Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jamaica Day Celebration

JAMDAY is an initiative of the Jamaican (Ottawa) Community Association Inc. (JOCA) to celebrate a blend of Jamaican food, culture and diversity.
Originally launched on August 10, 1970, JAMDAY is a wonderful opportunity to experience the rich culture of Jamaica through reggae music, folk dances, songs, stories, delicious Jamaican cuisine, games and much more.
World-class artists live from Jamaica and local artists will be featured.
This one of a kind event will be packed with fun and enjoyment for the whole family. This year’s celebration will be held on Saturday, August 6, 2016 at Mooney’s Bay Park from noon to 10:30 pm.
Jamday About Pic 2
This popular event, hosted by the Jamaican (Ottawa) Community Association, brings together all people to celebrate the contribution Jamaicans have made to the Canadian mosaic.
Jamaicans have joined with the local community in exploring, learning and sharing their cultures.

Monday, July 4, 2016

'I Am Not Extinct' - Jamaican Taino Proudly Declares Ancestry

Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
Olive Moxam-Dennis (left) said though she always knew she was Indian (Tainos), they never discussed. It was her daughter, Dr Erica Neeganagwedgin (right), who helped her to embrace her Taino heritage.

WHEN ERICA Dennis of south St Elizabeth was in class at Hampton School in the said parish, a teacher told the students the Tainos in Jamaica were dead. There she was being told that she, a Jamaican Taino, was extinct.
But she said because at the time, students could not talk back to teachers, she kept quiet. Yet, she said she and another Taino girl resisted by calling themselves the 'Taino Girls'. In her own family, consisting of a Taino mother and an African father, there were eight children.
In the lot, five of them look distinctly Taino and one of her sisters embraces her Taino heritage. And an older brother has always believed he was Taino. But the siblings, who were born in England, are not interested in their Taino identity.
She is now Dr Erica Neeganagwedgin, a professor at the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research, Athabasca University in Canada, where she has been living for more than 25 years.
Neeganagwedgin said her childhood days were a life of the Tainos hiding their identity because they were afraid of being ridiculed. Moreover, many Tainos could not identify with themselves because they were told that they were extinct.
"It was always painful. I was always bothered, always felt hurt that I could not express who I am. I was also afraid of being ridiculed because of what is said about Tainos in the books," she told Rural Xpress. "It is very hard. Many people don't say they are ... . All our lives, we were told they are dead ... . We have been told they have all vanished."
Always knew
But Neeganagwedgin, who said her grandmother looks like a native American, stated she had always known she was Taino because of her looks, family stories, and blood memories. She recalled once driving in the back of a pickup, and when she looked up into some hills, she saw "a whole bunch" of Taino people.
She was told by an elder that she was having blood memories of her Taino ancestors. The hills, valleys, and plains of south Manchester and St Elizabeth have long been known as Taino territories.
She was brought up in the Pedro Plains/Treasure Beach area, and she said many Tainos live along the coast, and mixed-race people, who believe they are mixed with other races apart from Tainos, might just be half Tainos.
"Tainos are alive and well throughout Jamaica - just that many people do not know." She said people are more concerned with other issues than those of identity. "The Government knows that we exist, and I know that the Government knows that there are Taino people in St Elizabeth," she said.
Neeganagwedgin said the issue of identity was important to her as she is a proud Taino.
She had always wanted to speak about her Taino identity, did her research, and the Charles Town Maroon conference came up.
At the conference in June, she presented a paper called 'My Taino Nation: Identity, Indigeneity, Resurgence' and Self-determination'. She said she fought back tears during the emotional presentation.
Neeganagwedgin identifies herself as 100 per cent African and Taino. She wants to create an awareness in Jamaica of the presence of Jamaican Tainos, especially along the south coast. She also wants the big lie about the Tainos to be changed in the history books. She herself will be writing a book about her life as a Taino in Jamaica.
Photos by Paul Williams

Friday, July 1, 2016

This day in history: July 1, 1967

On Canada’s 100th birthday, Chief Dan George silenced a crowd of 32,000 with his “Lament for Confederation” at Empire Stadium. George’s mournful speech began with, “Today, when you celebrate your hundred years, oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.”
George — chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a Coast Salish band in North Vancouver – was also an author, poet and an Academy Award nominated actor. But above all, he was an activist and an influential speaker on the rights of native peoples of North America. Some of this activism may have stemmed from the fact that, at the age of five, George was placed in a residential school where his First Nations language and culture were prohibited. His “Lament for Confederation” — a scathing indictment of the appropriation of native territory by white colonists — was his most famous speech.
What follows is the complete text:

Lament for Confederation
How long have I known you, Oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many, many seelanum more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, Oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.
For I have known you when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing. I have known you in your streams and rivers where your fish flashed and danced in the sun, where the waters said ‘come, come and eat of my abundance.’ I have known you in the freedom of the winds. And my spirit, like the winds, once roamed your good lands.
But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs, which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.
When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.
My nation was ignored in your history textbooks - they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, and when I drank your fire-water, I got drunk - very, very drunk. And I forgot.
Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this Centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what’s past and gone.
Oh God in heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.
Oh God! Like the thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success-his education, his skills- and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society.
Before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, Oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass. I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedoms of our great land.
So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and nations.

