Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Effective Class Discussions with Black Students


How Rich Is Your Classroom Discourse?

Effective class discussions focus on critical thinking rather than right answers.

By: Jelani Jabari

You ask the students, “What is the main idea of the passage?”
Joseph responds, “Always persevere,” to which you reply, “Very good, Joseph.”
In the average classroom, as much as 70% of instructional time consists of these kinds of verbal exchanges between you and students or among students: teacher initiation, student response, teacher evaluation of the response/feedback. Classroom discussion, dialogue, and discourse are the principal means of exchanging ideas, evaluating mastery, developing thinking processes, and reflecting on content and shared thoughts.
Engaging students in effective classroom talk begins by creating a discourse-rich classroom culture. Begin the year by discussing what rich discourse is, the rationale for it, and answering the What’s In It for Me question by specifying ways students benefit.
Another key element of building a discourse-rich culture is embedding the spirit of collaboration versus competition. Classroom talk is not only a means of students supporting each other, but also of holding each other accountable by helping clarify, restate, and challenge ideas.
Students may not participate if their thoughts are ridiculed, devalued, or ignored. To that end, establishing norms of discourse helps develop safe spaces, establishes boundaries, and moves the discussion forward.
In my classroom, the norms included specifics on how to engage in active listening, address ideas versus individuals, and respectfully disagree/question. Role-playing appropriate and inappropriate actions can give students a better understanding of their expected role during classroom talk.
A third central element of developing a culture that fosters rich discourse is helping students appreciate the processes to get there versus simply the production of right answers. Make it clear that you value students strategically thinking about, discussing, clarifying, and elaborating on ideas rather than having someone simply state the correct answer in order to save time.

Complex Thinking Processes

Does most of your classroom talk consist of students recalling or reproducing facts? Or, do they often use complex thinking strategies such as making claims supported with evidence and reasoning, discerning the author’s purpose and its effect on the interpretation of text, and applying models to tasks? As you begin to reshape and enrich your classroom discourse, planning for and assessing complex thinking processes is essential.
To begin to engage students in more complex thinking processes, be clear about the distinction between difficult and complex. I ask teachers in my professional learning sessions whether the task of spelling a word such asantidisestablishmentarianism is difficult or complex. Many say it’s complex. However, if students have a good grasp of phonemic awareness (sounds that build words), spelling long words may be difficult, but not complex.
Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) model (recall, skill/concept, strategic thinking, extended thinking) can be used to plan and assess the complexity of thinking as well as the presence of rigor. This tool may help you plan for the type of discourse that evokes deeper cognitive processes. You might use it to:
  • Prompt students to describe and analyze the characteristics of texts written during the modernism period.
  • Identify and explain misconceptions around the discovery of America.
  • Justify solutions for mathematical tasks involving equations with more than one solution.
  • Cite evidence and use reasoning to support the claim that an unknown liquid is a mixture.
Webb’s DOK is a powerful tool that can help you evoke complex thinking processes during discourse. You’ll find a comprehensive graphic athttp://static.pdesas.org/content/documents/M1-Slide_19_DOK_Wheel_Slide.pdf

Engage Reluctant Students


You probably have a few students who need their mouths physically pried open before they will contribute. Some are fearful of being critiqued in the courtroom of classmate opinion and find solace in silence. Others are disinterested and prefer to think about everything else except what’s going on in your room. Here are a few suggestions for bringing such reticent students into the fold of rich discourse:
  • Invite them to discuss a topic that is important to them. Interest inventories, heart maps, and informal conversation can help you uncover such topics.
  • Engage them in partner talk (e.g., pair-share, turn-and-talk) or small group before whole group. More students participate in whole-group talk if first allowed to articulate, clarify, and reorganize thoughts with
  • a partner.
  • Appreciate wait-time. When you want to know how to repair that leaky faucet in your kitchen or where your favorite retailer is located, you want the best answer in the shortest amount of time. Similarly, in the classroom, you may be guilty of wanting the best answer in the shortest time, given the pressure of staying on target with the pacing guide. Hardly novel but wholly effective, wait-time has been shown to improve not only the proportion of students who respond but the quality of the responses as well.
  • Name the strategy after a student. For instance, when a student provides a substantive contribution, call it the Johnathan way,Maureen method, or Sharon technique.
Releasing the instructional reins to your students can make you uneasy. Fear of letting go may conjure thoughts of less learning taking place, increasing disorder, and the discomfort of not driving the wheels of learning. However, when students lead discourse, they clarify their own ideas and increase their levels of cognitive and behavioral engagement. It makes their thinking visible and helps you determine the most effective subsequent instructional moves.
To introduce student-led discourse, explicitly model the talk. Have them lead discourse about a topic many are passionate about, such as social media rights for young people, as a way to get them more comfortable and familiar with leading discourse.
Moving from Conventional Discourse to Rich Discourse
Conventional Classroom DiscourseRich Classroom Discourse
Convergent responsesDivergent responses
Known answer questions atypically posedMultiple answers/explanations possible
Predominantly teacher-driven and ledStudents co-construct, drive, and often lead discourse
Students rarely afforded latitude to build on peers’ thoughtsStudents build on, challenge, revoice, and share ideas with peers
Teacher relies on a few students to carry talkMany students eagerly participate
Aim is to have correct answer given in shortest timeGoal is to have students articulate strategic thinking

