Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Anti-Slavery Award 2004

Today I wanted to highlight and comment on some positive news coming out of Africa as there is plenty of Good News from Africa. There were also some interesting developments in regards to blogs and their affects on society I wanted to write about, but that will have to wait. While checking on some of my fellow blog authors today to see what they are up to I ran across this bit of news at Owukori’s Black Looks about a human rights organization working in the African country of Niger named Timidria.

Now, last week “Mama Miti” (a.k.a. Professor Dr. Wangari Maathai) down in Kenya was awarded one of the most prestigious honors the world has to offer, The Nobel Peace Prize. Today I have learned that another great honor albeit not as well known as the Nobel has been bestowed upon the not-for-profit foundation Timidria and their president Mr. Llguilas Weila by the world’s oldest human rights organization, Anti-Slavery International in the U.K. I want to extend my personal congratulations to Timidria for receiving the 2004 Anti-Slavery Award for their pioneering work to help eradicate the practice of slavery in Niger.

The ceremony will take place in London, U.K. on November 03, 2004 at St. James Square and the award will be handed out by one of my documentary film director heroes
Sorious Samura of Cry Freetown and Living with Hunger. Unfortunately, this excellent African organization which has worked so hard to help end one of the worst scourges of ancient and modern times, SLAVERY, will not be receiving any financial award for their efforts in Niger. The Anti-Slavery International foundation has been around since 1839 and has been doing very notable work long before U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued on September 22, 1862 one of the most treasured documents in U.S. American History, The Emancipation Proclamation, ordering the freedom of slaves (all nationalities and colors) held in the U.S. at the height of the American Civil War.

I would love to address the issues of Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking on this blog today, but to be honest, this subject gets me so upset that if I get started on it your computer might catch on fire just from the heat coming off of the words I would use. So instead, I will just provide you with some excerpts of words written by others and some useful links to resources for my readers to learn more.

An excerpt from the Anti-Slavery International Award 2004 Press Release

“Slavery is an integral part of Niger society. Thousands of people are born into a slave class and are forced to work without freedom or pay throughout their lives.The true scale of slavery across the country only became clear last year, following Timidria's research -- the first national study of slavery to be carried out. The organisation interviewed over 11,000 people, most of whom were identified as slaves, establishing that at least 43,000 people are in slavery across the country. Many of those interviewed were subjected to torture and other forms of humiliating and degrading treatment, including rape, physical abuse and threats.

Following the release of the report, the Government introduced a law that defines, prohibits and punishes slavery. And as a direct result of Timidria's action, over 200 people were freed by the end of 2003. Despite this progress there is still much to do to ensure the regulations are enforced and support is available for those freed.

Slavery has been a taboo subject in Niger with supporters both within the state apparatus and among traditional chiefs. Even other human rights organisations in the country have been silent on it. Ilguilas Weila and other Timidria staff have faced a continual struggle in their work against slavery, including being threatened, intimidated and attacked…”

An excerpt from the background and testimony of a former woman slave freed in June 2004 named Assabit:

"Assibit's experience is typical of many former slaves in Niger. She was a slave for 50 years. She was born a slave, her mother, husband and children were all slaves. She had to work all day from early in the morning, preparing food for the master and his family, milking camels, collecting water and firewood, and doing all the household chores. She had to move her master's heavy tent four times a day so he and the mistress remained sitting in the shade.
Assibit escaped on 28 June 2004, walking 30 kilometres to freedom. She says of her experience:

"We were never paid, I was only given one tenth of the camel milk and leftovers. I have never known happiness until this month of freedom. Now I can go to bed when I want, no one insults me. Now that I am free, I can live as I please."

Timidria is now helping Assibit adjust to freedom and has also secured the release of her mother and daughter…”

More Useful Links and Resources on Slavery and Human Trafficking Worldwide:

Anti-Slavery International homepage
Anti-Slavery International web pages on Niger

U.S. Department of State
2003 Trafficking in Persons Report

National Geographic
Special Report 21st Century Slavery

Black Looks weblog
Chronological Postings on Slavery

Experts and international organizations dealing with Human Trafficking and Slavery estimate there are about 27 million modern-day slaves in existence today around the world. I beg to differ, as I think there are probably more than 3-5 times that many people living in some form of slavery around the world (based upon the experts very definitions).

Economies and social structures of too many nations depend upon the cheap and/or free labor and suffering of slaves___ for centuries and to this very day. We can stop it worldwide in our lifetimes, and we must work together to put a stop to it.

Actually, this is how I really want to say it to the nations and peoples who condone slavery:


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Survival Study in Black and White

The Chai Lady
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2004

It is a beautiful B&W portrait of one of the older Chai Women of Khartoum. Her face and hands tell us stories that words could probably not adequately describe. I cannot tell her age from this photo but she seems to have seen a lifetime already, and she looks so tired today. She is as beautiful as any of the young women of Khartoum who hopefully seek her knowledge and wisdom. A mother of the City of Khartoum.

