By Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrival in Canada is major news.
Modi is being greeted like he is a musical star like Bob Marley or
Bruce Springsteen. India has a long history of leaning left and not
being a servant of Western interest. It is no surprise that this Asian
nation is a foundation member of BRICS.
The new kid on the economic block is BRICS an association of five
major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and
South Africa. The grouping was originally known as "BRIC" before the
inclusion of South Africa in 2010.
They are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and
significant influence on regional and global affairs; all five are
G-20 members. Since 2010, the BRICS nations have met annually at
formal summits. Russia currently holds the chair of the BRICS group,
and will host BRICS seventh the summit in July 2015.
BRICS countries represent almost 3 billion people, or approximately
40% of the world population. The five nations have a combined nominal
GDP of US$16.039 trillion, equivalent to approximately 20% of the
gross world product, and an estimated US$4 trillion in combined
foreign reserves. Many feel that BRICS is a continuation of the
History will record two Bandung conferences. The first took place 60
years ago between April 18-24, 1955 at which 29 African and Asian
nations met in Bandung, Indonesia to promote economic and cultural
cooperation and to oppose colonialism.
The idea of the Bandung Conference came from Ahmed Sukarno of
Indonesia. It was conceived in Colombo, Indonesia, where the Colombo
powers – India, Pakistan, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Burma (now Myanmar)
and Indonesia, the host country – met in April 1954. The Bandung
Conference led to the 1961 creation of the Non-Aligned Movement.
At that moment in history Josip Broz Tito was the president of
Yugoslavia. The Non–Aligned Movement was founded in Belgrade. The idea
for the group was largely conceived by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first
prime minister. Other players were U Nu Burma’s first prime minister,
Sukarno Indonesia’s first president, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Kwame
Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president.
The second Bandung Conference took place in 2005. The first head of
state to arrive at the 2005 conference was South African President
Thabo Mbeki. Ironically, South Africa along with Israel, Taiwan and
North and South Korea were all barred from the 1955 conference. In
light of recent tragic events, Mbeki visited the tsunami stricken
province of Aceh before he proceeded to the conference.
I first heard about the Bandung Conference in the mid-1960s while
listening to a speech by El-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X) titled
"Message to the Grassroots,” which was first delivered at the King
Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit on November 10, 1963. Malcolm talked
about places and faces I had never heard of, however, he didn't get it
completely correct. There were White people at the Bandung conference.
Marshal Tito represented Yugoslavia, and there were American,
Australian and numerous members of the European press at the
conference. In fact, African American journalist Ethel Payne, who was
at Bandung, pointed out, “The British had sent just hordes of
correspondents, and the Dutch and the Germans and all the European
countries." A new biography “Eye On The Struggle” about Payne has
been published by Harper Collins.
Africans in North America paid close attention to this historic event.
In Canada, Daniel Braithwaite's organization, which had a relationship
with the U.S.-based Council on African Affairs (CAA), sent a message
of support. Braithwaite was so impressed by CAA co-founder Paul
Robeson that he not only started a CAA chapter in Toronto, he named
his son Paul in tribute to Robeson. Other Africanists like W.E.B.
DuBois, Alphaeus and Dorothy Hunton, along with Robeson, were members
of the Council on African Affairs.
At the time of the first Bandung Conference, the North American left,
in general, and the African liberation movement inside the United
States, in particular were under attack. Senator Joseph McCarthy was
looking for a "red under every bed.” Robeson, "the Tallest Tree in the
Forest," wanted to attend the conference but couldn't because the
U.S.government had taken his passport. Ditto for DuBois. However,
several African American politicians and journalists found themselves
in Indonesia from April 18-25, 1955. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Carl T.
Rowan, Dr. Marguerite Cartwright, journalist Payne and Richard Wright
all were there.
Powell, the Congressman from Harlem, went to the Conference on a dare.
He wanted to attend the event to represent the interests of
U.S.imperialism by talking about the progress the Negro in America was
making. "It will mark the first time in history that the world's
non-White people have held such a gathering," he told reporters in
Washington, D.C., "and it could be the most important of this
century." Powell, no matter what we think of him, knew what time it
was. His appeals to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and others in the
State Department fell on deaf ears. The flamboyant Powell was told the
U.S. government saw no need to send an official observer to Bandung.
However, he got there compliment of the African American weekly
newspaper, New York Age-Defender. Karl Evanzz pointed out in his
brilliant book, 'The Judas Factor', "There was at least one unofficial
observer: at the request of John Foster Dulles' brother, CIA Director
Allen Dulles, a young African American journalist named Carl T. Rowan
covered the conference."
Rowan went on to become the Director of the United States Information
Agency. He also went on to alienate a generation of Africans in
America after the February 21, 1965 assassination of Malcolm X.
Rowan's statement after Malcolm's death was: "All this about an
ex-convict, ex-dope peddler who became a racial fanatic."
Of the two female African American journalists at the conference, the
well-connected Dr. Cartwright represented a chain of White dailies and
the United Nations. The lesser-known Payne was the new kid on the
block and represented the Chicago Defender, which was part of John
Sengstacke's chain of Black weeklies.
Payne, who went on to be crowned "The First Lady of the Black Press"
said she had little or no contact in Indonesia with Dr. Cartwright. Of
Cartwright, Payne said, "She had a desk at the U.N. and so she had
quite a lot of access that I didn't have." However, Payne did network
with writer Richard Wright, a one-time member of the Communist Party
U.S.A. who went on his own and wrote the book, “The Color Curtain”,
about The Bandung Conference. “The Color Curtain” was first published
by University Press of Mississippi in 1956. Wright wrote about the
faces and places in Indonesia in 1955, and one can feel him learning
about what would come to be called "The Third World.”
The first Bandung Conference was attended by 21 Asian, seven African
and one Eastern European country. The second was attended by 54 Asian
and 52 African nations. The Asian-African Conference has been
transformed into the Asia-Africa Summit. A recent re-reading of
Robeson's “Here I Stand” made me realize how important these two
conferences are to humanity. At both, questions of world peace,
South-South cooperation, nuclear weapons and Palestine were discussed.
The great Paul Robeson wanted to attend the Bandung Conference.
Robeson summed it up in these words. He said, “How I would love to see
my brothers from Africa, India, China, Indonesia and from all the
people represented at Bandung. In your midst are old friends I knew in
London years ago, where I first became part of the movement for
colonial freedom -- the many friends from India and Africa and the
West Indies with whom I shared hopes and dreams of a new day for the
oppressed colored peoples of the world. And I might have come as an
observer had I been granted a passport by the State Department whose
lawyers have argued that "in view of the applicant's frank admission
that he has argued that "in view of the applicant's frank admission
that he has been fighting for the freedom of the colonial people of
Africa . . .the diplomatic embarrassment that could arise from the
presence abroad of such a political meddler (sic!) travelling under
the protection of
an American passport, is easily imaginable!"
So all the best to all of you. Together with all of progressive
mankind, with lovers of peace and freedom everywhere, I salute your
Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana,
and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight
in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the
United States were colonial subjects.
Richmond is currently working as a producer/host of Diasporic Music on
Uhuru Radio (uhururadio.com)
His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper