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Truth be told, I never thought I would write another volume of poetry after the last, I will not Dance to Your Beat (2011). The reason was that my previous volumes were reactive to the circumstances of the times. Patriots and Cockroaches (1992) was a reaction to the socio-political corruption that had engulfed Africa and dimmed the enthusiasm that had been built by the years of struggle for independence. Whereas we thought we were stepping into a post-colonial era, what we stepped into was a vicious neo-colonial times. The next collection, Poems on the Run (1995) was a reaction to military autocracy and the repression that followed. The volume was literally written underground. This was followed by Intercepted (1998) all written while detained at Kalakuta Republic of Alagbon Close. We Thought it was Oil But it was Blood (2002) responded to two things primarily – extractivism and the accompanying human and environmental rights abuses in the Niger Delta and elsewhere. The massive erosion of biodiversity and attacks on food sovereignty through the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into our agricultural system inspired I Will not Dance to your Beat.
What you have in your hands, or on your screens, is a compilation that is largely more meditative than the previous collections. There are moments of reflection on the colonial and neoliberal foundations that permit a willful disconnection from nature and the resultant destructive extractivism.
Some of the poems came through conversations and poetry writing sessions with Peter Molnar, Maryam al-Khawaja — Rafto Human Rights laureates and Salil Tripathi, a member of the board of PEN International, in August 2017. The sessions held at a beautifully rustic location in Celleno, Italy, were documented on celluloid by the duo of Maria Galliana Dyrvik and Anita Jonsterhaug Vedå of SMAU, a multimedia firm in Norway. Poetic relationship with Maria and Anita has continued over the years and their work continues to inspire more and more poems.
We have also had time to ponder on the criminalization of environmental defenders and the burdening of victims with survival struggles with no life boughs. The poems were written over a wide span of time and require some pondering as poems often demand, of course. Although written over a broad time spectrum, they fall into identifiable themes. The harsh times that birthed the earlier volumes were blunted with doses of humour as poetry is largely therapeutic and contributes to our wellness and well-being.
In our communities, poetry and song are key tools for exposure of ills in our societies, for education and for rebuke. Poetry is an indispensable cultural tool with which we laugh at the wicked and add the needed bounce to our steps as we march on to end ecocide and give our people and other beings a chance to retain our being.
The call of this volume is that we must ensure that we see the invisible and hear the inaudible.
Mother Earth our Teacher
Scarified and sacrificed
The Womb of the Earth
Choked by Convenience
I’m Not Afraid
I come from the future
Recent Ancients Foretold
The Other Side
I like those bridges
There is beauty
I Have Been in Motion
Bumping into the Wind
Rainbows on the Sea
Stilts and Wiggles
The Stump I So Loved
Beads of Inspiration
Seducing the Bees
The lands we fight to own
Tenants of Furious Times
I see the invisible
Portals of Greed
Cast a Vote
This hate does not define us
We Planted a Flag
Welcome to the age of paradox
By Me We Spoke
After Oil We Flourish (The Niger Delta isn’t a ticking ecological time bomb)
A Dirge for Fossil Capitalism
Return to Being
Riding the Waves of Time
When You Clock 6 and 2
Rainbows Through the Tears
Climate Debt Long Overdue
Poetry in the time of pandemic
We must breathe again
Net Zero Comes to Zero
Dreadful Liars On Heartless Shores
We are Seeds
We can plant a seed
In the Shadows of the Future (For Jay Naidoo & Stephen Pittam)
What is in that Barrel?
