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How The Americas Were Won: Pandemic Imperialism

Historian Jamon Jordan of the Black Scroll Network places the current pandemic in historical context. We should ALL take heed…

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From 1492-1502, Christopher Columbus (Columbus was Italian, and his real name in Northern Italy was Cristoffa Corombo, while in the rest of Italy he would’ve been Cristoforo Colombo) made 4 voyages to the Caribbean. Along with bringing Catholicism, he also brought European conquest and slavery.

But that ain’t it.

The Spanish, who sent Columbus to the “Indies”, and were the overwhelming majority of those who came with Columbus on his 4 voyages, brought at least 30 diseases from Europe that the Carib, Arawak, Taino and other indigenous people of the Caribbean had no immunity against.

Smallpox, influenza, measles, bubonic plague.

You Name It.

The pandemic caused by these diseases killed over 200,000 people in the Caribbean – about 95% of the indigenous population by 1517.

The diseases made it easier for European conquest over the Caribbean. So the Spanish would take Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and more; the French would take Guadeloupe, Martinique, and San Domingue – which you know as Haiti; the Dutch would take Curaçao and Suriname; and the British would take over Barbados, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Jamaica and more.

The Portuguese took over Brazil.

The disease pandemic of the Caribbean paved the way for the colonization of ALL OF the Americas.

In 1519, Hernán Cortés, a Spaniard goes to Mexico to conquer one of the most powerful empires in the world – the Aztecs.

Although he has powerful weapons – horses, guns and cannons – it is an outbreak of smallpox which weakens the Aztec army to such a level that Cortés is able to sweep into and conquer Tenochtitlan and topple Moctezuma II’s rule over Mexico.

In 1607, English settlers establish a colony in what they name Jamestown, in what is now the state of Virginia. These English colonists, like the earlier Columbus-led Spanish bring dozens of diseases to the Powhatan Confederacy – a union of indigenous people in the Virginia area.

By 1700, 75% of the Native peoples in Virginia died, including members of the once powerful Powhatan Chiefdom of more than 30 tribes, including the Mattaponi, Pamunkey, and Chickahominy.

Smallpox, introduced by the English settlers at Jamestown, then swept the Atlantic coast from Florida to Maine, and moves inland.

In 1620, when the Puritan Separatists arrive at Plimouth (Plymouth), they find a cleared land perfect for planting and settling.

Why?

Because British sailors have been here already and caused a smallpox epidemic among the Wampanoag and their village Patuxet, was wiped out.

The “Pilgrims” would declare that God cleared the land for them as a blessing.

During and after the Civil War, there was a smallpox epidemic, and as Black people died after becoming free, whites, including northerners, declared that Black people were dying because they were physically inferior and there should be little to no health care given to them because this is nature taking its course.

In 1918, during the major flu pandemic, 50 million people died worldwide. However, in the United States, Black people died at 3 times the rate of whites.

Why?

Black people were turned away from most clinics and hospitals because Black people were not allowed to be treated in white medical facilities.

If they were allowed, they were relegated to areas in the basement and received just enough care to be quarantined away from other people. If they didn’t get better on their own, they died there with almost no care from white doctors.

It was during this flu pandemic that Black doctors in Detroit founded the first 2 Black hospitals in the city – Mercy Hospital in 1917, founded by Drs. David and Daisy Northcross, and Dunbar Hospital, in 1918, founded by Dr. James Ames, and 30 other Black doctors.

One of the reasons why Detroit gained 2 Black hospitals within one year was because of the heightened level of illness in the Black community largely connected with the flu pandemic and the racist policies of the white medical community.

Dr. Ossian Sweet, after he, and his wife, siblings and friends win freedom after being charged with murder when they defended their home in 1925, lost his wife, his daughter, and his brother to tuberculosis. Because of the TB outbreak, Dr. Sweet would found a succession of TB hospitals, each one closing after being attacked by the federal IRS, or higher rate fees from insurance companies.

Dr. Sweet himself would be lost to suicide in 1960.

So, today as we deal with COVID-19, and we see the higher rates of death surging in the Black community, you should be very clear about the history of pandemics and race.

Black people and Indigenous People have been subjected to diseases from Columbus to Tuskegee, and they have also been discriminated by the white health care community which exacerbated their death rates.

Political leaders have used outbreaks as justification for segregation and marginalization of Black people and the poor throughout world history, ESPECIALLY in the United States.

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you when you see a hospital in predominantly Black Detroit have so many dead bodies that they stack them on top of one another and can’t find the corpses of people when the funeral home and families come to claim their loved ones.

It should be NO SURPRISE that Nazi-like racist reactionaries invade the state Capitol and connect their disdain for stay-at-home policies with their ideology of anti-Blackness.

Pandemics have historically been periods of heightened racism, where attacks on Black people and Indigenous people are magnified as well as a politically strengthened war against the poor in general.

During the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s-1990s, the LGBT community was further “other-ized” and Black people were too. The federal government even implemented a policy against Haiti and Haitian immigrants as an answer to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

And the continent of Africa has never really recovered from the AIDS pandemic.

Not even going to bring up Ebola.

There have already been numerous attacks and even killings of Asian-Americans as a racist response to the coronavirus. The president himself referred to it over and over as the “Chinese virus.”

So When folks post or attach the hashtag
#WeAreInThisTogether, and believe it to be true, that we are REALLY ALL IN THIS TOGETHER – they are either historically naive or intellectually dishonest.

Because this has never been the case and there is no American precedent for a health crisis to create unity between races.

At best, a form of unity across racial and class lines during a heath crisis pandemic is AN ASPIRATION.

It is something we may want TO WORK TOWARDS.

But be clear, a LOT OF PEOPLE do not want that, and there is no widespread history of this.

