Saturday, June 18, 2016

How Michelle Cliff (1946-2016) Taught Me To Imagine Myself in The Most RADICAL History Possible



I learned yesterday from the blogspot of poet Opal Palmer Adisa that novelist Michelle Cliff passed away.  Michelle Cliff is a huge inspiration as a novelist to me because she taught me that it was okay to imagine myself in the most RADICAL history possible.  I taught Michelle Cliff’s novel No Telephone to Heaven during the History of Caribbean Culture course during the Spring 2010 semester at Temple.  Cliff did this in her second novel No Telephone To Heaven (1987) when she imagined a scenario in Jamaica where her protagonist Clare is joining a band of revolutionaries to mount a guerrilla attack on a film crew in Jamaica for telling a falsified version of Jamaican history.  

The story that Cliff wrote here affected me deeply because it opened my mind to the ways that the film industry is a business that explicitly supports white supremacy.  Her second novel opens with her white Jamaican protagonist Clare in the back of a truck that is driving to the scene of the film.  Throughout the novel Clare experiences flashbacks of the closest people in her life, her parents Boy and Kitty; her best friend Harry/Harriet; and her lover Bobby.  When Clare thinks about her father, Boy, named by the Jim Crow South that he goes to with Kitty, the reader reads the thoughts of what Boy should say to a white segregationist motelkeeper:

“What shall I say to this man?  Boy wondered.  A lesson from the third form on the history of Jamaica sprang to mind: mulatto, offspring of African and white; sambo, offspring of African and mulatto; quadroon, offspring of mulatto and white; mestee, offspring of quadroon and white; mestefeena, offspring of mestee and white.  Am I remembering it right?  He asked himself (56).

Cliff is obviously questioning and trying to deconstruct the hierarchy of class and color that still governs Caribbean society up to today.  Clare’s mother Kitty as interesting.  She finds a job in New York at White’s Sanitary Laundry where she puts notes in her white customers clothes of positive sentiments, messages that support the Cleaver family status quo, until she learns the racism of Jim Crow America of the 1950s and chooses to write more personal and heartfelt messages in her clothes, like:

“We can clean your clothes but not your heart.  America is cruel.  Consider kindness for a change.  White people can be Black-hearted.  The life you live will be visited on your children.  Marcus Garvey was right” (81).

Michelle Cliff through Boy and Kitty imagine a much more militant response to Jim Crow America than any novelist I have ever read.  In this novel, she tells the story of Christopher and his slaughter of an upper class Jamaican family for not allowing his grandmother “a proper burial.”  Christopher’s murder of this family is essentially why this novel is called “No Telephone to Heaven.”  Cliff is highlighting the ways that the “21 families” of Jamaica still rule, yet how the people of Jamaica can still take their future into their own hands and mitigate or end this rule by oligarchy.  Clare’s friendship with Harry/Harriet is very significant.  Harry/Harriet is the first transgender character I have ever felt so close to in a work of fiction.  Harry/Harriet writes Clare and tells her that while reading C.L.R. James’ The Black Jacobins, he is in love with the Haitian revolutionary Jean Jacques Dessalines.  

Harry/Harriet forces Clare to come to terms with her lesbianity, and interprets his being raped by a white officer as “a symbol for what they [colonizers] did to all of us, always bearing in mind that some of us, many of us, also do it to ech other” (129).  This is true even to today when my cousin Jason tells me about how so many Jamaicans were celebrating the Orlando shootings, which happened to be the day that Michelle Cliff made her transition.   How Cliff writes Clare’s relationship with Bobby is very interesting.  Bobby is a former Vietnam veteran and tells her quite honestly:

“unless you want a little Black baby with no eyes, no mouth, no nose, half a brain, harelip, missing privates, or a double set like some fucking hyena, missing limbs, or limbs twisted beyond anything you might recognize, organs where they are not means to be, a dis-harmony of parts—any or all of the above, or the above in combination, better think again, sweetness.  (As he spoke, a confusion of emotion was in her—and she wondered at the coldness in his voice)” (156). 

Cliff is serious about showing the ways that U.S. imperialism harms the model U.S. nuclear family.  Because of his service in the Vietnam War being affected by Agent Orange, Bobby is unable to have fertile children with Clare.  Cliff’s postmaster character Miss Clare also lets Clare and the reader know about the stark reality of political Jamaica.  She said: “And the dollar falling fast.  People said the IMF might possess the country.  It was a time of more hideaways for rich—the expansion of the sandbox. ‘Make it your own,’ the tourist board told the visitors.  Tires burned again at roadblocks” (187).  Cliff is able in 1987 to publish a novel that still speaks to the situation of Jamaica in 2016.  Cliff also anticipates Jakob Johnston’s 2015 report called “Partners in Austerity” that states that Jamaica has suffered the most AUSTERE or ECONOMICALLY RESTRICTIVE budget because of its colonial relationship with the IMF.  Since Edward Seaga’s leadership, now fictionalized in Marlon James’s latest 2014 novel through the character of Peter Nasser, Jamaica has been what Cliff calls an expanded “sandbox.”  