No More Sins to Confess
Pavements of Shame
Dawn in Celleno
Lago di Bolsena
No vantage points
I Catch Myself
Holding my Peace
Traps Sold on Lies
If the Sun Slept
A atual ausência de uma visão emancipatória para a África está no centro dos nossos problemas políticos relacionados à opressão racial capitalista e colonial. Qualquer tentativa de repensar a emancipação política no continente africano deve ser capaz de localizar uma concepção universal de liberdade no interior das experiências culturais singulares que as pessoas vivem. Quando esteve baseada nas tradições populares, a política emancipatória exibiu tais traços dialéticos, independentemente da maneira específica na qual cada luta pela liberdade foi pensada em diferentes contextos históricos. No entanto, apenas alguns intelectuais militantes compreenderam a importância dessa dialética no pensamento. O presente volume esboça e discute dois pontos de vista particularmente importantes sobre o papel e a relevância da cultura popular na política emancipatória em África. Cada um deles resulta de formas distintas de exploração capitalista e colonialista: o primeiro viu a luz do dia em um contexto colonial, enquanto o segundo é diretamente confrontado pelo estado neocolonial. Todas as políticas emancipatórias são desenvolvidas em confronto com o poder estatal, e todas começam com um processo de discussão e debate através do qual um sujeito coletivo começa a se formar. No continente africano, a construção de tal sujeito político coletivo tem sido informada, de maneira fundamental, pelas culturas populares. Os dois autores cujos ensaios estão aqui incluídos entenderam isso e colocaram a cultura popular no centro de suas políticas. O primeiro, Amílcar Cabral, aborda o papel central da cultura popular na luta pela independência da Guiné-Bissau nos anos 1970; o segundo, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, aborda a centralidade da cultura popular africana para uma política emancipatória endereçada à atual República Democrática do Congo. Apesar das décadas que os separam, tanto Cabral como Wamba-dia-Wamba desenvolvem, no centro de sua política, uma dialética que ativa os universais da cultura no presente. É essa característica que confere às suas visões uma importância central para o pensamento emancipatório contemporâneo.
Au cœur de nos problèmes politiques issus d’un capitalisme racial et d’une oppression (néo)coloniale en Afrique aujourd’hui se trouve l’absence de toute vision émancipatrice véritable. Toute tentative de repenser une politique émancipatrice en Afrique doit pouvoir situer une vision universaliste de la liberté parmi les expériences culturelles singulières que les gens vivent. Les politiques émancipatrices quand elles existaient, bien que pensées dans les luttes pour la liberté ayant lieu dans des contextes historiques particuliers, mettaient toujours en vue une dialectique de ce genre quand elles étaient vraiment basées parmi les traditions populaires. Cependant, seulement une minorité de dirigeants intellectuels et militants comprenait l’importance d’une telle dialectique pour la pensée et l’action.
Ce petit livre trace le contour et discute de deux points de vue très importants sur le rôle de la culture populaire dans la politique émancipatrice en Afrique. Chacun d’entre eux émane de formes d’exploitation capitalistes coloniales distinctes : le premier a vu le jour dans un contexte colonial classique tandis que le second est directement issu d’un contexte étatique néocolonial. Toute politique émancipatrice est développée vis-à-vis le pouvoir d’état et toutes commencent avec un processus de discussion ou est formé un sujet collectif. Un tel sujet politique doit être fondamentalement informé par et conçu en relation avec les cultures populaires.
Les deux auteurs ci-inclus ont compris ce principe et mettent la culture populaire au centre de leur pensées politiques. Le premier, Amílcar Cabral se réfère au rôle principal de la culture dans la lutte contre le colonialisme au Guinée Bissau dans les années 1970 ; le second, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba insiste sur le rôle central de la culture populaire pour une politique émancipatrice dans la République Démocratique du Congo aujourd’hui. Malgré la distance temporelle qui les sépare, tous les deux développent au centre de leurs politiques distinctes, une pensée dialectique qui déclenche des pensées universalistes depuis la culture populaire dans le présent. C’est pour cela que leurs points de vue sont d’une importance capitale pour la pensée de la politique émancipatrice en Afrique aujourd’hui.
I am glad to see that there is a second wave of Black anarchists since 2015, arriving on the scene. I support the rights of all Black anarchists to build their movements, and I defend the rights of Anarkata. I don’t agree with everything in this book, but that is immaterial. This is an excellent book and well written. — Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, activist and author of Anarchism and the Black Revolution and The Progressive Plantation. During his over 50 years as an anarchist, Ervin was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, and Concerned Citizens for Justice. He founded the first Black anarchist federation in North America, Black Autonomy.
