ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
But anyone whos followed Young and company and their careers wouldnt
be surprised at what theyre doing in Africa, which is to cash in
on Reverend Sullivan and Mr. Youngs statuses.
Leon Sullivan: Summits and Opportunism
By Omoyele Sowore
There is no doubt that when the African-American, Reverend Leon H. Sullivan dreamt up the idea of African Summits, he did so with the noblest of intentions. Having fought apartheid all his life, he wasnt content on just the idea of political freedom for the continent. He thought it was a great idea to get international political and business leaders together to dialogue about Africa and its various needs and to act on the consensus reached at these Summits.
There have been six Summits so far. These were in Abidjan (1991), Libreville (1993), Dakar (1995), Harare (1997), Accra (1999) and Abuja (2003). Curiously, the seventh Summit has already kicked off in Abuja again and is scheduled to last till July 21, 2006. But Reverend Sullivan has been dead for five years now and today, there is increasing doubt as to whether his heirs are actually pursuing his principles, even though they claim to be doing so in his name. Indeed, when one assesses the activities and associations of the key personnel of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, you cant help but see vestiges of family aggrandizement and crony capitalism.
Hope Masters (nee Sullivan) is the President and CEO of the Foundation. In an elaborate ceremony sponsored by President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja, Nigeria, this daughter of Rev Sullivan married Carl Masters, Co-Founding Partner (with Andrew Young) of the Atlanta-based Goodworks International, a firm of lobbyists permanently retained by President Obasanjo (on a $60,000 monthly fee) to supposedly do public relations job for Nigeria in the US, even though the country operates an embassy and two consulates there.
Mrs. Hope Masters and Andrew Young are the only members of the Leadership of the Foundation, while there is the ceremonial list of board members of big names, one of whom is former President Bill Clinton. In every function organized by the Foundation, Mr Carl Masters, even though not formally listed on the website as a member of the Leadership actually is the Secretary to the Board. The relationship between President Obasanjo and his Goodworks International friends seems to overshadow whatever it is the Foundation is supposed to be doing. In fact, one wonders why Obasanjo has to host another Summit consecutively when there are literally scores of African venues outside Nigeria to do this.
Obviously, the leaders of the Foundation today are only paying lip-service to the principles of self-help, social responsibility, economic empowerment and human rights principles Rev Sullivan himself espoused. Today, the reverends heirs are more interested in feathering their own nests in cahoots with tainted political operators in Africa. Rather than championing corporate responsibility in Africa, theyre actually exploiting its absence.
For instance, they feel no scruples receiving millions of dollars in donations from Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Chrome Petroleum, Sea Petroleum and the like, while the Niger-Delta burns and their environment destroyed by callous oil exploitation. They take the money but feel no responsibility for Obasanjo and the oil companies unwillingness to truly show transparency with regard to proceeds from the oil revenues.
One of the most blatant abuses of their position was perpetrated by Carl Masters last year when he presided over one of the worst cases of abuse of office by Obasanjo as the chief organizer and fundraiser for the latters library project. It wasnt just that a sitting president found it morally justifiable to set up a library in his name that rankles, but the fact that he did this by more or less coercing public and state officials to donate towards this project. We are talking of a country notorious for the corruption of its public officials and its President used his incumbent position to collect supposed donations from well-known pilferers of public funds, both serving and retired, to serve his private ends. They raised a whooping $50 million and Carl Masters, a Jamaican-American, was not ashamed to preside over this, even as Gani Fawehinmi, the irrepressible advocate of public propriety is in court challenging the affair.
In fact, the largest single donor to the project, Mr Mike Adenuga, a local business magnate with extensive political connections, was recently arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Hed since been released, but up till now the reason for his arrest remains a mystery, as neither him nor the government are saying anything.
But anyone whos followed Young and company and their careers wouldnt be surprised at what theyre doing in Africa, which is to cash in on Reverend Sullivan and Mr. Youngs statuses. As an icon of the civil rights movement, a former mayor, ambassador and recognized elder in the African-American community, Mr. Young leads his acolytes on a mission to convert this status to cash by betraying his peoples trust to the highest bidder. Anyone who doubts this mission only needs to note the job that first catapulted Goodworks International into the big time in 1997.
At a time when the world was waking up to the appalling atrocities being committed by Nike in its Asian shoe factories, Young and Masters took the Nike commission to burnish their image. Young produced a seventy-five page full colour report on Nikes Asian operation. He concluded that there was no evidence or pattern of widespread or systematic abuse or mistreatment of workers in the twelve operations he examined, filling up the pages with doctored pictures of smiling, ostensibly happy workers.
But a few weeks after, the accounting firm, Ernst & Young visited some of the same places Mr. Young claimed to have visited and put a lie to his report by detailing the unsafe, terrible and subhuman conditions under which these people work. But to Messrs Young and Masters, the principle is why let the truth get in the way of a big fat cheque? Goodworks International is on the map and they are now international business consultants, so what the heck!
In February this year, true to type, Goodworks International continued its betrayal with the announcement that Mr. Young is now chair the Working Families for Wal-Mart. The worlds largest retailers, with a stinking reputation amongst women and minorities now have as their spokesperson an African-American civil rights icon just for a few dollars! In fact, Wal-Mart proudly announced they were funding Young and Goodworks International, because they belong to a group of people who understand and appreciate Wal-Marts positive impact on working families in America. Of course, it matters not that Wal-Mart discriminates against minorities and women, pay poverty-level wages and are pushing competitors out of business.