Self-Checking Discourse Quality

A few questions may help you self-assess the quality of discourse in your class:
  • Is the emphasis on giving the right answers rather than processes and strategies?
  • Do the verbal interactions follow the teacher-dominated initiation-response-evaluation pattern?
  • Is discourse carried by the voices of a few where the others are reluctant to contribute?
  • Do you often provide opportunities for students to lead the discourse?
  • Do you model and insist wait-time be used as a key component of dialogue?
  • Do you send non-verbal signals to students based on your perception of their ability to give a quick or correct response?
  • Does your lack of comfort with content lead you to pose more close-ended questions?
When you create a classroom culture rife with intellectually safe spaces and emphases on processes of strategic thinking versus production of right answers, you invite instructional episodes of rich discourse. Student-led discourse is a powerful way to let students take ownership of their own learning.
Jelani Jabari is president of Pedagogical Solutions, LLC, in Detroit, Michigan.  jabari@pdlsolutions.com
Published in AMLE Magazine, November 2014.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

A Black Mother's Ode to Her Black Son

I Am The Mother of a Black Son



 Sista Medina Jackson recites her poem "I am the Mother of a Black Son" at the July 2013 Rally Seeking Justice for Trayvon Martin and victims of racial profiling in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Alliance for Police Accountability is calling all COMMUNITY MEMBERS (ESPECIALLY THE YOUTH), politicians, community organizations, faith based institutions, and community groups to stand together. Stand with us as we send the right one!! We will not stand for any victims of profiling to be criminalized and go without getting justice.

This case has reminded us of the grave injustices and the many Trayvon Martin's that we have right here at home in Pittsburgh! Let's make a resounding noise and presence and make it clear that WE WANT AN END TO RACIAL PROFILING AND THE PROFILING OF ANY ONE IN OUR CITY!! No one should be subjected to such prejudice whether it be for the way that they dress, their race, religion and/or sexual orientation.

IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO UNITING AS ONE AND FIGHTING FOR OUR CIVIL RIGHTS!! LET'S FLOOD THE STREETS!!

YOU MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!!

**JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN, JORDAN MILES, LAWRENCE JONES, LEON FORD, DENNIS HENDERSON, ROSSANO STEWART AND ALL OF THOSE WHO GO UNAMED!!**

BlackBrit HipHop For Education

Why I hate School but Love Education



A Spoken Word Video from Suli Breaks.

As the cyclical and seemingly never ending debate about education rages on, the topic - somewhat ironically, often poses more questions than it provides answers.

But what is the value of mainstream schooling? Why is it that some of the most high profile and successful figures within the Western world openly admit to never having completed any form of higher learning?

Paying homage to Jefferson Bethke's "Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus", a piece that received 22 million views in the space of a week, I address a number of these issues in my offering "Why I Hate School, but Love Education".

With scores of school leavers wanting to further their education with no guarantee of their dream job at the end of it, we should ask ourselves whether qualifications still hold the same value now as they did in previous years?

Does success in the school system correlate to success in life? Or is the school system simply geared towards fact retention and regurgitation?

What is true education?


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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Racist/Capitalist Truth Behind the Ebola Crisis

 Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya: Lessons for Africa in the Forging of African Unity, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2013.

Source: TeleSUR English


As the Ebola outbreak rages, and there are projections of more than 1.4 million persons infected in the next few months, the African Union and ECOWAS has taken a back seat as the international media uses this virus to stigmatize Africa and Africans. Pious statements have been made by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the World Bank warns that Ebola could have “catastrophic” economic costs on the region of Western Africa. This same World Bank has not yet accepted any reasonability for its role in promoting neo-liberal politics that degraded the health care facilities of Africa. 

This degradation will be called in this statement, economic warfare. Bioeconomic warfare is the combination of economic warfare and biological warfare. In the midst of this tragedy, Britain, France and the United States use the deaths of thousands to remilitarize West Africa. 

Characteristically, this militaristic intervention with the division of the three societies between USA (Liberia) France (Guinea) and the United Kingdom (Sierra Leone) ensures that the media attention is placed on the military deployments of the western states and not on measures for public education.

The kind of international response that will be needed for countering bioeconomic warfare requires a different kind of public education and mobilization than what the African Union and ECOWAS has so far called for. Liberia, Sierra Leona and Guinea are the societies that are at the epicenter of the outbreak of (Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) that some writers have said has spun out of control. (i) These three territories are members of the Economic Community for West Africa (ECOWAS). ECOWAS is one of the five regional organizations that make up the African Union (AU). Six months after it was clear that this epidemic was widespread, in August 2014, there was a meeting of ECOWAS held in Ghana to address the outbreak. In this meeting, it was stressed that the best approach to curbing the spread of and bringing the disease under control remains effective quarantine, isolation and public education. 

There is no indication that either the AU or ECOWAS is working at their maximum effort to bring this disease under control. In the same month of August, the Director General of the World Health Organization stated that, the outbreak is “the largest and most severe and most complex that we’ve ever seen in the nearly 40-year history of this disease.”

One of the priorities of public education is for citizens to have a fuller understanding of the source or sources of Ebola and the kind of responses that can bring this pandemic under control. Citizens need to understand everywhere that Ebola is not particularly contagious. There should be the clarification that there is no cure for Ebola. All of the therapies and vaccines being used so far are experimental. 