Cliff extends this metaphor when at the end of this novel she quotes a 1984 New York Times article encouraging racist filmmakers to film in Jamaica: “It also has a racially mixed popularion of many hues and ethnic distinctions, which…includes a number of people willing to serve as extras.  The national language is English, and you can drink the water.”  Cliff’s “extra” character in No Telephone To Heaven is “De Watchman” who signals the guerilla band to open fire on the U.S. film crew that was originally telling a story that would whitewash and bastardize history.  The film director said: “we’re going to shoot the scene where the monster attacks Nanny, and Cudjoe rescues her” (207).  

Cliff shows how the film director bastardizes the actual history of Nanny who was never the one being rescued, but the one rescuing others in her triumphs as leader of a Maroon army against the British.  Cliff’s narrator tells us “Clare was lying flat in a bitterbush.”  She would be part of the guerilla attack on the film crew that depends on the colonial relationship between the IMF and Jamaica in order to tell misogynistic, sexist falsified histories.  What Cliff was saying in No Telephone To Heaven is that those interesting in making a telephone connection, or some connection with the Jamaican masses MUST think about undertaking the kinds of actions that her protagonist Clare undertook.
   

Special thanks to my graduate master’s thesis committee member Dr. Shirley Toland-Dix for introducing me to the work of Michelle Cliff.  Special thanks to Opal Palmer Adisa for telling the world about the transition of such an important fiction writer in Michelle Cliff.  How Cliff imagines Annie Christmas’s relationship with abolitionist Mary Ellen Pleasant in her third novel Free Enterprise is another very NECESSARY conversation to have. –RF.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why Omar Mateen And His Employment By G4S Means Supporting the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions Movement

A lot of the coverage of the assassin Omar Mateen in the Sunday June 12th Orlando shooting is missing a key element that explained his willingness to murder over thirty people in one night: his working for the G4S, the private security company that maintains U.S. government supported military occupations across the world. G4S is an English and Dutch owned company whose stock fell Monday after the shooting and after stockholders sold their shares knowing that G4S employed Mateen. Omar Mateen essentially did on that night what the Israeli army does to Palestinians on a daily basis.

Palestinians can be arrested and imprisoned for practically any form of public activity regardless of whether they present a legitimate security threat to the State of Israel. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits any relocation of prisoners from occupied territory to the occupying country. Omar Mateen as a twenty first century tool of U.S. imperialism did what Andrew Jackson did in his murder of indigenous people in the Spanish Florida of the early nineteenth century where the Trail of Tears began. According to a report called “The Case of G4S” by the Coalition of Women For Peace, G4S “has provided equipment and maintenance services to Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank.” Omar Mateen was employed and supported by a company that protected armed Israeli soldiers and help them to essentially murder people of color who in some form protested the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza strip of Palestine.

 As a Black gay man, it is clear to me that LGBTQI citizens of color in the United States should see the culture of violence that killed 49 people in Orlando on Sunday a direct result of the increasing police state that the U.S. is becoming. This is a police state that is not interested in helping us as Black or Latinx LGBTQI individuals love ourselves in a safe space like Pulse nightclub. Mateen treated these victims the way that U.S. military occupations have treated the world, subject to and deserving of random violence.

 The Orlando shooting should challenge in our minds what mainstream U.S. culture wants to call “security.”

 In the name of “security” white settler colonialism is allowed to thrive not only in Israel, but in every major city across the United States where gentrification thrives. One of the Orlando survivors Patience Carter who flew to Orlando from Philadelphia said that Mateen told her and those who hid from him in the bathroom that “I don’t have a problem with Black people,” but that I want the U.S. “to stop bombing my country.” Homophobia is not the real culprit in this shooting, nor is Islamophobia. White settler colonialism is the real culprit in this Orlando shooting. According to this survivor’s testimony, the message of Mateen’s murder was not against Black people, but against the U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine that his seven year employment by G4S represents. She said Mateen wanted to the U.S. “to stop bombing my country.”

The bombing by the U.S. military ultimately protects white settler colonialism in Afghanistan that is rooted in the government’s 1970s strategic use of Afghan civilians to attack the U.S.S.R. Although the U.S.S.R. is no more, the U.S. military occupation remains, protects white settler colonialism and will encourage more shootings like Mateen’s. According to the U.S. Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation’s press release that quoted the Financial Times, “the company is extracting itself from reputationally damaging work, including its entire Israeli business.” The withdrawal of the G4S from Israel is a victory for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement.

