective perspective of the actions of the Black Panther Party or an acknowledgement of illegal acts or acts of sabotage that were committed by Safiya or people known to her.  Organisations such the African National Congress in South Africa and Sinn Féin in Ireland have acknowledged the actions they took in order to fight for their respective causes.  I imagine that in an atmosphere without the possibility of amnesty, where political prisoners remain behind bars or on death row, such a candid attitude may not have been possible and certainly not in Safiya’s lifetime.

The other factor which seemed to be missing from the introduction, foreword and afterword was an attempt to establish the book in the context of the current political context where an African American man is now president of the United States of America. Certainly, the struggle for better conditions, education, health care and freedom from prejudice, brutality and discrimination has not been won but I believe the book would have benefitted somewhat by an explicit attempt to make it relevant and significant today.  While the plight of political prisoners certainly continues, it would have been interesting to read whether there were expectations now that the current administration would impact on any of the issues raised in the book.

Despite the questions left unanswered, I would recommend this book to those interested in history, social justice and civil liberties.  While Safiya Bukhari was astounding at times in her insight and understanding, the essays and speeches in this collection are easy to follow for even the most uninitiated reader.  I would go so far as to say that this is an important book and I do see the relevance of such a book in the political climate of today.

* The Black Panther Party was originally named Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and was initially started to help the community protect themselves from police brutality.  The party was founded in 1966 and was a black consciousness movement.   In addition to the Free Breakfasts for Children Program, the Black Panther Party served the community by providing free medical clinics, arranging for testing of sickle-cell disease, holding classes on economics and politics, giving lessons on self-defense and providing drug and alcohol rehabilitation.  Divisions within the party and a campaign of infiltration and disruption on the part of the FBI’s counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO) eventually lead to the demise of the Black Panther Party in the mid-1970s.

This articl was originally featured on BlogCritics.org.  I’d like to thank Rachael from The Feminist Press for sending me a copy of the book to review but must stress that I specifically requested this book and my opinions here are 100% sincere.

Murder of Fred Hampton

fred hampton

The Murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

There are many things we know today that they didn’t know back in 1969.  For instance, we know the the FBI had a counter-intelligence program and that part of their program was to infiltrate, undermine and destroy civil rights, anti-war and black consciousness movements by any means necessary.  The activities of what became known as COINTELPRO were exposed to the public by the Church Committee in 1975 and their findings are well documented.  But this was not fully known or understood in 1969.

At the time that Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered, it was said that they had opened fire at the police.  As the case was investigated it emerged that of all the bullets that were fired that night, it was only possible that one of them was not fired by a police weapon. 

The full story eventually emerged and was linked directly to COINTELPRO.  FBI informant William O'Neal had provided agents with not only the whereabouts and plans of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, but he had given them a detailed layout of Hampton’s apartment too.  He had drugged Fred Hampton and so it was that all of the shots (but one) that were fired that evening were fired from police weapons, the majority of them were fired from outside of the apartment into the interior and Fred Hampton was murdered in his sleep.

The single shot that was fired by the Black Panthers was a reflexive shot fired by Mark Clark in the throes of death.  He had been on security duty with a shot gun on his lap.

So Who Was Fred Hampton?

Fred Hampton was a very powerful, charismatic leader of the Black Panther Party.  He was an excellent public speaker and he managed to broker a pact of non-aggression between the street gangs of Chicago.  He believed that racial and ethnic conflict would only serve to keep people in poverty and he worked hard to alleviate conditions of people in Chicago.  He worked with the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program, gave political education classes and often spoke at rallies and meetings.

Hampton was an outspoken critic of America’s treatment of Black and poor people and it was inevitable that he would eventually come to the attention of the FBI.  He was just 21 when he was murdered on December 4, 1969.

You can view the film The Murder of Fred Hampton on YouTube.


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