There’s a story I know bout Kwanzaa, en how it floats in history on the back of Maulana Karenga, standing on de shoulders of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Marcus Garvey, Sojourner Truth en their mamas. Na kuna hadithi nyingine najua kuhusu mama wa Kwanzaa, na leo hii tasfiri ni ya NIA.

Hadithi? Hadithi? Giza ya? (reposts from) The Healing Wisdom of Afrika

CREATION NA ELEMENTS TANO

For the Dagara, cosmology begins with de hadithi of creashun. In de beginning, there was no earth as we know it. In its place was a burning planet, a ball of fiya combusting at high speed. Kwa hivyo, moto is de first element of de Dagara wheel. Moto is present in everyting, en everyting needs moto. It was not until dis moving en burning sphere encountered a huge body of wota that tings began to change. Maji became de second element in de cosmological wheel. De shock resulting from de collision of moto na maji not only slowed de combustion process, but also chased moto into de underworld, leaving de surface as a hot steamy place, fertile for de breeding of all kinds of life forms. This surface, hospitable to life, is what is known as dunia/earth, which constitutes the third elemental principle of de Dagara cosmological wheel. The various hard components of de earth provide structure en connecshun en are known as mineral or mawe (stone), the fourth element in de cosmological wheel.

Meanwhile, a steam of great density formed de atmosphere around de dunia. (These images translate imperfectly into Western terms; think of them as poetic rather than scientific descriptions.) As de steam expanded, its pressure began to subside. The reduction of atmospheric pressure was conducive to de birth of maisha, en thus de fifth element, vegetative nature, came into being.

Maisha, as not only Dagara people but many others say, began underwota. Thus, every living form on de dunia got its maisha signature in de wotas en continues to live intimately with maji. It is as if de original encounter between moto na maji established de conditions for maisha by producing a nurturing environment.

Earth came to life as a result of de marriage between those two primal elements, en in turn Dunia brought forth mo maisha, which she continues to sustain.

[The idea that we all came from maji is important because it implies that maji ni maisha, a concept we will return to from Jan 20 -27 with students of Baba Malidoma Some na #To David With Love.]

As de pressure of de steam produced by de encounter of maji na moto continued to subside, beings that were conceived in maji looking like worms moved to dry land en continued to evolve. When de atmospheric pressure at last stabilised, de diversification of maisha slowed to an almost imperceptible state. Today, for instance, amphibious animals like crocodiles, sea lions, and seals are said to be beings that didn’t complete their journey out of maji. Their development was suspended when de atmospheric pressure stopped where it is today. On de other hand, beings who came out of de maji earlier evolved into higher-dimensional spheres, allowing them to move back en forth in time en space. They embody our future. Birds are considered among de most ancient animals because they moved kwanza from de maji to de land, then continued to evolve to flight. Some elders say that, if tings had continued to change, ndege

would have made it to other dimensions.

One might ask where this primal maji came from. De elders, from their spiritual understanding, would say that it came from de Other World en spilled into de dunia at a moment when de veil between de two worlds was thinned – the moment when de original Earth flew too close to de Other World. One might say that some kind of distortion occurred as de cool liquid Other World en de hot burning Dunia passed too closely by each other. De distorted space sucked maji out of de moist Other World en threw itself onto Dunia.

From this perspective, maji is de presence of de Other World on our planet. The element moto is the doorway to de wahenga, lakini maji is de doorway to de Other World, de kind of world that is referred to as de  world of de kontomble en de other nonancestral spirits.

This is why shamans can walk into de Other World through de waterways. Infact there are countless places in maji where these same veils still  remain active. These veils are umbilical cords, de gateways linking our world to others.

The connecshun to de ancestral world that is found in de element moto is different from de connecshun with other beings en other intelligences. De Spirits call de kontombli en de spirits of de wahenga do not live in de same place, they don’t share de same geography, yet they can communicate with each other……

One might wonder how other worlds to which our world is linked were created. Indeed, de Dagara cosmology does not limit itself to this earth world but touches on others. This is because our world belongs to a family of worlds without which it seems it cannot sustain itself. These Other Worlds were created in ways opposite to the way ours was created.

In de creashun hadithi, they came into being when their vast cool maji were hit by moto……….apparently, if de pressure of de atmosphere of our world had continued to evolve, it would have been easier for humans to journey into these worlds en back.

Therefore spirituality-our efforts to enhance en advance our contact with de world of Spirit – is seen from an indigenus perspective as de continuation of human evolushun……..

THE FIVE ELEMENTS AND RITUAL

Ritual is for de purpose of restoring balance, de essence of health, to individual en community. It serves no purpose to know de origin or functional meaning of these cosmological elements if de ultimate reason is unconnected to ritual. To de extent that ritual is born out of de understanding of de cosmological wheel, de elements are its molecular tools whose proportion to one another must be monitored en restored when needed. The procedure for dis is ritual.

Fiya rituals rekindle de connecshun to de ancestral moto en de moto within vision. Wota rituals cleanse en reconcile, restoring peace. Earth rituals ground en comfort, bringing a sense of nyumbani en belonging. Mineral rituals restore memory en light up a sense of knowing. Nature rituals restore de natural self en open us to de magic en wonder around us.

When a group of people gathers to conduct a ritual, in an indigenus context, people who embody each of de elements become de gatekeepers for dat particular element in de ritual en for de part of de ritual pertaining to that element.

As we’ve seen from posts of moons ago, a gatekeeper is a healer who by his or her nature is able to bridge this world of Spirit to be brought into de physical world. The gatekeepers of each element are those people whose genius, whose essential character, embodies de zawadis of that element. By virtue of de fact that you carry a certain zawadi, you are given a special relationship with de element from which that zawadi originated, en in this sense, you are a gatekeeper. You stand between de rest of community en that portion of the natural world that corresponds to your element en all that is represents symbolically…

Swagger

A person’s zawadis, when they emerge, make de carrier of de zawadi a servant to a particular gate, en because they are servant to that particular gate, we call them gatekeepers. Though every person embodies one element in particular, all elements must be present in each person.