This movement not only got G4S to withdraw from Israel, it got Columbia University to divest from private prisons. Its work caused the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation to sell its $170 million stock in G4S. Its work caused also the United Methodist Church to completely divest from G4S. Its work caused the Durham, North Carolina, county council to end a $1 million private “security” contract with G4S. Though it withdrew from Israel, G4S still provides “security” to juvenile detention centers within 60 miles from Orlando in Pasco County, Florida, as noted by Angela Davis in her January 9th talk at the Black Radical Conference at Temple University. This means if there is a youth rebellion in these centers for any reason, G4S would obviously side with the kind of response of a mass shooting that Mateen executed.

 As we approach the forty-fifth anniversary of the Attica prison rebellion this September, we should remember that these prisoners rebelled simply for their right to better living conditions which included education and healthcare. They deserved to be talked to, not to be executed by the National Guard called by Governor David Rockefeller. Like the Orlando shooting victims, they deserved to be heard. We should also remember how New York governor and oil tycoon David Rockefeller bragged to former President Richard Nixon about quelling the rebellion. Current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to uphold Rockefeller’s Zionist prison-profiteering-tradition by trying to quell the successful Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement. Because of this success, Zionist pressure has forced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign an executive order barring businesses that join this Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement from doing business with the state of New York. 

It is our duty as those who are against Zionist violence, against mass shootings, against what G4S is doing to the world, to show our support for Orlando victims, and against all victims of state violence by supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. Although Mateen said he doesn’t have a problem with Black people, photos of him wearing and choosing to identify with the NYPD show that he identified with forces like the NYPD that have a long history of a problem with Black people, and Palestinian people, as the NYPD has a branch in Israel where it upholds white settler colonialism.

Stopping future massacres like those in Orlando means supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement that is intended to stop the of Palestinian citizens that is happening on a slower and more gradual scale since 1948. An assault weapons ban will not prevent more shootings like those in Orlando; these cosmetic bans are designed only to make liberal Democratic politicians look more concerned and relevant while they continue to economically support “security” firms like G4S. 

Orlando should force us to take a long hard look at the growing police state of the United States. The fact that the Orlando S.W.A.T. team took at least two hours to arrive at the Pulse nightclub recalls the state sanctioned Neo-Nazi march that took place in Orlando a decade ago in 2006, one year before Mateen began employment with G4S. According to the Orlando Sentinel, in February of 2006, the city of Orlando granted David Gletty a permit to march, along with 22 other Neo-Nazis, through the Black section of Orlando waving Neo-Nazi flags. These Neo-Nazi marchers were protected by 300 Orlando police officers who were armed against 500 protestors of this march.

A court hearing revealed that David Gletty was an FBI informant and, like the FBI’s role in protecting those who murdered Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, the FBI also protected the rights of Neo-Nazis to flaunt their racist presence in the Black community in Orlando. In this case a decade prior, it was clear that the Orlando police, like the federal government in its refusal to prosecute George Zimmerman, was protecting the interests of Neo-Nazis. Orlando police recently admitted to fatally killing at least one of those 49 murdered on Sunday. Also at question is exactly how Mateen was able to enter Pulse nightclub with an AK-47 automatic weapon. These questions underscore the consistent relationship between the federal government and Nazis. 

Christopher Simpson, John Potash, and Howard Zinn all wrote books documenting the federal government’s recruitment of Nazis since the Second World War to support Klan activity in the South. The murder of Mateen and at least one other of the 49 by the S.W.A.T. team in the Pulse nightclub suggests that federal government intervention will continue to side with Nazi forces as they did in 2006. However exactly how the federal government sided with these forces is not clear. What is clear is that that the effectiveness of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement has prompted the New York Governor, who refuses to uphold a New York State Supreme Court decision declaring Stop-And-Frisk unconstitutional, to try and intimidate businessowners into doing business with companies like G4S that profit from providing “security” to prisons.

 It is up to us as citizens to declare our support for a movement that has encouraged divestment from prison industry which has socialized a man like Omar Mateen. -RF.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My Review of David Edgecombe's Play "Hubert Harrison"

