Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BLACK ACHIEVEMENTS: Milestone - Cheryl Boone Isaacs Has Been Elected The First African-American President Of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences!

July 31, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the group which awards the Oscars each year, has elected its first African-American president.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs was elected by the board of governors to lead the Academy on Tuesday night, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Boone Isaacs, a veteran marketing executive who currently heads CBI Enterprises, is only the third woman to lead the 86-year-old Academy. The first two female presidents were actress Bette Davis and screenwriter Fay Kanin.

Boone Isaacs has previously served as president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema and executive vice president of worldwide publicity at Paramount Pictures. Earlier this year, she produced the 4th annual Governors Awards for the Academy.

Boone Isaacs will replace Hawk Koch, a producer who left the board because of term limits. According to Entertainment Weekly, one of her first jobs will be to select a host for the March 2 Oscar telecast.

The Academy has traditionally been overwhelmingly white and male. A study by the Los Angeles Times in 2012 found that Oscar voters were nearly 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. In the past year, the organization has been expanding to include more women and film professionals from various backgrounds. Current membership now stands at 6,000. - Huffington Post.

EUROPEAN RACISM: The Vein Of Xenophobia - Bananas Thrown At Italy's First Black Minister Cecile Kyenge!

July 31, 2013 - ITALY - Racist taunts against Italy's first black minister, Cecile Kyenge, took another ugly turn over the weekend when someone hurled bananas at her during a rally.

Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge -- pictured in June -- is Italy's first black government minister.

Kyenge's appointment as Italy's minister of integration three months ago isn't sitting well with right-wing radicals whose racial slurs and antics have overshadowed her tenure.

The banana incident is just the latest.

It took place Friday in Cervia, where Kyenge was speaking to supporters. A man popped up out of the crowd and launched two bananas toward the podium, Kyenge spokesman Cosimo Torlo said.

The bananas fell short of the stage, landing between the first and second row of spectators.

Giancarlo Mazzuca, chief editor of the daily newspaper Il Giorno, was sitting two chairs away from Kyenge.
"I was able to verify which levels can be reached by human stupidity," he wrote in a column.

Police haven't found the person who hurled the bananas. There will be increased security around the minister, Torlo said.

Kyenge shrugged off the episode -- as she has with the other incidents.

In a Twitter post
, she called it a sad waste of food when so many people are dying of hunger.

Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved to Italy in the 1980s to study medicine. She became an Italian citizen and is an ophthalmologist in Modena.

While her ascent to a top government position reflects the success of immigrants, it also has stoked nativism.

Ominous mannequins

Just before Kyenge arrived for Friday's rally, a group smeared blood-red paint and anti-immigrant messages onto mannequins.

"Immigration kills," read signs attached to the dummies.

The far-right political group Forza Nuova ("New Force") claimed responsibility for the mannequins.

The scene was also littered with fliers that said Italy's future growth depends on "protecting the Italian identity," according to the ANSA news agency.

Insults from other politicians

Two weeks ago, Italian Sen. Roberto Calderoli likened Kyenge to an orangutan. Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League party, made the remarks at a political rally.

"I love animals -- bears and wolves, as everyone knows -- but when I see the pictures of Kyenge, I cannot but think of, even if I'm not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan," he was quoted as saying.

After his comments were published, Calderoli said "if I've offended her, I apologize."

WATCH: Bananas thrown at Italy's first black minister Cecile Kyenge.

"It was a joke, a comment in a joking way. There was nothing particularly against her," he said. "It was just my impression. ... It is all very well that she be a minister but in her own country. Given that this government needs to govern Italy, I hope that it is done by Italians."

Kyenge responded diplomatically, saying Calderoli "does not need to ask forgiveness to me, but he should rather reflect on the political and institutional role that he carries. It is on this that he needs to make a profound reflection also to then apologize."

She added, "Also, he must go beyond putting everything on a personal level. I think the time has come for us to study the problem of communication."

Death threats

Kyenge has also received death threats before visiting an area where the Northern League is powerful.
A local politician recently said on Facebook that Kyenge should be raped so she can understand the pain felt by victims of crime, which some politicians blame on immigrants.

She's been called a "Congolese monkey," "Zulu" and "the black anti-Italian." One Northern League official said "she seems like a great housekeeper" but "not a government minister."

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta appealed to Northern League leader Roberto Maroni to "close this chapter right away."

Tensions over immigrants

Italy has been experiencing its highest level of unemployment in more than 20 years.

In tough times, some Italians focus their anger on immigrants, Mazzuca, the newspaper editor, told CNN.

"The economic crisis is worsening the situation," he said. "Jobs that until a few years ago wouldn't have even been considered by Italians are now becoming precious."

There have recently been more and more reports of Italians beating foreigners, particularly street vendors, Mazzuca said.

He said doesn't believe that Italians generally are racists and hopes Kyenge will be able to ease racial tensions.

"I really think that Kyenge is the right person in the right place," he said. "As an eye doctor, she is able to see in the distance." - CNN.

ANCESTRAL LEGACY: Africa Umoja - Street Children Turn Stage Stars To Celebrate The Evolution Of South African History And Culture!

"If you don't know where you come from, how do you know where you're going?" - Joe Theron, producer, Africa Umoja.

July 31, 2013 - UNITED STATES - "Heal those people with your music, your movements within your souls." It's a powerful piece of advice that Todd Twala, co-founder of "Africa Umoja: Spirit of Togetherness," gives to her cast backstage before their opening show in Atlanta, the second city on their first tour in the United States.

Cultural heritage is the show's overarching theme, and its creators aim to pay homage
to those who have struggled before them.

Africa Umoja is a celebration of the evolution of South African culture through its history of music and dance. Sharing the joy that comes with overcoming obstacles of poverty in their own lives, the cast, which includes former street children, moves its audiences with explosive energy, earth-shaking beats and endless fun.

The show celebrates lives of freedom, and encourages people to move past their differences with love. Joe Theron, one of its producers, describes the show as one that "intertwines all of the hardships South Africa faced, like apartheid, in a manner where you will never feel oppressed. It's uplifting. Even in hard times there is always laughter."

Africa Umoja was originally conceived in 1983 as an outreach program that took displaced and impoverished South African children off the streets. Twala and co-founder Thembi Nyandeni retired from dancing professionally in order to create the project. It began as a course teaching children (who later became the show's original cast) how to sing and dance in traditional ways.

The show celebrates South Africa's rich musical history through a variety of song and dance genres.

Through her training, Twala reminds them to persevere through hardship and "never, ever give up on life."

Thabo Legae, the show's lead drummer, is just one example of Twala's encouragement. He says that his career with Umoja "saved" him from the potential danger that comes with street life, making him a role model for children to make something of themselves, and be grateful for their rich African history.

"Music is life to us," says Legae. He says playing the drums is a skill he inherited. "I feel like my ancestors are talking to me when I play them."

With the beat of his drum, he and the cast take audiences through the evolution of their culture, highlighting multiple milestones in South African history. The show begins with the early days of the drum, with tribal dancers wearing traditional skins, leathers and furs.

Africa Umoja is a crowd-pleasing musical stage show, featuring traditional song and dance. It began life in 1983
as an outreach project designed to take impoverished South African children off the streets.

It continues through the oppressive chaos of apartheid in Johannesburg, as adults retreat to dancing in crowded speakeasies, filled with jazz. As times change, the cast reveals the evolution through the post-apartheid era with remnants of the rhythmic tribal sounds in the beats of contemporary urban "Kwaito" music.

