Tag Archive | Africa

The irony of Obama and Kenya

The irony of Senator Barack Obama’s recent South Carolina victory and endorsement by Senator Kennedy is soured by the chaos and violence in Kenya. For those that don’t know, Obama’s father is from Kenya and since elections last month, Kenya has been engulfed in a vicious conflict, pitting the Kikuyus against the Luos and Kalenjins. For context, the elected President Mwai Kibaki is supported by the Kikuyus and Kibaki’s rival Mr Raila Odinga is supported by the Luou and the Kalenjins. Odinga accuses Kibaki of stealing the election. To date, reports estimate the death toll at 800. Unfortunately, I am not knowledgeable enough about Kenya to take sides or offer meaningful commentary.

I am just frustrated because among Black folk in America, we have been somewhat vitriolic in our treatment of Black folks who do not support Obama. Supporting Clinton or Edwards does not make you a coon or an Uncle Tom. And my fear is that unlike Kenya, supporters of Clinton or Edwards (or other) have not had to fear for their life but respect and civility have taken some body blows. Maybe we could help heal those wounds by coming together to find out ways to help our Kenyan brothers and sisters.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.


Why don’t we care about Africa?

I borrowed the title of today’s post from Presidential Candidate, Governor Bill Richardson. In a story that was grotesquely swept under the rug, “US warships fired navy missiles at foreign fighters in Somalia.” We have wrote about military operations directed towards Africa before but this ups the ante…a lot. Read More…

The 2008 Olympics actually helping Darfur Conflict?

It looks like it just might. According to this NY Times article,

nongovernmental organizations and other groups appear to have scored a surprising success in an effort to link the Olympics, which the Chinese government holds very dear, to the killings in Darfur, which, until recently, Beijing had not seemed too concerned about.

Nearly any angle that is used to make headway here is worth pursuing in my mind, so this one is no different.

Read More…

The Strategic Fork in Africa

In chess, there is a move commonly referred to as a “fork,” where a one piece can capture two pieces simultaneously. Forks are really useful when someone is in check (your opponent’s king is threatened) and the queen (the most powerful piece in chess) is also under threat. The person in check has no choice but to move the king out of the way, thereby clearing the way for the other queen to be taken. This scenario is being played out in Africa right now.

Last year, I wrote a post entitled, “War on Africa” where I discussed U.S. efforts to expand counter terrorism efforts in Africa through two main initiatives, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative [TSCTI] and the Pan Sahel Initiative.

Recently the Pentagon announced plans to create “a new unified military command for its operations in Africa.” The aptly named Africom, was authorized by President Bush the same day Donald Rumsfeld left office. Africom’s operations will cover the entire continent of Africa save Egypt. There are few gestures that signify the geopolitical importance of a country/region than setting up permanent military command posts.

To be sure, “U.S. intelligence agents — and terrorism experts — have long been concerned about the increasing infiltration of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, especially in the northern trans-Saharan region.”

So going back to our strategic fork example, fighting terrorism is really the king that the U.S. is threatening to distract attention from what many argue is the more valuable piece (or queen) of the puzzle being cornered…oil.

So if we view security as the king, it is easy to see how the carrot of expanded military and intelligence training would encourage African countries and militias to become allies in the “so-called” war on terror. And no doubt, there will be people who we are training now that will be labeled as the enemy once their increased status threatens America’s interests.

But is oil really the queen? It make sense when we know that, “The continent (of Africa) will account for 20 to 25 percent of U.S. energy imports by the next decade.” And if you think America won’t find a way to fight a war (low grade wars included) to secure 25% of its energy needs, please pinch yourself because you are dreaming.

Nevertheless, we have China upping the ante by rapidly increasing trade with Africa to the point of doing anything to fill their insatiable hunger for oil and other natural resources with the U.S. sitting back and saying, “They just can’t sit back and have the continent to themselves.”

So when I say war on Africa, I actually mean war “over” Africa. In other words, as Chinese geopolitical influence grows, there will undoubtedly be conflicts between China and the U.S. Therefore, where would be a better place for the world’s two most powerful countries to fight proxy wars than the continent of Africa?