The simple requirements of control are robust public health infrastructures, clean water facilities with sanitation and a clean environment. In short, Ebola can only be contained with robust health facilities. The very same institutions and organizations that have been at the forefront of bioeconomic warfare in Africa cannot lead the mobilization against Ebola. 

This mobilization requires nonmilitary, civilian medical leadership. Ebola presents one more challenge for a new kind of leadership in Africa that can value the lives of the producers.

Ebola: Where did it come from?


From the varying press reports this current strain of Ebola broke out in Guinea at the end of 2013 and was brought to international attention by the time it had spread across West Africa by March 2013. The symptoms of Ebola haemorrhagic fever begin 4 to 16 days after infection. Persons develop fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sore throat and chest pain can occur. The blood clot and the patient may bleed from injection sites as well as into the gastrointestinal tract, skin and internal organs. The mortality rate is usually very high. 

This virus is not spread through the air via coughs or sneezes like the common cold. It is spread through frequent contact with bodily fluids and can be spread only by someone who is showing symptoms.

It should be stated from the outset that Ebola is not one of those illnesses which is known to the majority of healers and doctors in Africa. Scientific journals of all continents attest to the profound ignorance about this virus. Fifteen years ago the internationally respected International Journal of Infectious Diseases stated that “Filoviridae is the only known virus family about which we have such profound ignorance.” (ii) What accounts for this profound ignorance on the part of the top researchers in the West?

Inside Africa, the most experienced, the traditional healers have no experience in dealing with this illness. The reports in the mainstream media place the first outbreak of Ebola in Africa in 1976. This virus was named for a river in Zaire, Africa, where Ebola was allegedly first detected.” Then, according to information released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta,” Ebola is a member of a family of RNA viruses known as filoviruses. When magnified several thousand times by electron microscope, these viruses have the appearance of long filaments of threads. Although the CDC places the first outbreak of Ebola in Zaire in 1976, the leading scientific journals such the Lancet and the New EnglanJournal of Medicine placed the first outbreak in Marburg Germany.

One of the most profound requirements of public education is to diminish the racialization of Ebola to clarify that the first recognized outbreak took place not in Africa, but in Marburg Germany, hence the name given to Ebola as Marburg Virus. In 1967 an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany.

Thirty-one people became ill, initially laboratory workers followed by several medical personnel and family members who had cared for them. Seven deaths were reported.

The Evolution of Ebola


According to the CDC, the first Outbreak of Ebola was in 1976 in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In their website, the CDC stated the first Outbreak of Ebola, “occurred in Yambuku and surrounding area. Disease was spread by close personal contact and by use of contaminated needles and syringes in hospitals/clinics. This outbreak was the first recognition of the disease. (iii) Why is it necessary for the CDC to place the evolution of disease in Africa? (iv) The website of the CDC differs from the Journal of Infectious Diseases that stated, “Biomedical science first encountered the virus family Filoviridae when Marburg virus appeared in1967.”

The reporting on the number of deaths in the Zaire outbreak differs according to differing sources. One fact is indisputable. This was the largest number of deaths at that time in 1976. There were 550 cases and 340 deaths.

In the third outbreak in 1979, in Sudan, there were 34 cases and 22 fatalities.

Reston-Ebola
The fourth outbreak of Ebola was in Reston Virginia in the United States. The strain of Ebola Reston is so called because of an outbreak which occurred in Reston, Virginia in late 1989. Very few following the present outbreak of Ebola know that there was an outbreak of Ebola in the Washington Suburb of Reston, Virginia in 1989 less than 20 miles from the United States Capitol. There were two other small incidents of the Reston outbreak after 1989.

The Kitwit Outbreak
Six years after the first Reston Outbreak there was a major outbreak of Ebola at Kitwit in Zaire. There were over 200 fatalities. Up to then, the Kitwit Ebola outbreak had been the deadliest. The outbreaks are usually controlled when appropriate medical supplies and equipment were made available and quarantine procedures were used.
Since those days there have been periodic outbreaks in Uganda, Angola, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and other parts of Africa, but nothing compared to the scale and depth of the present pandemic in West Africa.

In the most popular book on this virus published over twenty years ago by Richard Preston, The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus(v) readers are exposed to the twenty years of research by the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRID) on a family of viruses that are lethal. This book came out before the Kitwit Outbreak but we know from press reports that the USAMRID, the CDC, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other international research organizations used the Kitwit outbreak to study this virus. 

The book concentrated on the three ways which the scientific community attempts to deal with a virus, vaccines, drugs and bio containment. This book by Preston came out in a moment when the tabloid press was making great claims about the airborne possibilities of Ebola and was whipping up anti-African hysteria.

It was in the same period when Robert Kaplan had written his celebrated article, “The Coming Anarchy. “ It was this sensationalism that set the tone about the so called failed and fragile states in Africa. Robert Kaplan wrote extensively on how scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease were rapidly destroying the social fabric of our African societies. (vi) Kaplan’s work was part of the psychological warfare against Africa and Africans at the moment when the peoples of world were celebrating the victory over apartheid.

USAMRID -The US Military and Biological warfare research- one arm of bioeconomic warfare


The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland is supposed to be the frontline research institution for the USA in its bioshield preparations, which is the preparedness of the US government to fight against biological threats. President Richard Nixon had ended the offensive biological warfare program of the USA with his “Statement on Chemical and Biological Defense Policies and Programs” on November 25, 1969 in a speech from Fort Detrick. The statement was supposed to put an end, unconditionally, to all U.S. offensive biological weapons programs. 

