Historical Context for Hip Hop Store in Malawi

Historical Context for Hip Hop Store in Malawi


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes





We have a country that has been systematically mis/under-educated in relation to

 the world, especially black struggle. You couldn’t be dictator in the 60s and 70s

in Malawi and expose Africans to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.


 Son                                                                                                                                                                                  Father



Historical Context for Hip Hop Store in Malawi

A Response by Masauko Chipembere  


First off, I would like to thank you for exposing the contradictions going on between African American images and self image in Africa.   I am a U.S. citizen with parents from Malawi. My father was the first minister of education in Malawi when it got its independence in the early 60s. So I have grown up in a political environment.

Malawi for many years was run by a dictator called Kamuzu Banda. Banda had been educated in America and came back to help lead the revolution against colonial rule. My father had invited him.

Banda was great at first. He was really instrumental in pushing the British from power. However after he achieved this he changed his course. Due to his many years abroad he had lost touch with Malawian culture. He became afraid that the same people who had invited him to come back and lead would push him from power.   As a result of this he began making alliances with the British and South African governments. These were considered enemies of the African people and the Pan-Africanist movement that had supported Banda.  

My father ended up breaking with Banda and having to flee into exile. Maybe you rode down Masauko Chipembere highway in Blantyre?

Anyway, as Banda increased his power he began to ban certain information. Very little information was supplied about slavery in the Americas. Why? Because he didn’t want the people to see that he was creating a nation under siege. He banned books like Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes or Animal Farm by George Orwell. This created a great vacuum in people’s understanding of blacks in America. 

I was in Malawi in 1996 for the first time. I heard the word “nigger” used all the time by middle class kids who had grown up watching a bunch of movies from the USA. They had satellite TV, etc.

I immediately asked them if they knew what the word nigger meant. They said, “my friend right?” I then went on to explain the Atlantic slave trade and the roots of the word.

These young men were crushed and I think that conversation made them begin journeys that most of them are still on now.

I say all this to say there are two things happening in Malawi at the same time:

1) We have a country that has been systematically mis/under-educated in relation to the world, especially black struggle. You couldn’t be dictator in the 60s and 70s in Malawi and expose Africans to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. In places like South Africa that exposure brought about folks like Steven Biko and a black consciousness movement that cried “power to the people.”

2) Malawi just got national television a few years back and has now moved into the media age without a proper understanding of the history of Hollywood, i.e., D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. In middle class Christian homes in Malawi you will find kids watching videos by Foxy Brown with their faces about 12 inches from the TV. No one has even begun to tell people that close proximity to the TV can damage your sight.

This will come to light in the next ten years when a generation of rich kids can’t see both physically and mentally.

This is just a note to give you a bit of history about the country you traveled through. I must also tell you that the USA did nothing to help remove this despot from Malawi. They felt it was better to have a fascist dictator there for close to 40 years than to have a potentially governed Communist country, and remained silent.

peace and blessings

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Henry Blasius Masuko Chipembere

Colin Baker. Chipembere: The Missing Years. Zomba: Kachere, 2006. 391 pp

Most students of postwar Africa are able to identify individual nationalists who played—major roles in the struggle for independence, or indeed, in the negotiating processes leading to decolonization. Malawi has a long list of such personalities, and very high on the list is Henry Blasius Masuko Chipembere. It was he who, along with other young activists, particularly William Kanyama Chiume, in 1957 encouraged their rather ineffective party, the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), to persuade the older and more urbane Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda to return home from Ghana and take charge of the crucial stage of the fight against British colonial rule. By the time of his death in exile in the United States in 1975, Chipembere had started to write an autobiography which, clearly unfinished, covers his life to early 1959. Many years later, Robert Rotberg edited the manuscript, and in 2001 the Christian Literature Association in Malawi (CLAIM), of Blantyre, published it in its Kachere series under the title, Hero of the Nation: Chipembere of Malawi: An Autobiography. Thus the story of this popular politician, key to understanding Malawian affairs in the mid-twentieth century, remained incomplete until the publication of Professor Colin Baker’s Chipembere: The Missing Years.

The book is divided into three parts, the first consisting of the main biography which is subdivided further into fourteen short chapters totaling about 160 pages, the second being a compilation of most of Chipembere’s published and unpublished papers, and the third section comprising the epilogue, notes, and index. The first chapter, “Before the 1959 State of Emergency,” highlights the colony’s constitutional changes, mainly in the 1950s, including those which brought into the colonial legislature, for the first time, five Africans, including Chipembere, all elected by provincial councils. It also highlights aspects of Chipembere’s early life, from the time of his graduation from the University of Fort Hare to his brief and unhappy employment in the colonial civil service, progressing to his political activism and entry into the legislature, and to his rise as a forceful radical and popular speaker. The chapter also summarizes the part he played in bringing Dr. Banda back to Nyasaland in 1958, and his key role in planning the nationalists’ next course of action, strategies which would lead to the state of emergency and the detention of hundreds of people, including Banda, Chipembere and the majority of the central executive of the Nyasaland African Congress.

The next three chapters cover the period from Chipembere’s custody in a Gwelo (Gweru), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) facility, followed by his release and tours to various parts of Nyasaland during which time he made some of his most impassioned anticolonial speeches, to his prosecution, conviction, and incarceration in Zomba Central prison from February 1961 to January 1963. His imprisonment meant that he was not included in the constitutional talks which brought about the first adult suffrage general elections in August 1961, resulting in the establishment of a government in which the Malawi Congress Party, formerly the NAC, had a majority. His confinement also prevented him from influencing directly deliberations and decisions on further political changes in the colony. These events are central to understanding the personal and political relations between Chipembere and Hastings Banda. . . .