Twala says music kept people in South Africa motivated during difficult times. "It was through music that we kept sane during the apartheid so that we could express ourselves through our bodies and our voices."

She says the beat of the drum is vital part of their culture's unity: "The drum is our heartbeat in Africa. I can't imagine African people without a drum, its beat reminds us that our hearts beat as one."

Africa Umoja has toured nearly 50 countries since 2001, and recently began its first tour of the United States.

Having toured close to 50 countries since 2001, Africa Umoja has jumped into new territory after being sponsored by the International Arts Foundation to embark on its tour of the United States.

The crowd-pleasing authenticity of each song at the Atlanta show was indicative of how almost anyone can relate to the emotions that come with their sounds. Every song was representative of the diverse ethnicities in South Africa, and featured about nine different languages.

Ancestral legacy is a prominent theme in the show. Theron reflects on how the history of many cultures is often neglected and should not be forgotten. "As the saying goes: 'If you don't know where you come from, how do you know where you're going?'" he says.

By paying homage to those who have struggled before them, Twala has shaped the theme of the show around keeping their stories alive, helping younger generations to learn about their roots and how their lives have been shaped today.

Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni (pictured) are former professional dancers who retired in order to create the troupe.

She reminds her cast that their success could not be achieved without struggle. "They should never forget that somebody sacrificed so that you can get where you are today ... Mandela went through hell and back for us. I wouldn't have this show if Mandela didn't sacrifice himself for our freedom."

There is a scene dedicated to Nelson Mandela and his work during the apartheid era. "Long Road to Freedom" is a song written specifically for the show, in his honor.

Umoja opened its show in Atlanta on July 18 -- Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday. Even though the cast have performed for the former South African president in the past, they agree it was a "special day" they will never forget.

The standing ovations were evidence that any experience with Umoja will be unforgettable as they continue to lift spirits and share their joy with one city at a time. - CNN.

INSIDE AFRICA: Will Fences Save Africa's Lion King - Humans Are Pushing Lions To The Brink Of Extinction?

July 31, 2013 - AFRICA - The world's remaining lions are in trouble. There are simply too many humans hungry for the same land the majestic cats roam. The more the human population grows, the more the lion population plummets. Only fences can keep one species from killing the other, according to a leading lion researcher.

In the August 2013 issue of National Geographic, photographer Michael Nichols documents the tenuous
life of C-Boy, a lion on the Serengeti. Often, the No. 1 enemy of a lion is another lion. C-Boy
confronts that peril on a daily, and nightly, basis.

In fenced reserves such as South Africa's Kruger National Park, which is as large as the state of New Jersey, "the population of lions is doing just fine," Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, told NBC News from his research site in Tanzania.

"However, that is just a small proportion of the total African population of lions. The vast majority of lions live in unfenced reserves and … the trends are pretty disturbing," he added.

Counting lions is notoriously difficult work. Current best estimates put the African population at around 35,000. Nearly half of the known populations in unfenced areas are declining to the point that within 20 to 30 years, they will be just 10 percent of their potential population, Packer said.

Humans pushing lions to the brink

The reasons for the lion decline are many, most driven by humans, the researcher noted. The biggest is conversion of suitable lion habitat to farm land to support a human population that is projected to quadruple in Africa by the end of this century.

There's also a rise in human-lion conflict. "Lions kill cattle and eat people and people don't like that so there are a lot of retaliatory killings," Packer explained. The killings used to be done with spears and bows and arrows. Today poisoning is ubiquitous, he said.

Older cubs like these Vumbi youngsters are raised together as a crèche, or nursery group. Pride females, united in the
cause of rearing a generation, nurse and groom their own and others’ offspring. This portrait of a pride is part of a
National Geographic feature on lion conservation on the Serengeti.

Other factors behind the loss of lions include poorly managed trophy hunting and the bushmeat trade, which robs lions of their prey and often leads to lions inadvertently getting caught in traps.

Efforts to promote coexistence between humans and lions such as the Laikipia Predator Project in Kenya have met small-scale success, Packer said, but large-scale lion conservation will only come by raising the funds to fence them in.

Wakeup call
He knows that the concept of fences goes against the romantic vision of untrammeled landscapes where wildlife roams free. And, in some places, chain-link barriers are inappropriate, he said.

David Quammen writes in the August issue of National Geographic Magazine that even Packer "wouldn't put a fence across any valuable route of wildlife dispersal or migration."

But without the fences around large portions of the remaining lion populations, combined with funding for patrols and repairs, the future of the majestic cats is grim, Packer said.

"I'm just trying to encourage people to wake up," he told NBC News. "The future is now. The challenges are enormous. And if we don't start thinking about finding a way to fence these areas, there will be more and more habitat loss."

Notes: The August issue of National Geographic Magazine features a 50-page spread on lions, including two articles written by David Quammen and images from wildlife photographer Nick Nichols.

- NBC News.

THE MOTHERLAND: News Out Of Africa - Zimbabwe Votes In Presidential Election; Robert Mugabe Vows To Step Down If Defeated By Morgan Tsvangirai!

July 31, 2013 - ZIMBABWE - Long queues have formed at polling stations in Zimbabwe as people vote in fiercely contested elections which have already been hit by fraud allegations.

President Robert Mugabe, 89, has said he will step down after 33 years in power if he and his Zanu-PF party lose.

Zimbabweans are voting in fiercely contested presidential and parliamentary elections. These voters queued
up in the capital, Harare, before polls opened. It is winter in Zimbabwe, so the mornings are chilly.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has accused Zanu-PF of doctoring the electoral roll, a charge it has denied.

Campaigning for the presidential and parliamentary poll was mostly peaceful.

Zanu-PF and the MDC have shared an uneasy coalition government since 2009 under a deal brokered to end the deadly violence that erupted after a disputed presidential poll the previous year.

'Determined to vote'

Mr Mugabe dismissed the MDC's allegations of vote-rigging as "politicking" as he voted in the capital Harare's Highfield township, AFP news agency reports.

"They want to find a way out," Mr Mugabe said.

"I am sure people will vote freely and fairly, there is no pressure being exerted on anyone."

Mr Tsvangirai described casting his ballot as an emotional moment "after all the conflict, the stalemate, the suspicion, the hostility".

WATCH: Zimbabweans vote amid heavy security.

"This is a very historic moment for us," he is quoted by AFP as saying.

Mr Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round of the 2008 poll, but pulled out of the run-off with Mr Mugabe because of attacks on his supporters, which left about 200 dead.

The government has barred Western observers from monitoring Wednesday's elections, but the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), as well as local organisations, have been accredited.

Polls opened at 07:00 local time (05:00 GMT) and are due to close at 17:00 GMT.

The turnout is expected to be high among the 6.4 million people registered to vote, with tens of thousands attending rallies in recent weeks. Results are due within five days.

Wednesday has been declared a national holiday to ensure people can vote. Despite this, voters queued for several hours outside polling stations before they opened, reports the BBC's Nomsa Maseko in Harare.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network, the main domestic monitoring agency, said the vote appeared to be taking place without too many problems, Reuters news agency reports.

"There are some concerns around long queues, but generally, it's smooth," said its spokesman Thabani Nyoni.

Former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, who heads a group of African Union monitors, said the elections seemed credible.

