Colombia

Black Agenda Report for Week of August 8, 2016

Voters Have Choices Outside the Duopoly

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both “evil” people, but U.S. voters do have choices this election season, said South Carolina activist and author Kevin Alexander Gray. “It’s good that people are running on various third parties, to give Americans a little bit of education,” as opposed to watching them make one or the other bad choice,” said Gray, author of Waiting on Lighting to Strike. “One of the good things about Barack Obama leaving office, particularly for Black people, is that perhaps they’ll pick up their signs, pick up their feet, and follow behind the youth that are out here in the streets challenging the system.”

Low Wage Workers to Converge on Richmond

The U.S. labor movement made an historic error in the post-World War Two era in failing to commit sufficient resources to organizing in the heavily Black South. But activists in the current movement to unionize low-paid workers and raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour vow not to repeat that mistake. “We will highlight that low wages and racial inequality is not only hurting Black and brown people, it’s hurting the working poor white people, as well,” said Terrance Wise, a leader of Fight for 15, which will hold a national conference of low-wage workers in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, August 12 and 13. “Until we can build our movement and bring all workers together to demand economic justice and racial equality, we won’t gain any ground,” said Wise, a Burger King employee from Kansas City.

Russell “Maroon” Shoatz Wins Solitary Confinement Settlement

Pennsylvania prison officials have agreed to pay a monetary settlement to political prisoner Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, and to never again place the former Black Panther in solitary confinement, where he spent 22 of the past 44 years. His daughter, Theresa Shoatz, is “elated because it opens the door to other prisoners who are still in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania.” The legal action was spearheaded by the Pittsburg-based Abolitionist Law Center, with virtually no assistance from Black elected officials. “Our state representatives are useless,” said Ms. Shoatz.

Afro-Colombian Rights Recognized in Peace Talks

FARC guerillas and the government of Colombia have agreed in principle to “make sure the rights and interests of Afro-descended and indigenous peoples will be respected” in the resolution of the South American country’s two generations-long civil war, said Charo Mina-Rojas, of the National Afro-Colombian Peace Council. Representatives of the Colombian government and demobilizing guerillas agreed to include such assurances in the peace document being hammered out at negotiations in Havana, Cuba. However, Mina-Rojas said some elements of FARC have not agreed to lay down their arms and “do not fully recognize” Afro-Colombians’ collective land rights.

 
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Black Agenda Radio for Week of June 13, 2016

FBI Widens Sting Operations Against Dissidents

The FBI appears to have widened its web of sting operations to entrap American dissidents in so-called “terrorist plots,” said Sue Udry, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Udry cited a study that analyzed about 400 alleged terror plots prosecuted by the FBI between 2003 and 2010, only four of which “did not have a component of FBI entrapment of the people who were eventually convicted.” Most were against poor, unsophisticated Muslim Americans. In more recent years, said Udry, the FBI and the Homeland Security Department have used “these entrapment stings against environmental and peace activists” and have been “monitoring and infiltrating Black Lives Matter, the Occupy Movement” and “groups that are fighting fracking.” The Committee is demanding Congress launch an investigation to find out “what other groups the FBI has been focused on.”

Black Is Back Coalition to Help Develop an Agenda for Self-Determination

Black America in recent decades has put forward “no basic political demand” of its own, but instead hopes and prays “that the Democratic Party will treat us well and the Republican Party will not treat us badly,” said Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. On August 13 and 14 the Coalition will hold a conference on a national Black political agenda for self-determination, in Philadelphia. In the Sixties, said Yeshitela, “the drive was for self-determination, and that’s been a missing element in the political discussion up until now.”

Broad Clemency Needed to Reverse Mass Incarceration

The Sentencing Project, a Washington-based prison reform organization, is calling for a broader, categorical approach to presidential clemency, like President Gerald Ford’s 1974 amnesty for war resisters. However, even comprehensive clemencies would not alter U.S. status as the world’s premier incarceration state, said executive director Marc Mauer. “We need to have more rational sentencing policies, we need more diversion from prison, and we need more public health approaches” to social problems,” said Mauer. “If we really want to address mass incarceration, it’s going to take much more on the front end than just rectifying some of these problems five or ten years after the initial sentence has taken place.”

Death Squads and Corporate Greed Prey on Black Colombians

Afro-Colombians and indigenous groups have been blocking roads in protest of violations of their land rights by multinational corporations and intimidation by paramilitary death squads. “You have a particular kind of predatory capitalism” in Colombia and other parts of Latin America, “where you have a relationship between corporations and the government, and paramilitary forces that do the bidding of these corporations in terms of cleaning people from land and terrorizing and murdering local organizers,” said Ajamu Baraka, a member of the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network. “In Colombia, paramilitarism has been taken to an art form.” Baraka is a BAR editor and columnist and a founder of the U.S. Human Rights Network.

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Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia

by BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka

The organized descendants of Africans in Colombia have some lessons to share with Blacks in the U.S. For one thing, it would be “inconceivable” for any Afro-Colombian organizer, “no matter how inexperienced, to get into a meeting with a presidential aspirant and frame a question around what that person ‘felt’ about their role as an oppressor.”

The Congressional Black Caucus Fails Afro-Colombians

by Nikolas KozloffAfroColombianKids
 
Sometimes it seems the bigger the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) becomes, the worse it gets. Gone are the not-so-long-ago days when the CBC could be counted on to present a virtually unified, progressive front on domestic and foreign policy issues. While Black activists increasingly embrace the Latin American sector of the global African Diaspora, the CBC as a body remains parochial, as if unaware that millions of Blacks live in South America. Most shameful is the CBC's failure to take a firm stand on behalf of Afro-Colombians, targeted by rightwing death squads allied with the U.S.-backed government. A significant faction in the CBC supports corporate-written trade deals with Colombia that would displace and further impoverish much of the Black population, whose representatives have repeatedly beseeched the Black Caucus for help.  

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