This revolutionary book reveals the political power of “stretching” the classical anarchic tradition to critiques of racial capitalism. Bagby-Williams and Suekama deliver an accessible, thought-provoking analysis of two waves of Black American anarchism: that which arose from 20th-century politics of Black liberation and the later reanimation of anarchism triggered by 21st-century killings by American police. The authors layer deep class criticism with insightful case studies not just to retrace a history of Black Anarchism but to make a compelling argument about the diversity of thought that influences the radical tradition. With this book, the historical and continuing contributions of feminist thought, queer activism, and anti-colonial struggle to the movement are made clear. Readers will learn that Black Anarchism has not died due to “progress,” but rather proliferated in light of the American tragedy that is capitalism, imperialism and brutal, carceral control. This book has nuance. Read it now!” — S.M. Rodriguez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Gender, Rights and Human Rights, London School of Economics, and author of The Economies of Queer Inclusion: Transnational Organizing for LGBTI Rights in Uganda. www.smrodriguez.com
A necessary and accessible historical analysis of the often overlooked Black anarchism. Bagby-Williams and Za Suekama demonstrate that any revolutionary movement truly committed to a post-capitalist world must constructively engage with this Black radical tradition. — Toni Harrison, Black Canadian writer, community organizer, and host of the podcast Actually Existing Socialism (https://podbay.fm/p/actually-existing-socialism).
Thank you for sharing the pamphlet. Once we started reading it we could not put it down. It was refreshing to learn about the different texts, approaches and experiences of Black anarchism. What stood out the most for us was the inclusion of feminist and queer perspectives moving away from the ableist heteropatriarchy lens. The authors recognize the importance of pan-Africanism as one source of Black anarchism. They also emphasize the Black anarchist insight that all forms of oppression must be fought, to better address the challenges across all oppressed and Black bodies. In an era where movements are advocating for the abolition or reform of oppressive systems, this text helps reflect and reimagine what new inclusive systems may look like. It also makes an important analysis that highlights the complexity and diversity in Black anarchism, which is essential if we are to confront the white savior complex and complacency in addressing inequities and dismantling racial capitalism. —Tinashe Goronga, medical doctor and public health leader in Zimbabwe; coordinator of EqualHealth’s Global Campaign Against Racism affiliated with the international Social Medicine Consortium; and Mandela Washington Fellow for 2022; and Yeukai Chikwenhere, pharmacist and global health researcher in Zimbabwe, co-founder for the Centre for Health Equity, and community organizer for EqualHealth’s Global Campaign Against Racism.
This geography of Black anarchism succeeds in outlining its tendencies, champions, and contradictions. It reminds us that the children of Maroons don’t need no lessons in liberation. That we’ve always used things that confine to redefine. We beat plowshares into swords. And then we rob gun stores, cause who uses swords anymore? —Ben Passmore, comics artist, political cartoonist, creator of the Daygloayhole Series, and author of My Black Friend, which in 2017 won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic.
This work Is an important achievement in clarifying the history and current importance of Black anarchism. The information that the book presents will be new to many readers. For instance, one important component involves the explanations of how hierarchical principles within the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army helped generate the emergence of Black anarchism among key party members who later developed their ideas and strategies while in prison. Likewise, the book breaks new ground in demonstrating that Black anarchism has emerged not from the European/ North American anarchist traditions but rather from roots in Pan-Africanism, the Black radical tradition focusing on racial capitalism and the work of Cedric Robinson, and grassroots struggles partly in the U.S. South. An in-depth analysis of the somewhat different but complementary focuses within the two generations of Black anarchism also is very helpful. Finally, the book highlights concrete, contemporary implications for revolutionary strategy, including a perceptive analysis of the compatibilities between socialist and Black anarchist approaches to current transformative struggles. This publication will become widely known and used, because it brings enlightening new ways to understand and to act on the intertwined structures of racial capitalism and the capitalist state.
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In his introduction to this new edition of From Citizen to Refugee: Uganda Asians Come to Britain, Mahmood Mamdani reminds us that long before 1972, most Ugandan ‘Asians’ had already been disenfranchised by law, both Ugandan and British. Despite a global industry that insists otherwise, Uganda Asians are a poor fit as victims: there was no large-scale loss of life during the expulsion, nor were there massacres of Asians, only of ‘indigenous’ peoples. Asians in Uganda, as in East or Southern Africa, he argues, were immigrants, not settlers: immigrants are prepared to be a part of the political community, whereas settlers ‘create their own political community, a colony, more precisely, settler colonialism.’ Mamdani insists that there is no single Asian legacy. there are several and they are contradictory. The Asian question in Uganda remains, but it is no longer the original Asian question. But it does allow us to think more broadly. Just as US law recognizes African Americans as Americans of African descent, so too must those of Asian origin in Africa consider themselves, and be considered, Asian Africans.