Monday, June 27, 2016

African Union Plans for Single, Common Passport, Free Trade Across the Continent, Raising Hopes for a Unified Africa

 June 26, 2016 | Posted by

Is the world witnessing the makings of the United States of Africa? The African Union has taken a step toward integration of the continent. At its summit taking place in Kigali, Rwanda in July, the AU is launching a single, common electronic passport throughout the continent.
The 54-member body wants to allow free movement across national borders in Africa, creating “seamless borders” similar to the EU Schengen free movement deal, as The Independent reported. The AU plans to have visa-free travel for Africans visiting African countries by 2020, and will enact a free-trade agreement by next year.
The first group to receive the new passport in July includes AU heads of state and government, foreign affairs ministers, and the permanent representatives of AU member states based at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC)
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, has called the initiative symbolic and significant, and in a press statement said it is a “steady step toward the objective of creating a strong, prosperous and integrated Africa, driven by its own citizens and capable of taking its rightful place on the world stage.”
“I think on balance this is very positive, and one of the things that has become very obvious on the continent is two major crises,” Bill Fletcher Jr. — former president of TransAfrica Forum, host of “Arise” on WPFW and Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies — told Atlanta Black Star. “One is around migration and the other is money. And the AU needs to intervene on both. The illicit trafficking around money and the ability of people to move from country to country, that needs to be tied to a continental educational initiative,” he said. “When you see what happened in South Africa, it whips up into a right-wing populist cause, and it is very dangerous.”

The notion of a united Africa is by no means a new idea. Rather it is the stuff of folklore. Marcus Garvey spoke of the concept in his poem entitled “Hail! United States of Africa:”

Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be…

Bob Marley even wrote a song called “Africa Unite”:

…Africa unite:
‘Cause we’re moving right out of Babylon,
And we’re going to our Father’s land, yea-ea.
How good and how pleasant it would be before God and man, yea-eah! –
To see the unification of all Africans, yeah! –
As it’s been said a’ready, let it be done, yeah!
We are the children of the Rastaman;
We are the children of the Iyaman.

Fletcher also noted that while in the 1950s the dream of a united Africa did not incorporate a common political or economic approach, things have changed.

“First of all, the intention of the decision is something that has been in the works, almost since the start of the conversion of the OAU [Organization of African Unity] to the African Union, so that is not surprising,” Reuben E. Brigety II, Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and Adjunct Senior Fellow for African Peace and Security Issues at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Atlanta Black Star.  “This is not something that was clearly just decided or came out of the last summit.  They have been on the move toward the idea of a single African passport, free movement of people, etc., for several years,” said Brigety, who served under President Obama as the appointed Representative of the United States of America to the African Union and Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

According to Ambassador Brigety, the real question is with regard to the AU plan in its implementation.

Reuben E. Brigety II
 (Photo: Council on Foreign Relations)
“Regrettably the Union, particularly the Assembly of Heads of State, is really quite famous, or has a track record of making pronouncements and decisions that often take a long time from implementation, if ever.  For example, think about the decision that was taken two years ago by the Assembly of Heads of State to move toward the African Union financing itself as opposed to relying so heavily on donors.  The implementation of that decision has been really hard without the actual steps necessary to actually make that more of a reality.  They have promised to do so within five years now, and we will simply have to see.  And I think that the same is true with regard to the creation of a single African passport as well as moving towards a true continental-wide, free-trade area,” Brigety added.

“So if they were able to do both, certainly on matters of continental free trade, it would create economies of scale for investment from non-African foreign direct investment, which could potentially be transformative for the continent,” Brigety said of the AU passport and free-trade plans.  “One would presume that also it would boost inter-Africa trade as well by cutting down on trade barriers, etc. But this is even if one accepts on face value the intent behind the decision.

Brigety noted the enormous complexities of implementing such a scheme.

“On the common passport, for example, the free movement of peoples, we’re seeing the challenges that Europe is having with that right now, and not only with regard to the migrant question, the Syrian refugee question, Syrian and Afghan and other refugees flooding in.  This was a problem beforehand, with large numbers of Eastern Europeans from the eastern part of the European Union moving to go to the U.K. and Germany and France, etc., to find employment. I think it’s one of the things that is obviously motivating the Brexit question,” he said.  “One could certainly see the movement of, say, Somalis to South Africa legally under a free African passport, or for Congolese to Senegal, or anything else like that that would have similar kinds of pressures that will have to be dealt with within the African context,” Brigety argued.  “On balance if they can get it right, the upside will probably be greater than the downside.  But the questions of implementation are profound as well as some of the political questions that will inevitably follow this kind of next step towards integration.”
Another concern with the notion of seamless borders is the specter of terrorism.

