HOLOCAUST Memorial — Time to remember Blacks who died in Nazi Killing Fields

By Thomas L Blair copyright 24 January 2015

Volumes have been written about the Nazis mass murder of “inferior non-aryans”: Jews, Poles, Gypsies, the “gays, disabled and retarded”.
However, spare a thought for the Blacks who died in the Nazi killing fields in the period 1930s-1940s.
Thousands of Blacks in Nazi Germany and Occupied Europe were used in medical experiments, executed or gassed in Nazi death chambers
The sophisticated Black Berliners suffered a brutal fate in the Nazi prisons. The German-born “Rhineland black bastards” that Hitler railed against in his Mein Kampf for the Third Reich were rounded up and exterminated.
Under the Nazi ideology, it was acceptable to kill Blacks and other non-aryans at the bottom of the racialised scale
.
The mocking sign “Arbeit macht frei” (that is “works makes (you) free”), was, like Auschwitz or Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps, the first and last sight Blacks saw on the journey to the death chambers.
Thousands of captured colonial French African troops perished in concentration camps or worked in factories until death or execution.
Furthermore, in fighting the Americans, the German SS infantry had orders to take no “Negro prisoners alive” Blacks were targeted for slaughter and massacred in violation of international convention.

We must conclude, therefore, that these Black victims of Hitler’s Aryan ideology merit more than passing mention. Of course, they assist our appreciation of the heinous mass ethnic cleansing we know as the”Jewish holocaust”. However, Hitler’s Black victims are crucial to our understanding of the Black holocaust; the millions lost in the European colonisation of Africa, the perilous Atlantic passage, and the killing fields of slavery in the Americas.

Je suis “Blues for Mr Charlie”

By Thomas L Blair ©copyright reserved 21 2015

In all the global permutations of “je suis charlie” it is interesting to note that  James Baldwin’s award-winning tragedy in three acts turned a common slang term for “the white man,” “Mr Charlie,” into a stinging indictment of America’s racial bigotry and hatred in the 1960s.

Baldwin reveals centuries of brutality and fear, patronage and contempt that erupt in a moment of truth as devastating as a shotgun blast. Bravely, for a Black playwright on the Broadway stage,  Baldwin turns a murder and its aftermath into an inquest in which even the most well intentioned whites are implicated–and in which even a killer receives his share of compassion, according to critics.

King’s radical views remembered

 ‘Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged’ still valid 

 Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington 1963 led us all astray. America was not full of Black and white kids all yearning to live together in racial harmony. Rather, it was the true King that cried out “we can’t wait” and planned to relieve the pain of Black people.

Years before his assassination in 1968, King had the most extraordinary vision of a Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged. This little known side of the civil rights leader escaped widespread notice in America.

Uncovered in a few pages tucked away in the back of his book Why We Can’t Wait, published in the year of his “dream” speech, King outlined a bill to counter the effects of centuries of slavery and social oppression.

A bold programme of primarily Black reconstruction was needed on the scale of the Marshall Plan that rejuvenated post war Europe, he said. Funded by a bold governmental policy, King’s Bill of Rights would combat the “misery that haunts Black people” and place them ahead in the competition for individual and collective betterment

Black families, emerging from their blighted neighbourhoods, would be eligible for subsidised quality homes and education. Budding entrepreneurs could negotiate government-backed loans. Health care and insurance would be available at no-cost at special medical centres.

To his detractors, King said, Americans deceive themselves that positive action against shameful conditions is a “black thing”, unfairly affecting “white rights”. However, he knew full well that special measures for the worthy and deprived have always been an accepted principle in the United States.

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What’s history got to do with it?

 Decades after his death by a sniper’s bullet 4 April 1968 in Memphis, Tenn, Martin Luther King’s call to America to end the war in Viet Nam rings true in the post 9/11 crisis of our times.

For too long, he said, “I was quiet while a charade was being performed”. Then, something said to me, “Martin, you have got to stand up on this. No matter what it means”.

