Archive for month: November, 2019

The present publication provides an overview of the types of racial profiling experienced by people of African descent, the applicable international legal framework, actions taken by international human rights mechanisms and documented examples of good practices for addressing racial profiling.

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Ayanna Pressley Introduces Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Resolution

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass), unveiled a sweeping criminal justice reform resolution on Thursday that could begin dismantling a racist system that disproportionately targets, incarcerates, and kills members of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.

The United States, a nation addicted to punishment and cages, is the number one jailer in the world, something that Pressley is seeking to change. The first words of her resolution—”Recognizing that the United States has a moral obligation to meet its foundational promise of guaranteed justice for all”—echo Dr. Martin Luther King’s call out of the same hypocrisy.

“All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968

“The criminal legal system is racist, xenophobic, rogue, and fundamentally flawed beyond reform,” Pressley told reporters on a call Wednesday. “It must be dismantled and radically transformed through a large-scale decarceration effort.”

Pressley lays out several potentially transformative proposals in her resolution, which she calls The People’s Justice Guarantee, including: reinstituting the Department of Justice’s role in investigating police departments that repeatedly violate citizens’ civil rights, and establishing adequate over- sight of consent decrees. While no police officers were held accountable for civil rights violations under Eric Holder’s DoJ—nor, of course, thus far under William Barr’s—the ability to check power is still necessary.

Pressley also calls for banning law enforcement from using facial recognition software; stopping the transfer of military equipment to local police departments (the militarization of police forces became a national point of contention during the Ferguson uprising); dismantling and rebuilding a compassionate, just, and humane immigration; providing resources for non-law enforcement led, community-based violence and trauma interruption models; banning the death penalty; and the decriminalization of addiction and sex work, among other proposals.

Yes, That Crime Bill

In a move that is powerful in both historical and contemporary contexts, Pressley calls for the federal government to provide tax incentives to local governments, as well as for states that repeal Truth in Sentencing and Three Strikes provisions and that reduce their prison populations by 2035. Under the resolution, “communities would be encouraged to repeal and dismantle the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and other federal policies that caused the country’s prison population to explode since the 1970s,” the Appeal reports.

The OverExplainer-Woke
The OverExplainer, Danielle Young, breaks down why the term “woke” is important and how it will always remain relevant in this society.

When the crime bill passed in 1994, it was with the help of 22 members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the support of NIMBY Black community leaders who believed that increased punitive punishment would save “good” children from “bad” children. Professor Michelle Alexander explained that some of these leaders were expecting reinvestment in Black communities—schools, better housing, health care and jobs. But that’s not what happened.

Before the 1994 crime bill could make it through the House, it was stripped of the Racial Justice Act, which would have allowed death row inmates to use data showing racial inequities in sentencing. The bill was also stripped of $3.3 billion—two-thirds of it from prevention programs. A provision that would have made 16,000 low-level drug offenders eligible for early release was also removed.

More states would soon be passing their own version of “three strikes” laws, and they would be awarded Truth in Sentencing grants to build and expand prisons.

Pressley’s plan to flip the inherently corrupt structure of 1994 bill by awarding states that reduce, not explode prison and jail populations, is what institutional justice looks like.

Click here to read more on Pressley’s resolution, The People’s Justice Guarantee.

“Dr. King was one of the moral giants of the 20th century. He devoted his life to equality, justice, and non-violent social change,” said the UN chief in a statement attributable to his spokesperson.

“Decades after his death, he continues to inspire all those around the world who are struggling for human rights and human dignity in the face of oppression, discrimination and injustice.”

Dr. King’s advocacy and pronouncements against discrimination, and in favour of social justice, of global understanding and the virtues of diversity are more relevant today than ever, added the Secretary-General.

Born in January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King was shot and killed on the evening of 4 April 1968 while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city.

In 1978, ten years after his death, the civil rights leader was posthumously awarded the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, honouring him for his outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of the human rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments.

Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

It’s Sunday night at Aba House, an open-air bar in Lomé, Togo’s capital, and stylish young men and women in modern African dress fill the dance floor as the bass guitarist pumps up the tempo. Powerful! Soulful!

The lyrics are in Mina, a local language in southern Togo and parts of neighboring Benin, but the music is unmistakably Afro-Cuban, a genre with global acclaim.

The weather is cool, the air filled with a misty marine breeze coming from the roaring Atlantic Ocean.