“It’s obviously crucially important that if you allow the free movement of people that the governments of the Union have a sense of who actually is moving.  I would say that that is a problem anyway, even with 54, 55 individual national passports,” Brigety argued.  “It’s a problem because of the large ungoverned spaces across the continent…and it will be moreso if one assumes the AU has a common African passport and [Africans] can move at will.  But my point is that this would be an issue even if one did not move towards a common African passport.  And the countries are going to try to figure out if they presume that the upside of free movement of people for economic and political purposes is greater than the downside of security challenges. They have to figure out how to deal with security challenges,” he added.
This latest e-passport project falls within the framework of Africa’s Agenda 2063.  That agenda has the following seven African Aspirations:

  • A prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable developmen
  •  An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa's Renaissance.
  • An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
  • A peaceful and secure Africa
  • Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethic
  • An Africa whose development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children
  • An Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner 
Aspirations 2 and 7, which speak of an “integrated” and “unified” continent, are reflected in the passport initiative, the goal of which is “facilitating free movement of persons, goods and services around the continent — in order to foster intra-Africa trade, integration and socio-economic development,” according to the AU.
According to Brigety, free trade on the African continent “certainly creates greater opportunities for individuals and corporations that are interested in investing.”  He used the example of someone establishing a textile business in Africa.

“As opposed to having to cross a half dozen different countries to move textiles from, say, South Africa to Ethiopia and pay customs duties along each way, then obviously it would conceivably be much faster and easier.  Basically, what is happening is they’re making a bet, which I think is the correct one, that if you decrease trade barriers — and therefore decrease the amount of money that will be collected from customs and duties on goods that are moving across boundaries — that it will increase the overall trade value, and increase overall economic activity,” Brigety said.

This will “therefore increase not only the livelihoods of individual Africans, but also increase the overall tax base that can be applied to government resources, in a way that is currently being stifled by these sorts of barriers.” he added.

However, Brigety noted that not all markets are created equal.

“It’s harder for things like pharmaceuticals, where you’ve got a continent of a billion people, like the Indians have done.  If you could develop an indigenous pharmaceutical market, then that is something that would be of enormous value,” he said.  “But then, it is not simply a matter of moving those medicines.  It’s also about having a regulatory framework that is more uniform. So, suppose you try to develop an anti-malarial drug.  As opposed to having 54 different ministry of health regulations that you have to comply with, if you could have a fewer number — say one for East Africa, or frankly one for all — then that dramatically opens the markets for those sorts of things. I suspect it is probably true for any number of other goods that one can conceive of as well,” Brigety said.

Although Fletcher is positive about the prospects of an African Union with unity comparable to the EU if not greater, he identifies possible pitfalls.

Bill Fletcher Jr.
“Xenophobia and protectionism are a major threat. The critical thing is in order for this to work, there has to be an economic development program, and I don’t think starting with free trade is a winner,” he warned. “When you look at what happened in South Africa in 1995 and ’96, when they dropped the tariff barrier, there was a massive desertion by industry, especially textiles, and it had a consequence on Durban and Cape Town. For Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland it provided employment in those countries but had devastating consequences in South Africa, because the companies went where there was cheaper labor and fewer restrictions” Fletcher added.

Meanwhile, there is the issue of China and its vast investments on the African continent.  The Asian powerhouse, like any number of companies or sovereign countries seeking to do business in Africa, could benefit from a united Africa.
“Presumably, given the fair amount of investment the Chinese already have on the continent, they probably stand to gain more from this.  But this is also, I think, why it is necessary to have so many other American firms engaging more heavily on the continent, to help diminish the first mover advantage the Chinese have in a number of areas, and start engaging them in a much more aggressive manner economically on the continent,” he said.

The AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
“You have competition for resources once you have China there. But the deeper problem is these nations remain resource dependent. It’s not as if you have balanced economies,” Fletcher said. “Take the D.R.C. [Democratic Republic of the Congo]. The D.R.C. is one of the richest countries in the world mineral wise, and it is one of the poorest countries in the world when you talk about income. It barely has a state infrastructure, it doesn’t have an economic plan, they have all this wealth and are being raped by all these countries. What happened in the D.R.C. civil war is it devolved…and became a squabble where different countries competed over resources and became the gendarmes for multinational corporations,” he suggested.
Fletcher also offered that China is sought after by repressive regimes.

“The Chinese don’t bother with the pretense of human rights abuses, they believe in non-intervention in the internal affairs of another country. They’ll strike a deal if the terms are right,” he said.  “That doesn’t mean other countries are morally superior; it just means they are hypocritical.”

“The problem is the dominant economic system on the planet in neo-liberalism. If you remove trade barriers between these very uncompetitive countries, what are you doing about the economic development of these impoverished economic regions? That’s where a regional economic plan is necessary and engages people and not just experts,” Fletcher concluded.