Not only de Dagara people have developed this notion of gate keeping, of overseeing something vital to de healthy functioning of de community, in order to satisfy people’s innate desire to serve. By serving de gateway to an elemental aspect of de natural world, a person allows de qualities en resources that element represents to be brought to the community, giving de community wot it needs to blossom fully…….ase

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Kuna hadithi najua bout Kwanzaa, a pan-Afreekan narrative that not only I but many others have been rediscovering with our healing rituals. Jana iliulizwa, where is umoja? na leo hadi kifo, ninajichagulia kusoma na upendo with akina baba na mama wa Afrika kama Sobonfu Some na Malidoma Patrice Some, hii hadithi imetoka kitabu yake…..

The Elements of Ritual

Ritual is the most ancient way of binding a community together in a close relationship with Spirit. It is a way of communicating with forms of consciousness en beings from countless dunias ( worlds). It has been one of the most practical en efficient ways to stimulate de safe healing required by both de individual and de community. Ritual has always been de way of maisha of de spiritual person because it is a tool to maintain de delicate balance between body en soul. In a tribal community, healing of de kijiji happens in ritual.

WHAT IS RITUAL?

Every time a gathering of people, under de protection of Spirit, triggers a body of emotional energy aimed at bringing them very tightly together, a ritual of one type or another is in effect. In this kind of gathering people primarily use nonverbal means of interacting with one another, thereby stimulating the life of de psyche…..

There are two parts to ritual. One part is planned: people prepare de space for de ritual en think through de general choreography of de process. The other part of de ritual cannot be planned because it is the part that Spirit is in charge of. The unplanned part of ritual is a spontaneous, almost unpredictable interaction with an energy source. It is a response to a call from a nonhuman source to commune with a larger horizon. It is like a journey. Before you get started, you own de journey. After you start, the journey owns you (en it ain’t over till it’s over).

Certain events move us irresistibly toward ritualised behaviours, for example de loss of a loved one, a major accident, de witnessing of a violent death, or a natural disaster. When such an event happens, no observer can predict people’s actions or logically explain what goes on, because the people affected by de event act without conscious control. Any emotional frenzy, to de extent that it is orchestrated by Spirit, has something ritualistic about it….

It is important to recognise what ritual is not. It is not repetitive or compulsive behaviour, like having a coffee or a cigarette in the morning. Nor is it an everyday formality, like greeting another person with a handshake, hug, or kiss. In day-to-day life, when you go to a public place of business, you are expected to stand in line if you find that others have preceded you to de same place. Ritual is just de opposite. It is gathering with others in order to feel Spirit’s call, to express spontaneously en publicly whatever emotion needs to be expressed, to create, in concert with others, an unrehearsed en deeply moving response to Spirit, en to feel de presence of de community, including the ancestors, throughout the experience.

People’s psyches are very drawn to ritual because it’s a place of high ecstasy. What happens in ritual is not unlike, what happens to people who ingest drugs. Ritual is a place of safe ecstasy, but with no undesirable side effects. This is one of de reasons why indigenous people love ritual. They spend the majority of their time planning for ritual, doing it, en recovering from it.

It is important to distinguish between ritual and ceremony……from an indigenous point of view, ceremonies are events that are reproducible, predictable, and controllable, while rituals call for spontaneous feeling and trust in de outcome…it is a time of unplanned, unforeseeable, yet orderly disorder. By contrast, in ceremony there is a potential for boredom because de participants pretty much know what’s going to happen, in ritual the soul en de human spirit get permission to express themselves.

What to Westerners are rituals appear to indigenous people as instead ceremonies. Among the most visible expressions are de varieties of church practices, from Mass to processional celebrations…The problem with these ceremonies is that over time they begin to lose their attraction, since they happen in de same way year after year. They do not have the essential ingredient, spontaneity, which to indigenous people speaks of Spirit.

Ofcourse, de same words said in de same way over time do help many people in de West feel connected to Spirit because the very repetition reminds people of de thousands who have gone before who said de same words en so must have gone through a similar experience. But the presence of Spirit is marked in African vijiji in just the opposite way – by releasing emotion spontaneously rather than by providing a container for emotion through familiar words.

When most Westerners think of ritual they are more likely to connect it with words such as empty, old-fashioned, irrelevant, and boring than with words such as transforming, essential, challenging or healing. Ritual continues to engage the passion and commitment of indigenous people because it stimulates their creativity and their emotions. Most of all, they continue to do ritual because afterward they feel changed.

Doing ritual heals people, reconnecting them to the ancestors en to their own deepest purpose. Because ritual is so deeply connected to our human nature, anytime it is missing there will be a lack of transformation and healing. If a culture does not draw from ritual, its members will do something else to fill de gap because they have to heal. In the absence of ritual, Westerners turn instead to therapists, self-help groups, or, at a more destructive end of de spectrum, to alcohol and drugs.

Ritual is a dance with spirit, the soul’s way of interacting with the Other world, the human psyche’s opportunity to develop relationship with the symbols of this world en the spirits of de other.

SYMBOLS: THE DOORWAY TO RITUAL

Symbols are the doorway to ritual. Just as our bodies can’t survive without nourishment, our psyches can’t sustain themselves without symbolism…

The symbolic and the spiritual are not far apart. In fact, in Dagara, there is no word that directly translated as symbol. There is no word for symbol other than the word Spirit, because there is an assumed indivisible connecshun between Spirit and symbol. Beings that live in other dimensions are so intimately linked to us that they are referred to by name. They are no considered mere metaphors or abstract representations of intangible concepts. These beings simply live in a different time/space continuum en perceive us as much as we perceive them.  They refer to our world as the Other world en see us as spirits, which is why they are interested in us. They are living, as it were, on the other side of de page of our reality.

The Western view of different planes of existence may be helpful in understanding what I yam referring to here. Another bridging image is the notion of fields of energy in quantum physics. In quantum physics, the understanding of matter as transferable to energy suggests a flexible attitude toward the nature and limits of de visible and material world.

For the Dagara and other indigenous people, it is inconceivable that the human mind could capture something that does not already exist somewhere. The human capacity to imagine is an example of our connecshun with remote fields of energy…….

How is this visionary ability connected to ritual?

In the indigenous mind, one reason people do ritual is that they do not want to repeat history, dealing constantly with unfinished business from the past. The appeal to the ancestors through ritual is based on an understanding that catastrophe happens when you fail to seek their guidance. So in some ways, doing ritual is like preventing the self from falling into destructive patterns. The symbolic spiritual realm speaks to the psyche the same way that a travel guidebook speaks to the conscious self – it confirms our locashun. Human beings need these reminders on the journey of life; they are the billboards of the psyche……

WHY RITUAL?