"It's been quiet, it's been orderly. The first place I called in this morning, they opened prompt at seven o'clock and there haven't been any serious incidents that... would not reflect the will of the people." he told Reuters news agency.

"I got up at four but still couldn't get the first position in the line," Clifford Chasakara, a voter in the western province of Manicaland, told the Reuters.

"My fingers are numb, but I'm sure I can mark the ballot all the same. I'm determined to vote and have my vote counted."


Sixty-one-year-old Mr Tsvangirai has vowed to push Mr Mugabe into retirement; it is his third attempt to unseat him.

On Tuesday, the MDC accused Zanu-PF of doctoring the roll of registered voters, which was released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) only on the eve of the polls after weeks of delay.

The MDC claimed the roll dated back to 1985 and was full of anomalies.

WATCH: Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow reports from Zimbabwe.

A BBC correspondent has seen the document and says it features the names of thousands of dead people. He says many names with the same address appear two or three times.

A Zanu-PF spokesman denied the allegations and pointed out that appointees from both parties were on Zec. He also accused Finance Minister Tendai Biti, from the MDC, of not funding the commission properly. Zec has not commented.

In addition to Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, there are three other candidates standing for the presidency - Welshman Ncube, leader of the breakaway MDC-Mutambara; Dumiso Dabengwa of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), and Kisinoti Munodei Mukwazhe, who represents the small Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP).

WATCH: Zimbabwe - The dawn of a new era?

To be declared a winner, a presidential candidate must win more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate reaches this mark, a run-off will be held on 11 September.

The elections will be the first to be held under the new constitution approved in a referendum in March this year. - BBC.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ANCESTRAL CONVERGENCE: UFOs Rattle Villagers In Mhondoro And Chikomba Districts In Zimbabwe - Investigations Are Being Carried Out By Army Engineers And Government Officials?!

July 30, 2013 - ZIMBABWE - Villagers in parts of Mhondoro and Chikomba districts are living in fear following the recent falling of foreign objects in their area.

Illustration: F.W.

Police said they were still to ascertain the origin and type of the objects.National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said investigations were still in progress.

"Investigations are still going on at the army engineers. We do not have any conclusions yet," she said.

Minister of State Security Sydney Sekeramayi said he was still to receive a detailed report on the investigations.

"I am expecting the full report," he said.

Two objects landed in the Mhondoro area at the Zimplats Mine and at Denya Village in Mamina while one landed in Unyetu in Chikomba district. The object that landed at the Turf Village, Zimplats Mine in the Battlefields area is made of aluminium material and resembles a rocket.

It is three metres long and a has 1,8 metre diameter while the spherical objects that landed in Mamina and Unyetu were said to weigh above 10kg.

The explanations of the people in all the areas were similar despite the distance between them.

People interviewed separately confirmed they heard three loud bursts and hissing sounds that they thought were gun fire followed by jet sound.

The sounds were followed by thuds that shook the ground and were felt and heard several kilometres away.

Speculation is high that the objects could be from satellite spying on Zimbabwe with residents in the affected areas insisting that the people responsible for launching the objects should be named and made to explain.

Ms Tariro Ganye, an Early Childhood Development teacher at Denya Primary School in Mamina -- Mhondoro said the community was terrified by the noise produced by the spherical object that fell a stone throw away from the housing compounds. - All Africa.

BLACK DOCUMENTARIES: Urban Kryptonite - Uncovering Many Occult Truths Triggering The Decline In Health Of African-Americans!

July 30, 2013 - UNITED STATES - URBAN KRYPTONITE: "The Formidable Health Decline of African Diaspora Descendants Located in America” will be the first documentary of its’ kind that solely focuses on the nutritional and sociological factors that have quietly contributed to the demise in health of the Moorish People, Hebrew-Israelites, Black Muslims, Five-Percent Nation, Kemet and many other names that are associated with the so called African-Americans. 

At present there exist a great deal of bewilderment as to how we lead the country in major illnesses all the while accounting for only 12 percent of the nation’s actual population. Contrary to popular belief, enslaved Africans did not arrive to the shores of America as a sick nation.  We were conditioned to be such. The result of the mental conditioning has led us down a road of early death, disease, broken homes, incarceration and psychological complacency.

For this documentary we will be traveling around the country to speak with some of the world's foremost intellectuals, scholars and savants on health and social issues.  They will elucidate on topics such as but not limited to:
• The Mis-Education and Mental Programming process
• Maladroit Dependence on Doctors and Prescription Drugs
• Lack of general knowledge of our body parts and their functions
• The Meat, Dairy and Sugar Curse
• The use of Illicit Drugs and Alcohol as coping mechanisms
• Toxic Relationship Participation
• The Emergence of Religion and Loss of Spirituality
• Soul Food: The Survival Cuisine of those who were Enslaved 
And much more!

Our goal here is to pinpoint and share factors that are correctable by each and everyone within the African decent community.  Although the title refers to the so called African-American, this film can and should be watched by all ethnicities and backgrounds.  The topics may be directed towards American blacks but these are issues that have a profound impact on other races as well.

Preview of Urban Kryptonite.

This is an independent film that has not been financially backed by any major Hollywood movie studio.  The featured guests that we will interview in this documentary are very well known and bring with them the potential to educate millions of viewers as witnessed by their large respective fan bases.  

Our minimum funding goal is $15,000 but ideally we would like to reach $30,000.
 All monies raised through kickstarter will be used for travel expenses to multiple cities for the film crew.  Apart from travel expenses, the money will also be used for graphics, quality product manufacturing, color-correction, website creation and maintenance, high-definition filming tools, sound editing costs, audio equipment, hardware, software and general licensing for things such as footage, music, photos, etc.  These things and many more are essential to ensure that a premium project is fulfilled.

We hope that you are as excited about this project as we are.  There’s a first time for everything and we are the first to produce such a film.  We encourage you to join us as we make documentary films history!  By all means let your twitter, youtube, instagram and facebook friends know about this project.   We welcome all support.  No amount is too small. Let’s make it happen family, we need your assistance to reach this goal to get this project done! - Urban Kryptonite.

ANCESTRAL SPIRIT: The Hill - Earliest Free African-American Settlement, Uncovered In Easton, Maryland!

July 30, 2013 - UNITED STATES - In Easton, an untold story of free African-Americans is being discovered through bits of glass, shards of pottery and oyster shells.

Piece by piece, archaeologists and historians from two universities and the community are uncovering the history of The Hill, which they believe is the earliest settlement of free African-Americans in the United States, dating to 1790.

Treme, in New Orleans, is recognized as the oldest free black community in the nation, dating to 1812. But researchers say that could change based on findings from the Easton dig.

"It's not just a black story. It's an American story," said Dale Green, a Morgan State University professor of architecture and historic preservation.

Former slaves founded such settlements, where they enjoyed early emancipation and the chance at property ownership and commerce. Slaves who had bought their freedom and others freed by Methodists and Quakers on the Eastern Shore likely formed The Hill, which historians say could have been the largest community of free blacks in the Chesapeake region.

During the first census in 1790, some 410 free African-Americans were recorded living on The Hill -- more than Baltimore's 250 free African-Americans and even more than the 346 slaves who lived at nearby Wye House Plantation, where abolitionist Frederick Douglass was enslaved as a child.

Researchers and students are in the midst of a three-week dig at one of The Hill properties, a site owned by the Talbot County Women's Club. They are working in 5-by-5-foot squares. The deeper they dig, the further back in history they go.

