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AFRICAN LIBERATION DAY & Q&A WITH KWAME NKRUMAH’S SON, GAMAL

May 25, 2021

The following is excerpted from the Black Alliance for Peace’s AFRICOM Watch Bulletin.

African Liberation Day (ALD), celebrated on May 25, has its origins in the long struggle of African people to liberate themselves from European domination and white supremacy. It is a time in which we emphasize our oneness as a people with a common past, common set of problems and a common future.

The capture of millions of African people, who were enslaved and introduced into the Western Hemisphere as property and commodities, is the backdrop upon which we commemorate ALD. The colonial-capitalist system imposes a divide between the millions of Africans kidnapped to the Americas during the Transatlantic slave trade and those left on the African continent.

ALD is a vehicle to continue to highlight the problems, challenges and the future of African people everywhere. The challenges facing Africa and African people worldwide require that we remain dedicated to the cause of Africa’s liberation. We can continue to showcase that dedication by actively participating in ALD activities held throughout the world.


U.S. Out of Africa: Voices from the Struggle

Gamal Nkrumah is a Ghanaian journalist, a Pan-Africanist and an editor of Al Ahram Weekly newspaper. He is the eldest son of the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah.

AFRICOM Watch Bulletin: Could you speak about the history of African Liberation Day?

Gamal Nkrumah: May 25th is celebrated as African Liberation Day. The day marks the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963. The formation of the OAU was a key moment in a centuries-long struggle against colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism.

For more than 500 years, African people have been dehumanized and degraded, with their bodies and labor commodified to enrich a ruling elite. From slave labor on cotton and sugar plantations to the extraction of gold and diamonds from the earth, the development of Europe and the Americas happened through the rapid exploitation of African people.

Through the collective experiences of deprivation, African people in the diaspora and continent developed a resistance movement. There were many milestones in this process: the formation of independent, maroon communities by former slaves and Afro-Caribbean people, the first Pan-African congress held in 1900, the fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, 1945.

Over the decades, political consciousness grew around the necessity to wage a revolutionary, Pan-African struggle against colonial and imperial rule in the 20th century. The revolutionary anti-colonial movements culminated in the mid-century with the independence of several African nations from European powers and the formation of the Organization of African Unity.

AWB: How does ALD relate to the struggles of African people today?

Gamal Nkrumah: African Liberation Day, as it came to be known, was born from the fierce fight for a new society. As Kwame Nkrumah said, “The African Revolution, while still concentrating its main effort on the destruction of imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism, aims at the same time to bring about a radical transformation of society. The choice has already been made by the workers and peasants of Africa. They have chosen liberation and unification… for the political unification of Africa and socialism are synonymous. One cannot be achieved without the other.”

Today, capitalism continues to brutally ravage and exploit Africa and its people. The West, through their militaries as well as the IMF and World Bank, have consistently imposed a neocolonial agenda on the continent, and the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union, is a puppet of capital and elite interests.

African people on May 25 celebrate the victories of revolutionary Pan-Africanism. African Liberation Day recalls the long history of struggles against class exploitation, colonialism and imperialism.

Revolutionary Africans know that attaining full emancipation demands a revolution from below, in the interests of people over profit. The only antidote to this colonial-capitalist system that continues to impoverish African people is an organized force in Africa ready to pursue Pan-Africanism under scientific socialism.

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MARIAH JONES, 18, GOES FROM WOMEN’S SHELTER IN PITTSBURGH TO FULL RIDE SCHOLARSHIP FOR ASTROPHYSICS AT VASSAR

May 22, 2021

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, high school senior Mariah Jones, who once lived with her mother and her older sisters at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, is now on her way to Vassar College in NY this fall on a full scholarship.

Jones, 18, is currently working with an astrophysicist at the University of Pittsburgh as a part of a project that endeavors to estimate the distance to other galaxies, an opportunity that came about when she cold-called Brett Andrews, a research assistant professor at Pitt.

To quote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“She had reached out to me and a bunch of other professors at Pitt,” Andrew said. “Her curiosity and her drive make her unique. She’s taken the initiative and reached out to people she doesn’t know to make an opportunity for herself.”

That opportunity culminated in a prestigious QuestBridge scholarship to Vassar. QuestBridge is a national nonprofit based in CA that connects exceptional, low-income youth with leading colleges and opportunities.

“I’ve always been a very aggressive, very strong-willed person and I’m very open to taking challenges head-on. I don’t let anything stop me.”

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BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME KOBE BRYANT EXHIBIT DESIGNED WITH VANESSA BRYANT’S INPUT

May 15, 2021

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has created a special exhibit honoring the late Kobe Bryant, a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee, that has been co-designed and approved by his wife and widow, Vanessa Bryant.