The United Nations Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction was signed in 1972. Even after the signing of this International Convention a number of countries including the USA continued research on designer viruses.

Although the United Nations Convention on Biological Warfare and the stockpiling of Toxin agents was passed in 1972, the explosion of scientific research on genetically modified organisms gave a boost to the research being carried out by both military and civilian agencies that were chasing profits from developing dual use pathogens. Biological agents that were being experimented with as bioweapons accelerated and the one bioweapon from this school of dual use pathogens that has come to light has been the experimentation on anthrax.

Characteristically, the use of anthrax on civilians by the military was in the case of the racist Rhodesian military who unleashed anthrax spores in feed cakes for animals killing over 80 Africans in what was then Rhodesia. Years later Dir. Timothy Stamps, the Minister of Health in Zimbabwe, drew a connection between the anthrax outbreak in Rhodesia, the Ebola outbreaks and the experimentation that had been carried out under South Africa’s Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) program.

This South African apartheid (CBW) program has now received international notoriety through Project Coast where the apartheid regime was experimenting with biological agents that could be specifically targeted at Africans. The government of the United States has gone to great lengths to distance itself from the experimentation of Project Coast even though at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC of South Africa), Dr. Wouter Basson testified how he was warmly embraced by US intelligence elements. The full implication of the work of Wouter Basson and Daan Goosen is still to come to light. (vii)

The attractiveness of the weaponization of biological agents increased in the era of genetically modified organisms. Because Africa was the space of the most diverse genetic materials, scientists and bio anthropologists from the West traversed the rural countryside in Africa looking for plants with unique characteristics. In the era of massive research in the Life Sciences, many Universities became involved in dual use research.

Dual use research

Dual use research (DURC) is life sciences research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misused to pose a significant threat with broad consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, or national security. In short dual use research was research that could be used to assist in advancing human health and security or at the same time used for biological warfare.

We have learnt from research carried out by UNESCO that “military interest, in harnessing genetic engineering and DNA recombinant technology for updating and devising effective lethal bioweapons is spurred on by the easy availability of funding, even in times of economic regression, for contractual research leading to the development of bioweapons.” (viii)

This is the research environment to grasp the present outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.
On the day before President Barack Obama spoke to the world on the Ebola Pandemic, the White House on Wednesday September 24, 2014 issued new guidelines intended to strengthen the oversight of federally funded biology research that could inadvertently produce bioweapons. According to the report in the New York Times carried on Thursday September 25, “The new policy shifts the burden of finding and disclosing the dangerous aspects of research from the funding agency — usually the National Institutes of Health — to the scientists who receive the grants and the universities or other institutions where they work.” 

On the same day, the National Public Radio (NPR) was more specific that the ruling related to dual use pathogens and research being carried in government funded laboratories. This report came three years after the controversies about bird flu research that was being carried out for bioterror purposes. In 2011, there had been a fierce debate in the media about the use of biological research for terror, in short bioterrorism. Then as NPR reported, “Scientists and security specialists are in the midst of a fierce debate over recent experiments on a strain of bird flu virus that made it more contagious weapons. 

In September of 2011 at a scientific conference in Malta, one scientist made a stunning announcement at a flu conference “he’d done a lab experiment that resulted in bird flu virus becoming highly contagious between ferrets — the animal model used to study human flu infection. It seemed that just five mutations did the trick.” This report on NPR in November 2011 did not reappear but in the same broadcast one noted bioterrorism expert and director of the Center for Biosecurity at a national University stated that, “It’s just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus. And it’s a second bad idea for them to publish how they did it so others can copy it.”

So far no expert or whistle-blower has come forward to speak openly about experimentation with viral haemorrhagic fevers which are now lumped under the name of Ebola. Today as a vital component of prevention and public education there is the need for scientists and researchers to speak out about the laboratories in the West or elsewhere that have been experimenting with dual use pathogens. It is also necessary for the international community to know whether any of these research teams or University personnel associated with dual use pathogens has been active in the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea or Nigeria before the present outbreak of Ebola. At the minimum, ECOWAS and the African Union should pressure the UN Ebola Fund to focus not only on fund raising but to also make Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to fully develop the measures to properly organize against outbreaks of the current type.

From the reports coming in on the numbers of people who have been left to die without attention or decent burial, the figures on the number of deaths in West Africa from theWorld Health Organization (WHO) have been a clear undercount to minimize the extent of the devastation being created by Ebola. In contrast to the numbers being broadcast by WHO, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported on Tuesday September 23 that “Ebola cases could increase to between 550,000 and 1.4 million in four months, based on several factors including how many people are infected by Ebola carriers. 

The report questioned whether the official number of deaths recorded by WHO, 2,800 out of at least 5,800 Ebola cases, has been underreported. CDC has said it is likely that 2.5 times as many cases, or nearly 20,000, have occurred so far.” (ix) On the same Tuesday that the CDC issued its dire warning of the prospect of 1.4 million persons dying, the New England Journal of Medicine also weighed in and stated that in an article entitles, “Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa —The First 9 Months of the Epidemic and Forward Projections,” “if the disease isn’t adequately contained, it could become endemic among the populations in countries hardest hit by the outbreak — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. …. “Without drastic improvements in control measures,” researchers say, “the numbers and cases and deaths from [Ebola] are expected to continue increasing from hundreds to thousands per week in coming months.” (x)

According to the WHO, “Extensive, immediate actions – such as those already started – can bring the epidemic to… a rapid decline in cases.”