Across the street, onlookers marvel at the colorful dresses and practiced dance moves and watch as patrons nibble on finger food and wash it down with beer, whiskey and soft drinks.

A few minutes earlier, the band had played an up-tempo reggae tune and a highlife rendition of a Christian hymn, but it was the sound of the Afro-Cuban rumba that got people spinning, shimmying and swinging their hips on the now-crowded dance floor.

“This is my father’s bar and we play here every Sunday evening,” George Lassey, the bandleader, told Africa Renewal. “We play all kinds of music: reggae, gospel, salsa and others.”

However, Mr. Lassey says, salsa is “by far the most requested during our live performances.”

Salsa music has remained popular in West Africa since it was introduced in the region in the 1950s, reportedly by sailors.

From Lomé to Bamako in Mali, Conakry in Guinea, Cotonou in Benin and Dakar in Senegal, live bands have gained international fame playing catchy Cuban dance tunes.

Among the well-known bands incorporating the Cuban groove are Orchestra Baobab and Le Super Etoile de Dakar, the latter famed for mbalax and Latin-influenced dance music, in which Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour, who is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, shot to fame. Others include the Rail Band in Bamako and Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo de Cotonou.

African-flavored salsa

In early 2010, some of Africa’s renowned salsa vocalists joined forces with New York–based musicians to form Africando, a group that successfully brought African-flavored salsa to the global music market.

Growing up in Benin, Angélique Kidjo, now an internationally acclaimed artist and another UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, felt a strong connection to salsa.

“As I was listening to Celia, I could hear Africa,” Ms. Kidjo remembers, referring to Celia Cruz, often called the “Queen of Salsa.”

In the heart of Accra, Ghana’s capital, just a few meters from the United States embassy, lie the tombs of W. E. B. Du Bois, a great African-American civil rights leader, and his wife, Shirley. The founder of the US-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People moved to Accra in 1961, settling in the city’s serene residential area of Labone and living there until his death in August 1963.

Mr. Du Bois’s journey to Ghana may have signaled the emergence of a profound desire among Africans in the diaspora to retrace their roots and return to the continent. Ghana was a major hub for the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

In Washington, D.C., in September 2018, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” for Africans in the Diaspora, giving fresh impetus to the quest to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters in the diaspora.

At that event, President Akufo-Addo said, “We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year—400 years later—we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices.”

200 yrs

since the abolition of slavery

US Congress members Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, diplomats and leading figures from the African-American community, attended the event. Representative Jackson Lee linked the Ghanaian government’s initiative with the passage in Congress in 2017 of the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act. Provisions in the act include the setting up of a history commission to carry out and provide funding for activities marking the 400th anniversary of the “arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”

Since independence in 1957, successive Ghanaian leaders have initiated policies to attract Africans abroad back to Ghana.

In his maiden independence address, then–Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah sought to frame Africa’s liberation around the concept of Africans all over the world coming back to Africa.

“Nkrumah saw the American Negro as the vanguard of the African people,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard, who first traveled to Ghana when he was 20 and fresh out of Harvard, afire with Nkrumah’s spirit. “He wanted to be able to utilize the services and skills of African-Americans as Ghana made the transition from colonialism to independence.”

Ghana’s parliament passed a Citizenship Act in 2000 to make provision for dual citizenship, meaning that people of Ghanaian origin who have acquired citizenships abroad can take up Ghanaian citizenship if they so desire.

That same year the country enacted the Immigration Act, which provides for a “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance.”

The Joseph Project

In 2007, in its 50th year of independence, the government initiated the Joseph Project to commemorate 200 years since the abolition of slavery and to encourage Africans abroad to return.

Similar to Israel’s policy of reaching out to Jews across Europe and beyond following the Holocaust, the Joseph Project is named for the Biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt but would later reunite with his family and rule Egypt.

The African-American community is excited about President Akufo-Addo’s latest initiative. In social media posts, many expressed interest in visiting Africa for the first time. Among them is Amber Walker, a media practitioner who says that 2019 is the time to visit her ancestral home.

For centuries, unfinished materials for clothing manufacture—silk, cotton, hides—have been sold and shipped from Africa to the fashion capitals of the West, such as London, Paris and New York. In return, a small number of ready-to-wear clothes, cheap shoes and secondhand garments head back to Africa—at vastly marked-up prices or as charity donations.