According to the Hall of Fame’s President and CEO, John Doleva, the Bryant exhibit is predicted to become the “most talked about” exhibit inside the Springfield, Massachusetts landmark.

“The family had time to think about what they wanted to do,” Doleva said [as reported by espn.com] during Friday’s news conference for each of the 2020 inductees. “[It’s] about Kobe’s accomplishments but also about what Kobe was after he left the Lakers, after he left basketball.”

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FILMS WITH HIGHER PERCENTAGES OF CAST DIVERSITY EARN TOP BOX OFFICE DOLLARS IN 2020 WHILE FILMS WITH LOWEST DIVERSITY EARN THE LEAST

April 22, 2021

According to UCLA’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report, U.S. audiences spent more money to see films comprised of diverse casts.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted movie releases in theaters for the majority of 2020, the UCLA report took that into consideration and tracked online and streaming movie releases as well. The data from those releases offer similar results — diversely-cast films generate more interest from audiences.

UCLA’s 2021 report states that in 2020, films with casts with at least 41% to 50% diversity took home the highest median gross at the box office, while films with casts less than 11% diversity performed the worst.

These films include the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence action comedy Bad Boys for Life, which was 2020’s top-earning film at the box office with $426.5 million; the No. 2 Tenet starring John David Washington, which grossed $362.9 million; Birds of Prey, which came in at No. 5 with $201.9 million; and Onward, which came in seventh with $141.9 million.

The UCLA report states that the new evidence from 2020 supports findings from previous reports in this series suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse film content in the following ways:

  1. People of color accounted for the majority of opening weekend, domestic ticket sales for six of the top 10 films released in theaters in 2020 (ranked by global box office), as well as half of the tickets for a seventh top 10 film.

  2. Among the large number of top films released via streaming platforms in 2020 — largely due to the pandemic and theater closures — ratings for White, Black, Latinx and Asian households and viewers 18-49 were all highest for films featuring casts that were from 21 percent to 30 percent minority.

  3. Households of color accounted for a disproportionate share of the households viewing eight of the top 10 films released via streaming platforms in 2020, ranked by total household ratings, and approached proportionate representation for the other two.

  4.  In 2020, total social media interactions for films released via streaming platforms peaked for films with casts that were from 21 percent to 30 percent minority.

  5. In 2020, films with casts that were from 41 percent to 50 percent minority enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts, while films with casts that were less than 11 percent minority were the poorest performers.

  6. In 2020, seven of the top 10 theatrical films for Asian and Black moviegoers, ranked by each group’s share of opening weekend box office, featured casts that were over 30 percent minority. Four of the top 10 theatrical films for Latinx moviegoers and just one of the top 10 theatrical films for White moviegoers had casts that exceeded 30 percent minority.

  7. Seven of the top 10 streaming films ranked by the Asian share and Black share of total households had casts that were over 30 percent minority in 2020. Among the top 10 films ranked by Latinx and White household share, six had casts that exceeded the 30 percent minority threshold.

The report also notes that while gains have been made in certain areas in regards to casting, director and writer representation for people of color still has a ways to go, with percentages for both in 2020 were still over 74% white.

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HBCU LINCOLN UNIVERSITY NOW OFFERS LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING ACADEMY WITH GOAL OF COMMUNITY-BASED POLICING

April 29, 2021

Lincoln University in Missouri has become the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to train police recruits on campus at the Lincoln University Law Enforcement Training Academy (LULET) established earlier this year.

Led by Lincoln University police chief Gary Hill, the program allows its students to spend their final semester at the university doing full-time police training, in addition to viewing and analyzing bodycam and cellphone footage of incidents as part of the curriculum.

According to time.com, the program runs for 22 weeks on evenings and Saturdays. Students learn how to shoot a firearm and when to use force, as well as how to respond to domestic-violence and child-abuse calls and how to deal with death encountered on the job. 

Hill says the academy steers away from the military-style teaching methods that traditional police academies have been criticized for using. He says a chunk of the curriculum focuses on de-escalation strategies and that he has personally vetted the instructors, who are all local law-enforcement officers.

A new study published this February in the journal Science found that Black and Hispanic officers use force less frequently than white officers, especially against Black people, evidence that diversity can improve police treatment of communities of color.