The first few inches reveal 20th-century artifacts -- toys, marbles, pipe stems. A little deeper, the team unearthed evidence of 19th-century life, said Stefan Woehlke, a University of Maryland graduate student who is the site's director.

Reaching into a labeled brown paper bag, he pulled out part of an olive-green glass bottle with a decorative cluster of grapes on one side. It was likely used to hold wine, Woehlke said. The technique used to make it -- hand-blown using a mold -- dates it to the late 18th or early 19th century.

Other artifacts include bits of a blue opaline glass pitcher from the 1800s and a 1-cent coin featuring Lady Liberty, dated 1794.

More importantly, researchers have found evidence of making nails and raising chickens on the land -- activities far more likely to have been carried out by free blacks who lived on the land than by the property owner.

"It's piecing together all of the evidence," Woehlke said.

Free African-Americans in Easton lived alongside white families, according to Green, who is working with the University of Maryland's Mark Leone on The Hill project.

In 1790, the property belonged to James Price, a white man who was the register of wills. The census recorded Price and three free African-Americans living on the property, though it lacked detail about the African-Americans.

As promising as the excavations on The Hill are -- especially combined with document research and oral histories -- researchers say they're only scratching the surface.

"It's sort of piecing together a puzzle, but you don't have all the pieces," Woehlke said.

The team has committed to spending at least five more years working at The Hill.

Since the dig began at the Price property, more than 500 people have visited on organized tours or have wandered in after seeing "public archaeology excavation" signs posted around the block.

Priscilla Morris, whose family has roots in Easton dating to the 1600s, is a regular visitor to the site. A member of the nearby historic Third Haven Friends Meeting, she's intrigued by the role Quakers and Methodists played in freeing their own slaves and advocating for an end to slavery well before the Civil War.

"It's thrilling because we suspected there was something here we didn't understand," Morris said.

Most written histories skip over the experiences of free African-Americans, said Morris, who has studied the local lore, including Douglass' life.

"It was really the plantation economy telling the story," she said. "Nobody ever told us there was this extraordinary, large, free community."

Green said the work on The Hill could change the way American history is told. There's a significant gap where the story of free blacks is overlooked, he said.

There are ambitious plans to get the word out about The Hill, including dissertations from graduate students working on the project, permanent and traveling museum exhibits, updated tourism initiatives and even a screenplay that's being financed by a local business owner.

The Hill already is part of the National Register of Historic Places that includes Easton's historic district, but that listing will be revised to include information about the African-American history. "So when you read it, it's not just about white Easton," Green said.

WATCH: Earliest Free African-American Settlement, Uncovered In Easton.

All told, about 75 researchers and students -- from institutions including the University of Maryland, Morgan State, Historic Easton Inc. and local groups -- are contributing to The Hill project.

Tracy Jenkins, a graduate student in archaeology at the University of Maryland, plans to write his dissertation on The Hill. He said the Easton community's interest and warm reception has been encouraging and unusual.

"That doesn't happen so much in archaeology. Sometimes, archaeologists are digging off in a cornfield somewhere," Jenkins said.

At The Hill, in the middle of town, researchers and residents are building a bond, he said. Jenkins hopes to tell that story in a dissertation that matters, not one that "sits on a shelf."

"I like the opportunity to tell stories that haven't been told," he said. - Baltimore Sun.

EUROPEAN RACISM: In Pursuit Of Justice - Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's Mother, Continues Fight To Repeal 'Stand Your Ground' Law!

July 30, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin joined a prominent African-American lawyers organization in vowing Monday to keep the pressure on legislators to repeal or overhaul "stand your ground" self-defense laws.

Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, continues her fight against Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.

Sybrina Fulton repeated her assertion that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman "got away with murder" in the 2012 killing of her son largely because of Florida's self-defense law, which generally removed a person's duty to retreat if possible in the face of danger. It was the first of its kind in the nation when passed in 2005. Now, about two dozen states have similar laws, but the focus of repeal efforts is squarely on Florida.

"We have to change the law so that this doesn't happen to someone else's child," Fulton told reporters at the National Bar Association's annual meeting. "My son wasn't doing anything wrong. He was simply walking home. He wasn't a suspect."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has rejected calls for a special legislative session on "stand your ground" from protesters who have been occupying part of the Capitol in Tallahassee since Zimmerman was acquitted earlier this month by a jury in Sanford. Zimmerman claimed self-defense in shooting the 17-year-old Martin during a fight; Martin's supporters say Zimmerman profiled and followed him because Martin was black.

Senate President Don Gaetz, also a Republican, said Monday he agrees with Scott that there is no need for a special session. Gaetz said there is little agreement on whether change is needed to the "stand your ground" law and that voters have a chance in the 2014 elections to make their views known.

"If people want to change the policymakers, if they want to change the policies, that's why we have elections," he said.

Part of the message of Monday's event was just that: urging people to register to vote and contribute to sympathetic politicians if they want such laws repealed. The organization's president, John Page, also said the legal system needs to do more to ensure that racially balanced juries are chosen.

"We need to raise our voices together and say, `Enough,'" Page said. "This should be the first state where `stand your ground' falls. And it will fall."

Although he was not part of the event, the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared as a spectator and later told reporters that the "stand your ground" law reminded him of past laws that prevented blacks from sitting at the front of buses. Such an ordinance sparked the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 that was key to the civil rights movement – which did not focus just on the bus drivers, but on ending the law itself, he said.

Because Zimmerman's trial was not focused on race, Jackson added, it "did not have a foundation based on reality. We're not looking for a fight. We're looking for a solution."

The Justice Department is investigating whether Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic, may have committed a hate crime in killing Martin. Legal experts say it would be a difficult charge to bring because no evidence has surfaced indicating Zimmerman singled out Martin because he was black or that he harbored racial bias. - Huffington Post.

ANCESTRAL SPIRIT: Reviving The Memory - Archaeologists Find 3,000 African-American Graves Buried Beneath Philadelphia Playground!

July 30, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Underneath the swing sets of an urban playground in the Queen Village neighborhood of South Philadelphia are the forgotten remains of an estimated 3,000 African-Americans. This week, a team of archaeologists broke the asphalt in four places at Weccecoe Park, digging to a depth of 3 feet to uncover evidence of the 19th century burial site. On Thursday morning, the fourth and final trench revealed a single gravestone.

"Amelia Brown, 1819, Aged 26 years" is clearly carved into the white stone, with this epitaph:

"Whosoever live and believeth in me, though we be dead, yet shall we live."

"There is no grave shaft associated with that stone, it's just sitting loose in the fill," said Douglas Mooney, senior archaeologist for URS corporation. "It was knocked over at some point, long ago, when the cemetery was filled in in the mid-19th century. It no longer marks an actual grave. It's just a loose stone in the ground."

The gravestone is the pièce de résistance for this dig, but not the goal. Mooney and his team found evidence of many grave shafts, and stone walls representing the border of the cemetery. They have been digging to determine exactly where the cemetery limits are, and how far down. The team stopped digging several feet shy of where actual bones could be.

"It should leave a nice buffer that will ensure the cemetery will not be disturbed," said Mooney.

Burial ground once beyond city limits

Amelia Brown was likely a member of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, the oldest African-American church in the country. At the time, the late 18th century, cemeteries in Philadelphia would not accept black people.
Also at the time, the property near Fourth and Queen streets was not within Philadelphia city limits, so Mother Bethel A.M.E. bought it as a private cemetery in 1810 and used it as such until 1864.

