President Obama’s decision to support Libyan rebels with U.S. military force has angered certain elements within the black community, and some of that anger, along with analysis, will be aired tonight, April 7, in Jamaica.
The forum is a series of speeches collectively entitled “Africa is Burning,” led by Molefi Kete Asante of Temple University and set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Afrikan Poetry Theatre. Admission is free.
The event is being held by WADU, the World African Diaspora Union, which promulgates the unity of people of African descent around the globe.
Asante will discuss what an event flier calls “the Imperialist attack on Libya, the standoff in the Ivory Coast and other burning issues ... affecting the unity of Africans.”
In Libya, a rebellion against Col. Moammar Khadafi’s rule is being supported by Western air strikes carried out under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A United Nations Security Council resolution authorized the action.
In the Ivory Coast, or Cote d’Ivoire, years of civil war recently intensified over President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down after being defeated at the polls. Hundreds were massacred in one town on April 2, international observers reported.
At tonight’s event, scheduled speakers include City College Professor Leonard Jeffries, Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement, Ital Kofi Ital of the ITC Heritage Ministry and John Watusi Branch of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre.
The U.S.-led strikes on Libya, which Obama said are intended to protect civilians, have prompted a backlash from some black Americans. They have been denounced by the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), among others, and even prompted the head of the New Black Panthers to call the president an Uncle Tom.
Writing in Black Star News on April 2, Barron began a column by saying, “President Barack Obama, a man of African descent, bombing an African country, Libya, killing innocent African people under the false pretense of stopping President Muammar al-Kaddafi from killing his own people, is unconscionable and unacceptable. Let’s be very clear, President Obama is merely a mouthpiece for a racist imperialistic American foreign policy controlled by generals and corporate elites.”
Other black leaders are supportive or at least not so critical. Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the NAACP does not have an official position on the battle in Libya. Asked to comment as an individual, Gadsden said he is undecided on the airstrikes but certainly would oppose any move to put U.S. forces on the ground there. The presence of American troops in foreign countries is what drives so much hatred against the United States, he said.
“I think it’s important that we don’t see our soldiers go into other countries and get involved,” Gadsden said. “I think they can handle these things themselves.”
Gadsden was unaware of tonight’s event when reached Monday, and said he will have to miss it because he’s attending an important forum on education, but would likely send a representative of the NAACP.
The attacks against Obama from Farrakhan and Malik Shabazz of the New Black Panthers did prompt a rebuke from one public figure from Queens.
Posting on his website, thisis50.com, rapper 50 Cent blasted both critics. Saying he is not especially supportive of Obama anymore either, the South Jamaica native said that he had “to ride wit’ him” in this case as “the lesser of two evils.” He denounced the Nation of Islam leader as “Farra-Con” and said Shabazz “goes above and beyond in the ignorance department,” while declaring the New Black Panther Party to be “one of the biggest cancers” threatening the black community today.
The Afrikan Poetry Theatre is located at 176-03 Jamaica Ave. For more information on the forum, call (718) 523-3312.