Books by Kalamu ya
The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts
A Revolution of Black Poets
Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology
From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets
Our Music Is No Accident /
What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self
My Story My Song (CD)
* * * *
of the Diaspora
from PanaFest 1994
By Kalamu ya Salaam
December 16 to December 22, 1994
It was Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, one of the
sages of our time, a Nobel laureate, who once lamented,
"While America is reaching for the moon, Tanzania is
reaching for the village". This saying sums up the tragedy
not of Tanzania alone but most of Africa as well.
In his vision, Nyerere no doubt sees the
village of old where the people only scratch the surface of the
earth for their bare existence on a few headloads of produce;
where for their music, the village folks thwack the surface of
tympanic parchment upon dug-out stems for percussion, and blow
wind through wooden flute, and sing and dance with frenzied
abandon; the village where for their entertainment, the young
folks gather by moonlight at the village centre, sing, clap, and
dance; where girls of ripen age, heavily adorned with rich
beads, and baring the sexy parts of their bodies, are paraded
through the village under the Dipo or Otofo custom; the village
where little children sit under the shade of the compound tree
to learn ABC, and the elderly drink palm wine or pito.
Yea, Nyerere must be seeing the village where
the folks worship their chiefs like demigods, who decide the
destiny of every soul, and whose word must be obeyed; the chiefs
who having been adorned with riches are carried in palanquin on
festive occasions and when they die, seven heads must carry
their dead body in
his grave; the village where the farming, fishing and hunting
men and women retire to rest at night in the thatched-roofed mud
But, O, when shall we leave this village in
which we all live to where it belongs, and set our eyes towards
the moon?, Nyerere would lament.
By setting our eyes towards the moon, Nyerere
would want Africa to look forward not backward for development
Relating Nyerere's lamentation to PANAFEST and its theme "The re-emergence of African
civilisation" the crucial question one would ask is, is
this the right time in Ghana's political, social, and economic
tragedy to devote such enormous time and resources to promote
"The Re-emergence of African Civilisation" on such a
huge Panafestic scale?
Is it right to spend billions of cedis in
promoting "The Emergence of African Civilisation"
while the economy is in shambles and inflation has become the
order of the day, making life not worth living for the people,
and parents cannot pay school fees?
Is it right to spend billions of cedis to
organise PANAFEST while the people live in abject poverty, and
while our hospitals lack the basic materials and equipment to
look after the sick and the people cannot pay for the cost of
What do we benefit from the billions wasted
on PANAFEST while our young men and women roam the streets
without jobs, some of them taking to peddling dog chains.
Our educational institutions - from JSS to
the Universities - have a chilling story to tell. No classroom
accommodation, no equipment, no text-books, yet billions of
cedis have been thrown into the PANAFEST drain.
Where is the wisdom in sinking billions of
cedis in a white elephant like PANAFEST while our police force
lack vehicles, men, and even the stationery needed to establish
and maintain law and order in the community, and while the
defiled environment breeds
Can a country in need such as Ghana, begging
for money all over the world,
waste so much money on such a hopeless venture as PANAFEST just
to satisfy the appetite of a tyrant for ceremony and adulation,
and his admirers from the Diaspora?
Since, from all
indications, PANAFEST is being organized also to enable
our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora to see and
participate in "The Emergence of African Civilsation",
it is fitting to bring under focus their entire relationship,
their attitude towards Africans as brothers and sisters, and
advancement of the continent.
It is, indeed, sad that African Americans
have nothing to show the world even as a memorial to their
roots, a contribution for the development of Africa, to make the
motherland a place worth living in not for Africans alone but
for themselves as well.
It is true that although African Americans
had lived for centuries in America as slaves from Africa,
whenever they come around to Africa they are shocked to see the
backwardness of the motherland their forefathers left behind
centuries ago. Indeed, they find their social conditions far
more advanced than those of the brothers and sisters back home.
A few of them like W.E.B. Du-Bois and Marcus
Garvey, concerned with this situation, have in the past made
suggestions for the emancipation, advancement, and development
of Africa, yet these patriots met with strong rebuff from the
majority, led by the likes of Booker T. Washington and others.
So a Black Endowment Bank for Africa
Development that could have saved Africa from World Bank
imperialism in the 20th century for instance, never was.
Indeed, since the second half of this
century, there have been Black Americans of substance who could
have contributed greatly towards Africa's well-being. From Paul
Robeson, Louis Satchmo Armstrong, Bill Cosby, to Michael
Jackson; from Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Don King, to Mike Tyson;
and many others, including businessmen, fund raising shows could
have been and tournaments organised to raise billions of dollars
into an African endowment fund, but all that never was.
Interestingly, the luckiest Ghana had been
was when Farrakhan contributed 50 dollars (yes 50 dollars!) in
1992 towards an appeal for funds at the W.E.B. Du-Bois centre.
One, therefore, clearly sees the mischief done by Rawlings in
donating as much as 50,000 dollars to Priscilla Kruize and her
Heritage Museum in America!
It is indeed painful to think that Ghana
gains nothing from the camera-bearing, cap-wearing bespectacled
African Americans who are occasionally invited to take part in
festivities like PANAFEST, many of them addicted to taking
photographs of dancers, and collecting sculptural pieces and
other art works back home.
Perhaps, next time round, Ghana would need
the good services of notaries like Marva Collins, and Johnette
B. Cole, in the field of education; Toni Morrison, Alex Harley,
Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelow [sic], in the field of Arts and
Literature; Carol Moseley Braun, Jesse Jackson, Maxine Waters,
in politics; Angela Davis, Coretta Scott King, Anita Hill,
social activities; Dorothy Height, Phyllis Wallace, Oprah
Winfrey, Cardis Collins and Joan B. Johnson, in the business
fields and not singers, clowns, and clappers.
In any case, may we have the pleasure to
welcome our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora who have come
all the way to join in the fray, and the raping of the national
coffers as it is believed to serve other political ends in the
name of PANAFEST. O' what a great contribution to the cause of
the motherland. (p.
Free Press (Accra, Ghana) December 16 to December 22, 1994
* * * *
Infusion of Diaspora: Is
Continental Africa Better? (Kalamu ya Salaam)
For a number of reasons, ranging from the
negatives of our deteriorating social conditions where we live
to the positives of ethnic pride in our motherland, Africans in
the diaspora will increase our interaction with the continent.
Moreover, when we go to Africa, we will also want to bring
Africa back with us. As more and more of us go, that pool of
those who have returned and immersed ourselves into Africa's
reality will produce individuals and opportunities which will
result in serious capital investment.
As I travel around the United States, whether
traveling by car via interstate, or especially when flying
through various airports, two characteristics strike me: one,
the enormous size and level of development of the United States,
and, two, the fact that America is in no way willing, prepared
or even minimally inclined to share the resources and material
development built up in the 20th century.
Look at a small town like Baton Rouge, the
capital of Louisiana, which doesn't even register as a major
city by U.S. standards. In terms of physical infrastructure,
Baton Rouge is light years ahead of Accra, the capital of Ghana.
There are literally thousands of American cities the size of
Baton Rouge with fully functioning airports, higher educational
institutions, health and sanitation, communications and other
industrial infrastructure. Although this density of development
would be extraordinary in any other country in the world, most
of we African Americans are blissfully unaware of the immensity
and import of America's industrial infrastructure
In many, many ways, because all we really
know about industrialism is consumerism, African Americans are
unaware of what industrial development entails. We don't think
about heavy machinery manufacturing, transportation concerns,
sanitation, general utilities, medical services, and on and on.
I remember reading one of the Sandinista writers who talked
about the bewildering process of administering newly liberated
The mettle of any revolution is most severely
tested not in the armed struggle phase, but rather in the
reconstruction phase. This is where Africa needs the most help,
and this is precisely where the bulk of we African Americans are
deficient simply because we have not been in management and
skilled labor but rather traditionally we have been relegated to
being the brawn and brute strength of the American economy.
On the level of material standard of living,
we are, of course, very aware of being "better off"
than most people in the world, and especially "better
off" than Africa. Yet our "better off-ness" is
both relative and solely material rather than absolute and
social. As citizens of the U.S.A. we have some (depending on our
particular financial wherewithal) access to the "good
life" and some enjoyment of the material trappings of a
modern industrial society manifested as a so-called high
standard of living.
Yet our relationships to the wealth and means
of production, the infrastructure that makes all this possible,
is tenuous at best. Whatever access we have is generally one of
proximity or of being a "servant of the system"
(whether as Joint Chief of Staff or Supreme Court Justice does
nothing to change the ultimate reality that our participation in
the affairs of the ruling class is to serve at their pleasure
and to do their bidding).
There is a big difference between being close
to power or serving the interests of power and actually sharing
power. Indeed, when looked at in detail and on an economic
basis, those of us who live poor and Black in the inner cities
of America have a standard of living (in terms of health care,
life expectancy and other measures of social well-being) which
is amazingly similar to our brothers and sisters in major cities
throughout sub-Sahara Africa. We neither control nor produce,
and therefore are dependents in relationship to America's
industrial standard of living.
Finally, to whatever degree we are better
off, it is only in possession of material things. In terms of
social well-being, in terms of individual and collective sanity,
in terms of mental health and community, morals and ethics,
well, let's just say things ain't what they used to be for
African Americans at the end of the 20th century. Confronted by
Africa's underdevelopment in an industrial sense combined with
our own penchant for the material trappings of the so-called
good life, Africa quickly teaches the diaspora that African
Americans in general are the "whitest" Africans in the
world. Our up side is that we have greater access to
"things". Our downside is that our proximity to
American power and mores has bleached us spiritually and
My critique of African Americans allegedly
being better off than continental Africans focuses not only on
our relationship to U.S. industrial development and our adoption
of an American consciousness, but also we should focus on and
question the cost of that development -- the whole world has
suffered so that those of us in America can live as we do, even
those of us who have limited access to and share very little of
the wealth and power of America.
The recent rise of the Republican party in
America is further reinforcement that there will be no sharing
of this wealth. From coast to coast, border to border, I go into
what is left of the "Black community" and I am
saddened. While we were never in a position to compete, at
least, during the first half of the 20th century, we African
Americans were building an internal economic infrastructure.
Today, with far more political freedom, we have regressed into a
state of near peonage, into an economic serfdom which is most
accurately measured by noting deficiencies and lacks.
Those of us who try to start businesses find
ourselves severely outclassed and hampered not just by a lack of
expertise and capital, but also hampered by having to compete
with fully developed multinationals who are becoming
increasingly adroit at employing niche marketing schemes
designed to sew up the African American market. If we are to
develop and compete as a people, it just seems that there is so
very little room for growth available to us in the United
People talk about opportunity, but what kind
of opportunity do we have when we are first generation business
people going up against the major, minor and even bush leagues
of Wall Street corporations? Africa is a much more sensible and
level playing field in terms of competition and also in terms of
In African developmental terms, a $50,000
project is serious and significant. In the USA, that amount
barely qualifies as venture capital in business development.
African Americans who want to develop businesses and make
serious money, stand a much better chance at competing and
succeeding in Ghana than they do in the home of the brave and
the land of the free.
While they are not discouraging nor
overlooking the tourist dollar, at this historical moment, Ghana
is seeking African Americans to make venture capital,
developmental investments in Ghana. There is both a genuine need
and a genuine desire for an infusion of diaspora African skills
and capital. When it comes to foreign exchange, the Pan African
potential is enormous.
Some suggest that South Africa will be the
new "promised land". My particular reading is that
South Africa will see blood shed and rough times before it sees
a real improvement in the lives of African people. The White
controlled, industrial infrastructure which makes South Africa
so attractive to investors, is also the major obstacle for
indigenous African development. Although I am not a prophet, the
clash of Black expectations for a significant increase in their
standard of living versus White determination to hold on to
wealth and economic power is an obvious and unavoidable obstacle
in the path of South African national development.
Although Ghana is certainly not the only
African country which is desirous of and could benefit from an
infusion of diaspora capital and skills, psychologically, Ghana
is the most prepared to make use of the unique disaspora
configuration of foreign exchange. Some refer to this as the
The basic foundation of a large diaspora able
to offer capital and political support is a point we and Jews
have in common, there are also significant differences, not the
least of which is the fact that Israel is one state, while
Africa is a continent made up of many states. More important
than logistical questions is the fact that the Jews as a people
have never had a serious inferiority complex about themselves
nor have they, as a people, been brainwashed into believing that
the White man's ice is colder, the White man's businesses are
better, and the White man's brains are smarter. While individual
Jews have displayed feelings of guilt and inadequacy, Jews as a
people always cast themselves as "the chosen" ones.
Yes, they might suffer disproportionately to others, but they
never considered themselves the cursed tribe of "Ham".
