Saturday, 27 April 2013

NEW REVIEW: Black Americans In The 21st Century by Doug Saint Carter

If it had been Barack Obama instead of Jesse Jackson that ran for president of The US in 1984, chances are that he would have won. This is not to discredit Jesse Jackson in anyway, but to draw attention to an important determining factor in the election of Barack Obama. In 1984, sixteen years after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson accepted the nomination of the democratic party to run for president. However, Jesse Jackson never made it beyond the primaries. Twenty four years later, Barack Obama, against the odds stacked against him - his skin colour and  the fact that he was largely unknown on the national stage - ran for the presidency and won. What was missing in Jesse Jackson's rhetoric? What happened to Americans in those twenty four years?

To put it simply, Jesse Jackson ran for the seat of a "Black president of the United states" while Barack Obama ran for the seat of  "The president of the United States". This paradigmatic shift from the popular rhetoric of black civil rights movement which formed a large part of Jesse Jackson's campaign rhetoric, contributed to a large part of Obama's election success. In other words, Jesse Jackson came with an "Us against them" rhetoric which isolated whites, in contrast to Obama's Unifying rhetoric as expressed in his speeches. This one readily comes to mind:

"There is no Black America, or White America, or Hispanic America, there is the United States of America."

It would be unfair to wholly attribute Obama's election success to his rhetoric, without taking into cognizance the fact that whites had matured racially in the years that followed the civil rights movements of the 60's. The election of Barack Obama lends credence to the fact that majority of the white population no longer harbored racial prejudices and wanted to demonstrate their racial maturity and tolerance by voting a Black man into the highest political office in the world. By this act, White Americans in the 21st century were sending a message to the world - That all men are created equal, that liberty and justice are the ideals upon which any progressive society is built upon, that they were committed to these ideals regardless of race or creed. Many had hoped that the election of a Black president would bring about the great racial unification that Martin Luther King dreamt about, but that is hardly the case today. What is the racial attitude of Black Americans in the 21st century? Have Black Americans reached the level of racial maturity that Whites have attained? Are Black Americans still angry and why? Should present day White Americans be held responsible for Slavery? What should be done to improve race relations between Whites and Blacks? Are there cultures among the Black population that could be hampering their progress and relationships with other races?

In this book, Black Americans In The Twenty First Century, speaker and author Doug Saint Carter attempts to answer these questions, and shares his experiences, efforts and observations of improving white and black race relations.

The book's first section laments the apparent lack of love between the white and black population, a lack largely traceable to the insistence of Blacks on hanging on to the worst of the past. There is a repetition of the rhetorical question - Where is the love - one that reminds one of the song by Black American music group, Black Eyed Peas. Today's Black Americans may have fallen short of the dream of the Revered Martin Luther king who declared solemnly: "learn to love your white brothers and sisters, do not drink from the cup of bitterness, hate and grudges".

The second section  takes the reader through the experiences and observations of the author during a nine month workshop sponsored by the Jacksonville Community Council JCCI. The workshop was aimed at improving race relations between Blacks and Whites. During the 33 sessions held over a period of nine months, the author writes that while most of the recommendations from the study were aimed at improving the living standards of America's racial minorities, blacks included, they did not in any way improve race relations between Whites and Blacks. He describes the workshop as "A metaphorical ball" which has been formed in recognition of the need to improve race relations, albeit, the ball is yet to be set in motion. Hampering the ball from rolling he notes, is the one sided approach adopted by the workshop facilitators which consisted of both Blacks and Whites. This supports the argument set forth in the book, that racism is not restricted to any particular group.  Racism in the twenty first century has assumed a peculiar character - It is no longer an exclusion of Blacks from their entitled rights as sentient beings, rather it has taken the form of black separatist and divisive attitudes aimed at holding present day whites eternally responsible for slavery. Through out the duration of the workshop, we learn that there is no effort on the part of Black participants to accept responsibility. Improving race relations it seemed, was an exclusive business of Whites, and this attitude though not directly exhibited, was often implied by the reluctance of Blacks to answer a question posed repeatedly by the author: What is the Black population doing to improve race relations with Whites? This question was met with silence through out workshop and in the book, as it progresses in its inquiry, but the need for an answer is deafening. The author sympathizes with the Black population, and recognises that the problem stems majorly from the kind of parenting that Black Americans have received over the years.