In summary, why is ritual important? As much as our body requires food for nourishment, our souls and spirits require ritual to stay whole. It is as if without the spirit being nourished in us, the body pays for the consequences. The food of the psyche is symbol, and it is through ritual that our spirit is fed. Because human beings are spirits at our core, it is natural for us to remain mindful of our true spiritual identity.

Ritual is necessary because there are certain problems that cannot be resolved with words alone….Complex problems plague and cripple entire communities; by actively involving the members of the community in seeking solutions based in ritual, a community can achieve a deeper solution than words and rhetoric alone can provide. Breaking the spell of circular arguments through the powah of ritual is one of the areas where indigenous people can provide effective help to the West.

[these multi-media excerpts of Chapter 7 ya The Healing Wisdom of Africa, you can do anyting you want with these hadithi. Share dem wid others, forget about dem, get vex, laugh bout it, au revise, cry…. but don’t say in years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.]

 Leo, siku ya tano katika hadithi ya kwanzaa, ni ya nia (purpose):

[  i,S.I.S Note: nia yetu is Not so randomly connected to nai (na-eeee), center of legendary crossroads. These ndugus’ werd! Sound! Powah! are on repeat in our wish lists of soundtracks for the q_t werd (right after asa en nneka)

 u’r my specialty, all up in my life….

NAI..(more so nowadays known as the capital of) /

ROB(ber)/I(es,

concrete jungle where dreams are made of, the lights will inspire you…

nai-robi!)]

 Nia is to make our collective vocation the building of our community to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

 

Thursday, December 30th, 6 pm, Program, African American Arts & Culture Complex, 762 Fulton:

 

[Na nia pia yaweza patikana katika hadithi kama ya…Namoratunga: The First Archeoastronomical Evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa

Namoratunga, a megalithic site in northwestern Kenya, has an alignment of 19 basalt pillars that are nonrandomly oriented toward certain stars and constellations. The same stars and constellations are used by modern eastern Cushitic peoples to calculate an accurate calendar. The fact that Namoratunga dates to about 300 B.C. suggests that a prehistoric calendar based on detailed astronomical knowledge was in use in eastern Africa. ]

[Lynch, BM and LH Robbins. 1978. Namoratunga: The first archeoastronomical evidence in sub-Saharan Africa. Science 200:766–68. no. 4343 DOI: 10.1126/science.200.4343.766 …..

These are the archives en contexts of the q_t werd.]

Day 4 – Ujamaa – 5th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration presented by The Village Project

Day 4: Wednesday, December 29th
Ujamaa (cooperative economics): to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses together.

The Village Project Presents

5th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration, 2010

“Uniting to Strengthen Our Families and Communities”

December 26, 2010 thru January 1, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — The Village Project, in collaboration with the YMCA, MOEWD, SUPERVSIOR ROSS MIRKARIMI and other community organizations, presents its 5th Kwanzaa Celebration 2010 for the City of San Francisco. The celebration is seven days of free events throughout the city to celebrate the seven principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa. There will be plenty of food & live entertainment, featuring the infamous blues & jazz vocalist, Lady Mem’fis and blues legend, Bobbie Spider Webb.

Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa is celebrated annually by more than 30 million people worldwide, over seven days from December 26 to January 1.

The values of Kwanzaa, Nguzo Saba, are critical tools for addressing the issues facing the African-American community. Adrian Williams has revived the celebration of Kwanzaa throughout San Francisco, by connecting traditionally African American communities for this celebration. She is the founder of The Village Project, a youth service organization focusing on education and cultural enrichment for youth and their families in the Western Addition.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa will be hosted at nine different venues throughout the City. Participating communities will present exciting and enriching cultural programs intended to both engage and entertain the entire family. The Community Partners of these events include: THE YMCA, THE MAYOR’S OFFICE OF ECONOMIC & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, MAYOR’S OFFICE OF NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES, SUPERVISOR ROSS MIRKARIMI, COMCAST, RENAISSANCE PARENTS OF SUCCESS, WEST BAY CONFERENCE CENTER, GUSSIES CHICKEN & WAFFLES , WAFRC ,OMI FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER, MARCUS BOOKSTORE, AFRICAN AMERICAN HOLISTIC WELLNESS PROGRAM, SF BLACK FILM FESTIVAL, PLANET FILLMORE COMMUNICATIONS, MINNIE & LOVIE REC CENTER, BAYVIEW PUBLIC LIBRARY, AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTS AND CULTURE COMPLEX, THE JAZZ HERITAGE CENTER, YOSHI’S, MOMAGIC, THE MUSICIANS PROJECT, CHRISTINE HARRIS, MALIK SENEFENU, BROTHA CLINT, KWANZA MORTON, MEL SIMMONS & S.N.I.G.

When: December 26, 2010 thru January 1, 2011
Where: Throughout San Francisco
Tickets: No Charge event

Comcast Newsmakers: The Village Project Celebrates Kwanzaa in a New Decade – San Francisco Style

financial districts. jua kali industries.

Ujamaa (cooperative economics): to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses together.
Wednesday, December 29th,

1:00 pm, Buchanan YMCA/WAFRC, 1530 Buchanan;

 7 pm, Minnie & Lovie Rec Center, 650 Capitol Street:

Na kesho ni siku ya tano, ni ya hadithi ya Nia

 

[I,S.I.S note: reposted with big love en respekt, in the spirit of bredrin en dadas in solidarity]

http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2010/12/kwanzaa-black-trans-style-ujima.html

 [Siku ya jumapili, katika hadithi ya kwanzaa, ilikuwa ya ‘umoja’, na kila siku inafaa tujichagulie ukweli wa desturi na mila yetu, habari ya leo ni ujima. Hadithi ya the q_t werd yanaweza kuelezwa na haya nguzo saba ya kwanzaa, kwa hivyo…..in the spirit of bredrin en dadas in solidarity,

we (as in the colour spill productions team behind the doc in the works on dis’ blog en others….. ) are cooking, writing, en sharing in grassroots/gift networks,  the next week through to the last moon of the year of the tiger, in dedication to kwanzaa  en (mo’ of) our Afrikan stories,…]

Siku ya pili ilikuwa Kujichagulia (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah)         Self Determination

“To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.”