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JUDGE FREES KWAME KILPATRICK PAL BOBBY FERGUSON FROM PRISON 10 YEARS EARLY

April 29, 2021

Following in the footsteps of his once powerful friend, contractor Bobby Ferguson has won his freedom after convincing a judge to release him from prison 10 years early for crimes he committed when Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor of Detroit.
Over the objections of the prosecution, which called Ferguson a "tyrant" and accused him of robbing Detroit through bullying tactics, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds granted Ferguson's request for compassionate release. However, he's still on the hook for the $6.2 million in restitution he owes the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department for what prosecutors described as crooked contracts he won with the help of Kilpatrick...
After Kilpatrick's release, Ferguson's lawyers argued that a sentencing disparity had been created, and that it wasn't fair for their client to still be stuck behind bars when the ex-mayor, who had a stiffer sentence, was out. They also argued that Ferguson had an increased vulnerability to COVID-19 due to his hypertension, high cholesterol and diminishing lung capacity.
In the end, Edmunds, who handed down the sentence, agreed.
"Not only has defendant served a slightly longer term of imprisonment than a more culpable codefendant, but his motion comes during an unprecedented global pandemic and defendant has an increased vulnerability to the virus," wrote Edmunds, who lambasted Ferguson when she sentenced him eight years ago.

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BILL THAT COULD LEAD TO SLAVERY REPARATIONS PROPOSALS MAY BE NEARING CONSIDERATION ON HOUSE FLOOR

April 19, 2021

After more than three decades, a bill that could lead to slavery reparations proposals appears set for a major step forward. The House Judiciary Committee plans to mark up the bill and vote on it Wednesday.

If the legislation is reported out of committee, it would set up the first floor vote on the measure since its introduction in 1989.

"This is what we call the next step," Representative Sheila Jackson Lee told CBS News. "America has never acknowledged the original sin, and that if you look at African Americans today, the disparities that were entrenched in slavery still exist." -

The bill was reintroduced at the beginning of this year after the committee held a high-profile hearing on it in 2019, on Juneteenth, the day many celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Witnesses included actor Danny Glover, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. 

The House bill has 175 sponsors — more than double the number in 2019. It has never advanced out of committee but is expected to this time since Democrats outnumber Republicans on the panel.

"Seeing this type of movement after so many years of being dormant, it's extremely significant and represents a unique time not only socially but politically," said Driesen Heath, a researcher and racial justice advocate at Human Rights Watch, who testified at a sub-committee hearing on the bill earlier this year.

During that hearing, critics charged reparations were counterproductive and divisive. 

"Reparation teaches separation," former NFL player Herschel Walker said in an opening statement. "It will only create division with the different races which I feel continue to tell us we are African-American rather than just an American."

Jackson Lee argues the reparations bill is warranted and hopes it can be voted on by the House by this summer.

While its course could be more difficult in the Senate, the White House has said President Biden supports the study of reparations. 

"The timing is great," Jackson Lee told CBS News. "We are now, unfortunately, seemingly going back — massive voter oppression and suppression with legislation across America, the tragedies against black men as it relates to the encounters in law enforcement certainly needs to be repaired and the disparities in wealth is very stark, even today. The time for H.R. 40 is now."

The "40" in H.R.40 refers to 40 acres and a mule, a broken Civil War-era promise that was made by the government to newly freed slaves after emancipation.

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77 INMATES AT IOWA PRISON GIVEN OVERDOSES OF COVID-19 VACCINE, OFFICIALS SAY

April 22, 2021

Two medical staff members from the Iowa Department of Corrections incorrectly administered the vaccine -- developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech -- to 77 inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison for men located in Fort Madison, about 90 miles southeast of Iowa City. The dosages given exceeded the amount recommended by the vaccine manufacturer, according to Cord Overton, spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Corrections- 

The affected inmates have been notified of the error and are being closely monitored by medical staff. The Iowa Department of Corrections plans to conduct medical wellness check-ups routinely for several days. So far, the only side effects that the inmates have experienced are those commonly associated with the Pfizer vaccine, Overton said.

Currently, 200 inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary have received their first shot and 48 inmates have received their second shot. Across the entire Iowa Department of Corrections, 1,964 inmates have received their first dose and 214 inmates have received their second dose, according to Overton.

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THE IRS JUST PAID OUT 2.8 MILLION SURPRISE TAX REFUNDS — WILL YOU GET ONE?

June 7, 2021

The Internal Revenue Service just distributed over 2.8 million refunds to taxpayers as automatic payments — meaning you don’t have to fill out any forms or sit on hold for an hour to get your money.

Millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the first nine months of the crisis (including some who might still be looking for work) were forced to file for unemployment benefits for the first time, as businesses closed or cut back operations.

Normally, unemployment benefits are taxed like any other income. But the pandemic rescue package Biden signed into law in March excludes from 2020 taxes up to $10,200 in unemployment compensation per taxpayer, or $20,400 for couples filing jointly.

Those who filed their taxes ahead of the COVID relief law may have overpaid based on what they thought they owed. If your income was below $150,000 in 2020 and you claimed federal unemployment benefits last year, you may have a surprise refund coming.