Sunday, February 07, 2016

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VALENTINE CHOCOLATE? STOP! CAROL OFF ON MODERN SLAVERY IN THE GLOBAL CHOCOLATE INDUSTRY (MF GALAXY 064)


A MAJOR ECONOMIC DRIVER IN EUROPEAN GLOBAL CONQUEST, A CANADIAN-FRENCH JOURNALIST ASSASSINATED FOR INVESTIGATING BIG CHOCOLATE, COCOA MONEY LAUNDERING IN NEW YORK, AND IMF/WORLD BANK ECONOMIC MANIPULATION


In wealthy countries, chocolate is part of daily life. We give it as the generic token of affection at Christmas. On Valentine’s Day we send it as a sign of romantic love. When we need a mood booster or something to staunch our hunger, we grab a chocolate bar.

In recent years, it’s become a staple of corporate journalism to report on the supposed health benefits of consuming chocolate, or chocolate’s alleged power as an aphrodisiac, or how it produces near-orgasmic effects on brain chemistry.

But what almost no one in the wealthy countries realises is that chocolate is not simply big flavour or even big business, but a big, gaping wound in the body of human rights. The world’s number one supplier of cocoa beans is Ivory Coast, a country whose cocoa farmers routinely employ child labourers who are paid nothing. That means they’re enslaved. These same children are often lured to be transported hundreds of kilometres from their homes. That’s human trafficking. The massive profits from cocoa exports are used by governments and militias to finance their arsenals against each other. That’s civil war.

As much a planetary killer as is Big Tobacco, its daily operation pales before the massive human rights abuse that is Big Chocolate, or what should be called Blood Chocolate.

As we’ll find out in this episode of MF GALAXY, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Some of it belongs with the farmers in Cote d’Ivoire who are enslaving children, or the militaries feasting on chocolate profits. But much if not most belongs with massive Western corporations reaping profits in the billions while operating out of cartels which manipulate global markets and commodity prices, which permanently shackle the economies of Original World nations.

To explain this story, we’ll hear from Carol Off, the acclaimed journalist and host of CBC’s As It Happens who’s author of Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.
 

A finalist for the Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing and for the National Book Award, Bitter Chocolate is a horrifying description of the tortured history of cocoa, from its use by megalomaniacal kings in Meso-America, to its role as an economic driver in European global conquest.
 

We’ll discover the fascinating story of a Canadian-French journalist assassinated for investigating Big Chocolate at its production source, cocoa money laundering in New York state, and the role of the IMF and the World Bank in crushing national sovereignty by economic manipulation.

We’ll also hear about the groups fighting against Big Chocolate, and why Carol Off declares that simply buying fair trade won’t amount to a hill of beans.

Carol Off spoke with me by telephone while on the road in Ontario on April 19, 2008. We began by discussing the bizarrely utopian origins of Big Chocolate before we engage its horrifying results.


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To hear the patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Carol Off, click on this Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.


By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Carol Off discussing:



  • Whether North American and European consumers will pay a few extra pennies per chocolate bar to prevent the mass enslavement of West African children
  • The outpouring of activism to defeat slavery and increase justice and how Fair Trade has helped establish wells, day cares, schools, and clinics
  • France’s criminal regime of tariffs against finished chocolate and refined cocoa that keep France super-rich and in control and Ivory Coast ultra-poor and enslaved, and
  • Carol Off’s recommendations of which fair trade chocolate bars taste best
 
GET INVOLVED

If you’re concerned about what you’re hearing, use the links below to discover how you can get involved. Make sure you call your school board trustee to say you’ll vote only for candidates who stop raising funds for their school children by enslaving school-age children in Ivory Coast. 

And for your next celebration, whether Halloween, birthday, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day, look for the Fair Trade logo on the label. If you don’t see it, don’t buy it. Buy something else that’ll also be delicious and won’t enslave kids.
 




The following links are courtesy of antislavery.org:
 



 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

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AFRICAN HISTORY MONTH



(Repost of an article I wrote for Vue Weekly in 2008)
It’s African History Month again, and across the city and across the continent, folk are gearing up for education and celebration. But not everyone is celebrating. Some folks are fighting over the name. Others are saying the month shouldn’t even exist.

“All other peoples take up the other eleven months well,” says Winston Hawthorne, an engineer and community activist with the National Black Coalition of Canada, a major force behind the Month in E-Town. “We just need a little space for ourselves so we have time to talk with ourselves, see ourselves and do for ourselves. We’re behind in self-representation.”

Reminds me of Berke Breathed’s popular Bloom County comic strip, years ago, when one lad asked the sole Black character, Oliver Wendell Jones, why Ebony magazine should exist. If Ebony is okay, shouldn’t Ivory be all right? What Breathed and his boy didn’t get is that all the other mags on the stand are already ivory, by default. Nothing wrong with that, of course--a majority White population should be reflected culturally in its own media. But representation—and who’s doing the representing—are issues of justice in societies rife with racial discrimination from employment to housing to medicine.