This was the underlying point of the movie
"Schindler's List". In terms of business acumen, the
movie portrayed Schindler as a figurehead whose business was
actually run by a Jewish accountant. Moreover, throughout the
movie, every time a specific skill was needed a "persecuted
Jew" was presented who, when given the chance, competently
and admirably fulfilled the job.
In fact, even when not given the chance, the
Jews were portrayed as "more skilled" than their
German persecutors. This was the point of the concentration camp
scene in which a young Jewish woman steps forward to offer her
architectural expertise. She speaks up to correct the
construction methods used in erecting a building. The German
commander listens to her, weighs her advice, cold-bloodedly
shoots her dead, and then directs the soldiers and prisoners to
follow the advice of the murdered architect. The point of the scene was not just the
capricious cruelty of the German military officer, but also to
portray the intelligence of the Jewish victim. Thus,
"Schindler's List" reinforces the intelligence and
skills of Jews and fights against any suggestion of Jewish
We Africans, both continental and diaspora,
have a much tougher battle to fight. By Western industrialized
standards of education and skills, we are not only generally
underdeveloped, we also have serious and deep-seated feelings of
intrinsic inferiority. In short, we believe ourselves not just
ignorant but fundamentally stupid. In this regard, the
attraction of the diasporan African is our access to and
possession of Western education and capital.
Regardless of how inadequate we in the
diaspora may feel within the nations of our birth, the fact is,
in terms of education and skills, the diaspora is the advanced
sector of the African world. We are both an emotional and a
material asset to African development. This is obvious. However,
we are also a problem for African development because, to date,
the continent has not fully faced the history nor traumatic
effects of the slave trade on all of Africa. Underlying every
exchange at PANAFEST was a groping with the difficulty of
settling the issue of diaspora reintegration into the African
Panafest Is to Expose the True African Identity -- President
...He touched on the second
theme of PANAFEST '94 -- 'Uniting the African Family' -- and
said that endeavour should not just be an exercise in nostalgia
for lost years, but should strengthen Africans' determination to
work together for the development of the continent and raise the
dignity of people of African descent. (p. 1)
* * * *
Ghana is beginning to face the full
ramifications of the horror and trauma of the slave trade's
devastating historic disruption, and through facing the truth,
is beginning to welcome the return of the diaspora. The fact
that Ghana is actively courting the diaspora is a major league
statement in and of itself.
When President Rawlings extends a hand of
welcome, and when people on the street spontaneously do the
same, the point is driven home in ways which are difficult to
explain in rational terms but which are emotionally
When we Africans need serious help, most of
us seldom think of each other. In the midst of Ghanaian economic
development deliberations, the push to expand Pan Africanism
from romantic cultural concepts and nation bound political
expressions to encompass international economic development is a
The "feeling of self worth" that
results from Black people struggling to live and work with each
other across "tribal" lines is an unbelievably potent
tonic. This invigorating brew gives a higher and healthier
meaning to the phrase "foreign exchange."
Source: Ghanaian Times.
Monday, December 12, 1994
HERE FOR PANAFEST?
(Kalamu ya Salaam)
Angela Lee lives in Canada. She has been
telling us she knows the mayor of Accra. Not bragging. Simply
I like Angela's enthusiasm.
We are eating dinner. A man dressed in a
batakari, a traditional Ghanaian shirt, and who looks like James
Earl Jones' cousin, comes over to our table.
This is Nat Amarteifio, the mayor of Accra.
Before the night is over he drives us around
the city. Treats us to a drink at a ritzy hotel after he has
driven us through the various sections of town including the
poorest sections that most politicians would try to hide.
As we drive, we talk.
I ask him what is the murder rate.
Honestly. He doesn't know. Never had to think
In Ghana the policemen don't carry guns. The
thieves -- what few of them there are -- don't carry guns either,
not if they want to live. In Ghana they execute armed robbers. The
second day we were there a newspaper headline trumpeted a murder
-- a crowd caught a thief and beat him to death.
Do you have a drug problem?
Nothing you would recognize as a problem.
Ghanaians think marijuana makes you crazy. Ghana's major drug
related problem is the increasing numbers of Ghanaians working as
smugglers hired to carry hard drugs into Western countries.
Crack is non-existent. In fact, most people
don't even smoke cigarettes. It's refreshingly astounding to see
thousands and thousands of Black, non-smokers.
Do you have a health problem?