Beyond the Militarization of the response to Ebola
The extensive and immediate action referred to by the World Health Organization refers to the deployment of military forces by the United States, Britain and France to the countries most affected. The United States has deployed over 4,000 military personnel to West Africa to assist in the fight against Ebola. The fight against Ebola cannot be a military effort. It must be an effort that is based on seeking to bring back the health and safety of the peoples whose communities have been destroyed with hundreds of families losing loved ones. 


The United States plans to quickly increase its presence in Liberia, where military personnel are deploying to help the people halt the advance of the worst Ebola epidemic on record but we also need to know what the private security contractors have been doing in Liberia over the past ten years. President Obama has stated that the military is required to set up the medical and transportation infrastructure needed to deploy health workers. Why could this infrastructure work not be carried out by civilian agencies?

From India, Dir. Sreeram Chaulia noted correctly in an article entitled Foreign Pulse: Viral Politics, that “As the Ebola epidemic ravages West Africa, a familiar act with troublesome connotations is playing out. The international response to the conjoined public health crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is following imperial patterns of tutelage and patronage, wherein each of these three countries has been exclusively taken over by its respective former master from America and Europe through targeted humanitarian aid…….An erstwhile colony established by American citizens freed from slavery, Liberia is back to being literally a ward of the US, which faces no competition from any other Western donor there. Washington is deploying up to 4,000 military personnel to set up hospitals, medical laboratories and treatment centres on a war footing. This mission, codenamed “Operation United Assistance”, is being overseen by the controversial US Africa Command (AFRICOM).” (xi)

In a context where the international news media is dominated by the western news agencies, ECOWAS has also called for military mobilization to respond to EBOLA. In the opinion of this author, ECOWAS and the African Union has dropped the ball because the militarization of the international response will make it difficult for countries such as China, Cuba, India, South Korea and other societies to properly harmonize the medical response to this Ebola outbreak. The African Union and ECOWAS need a new kind of medical diplomacy which is rooted in the valuation of black bodies. 

Chaulia noted that “if the US, UK and France were driven by humanitarian motives, why did they not contribute to the multilateral UN Ebola response fund that would have distributed the funds more equitably among the three worst-hit West African countries? Thus far, only India and Australia have made sizeable donations of $10 million each to the UN Ebola fund that is woefully 
undersubscribed.”

Project 112
In North America, the Fox news Organization and its affiliates have been at the forefront of the racialization of the present outbreak of Ebola. When the Liberian national was hospitalized and later succumbed to Ebola, the conservative media whipped up an unprecedented hysteria about the possibilities of an Ebola outbreak in the United States. (This patient, Thomas Eric Duncan has since passed away). Within this hysteria, there are questions in the media whether this virus could go airborne. 

Some readers will remember that the possibility of the airborne transmission of Ebola was the theme of the Film Outbreak that was produced by Hollywood. What has not been in the public domain was the fact that it was the US government that from 1962 to 1973 carried out a biological and chemical weapon experimentation project called Project 112.

This was specifically conducted so that those who were being experimented with did not know that they were guinea pigs. In 2000 when US Television Network CBS made known the existence of this biological warfare program, it was also revealed that apart from testing on individuals in the USA there were tests carried out in countries where “The US Department of Defense (DoD) conducted testing of agents in other countries that were considered too unethical to perform within the continental United States.”

Project Bioshield
We are yet to know which African societies were considered ripe for the testing of toxins by the US Department of Defense. After the anthrax scare in the USA in 2001 and the war against the people of Iraq in 2003, the US Congress passed the Project Bioshield Act in 2004 calling for U.S. $5 billion for purchasing vaccines that would be used in the event of a bioterrorist attack. There has been a ten year program to put money into the same forces that were experimenting with dual use pathogens. In the words of the Congress Project Bio shield was a ten-year program to acquire medical countermeasures to biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear agents for civilian use. The US government has been working on countermeasures against biological warfare. Is it by accident that the top three threats that the Bioshield program is meant to defend the citizens of the US from are Anthrax, Ebola and Bird Flu?

Africa and bioterrorism
Africans have faced bioterrorism from the time of colonialism and apartheid and this is well documented in the book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Harriet Washington went into great details about the bioterrorism against black people. The Tuskegee experiment is now the most well-known case of using black bodies as guinea pigs for medical experimentation. The book on Hela Cells (Henrietta Lacks) is another devastating account of the use of black bodies. (xii)
Harriet Washington placed chemical and biological warfare under the larger category of “bioterrorism,” which “employs chemical or biological agents such as microbes and poisons in the service of terrorism…weapons often consist of disease-causing organisms, usually microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or derivatives from humans, animals or plants.” (xiii) Another important aspect of biological warfare that Harriet Washington brings forth is the fact that it can be both direct and indirect when used against populations. In other words, chemical agents can be used to kill people directly by physically harming them with something such as nerve gas, or biological warfare can be used to pollute the environment in which someone lives in order to cut off their source of food (plants, livestock), water, or both.