Unfortunately, I am eerily reminded of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. For those that don’t know, the Berlin Conference essentially spelled out the rules by which imperial powers of the time could colonize Africa and exploit her resources. (See Scramble for Africa) Germany actually called for the conference. And where do you think Africom will be set up before it finds an African home? Germany.

Some things never change.


Stay up fam,

International Affairs

2007 State of the Union: A Translation

Here is my real-time analysis of G. W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address. This is a shortcut for anyone that did not watch the speech on TV or listen to it.

First, an omission. He did not say a word about Hurricane Katrina. That made me so upset that I nearly shed tears.

Madame Speaker…

This actually started well. Hearing this reminds me of how historic it is for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be the Speaker of the House, the most powerful woman ever in the United States Congress. I wonder if Mr. Bush was sincere in his words to her during his opening remarks.

Decisions are hard, and courage is needed…The will to face difficult challenges…Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities…

These guarded statements are said to try and disarm his opposition within the Democratically-controlled Congress. What these statements basically mean is, “I will give lip service to working together, but expect nothing different out of me and my administration.”

3 Economic Reforms that deserve to be priorities…Balance the Federal Budget…We can do so without raising taxes…What we need is spending discipline in Washington…EarmarksEntitlements…Commitments of Conscience…Fix Medicare and Medicaid, and save Social Security…

This was the first “meat” of the speech. He spit typical conservative banter about “fiscal responsibility,” and it is simply banter because this administration has been arguably the most fiscally irresponsible administrations in history. A key example of this irresponsibility: Iraq. The “we can do so without raising taxes” part is consistent with Bush’s insistence on cutting taxes while we are at “war,” something that has never happened before.

The stuff on “earmarks” is a joke because those will not go away any time soon since Republicans and Democrats use them all the time.

Conservatives use the term “entitlements” to deceive people. They need to do this so that they can make you feel bad about the government doing things for you. They play up this farce so that people feel bad taking things from the government that they select & elect. Funny how there was no mention of corporate entitlements in the form of war profiteering or the Bankruptcy Bill a.k.a. the worst piece of legislation since the Patriot Act (which a certain person voted for, and that really bothers me).

The future of opportunity requires that all of our citizens have affordable and available health care…For all other Americans, private health insurance provides the best option…Standard Health Insurance Tax Deduction…Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care available to all Americans

I don’t even know why this man fronts like he wants all Americans to have health insurance. If so, he would at least put a dent in the 40+ million people who don’t. He and his friends still think it is a bad idea to realize Universal Health Care through what’s called a Single-payer system. Basically, single-payer means that only one party negotiates for the price of health insurance and services: the government. Every citizen would then have their health costs covered through what they pay in taxes. This would result in higher taxes for the citizens, but those increased costs probably would not add up to the amount that people overpay for health services every day, month, and year. The idea of trying to get everyone to go private is as ridiculous as the privatize social security plan that he had a while back (and still has). This is also consistent with the way that the “war” in Iraq has been privatized. These pro-business, anti-citizen types always think private is the answer so that they can take money away from public institutions and services.

Extending hope and opportunity in this country requires an immigration policy that is worthy of America

I won’t say much on this. I think that Bush’s guest worker idea sounds a whole lot like new school indentured servitude. For those that don’t know, this was the precursor to slavery in this country. I do not think that the parallel is coincidental.

Reduce gasoline usage by 20% in the next 10 years…

How??? His mandatory fuel standard statement was weak at best, especially in the midst of his administration and its energy policy.

Global climate change…

He can’t say global warming because that does not exist. So rather than being a flip-flopper (we know how much he hates those), he has decided to use a different term: global climate change. This is his backwards way of admitting that there is a problem. I guess a small first step is better than no step at all. Is the next step for him to watch this?

To win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy…

This was the opening statement to his surprisingly long section on Iraq, Iran, and foreign policy. There was too much B.S. here to sift through. Take a look at some of our analysis to get an idea of the truth. Suffice it to say that this strategy is questionable at best.