Here are Tom's words used to describe this photo:
"A portrait of a 'tea' lady in Khartoum. She makes a subsistance living selling glasses of tea or coffee on the street at $0.01 a glass.

I think this is one of my favourite photos. Her face is wonderful, proud and beautiful. The original was coloured but the light was great. Changing to B&W has I think brought a different sort of depth to the photo."

Amen brother!

Coffee, Tea, or a Smile?

The Smile is Free!
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2003-2004

Well, I don't know if he bought a tea from the Chai Lady, but he was certainly able to encourage her to give the world one of the most beautiful smiles from Khartoum. The people of Khartoum and throughout Sudan are some of the most warm-hearted and welcoming people anywhere on the planet. I should know. One of my best friends when I was a younger man who lived and worked in another faraway desert land hailed from the ancient city of Al Khartum in the Sudan.

Here is what Tom had to say about this lovely young woman:
"Another picture of a 'chai' (tea) lady working on the streets of Khartoum. This young woman is a refugee from the Nuba Mountains in the west of Sudan, whose 'tea house' is a ramshackle lean-to (made from sticks of cane and plastic sheeting) on the side of an empty brick building.

She looks so young and yet has a beautiful daughter (about 6 years old I would guess).'Chai' ladies can be found on every shady street corner in Khartoum. In the mornings they set up shop in the dawn light, burning the charcoal and mixing their sweet teas and tangy coffee. Some offer delicious doughnuts to start the day, and many regulars stop on their way to work to sit and chat with friends.

It's a precarious existence; the money they make in a day (often 12-14hours) will probably only be enough to buy tomorrow's provisions and pay for a meal for their family."

A Chai Vendor in Khartoum

The Coffee Lady
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2003-2004

She doesn't look too happy about this white dude hanging around with a camera wanting to take her picture. Perhaps she would be friendlier if this guy wanted to buy some of her wares (coffee or tea)? Maybe the conversation would go something like this:

"Hello kind sir, welcome to Al Khartum. Would you like a tea with that photo?"

The Orange Door to Al Khartum

The Day the Sky Turned Orange
Photo by Tom Gething, Sudan 2003-2004

This is the start of a new series of photos taken by Tom after his return to Khartoum in September 2004. I love the light transition from darkness to the orange sky as it is framed by this portal doorway to the outside . The photo was taken during a "haboob" (duststorm) which Tom describes for another photo in this series:

"... but it shows what a dust storm is like in Khartoum. It arrives swifty, turns the world orange and is gone in 20 minutes. An extraordinary feat of nature."

Monday, October 18, 2004

Back to the Future: Sudan

Some weeks ago I received a special permission to work with some digital photos taken by Tom Gething who lives and works in Khartoum, Sudan. I am very appreciative to Tom for the opportunity to display and comment in my own words (and sometimes in his words) about a body of work that has captured my attention for months. I am very proud to be able to share these beautiful images with you my readers. I hope that I can do his work and the people in Tom's photos justice.

There has also been an increase in “behind the scenes” communication with fellow bloggers from Africa and people interested in Africa. It’s encouraging to know that so many people are trying to find ways to work together around the world to help solve Africa’s many problems and move the continent forward. I am so very thankful for that communications everyone.

Jewels in the Jungle started out as an experiment with what we technologists call a “web-based application” to see if weblogs can be a viable, reliable, secure, inexpensive and an easy-to-use communication tool for people who share similar interests. Blogs are also used to help people easily collaborate with one another, a type of grassroots information and knowledge-sharing platform. The technology behind weblogs is actually more than 12 years old but blogging still is in the cradle stage right now and the "Baby is on steroids!".

I do read the work of a number of other blog authors regularly and am amazed at the wealth of human talent and ability out there in the Blogoshpere. I am equally amazed at how fast blogging is growing at the rate of about ½ million blogs a month. There are a number of professionals in various fields following weblogs closely and notably among them are people who write and publish for a living: journalists, publishers, media companies. So do visit my blogroll “Hot Blogs & Sites To Go” and use it as a launch pad off into the Blogoshpere to discover what other people around the world are thinking and writing.

One of my favorite bloggers on Africa is Owukori of
Black Looks who has just returned from a visit to the States (she hates America but we’re trying to work this problem out somehow). Anyway, I really like her work and her style when I’m not pissed-off at her comments about my country. Owukori has been doing some excellent writing on Nigeria and especially on the crisis with Big Bad Oil vs. the People of the Niger River Delta. Do visit her weblog and help educate yourself about Owukori's views on Africa and the world.

I’d also like to thank Owukori for the hot tip on an excellent article about Sudan from Mahmood Mamdani, the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Director of the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University, New York. Professor Mamdani’s article will serve as a solid foundation for a new series of postings I'm doing on Sudan together with Tom’s photos.

