Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rosa Parks' birth Centenary, she sat down for freedom, what do you stand for?

A gracious Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1955
Fighting racial and other discrimination women making nations 

"The First Lady of civil rights" and the mother of "the freedom movement" is Rosa Louise McCauley Parks. This blog celebrates her birth centenary. Through her, we link up different lands and peoples for freedom. 
 Born on February 4, 1913 Rosa knew her history well. She knew how much people had suffered because of their genetic and origin in the order of the development of other economies in her own flesh. And yes, the economies of the masters have very much to do with all forms of oppression from slavery to racial discrimination for the two are not disconnected. Rosa Parks died on 24th October 2005. 
Rosa Parks is a great candle for all of us. A gift. She lit up our world so that Clotel's Sisters must not die in defeat. She inspires many profoundly. She was not the first to refuse to stand up and vacate a seat to make room for a white person. In May 1884, Ida Wells - Barnett refused to give up a train seat in the white section. She was forced out. She won her case in a lower court but this was overturned but the Tennessee Supreme Court. Clotel's Sister reads in Women Who Dare Knowledge Cards that Ida Wells -Barnett fought racial discrimination all her life in  "literally death- defying campaigns against racial lynching". In 1946, Irene Morgan sat on too. Sarah Louise Keys and Clodete Colvin did the same in 1955.  The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People {NAACP} branch had decided that Rosa Parks was the right person around whom to make a legal case and strengthen the movement when she too did her act of civil disobedience -sat- on 1st December, 1955. She was the right one to spark the plug of legal issues again. She did it magnificently. She was arrested. For me, she was not acting. She was holding a hand to all the Clotel's Sisters who like Clotel found the enemies of human dignity and freedom chasing on every side. Enemies at the back and at the front and the option either death by self or worse death by the owners of an economy based on the labour of the black people.

Rosa Parks was an American civil liberties activist like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was born on January 15 1929. The assassination of King Jr. hit the world and no doubt his colleagues and many were shaken and despondent. He died on April 4 1968. Many people who quote him today do not know that Rosa Parks worked closely with him. Some however know little or nothing about Rosa Parks. Like Rosa Parks, there are so many times women have played their role for the liberation of others.  

Long live the spirt of resistance and love for activism. Let those who believe in "Organize. Don't agonise" as was often repeated the late Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, a Pan Africanist take energy from Rosa Parks works. Let us see once again how organising in big issues sometimes is pegged on winning at a very different but significant level. 

This means organising many women and at all levels for freedom and that is not easy. I mention Abdul Raheem on purpose for he was very concerned about sisters of ours in the world who die unnecessarily at child birth before he died on Africa Liberation Day, 25th Of May 2009. Then Tajudeen was working on the Millennium Development Goals which promise so much to the world by the year 2015. Freedom touches us at many levels. It must be won in many spheres and not just one. It would be no good to sit down wherever you choose if when you get home you are flogged in private in the bedroom.  

Very often we do not connect region to region in matters of freedom and in the pursuance of justice. Is this not another form of segregation? Why should we think that for example the struggle against imperial forces, the struggles against racism are not connected? Why would we choose to imagine that some people can be free when others are not? How can men be free if women are oppressed? How is it that your freedom is not part of another's? Can you oppress and be free yourself? Do you have to be one of the oppressed to fight for freedom? Men must be vigorously engaged in gender issues. Here we are not only focusing on women from America. We know many Clotels and Rosa Parks in every continent, in almost every village.
In this anniversary of Rosa Parks, we want to remember girls from Pakistan who are threatened when they go to school because the Taliban would rather have them uneducated. We remember and honour Malala Yousufzai as a burning symbol of so many of these girls. We know that being shot in the head is fatal but she survived. The world was moved by her plight. PEN Austria took action with the project 'Time to Say No!'´s-time-to-say-no/

Together as one, one single woman, women in Afrika, America Latina, America, Australia, Europe and Asia, we have to move the world from where it is stuck. Everywhere women have gone ahead and bravely risked all they have to save nations. For remember, there are no nations without women who are still having to make extremely difficult choices. Some of these choices are between life and death. Their death or the death of their children. During this centenary of Rosa Parks, we shall tell some of the stories that we know. We shall also share either words that change one's course in life and where possible show how and {or} an action taken because of the inspiration of a woman somewhere. This can be in her words, her life or just something read about her. This is the story of connecting with positive energy. 

Today Clotel's Sisters read about Lydia Cacho's. Lydia is a journalist from Mexico. She lives under threat for writing about drug barons in her country. She reminds us that holding a pen and writing life and experience is our power. Lydia fights for her nation with her writing. Just like Ida Wells- Barnett who became a journalist and even took her campaign abroad. "She defied mob violence and terror to train a relentless and harsh light on the national disgrace of lynching."

Recently, English PEN magazine, carried her article 'The Pen, my lance' She writes about a dream in which she sees her own decapitation. We are not dealing with light things."In my nightmare the decapitated head was my own, with nothing surrounding it but a desolate landscape. My face was devoid of expression and my yes closed lifelessly. I take deep breaths and hold onto my pen. I need to write for myself, along , in order to exorcise the image. The words of the most recent death threat that I received by e/mail to me: first my hands would be given to my partner, then my head to my father. I phoned my lawyers.... "

Lydia Cacho is a prolific author. Her latest book is Slavery Inc: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking. Published Portobello/Granta.

