Posted by: Khepera | Sunday, 19 September 2010

Monsanto & the FDA: An Unholy & Dangerous Alliance


For more on this, check out articles on the Washington Post and rawstory.com. Anyone who claims that “more information confuses consumers” insults the public, and anyone who argues that genetic modification does not constitute a “biological relevance difference”, then Monsanto can make not claim to this *new* being their intellectual property. We must ask ourselves why it is that nearly every other major nation on the planet REQUIRES that GM food products be clearly labeled as such….and as a result, they hold no significant market presence in those countries. In most of those same countries, these GMO are outlawed. The following quote I found quite significant:

“Ever since the FDA approved the first genetically altered material for use in food in 1992, when Monsanto developed a synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production, the agency has held that it cannot require food producers to label products as genetically engineered.

In the intervening years, the use of genetically engineered crops has skyrocketed; 93 percent of this year’s soybean crop is genetically engineered, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Byproducts of those crops – soy lecithin, for example – are found in thousands of processed foods from chocolate bars to breakfast cereal; none is labeled as containing genetically modified ingredients.”

Well, I guess this is an important heads up for all those vegetarians who thought they were safe….

As an FYI, @ the request of a regular reading, I am adding the following link to a couple of previous posts which delve into these issues — and other related pharmaceutical  & food/agribusiness — much more deeply:

REVISED: The Fallacies of Big Pharmaceuticals & FDA Policies
REVISED: The Health & Food-chain Risks of Genetically-engineered Food

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About a month ago, Abbey Lincoln joined the ancestors… Some who know me wondered why I had not written something about her. I had to wait, to digest, find some peace with it, first. The coolness of her style, with her signature hat, soothed me…and memories coalesced.

Abbey Lincoln in performance

Abbey was special to me, and I finally got to meet her privately, in 1998 at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta. I have cherished her music, and her persona, since I was introduced by my jazz aficionado father. Despite the challenges of her youth, and marriage, she always possessed a grace, a certain serenity for me.

In the early 90’s, while I was living outside of DC, I was fortunate to meet and form a lasting friendship with Oscar Brown, Jr. It was through Oscar that I learned a lot more about her personal life since he was a contemporary of hers, and her husband Max Roach. Rising through the jazz ranks in his hometown of Chicago, Oscar developed a special affection for Abbey, and it was through the eyes of his heart that my admiration and too-distant-to-reach attractions blossomed into an abiding love.

A woman of strength, and disarming softness, her smile sparkled mischief before her voice transformed place to sanctuary. When we honor those – ours – we must remember the historical context of their lives. To be truly great, one must also endure, and Abbey’s life is a testament to that truth. But nothing conveys that like her music. Read More…

Posted by: Khepera | Wednesday, 25 August 2010

ADDENDUM: Integration or Separation: Is This Even the Right Question?


[The addendum is at the end]

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Arising out of a recent discussion with an elder, the point came up regarding the most common debate in the African American community over the last century+:  Integration or Separation.  Listening to him, and his references to a recent DVD out of the Nation of Islam.  After hearing his points, I suggested that perhaps that there is something significant missing from the conversation, not the least of which is that with the present state of technology, truly separate is not really an option.

As my father taught me, it is quite often more crucial to know the right question to ask, instead of the right answer.  Questions can lead, whereas answers are generally seen as an end in themselves.

If we consider the “struggle” here in the US, and the ones on the African continent, there is a fundamental contextual difference.  Here, we speak of the “struggle for liberation” or the “struggle for liberation”.  However, the African struggle was always about independence.  This is a most crucial difference, yet many consider them synonymous.  This is a crucial mistake…one which unfortunately has propagated throughout the former colonies.

Let’s examine the contexts and scope of the discussion.  Here, in the US, we sought ‘liberation’, the palpable abstract of ‘freedom’, which most never thought to examine.  When we scrutinize this supposedly simple concept, we rapidly discover than many people have many difference definitions.  Without wasting a great deal of time on this, let’s look at the parallels.