Then the property languished, was abandoned, was used as a dump. In 1888, the property was sold to the city to pay for a new church that's still in use today. The site lay vacant a few more years until the city developed a playground on it.

By then the memory of the dead had faded smooth. Mother Bethel Church left nothing behind to mark the burial site.

"It gives us a chance to really do right," said Rev. Mark Tyler, the current head of Mother Bethel A.M.E.
"Unfortunately, like a lot of churches that start cemeteries -- because of the pressing financial issues of keeping a church going -- it ran on really hard times. It's not one of our shining examples that we're proud of.

This gives us a chance to redo history a second time."

Chance discovery and impetus for action

Historian Terry Buckalew accidentally stumbled on a mention of the cemetery while researching the 19th century civil rights activist Octavius Catto for a documentary film project. He discovered a record of Catto's wife buried at Bethel Burying Ground, a site he had never heard of.

"I said, 'I can't be smart enough to find something that nobody else knows about,'" said Buckalew.

"Any minute I expected to find a shelf full of books, or whatever. I didn't find anything."

Buckalew set about gathering as much information as he could, coming up with almost 1,500 names of the interred (and counting), estimating another 1,500 names are still out there. He intended to make all the information publicly accessible on genealogical databases, so African Americans would be able to track their lineage.

A stone unearthed at the old Mother Bethel burial site records the death of Amelia Brown, who died April 3, 1819,
and the inscription: "Whosoer lives & believeth in me thou we be dead yet shall we live."
Emma Lee |

That all changed when the city announced plans to renovate the playground, involving new trees and underground utility lines.

"There goes the tweed-jacket, leather-patched, absent-minded-professor, all-I'm-doing-is-a-project," said Buckalew. "Oh, God, I gotta be an activist."

Buckalew got in touch with the church, members of City Council, and neighborhood civic groups to present his research and urge action to preserve the graves.

This week's archaeological dig was to determine what exactly is under the asphalt, and where.

Next, all parties will set about devising a plan to properly remember what lies beneath. - NBC Philadelphia.

THE MOTHERLAND: News Out Of Africa - Will The Loser Accept The Result In Zimbabwe Elections!

July 30, 2013 - ZIMBABWE - There is, perhaps, only one question that really matters in Zimbabwe this week, as the country finally tries to move beyond the violent, disrupted elections of 2008, and the five years' worth of tortuous negotiations and snarling political stalemate that followed.

Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai have been in a power-sharing government since 2008.

Will the loser accept the result?

The answer - despite years of international mediation, an economy no longer in free-fall, a new constitution and an overwhelming public appetite for political change - appears to be veering dangerously towards a resounding "no".

In one corner, the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has already publically condemned this Wednesday's vote as "a sham", citing numerous irregularities, from an alarmingly flawed electoral roll to the enduring political bias in the security services and state media.

In the other corner, President Robert Mugabe, who calls this a "do-or-die" election and has recently threatened to have his main challenger arrested, is surrounded by hardliners who have publically stated that they would "not accept" a victory by the "Western puppet" Mr Tsvangirai under any circumstances.

The African Union election monitors are being led
by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
 So where do we go from here?

The optimists note the relative lack of violence in the run up to this election.

They point to the provisions of the new constitution and the large body of local observers determined to monitor the polling stations closely.

And they conclude that, for all the widely acknowledged irregularities, it remains possible for Zimbabwe's elections to be - if not exactly free and fair - then at least broadly representative of the public's will.

The pessimists point to an enduring climate of fear in a country where none of those responsible for the violence of 2008 have been brought to justice.

They worry about Zanu-PF's formidable reputation for getting its own way at any cost.

And they share a growing suspicion that Zimbabwe's African neighbours - taking primary international responsibility for monitoring these elections after Western observers were barred - are more interested in avoiding another political deadlock than in blowing the whistle on Mr Mugabe and his supporters for trying to steal another election.

Whichever way you look at it, though, these next few days - and if it goes to a second round, these next few weeks - are likely to be rather tense in Zimbabwe. Campaign achievements

There are many powerful figures on both sides of the steep political divide who have a great deal more than their jobs to lose.

But while the future may be uncertain, it is worth taking a little time to stand back and acknowledge President Mugabe's present achievements on the campaign trail.

Zanu-PF's platform of indigenisation has broad appeal among his supporters.

You might have thought that an 89-year-old, at the head of a divided party, in a nation that is only slowly emerging from one of the most spectacular economic collapses of modern history, would have hung up his coat and quietly slipped into retirement.

Instead, Mr Mugabe has not only stayed in the race, but - in as much as one can tell from various frustratingly inconclusive opinion polls - in the running.

His liberation-struggle credentials remain crucial, but they have been carefully woven into a clear, forcefully propagated manifesto - of indigenisation, nationalisation, and the lifting of Western sanctions - that depends heavily on the notion of a country still at war against "Western colonialism" 33 years after independence.

That notion - and the economic claims that underline it - may strike many as a little jaded, to put it mildly. But it is a message that Zanu-PF has campaigned on with conviction and energy.

Besides, Mr Mugabe has other advantages - from the furiously loyal state media and security services, to the erratic behaviour of his main rival, Mr Tsvangirai. Scandals

The last few years have not been easy ones for the former union leader.

He was brutally beaten during the 2008 campaign, and lost his wife in a road accident shortly after joining Mr Mugabe in a tense power-sharing government.

But, as Zanu-PF must surely have anticipated, the years in power have taken their toll on Mr Tsvangirai's image as a heroic outsider.

The MDC may benefit from Zimbabweans' desire for change.

Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been tainted by allegations of corruption, and his haphazard search for a new wife has produced one damaging sex scandal after another.

Just as importantly, Mr Tsvangirai's grand talk of reconciliation and nation building has been undermined by his party's failure to secure alliances and to extract meaningful reforms in parliament.

And yet, if the MDC has not been as resolute or successful as some had hoped, they have real achievements to point to - particularly in the economy and in education - within an almost unworkably obstructive unity government; and they may yet benefit from the overwhelming desire for change that now grips an increasingly urbanised, young population in Zimbabwe.

A big turnout could swamp the perceived pro-Zanu-PF bias in the controversial electoral roll.

Ultimately, for all the genuine concern about rigging and intimidation, this election could yet hinge on the unknown questions that Zimbabweans ask themselves in the privacy of the voting booth.

Frustratingly, I will not be there to cover the election. Although some of my BBC colleagues have been accredited, Zanu-PF officials have rejected my application, at least for now, citing my past reporting. - BBC.

BLACK ENTERTAINMENT: "I'm Excited To Jump Back Into It" - Arsenio Hall Returns To Late Night Television!

July 30, 2013 - HOLLYWOOD - At a panel for "The Arsenio Hall Show" during press tour, Hall (joined by executive producers Neal Kendall and John Ferriter) seemed eager to let everyone know that, though it's been almost 20 years since he left late night, he's raring to return in the late night format. While a clip of greatest moments from his old series seemed to confirm he may have been out of circulation a little too long (he promised not to bring back the massive shoulder pads from the era, unless audiences want them), he swears he's still a young whippersnapper who loves social media -- then tweets like an ADD-riddled teen to prove it.