He writes, "one thing I have learned in life is that many of society's biggest problems including race relations can be traced to bad parenting... as long as grandparents and parents teach their children not to like whites, not to trust whites, we all loose.... Racism is a learned behaviour. We aren't born racist, so the younger generation of Americans got it from the older and the older have a responsibility to stop."

And this is what this book is about, improving race relations. The level of integration needed for racial harmony, the author argues, can only be attained through the concerted effort of Black and White Americans. On the part of the Black community, an attitudinal change is required - a refusal to subscribe to anger and hatred of present day Whites because of the mistakes of the past.

The book laments the prevalent culture of irresponsibility that seems to permeate the black population - a propensity to blame every stroke of misfortune on slavery, a reluctance to take positive steps to improve their standard of living and do away with self inhibiting cultures like drugs, crime, and lack of education, responsible for the high statistics of Black incarceration, poverty and the likes. Slavery is a thing of the past, and since neither present day Whites or Blacks were involved, it would be unwise to allow it hinder efforts to achieve racial harmony between the two communities.

As the book winds to a closure, it focuses on the role of Black spokes people as role models of the black population. Black spokes people have a responsibility to lead the effort to achieve racial harmony in present day America and should borrow a leaf from Dr Martin Luther King who even at the heat of Black segregation, never supported a grudge culture towards Whites. The prevalent "Divide, separate and group" culture among blacks should be replaced with a more racially tolerant culture and Black spokes people have the wherewithal to encourage and lead this paradigm shift.

Black Americans In The Twenty First Century is a journalistic inquiry into one of history's most pervading ghosts – racism, and its effects on modern day Black Americans. It is a passionate appeal to Black Americans to refrain from drinking from the cup of hatred and bitterness, to replace the animosities of the past with love, and to get involved in the process of achieving racial harmony as America heals from its past and forges into the future. I salute the author's maverick honesty in exploring the theme, his courage to take on such a challenging and sensitive issue, and his admittance to the unpopularity of his stand - a stand made unpopular by its deviation from the racial stereotypes of the past. This is a refreshing perspective, a provoking and most valuable contribution to modern American racial conversation; and I encourage Americans, regardless of race, to take the time to read it. You may not agree with every point made, you may be offended at times by the author's honesty, but you will be challenged to re-examine your attitudes and disposition towards people of other races, and if you are honest enough, I believe you will find the courage to make amends where you need to and perhaps, hasten that day, so eloquently spoken of by Dr Martin Luther King, a day, when we cease to judge each other by the colour of our skin but by the content of our character.

About Doug Saint Carter Saint Carter, born in Muskogee, OK is the first born son of W.G. Ellsworth Jr. and Hope Ellsworth. The family moved to Jacksonville, Fl when he was nine years old. He graduated from Englewood High School and attended Jones College where he studied broadcast management, which led to a twenty five year career in radio and some television as an on air personality and management responsibilities. In 1998 he published his first book, described as a labor of love, about the great singer Jackie Wilson, known as Mr. Excitement. The title of the book, "The Black Elvis-Jackie Wilson" created a great deal of racial controversy inspiring the author to become actively involved in efforts to improve race relations. With his new book, "Black Americans In The 21st Century," those efforts continue today.

Review by Tchidi Jacobs

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Sisi almost did it in the blue wrappers she tied across her flaccid chest as she waited. She looked tired, and her rheumy eyes showed that she had been awoken by the toilet's imperative call. Her gestures showed she had struggled too hard to hold it for long. It became so unbearable that she held her hands firmly against her buttocks. Her legs too were pressed against each other, tightly.

-Baba Okon abeg.

She pleaded in a subdued voice as she banged the toilet door feebly. She was sweating, even in the morning cold.

-Sisi, no vex, I wan do second round.

-Ahh! You wan kill person? This woman go do am for here o.

Others on the queue pleaded on her behalf. When it turned out to a protest, his voice from inside said faintly:

-ok... just give me ten minutes let me wash my nyash.

 Finally, he jumped out. His shiny smooth head was drenched with sweat and his face- wrinkled like he just recovered from a slap. His short was also wet in the back, and his worn-out shirt carried a trace that appeared like a map under his armpit. He waved his bulbous eyes at the people waiting for him, he was satisfied, somehow, that their faces carried a look of frustration and envy. Gently, Sisi leaped in to see 'Mr. President'.