If we apply the same scrutiny to ‘independence’, we quickly discover that there is a much great consensus on what this means.  When we consider its opposite — dependence — we encounter the parallels with freedom…as well as critical differences. When we consider ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’, we rarely put those considerations in a larger context.  African Americans are supposedly ‘free’ in the US, but our everyday reality constantly argues against this being true.  We can all give reasons, stories, experiences of why, but rarely do we engage a comprehensive view of what it would take to make it real.  Some thought having a Black president would get us there, but many realize — including Oscar Grant — that this is sadly and unequivocally not true.

Read More…

Posted by: Khepera | Monday, 28 June 2010

“When you kill us we rule!” (an interview w/ Fela Kuti)


I have to thank Bro. Kalamu for this… Being a hardcore member of the Fela nation, this info & insight is immensely valuable, and moving, to me.  There are other musicians, including Femi Kuti, his son, who we are asked to embrace as equivalent, but like when Marley passed, we have yet to discover anyone truly in that league….for either.  Make sure you check out the link for the full article…an excerpt follows…

~/*\O|^|O/*\~/*\O|^|O/*\~/*\O|^|O/*\~

(Chimurenga) I had planned to visit the Shrine the night I arrived in Lagos but never made it. My sister Dupe, who knew some of the band Egypt 80, then took me to the Kalakuta Republic2. But each time we got there, every day for a week, we were told Fela is sleeping. On the fifth day, Sunday June 11, 1996, we decided to wait. We waited six hours. By that time he had stopped giving conventional interviews and was not talking with journalists. I sensed someone who truly loved himself and all peoples, but who has been persecuted for speaking truth, by the very same people it was designed to uplift. In the middle of our conversation there was an electricity failure and the second half of our talk took place in the dark. In Yoruba cosmology, some things happen outside of the logic of time and space. This felt like one of those moments. When I left he came out to greet me from his balcony—an unusually polite gesture from the Chief. It’s under that very balcony that over a million people gathered, around a year later, to wish a safe passage to the Black President.

ID’s:
Boto: Fela’s assistant
Seun: Fela’s youngest son
Dupe: My sister
Femi: Olufemi Sanyaolu aka Keziah Jones representing The African Anarchist Corp.

In Fela’s Living Room
Sunday 11/6/1996]

I hang with the various people coming in and out of the main living room—beautiful women, tough area boys, businessmen in smart suits, the curious, — everybody united by His music, N.N.G.3 and the possibility of revolution. Waiting to Exhale4 is on the TV (by satellite). He walks in wearing only a towel, excuses himself, reappears in his underpants, explains that he has just woken up and lights up a large spliff. With eyebrows arched, he slowly surveys the room and dismisses several people. He is a little bit skinny and graying at the temples, keeps you in constant and direct eye contact, speaks in short bursts of baritone. His speech is embedded between long pauses and punctuated with a deep resounding laughter. In the three hours or so that we spoke I eventually submitted to this flow, I realized that my questions interrupted trains of thought so I just chilled, listened and replied with my ideas when necessary.

Femi: Fela, I’m glad to be interviewing you. This is quite an opportunity for those of us outside Nigeria, cuz we don’t really know what’s going on.

Fela: About me?

Femi: Yeah, so I thought it would be a good opportunity cuz many young blacks read Chimurenga and they know about you, so I thought it would be good to come back with some news, you know what I mean, to tell them that things are cool.

Fela: [smiles.]

Femi: After 20 years of essentially political music do you still believe music to still be an effective way to change a political system?

Fela: [long pause] Oh wow! That’s a very good question [laughs] . . . music. Do I still think music is the best way to change a political system? You have to give me time to think about the question. Pause the tape so that I can understand what I want to talk.

[Personal assistant-type character, Boto pauses the DAT while Fela sits still for about twenty minutes in silence. No one in the room moves. Then with a smile he speaks.]

Fela: If one actually believes that he still wants to go into politics… [notices me adjusting the DAT] ah you see? It’s not loud enough. Are you sure? Please… it’s okay? [asks Boto] Wetin I first say?

Boto: …if one still believes…

Fela: If one believes that politics is still the best way to enhance a human life then music is a good medium for spreading message. I think it’s only one of the ways and with music it’s not so important who is playing the music. Or is the person who is playing the music going to get involved in politics? Or is he playing it just for people to listen? Those are the two points. If you are playing it just for people to participate its okay but it is best if you yourself are willing to participate within the music itself. But then again I don’t think politics is the best avenue for developing human life. Don’t ask me obvious question. [General laughter.] Continue, you can ask me that later on.