This is certainly an important book concerning Malawi’s recent past, even though it leaves many questions unresolved. For example, despite his success in portraying Chipembere as a vehement anticolonial politician, one with widespread popular support, Baker does not show clearly the dynamics between him and his colleagues during daily political life, nor does he really examine Chipembere’s interactions with the common urban and rural person. What was the basis of his popularity, besides his rousing speeches? How did the perception of his strong leadership arise? These and many other questions would have been answered only by interviewing many more people than Baker does here. . . .

Finally, one must applaud the decision to publish the book in Malawi, where Hero of the Nation was also published. Considering the cost of books these days, it is hoped that many Malawians will be able to buy and read the biography of this beloved and able politician, the president-in-waiting whose destiny was never fulfilled.—Owen J. M. Kalinga, H-Net

Masauko Chipembere —A musician from Malawi in Southern Africa. He was raised in Los Angeles while his parents were in political exile. His sound is a hybrid developed through his experiences in both Southern Africa and America. He sings in Chi-Chewa, Zulu, and English fallowing in the tradition of the great South African singer Miriam Makeba.Chipembere began singing at the age of seven with a barbershop quartet in grade school. From there he never stopped.

At age 14 he picked up the guitar to accompany his melodic vocal style. He was in demand at clubs where he was too young to be admitted.Masauko went on to study Jazz and Opera at Cal State University Northridge in 1988. It was there that he got his first real exposure to jazz and developed a deep love for the art of improvisation.

His songs often include improvisational jazz scatting and rapping. Once finished with his studies, Masauko entered the L.A. music scene. He took what he had learned from Jazz and the African melodies his mother sang around the house and created his own healing sound. This sound grabbed the attention of Russell Pope, a South African music producer also living in Los Angeles.

Masauko made his first album with the help of Russell Pope and South African musician Neo Muyanga. The album was called Blk Sonshine (Black Sonshine). This album became an instant hit in South Africa where it was picked up by Fresh records and BMG music.

The first single from the album, “Building” went to #1 on South African radio in 2001. The success of the album gave Masauko a chance to visit and live in South Africa. While in South Africa he toured extensively sharing stages with: Mary J. Blige, Ishamel Lo, Cesaria Evora, Take 6, Talib Kweli, Black Thought (The Roots), Stanley Jordan, Hugh Masekla and even had the honor of meeting and singing for his idol Miriam Makeba.

Masauko now lives in Brooklyn, New York and performs all over the country. His time in Africa exposed him to the serious problems caused by HIV/AIDS. Now he often performs in D.C. soliciting funds for various organizations working to end the HIV/AIDS crisis in Southern Africa.

posted 26 August 2005

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Hastings Kamuzu Banda

(15 February 1898 – 25 November 1997) was the leader of Malawi and its predecessor state, Nyasaland, from 1961 to 1994. After receiving much of his education overseas, Banda returned to his home country (then British Nyasaland) to speak against colonialism and advocate for independence. In 1963, he was formally appointed as Nyasaland’s Prime Minister, and led the country to independence as Malawi a year later.[1] Two years later, he proclaimed Malawi a republic with himself as president. He consolidated power and later declared Malawi a one party state under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 1970, the MCP made him the party’s President for Life. In 1971, he became President for Life of Malawi itself.

As a leader of the pro-Western bloc in Africa, he received support from the West during the Cold War. He generally supported women’s rights, improved the country’s infrastructure, and maintained a good educational system relative to other African countries. However, he presided over one of the most repressive regimes in Africa. He also faced scorn for maintaining full diplomatic relations with apartheid-era South Africa.

By 1993, he was facing international pressure and widespread protest. A referendum ended his one party state, and a special assembly stripped him of his title. Banda ran for president in the democratic elections which followed, but was defeated.

He died in South Africa in 1997. His legacy remains controversial, with some hailing him as a national and African hero, while others denounce him as a tyrant and one of the most corrupt leaders in Africa’s entire history.—


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The word is paradigmatically ugly, racist and inflammatory. But is it different when Ice Cube uses it in a song than when, during the O.J. Simpson trial, Mark Fuhrman was accused of saying it? What about when Lenny Bruce uses it to “defang” it by sheer repetition? Or when Mark Twain uses it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to make an antiracist statement? Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and noted legal scholar, has produced an insightful and highly provocative book that raises vital questions about the relationship between language, politics, social norms and how society and culture confront racism. Drawing on a wide range of historical, legal and cultural instances Harry S. Truman calling Adam Clayton Powell “that damned nigger preacher”; Title VII court cases in which the use of the word was proof of condoning a “racially hostile work environment”; Quentin Tarantino’s liberal use of the word in his films Kennedy repeatedly shows not only the complicated cultural history of the word, but how its meaning, intent and even substance change in context.

Smart, well argued and never afraid of facing serious, difficult and painful questions in an unflinching and unsentimental manner, this is an important work of cultural and political criticism.

As Kennedy notes in closing: “For bad or for good, nigger is… destined to remain with us for the foreseeable future a reminder of the ironies and dilemmas, the tragedies and glories, of the American experience.” (Jan. 22)Forecast: This may be the book that reignites larger debates over race eclipsed by September 11. Look for a bestselling run and huge talk show and magazine coverage as the Afghanistan news cycle continues to slow; the book had already been the subject of two New York Times stories by early January.—Publishers Weekly

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 2 July 2012




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