The legacy is something different, and Black folks, at best, need to find ways to work together, provide and support community groups that assist residents, transport goods and services, do what they can to help the medical facilities in their communities, and stay healthy.

The history – the legacy – the present-day reality IS – that there was not, is not and won’t be a cavalry of support from all sides of society and that Black folks are largely ON THEIR OWN.

Help is not coming.

And if it does come, it arrives late.

HEY, YOU!! LISTEN!! DON’T GIVE ME ANY LIP!!

HEY, YOU!! LISTEN!! DON’T GIVE ME ANY LIP!!
Love him or hate him or somewhere in between, this is our guy.

Remember this: First and foremost, the President of the United States is caretaker of the empire. So no matter WHO sits in that Oval Office, their job is to keep the empire strong and maintain the “American Way of Life”.

I am an anti-imperialist, so I will ALWAYS be at odds with the POTUS, no matter WHO it is. Yes, Biden is an oligarch. That’s the JOB of the president! To keep the nation safe for the oligarchy. You don’t believe me? Then read your history. No, not what they taught you as a junior in high school. REAL US HISTORY!

That being said, this is a VERY important election. Whether you believe your Democratic nominee is the right man for the job is IRRELEVANT! Put your personal feelings aside!

DONALD TRUMP MUST NOT BE ELECTED FOR A SECOND TERM! No IFs, No ANDs, No MAYBEs! PERIOD!

Yes, America has had racist presidents before. Yes America has had incompetent presidents before. THIS MOMENT IN TIME IS A CRITICAL AND SINGULAR MOMENT IN US HISTORY. The nation as you know it is already gone. Don’t allow everything you know and love to be swept away as well.

Am I being hyperbolic? Am I exaggerating? You REALLY think so? You really think it’s either going to get better or stay the same with another four years of MAGA? “It can’t get any worse?” REALLY??? DO YOU HONESTLY WANT TO FIND OUT??

Do you want to see some sense of the Hope and Promise that many of us believed had arrived when Obama was president, or are you one of those people who wants to turn back the clock to a time when “girls were girls, men were men, and people like YOU knew to STAY IN YOUR PLACE?”

If you truly love your family and my family, if you care about humanity and morality and human decency, IT IS YOUR CIVIC DUTY TO DO YOUR BEST TO MAKE SURE THAT TRUMP DOES NOT GET RE-ELECTED!

I’m sorry it has come to this. A lot of you are PISSED right now. Many of you are THRILLED, happy because you think Grandpa Joe is the best man for the job.

Whatever. It is what it is. Joe Biden is our guy. Give him your vote. Should you knock doors or make phone calls or put up a yard sign? That’s up to you.

But I’ll tell you this. TRUMP MUST NOT BE RE-ELECTED. Do what you gotta do. Don’t be ambivalent about it. GET THE JOB DONE!

DON’T FIGHT ME ON THIS. DON’T ARGUE. DON’T DEBATE. LIKE IT, LOVE IT, HATE IT. This is what it is.

You have your marching orders. Don’t fail your children, the rest of the human species, and all the species on this planet. Get ‘er done.

Nadir’s Tribute to Bill Withers – “Sunshine” by Jack Johnson from “Round One”

So many of us have very personal Bill Withers stories. Because she practically dared me, I sang “Use Me” to Akanke Rashad-Omowale at our wedding.

We also recorded this Bill Withers cover for the Jack Johnson Round One album in 1995. That’s Simone White on drums, Ethan Pilzer on bass, Paul Cochrane on guitar, and some dude named Kurtis McFarland on vocals and drum loops.

The album was mixed and co-produced by Rob Feaster and Kurtis at The Castle in Franklin, TN.
Corbin Dooley and Paul Brinberg were the heads of our record label, PC! Music Company. Bill Steber took the band photo.

You can check out the full album on Bandcamp:
http://jackjohnsonroundone.bandcamp.com/album/round-one Name your own price if you want to download it. We will not be mad at you. You might hear some other songs you recognize.

Anyway… We will really miss Bill Withers. His music meant so much to so many of us.

 

‘Hard to Place’: Kelis, Kaliedoscope and Other Cautionary Tales

Kelis and her brilliant debut, Kaliedoscope, signaled another bright light in the loose non-genre that the music industry’s apartheid would probably call “Black Alternative” (or what others might call “Distorted Soul”). It was bold, brash and very good. But she ran into too many of the old familiar tales that plague so many artists.

From The Guardian:

As a musician, Kelis was often called “hard to place”, which is another way of saying that record companies and radio stations did not know how to sell her. Refusing to be restricted to the R&B and hip-hop boxes into which young black artists are often shoved, Kelis’s versatile, distinctive voice meant producers as varied as David Guetta, will.i.am and Dave Sitek were keen to work with her. She has made dance music, soul music and even – on my favourite of her songs, Like You, from her fourth album, 2006’s Kelis Was Here – sampled Mozart. But that variety may also have worked against her, because it means she does not have an easy, ready-fit brand. On top of that, she had a run of bewilderingly bad luck with record companies.

The story of the music industry is one of young artists getting ripped off, again and again, because they are too young to understand the contracts they have signed until it is too late. What is different in Kelis’s case, she says, is that it was her friends who ripped her off.

“I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do,” she says. Instead, she says, she was “blatantly lied to and tricked”, pointing specifically to “the Neptunes and their management and their lawyers and all that stuff”. As a result, she says she made nothing from sales of her first two albums, which were produced by the Neptunes. But she did not notice for a few years, because she was making money from touring, “and just the fact that I wasn’t poor felt like enough”, she says. She sighs: “Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed it.’ I’m like: ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.’”

READ MORE HERE

© Nadir Omowale