So, here we go, through the open doors of Al Khartum and into the Land of the Sudan.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Nobel Peace Prize for 2004

Olso, Norway. Friday morning. October 08, 2004
"...and the winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Peace is... (Wait a minute. You sure we have this name right Hans? Ja ja Ole, the name is correct. Go ahead and read it aloud.) ...and the Nobel Prize for Peace for the year 2004 goes to___ (light cough) goes to Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

Newsroom editors around the world. Friday. October 08, 2004
"Professor who? Dr. who? Kenya? You sure they got that right? I've never heard of him. Her? It's a woman, an environmentalist!? And she is BLACK!!? This is big news, real big! Get me some copy on Dr. what's her name__(Professor Wangari Maathai, she's a Member of Parliament in Kenya)__ yeah, yeah, get me some copy on Professor Maathai there right away. Right now! Stop the presses. Stop the doggone presses!

CNN News:
Kenyan in Surprise Peace Prize Win , Maathai Profile
BBC News:
Kenyan Ecologist Wins Nobel Peace Prize, Profile
Kenya Daily Nation:
Professor Maathai Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Office in Germany. Friday noon. October 08, 2004
(BlackRiverEagle) "Yessir! What? Yesss Mamm!! She won! She won, doggone it! Stand up Africa, stand up in the world and be counted! Show me you can do it, show the world you can do it and all you need is a little help in the right places from the right people. All I need is a little help from my friends."

"My hat is off to you Doctor Maathai, I mean Madame Minister. Hallelujah! Congratulations Kenya! Congratulations to the women of Africa and to women all around the world. Show 'em you have a place in this world, that you have the right to be in charge of things and that you have the brains for it, the courage for it, and the heart for it. Yessiree!"

Mshairi, my blogger friend from Kenya. You were right my dear. Women most definately can save the planet Earth. The right answer to your question is an empahtic YES! Congratulations.

Here is the link to Professor Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement organization in Kenya.

Here are some recent news articles on environmental issues in Africa and Planet Earth:
Planet Under Pressure (a BBC News Six-Part Special Report)
Oil Boom Fuels Bushmeat Trade

Here is my favorite quote (so far) from Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya:

...Mrs Maathai says she usually uses a biblical analogy of creation to stress the importance of the environment.
"God created the planet from Monday to Friday. On Saturday he created human beings.
The truth of the matter is... if man was created on Tuesday, I usually say, he would have been dead on Wednesday, because there would not have been the essential elements that he needs to survive,"
she told the BBC...

Update Saturday October 9th, 2004:
Boy I can see the editors and reporters at the bigtime news organizations got their act together quick, you could watch the stories update online hour-to-hour on Dr. Maathai. The more I read about this great woman the more I like her. How come it took 30 years for the world to know about this woman and to recognize her work?

"Mama Miti" - The Mother of Trees (in Kiswahili language). Boy they got that name right. Here is some more news and background on Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya.
BBC News: Locals toast Mama Miti's Win

And here is good news on new agreements reached at the CITES Convention in Bangkok to help protect the remaining wildlife populations in Africa. BBC News: Ivory Crackdown Agreed in Africa

If we could only keep those corrupt politicians and business people (you know who you are) and the murdering bushmeat hunters and wildlife traders away we just might be getting somewhere with protecting Africa's precious flora and fauna. At least what's left and that 'aint much.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Friday's Smile

Something to smile about on a Friday.
Photo by Susanne Behnke, Uganda 2003

Something really important happened to me this week in regards to this blog, some really good news Out of Africa. I've been thinking about it and thinking about for the past few days, and I am gonna think about it some more this weekend. And then I am going to get busy with this new opportunity and together with the bearer of this gift from Africa share it with you, my readers, ASAP.

In the meantime, please check out the other great blogs and sites listed in my blogroll "Hot Blogs & Sites To Go" because there are some excellent blog authors there. Follow Yvette at Inside Somaliland and Ethan Zuckerman at Harvard and the new addition Timbuktu Chronicles and oh yeah, don't forget the folks at University of Southern California's Online Journalism Review. Here is a link to a great article from USC's OJR on Internet Access and Use in Africa.

Good, see you again next week. Have a nice weekend :-) Jeez, how American can this guy get?!

P.S. Hey, you like politics and world affairs? Are you one of those people who go around thinking "If I had a chance to meet President So-and-So I would give him a ...", one of those international affairs pundits? Have you seen this story on Kerry and Bush from the Washington Post, "Kerry is Widely Favored Abroad"? Then you need to visit Priorities & Frivolities over at my blogroll, that's why I put it in there. Got an opinion, tell Robert Garcia Tagorda, not me. I'm not into politics myself (ha-ha-ha-ha- ha-ha-ha-ha). ha.