THAT DAY BEGAN like any other day. Not even a prophet with heavy dreadlocks and thick goatee could have forseen that a fuel tanker would burst and Baba Okon would die scooping fuel. He lived alone in his one room apartment. No one knew the truth of his marital status even though he frequently talked about his wife and son, Okon, who were at the village he had  never been to for years. Age reflected in everything about him, his temperament, his faded clothes, his enduring smell of lifetime ogogoro drinking. The only thing he lacked in him was the manliness in manhood. His stiff-looking beards scared the children whenever he played with them, they would glare at it, imagining it was iron-sponge.

That afternoon, he had hurried into the compound, unlocked his room and came out with two empty twenty-five litre gallons.
-Wetin dey happen? Where you dey come from? Sisi called out from her room on hearing his urgent footsteps. She was popular, 'CNN,' was her appendage. 'Constant Negative Network,' she was called by neighbours. 'Come o, have you heard of the recent religious....?’ she would say in a whisper. The emptiness of her room is in harmony with her poor state of living. She hadn't been a happy woman since her husband left her because of her infertility; she resolved to live faraway from her relation.

Baba Okon gave a hurried response as he locked up. -My share of the national cake don arrive. He zoomed off.

The new spread quickly, like the raging fire, that fuel scooping was going in the next street. House-wives, children, loafers and  junkies hurried with large gallons to scoop their portion from the largesse. They nudged, pushed and shouted at one another as they jostled for the precious feul. One of the junkies had lighted hemp between his lips. He dragged at it profusely while he continued scooping, but the wrap quivered between his lips……
There was a bang as it fell.
The ignition was quick, a spark, a head-cracking explosion. Fire and heavy smoke engulfed the strangled screams in the throat of the victims.

The fuel tank had gone off in the process and had attracted a crowd of onlookers. Somto could hear the heavy thud of footsteps rushing towards the scene. She tried to control her throbbing heart as she wondered what had happened. Somto had been indoors all day after her quarrel with CNN earlier that day. Slowly, she walked outside the compound and followed the group of people, anxious to know what had happened. She beheld the flame burning furiously a distance from where she stood. Her steps were made sparingly as she got closer. She saw a struggling body, squirming and straining as it burnt, he implanted bitter groans on her mind before he finally submitted his struggles. His eyes bulged from their sockets- those eyes had appealed in vain for help; he wouldn't be more than twenty-five. She found roasted bodies as she made forward, hands and legs and burnt faces that you could barely recognize. Journalists feasted on them with their clicking cameras, members of the civil defense corps and emergency response team were at hand, rushing the injured victims to the hospital and bagging up the dead ones. Their families cried, uncontrollably.

A lady gave a long ululating wail from a corner, pointing at a shrunken body. She deeply pressed her hands against her mouth and threw up. The traces on the ground could tell that the body might have struggled so hard. Somto identified it, it was Baba Okon.
‘The soul of an over-weight man, giving up the struggles that had rendered him worthless all through his life…..’ she thought, as she watched them take his burnt corpse away. She allowed his last words intrude into her reflection: ‘my share of the national cake don arrive.’  Her eyes were heavy with tears, she felt a terrible grief forming a lump below her abdomen, and she went home. Quietly.
The news of Baba Okon's death circulated the area the next day; people shook their heads and sighed. ‘this life na waa they said.’
Everything went quiet in Sabongari, the kind of quietness that comes only after a terrible incident. Only the sound of the alarmed birds was heard; their flapping wings in the air. Somto was stunned. For the first time in the compound; there was no queue at the toilet. Baba Okon wasn’t exactly the best of neighbors,  but now that he was gone, the all felt sorry for him, and wished they could make up for the past times. Despite his life's struggles, he still managed to maintain his sanity. He had become non-existent and all his memories would soon vanish like those curls of smokes, slowly, turning and twisting- slowly.

Nonso Franklyn Anyanwu Studied English and Literary studies at Ahmadu Bello University zaria, Nigeria. He's a member of Association of Nigerian Authors. His poems and short stories have been published in both local and international magazines.

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Saturday, 13 April 2013


 Many things have been said about the African woman and she has been repeatedly stereotyped as the weaker sex, the one who must live in the shadow of her husband, the one who has no say in political or economic issues, and one whose responsibility is only to her husband and children. All of these are in line with many African cultures which are male dominated and any woman seen behaving differently is seen as an ill-mannered woman who was not properly brought up. In spite of all these constraints, a few women have dared to live outside the norm and they remain forces to be reckoned with. One of such notable women is Wangari Muta Maathai, the first female to earn a doctorate degree in East and Central Africa, the first African female nobel peace prize winner and the founder of the ‘green belt movement’.