Now an ambitious startup called the Walls of Benin, led by 30-year-old Chi Atanga, a man of Cameroonian descent born in Manchester, England, seeks to break with history by building factories in Africa that make sleepwear and loungewear—comfortable casual clothing that is stylish and sophisticated, suitable for “all night raves, boats, trains and jet planes,” according to the company’s website. Finished items are sold to high-end shops in Europe for their fashion-

hungry clientele.

The brand name Walls of Benin refers to the world’s largest man-made structure, which was completed in the 15th century: a system of moats and ramparts designed to defend the ancient Kingdom of Benin, which is Benin City, the capital of present-day Edo State, Nigeria.

Mr. Atanga calls himself “chief evangelist,” instead of chief executive officer, of Walls of Benin, and says that the company’s goal is “to spread soft power through culture.”

Taking on the Goliath

Mr. Atanga researched and designed the business plan for Walls of Benin. Buoyed by $100,000 seed money from the Portuguese government and an apprenticeship with the Erasmus European Entrepreneur Programme, he was able to finance his dream. “Using his gift for networking, Mr. Atanga secured an investment from the Lunan Group, the team behind the well-known brand Fiorelli,” according to, an online publication.

He is now setting up production operations in a “special economic zone” outside the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city.

“Our concept is not about riding the stereotype, Africa-to-Europe, textile/raw materials value chain, but a new paradigm,” he declares. “Can we take on the Goliath Victoria’s Secret on lingerie in Africa?” he asks, and answers with a firm “Yes!”

How will it work? “Our business model is simple: we take the spirit of African print textiles and swap wax and heavy cloth for more luxurious and ecological fabrics,” he says. Kente, Ghana’s famous silk-and-cotton blend, is an example of an African fabric, while silk and Tencel are natural fibres with extra softness and moisture-wicking properties. “We feel fashion brands in top cities in Europe should manufacture some of their wares in Africa and create jobs, and not merely export jeans, suits and other garments to Africa.”

His first trip to Africa as an adult was to Ghana in 2014, and it was an eye-opener. “Everything was bright, vibrant and alive. It amazed me to see African print textiles everywhere. It dawned on me that this was a part of my heritage.

Currently, Walls of Benin operates from Kenya and Rwanda and it is importing silk and Tencel from Portugal. In April 2018, the company partnered with Wildlife Works, a wildlife conservation group based in Kenya, to launch an African production. The hope is to export luxury loungewear made of extra-soft silk and Tencel to Europe and elsewhere. The production is first of its kind on the continent.

Wildlife Works can manufacture a thousand loungewear items per week using digital screen prints. “From the east of Africa to the south of Europe, we are building the value chain,” enthuses Mr. Atanga. He believes that the loungewear fashion industry in Africa, once ignored, has a bright future.

Meanwhile, rapid changes are taking place on a continent that a top British supermodel once chided for not having a Vogue magazine. “Africa’s fashion industry is right now super exciting! It is new, at the same time it is centuries old. We are talking about the 55 countries in Africa and huge diaspora populations with billions of dollars of spending power,” says Mr. Atanga.

In a sweltering monsoon afternoon in Xiaobei, in Guangzhou, a city in southeast China, a group of young and middle-aged African men take positions up and down a street lined by shops, alert to the passing of potential clients. Not far from them, in an adjacent street, another group of Africans—three women and a man holding a child in his arms—huddle around bales of merchandise. As the sun slowly sets, the town square fills up with people.

“Welcome to Oversea Trading Mall,” reads a neon sign in front of a midrise building overlooking the square. Posters advertising different products and services are plastered on nearly all surrounding buildings.

This is Xiaobei, also known as ‘Little Africa’, in the central neighborhood of Guangzhou, China’s megacity, where the Oversea Trading Mall is the main attraction for thousands of sub-Saharan African traders in search of good value merchandise. Guangzhou, nicknamed “Chocolate City” because of the large number of Africans living there, is a megalopolis with a population of 13 million.

Having dragged their bales to the edge of the square, three women and their male companion try to negotiate fare with a taxi driver. Sensing a lack of progress in the negotiations, due perhaps to a language barrier, one of the African men gathered around the porch of a nearby shop steps in to facilitate the transaction.