Sanitation mainly. But no plagues or anything
of that sort.
What do you need most?
I comment on the walking variety stores. Almost
every conceivable product hawked
up and down the lanes between cars on crowded Accra main streets.
Toilet paper. No problem. Batteries. Chain link fencing. Light
bulbs. A moving Walmart of sandaled entrepreneurs giving a new
meaning to retail marketing.
Some people want us to shut them down.
Some people who?
Some people in government. But you know those
young people stand there all day in the hot sun selling their
wares. I'd much rather they're doing that, making honest money,
then hitting people in the head.
I have never been driven around by a mayor
At the hotel when we stop for drinks, we run
into Jane. We were going in. The mayor was first and then the four
of us: Angela, Nia and me, and Norbusse Philip, a Toronto, Canada
based Caribbean writer from Tobago, Trinidad. As we approached the
door, a small party of people were coming out. One White woman
spoke to us. Really, she spoke to the mayor. Pointing to his
flowing, stripped batakari which hit him mid thigh.
"Oh, you're here for PANAFEST."
The mayor was cool.
"No. I live here."
Leave it to Jane to assume that the Ghanaian
mayor of Accra was visiting Africa on vacation.
Where did she think she was, in the delusions
of her mind?
Who did Jane think she was?
Who did she think we were: the American Negro
extras come to audition for spear chuckers in Tarzan's next movie,
the one starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, set in modern times where
he battles the warlords who are creating more misery than the
spear chuckers can carry?
Why did Jane feel safe enough to handle up on
us like that?
Walking back to the car around eleven p.m. in a
city of over two and a half million residents, the overwhelming
majority of them poor. The parking lot was a long corridor lying
parallel to the street. The car sat quietly. Untouched. A quarter
block away a lone sentry with a simple, soft-white beamed,
flashlight motions that all is well. We were safe. the car was
there. Good night.
I'm impressed, Nourbusse said. In the States,
women out at night, for whatever reason, going to their car in the
parking lot, in the parking garage, a block and a half away from
the hotel, across the street, women in the States walking at night
to their car -- that's an ordeal. I'm impressed.
Later, well after midnight, when we are at an
atonement function, all of us feel safe. We don't speak the
language. We are in the poorest part of town. Standing in crowds.
No policemen around. Lights only on the periphery. When the camera
people shut down the floodlights we are in semi darkness. Walking
willy nilly about without a clue to specifically where we are. We
feel safe. Not just me in my burly male Blackness. But the sisters
too: Nia, Norbusse, Stephanie. We all feel safe. Ghana feels safe.
Back at the Novatel Hotel -- a French oasis of
material insolence offering a "continental" (as in
"the" continent) cultural experience for US$120 a night
-- another Jane in painted face, spandex slacks, and jangling
jewelry feels safe enough to walk her little unattractive pet dog
through the lobby, out the front door, and who knows where from
Later in Cape Coast, young European
students will attend all the functions and walk safely away at
night through the dark streets and on the pitch dark road sides.
At one of the colloquium sessions May Ayim, an
Afro-German (half Ghanaian / half German) talks about Germany's
rising tide of racist attacks. About the two thousand people of
African descent that Hitler put in concentration camps. About how
a unified Germany is not the healthiest place for people of color.
"With the collapse of the GDR, racism has erupted into open
violence and became more strong in East Germany than in West
Germany. Some people say that the open racist violence is a
problem of the East which
the West has been infected with. This is not true, and I am asking
myself how West Germans would have reacted, if after the
reunification their traditions, values and ways of thinking would
have been declared to be wrong and changed radically."
Meanwhile back in the States -- the United
States is not the healthiest place for people of color.
And even though Jane thinks the mayor is a
tourist, Ghana is a safe place regardless of your color.
Isn't that the way the world should be?
Regardless of color.
Source: Kalamu ya Salaam. Tarzan Can Not Return to
Africa, But I Can -- PanaFest 1994
posted 17 January 2006
* * *
Chiefs in Cape
Coast, Ghana /
Grand Durbar Parade
* * * *
The Katrina Papers a Journal of Trauma and Recovery
By Jerry W.
Guarding the Flame of Life
New Orleans Jazz Funeral for tuba player Kerwin
They danced atop his casket Jaran 'Julio' Green
music website >
writing website >
daily blog >
* * *
* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
update 5 January 2012