The second Principle of the Nguzo Saba is self-determination. This too expresses itself as both commitment and practice. It demands that we as an African people define, defend and develop ourselves instead of allowing or encouraging others to do this. It requires that we recover lost memory and once again shape our world in our own image and interest. And it is a call to recover and speak our own special truth to the world and raise images above the earth that reflect our capacity for human greatness and progress.

The first act of a free people is to shape its world in its own image and interest. And it is a statement about their conception of self and their commitment to self-determination. [Frantz] Fanon has said each person must ask him or herself three basic questions:

       1.  Who am I?

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/59505


       2.  Am I really who I say I am?

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/59500

[….between the lines are many mo’ of our stories of struggle for pan-Afrikan liberation, of  how folks been harvesting indigenus en diasporic resources across space and time ]

To mark the attained ‘pseudo’ independence on the eve of 9th December 1961, Mwenge wa Uhuru (Freedom/Uhuru Torch) was placed on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro by Alexander Nyirenda as a symbol of freedom. Here, I wish to argue that, the ritual of placing the torch and the annual Uhuru Torch race (Mbio za Mwenge wa Uhuru) represent Nyerere’s admiration of the performing arts and its role in shaping people’s consciousness towards a common goal.

The establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Youth could be traced to 1962 President’s Inaugural Address. In this speech, Nyerere outlined the roles of the ministry, including facilitating the process of enabling Tanzanians to regain their cultural pride (Nyerere, 1966, p. 187). In the same speech to the parliament, Nyerere indicated his concern on how colonialism dehumanised Afrikan arts. His speech became the blueprint of Tanzania’s ‘cultural policy’ and led to various art reformations. This included the ‘institutionalization’ of National Art Groups (NAGs).

The aim of institutionalizing NAGs was to fulfill Nyerere’s quest for the renaissance of Afrikan-ness in the arts and culture (Bakari and Materego, 2008).

The institutionalized groups included the National Ngoma Troupe (1963), National Acrobatic Group (1969) and National Drama Group (1972). These groups were designed to act as a model of performing arts in Tanzania.

For example, the National Ngoma Troupe had 30 artists recruited from the various regions in Tanzania, comprising of both musicians and dancers (Lange, 2002, p. 55). It should be noted that the process of building a national culture through theatre groups dates back to the birth of TANU in 1954 when Hiari ya Moyo under Suleiman Mwinamila participated effectively in creating a national theatre (Semzaba, 1983).

From the beginning of TANU formation, decolonization movement started and Hiari ya Moyo was forced to put forward nationalism and liberation concepts that is, to fight against colonialism and (cultural) imperialism.

Amka Msilale (Wake up, don’t sleep) was their first recorded performance in 1954.

Amka Msilale (Wake up don’t sleep)
Msiwe wajinga mu Tanganyika (Don’t be stupid, you are in Tanganyika [territory])
Tanganyika ni mali yetu (Tanganyika is our property/wealth)
Tukidai tutapewa (If we demand it[back], we’ll be given)

 

(Semzaba, 1983, p. 22)

The multiplication of NAGs trickled down to the village levels. The process did not only end with the establishment, but also facilitation of their existence which were meant to be the foundation of the national artistic pride. These groups performed in political rallies, state banquets and meetings at all levels. Members of the NAGs were state employees. Since the state subsidized most of the costs and paid for their monthly salaries, the groups were not allowed to charge or receive extra payment for their performances. The focus was on the promotion of national unity and on echoing state’s Ujamaa policies. One of the positive outcomes of such initiatives was to make theatre an active activity at various levels of the society (Mlama, 1985, p.103).

The union ‘ritual’ between Tanganyika and Zanzibar of 26th April 1964 pictured above, can be referred to as another artistic performance.

Nyerere mixed the soil of the two countries in addition to the common approach of signing the treaty that is, the exchange of the Articles of Union.

The costumes and the process of mixing the soil symbolised how Nyerere valued and treasured arts and his belief on the content of traditional theatre.

Mwalimu, as Nyerere commonly known, also produced various pieces of theatre works. It should be noted that, in his mission to decolonize theatre, Mwalimu at various times, translated the so-called famous Shakespeare plays in Kiswahili. According to Rubin and Diakante (2001, p. 301) the translated plays were Julius Caesar as ‘Julius Kaizari’ (1968), Macbeth as ‘Makbeth’ (1968) and The Merchant of Venice as ‘Mabepari wa Venisi’ (1969).

One of the explanations of why Nyerere translated those works could be that by unfolding what was within the ‘famous’ English based theatre – The Shakespeare’s – he could add value to people’s theatre and ‘regain their pride’. He believed that Kiswahili readers could better understand the content and context of the Shakespeare’s plays and have an opportunity to compare African/Tanzanian and foreign/western theatre in the process of regaining their pride. Secondly, for Mwalimu, it was important to promote Kiswahili as the language of theatre (Rubin and Diakante, 2001, p. 302). Thirdly, perhaps it was a way of proving to the world that what the majority were glorifying as holy literature, a simple person – a proletarian (as he preferred to call himself) could read, understand and even translate. In fact in his 1962 speech to the parliament, Nyerere lamented how the European education dwelled more on teaching people how to dance fox trot, waltz and rock ‘n’ roll. He asserted that this made educated people unable to dance traditional dances such as gombe sugu, the mangala, kiduo or lele mama whereby some have not even heard about them (Nyerere 1966, p. 187).

Looking at how Mwalimu translated the works, one has to read between the lines so as to get a sense of his inner motive. For example the The Merchant of Venice could literally be translated as Mfanyabiashara (or Wafanyabiashara in plural) wa Venice. The word mabepari (bepari in singular) means capitalist(s). Perhaps after reading the book, he realized that the merchant behaviours could not be differentiated from those of the capitalists. In addition, it might be that he wanted to concisely deliver the point home since, being a self-proclaimed African socialist (Mjamaa), he was anti-capitalist. As noted, he purposely used the plural form of the title as opposed to its singular ‘merchant’. It can also been observed that the years when he translated the works that is, between 1967 and 1969 reflects the promotion of the then dominant ideology – Ujamaa. Perhaps he wanted to emphasise it to people. All these translations and initiatives indicated, arguably, his stance against imperialism and its various manifestations. He saw imperialism as the cause of misconceived African history and arts.

