Nunu Kidane

African Diaspora Dialogues: The Journey To “One Love”

Priority Africa Network facilitates a series of discussions designed to strengthen ties between new black immigrants and existing African-American communities.

African Diasporic Relationship status: complicated.

The origins of the African diaspora’s complications began with centuries of complex, interwoven events. Through systems of slavery and colonization, people of African descent have ended up around the globe from Brazil to the Caribbean to the U.S. by way of human trafficking. Within the context of colonization, present-day African descendant migrations are heavily influenced by colonial forces with whether one has moved from the Caribbean to the U.K., Arkansas to California, Mississippi to New York or Ethiopia to Washington D.C.; the African diaspora migration patterns that zigzag and criss-cross the globe are creating new patterns, tapestry, and cross-cultural identities. Within these movements is often the hope of a better life existing simultaneously with significant amounts of cross-cultural adjustments, stress, and misunderstandings. With the “complicated” relationship status that has come about as a result, one possible solution is communication and...dialogue.

African Diaspora Dialogues exist to fill that gap. The organization, Priority Africa Network, facilitates this series of discussions designed to strengthen ties between new black immigrants and existing African-American communities, heal divisions arising from conflict, understand common history, and forge political unity.

Nunu Kidane, an African immigrant born in Ethiopia to Eritrean parents, is the Founder and Director of Priority Africa Network, the lead organization behind African Diaspora Dialogues. According to Kidane, the outlet’s purpose “is about telling your story. How you’ve walked through the world experiencing other black people, white supremacy, and trying to affirm all those identities and form a new Pan-African identity.”

The idea for the Dialogues arrived in 2006 in connection to the “Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005” also known as the “Sensenbrenner Bill” named after its sponsor, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. The bill proposed classifying undocumented immigrants and anyone who helped them enter or remain in the U.S. as felons. It passed the House in December 2005 but not the Senate. This sparked the 2006 Immigration Reform protests that included millions of participants.

Priority Africa Network started hosting community platforms for people to find out how the proposed changes could impact black immigrant communities. Around that same time, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) formed as black organizers observed that in the mass immigration reform demonstrations black people weren’t represented. According to Gerald Lenoir, African-American Founding Executive Director of BAJI, two ministers, Rev. Phillip Lawson, and Rev. Kelvin Sauls brought organizers together to discuss how to introduce this issue to African-American and black immigrant communities. They formed BAJI seeing the immigrant rights struggle as a collective struggle against racism. African Diaspora Dialogues became a tool to bring together African-Americans and black immigrants in an effort to forge a Pan-African identity amongst people of many different backgrounds from across the African continent, the U.S. and Caribbean.

“Don’t care where you come from, as long as you’re a black man, you are an African.” - Peter Tosh.

“First people want to affirm that we need to unite and the facilitators allow for that, then say ‘Yes, but...let’s go a little deeper.’ And we have ways to provoke these, not so much conflicts, but differences of opinion that are bound to emerge that really get into the substance of the differences where we can then contextualize them historically,” says Kidane. Initially, new black immigrants insist that they be seen as Nigerian, Kenyan, Ethiopian, from the Caribbean, rather than as merely “black.”

According to Kidane, the idea that anyone can make it in America makes black immigrants believe African-Americans haven’t made it because they haven’t worked as hard and that the disproportionate incarceration rates are deserved, so the first thing many do when coming to America is try to distance themselves from African-American communities. “We know very little of the history that precedes us and worse, we don’t think we need to know, that’s even worse,” Kidane says “Because when you don’t think you need to know the history of the people that look like you that have experienced hardship… that is the basis of the tension that really contributes to non-communication that we were determined to make the space for.”

“There is a significant amount of pain and a need for healing of hurts between African Americans and Black migrants that are in the way of our building power with each other… Holding space for each other in dialogue is critical to us humanizing each other and therefore seeing ourselves and our lives in and through each other.” Rufaro Gwarada, Zimbabwean, African Diaspora Dialogue participant.

“The demographic change all over this country has been so rapid that it’s creating this anxiety.” says Lenoir. “So the dominant narrative is ‘These immigrants are coming, they’re taking over your social services, they’re taking over your jobs.’ That’s the narrative that many of us buy into. The reality is the employer discriminates against African-Americans because we know and will assert our rights. New immigrants can be paid less and won’t stand up for their rights so they’re being exploited... We blame immigrants and not the employers or the government.”