It is in his bittersweet and touching book on the Asian expulsion from Uganda that one can trace the beginnings of author and intellectual Mahmood Mamdani’s world-view.. … In From Citizen to Refugee: Uganda Asians Come to Britain Mamdani offers portraits of people reduced to a vegetative existence in refugee camps, feeling the burden of not being fluent in English and struggling with the uncomfortably cold weather. Not surprisingly, these few months played a pivotal role in shaping Mamdani’s theoretical and political leanings, and it is here that one can locate his preoccupation with the formation of racial, ethnic and class identities during the colonial era and his overarching concern with issues of citizenship.
— Bhakti Shringarpure, Associate Professor, University of Connecticut, Editor-in-chief, Warscapes, Founder, Radical Books Collective
The book identifies three key moments in Nigeria’s experience with federalism and makes the argument that a complex and socially-diverse country like Nigeria can only be successfully governed by a truly federal arrangement, and not the present unitary contraption that has only delivered poverty, social unrest and the powerful centrifugal forces that are now threatening the very existence of the country itself. The time has come, write Ike Okonta, to convene a conference with sovereign powers to design a federal constitution for the country. The current process of amending the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly will not suffice. The document is so hopelessly flawed that only its discarding and a fresh effort at constitution-making will suffice.
Ike Okonta was, until recently, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of Oxford. Currently, he is Coordinating Fellow of the New Centre for Social Research, Abuja, Nigeria. He is author of Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil (2003) Paperback; When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self-Determination (2008); Biafran Ghosts: The Massob Ethnic Militia and Nigeria’s Democratisation Process (2012); The Failure of Leadership in Africa’s Development (2020)
Table of Contents
1. Nigeria’s Flawed Federalism: The Colonial Roots, 2. Killing Federalism: The Soldiers Step In, 3. Consolidating Centralism: The Second Republic and After, Challenging Centralism or the Spirit of Ken Saro-Wiwa, 5. Conclusion: Bringing Back Federalism. 6. Acknowledgements.
BISAC and KeywordsPOLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-ColonialismPOLITICAL SCIENCE / ConstitutionsPOLITICAL SCIENCE / World / AfricanKeywords: Nigeria, Federalism, Sovereignty, National Assembly, biafra, Ogoni, Ken Saro-WiwaAudienceGeneral/Trade – Adult fiction and nonfiction
The current absence of any emancipatory vision for Africa lies at the heart of our political problems of racial capitalist and colonial oppression. Any attempt to rethink political emancipation on the African continent must be able to locate a universal conception of freedom within singular cultural experiences where people live. Irrespective of the specific manner in which such struggles for freedom were thought within different historical contexts, emancipatory politics always exhibited such a dialectic when it was based within popular traditions. Yet only some militant intellectual leaders understood the importance of this dialectic in thought.
The present volume outlines and discusses two particularly important views concerning the role and importance of popular culture in emancipatory politics in Africa. Each is the product of distinct forms of colonial capitalist exploitation: the former saw the light of day within a colonial context while the latter is directly confronted by the neocolonial state. All emancipatory politics are developed in confrontation with state power, and all begin with a process of discussion and debate whereby a collective subject begins to be formed. The formation of such a collective political subject has been fundamentally informed by popular cultures on the African continent.
The two authors whose essays are included here understood this and posit popular culture at the centre of their politics. The first, Amílcar Cabral, addresses the central role of popular culture in the independence struggle of Guinea Bissau in the 1970s; the second, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, addresses the centrality of African popular culture in an emancipatory politics for the current Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the distance in time that separates them, both Cabral and Wamba-dia-Wamba develop a dialectics at the core of their politics which activates the universals of culture in the present. It is this that makes their views of central importance to emancipatory thought today.