Arsenio Hall.  Credit: CBS

Still, Hall must realize he's returning to a very different world of late night programming, right? "I'm trying to change my name to Jimmy," he joked in reference to Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. "There's a lot of competition. [Back in the '90s] I was trying to take anything that was left over on Carson's plate. But I know everybody doesn't have a late night host... There's a huge audience out there that doesn't have a late night show... You don't have to go after Chelsea's fans or Leno's fans to be in the game."

He may be older, but Hall promises that other than having less hair and different clothes, he's "kind of the same guy, put into a whole [new] generation of talent and new opportunities."

Lest anyone not believe him, Hall said, "I'm really into social media. I love it. I watch Fallon use it brilliantly with the yodel bit on the roof... Mr. Leno and Letterman, from my generation, [they're] not into it at all, but Leno's number one. They're getting to the top in their own unique ways. I'm more in the Fallon mode. I love the digital world. Do you realize, Debbie Gibson sent me a fax? She'd drawn a picture of herself holding a mic saying 'Mr. Hall I'd like to appear on your show.' I remember Barbra Streisand called me with a Bill Clinton question. Now. you tweet. I'm excited to jump back into it. When you write a joke, you can Google [research]... It used to be we'd go through a file cabinet. I can't wait to write jokes in this digital world!"

After mentioning highlights from his previous show guaranteed to make anyone who remembers them feel old (Bill Clinton playing the sax and Magic Johnson announcing his AIDS diagnosis), he talked about winning "The Celebrity Apprentice" on NBC. "I've never been a champion in the world of sports, so [it was the] closest moment to have a victory... I've been number two in everything I've done, and to win felt really good."

Explaining that he'd previously passed on doing the show, he said the death of his cousin from AIDS changed his mind. "Magic is so healthy and having a great time. Sometimes you forget the mission when your friend is cool. I've gotten a little lazy in my mission. When my cousin died, it was a wake-up call. It was time to do 'Apprentice,' and I knew exactly who I was playing for."

He also mentioned he knew exactly who to ask for advice -- previous winner Piers Morgan. His tip? "Read everything Donald [Trump] wrote. "Jay helped me find an apartment; he taught me how to ride a motorcycle... [then] we'd be calling each other and battling, and that lasted a couple weeks," Hall said, mentioning that Leno tried to steal employees from him. "I was battling with the competitor who doesn't want to lose. I get it. I think as far as people's personal feelings about him, he and Dave [Letterman] go way, way back to before me. But I think when you're trying to win, it's easy to do things so competitive your competitors see you as the enemy."

Hall talked about his slow, methodical attempts to get back into the public eye before launching the talk show, appearing on everything from "Tosh.0" to writing articles for Newsweek. Still, he said, "It's important to me not to do a Similac joke just because I'm going for a young audience."

So far, Hall says he's been met with a surprisingly warm welcome. Leno has recommended writers, and Kimmel was one of the stars who donated funds to him during "Celebrity Apprentice. "When you talk about the competition thing, everyone's being real nice to me."

But why come back now? After all, Hall left late night because he wanted to, not because he was canceled. "Leaving and not being canceled, yeah, I did good... I chose to work on my relationship and make a child. My son's thirteen now, and he's having me drop him off a block from the movie theater, and that's usually a sign you can go back to work." - Hit Fix.

THE MOTHERLAND: News Out Of Africa - Nelson Mandela Court Case Delayed After Ayob Withdraws!

"Why wait until the sponsor of a trust is not well to question decisions that he made [a] long time ago?” - Mandla Mandela, Nelson Mandela's grandson.

July 30, 2013 - SOUTH AFRICA - A court case aimed at ousting ex-South African president Nelson Mandela's aides from two companies he set up has been delayed, a law firm has said.

A judge took the decision after lawyer Ismail Ayob, acting for Mr Mandela's daughters, withdrew from the case.

Nelson Mandela was admitted to hospital in June with a lung infection.

The women were trying to gain control of the companies, said to be worth about $1.7m (£1.1m).

Mr Mandela's grandson Mandla accused them of trying to "loot" the 95-year-old ex-president's wealth.

Mr Mandela has been seriously ill in hospital since 8 June.

He spent 27 years in prison for fighting white supremacist rule in South Africa and became its first democratically elected president in 1994.

He stepped down from office five years later.

'Blatant abuse'
In April, two of his daughters, Makaziwe and Zenani, brought court action to oust prominent human rights lawyer George Bizos, ex-Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale and lawyer Bally Chuene as directors of two of Mr Mandela's firms, Harmonieux Investment Holdings and Magnifique Investment Holdings.

The three had never been appointed to serve on the board of the companies, and had rejected requests to resign, Makaziwe and Zenani said.

The case was due to be heard on Monday, but was stuck off from the court roll because of Mr Ayob's withdrawal, said a spokeswoman for Norton Rose Fulbright, the legal firm representing the defendants.

"Once they've appointed new legal representation... they must inform the judge and he will put it on the roll again," the spokeswoman added, AFP news agency reports.

It is not clear why Mr Ayob - a close friend of Mr Mandela before falling out with him in 2004 - withdrew from the case.

Mandla Mandela said his relatives had engaged in a "blatant abuse of the elderly" by bringing the case.

"Why wait until the sponsor of a trust is not well to question decisions that he made [a] long time ago?" he asked.

Mr Mandela had "carefully set out" how his wealth "must benefit the family and who must guide decisions relating to that", Mandla Mandela said.

Mr Bizos, Mr Sexwale and Mr Chuene were men of integrity who had always had his grandfather's confidence, he added.

In April, Mr Bizos accused Mr Mandela's daughters of trying to "get their hands on things that should not be sold".

In July, Makaziwe and 15 other members of the Mandela family won a court case against Mandla over the burial site of three of the ex-president's children.

The court ruled that the three should be reburied in Qunu village, where Mr Mandela is expected to be buried.

Mandla was accused of unlawfully moving the remains in 2011 from Qunu to Mvezo, where he was the local chief, in the hope of influencing the burial place of Mr Mandela. - BBC.

Monday, July 29, 2013

BLACK AMERICA: 50 Years After The March On Washington - Is Black America Free?!

July 29, 2013 - UNITED STATES - “Free in 63.” In the late 1950s, that phrase could be heard among any gathering of black activists and civil rights leaders working tirelessly toward the cause of equality in America. It also became the rallying cry that helped bring more than 250,000 people to the U.S. capital in one of the country’s landmark demonstrations, the March On Washington.

Fifty years later, by most quantifiable measurements, Black America is still not free. Although they make up only 13 percent of the population, African-Americans make up 38 percent of the United States' prison population. Almost 30 percent of blacks live in poverty, and 18 percent under 65-years-old lack health insurance coverage. At 13.7 percent, blacks bear a disproportionate share of the unemployment burden, and with only 13 percent pursuing higher education, they make up a small sect of the country’s educated elite.

Faced with numbers like this, can Black America truly be considered free in 2013? It depends on whom you ask.

Brian Shields, a 29-year-old black entrepreneur who managed to rise above the challenges faced by so many African-American men, takes issue with being told he’s “still not free.”

“It’s a mental freedom,” he told The Huffington Post. “Do I see the chain? Yeah, I see people trying to put them on me all the time. But I’ve freed myself from them.”

Shields is just one example of the promise that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of. After graduating from the reverend’s alma mater, Morehouse College, he spent two years at Lehman Brothers working as an investment banking analyst, moving from a majority black campus environment to the old boys’ club of classic American capitalism. His shift to a private equity firm only reiterated to him that he was one of the few people of color in the finance world.