According to Lenoir, U.S. economic, foreign and military policies are forcing people to migrate. “All these people coming over from Central America are really the result of U.S. support for dictatorships all over Central America. So they’re coming here because they’ve been repressed in their own country, in countries that are still supported by the U.S….So these are the conversations we have to have with folks to get them to understand the global picture and why people migrate.”

“We cannot think of uniting with others until after we have first united among ourselves. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” - Malcolm X.

There are practical benefits for African-American and African immigrant communities to be untied. “You are now living and walking as a black person in America and you need to recognize that.” Kidane tells new black immigrants. “No one is taking away from you being Zambian or Eritrean or whatever, but you need to recognize that you are walking around as a black person and you need to know what that means.”

“These kind of dialogues are critical to building solidarity. The anti-immigrant movement has been around a very long time and they are very powerful and seeking to divide the African-American community from immigrants. So I think creating a space for us to come together is really critical especially given the political climate that we now live in where fascism is on the agenda… And anything that we can do to bring our communities together and then to reach out to other communities is going to be critical particularly in this election year.

The Trump administration has been described as the most anti-immigrant administration of its predecessors. Its signature “Travel Ban” also known as the “Muslim ban” recently added Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan to its list as well as the African countries of Eritrea, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Sudan. In addition, highly trained tactical border control agents are set to deploy to “Sanctuary Cities” throughout the U.S. in an effort to round up larger numbers of undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary Cities are cities that limit cooperation with national government efforts to enforce immigration law. Many activist communities are resisting and pushing back against the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant sentiment and consider this election year critically important to the idea of true democracy and choosing elected officials sympathetic to migrant issues and immigrants rights.

“In a year like 2020 with elections and the Census coming up, we have the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that we show up for each other. It’s important that we participate in civic life as members of an interconnected, diverse Black community facing shared issues like state violence in our communities whether it’s brought on us by policing or ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]," said Rufaro Gwarada, an African Diaspora Dialogue participant Zimbabwean descent. "Conversations between us need not just happen in curated space. We can bridge differences and cultivate strong relationships by reaching out and inviting each other into community whether it’s to break bread, share stories, or participate in events.”

“When I was a child if you got called an ‘African’ you’re ready to fight. Now with African heritage it’s something to be explored and there’s value there and we should investigate that,” said Cornelius Moore, an African Diaspora Dialogue participant.

If the African Diaspora Dialogues continue to be successful we just may see an upgrade in collective relationship status.

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Mark Barboy

Interview: Suave House Founder Tony Draper Links With Celebs Like 2 Chainz, G Herbo and Nick Cannon To Feed Their Cities

The harrowing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately disrupted Black communities across the United States with cities like Chicago being among the hardest hit. Throughout the year, artists from the city have stepped up and held socially distanced food drives and PPE donations across the city’s South and West sides. With his deep ties to Chicago since the early 90s, Suave House Records founder/entrepreneur Tony Draper, alongside NBA veteran Ricky Davis, made the Chi’ their next stop as part of the nationwide Feed Your City Challenge this past October 17th at the Pullman Park Community Center.

The chilly, yet bright and sunny Saturday saw hundreds of people drive through the parking lot of the complex, receiving groceries from the many volunteers, gathered from across the city. Masked up with PPE in the trenches with the civilians were local natives and celebrity supporters like Chitown’s Grammy winning producer/music executive No ID, rap star G-Herbo, new rapper Queen Key, NBA star Jabari Parker to media/music entertainer Nick Cannon. Draper and Davis were handing off items and loading boxes of farm-fresh produce and meats in the trunk of cars, and offloading the 95,000 pounds of food to feed 7,000 residents. While they were not in attendance, Common with Jhene Aiko and Social Justice Collective donated funds for the free groceries.

“You can’t lead the people until you feed the people. We’re out here in the community in a real way. People always talk about what’s going on in Chicago and these are the things going on in Chicago. Positive things for the community during a time like this. People coming together and it’s a wonderful event,” said Cannon.

For Draper, bringing the Feed Your City Challenge to Chicago and being able to pull it off successfully was crucial because October 17th, marks the 24th anniversary of the death of one of Chi’s most influential DJs, Rapmaster Pinkhouse, who passed away in 1996. “It feels like myself and my partner [Ricky] Davis coming to Chicago and partnering with Common, No ID, Jhene Aiko, Nick Cannon, G-Herbo, Jay Allen, [local FM radio] Power 92 and Pat Edwards was a sign from God that it’s meant to happen on this day. Even though Pinkhouse is gone, he’s still influencing the south side of Chicago and he’s still sending us blessings. We had to pull it off, we had to,” Draper said with conviction. 