Darfur…Fight AIDS on the continent of Africa…Dikembe Mutumbo…

He really mentioned Darfur? That’s a surprise. Too bad he didn’t refer to it as a genocide. Again, I guess a small step is better than no step at all.

It is sad, but the “fighting AIDS in Africa” phrase is being rendered absolutely meaningless. It gets paid so much lip service that people forget that there are actually humans living on the continent of Africa who exist for reasons other than making someone feel good being a philanthropist.

One Love. One II.

Foreign Policy
State of the Union
So-called “War on Terror”

A Proposed Black Agenda for Democrats

BlackCommentator.com has a great list of items that the Democrats should focus on should they take control of the House of Representatives. These items, in their view, would be the most beneficial things that they could do for Black people in this country.

Here are the plan’s 10 proposals:

1. Introduce and pass comprehensive Katrina legislation that includes a victim’s compensation fund akin to that awarded the 911 families
2. Introduce and pass legislation to fix and expand the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system
3. Equalize education funding in the states by introducing and passing legislation authorizing a federal education incentive fund that induces states to eradicate unequal school financing schemes
4. Improve the quality and effectiveness of primary and secondary schools by introducing and passing legislation that encourages comprehensive school reform in the states
5. Authorize and appropriate resource support for African Union peacekeeping forces in the Darfur region of Sudan
6. Combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in African American communities by introducing and passing comprehensive HIV/AIDS legislation
7. Spur economic development by passing legislation implementing federally funded business training programs in high schools, community colleges, HBCU’s and other minority-serving education institutions
8. Introduce and pass legislation to guarantee universal access to health insurance
9. Introduce and pass federal legislation standardizing state voting requirements and mandating paper verification voting systems
10. Respect the traditional seniority system in the House of Representatives that would allow ranking African American committee members to ascend to their rightful place as chairs of powerful House committees

The most interesting points on this list in my mind are numbers 3 & 9.

#3 is interesting because if we do real work to equalize funding, then maybe we can actually have a real merit-based process for evaluating school performance instead of the sham that is No Child Left Behind. Having school funding being tied almost solely to property taxes leads to a vicious cycle in the presence of urban sprawl, brain drain, and other migration phenomena. Perhaps we can come up with a better system that works in spite of these sorts of things.

#9 is important because voting is important. Because voting is so important, anything that can be done to protect the system for counting votes is equally as important. If people were completely confident in said system, I wouldn’t have to beg so hard.

Would you add more to this list?

One Love. One II.

Black Issues

Empowering Yourself, Empowering Your Community

This weekend, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the CLIMB Rally. CLIMB (Communities Learning to Invest and Mobilize for Business) is an initiative that works to increase financial literacy and awareness in inner-city communities in Wisconsin. I have been working closely with this organization since 2004 and it has been a rewarding experience. Originally in outline format, I have converted, to the best of my memory, the speech to prose form. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Truth and Peace,

It is an honor and a privilege to stand before you today. I am humbled that I was chosen for the keynote spot. The lunch hour is always a difficult slot to fill, so I will try to make this as brief and painless as possible.

When I was first asked me to speak on EMPOWERING YOURSELF, EMPOWERING YOUR COMMUNITY, I was at a loss. I thought, I am only 23 years old, and I am not a professional speaker. What do I know? Sure I had written a few articles and done a little volunteer work, but what qualified me to speak on such a deep topic? Well, the most important qualification I could think of is that I LOVE MY COMMUNITY and I genuinely WANT TO SEE PEOPLE LIVE TO THEIR HIGHEST POTENTIAL. I am not much of a public speaker, I am more of a conversationalist. With that said, I have a few words, but what I really want to have is a dialogue with you, the beautiful people who make up the COMMUNITY of MILWAUKEE. So after I get done, if there are any comments or questions you have, I am open to them.