©Philo Ikonya and Helmuth A. Niederle

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Trapped by chanted hymns, the bigotry of a religious leader

As the father of the 23 year-old-medical student reaches out to the world with the desire to reveal her name in his words, "So that she may serve as an inspiration" other men are revealing the ugly face of righteousness so often defended as religion that goes against women. 

It shocks nobody that in the fast tracked trial in Delhi that two of the rapists persists to not plead guilty. There is on one side the threat of receiving a long time sentence and on the other side a certain knowledge. They know something. Among prisoners rapists are considered to be special kind of jailbirds and are mistreated and abused by others detainees.

But hark the miraculous words of Asaram Bapu, 73, who runs more than 300 ashrams in the India and abroad. Bapu claims to have more than 20 million followers. In other words, he is a man whose voice is heard. This 'religious' man sees the raped girl who died as the one who is guilty.  To blame the victim is a world-wide tendency. A humanity neglecting practise is also the human rights contradicting when all people of the world would do it. There is nothing to negotiate about.

When this old Bapu says in public that the departed brutalised girl is partly guilty because she has not taken diksha (initiation in his teaching) and did not chant a hymn to save herself, we reach a point of cynicism which is not bearable at all. 

It is now the "wise" old men who spit on their own rich religious tradition which enables – in contrast to monotheistic religions – a huge variety of ways to relief. The idea of Bapu as reported in the international media that the young woman should have spoken to her tormentors and said, "I am a helpless woman and you are my brothers in faith" is so far beyond normality that Bapu should hide himself in one of his ashrams and be silent forever. He has lost all his credibility.

But as it is typical of powerful people (and Bapu has power) not to want to recognise their failure. He is now busy defending himself before the media and disowning his previous stand. His sentence to defend himself against the accusations through media speaks for itself: "I love even snakes. How can I hate media?"

This sentence shows how much he is afraid of the Fourth Estate in a functioning democracy. His authority is questionable. Media must be allowed to ask and to comment and they are not comparable to snakes, flies, jiggers or fleas – they are part of the conscience of a civil society. The media must be allowed to report Bapu as he spoke. He must not only say he did not say that but explain to us and his many followers what he normally teaches or says about rape in the many instances when people must have spoken about it.  He must not only correct his stand without referring to the media as "barking dogs" but also apologise profusely to the family of the dead medical student for such an outrageous stand.

                                      © Philo Ikonya & Helmuth A. Niederle

Monday, January 7, 2013

Women, power and oppression

Copyright H A Niederle
Detail of a grave in Zafar Mahal c. H. A. Niederle
Clotel, or The President's Daughter is said to be the first novel ever written by an African American. William Wells Brown was an escaped slave from Kentucky. Wells Brown published the book in London in 1853. In the United States of America he was at risk. In the book, Clotel and her sister Althesa are said to have been Currer's daughters with president Thomas Jefferson. It was known that he had children Sally Hemings, the sister of his wife Martha and they were slaves. He released some of them. He never publicly acknowledged these children. They are children of a slave. He dies and they suffer as they are secret daughters and their father's power generates them not into freedom.

Hard stories both about male and female slaves abound. In this blog, Clotel's Sisters we record the abuse of women and the impact of this abuse in our society today and in the future. It is saddening to read the lives of women such as Clotel and her mother and how they were sold on platforms after their bodies were exposed for viewing. No decency ever. Their buyers, mainly males felt that they won.  One remembers Sarah Baartman too. To be displayed to the gawking eyes of those who have power over one is extremely violent. Unfortunately, it seems this does not stop in all societies.

We know that rape is not just been stared at but to have one's soul stolen as the body is used forcefully for sex. It is hideous and cannot be compared to many other crimes even when the woman survives it. I It is a heavy loss for all in society including the male.  It is great that India has raised a strong voice against the gang rape and consequent death of a 23-year old medical student but since then many more women have been raped around the world.  This is the report of another such rape on the night of Friday the January 5, 2013. Clotel's Sisters first read it here in German. and here in English:

Looking at the many cases of rape around the globe leads Clotel's Sisters to the question: Do really so many men consider themselves to be winners? Every 18 minutes in India a woman is raped. Lets be generous. Every 20 minutes. Makes three in on hour, 72 a day, 2160 in one month, 25920 in one year and more than 250.000 in ten years.

Yet the world spends much time praising 'qualities' that are seen to be of the successful male. The late Austrian playwright Herbert Berger wrote a play entitled Women always Belong to the Winner. When do women belong to themselves? When do we accept them as they are? Or respect their will? Why are they still subjected to so much violence?

The Indian Union has 200.000 soldiers in Kashmir to defend its territory against Pakistan. This is not the time for Clotel's Sisters -- this blog -- to discuss, if Kashmir should be part of the one or the other country. Whoever has been to this fabulous place knows  what it means when thousands of soldiers are on the roads. The number of women raped in India is easily more than the number of soldiers defending their country. More women are raped as soldiers are doing what is called their duty for their home country.
The time has come for us to witness that the world yesterday and today, whether in America, Asia, Australia, Europe or Africa has lost in this. We must stand up for what is right. We are all losers. As in the days of slavery and other forms of oppression, men try to make a show of power but this is futile. Clotel's Sisters must win freedom, true freedom. 

                                             ©  Philo Ikonya & Helmuth A. Niederle