“This is what we do,” Magloire, an immigrant from Côte d’Ivoire, told Africa Renewal. “We are helping our brothers and sisters with their business needs.” He was reluctant to give his full name.

Like Magloire, hundreds of Africans who live in Xiaobei and its neighborhood in Guangzhou see themselves as “brokers.”

As the capital city of Guangdong, China’s richest province and arguably its economic powerhouse, Guangzhou is famous for numerous wholesale markets and its annual International Canton Trade Fair.

Inside Xiaobei’s subway stations, on its streets and at the bougainvillea-adorned pedestrian overpass along the main road, Africans can be found speaking Arabic, Bambara, French, Portuguese, Lingala, Malagasy, Yoruba or Igbo—a reminder of the cultural diversity of this migrant community.

Until about three years ago, Xiaobei bustled with business activity. Wholesale traders from sub-Saharan Africa regularly streamed in.

In the first nine months of 2014, for example, 430,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa entered or left the city’s border posts, according to official Chinese data.

“Booming China-Africa ties attract Africans to pursue dreams in Guangzhou,” declared China Radio International in 2015, summing up the growing movements of population and goods between the southern metropolis and several countries in Africa.

And just three years ago, local media pointed out the economic success of some of the migrants. A quick survey of residents of Little Africa showed that 2 out of 10 earned over 30,000 yuan (US$4,800 at the time) a month, more than the average monthly income of local Chinese workers. The rest earn less, comparable to the earning of the average local Chinese worker.

But fast-forward to 2016, and Little Africa is losing its shine. “Commodity dip hits China’s little Africa,” the Financial Times reported in July of that year.

Economic Empowerment ACAO

Anti-Black racism is a cancer in our society. Racism and particularly ant-black racism is endemic in the modern Canadian society and must be fought and conquered and destroyed.

“As Mandela said “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.

This committee is committed to working with partners to kick racism out of our society. This includes advocating for policy reviews to address systemic racism.

This committee is also working to ensure Criminal Justice Reform becomes a reality. There are 70 per cent more Black Canadians in federal prisons than there were 10 years ago.

What are we doing about it? There is an opportunity to join this committee as we work to address obvious systemic issues affecting the black community. The hyper incarceration of black youth is troubling, and we cannot stay silence.

Education i.e. how do we hold the Gov’t accountable AND how are we as a people holding ourselves accountable on this?
Complaint mechanism and support network.
Criminal Justice system reforms

Canada is recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent. It’s a key opportunity to address anti-Black racism in the justice system.

rime Minister Justin Trudeau recently gave a short but significant speech on Parliament Hill announcing that the Government of Canada is officially recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent. The decade, from 2015 to 2024, was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.

In his remarks, Trudeau recognized that chief among the issues and challenges particularly affecting Black people in Canada is their overrepresentation in the corrections system. In particular, the Prime Minister said: “We know that the interaction between Black Canadians and the corrections system as a whole faces a host of challenges, from discrimination in policing, to overrepresentation in our prisons. The percentage of inmates in our prisons who are Black is 8.6 percent, despite Black Canadians accounting for only 3.5 percent of the general population.”

The prime minister’s speech and accompanying official statement are a welcome step forward, as they mark an unprecedented official acknowledgement by a sitting Canadian prime minister of the pernicious and pervasive impacts of anti-Black racism. More importantly, the recognition of the International Decade is an opportunity to root out the underlying causes of criminalization of Black Canadians and to take meaningful steps toward eliminating anti-Black racism in criminal justice systems.

Chronic criminalization of Black people in Canada

As I outlined recently in Policy Options, systemic anti-Black racism in Canadian policing and courts goes back to at least the 1980s. Since then, it has continued to dramatically accelerate the rate of overrepresentation of Black people federally incarcerated in Canada.

For instance, in 2013, Canada’s Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) revealed in its 2012-13 Annual Report that between 2003 and 2013, the number of Black inmates in Canada’s federal prisons increased every year, growing by nearly 90 percent over that period, while the number of Caucasian inmates actually declined by three percent over the same time. While the acceleration rate of Black overrepresentation in Canada’s federal prisons has slowed moderately since then, the trend is still troublingly strong.

The OCI, referring to its 2013 findings, noted in its 2016-17 Annual Report: “Four years later very little appears to have changed for Black people in federal custody.”