Empowering the Community

Since we are in a church, I figure it would be appropriate if I took my text for today from the GOOD BOOK. We gonna go to church for a minute. I was raised in a Christian household, so a lot of my life lessons come from the Word. I know service isn’t until tomorrow, but bear with me.

In the book of Joshua, specifically Joshua 4:1-9, God has parted the Jordan river and the Israelites have just crossed into the PROMISE LAND after 40 years of wandering in the WILDERNESS. GOD tells Joshua to memorialize this moment of crossing over by choosing a man from each tribe and have them grab a boulder and make a heap of stones.

1. He says, “THAT it may be a memorial among you, that when your CHILDREN ask their FATHERS in the time to come, saying, WHAT DO THESE stones signify?” v.6

2. “Then ye shall answer them, THAT THE WATERS of JORDAN were cut off before the ARK of the COVENANT of the Lord: when it passed over Jordan, the waters of JORDAN were cut off: and these stones shall be a memorial unto the children of ISRAEL for ever.” v. 7

B. Legacy

When I was doing my research, I came across this passage and I got to thinking: All threw out the Bible, the Israelites memorialized everything. Yet as a group, the Jews have been through some of the most systematic persecution the world has ever seen; from the expulsion from Rome, to the Crusades, to the Holocaust. Yet, today, they manage to own almost everything. And they have tremendous solidarity as a community. How is this possible? I came up with one answer: The Power of Legacy.
In order to talk effectively about subject matter, we need some definitions.

1. Legacy is defined in the dictionary as “ANYTHING HANDED DOWN FROM AN ANCESTOR; AN INHERITANCE.”
a. Traditionally for the rich (e.g. property, a coat of arms, written works, etc.) because the poor did not own anything. It granted them IMMORTALITY because every time their children or great grand-children sat down in that BIG HOUSE or spent that MONEY, it forced them to REMEMBER who made that possible.

b. LEGACIES are formed by mindsets that have been cultivated over time.

For example, my little brother and sister, when they were little, would watch me talk on my cell phone and walk around the house. When they were able to walk and talk, they began to do the same thing. Then I remembered, I saw my dad do that everytime he got on the phone. We do what we see.

Why are legacies important? CONNECTS us to the past, GIVES us WISDOM, GUIDANCE and STRENGTH for the Present, and HOPE for the future. It also makes us accountable for the things we have received and what we will pass on.

2. Community: A group of PEOPLE living TOGETHER as a smaller social UNIT within a larger one with interests in COMMON. A group of PEOPLE with COMMON legacies.
a. Communities are built on TRADITIONS, which is a type of legacy.
i. In fact, COMMUNITIES exist for the SOLE PURPOSE of PERPETUATING these LEGACIES, which are ways of doing things.

With these definitions, it leads to two interesting questions: What have you inherited? And what legacy will you leave behind? We need to take a critical eye towards our legacies. For example, soul food is a bedrock of the African-American experience, but the way it is traditionally prepared is killing us. We are suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure as a result of these foods. Legacies can hurt us when they outlive their usefulness.

My own family was not rich, but they things they lacked materially, they made up for in training and maintaining the family. CHURCH FAMILY, INTEGRITY, SACRIFICE, and CONCERN for one another was of crucial importance. Whenever I would go off to school, my parents would always say, “You are a reflection of us, do not do anything that will dishonor the family.” It was this groundedness and upbringing that has made me the man I am today. Seeing my grandfather interact with my grandmother and his children. Seeing my father and mother do what they did and take the time to teach me about life and my roots that made all the difference.

Consequently, I grew up immensely concerned with my legacy. Everything I did was done to make God and my family proud of me; and also to put my children in a better position than I was in. This is what led me to get involved with the Weekly Dream and The Superspade. I felt that every man should have a legacy and I wanted to memorialize the lessons I had learned to guide my children, to keep them on the path set before them. I thought about the stories my father told me that helped me through my rough times, and I wondered, what stories could I tell them? Those stories and lived experiences helped me through my own tough times when I came to that same fork in the road.