Today is April 27th, 2016. On Tuesday, July 15th, 2015, I had the pleasure of directing a reading of a biographical play about autodidact Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) who is known as "the Father of Harlem Radicalism." The play is called "Hubert Harrison" and is written by David Edgecombe. With all of the popular attention that the Broadway musical "Hamilton" is getting set in the past, this play takes a serious look at the impact of this thinker on radical thought in the twentieth century. "Hamilton" is based on the former U.S. Secretary of the Treasurty Alexander Hamilton whose mother was from Saint Croix, where Hubert Harrison was born. David Edgecombe frames Harrison's life story within an exchange between two college students, Mya and Tafari. Mya the college student and hospitality major approaches Tafari the painter with a request for him to paint her. In the process of painting her, he tells her the story of Hubert Harrison and his encouragement of a Negro press, his promotion of socialism, and his struggle to make a living for himself and his family while lecturing about socialism. By the end of the play, Mya has a greater understanding of Hubert Harrison, as told to her by Tafari. The most important elements of this drama are the foils against Harrison. W.E.B. Du Bois and other forces like Edgecombe's post office manager Charles Anderson character make it their ambition to see that Harrison has no money. Second, the ways that handpicked "Negro leadership" according to Harrison fails Negro people and is specifically designed to fail Negro people. No other play exposes this issue more clearly than David Edgecombe's play. Edgecombe's play manages to make the audience feel sympathetic for Harrison; to want Harrison to defeat his foils. For those interested in producing this, this part of the play must be emphasized. I am grateful for the talented group of actors that truly engaged this 7/14/15 Philadelphia reading of David Edgecombe's script that I directed. They include Carlene Pochette who read the roles of Mary, Susan, Leah, and Ann. Tene Fletcher read the roles of Mya and Lin. Eric Holte read the roles of Tafari, Anderson, Father O'Keefe, and Du Bois. Charvez Grant read the roles of Wilford, Morgan, Spingarn, Garvey, and the narrator. I read the role of Hubert Harrison. I highly recommend producing this play. -RF.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Medea Benjamin at Howard University

Image design by Len Webb Yesterday I had the honor to host Medea Benjamin at Howard University to talk about U.S.-Saudi relations. I learned three important lessons from her talk. One, that the U.S. government have been supporting a monarchy in Saudi Arabia with weapons that is very repressive and, along with Israel, supports the destabilization of surrounding countries by arming and funding very repressive military dictatorships in these surrounding countries. Two, the dwindling support that U.S. oil oligarchs such as Rockefeller and Murchison (whom Hansberry named a fictional character after in her play "A Raisin in the Sun") will cause the Saudi monarchy to go to new lengths to try compete with other Arab nations for Western attention in the form of money and weapons. This was revealed in the WikiLeaks cables where the head of Saudi intelligence said that he hoped the US president can "straighten them out." Three, that international pressure WORKS when directed at the Saudi monarchy whose repressive government beheads dissidents. Medea mentions the case of one in this important video. Medea mentioned that the EU is voting on February 25th on whether to stop the sale of US weapons to EU countries. Her organization's Saudi Summit is March 5th and 6th at the David A. Clarke UDC School of Law. In my opening remarks, I mentioned Malcolm X's 1964 speech in Egypt that he did not get to deliver but thanks to the query of one Milton Henry, we have his important words at that speech in the book "The Diary of Malcolm X" published by Third World Press and edited by Herb Boyd and Ilyasah Al-Shabazz whom I was able to meet in person on February 11th (https://www.instagram.com/p/BBqk_LaKq_B/?taken-by=rhonefraser). I highly recommend that book. In part of that speech, Malcolm X warned Africa not to end European colonialism only to be enslaved by American dollarism. Earlier in the speech he mentions "Zionist dollarism." It is clear that Saudi Arabia is still influenced by "Zionist dollarism" and Medea Benjamin highlights that in this speech. In the comments section of my talk, I mention the importance of teaching about Zionism in higher education and the importance of academics like Steven Salaita and Tony Martin who fought against Zionist censorship in higher education. These issues underlie the uncritical support of the U.S. for Saudi Arabia. -RF.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving in Guantanamo