Femi: Okay. I found that—not only me, many many young people, Nigerians lets say—many of the social and political issues that you were talking about since the early 1970’s proved themselves true. The present political crisis in Nigeria and the revealed long term collusion between our military dictators and western powers came true. What next? Read More…

Posted by: Khepera | Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Original Juneteenth


“June 19th is the longest continuously celebrated holiday in human history.”

I present this premise/theory, based upon my own research.  This is news to some, and may be familiar to others, and in any case, you will likely find some perspectives gathered here new to you. For most African Americans, Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating ancestors overcoming slavery. Ironically, given the dates — when it was signed & when it went into effect — the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation was not really felt in Texas until June 19th, 1865, when General Granger read it to a gathered crowd in Galveston.

Now some will immediately question what is the “longest continuously celebrated holiday in human history” part. The celebration of June 19th was first observed in ancient Khemet/Egypt due to the confluence of four significant events on that day:

  • The heliacal rising of the star Sirius
  • The beginning of the annual flooding of the Nile river
  • The summer solstice;  and
  • Their new year celebration, which is where the English word ‘jubilee’ comes from

Just as elements of African art, music, language and other cultural elements have been transposed here in the Diaspora, the premise is that a similar argument can be made for June 19th.  So, if we are to fully, comprehensively engage what this correspondence between ancient & modern holidays means, we need to be aware of the various symbolisms/meanings.  We know now, within the social dynamic that the use of color, form, activity — each and all bear meaning & insight, and a certain power through repetition and rhythm.

Read More…

Posted by: Khepera | Saturday, 1 May 2010

Aborigines were the first Americans?


Here’s another one from the ED archives…

The source &/or origin of those who migrated to the Americas, and subsequently populated them has been a topic of discussion — and conjecture — for decades, if not centuries. Among indigenous people, you are where you are, since it is anticipated that all people live in harmony with Nature, and the planet. We now know this is not true of all groups.  The Western penchant for separation and categorization has fueled a series of scientific enquiries into this question, and the results are both significant and amazing.

There are several links provided in this post to other sources for this info, starting with the source of the title Aborigines were the first Americans, Sarah Toynes article from the London Times.  This info was also presented that same year in a BBC documentary of the same name.  The discoveries which led to this premise are intriguing, to say the least. However, there are some social dynamics at work we should be aware of as we follow the trail of this supposed mystery.

Firstly, evidence of a prehistoric(in european terms) African presence in Brasil is by no means new.  This was some of the earliest information indicating that the prevailing premise of migrations from Asia, across the Bering Strait, was not the end all be all conclusion, as it had been held for decades.  Not unlike the challenges facing those studying ancient Egypt, once the African origin of Nile Valley civilizations was recognized as most likely, all sorts of ‘other’ explanations began cropping up, from Atlantis to extraterrestrials.  Similarly, once the now famous Luzia skull was found, efforts to characterize the migrations into South America as aboriginal, from Australia, began to arise.  This Luzia skull, that of a young woman, from about 12000 years ago, like so many artifacts of indigenous antiquity, was dismissed, and given away to the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, where it lay for over 20 years.   It should be noted that as far as I know, this skull & skeleton are still the oldest human remains found in the Americas…with the possible exception of the mummies found in Peru. The story of the reconstruction and subsequent study  of the Luzia skull and skeleton is remarkable.  Here is a link to a Reuters/CNN story from 1999 which, interestingly, now no longer shows up in searches on either website: Brazilian fossil bears African features, could challenge theories on settlement. Another source for news reports.

This is the reconstructed face of the first known American, Luzia

“We can no longer say that the first colonizers of the Americas came from the north of Asia, as previous models have proposed,” said Dr. Walter Neves, an anthropologist at the University of São Paulo, who made the initial discovery along with an Argentine colleague, Héctor Pucciarelli. “This skeleton is nearly 2,000 years older than any skeleton ever found in the Americas, and it does not look like those of Amerindians or North Asians.”