Meanwhile, Power 92.3’s DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets, DJ Commando, DJ Amaris and Hot Rod were on the 1s and 2s while Parker, Hot Rod, G-Herbo, and community activists Joey G and Nico Naismith played basketball with the kids. A nonprofit Hoop Bus was set up with a small hoop with Black Lives Matter symbols and the names of victims who were killed by police officers. 

G-Herbo, who has been volunteering his time to the kids of Chicago throughout 2020 says that events like this are important to build and strengthen Black unity across the city. “It’s beyond just being able to feed and provide, it’s allowing people to feel unity in the city. This is the city coming together and a lot of important and powerful people coming from the city, all walks of life coming together for a positive reason and that’s what it’s all about.” When asked if this event defied the stigma of Chicagoans not being unified, Herbo exclaimed, “Absolutely! We unified right now and it’s only gon’ get better, so we’re just trying to lead by example and make this normal. This is not just an event, this gotta be the normal for guys like myself and for the city.”

And the people who showed up to receive their free groceries were more than appreciative. Takara, a mother from the Southside of Chicago says that while she found out about the food drive at the last minute,“It’s a lot of food out here, a lot of good people out here and it’s something that we need. Events like this are very necessary and it’s filling the need for families who can’t feed their children during these times. I wish I could have volunteered and done something more, but we need this.”

In a one-on-one with VIBE, the legendary Tony Draper talks about his connections to Chicago, the importance and impact of the Feed Your City Challenge, the role celebrities play in activism, and more. 

VIBE: Earlier you shared that Oct. 17th was also the day that Rapmaster Pinkhouse passed away. For the younger readers who might not know who Rapmaster Pinkhouse is, could you share who he was and why he was so important to Chicago?

Draper: For young people that don't understand how music was heard back then, there was no social media [in the early 90s], there was no Instagram, so you had to get your record to the hottest person in the city. That person had to make a decision about whether it was good or not. And if that person touched your record in Chicago, that person would spread, it was automatic. That’s what happened to a young Tony Draper with 8Ball & MJG’s first albums. He put his hands around it and he exposed it to the Chicago market. Every time I think about Chicago, I always think about Pinkhouse. Pinkhouse was the main reason why I even came to Chicago.

Talk about that. What was Chicago like for you when you first came here?

Coming to Chicago was a very interesting moment for me because when I came, I had my hat cocked a certain type of way and I didn’t know the rules and regulations. And he told me, “Tony, man you gotta keep that hat straight (laughs). And I kept it straight ever since. So, for me, doing my journey as a young Black man from the inner city, raised by a single parent, establishing Suave House at 16 years old, seeing what I went through to establish [the company], and make it a force to be reckoned with. That was an accomplishment, but also I wanted to touch people I knew understood the music and understood where I was coming from and the importance of a young Black man that was a true, independent CEO and giving me the avenue to get my music heard. I’m from Memphis, raised in Houston, but Chicago is Suave House’s biggest market to this date. They supported everything Suave House did and I wanted to bless them [with the Feed Your City Challenge], the same way they blessed me.

With the conversation within the music business revolving around Black Lives Matter and supporting Black communities, what do you think it’ll take to get many of these CEO and executives from the major labels to support these communities like what you and many of the artists have been doing across the country?

I think they have to be involved with people they’re not comfortable with. Stop giving money to these organizations you think is giving the money to Black people, because they’re not. Nobody is holding these organizations accountable. Do business with somebody that has their finger on the pulse. A person that you know is in the music business that has been very successful in the business. Like right now, the Feed Your City Challenge, we’re in our ninth city. We’ve had eight of the top music artists host these cities without funding from the parent companies. [The artists] are giving the money themselves. Jhene Aiko gave money herself. Nick Cannon, himself. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz…Pee from Quality Control. 

Pee was on vacation in Mexico and he took a private jet back to Atlanta just to attend Feed Your City in Atlanta. He didn’t have to do that, but he did because he cares about where he’s from. He cares about the area. He wants to take [talent] from the area, but he also wants to give back to that community. See, white people want to come and exploit your community, but don’t want to build a library over there, never build a basketball court, never build anything. When an artist is dead, they say ahhh aahh ummm. If you wanted to demonstrate good character, you would have said, ‘I made a lot of money off that artist. Let me do something for that community as a token of appreciation for birthing that particular artist.’