African History Month, called also African Heritage Month and Black History Month, began in the 1926 US with the efforts of Carter G. Woodson (The Miseducation of the Negro) who established Negro History Week. Originally an American-only observance, the concept spread across North America. And according to Hawthorne, it hasn’t been easy. “It’s reaching the consciousness of people more than it has in the past,” he says. “But the progress has been slow. We hope to have seen more collaboration and activism for the entire year coming out of it. Several years ago the only organisation would have been [NBCC]. Now there are several, and individuals.”

This year in Edmonton, highlights of AHM include two art exhibitions, the Afro-Quiz (a Jeopardy-like contest for children and youth on global African cultures, history, science and more), a fashion showcase, a tribute to Marvin Gaye, Taste of Africa and the Caribbean, two film festivals, banquets, awards, and a Jubilee gospel concert featuring multiple Grammy-winner Yolanda Adams.

An ongoing controversy exists among people of African descent that finds few parallels among other peoples. Whereas East Asians rarely call themselves “yellow” and people from Europe tend to cite their individual national heritage (Irish, Italian, Polish) rather than the self-description “White,” many New World Africans continue to reject the term “African” in favour of the word “Black.”

Hawthorne, whose Jamaican roots wind their way through England, employs both terms, and routinely wears beautiful shirts from West Africa as visible embrace of the Motherland. He laments the rejection of Africa he’s witnessed among New Worlders. “The Caribbean [African], much like the North American African, does not know the ground he stands on,” he says, “because his education comes from the mainstream. Along with that education comes the perception of Africa that is still negative. Among a lot of Black people, we want to be seen as a winner, and the winner appears to be someone else, sadly. Which is why we need African History Month.”

Hawthorne underplays the “anti-winner” story of Africa that is the rule in the “his-tory” of the West. From movies to schoolbooks, from newspapers to documentaries, “Africa” used to mean grass skirts, “ooga-booga,” and cannibals. Now the stereotypes are more likely now those of endless wars, bloated bellies, misogyny, and filth. No less than French Neanderthal-in-Chief Nicolas Sarkozy declared that Africans have no history while--wait for it--he was at the University of Dakar in Senegal addressing Senegalese. Yet just across the border in Mali was fabled Timbuktu. A name known in North American as an almost Dr. Seussian non-sense term, the real Timbuktu was an ancient university city, home to thousands of manuscripts which even now are being translated for their treatises on medicine, astronomy, mathematics, literature, history, and more.

Sarkozy was close to Nigeria, home to the Yoruba religion, a wellspring of divine inspiration which birthed the New World religions of Voudou (Haiti), Candomblé (Brazil), Santeria (Cuba) and more, with somewhere around 50 million adherents worldwide (far more than Judaism, the Baha’i faith and Mormonism combined). And what about the Horn? Ethiopia with its castles and rock-hewn churches; Sudan with its hundreds of pyramids and a written text only recently decoded; and Egypt itself, child of Sudan and, according to Cheikh Anta Diop (The African Origin of Civilisation: Myth or Reality?), Martin Bernal (Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation) and Richard Poe (Black Spark, White Fire: Did African Explorers Civilise Ancient Europe?), a robustly African population and civilisation whose arts and sciences were the foundation for the Greek “miracle.” Writing itself may have begun among those ancient Africans.

“We will need African History Month so long as we fail to get over the legacy of history, until the Black peoples are standing on equal footing,” says Hawthorne. “It’s mainly up to us. We will need one until we’ve achieved equality.”

Monday, February 01, 2016

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GIL SCOTT HERON, “THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED” POET ON THE WOMEN WHO MADE HIM, THE DUTY OF ARTISTS, AND THE TRUTH ABOUT GANGSTA RAP (MF GALAXY 063)


ART AND EDUCATION VS. THE US PRISON-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, POPULAR SELECTIVE MEMORY ABOUT MALCOLM X, HIS FINAL BOOK, AND HOW CORPORATE MEDIA DISTORTS ENTERTAINERS AND CRUSADERS

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“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is perhaps the best-known line of poetry of any post-war American poet. Gil Scott-Heron’s accomplishments and views allow for many labels, none of which encompass the man: jazz musician, singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, and historian. Born in 1949, Scott-Heron released more than twenty albums, two novels (the first published when he was 19), and the 2012 memoir The Last Holiday about Stevie Wonder’s campaign to enshrine Martin Luther King’s birthday as a US national holiday.) His work is political, personal, and always richly poetical.

In July, 1999, Wayne Malcolm of CJSW Community Radio Calgary and I met with Gil Scott-Heron at the Calgary Folk Festival. He discussed:

  • The importance of his mother and his grandmother in his early life
  • How he got pigeonholed as a political artist despite the broad range of his art and life
  • The significance and illusions of gangster rap
  • Art and education vs. the US prison-industrial complex
  • Scott Heron’s thoughts on popular selective memory about Malcolm X
  • His first novel, written when Scott-Heron when he was only 19, and the subject of his final novel
  • How his lyrics address manhood and his own personal experience of being a husband and a father
  • His collaboration with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and
  • How corporate media distort our perceptions of famous entertainers or famous crusaders


He began by talking about his famous father who was known as the Black Arrow—and no, he wasn’t a superhero.

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