As this Summit opens and close once again in Abuja with highfalutin jives and no action, Nigerians, nay Africans must be weary of these so-called do-gooders. Andrew Young and Carl Masters can use their friendship with Obasanjo and other notorious Africans to feather their own nest at the expense of the ordinary people of Nigeria and the continent while Rev Sullivan turns in his grave, but we mustnt allow them to sell their snake oil as some kind of solution to African problems.
Evidently, they do not care about democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law, because if they do, they wouldnt have supported Obasanjos attempt to subvert the Nigerian constitution towards his third term agenda. If they care, they wouldnt be gallivanting in Abuja, laughing into their wines as their friend and benefactor, Olusegun Obasanjo presides over a repressive fascist and neo-military regime that cares very little about the welfare and economic well-being of Nigerians or the African people.
African-Americans must also begin to take people like Young to task for cynically cashing in his Freedom Movement chips. It is not the dream of Martin Luther King, Rev Sullivan, and Black America that their icons use the same putrid principles their oppressors used against them to fleece their African brethren.
It is time for Africans, African-Americans, and Blacks everywhere to take a closer look at these Summits and ask the right questions.
Omoyele Sowore is a citizen reporter and Nigerian pro-democracy activist based in New York. He publishes at www.saharareporters.com
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Leon Howard Sullivan (October 16, 1922 – April 24, 2001) was a Baptist minister, a civil rights leader and social activist focusing on the creation of job training opportunities for African-Americans, a longtime General Motors Board Member, and an anti-Apartheid activist. Sullivan died on April 24, 2001, of leukemia at a Scottsdale, Arizona hospital. He was 78. . . .
Sullivan organized the first Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in 1991 as a result of a number of requests and conversations he had with African leaders seeking an honest dialog among and between leaders of African countries and government officials and leaders from developed countries. Since then, the biennial Leon H. Sullivan Summit has brought together the world’s political and business leaders, delegates representing national and international civil and multinational organizations, and members of academic institutions in order to focus attention and resources on Africa’s economic and social development. Their mission was inspired by Rev. Leon H. Sullivans belief that the development of Africa is a matter of global partnerships. It was particularly important to Rev. Sullivan that Africa’s Diaspora and Friends of Africa are active participants in Africas development. The Leon H Sullivan Summit is now organized by the Leon H Sullivan Foundation which is headed by Leon Sullivan’s daughter Hope Sullivan.Wikipedia
posted 31 July 2006
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By Colson Whitehead
In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuilding civilization under orders from the provisional government based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Streetaka Zone Onebut pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous varietythe malfunctioning stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams working in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitzs desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.
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By Manthia Diawara
In this book Manthia Diawara, a renowned scholar on Black cinema, literature, and art brings readers up to date on the exciting changes taking place behind and in front of African cameras. Contributions by filmmakers, scholars, and producers as well as profiles of thirty important African directors and their films, provide valuable insight into recent developments. The volume comes with a DVD containing several interviews with filmmakers conducted by the author. Scholars, students, and anyone interested in cinematic and African cultural studies will find much to discover and celebrate in this authoritative, fascinating look at new trends in African filmmaking.
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By Manthia Diawara
Manthia Diawara is able to see Guinea with a nostalgia that doesn’t turn a blind eye to the nation’s faults, pointing out what needs to be done without falling prey to “Afro-pessimism.” In one heartfelt passage, recalling his upbringing in revolutionary Guinea, Diawara writes: “My life began when the new nations were born, in the late 1950s. We had been full of hope then, determined to change Africa, to catch up quickly with the modern world, to show that black people could use their culture and civilization, as other people did, to lead them into modernity.” But, as Diawara relates throughout the book, that didn’t happen. He painfully recounts how he and his family were forced to leave Guinea and how the country sank into a Marxist-oriented dictatorial nightmare.
While not overlooking the horrible historical impact of the slave trade and European colonialism, Diawara also blames internal corruption and dangerous African ethnic customs, like female genital mutilation, for his country’s underdevelopment. Ultimately, however, he remains confident that this people will one day ascend to their full political, economic, and cultural potential: “Our desire to be modernized has been awakened, and it cannot be denied. Women want liberation from traditional oppression; we all want access to education and material wealth; and we are tired of being ignored by the world.”Amazon Review
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By Kenneth W. Mack
Representing the Race tells the story of an enduring paradox of American race relations, through the prism of a collective biography of African American lawyers who worked in the era of segregation. . . . Mack reorients what we thought we knew about famous figures such as Thurgood Marshall, who rose to prominence by convincing local blacks and prominent whites that he wasas nearly as possibleone of them. But he also introduces a little-known cast of characters to the American racial narrative. These include Loren Miller, the biracial Los Angeles lawyer who, after learning in college that he was black, became a Marxist critic of his fellow black attorneys and ultimately a leading civil rights advocate; and Pauli Murray, a black woman who seemed neither black nor white, neither man nor woman, who helped invent sex discrimination as a category of law. The stories of these lawyers pose the unsettling question: what, ultimately, does it mean to represent a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics? /
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 25 June 2012