Wangari Muta Maathai was born on 1st of April 1940 in Ihithe, a small village in Kenya to a rural farmer couple. She was the third of six children and the first girl child. She had her primary and high school education in Kenya at a time when educating female children was seen as a waste of time but because of her elder brother and her mother’s determination she enrolled anyway. She got an opportunity to have her university education in the United States under the John Kennedy scholarship just before Kenya became independent. It was while she was abroad that Kenya became independent.
On completion of her undergraduate studies in 1966, Wangari returned to Kenya to resume as a research assistant at the University College of Nairobi. However, this was not to be. The professor she was to assist later denied her the job and instead offered it to a male from his tribe. This was to be the first in a long line of sexist and ethnic battles she had to fight. She would eventually get a job at the same university where she progressed to become a professor.

The next challenge was with her marriage. She got home one day to discover that her husband of eight years, with whom she had had three children had packed out of their matrimonial home. Her husband had decided that he couldn’t tolerate her boldness anymore and was succumbing to societal pressure that did not give room for women to outshine their husbands. The divorce was thrown open for public consumption mainly because her husband who was a politician wanted to humiliate her. Wangari did not let this deter her and instead got more involved with environmental and societal issues eventually founding the ‘green belt movement’, an organization committed to replenishing the trees exploited by the colonialists and fortune seekers.

Her outspokenness on societal issues, which the then authoritarian administration in Kenya saw as an affront on their leadership, got her into trouble many times. She was beaten, jailed, forcefully arrested and detained countless times, but this only added to her zeal to continually speak out against barbaric environmental practices and oppression of the poor. Her efforts were eventually recognized by the international community which then awarded her the Nobel peace prize in 2004.

 Wangari’s story is one of hard work; determination and the will not to allow anything deter one from achieving their dreams.

In her own words…
‘I have always seen failure as a challenge to pull myself up and keep going. A stumble is only one step in the long path we walk and dwelling on it only postpones the completion of our journey. Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.’

Wangari died of ovarian cancer on 25th September 2011. She will always be remembered by many; the women she paid to plant trees, the women that she organised to secure the release of their sons that were wrongfully detained and the countless others who was blessed through her in one way or the other.

Oriyomi Adebare has been a bookaholic for as long as she can remember. She says “As long as it’s in print I would want to read it, I may afterwards decide if its worth reading or not.” With this addiction one would have expected her to major in an arts course but she ended up reading Microbiology. Oriyomi loves writing though so far that has been restricted to book reviews. She currently review books at More of her reviews can also be found at her blog.

 We love to read your comments! inquiries and stories for publication should be directed to Call +234 7033 432 6212 to speak with us. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, 1 April 2013

The Invasion Of Africa: A Ship Boys Account

The ground opened. I froze. Smoke rose from the avalanche, like curly apparitions. I turned around to see if my companions were coming. They weren't. Only the silent blackness of the night stared back at me. The old man Ntule had warned us.

We didn't listen. We went ahead and trampled on the forest, and ripped its virginity. Who wanted to hear about blind folklore? After having come this far. This forest, where the caves are filled with unimaginable treasures - An eldorado ensconced in the dark recessions of the earth.

The months at sea had been torturous; men fell on our sides like tired trees. It started with malignant bouts of sea sickness that graduated to dengue fever - that dreaded mistress of the tropics - it shook them with epileptic frenzy, and then left as suddenly as it came, only to return once more. Fiercer.

We had a priest on board, he believed we were being tormented by a demon from hell, we had invited the demon when we decided to leave our families and estates behind, on a greedy quest for Liquid gold. He argued and ranted on and on about eternal damnation. Why he agreed to join the expedition I could not tell, for he purported himself with a certain air of piety. A queer man, he was always alone, in his little cabin on the lower deck. You could hear his sonorous voice as he sang hymns, sorrowful ones, like the one about stubborn sailors, a ghost ship, and a doomed expedition. Some nights I sneaked up to his window to observe his queer dining mannerisms. He was a curious object.