Driven by that lack of diversity and a deep desire to create intergenerational wealth, in November 2011 he co-founded IncubateNYC, a start-up firm designed to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into sustainable, revenue-generating businesses.

But as Shields’ story shows, attaining success as a black American is often challenged by both the repetitious rhetoric of failure and the reality of racial disparity. King’s words from his posthumously published book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?” ring as eerily true today as they did in 1968: “When we turn to the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share.”

This week, The Huffington Post has examined the state of Black America in a series called “Still Not Free,” looking at education, voting rights, crime, and other important policy areas relevant in the black community. What emerges is a common truth: While Black America has taken some important steps forward, its position in the country still lags behind where King and others dreamed it would have been five decades after they marched on the nation's capital.

If statistics alone tell the story of African-Americans in 2013 there would be nothing to see beyond a stagnant job market, a widening health gap, disproportionately high violent crime and incarceration rates, the denial of voting rights, and a lack of access to adequate education. It’s a bleak picture of an America where it seems more doors are being closed than opened.

But the weight of that hindrance is a heavy burden to bear, and one that many young blacks like Shields are taking off their shoulders. Instead, they’re taking advantage of opportunities they were once denied, often using technology to create a new form of activism that builds off of the triumphs of the civil rights movement and carries the torch forward as the community and country continue its journey toward a more perfect union.

'It Takes Both Hands'

In 1955, it took the murder and kidnapping of a young black teenager to stir the country out of its apathy. Emmett Till's death, and the subsequent acquittal of his killers, hardened the resolve of individuals and organizations who'd been fighting for a more equal America for decades.

“I picked up a Jet Magazine in 1955, and there was this grotesque brutalized head, Emmett Till. When I saw that … I said to myself when I grow up, I’m going to make sure that I fight against anything that’s done to treat people wrong because they’re different,” Amos Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church in San Francisco told The Huffington Post. After seeing that image, he held numerous sit-ins with civil rights activist Medgar Evers and eventually became Youth Coordinator for the NAACP.

In the post-Emmett Till 1950s, organizations like that one, the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the National Urban League and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) worked to build a coalition of support and activism. That activism led to the landmark demonstration in Washington that came to epitomize the fierce urgency of the civil rights movement and helped bring about one of the most transformative decades in American history, in which both the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 were signed into law.

Fifty years later, America finds itself in a similarly tense moment on race relations. As the U.S. Supreme Court stripped down parts of the Voting Rights Act, and as states pushed for voter ID laws reminiscent of those enacted during Reconstruction, the shooting of an unarmed black teen and the acquittal of his admitted killer once again inspired thousands of citizens to gather in largely peaceful, coordinated, mass protests across the nation.

Although seemingly similar to the political fervor that followed Till’s killing, today’s response to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin has one thing early civil rights leaders lacked: the Internet. Technology has driven a new form of engagement, galvanizing the activist spirit of the past, quickly spreading information, and in many cases, affecting meaningful change.

As the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, has used email, and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to encourage action in response to a number of recent, important civil rights battles. From championing for six young men of color accused of felonious assault after a racially charged altercation by starting an online petition asking the lieutenant governor of Louisiana to halt their prosecution, to petitioning Fox News to fire controversial conservative host Glenn Beck, Color of Change fights battles both big and small.

One of its most important campaigns recently, according to the organization’s executive director, Rashad Robinson, has been to persuade 52 corporations and public service organizations to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC, a not-for-profit organization composed of legislators, foundations and businesses, puts together model policies aimed at promoting limited government intervention and free markets.

“ALEC is the organization behind both discriminatory voter ID laws and ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws. We’ve led a campaign taking on corporations ranging from Walmart to McDonald’s, to Kraft, to Pepsi to Coke ... telling them that they couldn’t come for black folks’ money by day and try to take away our vote, or make us unsafe by night,” Robinson told The Huffington Post.

Being “quick and nimble,” pivoting off of moments that capture the national spotlight, and using that energy to address the policy that causes them is the formula to the organization’s success, Robinson said.

“Right now, as people all around the country are looking at what they can do, are outraged around what happened in Sanford [Fla.] with this [Zimmerman] verdict, we’re pivoting to ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws with this idea that, from a long-term perspective, we want to push for something systemic, not just for Trayvon and his family, but for all the Trayvons we don’t know.”

Similarly, the NAACP used the Internet to encourage federal action after Zimmerman’s acquittal. The organization’s petition urging the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether or not Martin’s civil rights were violated garnered over 1 million signatures, a testament to the strength of technological activism.

“The Internet has both helped and challenged that education,” NAACP Sr. Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Hilary Shelton told The Huffington Post. “Social media has now made it a lot more cost effective and affordable for us to share information with people.”

Twitter, the micro-sharing social media site with over 200 million monthly users, has become a major medium for change, particularly for people of color. “Black Twitter,” the adopted name used to describe both African-Americans’ over-indexing use of the social network and the distinctly different ways the community interacts on the site, has proven to be a particularly effective avenue of protest.

Most recently, a furor erupted on the site after news broke that one of the six women whose not-guilty vote set Zimmerman free, referred to only as Juror B37, was exploring a potential book deal based on her participation in the case. Within hours, users found the username of the literary agent planning to represent the juror, started a petition, and managed to have the offer of representation rescinded.

This is just one of many examples of Black Twitter's victories. Rappers Lil Wayne and Rick Ross lost lucrative endorsements after protests on the network began in response to their controversial lyrics. Paula Deen, the well-known Food Network chef was fired after reports of racist comments began making their way around the internet--fueled in large part by the trending topic “Paula’s Best Dishes.”

But Dr. Amos Brown cautions against relying too heavily on protests based solely behind the keyboard. Instead he encourages a partnership between those who have the experience of organizing the mass demonstrations of the past and those who are digitally savvy enough to lead the modern-day movements of the future.

“We must keep in mind that there’s a digital divide in Black America,” he said. “It’s not either or, it takes both hands.”

'The Promised Land’

In 2008, the United States elected Barack Obama as its 44th president, representing for so many the shattering of the glass ceiling of racism that had impeded the progress of Black America since the first slaves had been brought to the country’s shores. A black man ascending to the nation’s highest office was indicative of the shifting impact of race on the American experiment. Obama—and by extension, Black America—had reached the mountaintop.

But two years into his historical first term, partisan gridlock set in, halting the progress of the black agenda.

“In 2010, we stopped paying attention,” Shelton told The Huffington Post. “We did what we thought we were supposed to do, as African-Americans, we elected an African-American president that reflected our values. But our agenda stopped being pushed.”

Three years later, the verdict in the Zimmerman trial has provided an important moment of reflection for the nation. Where, exactly, is Black America? How far has America itself really come? The answer, of course, defies an easy answer.

On one end of the spectrum, there are the Obamas and the Brian Shields -- African-Americans living out the legacy of Martin Luther King. On the other end, there are the Trayvon Martins and Emmett Tills -- blacks whose lives and untimely deaths highlight the centuries-old fight for equality in America and remind us that the battle has not yet been won.

“The most unfortunate thing about the verdict was it reminded me to think twice about the things I do,” Shields said. “So if I walk into a boardroom and pitch something, it gave me a second thought of ‘how are they gonna see me?’ ‘Who’s gonna see themselves in me?’”