Read More…

Posted by: Khepera | Saturday, 24 April 2010

REVISED: The Fallacies of Big Pharmaceuticals & FDA Policies


There are several debates — dealing with the FDA and their policies in approving drugs & the use of herbs and other natural remedies — which are sweeping this country like brush fires.  You may find it of interest to discern the overlap between the FDA & USDA.  One of the keys in maintaining authority in power is in how that power is exercised — constraint/unfettered @ special interest for instance.  Despite the naysayers, in some of these instances, we must consider collusion in the least, if not conspiracy to deceive/misrepresent.

One of cornerstones of the scientific community is peer review, and associated procedural policies — aren’t there supposed to be research reviews along the line?  Recently, Dr. Scott Reuben has pleaded guilty to several counts relating to his falsification of research connected with the FDA approval of Bextra, Celebrex & Vioxx, in association with Pfizer, who paid Dr. Reuben nearly half a million dollars(see also more coverage).

This coverage also points out this is not Dr. Reuben’s first time around with these problems. This begs the question @ who is in charge, where is the vigilance, and at what point is profit more important than health &/or nutrition.  Consider how intertwined this is in the supposed research to support or condemn certain products, or types of products.  This factor is significant when one examines the posture taken towards organic foods, herbal and natural health products(see Codex Alimentarius, also Codex Alimentarius home site) in contrast to obvious supports to agribusiness concerns.  The focus has shifted primarily to plant durability, yield and resistance to disease, while allowing nutritional value to be sacrificed.  Wheat is a good example.  Check out the Kansas Wheat Quality Laboratory, consider their stated goals:

The objectives of this project are:

  1. To provide timely evaluation of important physical kernel, protein, milling, and flour properties, which determine bread baking and oriental noodle quality of promising lines developed by wheat breeders and geneticists. This includes identifying protein and hardness properties of early-generation winter wheat lines and germplasm, which were contained in the proposal titled “Protein/Hardness Screening of Early Progeny Wheat”.

  2. To cooperate with faculty, research staff, and graduate students in Grain Science, Agronomy, Plant Pathology, and Entomology in studies designed to determine influence of genetics, diseases, insects, soil and environmental factors, storage and processing on milling and baking quality, and qualities needed in oriental noodles and ethnic breads.

  3. To provide technical assistance to Kansas wheat marketing efforts by the Wheat Commission, U.S. Wheat Associates, Wheat Quality Council, and K-State Cooperative Extension.

Further, what were once considered attempts at assisting Nature are now held as copyrightable intellectual property, for which a market has been created, and controlled.   A shift has been brewing for over a decade, in the direction of personal food production, even in urban areas. Now, there is an awakening by urban gardeners that many of these codes, standards, etc. are structured to constrain small family farms, and therefore impacts them as well.

Read More…


This is important if not crucial anthropological info.  I have engaged in some in depth study in this area, particularly the Blombos cave and Klasies River mouth areas, and the finds associated with those sites.  While they are each highly enlightening, in this case, for me, the significant commentary was:

IU anthropology Professor Kevin Hunt, Carlson’s adviser when the student received his PhD in 2002, described the discovery as “amazing” in that it not only creates newly-identified links between the australopiths and Homo, but also because it suggests that the transition between the small-bodied Au. africanus and the bipedal H. erectus occurred not only in East Africa, but across the whole of Africa, including South Africa.

“The fossils clearly link fossils in East Africa to South Africa,” he said. “Some paleontologists tend to think that we evolved from something in East Africa, and South Africa was just a sort of dead end. This fossil shows that the same trends seen in East Africa were also seen in South Africa — they’re just regional versions of the same thing.”

“The discovery is an amazing one. It’s late enough that it is contemporaneous with our ancestors that were, at the time, evolving into Homo erectus. The fossils in South Africa tend to be very rugged, with heavy faces and huge molars. These aren’t like that, and suggest that they’re related to East African fossils that many have put in the taxon Homo habilis,” Hunt said. “The intriguing thing is that they still have traits found in the more rugged species, Au. africanus, that is found half a million to a million (or more) years earlier. This suggests that just like humans all over the world have evolved but retained their regional characteristics, we had regional characteristics of Homo habilis at 2 million years ago. The teeth are distinctly smaller than Au. africanus, yet the face looks like a delicate version of Au. africanus.”