Cuba is one society outside of Africa that has been forced to develop the medical and biosafety capabilities after the outbreak of Dengue fever in 1977. We now know from the new book, Back Channel to Cuba, that Henry Kissinger had organized a plan to ‘smash’ Cuba. (xiv) This was because Kissinger was angry about the Cuban intervention in Angola in 1975-1976 to beat back the racist South African Incursion into Angola. Henry Kissinger who had overseen the authorship of the National Security Memorandum 39 of 1969 which predicted that whites were destined to stay and rule in Southern Africa was upset that a small island committed to an alternative mode of economic organization could ruin his plans for Africa. It was reported in the recent New York Times article that in the discussions between Henry Kissinger (then Secretary of State) and President Gerald Ford, Mr. Kissinger used “language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.” (xv)

The Cubans have exposed that the experiences of Dengue fever which broke out in Cuba in 1977 was linked to biological warfare by the US government. This has been corroborated by press reports from the United States based media organizations. At that time the United States government blocked efforts by the Cuban government to purchase fumigators and chemicals to control the dengue spread.

As a small island, Cuba has been able to develop quarantine measures but more importantly develop the scientific capacity to research the root of outbreaks such as Dengue.

The African Union and ECOWAS must take the lead to respond to this lethal virus

In August the President of the USA called the First US Africa Summit in Washington. Although the Ebola pandemic was already killing more persons than the four episodes discussed in the website of the CDC, the White House was not focused on the devastation that was being wrought on West Africa. In Africa, Ebola has exposed the porousness of the so called borders. 

The African Union has so far failed to take the lead in mobilizing to fight this pandemic. Does the African Union have in place any kind of bioshield preparation? 

At the time of the outbreak of the HIV AIDS pandemic it was significant that western pharmaceuticals placed their profits before human lives. It took the massive organizing of a grassroots movement such as the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) of South Africa to pressure the pharmaceuticals to allow for the production of generic drugs to treat AIDS patients in Africa. This TAC campaign influenced the cooperation between India, Brazil and South Africa which later merged into BRICS.

The African Union and the African Union must be pushed to act more decisively
A similar grassroots mobilization is now needed in West Africa to break the slow and lackadaisical response of ECOWAS and the AU. ECOWAS has been able in the past to intervene in Liberia and Sierra Leone to bring peace. Collectively, ECOWAS and the AU possess the technical and medical capabilities to be more vigorous in response to Ebola. There is the mistaken perception abroad that Africa does not have the medical personnel to fight this epidemic. However, the ability to mobilize the resources in Africa for a more robust response depends on political will. Nigeria alone has over 40,000 doctors with thousands having experience in infectious diseases. In the economic warfare against Africa the medical profession of Africa was assaulted and there was a massive brain drain of African medical personnel to Europe and North America. 

African governments have been very clear about their objections to the wholesale migration of their physicians to rich countries. Despite these objections there are more than 10,000 international medical graduates from Africa in the USA and Western Europe. The US received more than 7,000 doctors from three countries: Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Progressive Africans will have to mobilize for a change of course so that the AU and the United Nations can demilitarize the response to Ebola.

Already it has been demonstrated in Liberia that the pandemic can be contained. 

Nigeria and Senegal have been able to contain the virus. The western media has drawn attention the fact that Firestone Company in Liberia was able to contain and control the virus on its rubber plantation. (xvi) This author is no fan of Firestone. At the recent Empowered Africa Dialogue in Washington during August, workers at Firestone spoke of the low wage and exploitative working conditions on the rubber plantation. Thus this company cannot be held up as an example, but the important point is that Ebola can be controlled and there was no need for the pandemic to spin out of control. The Firestone story also demonstrates that the military is not needed to organize the medical and transport infrastructure to contain the escalation of the deaths.

This author has been critical of saviours from outside but this Ebola pandemic provides an opportunity for the true humanitarian doctors to separate themselves from the militarized response to the Ebola outbreak. The African Union must take the lead so that those medical responders can find a non-military infrastructure to work with. 

There is the need for full scale mobilization in all of the countries where health workers, traditional doctors, scientists, civilian agencies and the military will be crucial in the fight against bio-economic warfare. Global health experts have declared the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa an international health emergency that requires a coordinated global approach.

Although the media has racialized the Ebola pandemic, there is urgent need for the international community to come together for this coordinated global approach. The Ebola virus presented a real challenge to Africa and the deployment of scientists, community health workers, volunteers and health brigades to combat this virus is one of the most important tasks of reconstruction in Africa.