The purpose of my recent trip to Guantanamo, Cuba, was to make clear to the U.S. government that to celebrate the tradition of Thanksgiving best, it needs to close Guantanamo prison it has held within the island of Cuba for over fifty years. This was the first Thanksgiving I spent away from family and friends in another country, protesting the vision for the world that Wall Street has. Protesting Guantanamo. It is the symbol of U.S. neocolonial rule that defies the sovereignty of Cuba. Kwame Nkrumah defined neocolonialism as the stage in which a state has all the trappings of political independence, but it is still economically dependent. Guantanamo is not only the site of continued U.S. neocolonial rule over Cuba, it is also the physical site of torture of one hundred seven detainees. The first two days of this conference included attending some very informative lectures as part of the Fourth International Seminary on the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases. At this seminary was Daniela Gonzalez who represented CODEP (Conseja de Defensa de los dererchos del pueblo or Defense Council of the Rights of the People) who pointed out the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Mexico. The current president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto has allowed privatization of natural resources, gas, electricity and public works. Gonzalez said that the neoliberals in the Mexican government has set it up in such a way where the indigenous cannot access their water. James Jordan also gave a very important talk on the theme of prison imperialism. He talked about plans by the U.S. government to make money of building prisons across the world. Columbian prisons are being used to train soldiers. Many historians have called Colombia a U.S. colony. The physical and psychological torture is widespread in jail. In his talk, Jordan said that the U.S. government cites “drug wars” as the reasons for a much larger investment in prisons, hower over 60% of those incarcerated are there for non drug-related offenses. U.S. funded prisons, Jordan summarized, are about social control, not fighting drug wars. Since 2000 he noted, the U.S. has been involved in prison construction in twenty five countries across the world. Another memorable speaker was the filmmaker and journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina who produced the important film The Blockade Against Cuba. He presented how sixteen thousand Colombian soldiers armed by the US government murdered peasants who wanted earth, health, and bread which helped the creation of FARC. Colombia is known as the Israel of Latin America and that there is a dirty war going on in Colombia that is funded by drug dealing and the hope that the drugs will eliminate the social movement. Ospina showed the Colombian government as the obvious aggressor in the war against FARC, and said Cuba was a site where they are supposed to have direct talks with FARC however, according to Ospina, they made no promises in Cuba to stop fighting FARC, and if they couldn’t promise the Cubans to stop fighting, they definitely unable to keep a peace truce with the people of Colombia. It was at this talk where I learned about the political prisoner Simon Trinidad from Colombia who is seen by the US government as a FARC sympathizer. On the third day of this trip as our bus went into the city of Guantanamo, I stopped at a tienda to buy for a few centavos a Granma newspaper. I noticed that one of the cover stories featured a mentor of mine, Nancy Kohn, saying that the United States is illegally occupying the naval base of Guantanamo. I was able to see an amazing dance troup directed by Xiomara Solis called “La Colmenita” perform Jose Marti’s poem “Guantanamera “ and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” We visited the town square of Caimanera, which has been called “the first anti-imperalist trench” because it was where on September 5, 1876, Antonio Maceo attacked the Spanish train between Guantanamo and Caimanera. We were given a police escort from a hill from which we were able to see the physical Guantanamo prison and the Guantanamo bay, then we were taken to the Caimanera town square where we had a public rally. At this rally I met some very special people : two English teachers and an elementary school natural science teacher. The next day we went to the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba which were seized by revolutionary forces on July 26, 1953. The attack was conceived by Fidel Castro Ruz who conceived the attack and who chose to begin the attack on the one hundredth birthday of journalist Jose Marti. The tour guide at these barracks was Odalis Jimenez and her tour was unforgettable. It gave a very comprehensive look as to exactly why the masses joined the Cuban revolution. I remembered a conversation with a Cuban history teacher Ilka who said that what took place at Moncada was remarkable because all the revolutionaries had were pistols compared to the technologically advanced weapons of Batista’s forces supplied by the U.S. When we left the museum and had lunch at a restaurant near Cespedes Plaza, a very beautiful Jamaican woman named Georgiana approached me, whose mother she told me worked at the Guantanamo naval base. She said her mother was from Jamaica and worked at the naval base in Cuba. When her mother died however, she was unable to collect the pension she was promised from the United States government, in part because of the embargo. I sensed a stronger connection in Cuba with the gods of the SanterĂ­a religion namely Oshun, because it was the sight of the river that drew me to walk towards it from Cespedes Square, and when I did, I had a very dynamic conversation with a Jamaican woman. During this conversation, heavy rain began which led Georgiana to invite me to her home, meet her husband, her daughter, her grandson, and talk with another Cuban citizen, Robert Lewis Cobaer, whose work at the Guantanamo naval base was denied pension. In my first trip I learned that Santeria goddess of Santa Barbara played a key role in helping many revolutionaries defeat the U.S. imperialist forces. I have also seen first hand the instrumental role that women play all across the administration of the Cuban revolution today. They are certainly more involved percentage wise than women in the United States government in all levels of leadership. This was certainly eye opening. On our third day, we were invited to join a fast with the group Witness Against Torture to protest the opening of Guantanamo for torture and holding detainees without charge. This trip opened my mind about how endless the spiritual possibilities are in fighting neocolonialism. –RF.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Oral History From My Grandfather

This is an interview with my grandfather about his growing up in Jamaica. He was born on January 17, 1930 in Cold Spring, Saint James, Jamaica. -RF.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Influence of Eduardo Galeano's "The Open Veins" On Me