Mwalimu was also able to link his Ujamaa philosophy with fine arts. The famous Makonde sculpture known as Dimoongo by Robert Yakobo Sangwani was renamed as Ujamaa in the 1960s after The Arusha Declaration of 1967. The sculpture Dimoongo demonstrated a Makonde strength or power. Looking at the way the sculptor had been able to construct one person at the bottom supporting others and how those who have been supported support themselves as group, translated itself to Mwalimu’s idea of Ujamaa (Erick, 2009). It is said that it was Mwalimu who renamed it to Ujamaa after seeing its structure.

The Tanzanian Coat of Arms as one of the national symbols represents the artistic creativity contained in other symbols such as the flag, national anthem and the Uhuru Torch. It is moulded to embrace the warrior’s shield in the midst of elephant tusks mounted on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. One can also see the man on the left and the woman on the right, standing in balanced postures on the sides of the warrior’s shield with cloves and cotton on their feet respectively. The warrior’s shield has the Uhuru Torch, Tanzanian flag, crossed axe and hoe, spear and water sign. All these symbolises the beneath motto of Uhuru na Umoja (Freedom and Unity) – this is a title of Nyerere’s (1966) book. It is important to notice the demonstrated warrior’s shield which depicts various historical battles for freedom. The man and woman reflect the respect for human equality regardless of gender, colour or any other social aspect.

As pointed out earlier, the establishment of the Ministry of Culture was the earliest post-independence initiative to fight against cultural imperialism. According to Ngugi:

Cultural imperialism in the era of neo colonialism can be a dangerous cancer because it can take new, subtle forms. It can hide under cloaks of militant nationalism, calls for dead authenticity, performances of cultural symbolism, and even under native racist self-assertive banners that are often substitute for national self criticism and collective pride in the culture and history of resistance (1997, p. 18).

As Ngugi explained, it is evidently that Nyerere knew the consequences and magnitude of cultural imperialism and he took measures to overcome it. He believed that a people’s language was an important factor in this struggle. He devised subtle modalities to absorb imperialist influences in theatre. The immediate approach was to provide artists with the theme of their performances i.e. Ujamaa. Since artists looked at Nyerere as a national and international role model, they could easily transform his actions and decisions into theatrical works. The philosophical speeches and arguments which Nyerere preferred to deliver probably were among the ones which influenced the artists.

The other theatrical landmark was the birth of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in 1977. This was the merger of TANU and Afro Shiraz Party (ASP). After the birth of CCM, Hiari ya Moyo made a composition titled Leo Sio Sherehe Tunaanza Chama (Today is not a ceremony, we are inaugurating a party).

Kufa kwa TANU na Afro (The death of TANU and Afro [ASP])
Sio kufikiwa kwa Ujamaa kamili (Is not the attainment of Ujamaa)
Wametimiza yao waliyoyaweza (They have fulfilled what they could)
CCM lake ni kuendeleza (CCM has the responsibility to take over)
Kwenye Ujamaa kutufikisha (So as to reach Ujamaa)
(Semzaba, 1983, p. 26)

This was the time when we were told chama kimeshika hatamu – party supremacy. Therefore even artistic works especially songs and performances by the NAGs were geared towards party supremacy and the promotion of Ujamaa. Mlama adds, “the ideological intention behind the promotion of these groups [NAGs] resulted to the development of a theatre for propaganda which … is an attempt to domesticate the theatre to serve interest of the ruling ideology” (1991, p. 103).

Despite all these efforts by Nyerere, there was no defined socialist cultural policy (Mlama , 1985). The 1962 and subsequent speeches were taken as part of the art/cultural policy. The so-called policy was based on the state officials’ statements. It thus was taken for granted that the growth of culture would go hand in hand with the success of Ujamaa:

This argument ignores the fact that the economic base and the cultural superstructure determine and influence each other and cannot therefore be separated. It also ignores the fact that while the country is waiting for socialist culture to come it is under constant exposure to the influences of capitalist and imperialist culture which is part and parcel of the imperialist struggle against socialism. There is a tendency to think that the war against imperialism is only an economic one, and a failure to realise that imperialism is fighting the war against socialism both economically and culturally (Mlama, 1985, p. 5).

Unfortunately, the ministry or department which was designed for arts and culture shunted in several places since 1962. By 1995, the ministry or its culture component has been shifted in about 11 ministries and offices (Askew, 2002, p. 186). This movement has been taken to mean lack of seriousness about matters which have to do with culture especially arts (Askew, 2002; Lange, 2002; Lihamba, 1985b; Mlama, 1985). Instead of working on a clear cultural policy which could comply with Ujamaa, the responsible ministry for culture was busy sending groups to perform in party-state meetings and functions. This is partly due to the influence of Ujamaa ideology and party supremacy. Giving several examples Mlama confirmed that this puppet attitude has resulted into the art of parroting (Mlama, 1985, p. 14).

To protect the party supremacy, Radio Tanzania – Dar es Salaam (RTD) and the National Music Council (BAMUTA) ended up in direct censorship which was done by cultural officers at all levels (Mlama, 1985, pp. 14-15). Mlama noted that “such control betrays a misguided view of the role of art in ideology. Art can be critical and yet contribute positively to ideological development. Parrot art does not contribute to the socialist construction because it does not analyse problems and point out solution” (1985, p. 15).

Although Mwalimu was an artist, fond of art and a good teacher, he was not lucky enough to nurture his fellow politicians especially in his party to appreciate art out of political propaganda. Nyerere speeches were misinterpreted to mean sending a group of ngoma to the airport or to the national stadium, dancing on the harsh sun, negotiating to show themselves to the guests of ‘honour’ while security officers are busy strangling their movements and tempering with their emotions even before they start to perform. It was on the same time of implementing Nyerere’s ideas when political slogans like kazi si lele mama (‘work is not a dance of lele mama’) which directly abuse arts came up (Mlama, 1985 p.17).

Mwalimu’s love for the art was not spared by imperialism either. The proposition to re-structure the economy through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) necessitated the downsizing of state expenditures. Apart from other artistic and political challenges of the NAGs, the government could no longer subsidise them by the end of the 1970s. The focus was to repay debts through the withdrawal of budget allocation to social services such as theatre and ‘ploughing’ towards development, modernity and universalism i.e. complying with neoliberal policies.

Thus it is important to emphasize that the project to build national culture through theatre was dismantled when the state had to downsize its expenditures according to IMF and World Bank neoliberal conditions.

