ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
They are not my High Commission, they only represent their own interests,
Mr Francis answered. I could sense the emotions in his voice
Books by & about Martin Niemöller
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The Dignity of Man
By Uche Nworah
They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.” Pastor Martin Niemöller (18921984)
I was going to call this piece “The Good Old Mr Francis” after the movie Good Will Hunting, a movie that played on the virtue of goodwill as exhibited by the principal character Mr Will Hunting, a good man played in the film by Matt Damon. In the end I settled for The Dignity of Man, borrowed from my Alma Matta The University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Long before I enrolled for a graduate course at Nsukka, I had been fascinated by their motto which is To restore the dignity of man. Osamuyia Aikpithanis global protests on Friday, the 29th of June 2007 has indeed shown me that Nigerians are good people, the ones who want to be that is.
On the protest day, although I was caught up in the whole protest thing, but still this lone guy wearing a blue face cap with Osamuyia Aikpithanis poster held high to his chest and standing by the corner of the traffic Island opposite the Spanish Embassy in London stood out. He haunted my thoughts all through the mid-afternoon.
Midway my feet started hurting, it wasnt the shoes, I made sure that I wore a rubber soled pair as I knew that the shift would be long. It was actually my big feet; they hate being enclosed for long periods and prefer to stick out freely in sandals. I endured and carried on.
Finally we got to talk; he wouldnt tell me his full names. He only introduced himself as Mr. Francis and appeared to be in his late fifties or early sixties. A Nigerian by birth and by accent he is.
I have come to add my little voice to the injustice our people face all over the world, Mr. Francis told me. He was easily the oldest amongst the 21 people that came out to protest. He could easily have been my father, at that time of the day; his mates would probably be watching the afternoon news or sitcom re-runs on television with their feet up on the coffee table sipping oyibo tea oblivious of what else is happening around them, but not Mr Francis. The dignity of man still meant so much to him. As we chatted, my heart went out to him; his eyes whispered so much, they were as haunting as a dark ghost on a dark night. His voice was gentle but I knew that they were filled with knowledge and wisdom.
As we worked the shift inside the barricaded traffic island, I could hear Prophet Folayan Osekitans voice bellowing out to motorists passing by: Killed like a dog. Osamuyia he meant. His two young sons stood by him like able lieutenants, each displaying their own placard and also handing out leaflets to motorists and passers-by. The rest of the protesters; Wale Akin, Victor Akara, Babajide Ojo, Ishola Taiwo, Abike, Kelechi Akwiwu who came all the way from Leicester, Bukky, Anne Mordi and the rest stood round the picket with their posters held high.
I went back to Mr Francis. How long have you been living in the UK? I asked him next. Very long, he replied, Enough time to have seen so much injustice in ones given lifetime. In this time, I asked next, Have you had much dealing with the Nigerian High Commission?
They are not my High Commission, they only represent their own interests, Mr Francis answered. I could sense the emotions in his voice. Though he looked frail, but you could see that he still has so much passion for humanity.
Suddenly it was 2 PM, the protest was over. Not wanting to breach our agreement with the London Metropolitan Police we decided to call it a day. Well, not completely.
As we were about shunting over to the Nigerian High Commission on Northumberland Avenue to also deliver a copy of the protest letter, I asked Mr Francis if he was coming along but I already knew his answer long before he gave it.
I am a bit tired now he said, I have to go and get some rest. Even I was tired as well, my tummy was biting me while my feet screamed out aloud.
Would I ever see Mr. Francis again? Maybe or maybe not. But I honour and respect men like Mr. Francis, for me they are lone voices in the wilderness, such people carry the burden of humanity on their shoulders. I could see that if he could, he would do his best to ease the pain and suffering of man.
At The Nigerian High Commission of Mr Francis nightmares, we explained our mission. A Nigerian had been killed in Spain, we have been protesting outside the Spanish Embassy in London, we announced to them, Please can you acknowledge receipt of the copy of the said protest letter and we would move quietly on we told them.
By this time, our numbers had reduced considerably; we didnt look intimidating at all but still the High Commission wouldnt let us all in. We can only allow two people inside, they announced to our surprise. They asked us to wait outside; the rain had come back by this time. As we waited, the male officer and his female colleague came back and ushered the two of us in.
While I waited with Babajide inside the reception area to get our letter acknowledged, the rest waited outside under the rain. Finally with no one in sight we decided to pop outside to see how the troop were doing.
By this time, Owoh, our firebrand co-protester had already thrown some verbal punches at Mr Dozie Nwanna, the Deputy High Commissioner who happened to be arriving back at the embassy. He told Mr Nwanna what Mr Francis told me earlier, and what every other diasporan Nigerian must be thinking. Emotions were high as one would expect, I was told that he screamed out at Mr Nwanna and laid into him with his verbal staccato.
Who says that etiquette means anything to a diplomat with full immunity? Our man the diplomat in London lounged at Owoh and narrowly missed Anne and Bukky, our co-protesters. Clearly courage under fire had gone flying out the window. As tempers flared up we knew that the show was over. We managed to obtain our copy of the signed protest letter and were just about beating it when the police arrived. Our High Commission had invited the cops to arrest us. One of us was not so lucky, we later heard that the police briefly arrested and questioned him, but eventually let him go. Central London was at a state of alert on this day as the police had discovered explosives inside two cars in the Hay market area. It wasnt the kind of day that anybody would wish to mess with the police, unless the person wishes to be detained under the state terrorism act.
I congratulate Concerned Nigerians Worldwide for the little they have achieved, for standing up to be counted, particularly the lone ranger Angela Bruce who stood alone before the Spanish consulate in Birmingham and made the voice of concerned Nigerians heard very loud. A very big Gbosa salute to the website www.nigeriavillagesquare.com for showing that truly technology could be harnessed for the benefit of mankind. Another heavy Gbosa to Philip Adekunle aka Big K the platoon commander, I say God go bless you well well.
Now that the protests are over and the Nigerian government has gotten involved, perhaps the very next and best thing to do is for those who have shown concern for the Aikpitanhi family to dip their hands in their pockets and show them some money love. They need it now more than the tears and sympathies.
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 22 December 2011