‘I May Not Get There With You’

Although quantifying Black America’s success is a natural compulsion upon reaching such a milestone anniversary as 50 years since the March On Washington, it must also be placed in context, Shelton urged. Many of the demonstrations of the 50s and 60s were about establishing ways to implement and enforce laws that had passed decades prior, like the 15th amendment.

“Don’t forget the Voting Rights Act of ‘64 actually just codified the equal protections laws of the constitution,” Shelton said. “What was missing was infrastructure providing some enforcement and oversight to see to its implementation. I think that we keep learning what we actually need.”

If the Zimmerman verdict forced the nation to reflect, it simultaneously served as a bitter reminder that the journey toward equality is more of a marathon than a short race, advice King offered in his Mountaintop speech in 1968. Standing on the shoulders of generations past and using their wisdom, knowledge and experience to push forward, celebrating the summits of individual success while acknowledging the struggling masses, Black America in 2013 is staring down at a perpetually distant promised land, and still climbing. - Huffington Post.

INSIDE AFRICA: The People's Struggle Against Long-Serving Authoritarian Regimes - Africa's Rocky Road To Democracy!

"Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Guinea and Malawi have made some gains as they move steadily towards democratic governance." - John Mbaku.

July 29, 2013 - AFRICA
- It is now more than 20 years since pro-democracy grassroots organizations led struggles that eventually resulted in the overthrow of long-serving authoritarian regimes in many countries in Africa.

Since the 1990s, there have been significant improvements in the transition to democratic governance in Africa. However, there have also been some major reversals.

Unfortunately, some pre-1990 incumbent leaders (for example, Paul Biya of Cameroon and Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe) remain in power, despite efforts by the opposition to unseat them.

In addition, Mali, which had made significant progress toward deepening and institutionalizing democracy, suffered major regression, first, by the capture and subsequent occupation of the northern part of the country by a group of separatist rebels, and second, by a military coup that ousted its democratically elected government.

Soldiers also intervened in Guinea-Bissau, suspended government institutions and proceeded to engage in activities that seriously undermined the rule of law. Meanwhile, violent mobilization by ethnic and religious groups continue to negatively impact governance in Nigeria, Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda, and Madagascar.

The failure of national institutions to grant adequate protection to individual liberties continues to plague countries such as The Gambia, where a U.N report says several prison inmates were executed last year without due process of law, and South Africa where the police last year used deadly force against miners who were exercising their rights to strike.

Despite these setbacks, there have been significant and spectacular achievements in the continent's struggle to deepen and institutionalize democracy.

Ghana continues to lead the way. First, after the country's president, John Atta Mills, died in office in July 2012, he was succeeded, as required by the constitution, by the country's vice president, John Dramani Mahama. Second, in December 2012, the country held competitive, fair and peaceful elections, which were won by Mahama. He was subsequently sworn in as the country's president.

Finally, Ghana has also shown significant leadership in openness and transparency in government. In 2003, Ghana committed to the extractive industries transparency initiative and has since emerged as a leading example of how governments can minimize corruption in the management of public revenues from the extractive sector.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Guinea and Malawi have made some gains as they move steadily towards democratic governance.

Ivory Coast, after a violent and extremely bloody civil war, inaugurated a new president, followed by the development of new laws and institutions, especially those dealing with corruption and openness and transparency in government. In addition, the country now has a fully functioning legislative assembly, and the country's security situation, previously worsened by sectarian strife, has improved significantly.

Sierra Leone, whose institutions were destroyed by a long and brutal civil war, has seen restoration of many national institutions and a return to the rule of law. This is exemplified by the fact that the country's 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections were free, fair and peaceful and the results were accepted by the people. The winners went on to form a government which continues to rule the country in peace.

Senegal also held elections in 2012
, which resulted in the peaceful transfer of power. Since taking office, the new president, Macky Sall, has made significant efforts to improve openness and transparency in government, as well as force public officials to be accountable to the constitution and the people.

Lesotho's governance system was strengthened by successfully conducting fair and free elections, which resulted in the peaceful transfer of power. Both Malawi and Guinea saw some improvements in their governance systems -- in Guinea, opportunities for civic dialogue improved significantly and in Malawi, the death of the sitting president was not followed by bloody chaos; instead, as required by the constitution, the vice president, Joyce Banda, was inaugurated the new president.

The Arab Spring brought significant improvements to governance structures in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The tragic death of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, by self-immolation, brought about a grassroots political movement among Tunisians that effectively overthrew the country's authoritarian ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

This movement, which was subsequently nicknamed the Arab Spring, spread to Egypt and Libya, resulting in the ouster of long-serving dictatorships in those countries as well. Elections, considered fair and free, have since been held in all three countries and each now has a democratically elected government.

Nevertheless, many groups within these countries, especially those which historically have suffered exploitation and persecution at the hands of their governments (e.g., ethnic and religious minorities, and women) have expressed the fear that although these new regimes came to power through democratic elections, they are likely to reject or abandon democracy once they have had a chance to consolidate their power bases.

Already, such fears appear to be coming true in Egypt, where the new president, Mohamed Morsy, has already engaged in extra-constitutional practices to grab more power for himself.

In addition, the elected parliament was dissolved by the anachronistic supreme constitutional court, and the new constitution was hurriedly drafted and done so through a top-down, elite-driven, non-participatory process.

As a consequence, what had started as a dynamic grassroots-led program to transform Egypt's laws and institutions and produce a more effective and relevant governance architecture, has degenerated into a struggle by entrenched interests, led by Morsy and his Freedom and Justice party, to further entrench themselves politically and economically.

In Tunisia, the revolution, which since the ouster of Ben Ali had been progressing well, despite opposition from several Islamist groups, suffered significant regression following the brutal and cowardly assassination of Chokri Belaid, a secularist and staunch critic of the ruling Islamist-led government of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

Meanwhile, the brutal assassination of the U.S. ambassador and the wanton destruction of property in Benghazi, the cradle of the Libyan revolution, is indicative of a still-born transformation, one that had failed to create institutions capable of guaranteeing the rule of law in Libya.

The struggles of grassroots organizations in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are symptomatic of what needs to be done throughout Africa to deepen and institutionalize democracy.

The many individuals that participated in North Africa's grassroots revolution to replace authoritarianism with democracy are frustrated because their revolutions did not achieve their critical goals -- reconstruction and reconstitution of anachronistic and dysfunctional state systems inherited from the ancien régimes to provide legal and judicial systems that guarantee the just rule of law.

That is, laws and institutions that protect individuals' rights, including protecting all citizens from violence directed at them either by state or non-state actors, and enhance people's ability to engage in productive activities to create the wealth that they need to fight poverty and improve their living conditions.

Such laws are consistent with the provisions of the universal declaration of human rights and other international human rights instruments. These revolutions, as has been the case in other African countries, were hijacked by entrenched opportunists, whose main interest is in preserving the status quo, so that they can continue to use these anachronistic state structures to enrich themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens.

In order to advance the transition to democratic governance in Africa, as well as minimize the chances of regression, each African country must engage all its relevant stakeholder groups in state reconstruction through democratic (i.e., bottom-up, participatory, inclusive and people-driven) constitution making to produce institutional arrangements that adequately constrain civil servants and political elites, enhance the ability of each country's diverse population groups to coexist peacefully, and create economic and political environments that maximize entrepreneurial activities and the creation of wealth. - CNN.

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