“Throughout the country, government-owned institutions were either scrapped, had to curtail their activities or were later privatised. Cultural troupes owned by such organisations ceased to function” (Lihamba, 2004, p. 243). At the end, “liberalisation policies pursued from the early 1980s made theatre a commodity for sale like any other” (Rubin and Diakante, 2001, p. 304).

The state dissolved NAGs and instead, formed a National Art institute in 1980. This institute was situated in Ilala Sharif-Shamba in Dar es Salaam, in the current National Art Council (BASATA) premises. In 1981, the institute was transformed and shifted to Bagamoyo and became Bagamoyo College of Arts (BCA) and currently it is known as the Institute of Arts and Culture, Bagamoyo or TaSUBa (Makoye, 1998, p. 95).

To ensure sustainability of art, Nyerere created opportunities for artists to produce and survive on their own. Despite the fact that there was no clear policy, in his speeches which were mostly translated as policy directives one could sense his idea, creativity and passion for art. He established Nyumba ya Sanaa in 1974, positioning it in the middle of Dar es Salaam. He believed that if it could be efficiently utilized, it would reduce the artists’ begging syndrome to donors and the state, which enslaves them. It is surprising to note that even Nyumba ya Sanaa has been one of the places the state want to privatise while at the same time struggling to secure funds to build other places of the same nature in Bagamoyo (Naluyaga, 2009).

The ‘Zanzibar Declaration’ of 1991, which replaced the Arusha Declaration (1967), could be regarded as the ‘marketisation of arts’ like any other product (Rubin and Diakante, 2001). Artists, who are supposed to compete in this market, were not well equipped to cope with the changes in terms of competition and producing quality works. Art education could be one of the state’s supports to assist them. The 1997 Cultural Policy’s clauses 2.1.2 (p. 4) and 6.2.5 (p. 19) stated the necessity of introducing arts (music, fine art, sculpture and the performing arts) as examinable subjects in both primary and secondary schools. It was not until 2008, when the government implemented such provision.

Although the outcomes are yet to be realised, a number of challenges could be identified. Students are being oriented in the English language which prevents them from understanding arts as a simulacrum of their culture which is mainly reflected in the Kiswahili language. Insufficient teachers, teaching and learning materials are some of the other challenges (Mmasy, 2009). One might question what was the responsible ministry getting prepared for? (…)

[ http://zanzibardaima.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/union-of-tanganyika-and-zanzibar-african-initiative-or-cold-war-rivalry/ ]


      

 3.  Am I all that I ought to be?

These are questions of history and culture, not simply queries or questions of personal identity. More profoundly, they are questions of personal identity. More profoundly, they are questions of collective identity, based and borne out in historical and cultural practice. And the essential quality of that practice must be the quality of self-determination.

“To answer the question of “Who am I?” correctly, then, is to know and live one’s history and to practice one’s culture.”

“To answer the question of “Am I really who I am?” is to have and employ a cultural criteria of authenticity, i.e., criteria of what is real and unreal, what is appearance and essence, what is culturally-rooted and foreign.”

“And to answer the question of “Am I all I ought to be?” is to self-consciously possess and use ethical and cultural standards which measure men, women and children in terms of the quality of their thought and practice in the context of who they are and must become – in both an African and human sense.”

Practice Kujichagulia every day!

SOURCE: “The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family Community & Culture”
by Maulana Karenga, University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, California, 1988, ISBN 0-943412-09-9

Na siku ya umoja, ilisherehekewa, mara ya kwanza….On this day, in 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga began the first observance of Kwanzaa.

 There are seven days in the Kwanzaa Festival. Each embodies a different principle.

The first day of Kwanzaa is called UMOJA which means UNITY. 

[hadithi kama] Rosa Parks, with her courageous defiance of segregation on a bus in Alabama  in 1955, ignited a comprehensive, UNIFIED movement of African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama that spread across the country consuming the vicious vestiges of legalized segregation that kept much of America in virtual chains. For 13 months, the Black citizens of Montgomery,  completely abandoned the bus system and walked, and drove each other, back and forth to work day after day after day, until the “authorities” capitulated.

 (…..)Also, during the Civil War, Sojourner Truth, after escaping from bondage on the Underground Railroad, returned to the South, over a dozen times, to lead bands of her fellow African Americans to safety, without thought of her own safety and well-being.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s many of thousands of Cuban soldiers fought, and many died, in SOLIDARITY with the liberation struggles of Africans in Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. Today, as then, thousands of medical personnel and technicians are hard at work helping to better the lives of the people in the Motherland.

Michael Manley, as prime minister of Jamaica, never hesitated to make COMMON  CAUSE with the peoples of Cuba, and oppressed peoples around the world, no matter which  powerful nations objected to his actions.

Kwame Nkrumah, one of the foremost proponents of Pan Africanism, did likewise, putting into actual effect the doctrines of Marcus Garvey who believed that Afrikan peoples are, ultimately, one nation (……)

Source [ http://theafrocentricexperience.com ]

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa are called the Nguzo Saba, which represent the living practices which helped and inspired our Afrikan ancestors to endure oppression…..

 

[between the lines, are many mo’ of our stories spilling betwixt communities of practice in villages en di’ global urban pan-afrikan matrix, hadithi kama……

 

77. On bling culture, one seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa, that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon, woven with gold roses on silk.”

78. Southern Africans mined gold on an epic scale. One modern writer tells us that: “The estimated amount of gold ore mined from the entire region by the ancients was staggering, exceeding 43 million tons. The ore yielded nearly 700 tons of pure gold which today would be valued at over $­­­­­­7.5 billion.”

79. Apparently the Monomotapan royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”

80. Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the next village. In every place where they come there is the same obligation.”

81. Many southern Africans have indigenous and pre-colonial words for ‘gun’. Scholars have generally been reluctant to investigate or explain this fact.

82. Evidence discovered in 1978 showed that East Africans were making steel for more than 1,500 years: “Assistant Professor of Anthropology Peter Schmidt and Professor of Engineering Donald H. Avery have found as long as 2,000 years ago Africans living on the western shores of Lake Victoria had produced carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces, a method that was technologically more sophisticated than any developed in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.”

83. Ruins of a 300 BC astronomical observatory was found at Namoratunga in Kenya. Afrikans were mapping the movements of stars such as Triangulum, Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion, etcetera, as well as the moon, in order to create a lunar calendar of 354 days.