If we look at the LEGACY we are leaving our children, can we be proud? Our parents inherited the legacy of the Civil Rights Era, community activism and social awareness and empowerment. But my generation and the ones after us are seeing one of violence, drugs, absentee fathers, and poverty. Are we equipping them with the tools they will need to FACE TOMORROW and To COMPETE in this global economy?

Empowering the person

This leads me to the second part of the equation: Empowering the person. If we want the community to get better, we must get better. When the people get better, our community will get better. In order for us to get better, WE NEED TO GET OUR HOUSE IN ORDER. So allow me to present the Steven M DeVougas 4-Point Plan for Getting Your Life Together (patent pending).

First, Get a VISION. You need a revelation of your purpose and potential. In Proverbs it says that where there is no vision, the people perish. If you do not know who you are or what you are suppose to be doing, abuse and neglect sets in. I am a big proponent of asking the hard questions and seeking the truth. If you have more questions than we have answers, that is all right. The questions will lead you to your vision. And your vision will guide you actions and fuel your passion. So ask yourself:

From the sixth grade on, I had one goal: To get out of my mama’s house and go off to college as far away from Milwaukee as possible. This goal carried me through grade school, high school, college and into grad school. Now, I am searching for a new vision to build and orient my life around, to fuel my passion and take me to the next level. After years of chasing this one vision and achieving it, I have to begin the process anew. That is the soul-searching I am currently undergoing so that I may achieve my destiny.

Second, Make the DECISION. And keep making the decision, to chase your dream and fulfill the vision. TALK to people who are making it happen. DON”T miss out because you didn’t open your mouth or seek the answers. INCREASE your awareness daily. WE ARE IN A WAR, with ourselves, for our communities, for our families. And change is not going to come easy. We are going to have to fight to the end.

THIRD, CONTROL what you can. You might not be able to save the world, but you can influence those around you and be a local catalyst for change. You might not be able to stop the war in Iraq or the atrocities in Darfur, but you can change what is going on right outside your door, right here, in this city. Take control and be accountable for your actions. SPEAK UP: Talk to your family and friends about legacy and what they are doing with their lives and talent. Bring them to things like the CLIMB rally, so that they can see a different way of doing things. Remember, we tend to do what we see.

Fourth: KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER. Help others and be a resource. Remember, it is bigger than you. SERVE with your gifts. That is why God gave them to you. Not everyone is built for visiting the prison or working in a homeless shelter, but you can do something that you enjoy that serves others, and that is how we glorify the Creator. Keep an eye toward your legacy and capitalize on it. A lot of times, we do not think that the things we possess has value outside of our family or community, but we all possess something the world needs. As a community and a people, we miss out on wealth creation and opportunity because of this limited thinking.

I will share a story that typifies this. At my family reunion last year, I learned that my great-grandfather had a BBQ sauce so good, that people in a tri-state area would come to his rib shack just to taste it. When I learned of this, I thought, wow, my family could be a BBQ sauce dynasty. When I inquired about where the recipe was, the answer I got was, “we don’t know, nobody ever wrote it down”. As a result, Sweet Baby Ray’s wears the BBQ crown.


Sounds simple? I do not have all of the answers, but this is how it seems to me. If we empower ourselves by being our best selves, then our community will be a reflection of that. It cannot be about me and mine, because we are all connected. When we move from a ME mentality to a WE mentality, then change will occur. But if we do not SHARE information and RESOURCES, nothing will change.

WE need each other and MILWAUKEE needs us. OUR city needs leaders who are not AFRAID to SPEAK UP, but who have enough LOVE in their hearts for the CITY and the COMMUNITY to stop and make a difference. The surest way to empower yourself and the community is to WALK in LOVE and LIVE THE TRUTH. Live a life consistent with what you know is right. What will the heap of stones you leave behind say about you?
I encourage everyone to check us out on http://www.thesuperspade.com and support some young brothers trying to make a difference in our own little way. THANK YOU and I WISH ALL OF YOU TRUTH AND PEACE in this pursuit of EXCELLENCE and financial freedom.