“As I reviewed the events, I saw an orderly build up of evil, an accumulation of inhumanities, each of which alone was sufficient to make men hide in shame. What was woeful, but true, was that my country was only talking peace but was bent on military victory. Inside the glove of peace was the clenched fist of war.”

With these words, King combined a trinity of thoughts. These include his own non-violent beliefs and prophetical themes of the gospel church, a piercing analysis of black exploitation in a segregated society, and a critical view of the moral and political culpability of his nation engaged in foreign wars.

Note
King’s views are elaborated in The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr edited by Clayborne Carson. See also the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford Universityhttp://www.stanford.edu/group/king

Published in From the mountain top, Chronicleorld.org 2006

New Year honours no balm for hard-hit people

By Thomas L Blair 31 December 2014 copyright update 01 January 2015

Have things gotten better this year? I started the year writing about the marked and continued  decline of Black awards and applicants for the New Year’s Honours Lists and have ended the year writing almost the same.

Poor performance in the List has sadly been a theme for this year. Nevertheless, there have been some interesting achievers.

Jamal Edwards, the young entrepreneur behind the web music video company SB.TV received an MBE. Brendan Batson, 61, the ex-West Bromwich Albion defender and one the first Black British footballers received an OBE for services to equality in football. He reportedly welcomed the progress made so far, but called for more Black representation in coaching, management and the front office.

However, awards cannot rescue a hard-hit people from the historic misdemeanors of the state and crown. 

Ben Zephania/BBC News

Ben Zephania/BBC News

Benjamin Zephania put it this way, according to the BBC News Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 17:48 GMT “Black poet spurns OBE… because he claims it stands for colonial brutality and slavery”.

From this perspective, it is vital that Black communities have a frank and open conversation about their collective development and how individual achievers and strivers should  contribute to it.

 

Your comments are welcome Click: thomb91@gmail.com

 

Black History UK – A proud past. An uncertain future

By Thomas L Blair ©text and picture October 2014

 

What is the state of her future?

What is the state of her future?/Thomas L Blair

Ideally, a rise in living standards and esteem would be the marker for celebrating Black History and advancement. However, the message from the grassroots is poetry won’t feed us always”.

The precipitating signs are noticeable. “No justice, no peace” has become a standard rallying cry across beleaguered Black communities. Indeed, they face issues across almost every sphere:

These changing perceptions mark the end of Black History Month as we know it and a steady progression toward the view that Black history is more about the upward struggle than harmonising race relations in a divided society.

Clearly, Blacks have to develop danger-limiting strategies and progress enhancement institutions in all the spheres of life.

In Community development and regeneration, Criminal justice services and Education and skills, as well as Employment, Health services, Housing and homelessness, Poverty Alleviation, Business Enterprise and financial inclusion, and Social work, social care and social services.

Hence, sighs of blessed relief are premature and assumptions that knowledge alone will right contemporary and historical wrongs is grossly exaggerated, as I pointed out in my article reprinted below.

Unshackling the Afro-British mind

October 7, 2009 © Thomas L Blair, author

October’s Black History month comes again – full of contradictions.  Local worthies recite undigested “facts” and add swatches of colour, comedy and music to the events. However, the back-up money and thematic control is firmly not in their hands.

The leading players are government and town hall agents, the media and advertisers.  Charities, churches, voluntary groups, primary care trusts add their balm of Gilead. Museums and libraries promise they care.  Of course, nothing confrontational, please.  Nothing “too political, or nationalist”.  Nothing “too black”, really. Only images that beguile and suit the tastes of the “wider society”.

The usual cast of cardboard characters appear on stage. Politicians mouth their “I’m so happy to support you” platitudes to invited successful celebrities. City officials and “race relations experts” cobble together a potpourri of walks, talks and exhibitions endorsed by servile self-seekers and dependent local groups.

However, to keen observers, three decades of these post-colonial events expose a fatal flaw. The origins and meaning of Black History Month are ignored – some say suppressed.  It is not widely reported that a Ghanaian,  Akyaaba Addai Sebbo of the Greater London Council, is credited with originating the event in 1987.

We are deprived therefore of some essential information.  The African American Kwanzaa creator Dr. Maulana Karenga, the invited host of the first assembly, was a major source of inspiration.