The discussion of how this info suggests broad revisions in the theories of dispersion/migration of species across the continent, which, imho is of great value.  Too often, these developments — anthropologically & archaeologically — are discussed in the contexts of singularities, as single source, or single movements, which runs contrary to the multi-threading tendencies of nature.  Based on my research, this also supports theories on the migrations which led to the peopling of the Nile Valley.  For more sources, check the article in Science(requires a subscription to read the full text), and Environment News Service

Posted by: Khepera | Wednesday, 7 April 2010

African Fractals


This post is to share — and hopefully initiate a discussion of — the topic of African fractals.  This is not a new topic, for many of us, but it is one worthy of further study.  There are several resources available for further info, including an earlier post, African Mathematics. Fractals are an important development because it is one significant way in which we mathematically engage the modeling of nature.  Fractals are also important in the context of the synthesis of geometry and number theory, which is an area where Robert L. Powell, a mentor of mine, has been doing extensive research for years. Those of you who were part of my listserve — earlier iterations of the Electronic Drum — may remember me sending out an article in ’99 “Geometric Fractals and African Hair Design,” by Bianca P. Floyd, which is an additional resource.

One of the key areas of discussion of fractals is their use in the cultural idoms — from architecture and settlement planning to basket weaving — of Africa long before europe to ships, spreading the virus of conquest across the planet.  Please note that unlike most of my other posts, this is an evolving piece, and will be added to &/or amended as the discussion evolves.  To start, I will share the following videos from Ron Eglash, the author of African Fractals.

African fractals, in buildings and braids

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African fractals, Part 2

Posted by: Khepera | Friday, 26 March 2010

Interesting new book: Legba’s Crossing


From Geoffrey Philp’s Blog Spot. Have yet to see a copy, but I thought I’d pass the word along…

++++++++++++++

In My Own Words: Heather D. Russell (2010)

Heather D. Russell

Posted: 25 Mar 2010 10:35 PM PDT

As with any book, I arrived at Legba’s Crossing:  Narratology in the African Atlantic (2009) through a journey marked by crossroads (life’s experience), pathways (routes/roots), intuition (intrinsic commitment to justice and light) and divine inspiration (strictly a calling).  The following reminiscences reflect some of these:

– I remember the first time I met Damballah, powerful Haitian loa of the sky.  I met him as an undergraduate at Rutgers, reading a John Edgar Wideman novel.  I felt an instant spiritual/ideological connection, BUT I was also just meeting Sambo, Mammy, Jezebel, I mean I had seen them all over…but understood them now.  I wrestled with these counter-narratives:  the debased, dehumanizing, distorted representations of black people and how these images have been used to oppress us…and then, in stark contrast, this god…African, New World, powerful, philosophical, resistant, hidden.  Could/would the one be used/useful to subvert the other?  I could not answer that question definitively then…until I met Legba…

– As a lover of literature, I have never cottoned to linearity.  Grand narratives, neat, tidy endings, building chronologically or even teleologically — always bored me.  I remember sophomore year, the first time I read Tristam Shandy and Eliot’s The Wasteland…I would not read in quite the same way after…and still…I had not yet gleaned how chronology and linearity were political tools, how these had been used to misrepresent, to distort, to silence, to simplify my history.

– Long before the death of the author was proclaimed, I was always infinitely more intrigued by the experience of reading a novel than the actual details revealed in it! Did it surprise?  Did it refuse to conform to my expectations?  WHO WAS I, at the end of the novel?  I suppose I have always been a non-con-form-ist!

Legba’s Crossing is an attempt to theorize the revolutionary potential of the experience of reading…

– Growing up in Jamaica as the daughter of a Baptist minister from Free Town, Clarendon, a theologian and a Garveyite, a historian and advocate for the spiritually/materially dispossessed – I was taught by both of my parents to be inquisitive — to question the status quo, to live a life in which works on earth were the most important manifestation of spirituality.  In 1976, my father was called to the historic East Queen Street Baptist Church in downtown Kingston where I began attending.  I was viscerally struck by social class inequity as a very young child.  My father had established a free medical and dental clinic for the community, housed at the church.  One day, when I was about seven-years old, a woman came for some treatment, but was, according to the deacon that drove her out of the churchyard, improperly dressed.  It was my earliest memory of the pervasive classism that is so deeply entrenched in Jamaica…I would later understand how color, colonialism, sexism, classism, poverty, violence, invisibility were interwoven… Read More…

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