Yesterday I just learned of the passing of Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015) in Uruguay. I have been deeply influenced by Galeano’s work "The Open Veins of Latin America" translated from Spanish by Cedric Belfrage. I consider the book a chilling alarm of modern technology’s ironic inability to end human suffering. I first read it about five years ago and I consider it a Latin American version of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth which was published about ten years prior. The book consists of three main parts: one, mankind’s poverty as a consequence of the wealth of the land; two, development is a voyage with more shipwrecks than navigators; and three, seven years after. I liked most what he wrote in Seven Years After especially in talking about how the best press he got from the book was “from the military dictatorships that praised the book by banning it” (265). I think his role as a writer in attempting to end human suffering by exposing the brutality of military dictatorships is unprecedented, remarkable, and a very important example for me to follow. I’d like to talk about key points in each of the three main parts that struck me. In his first section he writes that “the ultimate goal of the Latin American colonial economy from its inception” was to function “at the service of capitalism developing elsewhere.” The dominant classes he said “prevented the development of an internal consumer market” (30). He traces the colonial history of Latin America beginning with Columbus, and quotes Bartolomeo de las Casas: “He once remarked that the Indians preferred to go to hell to avoid meeting Christians”(42). Galeano here challenges the understanding that those who do bad on Earth will end up in hell. This is a broad reference to the indigenous fighter against the Spanish, In his Caribbean History text, Tony Martin quotes Hatuey saying “I’d rather go to hell than go to any place Christians are.” Hatuey challenges the concept of hell as an undesirable place and the notion that the Spanish colonizers were in any way humane or good Christians according to Europe’s own terms. Galeano traces the role that Spanish imperialism played in building English industrial capitalism: “Brazilian gold was channeled to London by licit as well as illicit methods…without this tremendous accumulation of gold reserves, Britain would not have been able, later on, to confront Napoleon” (56). He traces the key role that Latin America played in English being an imperial power. This included the creation of a sugar monoculture today whose detrimental effects can still be felt today. However Galeano is clear on the key role that the monoculture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had in amassing British capital: “Caribbean sugar plantations, condemned as they were to cane monoculture, were not the dynamic center of development for the “thirteen colonies solely because of the impetus the slave trade gave to naval industry and to the New England distilleries; they also provided a large market for the export of foodstuffs, timber, and sugarmill implements, lending economic viability to the farm and budding factory economy of the North Atlantic” (82). I don’t know another writer who can sum up the instrumental role of the Caribbean in U.S. history in this succinct way that Galeano does. In Spanish. Also in this main part he describes Cuban ingenuity in rejecting the monoculture imposed on it by Spain and the United States and discusses the important gains since its revolution: “Cuba was crippled by its dependent status, and walking on its own feet has not been easy. Half of its children did not go to school in 1958…Cuba now has the lowest percentage of illiterates and the highest percentage attending primary and secondary school in Latin America. Medea Benjamin today asked a very important question regarding the U.S. decision to remove Cuba from a list the State Department created called “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” She asked if by removing Cuba from that list if the State Department was really accepting Cuba as a sovereign nation or if they are trying to undermine and overthrow the revolution by different means. The need to defend the socialist character of Cuban revolution is clear to Galeano when he writes in a way that personifies it: “the Revolution is forced to sleep with its eyes open, and in economic terms this also costs dearly. Constantly harassed by invasion and sabotage [which Benjamin described] it does not fall because—strange dictatorship!—it is defended by people in arms” (77). And although I support the Cuban government defending itself, I also witnessed first hand the machismo and the policed culture of Black men on Havana streets that this defensive posture creates. And it concerns me. But before I critique the Cuban government for its machismo and policed culture, I have to critique FIRST the machismo and policed culture created and enforced by the ruling class, most of which Galeano names in his book, later in his first part when he describes the monoculture of Brazilian coffee: “In July 1968 Brazilian coffee cost 30 percent less in the United States than in January 1964 but U.S. consumers did not pay less: they paid 13 percent more. Thus in the 1964-1968 period middlemen kept the 13 percent as well as the 30 percent feathering their nests twice over. Who are the middlemen? Six U.S. concerns control more than a third of the coffee that leaves Brazil, and another six control more than a third of what enters the United States: these firms dominate the business at both ends” (100). Galeano’s discussion of middlemen here reminds me of the spending waste associated with private property and capitalist ownership, and why Obama’s Affordable Care Act needed a government run public option to avoid the fraud and the abuse by these middlemen that are represented by the private insurance companies. In terms of the banana industry, Galeano describes how U.S. businesses dominate the economies of Central America to maximize their profit: “the United Fruit Company swallowed up its competitors in the production and sale of bananas and became Central America’s top latifundista [landowner] while its affiliates corner rail and sea transport” (107). I