Source: http://www.whenweruled.com/articles.php?lng=en&pg=40 ]

THE FOCUS OF KWANZAA

Annual Kwanzaa observances serve to reinforce manifesting the principles of Kwanzaa, as a way of life, on a daily basis – by reflecting on the past, in order to understand the present and plan for the future. 

Kwanzaa centers around seven (7) principles, with particular emphasis on the social, political, economic and cultural needs of Black people

[ na hadithi kama…

84. Autopsies and caesarean operations were routinely and effectively carried out by surgeons in pre-colonial Uganda. The surgeons routinely used antiseptics, anaesthetics and cautery iron. Commenting on a Ugandan caesarean operation that appeared in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in 1884, one author wrote: “The whole conduct of the operation . . . suggests a skilled long-practiced surgical team at work conducting a well-tried and familiar operation with smooth efficiency.”

85. Sudan in the mediaeval period had churches, cathedrals, monasteries and castles. Their ruins still exist today.

86. The mediaeval Nubian Kingdoms kept archives. From the site of Qasr Ibrim legal texts, documents and correspondence were discovered. An archaeologist informs us that: “On the site are preserved thousands of documents in Meroitic, Latin, Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, Arabic and Turkish.”

87. Glass windows existed in mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found evidence of window glass at the Sudanese cities of Old Dongola and Hambukol.

88. Bling culture existed in the mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found an individual buried at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the city of Old Dongola. He was clad in an extremely elaborate garb consisting of costly textiles of various fabrics including gold thread. At the city of Soba East, there were individuals buried in fine clothing, including items with golden thread.

89. Style and fashion existed in mediaeval Sudan. A dignitary at Jebel Adda in the late thirteenth century AD was interned with a long coat of red and yellow patterned damask folded over his body. Underneath, he wore plain cotton trousers of long and baggy cut. A pair of red leather slippers with turned up toes lay at the foot of the coffin. The body was wrapped in enormous pieces of gold brocaded striped silk.

90. Sudan in the ninth century AD had housing complexes with bath rooms and piped water. An archaeologist wrote that Old Dongola, the capital of Makuria, had: “a[n] . . . eighth to . . . ninth century housing complex. The houses discovered here differ in their hitherto unencountered spatial layout as well as their functional programme (water supply installation, bathroom with heating system) and interiors decorated with murals.” (…..)]

THE SYMBOLS OF KWANZAA

  1. MAZAO  =  THE CROPS
    These are symbolic of Afrikan harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.
    ..
  2. MKEKA  =  KWANZAA MA(A)T
    This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.
    ..
  3. KINARA  =  KWANZAA CANDLE HOLDER
    This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people — continental Afrikans.
    ..
  4. MAHINDI   =  CORN
    This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.
    ..
  5. MISHUMAA SABA  =  KWANZAA CANDLES
    These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, the matrix and minimum set of values which Afrikan people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.
    ..
  1. KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA  =  UNITY CUP
    This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.
    .. [91. In 619 AD, the Nubians sent a gift of a giraffe to the Persians.]

 

  1. ZAWADI  =  KWANZAA GIFTS
    These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.

Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the Afrikan value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Nubia, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the Afrikan commitment to tradition and history.

[source: http://www.endarkenment.com/kwanzaa/index.html  

Context: reclaiming and harvesting the powah! Of pan-afrikan rituals in communities of practice]

 

Na leo (pia) ni habari ya ujima,

ase, ase…….

I give thanks for El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (aka. Malcolm X), for (t)his birth (to)day, en for tomorrow, for the fruits of the work that not only (baba) Malcolm but so many other of our ancestors have done in liberating themselves en ‘other’ (people)s…

 

I give thanks for African Liberation Day (on May 25th), which is (depending on one’s ‘politics’) the biggest holiday of the year for (all) Afrikans, or more like, should be…. afrika moja!

Dis’  litany of love (en survival)  is embodied in ‘our’ symbols of resistance and the struggle of ‘everyday’, it explores the ‘other’ pieces of (where we) coming OUT from and embraces those ‘intersections’ in our diversity that (should) remind us we are all (from) one (Mama Afrika)….

so I give thanks for the work that the warriors of Blackness Yes! & Blockorama do to maintain positive & safe spaces for queer & trans folk of Afrikan descent, and for the folks who continue to do what they can to transform  not only themselves, but our communities for betta….

Like (in) dis’ litany of  pan-Afrikan realities sent out a moon ago, from (some of) the ones we’ve been looking for…ase.

April 19, 2010,

Dear Pride Toronto,

Thank you all for attending the community meeting on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 to discuss the proposed move of Blockorama. At this meeting you were able to see the passion our community feels for Blockorama. Our communities came out Tuesday to support Blockorama because it is created by and for community, with a deep sense of ownership by the community. We would also like to thank you for your letter, dated April 15, 2010.

Since 1998 Blockorama has been a party at Pride where black queer and trans folks, their allies, supporters and people who love them came together to say no to homophobia in black communities and no to racism in LGBTQ communities. To say Blackness Yes at Pride – loud and proud. Pride Toronto’s inability to lead on racism in the LGBTQ communities and homophobia in black communities sends a strong signal to black queer and trans communities and their allies everywhere.

We have built Blockorama out of love, through sweat and toiling. For 12 years, we have claimed space, resisted erasure, found community, shared memories, built bridges, embraced sexuality, and found home. Blockorama is not just a party or a stage at Pride. It is a meeting place for black queer and trans people across North America- Blockorama is the largest space of its kind at any Pride festival on the continent.

Black queer and trans communities have been central to the diversity of Pride. At the same time Pride Toronto as an organization has continually marginalized those communities. It is indeed those communities that enable Pride to be the celebration of sexual life and freedoms that we all cherish. Pride Toronto’s inability to recognize its own constituencies is not only sad and disappointing it is indeed politically naïve and damaging to the still necessary struggles around sexual freedom in our city, province and country.

It has been incredibly frustrating to have our concerns regarding the space for Blockorama at Pride be not taken seriously by the arts and entertainment manager at Pride. It is very unfortunate that communication seems to be an issue for Pride Toronto, and that so much institutional memory has been lost through the many transitions that Pride has gone through over the last 2 years. We are glad to have begun a conversation about how to rebuild our connections with Pride Toronto.

Based on the feedback we have received from our communities following Tuesday’s meeting and what was offered through your letter, we are prepared to accept the following:

1. A full stage and infrastructure in George Hislop Parkette on Sunday July 4, 2010. This infrastructure will include power, insurance, tents, tables/chairs, toilets,
garbage removal, insurance, permits and fees, security, tech costs and labour.