Furthermore, at its deepest roots, the month signifies the gathering of the African community in the Diaspora. Originally, the celebrants shared their food, libations, dance and drumming. They extolled their leadership, sang praise-songs, and recited their common experiences in the citadels of modernism.

In this way, the celebrants of African heritage affirmed two important principles to safeguard them in a hostile urban environment. They strengthened their confidence and awareness of their cultural heritages. They celebrated their triumphs since slavery, colonialism and debt bondage. Moreover, they reclaimed their own humanity that has given so much to British society and world cultures.

Hence, the misplaced zeal unleashed in October’s sponsored events masks a singular inability to be serious about Black culture.  Moreover, the hodgepodge of individual personalities and heroics – greats this and the 50 that – does not create collective cultural and social capital for Black communities.

To be serious requires Black definition and direction. Celebrating Black culture would have to be rooted in thoughtful afro-centric analysis.

Alas, a historically challenged people are disempowered – rudderless, adrift in a sea of despond. They have no major dedicated, guiding and protective Black advancement institutions. No anti-defamation leagues.  Publishing houses are scarce. The one “black newspaper”, The Voice, is “foreign-owned” by the Caribbean Gleaner company whose interests are more representative of its “Go Jamaica” tourist, sugar, rum, soft drinks and minerals supporters than those of the poor in the Kingston yards.

Moreover, the wellsprings of wisdom have run dry. The early prize-winning students and Rhodes scholars vanished in the olive groves of academe. There are no Black-led study associations. No authoritative, home-grown, sustainable Black literary, business and political journals exist. In addition, there are no dedicated teams of Africana and Black Studies scholars, writers and artists working to bring cultural history to life.

Without grounding, community building institutions, rock-solid organisations and robust talents, Black pride and identity erodes, and cultural deformation and alienation surely follow. This is the hallmark of a postcolonial people in deep crisis.

To combat this dire prospect, it is essential to securely preserve, defend, authenticate and invigorate Black culture in the diaspora so that favourable conditions for development can be created.

The key questions to forge a positive future are::

  • What are the key issues shaping the crisis of culture called Black urbanism?
  • How can cultural empowerment link to social, economic and political progress?
  • What are the best strategies to birth a new generation of cultural champions among Black youth, public intellectuals and policymakers?

Read more at  http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/community-development/pub_index.aspx?PublisherID=149777&PublisherName=Editions+Blair

 

Profile: Thomas L Blair, writes and publishes on the creative renewal of African and Caribbean communities in   Britain, Europe and America.

Gigabytes of the Black experience enrich British digital culture

By Thomas L Blair 16 October 2014 ©

Digital Black culture and politics are important representations of British Culture, and deserve a place in the conservation of knowledge

African  head

African head

 

With more internet and social media users every day, Britain’s minorities are creating a mass of gigabytes of news, opinions and ideas. But, information professionals have yet to capture and preserve the digital production of Black communities and scholars.My three-year study, Decolonising Knowledge, suggests a high-impact agenda to embed the Black Experience in national programmes for heritage enhancement.

Affirm community action for change 

One is to affirm that “within every community there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used in creative ways, can be channeled into collective action to achieve the communities’ desired goals”. [Quotes from the Social Welfare Portal, British Library]. Practical examples include:

  • Black families are sourcing opportunities to survive and advance in often-hostile urban environments. Education, jobs and affordable housing top the preferred list, even in the most deprived districts such as St Paul’s, Bristol and Brixton, London.
  • Teenagers and schoolchildren are prodigious multi-taskers: Googling information for better grades, downloading their favourite tunes and chatting on their smart phones and tablets.
  • Moreover, academic high fliers are spreading their ideas in eBooks, while others are posting their lecture notes, manuscripts, commentaries and book reviews online.
  • A range of voices are on the digital frontiers — from cyberscholars and high-level writers and artists to protesters, community leaders and citizen journalists  – all using social networks to get vital views out and bring about change

Engage with Black communities and scholars

The second initiative confirms the need to “build relationships with third sector organisations and their volunteers in public service delivery, and the Big Society agenda”. However, it is crucial to recognise that the Black Experience is a template for archiving and researching other “minority voices”. An Archival/Curatorial Digital Fellowship Programme could serve this purpose by:

  • Identifying content producers and users
  • Devising appropriate “surveying” technologies.
  • Crowd sourcing and crowd-funding across major devices, operating systems, web browsers and different language versions.

Conclusion

Librarians, professionals, technocrats and media moguls are central to implementing the impact agenda. With community collaboration, they can embed the digital Black Experience in national heritage enhancement programmes. Moreover, they can promote the broadest scholarly and public understanding of policy issues in the multi-cultural information age.

For best online resources on the Black Experience, click: 

Cyberspace for Change
Changing Black Britain

Your comments are welcome 

 

Carnival on the frontlines of history

By Thomas L Blair ©24 August 2014

London Notting_Hill_Carnival_2002_largeAge-old traditions heat up the tempo of urban life once a year at Carnival. But few realise the transplanted arts and crafts are not just for flesh and frolic… and masquerading ‘round the streets. Carnival is Black humanity on the frontlines of history.

Therefore, Carnival has deeper meanings for everyone. Afro-Caribbean migrants brought “We ‘ting” to Britain. Trinidadians birthed it. Civil rights activist Claudia Jones thrust their voices into the public realm. Pioneering Selwyn Baptiste educated children in culture using the steel band, says Alex Pascall, once chair of the Carnival Arts Committee 1984-1989.

Hence, Carnival is inextricably part of the larger endeavour of people of colour. It is a symbol of Caribbean roots, migration and the evolution of Black-led arts in Britain. http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/community-development/pub_index.aspx?PublisherID=149777&PublisherName=Editions+Blair

“Hammerblows on metal are acts of love but listen well for tones of rage and hurt”. – John Agard, Mangoes and Bullets. Selected New Poems 1972-1984. Serpents Tail, Pluto Press, London 1990.

 “The black people in the West Indies have produced all the culture we have, whether it is steel band or folk music. Black bourgeoisie and white people in the West Indies have produced nothing. Black people who have suffered all these years create. That is amazing.” – Walter Rodney, The Groundings with my Brothers. London: Bogle-L’Ouverture, 1969, p.67.

Carnival is “passionate and celebratory”. It is also “the most expressive and culturally volatile territory on which the battle of positions between the Black Community and the State are ritualised”. – Kwesi Owusu and Jacob Ross, Behind the Masquerade: The Story of the Notting Hill Carnival. Arts Media Group, London. 1988, p.5

“In Trinidad, carnival emerged as a cultural symbol of the emancipation of black people from slavery.” – Kwesi Owusu, The Struggle for Black Arts in Britain: What Can We Consider Better than Freedom. Comedia, London. 1986

“(In Trinidad) Carnival and calypso remained the preserve of the black working population (although Europeans and other races participate) until sanitised, given respectability and appropriated by the middle class”. – Amon Saba Saakana, The Colonial Legacy in Caribbean Literature. Vol.1. Karnak House, London 1987, p.28.

 “The assets of immigration–the acquisition of new cultural experiences, art forms and attitudes–have so far been only minimally recognised, and far less encouraged. If they were, Britain would gain a far richer cultural scene, and would moreover be giving minorities their due. Unless that happens, there is no justification for calling Britain a multi-cultural society.” – Naseem Khan, The Arts Britain Ignores: The Arts of Ethnic Minorities in Britain. London, Arts Council of Great Britain 1976.

 

 

Further Reading:

  • Benjamin, Ione (1995), The Black Press in Britain. London: Trentham Books.
  • Broughton, Simon et al, eds. (1994), World Music, The Rough Guide. London: The Rough Guides.
  • Deneslow, Robin (1989), When the Music’s Over: The Story of Political Pop. London: Faber and Faber.
  • Harriott, Jacqueline (1992), Black Women in Britain. B.T.Batsford, London.
  • Polhemus, Ted (1994), Street Style: From Sidewalk to Catwalk. London: Thames and Hudson.