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Notes:
i 1. Evan Horowitz, “How the Ebola Virus Spun Out of Control,” Boston Globe, October 8, 2014. http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2014/10/08/how-this-ebola-outbreak-spun-out-control/b3Fea51l1oRs4c0gjN36EM/story.html
ii 2. C. J. Peters, J. W. LeDuc, “An Introduction to Ebola: The Virus and the Disease,” The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol. 179, Supplement 1. Ebola: The Virus and the Disease (Feb., 1999), pp. ix-xvi
iii Outbreaks Chronology: Ebola Virus Disease, CDC, Known Cases and Outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease, in Chronological Order: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/history/chronology.html
iv See Centers for Disease Control, “Known Cases and Outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease, in Chronological Order:” http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/history/chronology.html
v Richard Preston, The HotZone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus,” Anchor books, 1995.
vi Robert Kaplan, “The Coming Anarchy,” The Atlantic, February, 1994 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1994/02/the-coming-anarchy/304670/
vii Helen E. Pruitt, Stephen F. Burgess: South Africa’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2005
viii Edgar J. DaSilva,” Biological warfare, bioterrorism, biodefence and the biological and toxin weapons convention,” Electronic Journal of Biotechnology,Volume 2, No 3, December 1999. See also Wright, S. (1985). “The military and the new biology. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 41:10-16.
ix “Estimating the Future Number of Cases in the Ebola Epidemic—Liberia and Sierra Leone, 2014–2015,” http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/qa-mmwr-estimating-future-cases.html
x Bruce et al, B. p.-M. “Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa —The First 9 Months of the Epidemic and Forward Projections.” The New England Journal of Medicine. 2014.
xi Sreeram Chaulia, “Viral Politics, Foreign Pulse, October 8, 2014.”http://www.asianage.com/columnists/foreign-pulse-viral-politics-226
xii Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Broadway Books, New York 2011
xiii Harriet Washington, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Anchor Books, New York 2008 page 365
xiv William M. Leo Grande and Peter Kornbluh, Back Channel to Cuba, University of North Carolina Press Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2014.
xv Frances Robles, “Kissinger Drew Up Plans to Attack Cuba, Records Show,” New York Times, September 30, 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/01/world/americas/kissinger-drew-up-plans-to-attack-cuba-records-show.html
xvi National Public Radio, “Firestone Did What Governments Have Not: Stopped Ebola In Its Tracks.” http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/06/354054915/firestone-did-what-governments-have-not-stopped-ebola-in-its-tracks

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A 2009 HIPHOP reminder from Wise Intelligent

Wise Intelligent Drops Some Serious Science On the DePoliticization of HipHop

This was recorded at the Influence of Islam on HipHop Gathering back in 2009.

It is still very much on point today. Share with youngfolk and the not-so-youngfolk among your family, friends and neighborhood.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Native American Holocaust Remembrance Day- NOT Columbus Day


From the official site of William Loren Katz and Black Indians: www.williamlkatz.com

Ill Winds Drove Columbus

Columbus’s Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria were driven across the Atlantic by the same ill winds that from 1095 to 1272 launched nine Crusades to capture Muslim Jerusalem. Defeated and humiliated the invaders suffered staggering human losses, left royal treasuries depleted, and convinced Christian leaders to do pay lip service to another try.

Except for Christopher Colon or Columbus. An ambitious Genoese sailor who craved adventure and was given to religious mysticism, he accepted God’s personal command to free the Holy Land. He also saw God’s hand in cloud formations, splashing waves, and distant stars, and had read a religious book that convinced him the world would end in 150 years. As a seaman he saw three mermaids dancing on waves, and was sure in distant lands he would meet men with tails or heads of dogs.

Above all, God had chosen him to see Christianity victorious “throughout the universe.” And he would follow His further command to convert or destroy Muslims, Jews and other non-believers.
Columbus’s earliest sea experiences were as a youth on Portuguese slave-trading ships along Africa’s Atlantic coast. He learned captured men, women and children could be chained and sold for enormous profits. With enough slaves and gold, a Columbus could finally end the infidel grip on the Holy Land.

Weeks after first landing in the Americas Columbus thought he had found a large enough supply of gold and slaves to persuade the Christian “Sovereigns within three years [they] would undertake and prepare to go and conquer the Holy Places.” Pope Urban II had launched the first Crusade. He hoped the current Pope would ask him to lead “50 thousand foot soldiers and five thousand horsemen” to march on Jerusalem. He never abandoned this hope.

Columbus’s voyage across the Atlantic to reach the riches of Asia was also a first step toward his larger goal. After five weeks in the Atlantic, lying to grumbling crewmen, claiming he was not a man lost at sea, his food supplies running low, Columbus stumbled on a Caribbean island named Guanahani.  On the morning of October 12, 1492 with a crew in heavy armor carrying swords and muskets, he left the Santa Maria for the sunny shore. and a military and nationalist operation. He planted Spain’s flag in the soil, took “possession of the said island for the king and queen,” and renamed it San Salvador. “With fifty men your Highness would hold them all in subjection and do with them all that you could wish,” he wrote in his Diary. The Admiral was applying the new “doctrine of discovery” that granted Europe’s merchant adventurers the right t claim distant lands and  their inhabitants. Papal bulls of the time also divided “discovered” lands betweeen Spain and Portugal, and in 1494 the Vatican specifically drew a line dividing the Americas – and the slave trade – between these seafaring powers.

Columbus and his expedition was also a product of Spain’s painful “final solution.” Since 711 Spain’s Muslim Arab rulers shared their cultural wealth with and practiced toleration of the country’s diverse citizenry. Catholics, Jews and Muslims lived peacefully with neighbors, as Spain became a world center of books and learning.
Santiago Matamoros
Then Catholic King Ferdinand of Castille and Queen Isabella marshaled a Christian army to impose their rule. Castillian soldiers charged into battle with the cry “Santiago Matamoros” or “Kill the Moors.” By January 1492 Christian soldiers stood poised for victory and an era of ethnic cleansing.

