Monday, October 26, 2015

Historical and Cultural Information in late October of 2015

The situation in the Middle East definitely existed in large part by the imperialist policies from the West spanning decades. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire was defeated. European imperialist nations carved up the Ottoman Empire and other areas of the Middle East too. There were secret treaties like Sykes-Picot where Britain and France divided the region into separate states. These states were ruled either by imperialists directly or by puppet Arabic potentates. This bad policy artificially separated peoples and recognized many nation states while dismissing others like the Kurds. The Kurds would be subject to national oppression then and now. The British supported the Balfour Declaration, which set in motion events which caused Israel to be a nation by 1948 (after World War II and the evil Holocaust) while the indigenous Palestinian people would be dispossessed of their land for decades. After WWII, America became a dominant power in the world beyond the European powers in the Middle East. Europe and America had heavily influenced of the oil of Saudi Arabia. The USA wanted to contain Arabic nationalism in the region and any Russian influence in the region too (under the guise of the West promoting "anti-communism"). That is why the U.S. and the West supported reactionary dictatorships and monarchies (in order to prevent independent movements and any anti-capitalist movement from taking hold in the Middle East in a massive level). The dictator Shah Pahlavi came into power in 1954 with US/British backing after Operation Ajax. America has consistently supported Israel, especially after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel has been used a monitor and watch person of the region. Israeli has committed numerous international war crimes. Any nationalist or secular left wing movements in the region have been checked by the U.S.-backed fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. So, America has supported counterrevolution in the region (like being against national liberation, against the labor movement, and against real democracy). The Iranian Revolution in 1979 changed the whole world. The Shah was toppled and the reactionary Ayatollah Khomeini regime opposed America. The US, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabian backed fundamentalist Mujahedeen fought the Afghanistan’s then Stalinist nation. The USSR invaded and occupied the nation. The USSR left Afghanistan in defeat. America once supported Osama bin Laden in the 1980’s and Saddam Hussein (in his stalemate war against Iran where over 1 million people died between Iraqis and Iranians). Later, Iraq had 14 billion dollars in debt. Iraq invaded Kuwait to get its resources, oil, etc. Hussein mistakenly thought that America gave him the greenlight to invade Kuwait, but President George H. W. Bush launched the Persian Gulf War (since this invasion from Saddam Hussein in his mind would threaten American-backed oil resources in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia). George H. W. Buh once inspired the Shias and the Kurds in Iraq to rise up against Saddam. Yet, they weren’t supported by the US, so the Iraqi army massacred thousands of people. Bush Sr. used a no fly zone in the Kurdish North and the Shia South, which caused sectarian strife and was the beginning unofficially of the Iraqi nation. Afterwards, murderous sanctions in Iraq caused over 1 million Iraqis to die. Al-Qaeda grew. During the late 1990’s and the early 21st century, the neo-cons promoted an invasion of Iraq when Iraq was no direct threat to America. American military bases grew all over the Middle East.

Afro-Iranians have a long history. For centuries and for thousands of years, black people have lived in Iran. There are darker features shown in the ancient images of Persepolis. There were Afro-Arabic merchants during the 9th century trading in the region. There are Afro-Iraqis, Afro-Pakistanis, Afro-Kuwaitis, Afro-Omanis, Afro-Saudis, etc. Today, most Afro-Iranians are found in Hormozagan, Sistan, Baluchistan, and Khuzestan. Most of them are Shias, Sunnis, and some follow the religion of Zaar. Many Afro-Iranians voluntarily traveled into Iran. Many Africans wanted to go into Iran in search of being paid as sailors. Many Afro-Iranians came to Iran as slaves who were captured by Arabic salve traders (in the Indian Ocean slave trade). Many black people traveled into Saudi Arabia, India, the Far East, the Indian Ocean islands, etc. During the Qajar dynasty, many wealthy households imported Black African women and children as slaves to perform domestic work. They came from the Zanj or the Bantu speaking peoples that lived along the coast of Southeast Africa (i.e. from Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi). Mohammad Shah Qajar (under British pressure) issued a firman which suppressed the slave trade in 1848. Afro-Iranians back then worked as stone breakers, woodcutters, and bodyguards. Many worked in royal courts. Afro-Iranians fought against slavery as activists, as abolitionists, and some used pressure in Iran. Slavery was completely banned in Iran by 1928. Afro-Iranians have their own culture and traditional practices.  Afro-Iranian Beeta Baghoolizadeh said that many lighter skinned Iranians from Tehran are surprised at the Afro-Iranians since Afro-Iranians don’t make up a majority of the population of Iran. In 2007, a documentary film, Afro-Iranian Lives, was released and examined the Afro-Iranian experience. The documentary talks about the socioeconomic activities, performances, and rituals of the Afro-Iranians in rural and urban communities of Sistan, Baluchistan, Hurmuzgan, and Khuzestan. Afro-Iranians celebrate their African heritage, clothing style, music, dance, and their oral traditions plus rituals. Iranian scholar Dr. Behnaz Mirzai has done excellent research on the culture of the Afro-Iranian people too. He has made the “Afro-Iranian Lives” documentary in 2007 and the “African-Baluchi Trance Dance” documentary in 2012. Los Angeles born Afro-Iranian Beeta Bahoolizadeh’s research deals with constructions of race and the transition from subject to citizen during the late Qajar period, particularly concerning the legacy of slavery and racism in Iran.  She penned an in depth article complete with pictures and videos in June 2012. Today, many well-known Afro-Iranians are Abdolreza Barzegari, Ali Firouzi, Malika and Khadijah Haqq, Mehrab Shahrokhi, and other people.