Ours was Jonah's boat, we realized, after his daily genuflections before the cross at the ship's chapel and exorcist incantations didn't work. The captain ordered him to be thrown overboard, and that was the end of the dengue. Since we were at sea, no proper burial was conducted for the dead. They were simply thrown overboard.

Food was a ration of caked floor and sugar, three bites and the morsel disappears, with yawning bellies revolting against the insufficiency. There is one thing however, that was abundant on our ship.


Rum is the sailor’s companion, through lonely and cold nights; we fight the biting frost, with sip after sip, bottle after bottle. When those storms rage with hells fury, we respond with blood shot eyes fired up by litres of rum. We respond, fury for fury. We grab the oars, we tear down the sails, we throw out the water, our food, but never our rum, yes, rum helps us fight the evil on the sea;  rum keeps our spirits up. We keep our rum.

There comes sparsely, a time,  perhaps a cool evening, when the demons that trouble the sea concern themselves with matters less earthly, when the last rays of sunshine paint the sea golden, we sit around a game off cards, kiss our rum, share memories, and sing that old sailors song:

Fifteen men on the dead men’s chest
yo yo yo and a bottle of rum

Drink and the devil has done for the rest
yo yo yo and a bottle of rum!

We were at sea for six months, and in those six months, I grew into a man. My muscles grew firmer, my face grew beardy, and that little boy that left port Gaunamo turned into a fine sea man. Captain Flint anchored "Theresa" at a bay north of Cape Verde. We took our guns, our rum and the little food we had left and headed into the thick black forest. It was called Nkiwasakegi, the forest of gold and death.

For three days we travelled on foot, stopping only to eat. We did not make camp at night, Flint said it was too dangerous. We came to a little hut in a large clearing the evening of the third day. A ragged old man, whose semblance to cartooned drawings of death dispelled all doubts as to the mortal disposition of the impostor stood at the entrance. His long bony fingers curled around a dirty brown stick like octopus tentacles. He held this in front of him, shaking furiously. I looked to see his eyes, but what I saw was a black hole where sockets should have been, and in that black hole, a blurry shade of grey, shone with eerie green. Strands of what remained of hair hung lazily from a balding scalp, reaching down on both sides of a protruding cheek bone pivoted by a jaw as shrunken as cow hide. He looked far away, past us, past the miles of jungle behind us, shaking furiously.

When he spoke, his voice was a tiny hoarse sound and his lips barely moved.

He said "Why have you come? Children of evil! Why have you come to disturb our peace? I was told you would come, in my dream, but go back to where you came from!"

While he spoke Flint interrupted "Where's the map old man? Give us the map!"

"You will have to come past me to get it!" was the throaty reply from the old man. He shook more violently, stumping his feet and shaking the stick at Flint, threatening.

"You children of evil! leave! leave before I call forth Nkiwasakegi! Now!"

Flint threw his head back and let out a loud laughter that bellowed through the Jungle, then he stopped abruptly; his face taut. He turned to us, drew up his left eyebrow in his usual sarcastic manner, a questioning look in his eyes. One by one he walked past us poking with his knife.
 You, are you afraid?
 Did you come all the way down here to listen to this?
 Did you hear that?
A wicked smile creased across his face as he slowly made his way around our little company intimidating, prodding.
"Is any one afraid?"
 Satisfied that no one was about to chicken out, or at least no one dared show any sign of doing so, for the punishment would be instant death, he turned to the old man, spread his hands in the air and bellowed.

"You see! No one is scared! We aren't scared of your Nkiwasengi or what! We are not Afraaaaid!! So go ahead, call your monster!"

With that he pushed past the old man into the hut, the old man turned slowly and followed. We heard a sound, an unmistakable sound. Flint re-appeared moments later, his face was pale, and he had a faraway look in his eyes. "He's dead" he said and waved a dirty piece of cloth before us. No one needed to ask what happened to the old man. We were all partakers of the sacred oath of Silence. No one ever questioned Flint. No one.

We took the map, and marched, and trampled... We were Mabel Segun's Olympus, we sauntered deeper into the jungle; demi gods.

The smoke rose higher, until the forest was hid from the moon. Torrential rains roared down. Ntule had said "in my dream, none of them returned".
 A fictional adaptation of Mabel Segun's poem A Second Olympus
written by Tchidi Jacobs
We love to read your comments! inquiries and stories for publication should be directed to Call +234 7033 432 6212 to speak with us. Thanks for stopping by!