On January 2, 1492 Ferdinand’s troops captured the splendid Moorish Alhambra castle, the last Arab power bastion in Grenada. An enthusiastic Columbus who stood in the cheering crowd later recorded the triumphal moment in the first sentence of his Diary. “I saw the Royal banner of your Highness placed on the towers of Alhambra  . . . and I saw the Moorish King come forth and kiss the royal hand of your Highness . . . . “

Spain’s new government quickly moved to finance Columbus’s voyage and against its minorities. On March 31 Spain’s Jews — as integrated into commercial, governmental and cultural life as Christian and Muslim citizens – were handed an Edict of Expulsion. Families were ordered into exile, and one official suggested, “The whole accursed race of Jews, of twenty years and upwards, might be purified by fire.”
The Inquisition forced many Jews to face the ultimate penalty. Even the “marranos,” families who had agreed to convert to Christianity, were not exempt. Can you trust people you forced to convert? Muslims also faced persecution and exile over the next ten years. By 1609 Spain had expelled Muslims it had converted to Christianity. Exiles lost everything but what they could carry.

The wealth that fell from tortured hands helped pay for Columbus’s historic voyage. His final sailing plans were completed when Luis de Santangel, Chancellor to the Royal Household, lent his King the last 17,000 florins – and by this act purchased his family’s right to remain in their homeland.

Some 150,000 refugees had trudged to southern seaports as time ran out for the Jews on the very day before Columbus left. On the day he weighed anchor at Palos, a small band of Jewish families huddled at nearby Cadiz waiting for a rescue ship.

The second sentence of Columbus’s Diary shows he was well aware of the connection between their expulsion and his departure. “After having turned all the Jews from your Kingdoms and Lordships . . . your Highness gave orders to me that with a sufficient fleet I should go.” The expulsion and Columbus’s departure were forever linked.

On his first night in the Bahamas, Spain’s “Captain of the Ocean Sea,” described in one Diary sentence how he brought the new Spain to the New World. “I took some of the natives by force.”  The enslavement of American Indians was both Columbus’s first act in the Americas, and a first step in his Crusade.
More Spanish troops arrived in the Americas to crush the Aztecs of Mexico, the Incas of Peru and other peoples of the Americas. Spaniards brought new weapons and a new battle cry — “Santiago Mataindios” or “Kill the Indians.” They unleashed the world’s largest, longest and most devastating genocide. Millions upon millions died of a harsh slavery, forced starvation and mass executions as well as European diseases. Entire villages and cities disappeared.

Along with his sailing skills and fierce ambition, Columbus carried in his heart the burning embers of his monarchy’s intolerance, violence and ravenous greed. Though the Admiral found Caribbean people “tractable, peaceable” and wrote King Ferdinand, “there is not in the world a better nation” — he concluded they must be “made to work . . . and adopt our ways.”

Oppression built slowly. Columbus’s initial voyage seized a few dozen Native men and women, some as slaves, others to present at the Royal Court. But his goal was largely exploratory. After another voyage he wrote to his King, “From here, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, we can send all the slaves that can be sold.” Spain’s rulers eagerly agreed to supply him with 17 ships, a thousand soldiers, priests who would conduct mass conversions, and orders for a brutal colonization. He began an island by island search for gold and slaves that decimated the fifty to a hundred million Native Americans.

Las Casas a Dominican Priest, denounced Spain’s invaders as “ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers and lions” whose ultimate aim . . . is to acquire gold.” The only true Christians in the Americans, he stated, were Native Americans.  Indians, he found, had their own name for the Spain’s Christians –“Yares” or devils.

Columbus did not “discover” anything but islands filled with people who greeted him with water, food and gifts. He repaid their generosity with treachery. He introduced two continents and many islands to a holocaust more thorough and lasting than any  in human history. As a devout servant of God he relished his work and offered no apologies.
Hatuey being executed in 1512.
But the Columbus story had another hidden side. Tiano and Arawak women and men with names like Anacoana and Hatuey who once warmly greeted him soon rebelled against colonial rule and enslavement. On Hispaniola Anacoana and her husband Coanabo led their people in the first known military uprising and were slain.

A few years later Hatuey and four hundred followers on Hispaniola left in canoes to warn Cubans of the murderous invaders. He and his soldiers were finally overwhelmed by superior Spanish forces, but Hatuey was carved into Cuban statues as their liberation hero.
Other Native Americans soon rose to mobilize their people against the Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch and English invaders, their muskets and cannons.

In 1502  — the age of Columbus, Anacoana and Hatuey — Native Americans found new allies in the Africans Europeans imported as slave laborers. That year Governor Nicolas de Ovando of Hispaniola complained to King Ferdinand that his Africans escaped to Indian villages and “never would be recaptured.” Africans and Native Americans realized they faced the same invaders and slave-catchers, and saw no need to fight them alone.

From Canada to Tierra del Fuego and the Caribbean islands, Africans and Indians were able form maroon settlements in the wilderness that protected their families and thrived through agricultural and trade. Some lasted for years or decades, and the Republic of Palmares in Northeastern Brazil had 10,000 people and lasted almost a century until 1694. Maroon villages and cities were the first in America to include Indians and foreigners, and to embrace the belief that all, Native American and newcomer, are created equal.

We should follow the advice of today’s Native Americans who reject Columbus Day in favor of a Native Americans Day. All Americans need to study and celebrate the heroic battles that pitted our first Americans against Europeans who would conquer and enslave them, and their African allies.

A Native Americans Day can educate all of us about the Indians who united with Africans to fight against foreign tyranny before, during and after 1776. It will remind everyone that Native Americans still seek the lands and monies promised in ancient treaties with United States. And it will inform us anew that Americans of color whose ancestors fought and died for the principle of freedom still do not enjoy all their inalienable rights.



© 2014 William Loren Katz