We assume that the other site requests previously made available to us (pizza and water for volunteers, barricades to which we secure our banners, etc) will, although not mentioned in your letter, still be made available to us.

2. A reciprocal commitment from Blackness Yes and Pride Toronto to respond to emails with 48 hours of receiving them and to check in with each other (by phone or email) at least twice per week from now until the end of the 2010 Pride Week Festival.

3. We agree to your request for programming information to be provided to Pride Toronto no later than April 21st. In fact, we had already submitted this programming information before receipt of your letter.

4. We agree to the request for information for the Pride Guide to be submitted no later than April 21st.

We will provide you with:

o A 100 word intro blurb;
o Two 50 word blurbs for artists’ spotlights;
o Any photos associated with those artists in high resolution (300 dpi);
o A 100 word blurb about Blackness Yes and a relevant photo.

5. We are committed to and have always adhered to Pride Toronto deadlines for
information on Site Logistics, Tech, Press etc. We request that any changes to deadlines be given to us in a timely fashion to avoid any delay in information sharing.

6. We are happy to re-join the coordinators committee for Pride. We will send 2 delegates from Blackness Yes to each programming committee meeting as often as is manageable. We recognize that although some other programmers may be paid for their time, we are a volunteer-based committee. We welcome the opportunity to become reengaged with pride committee activities!

We are not able to accept the following offers at this time:

1. It will not be necessary for you to provide us with a Stage Manager for the weekend. We have a Blackness Yes member who will advance the show with the artists and ensure that the stage operates in a timely fashion.

2. We accept your offer to fund the previously agreed upon budget of $5000 for the Sunday stage. We also request that as in previous years, Pride Toronto cover the travel and hospitality fees of artists from out of town who are appearing on the Blockorama stage.

We feel that it is unfortunate that Pride chose to cancel stage-based programming in George Hislop without any consultation with the programmers who program that space. We understand that this decision has resulted in the re-allocation of the funding for this stage to other parts of the festival, thus now requiring Pride to find an “additional” $20,000 to create the stage in George Hislop. With proper consultation and collaboration, we could have worked together to both keep the needed funds for Blocko in the budget, and helped to save costs overall.

Your offer to program 2 full days in George Hislop Parkette is unfortunately not possible. This is not a viable offer as you have specified that you do not plan to cover any artist’s fees for Saturday programming. Although we welcome the opportunity to develop 2 days of programming, we cannot do so without money to develop this programming, and the suggestion that we do so is surprising. We welcome the opportunity to discuss options for 2 days of programming with adequate budget in the future.

Pride Toronto should not consider running programming for which local artists are not paid for their time. One of the wonderful things about the festival is that it engages artists and helps support the development of artistic practice in Toronto by paying artists to perform. Blackness Yes cannot consider developing any programming that would result in artists not being paid for their time and efforts.


We would like to request the following:

1. We request funding to rent a temporary floor for in front of the stage – something that can be used on the grass to facilitate dancing, to provide a less slippery and muddy experience for participants, and to deal with the regular rain flooding and seeping that we experience each year in George Hislop Parkette.

2. We thank you for the opportunity to commit to the George Hislop space for both the 2010 and 2011 festivals. However we can only commit to 2010 at this time. We would like to set a date to begin working together shortly after Pride 2010 to find a more suitable long-term home for Blockorama.

3. We note that in 2002, Pride’s entertainment budget was $31,040; and the Blockorama stage received $2500 or 8% of overall entertainment budget. This year, Pride’s entertainment budget is has increased to $335,027, yet Blockorama is received only $5000 or roughly about 1.4%. We would like to know why the proportional allotment for our stage is shrinking despite increased money in the entertainment budget?

4. We support the use of the stage on Saturday by other community groups and we encourage one of the 4 paid programming staff at Pride to outreach to some of the communities currently not represented at Pride to help program the stage. We feel strongly that artists fees should be paid for any artists that play on Saturday’s stage.

We are concerned about the steady removal of community involvement from the structure of Pride Toronto over the past 2 years. As an independent committee programming a stage at Pride, we recognize how far Pride has to go to ensuring that it’s programming is reflective of the diversity of Toronto. We encourage and support all community groups currently marginalized by Pride Toronto, and/or the larger LGBTTI2QQ set of communities in Toronto.

There are many other communities that should also have Pride Toronto’s full commitment and engagement to develop relevant programming at the festival (First Nations and Indigenous people, LGBTTI2QQ people who are Deaf and those with Disabilities, and many many others) and we encourage Pride to connect with and engage these communities. We are disappointed that this year has seen communities pitted against each other – competing for stage space and funding at Pride.

It is also very unfortunate that Pride has distanced itself from so many of the communities that helped build the LGBTTI2QQ activist movement. Racialized queer and trans people, many of whom were street-involved, working class and poor started both the Stonewall and Compton Cafeteria riots that kick-started the “gay liberation movement” in North America. It is on the backs of racialized and working class queer and trans people that mainstream queer organizations like Pride Toronto have been built.

Yet for many of these same people, Pride is now an inaccessible space, one that is not representative of them in any way, shape or form. Many of these revolutionaries that began the riots would not be able to afford the beer gardens (or this year’s Prism main stage party) that have become the cornerstones of the Pride festival.

We wonder if they would be banned from the parade for carrying posters that make people uncomfortable- posters calling for an end to targeted policing of Trans people, calling to an end to systemic racism and homophobia, and demanding the right to sexual freedom and the right to self-identified gender expression. These words of resistance have consistently made certain people uncomfortable, but they have been crucial to the struggle for liberation and self determination of LGBTTI2QQ people.

Blackness Yes is committed to creating a space by and for Black/African Diasporic queer and trans people and all of their allies and supporters at Pride. Blockorama will always remain a political space for resistance and celebration, and we stand in solidarity with so many other groups that have been left out or forcibly excluded from Pride. We will also work to produce a Blockorama that returns to its roots. A Blocko organized by and for a supportive community that has been dancing, laughing, loving and eating at Blocko now for over more than a decade.

Thank you,

Blackness Yes!
Blockorama Coordinating Committee

Tessa C. Duplessis
Mykell Hall
Nigel Holbrook
Abdi Osman
Nik Redman
Syrus M. Ware
Kyisha Williams
Akhaji Zakiya