We need to improve ourselves and eliminate structural racism and economic injustice simultaneously. Just because we should improve our lives and condemn evils in our community doesn't mean that we ought to ignore how discrimination, the prison industrial complex, the War on Drugs and racism (which aren't the fault of black people collectively at all) has harmed the lives of many black people. Our community has addressed issues in our community for decades. Also, police brutality should never be placed under the rug. Terrorist cops who kill innocent black people must be in prison. We have an epidemic of police brutality. The teenage girl deserves justice just like Tamir Rice and others. Crime in NYC continues its historic downward trend. Overall, crime dropped 6 percent in NYC compared to last year. Between 2001 and 2009, the crime rate in Atlanta dropped by 40 percent. Homicide fell 57 percent in the same time period. In the last 20 years, we’ve seen a sharp drop in homicide among blacks, from a victimization rate of 39.4 homicides per 100,000 in 1991 to a rate of roughly 20 homicides per 100,000 in 2008. Likewise, the offending rate for blacks has dropped from 51.1 offenders per 100,000 in 1991 to 24.7 offenders per 100,000 in 2008. In fact, any given black person is 2.75 times as likely to be murdered by a white person as any given white person is to be murdered by an African American. Most crime is done intraracially.  Certainly, it is an issue that must be discussed. Fetishizing biracial or multiethnic children is disrespectful, wrong, and it advances the evil of colorism. The view that biracial people are more attractive than black people is a total lie. People who embrace that lie are wrong, many of them are vindictive, many of them have self-hatred, and many of them are outright anti-black. The Eurocentric faux standards are nothing new. Just because someone is light or biracial doesn’t mean that person is superior. Black people, biracial people, and multiracial human beings should be treated as human beings. The video does show the views of biracial people and their struggles. I find that to be interesting. The testimonies of the biracial people in the video prove that biracial people are diverse and their humanity should be respected. Any relationship should not be fetishized. We should have discussions about these subjects, so change can come in a positive direction. As black people, our melanin is beautiful, we will continue to fight for justice, and there is strength in our cultural heritage.
#Black is Beautiful.

Nina Simone was a heroic, strong black woman. The documentary film on Nina Simone (1933-2003) entitled, “What Happened, Miss Simone?” is certainly amazing. I do recommend it for anyone. It has been recently released on Netflix. It is informative. It is important to understand the life and times of the great singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone. Nina Simone was more than a singer. She was a songwriter and a famous pianist. She performed jazz, folk music, and other forms of music that dealt with racial and social justice issues. She knew about classical music, gospel, blues, and folk. The documentary was exquisite in showing her many compositions and renditions like “Mississippi God__,” “Backlash Blues,” “Strange Fruit,” “I Loves You Porgy,” “A’int Got No/I Got Life,” “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” and other works. Her talent was supreme in every measure. The documentary has interviews from Simone’s family members, friends, and musical colleagues. Lisa Simone Kelly is Simone’s only child. She worked closely with the documentary effort. Al Schackman is Simone’s longtime guitarist and musical director. Al Schackman has shown respect for her for over four decades. Nina Simone was born in the segregated city of Tryon, North Carolina in 1933 as Eunice Waymon. She played the piano at 4. She went into revival meetings in the church and her mother was a Methodist preacher. Her mother's name was Mary Kate Waymon.  Simone's father, John Divine Waymon, was a handyman who at one time owned a dry cleaning business, but also suffered bouts of ill health. Nina took piano lessons from the Englishwoman Muriel Mazzanonvich. Muriel’s husband was the painter Lawrence and they lived in Tryon. In her autobiography, Simone speaks highly of the Mazzanoviches. Her teacher not only gave her lessons, but embraced her talent and provided warmth, kindness and respect. Every weekend, Eunice would cross the tracks to the white part of town to study the music of Bach, Beethoven and Liszt. Nina Simone suffered racism and discrimination in the Jim Crow South.  At a piano recital, she insisted that she would not play unless her parents were brought to the front row, from which they had been removed to make place for whites. Subsequently, a local fund was set up to assist in Simone's continued education. With the help of this scholarship money she was able to attend Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, North Carolina. At the age of 17, Nina Simone left North Carolina. She came to study in a summer program at New York’s Julliard School and then she went to Philadelphia. At Philadelphia, she was expected to enroll in the famous Curtis Institute of Music. Her application was rejected. So, she continued to work as a young performer. She performed music in an Atlantic City, New Jersey bar in 1954. She was paid $90 a week. She used the named Nina Simone (Nina meaning little girl in Spanish. Simone was from the surname of the French left wing actress Simone Signoret). By the late 1950’s, she made more well-known singles like “I Loves You, Porgy” in 1958. She sang at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960 the song “Little Liza Jane.” By the early 1960’s, she performed at New York City’s Greenwich Village. Nina Simone was a strong activist in the civil rights movement. She was into political activism. She wanted to use her art to give notice to the times that she was living in.