While this pattern stands as its own threat to Canadian values of multiculturalism and equality, the problem is not an isolated one. These incarceration trends are not unconnected to the endemic practice of racial profiling, in the form of carding and street checks, which has recently been exposed as a Canada-wide phenomenon.

It is also important to note that Black people not only make up an inordinately high portion of the federal prison population but also experience some of the harshest treatment once inside. The practice of segregation, or solitary confinement, has been recognized by the United Nations as well as Canadian advocacy organizations and human rights agencies as a form of torture.

A 2015 report of the OCI stated that “the number of Black offender admissions to segregation and the number of offenders have increased significantly in the last 10 years”; from 2005 to 2015, the number of Black inmates sent to segregation increased by 100.4 percent. As reported by the Globe and Mail, “For that same 10-year period, aboriginal admissions to solitary increased 31.1 per cent.”

A criminal justice policy program for the decade

The UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent includes a detailed and thoughtful program of activities, intended to guide countries such as ours on how to implement the decade domestically. Special attention is paid in the program to eliminating anti-Black racism in criminal justice systems. States are called on to adopt 11 measures to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights of people of African descent. The measures range from basics that we in Canada take for granted, such as adopting equality laws and human rights tribunals, to more ambitious endeavours such as providing reparations for the ways the criminal justice system has perpetuated the logics and effects of state-sanctioned enslavement of people of African descent.

One of the serious criticisms of Trudeau’s announcement recognizing the decade is that it came without a substantive plan of action or articulation of a platform for policy change. The government of Canada has an opportunity to respond correctively to this legitimate critique by undertaking an official review of the UN’s program. While our country has adopted many of the program’s measures in some form, statistics show that major problems persist and have done for decades. So, the program’s measures should be used by our justice professionals to conduct an honest assessment of Canada’s progress and lack thereof in implementing access to justice for Black Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the Government of Canada is recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent, on January 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
An added advantage of the UN program’s suggestions is that the measures proposed are articulated in a manner that speaks to the ways systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system is both an inextricably linked cause and a consequence of its manifestation in other areas, such as poverty, employment, housing, health and education outcomes for Black people in Canada. In other words, to make substance of the thus far symbolic recognition of the international decade, Canada should seize the opportunity to pursue policy change grounded in the letter and spirit of the UN’s program of activities.

Toward criminal justice reform for African Canadians

For credible, evidence-based ideas on how to address the chronic criminalization of Black people in Canada, we need not look far. Prime Minister Trudeau, along with Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, and our Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, should consult the October 2017 Report of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada.

The group visited Black Canadians in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax in October 2016 to learn about the experience of being Black in Canada. Sadly, but not surprisingly, during their visit, the members of the working group were immediately struck by the staggering racial disparities that existed in Canada’s criminal justice system. The group released a lengthy media statement and an extensive list of recommendations for improving criminal justice outcomes for Black people in Canada, saying that the mission had left members with “serious concerns about systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system in Canada.”

Interestingly, the 2016-17 correctional investigator’s annual report endorses and repeats certain correctional justice reform recommendations made by the working group. These recommendations offer the most legitimate representation of the will of Black Canadians with respect to eliminating anti-Black racism in Canada’s criminal justice system.

To guide and sustain the process of prioritization and implementation of the recommendations of the UN working group and those of other credible sources, the government of Canada should take immediate steps toward establishing an African-Canadian justice portfolio within the Department of Justice, as well as a crime prevention and African-Canadian community safety division within Public Safety Canada.

A distinct policy approach for a distinct people

During Trudeau’s announcement, he affirmed one of the most important reasons for taking a targeted approach to anti-Black racism in Canada generally, and within the criminal justice system more specifically. Unlike any other prime minister before him, he noted that “people of African descent represent a distinct group.”

As a distinct group, Black Canadians require a distinct policy approach. African Canadians collectively endure unique and chronic challenges due to systemic anti-Black racism in Canada’s criminal justice system.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister noted that Canada needs to do “better” by Black Canadians. But, respectfully, I disagree.

After centuries of being deeply disadvantaged by this system, Black Canadians deserve a system that does more than just better, for “better” is an unconscionably low bar to meet. No, we’re calling for a system that actually lives up to its name and finally does us justice.

How? In the words of the Prime Minister, “Addressing the challenges facing Black Canadians requires participation from all Canadians.”

This article is curled from Policy Options and  was written by Anthony Morgan