last remember seeing a reference to United Fruit in the work of Assata Shakur. This reminded me of how Assata Shakur described the Judge presided over the unfair trial that falsely accused her of shooting a New Jersey state trooper. He was “the kind they could send to wipe out the “natives” in Africa, make Central America safe for United Fruit Company, or run a sterilization center in Puerto Rico.” Both Galeano and Shakur write about the ways that United Fruit company essentially took over and colonized, as a U.S. private entity, the economies of Central America. They exert control by installing leaders that serve their interests. Like the Freedom newspaper that brought the case of Paul Robeson to worldwide attention, Galeano acknowledged the socialist character of the Guyanese government led by Cheddi Jagan in the 1960s and how as he writes “the CIA played a decisive role in Jagan’s defeat.” Galeano made an important connection between multinational corporations funding military dictatorships: “in Venezuela, the largest U.S. military mission in Latin America sits on Standard and Gulf’s great petroleum lake. Argentina’s frequent coups d’etat erupt before or after each offer of oil concession.” Hugo Chavez came from the Venezuelan military that protected the interests of Standard Oil. So despite his deep popularity, it was difficult for Chavez to refine or develop the socialist character of his nation, where the private sector to this day, still has more money than the public sector because of the oil resource and the machinery infrastructure needed to refine it. In his third section, “Seven Years After,” Galeano writes in 1978 that “in Venezuela the economy of waste and extravagance continues intact. The neon-lit center is as resplendent as ever with the squandermania of a multimillionaire class” (268). I vehemently reject Obama’s March 7th declaration that Venezuela is a national security threat and I stand with the Venezuelan people in rejecting that idea. I am glad to see that the State Department has backtracked and no longer deemed this a threat. And I also raise the warnings that Galeano raises about using natural resources to meet the increasing needs of the people around it. The popular quote of Galeano’s read by Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now speak to the ways that any natural resource needs to be used to alleviate poverty instead of making the rich richer: “The lake is a forest of towers. Within these iron structures the endlessly bobbing pumps have for half a century pumped up all the opulence and all the poverty of Venezuela. Alongside, flames lick skyward, burning the natural gas in a carefree gift to the atmosphere. There are pumps even in houses and on street corners of towns that spouted up, like the oil, along the lakeside-towns where clothing, food, and walls are stained black with oil, and where even whores are known by oil nicknames, such as 'The Pipeline,' 'The Four Valves,' 'The Derrick,' 'The Hoist.' Here clothing and food cost more than in Caracas. These modern villages, of cheerless birth but quickened by the euphoria of easy money, have discovered that they have no future. When the wells die, survival becomes something of a miracle: skeletons of houses remain, oily waters lick abandoned shores and poison the fish. Mass firings and growing mechanization bring misfortune, too, to cities that live from exploiting still-active wells. (158-159) Galeano shows how, like gold, the discovery of the natural resource of oil causes more poverty than the alleviation of poverty. He wrote that “petroleum has not only sparked coups d’etat in Latin America: it set off a war—the Chaco War of 1932-1935—between South America’s two poorest people… It was a quarrel between two [U.S.] corporations, enemies and at the same time partners within the cartel, but it was not they who shed their blood. In the end Paraguay won the war but not the peace” (163). In this section of the book he is very optimistic about the kind of society Chile will become in 1971 when this book is first published: “nationalization will put an end to a state of affairs that had become intolerable for Chile, and prevent repetition in copper of the plunder and descent into the abyss of the nitrate cycle.” Unfortunately, for the same reason that petroleum set off the war between the poorest, the copper plunder ends with U.S. corporations working to topple the Marxist Chilean leader Salvador Allende, as Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick write about in their history: “prodded by Chase Manhattan Bank’s David Rockefeller and former CIA director and ITT board member John McCone, Kissinger instructed U.S. Ambassador Edward Korry and CIA station chief Henry Hecksher to stop Allende [who]…said ‘We are potentially rich countries, yet we live in poverty.’ Allende took his own life with a rifle…Pinochet seized power…Kissinger saw to it that the United States quickly recognized and provided aid to the murderous regime”(S&K, p.372). Unfortunately nationalization did not put an end to the state of affairs that had become intolerable for Chile. It invited the U.S. to topple it. In his third section, Galeano writes that “infant mortality, substantially reduced during the Popular Unity regime, rose dramatically with Pinochet” (271). However what inspires me is that Galeano writes with the hope that nationalization can in fact do that. It reminded me of what I read in Julio Garcia Luis’s edited collection published by Ocean Press called Cuban Revolution Reader: A Documentary History and how the revolution nationalized the U.S. companies that had, before the revolution, pocketed the profits of companies. Galeano’s writing underscores the importance of this revolution. In Galeano’s second section called “development is a voyage with more shipwrecks than navigators,” talks about Paraguay in the nineteenth century and how it was ruined by imperialism: “the woes of the Paraguyans stem from a war of extermination which was the most infamous chapter in South American history: the War of the Triple Alliance, they called it. Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay joined in committing genocide. They left no stone unturned, nor male inhabitants amid the ruins. Although Britain took no direct part in the ghastly deed, it was in the pockets of British merchants, bankers, and industrialists that the loot ended up. The invasion was financed from start to finish by the Bank of London, Baring Brothers, and the Rothschild Bank, in loans at exorbitant interest rate which mortgaged the fate of victorious countries…our bourgeois of today are agents and functionaries of prepotent foreign corporations. Truth compels us to admit that they never did anything to deserve a better fate” (188, 208). Richard Philcox’s English translation of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth which was published about a decade earlier says that the “vocation” of the national bourgeoisie is to “serve as a conveyor belt for capitalism, forced to camouflage itself behind the mask of neocolonialism…the national bourgeoisie sells itself increasingly openly to the major foreign companies.” (100,117) Galeano later writes that “foreign oligopolies, with their ultramodern techonology steadily and not very secretly took over the national industry of all Latin American countries, including Mexico, by the sale of manufacturing techniques, patents, and new equipment” (212). He writes that the creator of the IMF has essentially created a Capitalist Manifesto that says that poor countries are poor because they are meant to be poor (220). This I think is one of the strongest points in his book and it really bothers me. It essentially says that God has ordained the English ruling class to rule the world forever, and I just don’t agree with that. Especially as a child of Jamaican immigrants that the IMF is so harshly destroying with its policies of austerity. I guess that cabal thinks that austerity just might prevent another influential thinker like Marcus Garvey who inspired the parents of Malcolm X. I don’t think austerity would stop the influence of another thinker like Marcus Garvey from emerging in the world. When Davie Ann Tucker asked President Obama about the whether the IMF could write off Jamaica’s debt on April 9th this year, Obama said basically that the IMF shouldn’t write off the debt and that the IMF policy should happen. Galeano’s writing has essentially taught me that Obama agrees with the IMF’s Capitalist Manifesto that countries that are poor deserve to stay poor and countries that are rich deserve to stay rich. Classic Darwinism. That depends on systemic imperialism, sexism, racism, and capitalism. Galeano talks also about the assumptions of the USAID program and how they ban trade “with Cuba and North Vietnam and make the administrative tutelage of AID technicians obligatory.” This “tutelage” involved forcing governments to pass laws that made foreign companies exploitation of their land and resources easier. In Toni Cade Bambara’s “Vietnam Notebooks,” she writes about what North Vietnam’s socialist government achieved: “through the efforts to emancipate the woman, progressive legislation that benefited everybody immediately occurred such as social security and free medical care” (Savoring the Salt, 106). By this logic according to Galeano, USAID would tutor countries how to repress women and deny medical care and social security to all its citizens. Galeano’s point on page 235 about the World Bank, that it “channeled its loans toward birth-control promotion, education plans, agro-business, and tourism,” reminded me of how the Rockefeller Foundation document “predicting” Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 still is proof of how birth control promotion continues. Galeano writes that Latin America “is condemned to suffer the technology of the powerful, which attacks and removes natural raw materials, and is incapable of creating its own technology to sustain and defend its own development,” I think that this is too fatalistic, and I reminded of what I think is the BEST review of this book by Ernesto Verdeja for the Critical Sociology journal. Verdeja wrote that Latin America, in Galeano’s book “is portrayed as having no agency or capacity to resist foreign economic penetration. It is docile, pale body abused by a succession of foreign adventurers. The reality, however is much more complex…This functionalism fails to engage the legacy of leaders such as Zapata, Maximo Gomez, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Tupac Amaru, or social movements within civil society and revolutionary struggles outside it” (177). I agree wholeheartedly with Verdeja’s point here and point to Costa Rica as an example of a nation that is not following the U.S. or Venezuela’s lead in its economic self determination. I do think it is more complex than Galeano’s narrative. I do agree with his last point however in his second section where he says that “for U.S. imperialism to be able to ‘integrate and rule’ Latin America today, it was necessary for the British Empire to help divide and rule us yesterday” (259). Any economic exploitation by the British empire is in part the fault of individuals unable to work together to prevent this “divide and rule” strategy that still is used among so many oppressed groups today, like the Somalis and the Kenyans in the tragic bombing of the university students for their religious beliefs, as Margaret Kimberley writes about most recently. I think it is the duty of anti-imperialists across the world, including the Black abolitionists like John Brown Russwurm who edited Freedom’s Journal to avoid the tricks that imperialists use to divide and conquer. The most important question he asks in the entire book is in the last section and gets to the heart of Angela Davis’s point that a capitalist democracy is an oxymoron. It is impossible for this country to proclaim democracy and be the world’s leading seller and exporter of guns. Galeano asks: “Do we perhaps understand that the militarization of poor countries’ regimes is one of the consequences of economic and cultural domination by the industrialized countries, where life is ruled by the lust for profits and the power of money?” The message to me behind this question is to not let the lust of profits and the power of money ruin our individual and collective selves. The King James Bible said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Galeano helps us see evil in U.S. imperialism. We are the better for his writings. –RF.