She associated with many great African American artists and intellectuals like Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Lorraine Hansberry. She was espically a close friend to Lorraine Hansberry. Hansberry was a progressive activist and her play Raisin in the Sun had become a Broadway hit and was nominated for several Tony Awards in 1959.  Simone later wrote, intriguingly, that when she and Hansberry got together, “It was always about Marx, Lenin and revolution—typical girl talk.” In 1964, she changed record distributors, from the American Colpix to the Dutch Philips, which also meant a change in the contents of her recordings. Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that drew upon her African-American origins (such as "Brown Baby" and "Zungo" on Nina at the Village Gate in 1962). On her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone in Concert (live recording, 1964), however, Simone for the first time openly addressed the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song "Mississippi God___" The evil 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which killed four Alabama schoolgirls, angered many people.  She wrote her well known song “Mississippi God___” soon after the incident (the song was addressing the evil killing of 4 little girls in 1964 and the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963). The lyrics were true. They exposed  Southern racism (“Alabama’s got me so upset, Tennessee made me lose my rest, and everybody knows about Mississippi, god__!”) was later sung by Simone at the conclusion of the March 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. To mark the occasion, she changed the lyric slightly, to “Selma made me lose my rest.” Nina Simone spoke during the Selma to Montgomery marches. She publicly believed in self-defense while maintaining that she and her family believed that all races are equal. She married New York City police detective Andrew Stroud in 1961. They divorced in 1970. Later, the growth of the anti-Vietnam War movement and the Black Power movement existed. There were great achievements of the civil rights struggle, but economic inequality persisted. There was the strike of the working class. There were the rebellions of 1964 to 1968. A new era came about after the assassinations of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Simone rejected reformism and embraced more Black Nationalist ideas. Many of the old school civil rights establishment leaders integrated into the capitalist Democratic Party while many of the Black Nationalist leaders like once SNCC leader Kwame Ture legitimately exposed white racism. Also, some black nationalists were hostile to the working class when we need the working class for liberation. She was influenced by Kwame Ture. She exiled voluntarily during the 1970’s because of the racism and oppression found in the States. She went into Liberia, Switzerland, and finally France. She had mental illness and frequent psychological breakdowns, which was said. She has to take a break from music at times. When her friends and colleagues found her in appalling conditions in Paris, they helped her out. They gave her medical treatment. Schackman was a true friend for helping Nina Simone out. She was able for periods to continue performing both in Europe and occasionally in the US. She made many live performances in the early 1990’s. After being treated for breast cancer for a number of years, she died at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France, near Marseille, in April 21, 2003. She passed away in her sleep. Her funeral service was attended by singers Miriam Makeba and Patti LaBelle, poet Sonia Sanchez, actor Ossie Davis, and hundreds of others. Simone's ashes were scattered in several African countries. She is survived by her daughter, Lisa Celeste Stroud, an actress and singer, who took the stage name Simone, and has appeared on Broadway in Aida. Nina Simone's life was filled with tragedy and strength. Her life was complex and long too. Nina Simone was an intellectual genius who used her music to show what was happening in the 20th century. Art must reflect the times and we must know about the social parameters of the times too. Nina Simone was an excellent musician and her music was against oppression, racism, and injustice.

RIP Sister Nina Simone.

By Timothy

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