I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.

And you’ll never see it unless I do it and I am going to do it. That’s why I’m in Chicago. I’m going to every city that has blessed me and fed my family because every time I feed myself, I feed my family, my loved ones, it comes from my fans. My fans gave me the opportunity by buying my records. I had a dream, I had a drive, but without the opportunity, you might not have heard of Tony Draper. So, I’m always appreciative of people that have helped me, that’s why I want to help them. I’m in the best place I could ever be in my life. I’m 49 years old, I’m successful, I’m good. Bro, you want to know what makes me happy? Giving to somebody else. There’s another star out there that’s hoping and praying that they could get an opportunity and if I could give them that opportunity, I’ll give it to them. I don’t relish in the attention; I relish in the accomplishment. Let me help somebody. And if I help them and they become successful, they don’t owe me a quarter. I won’t sign them to a management deal or nothing. I just want you to acknowledge it and pass it on. See, we got to learn how to pass it on.

With the timing of this event brought on by the pandemic, how do you feel about it all?

I think it was God’s mission. With COVID that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people lost their lives during this pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their properties. My heart goes out to them. But if me and Ricky Davis can put a smile on a mother’s face, a father’s face and feed their children, that’s all I need. I remember me and my mother going to churches and food banks, walking with free government cheese, powdered eggs and we was happy. We were so happy, smiling and grateful. I think without that, I don’t think we would have made it to the following week. So, I’m always thankful for everything God blessed me with. I don’t think I’m special. I think that I had a plan and I stuck to my plan and made it happen.

Suave House has had a lot of artists who have always been outspoken about social and political issues, [similar to like an] Ice Cube recently. Considering that, and what you’re doing with these artists for the Feed Your City Challenge, do you think that the role of the celebrity today is to get in front of these issues or to fall back and support the people who're already doing the work?

I think it’s a choice. For me, I’m not a city official, I’m not a politician. I’m more comfortable with doing and getting my hands dirty on the ground. If I was in Chicago building houses for people, I would actually be there. I wouldn’t [just] send no money or send a crew there. I would be there. That’s how I feel blessed. I feel blessed by actually talking to the people and them seeing me out there distributing groceries. I feel good when a person drives up in their car and they pop their trunk and say ‘Draper?! You putting groceries in my car?!’ And they may be happy about ‘Space Age Pimpin’’ or ‘I’m So Tired of Ballin’’ or whatever, but just the mere fact that they were happy about me putting groceries in their car meant more to me than anything else. I think it’s a choice you make as an individual.

For a lot of people, some celebrities end up causing harm because their celebrity and actions might overshadow the actual issue.

You know what though? Without you being a celebrity, you might not be heard. So why not use that platform to be heard? I think LeBron James is phenomenal. I think Ice Cube is phenomenal. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to respect him for speaking his mind and trying to get something for Black people. Nobody else did it! Nobody else took the initiative to write a Black America contract and present it to both [Biden and Trump] camps. So, I think that was a phenomenal move, whether I agree with it or not, it was still a phenomenal move. We got to stop with all this goddamn talking and do some action.

Draper and Davis’s Feed Your City Challenge will be arriving in Compton, California as their next stop on November 21.

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Interview: T.I. Talks Activism, Verzuz Battle, And His Desire To Produce A Biopic On His Life Before Fame

Although Tip "T.I." Harris has earned some very respectable stripes as an emcee for his successful rap career, the self-proclaimed “King of the South” moniker really began to take true form once he stepped into his community activism calling. He’s acted in blockbuster films opposite Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Kevin Hart, but his willingness to speak truth to power has shown an unwavering commitment to being on the good side of history, as opposed to choosing silence to secure a spot on the good side of Hollywood.

During this recent conversation, Tip talks about his upcoming Verzuz battle with Jeezy, politics, the Trap Music Museum, and his desire to make his TV/film directorial debut.

Be sure to check out his newest album, L.I.B.R.A available on all streaming platforms.

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Ziggy Marley's First Time Voting In America

No more long talking from politicians. Today, the people have their say at the ballot box. Judging by the number of voters who showed up early this year, the 2020 election is going to smash all records for voter participation. With a deadly pandemic, wildfires, floods, economic pressure, and a struggle for survival playing out from the tweets to the streets, the stakes have never been higher.

If you're reading this right now and you haven't voted yet, it's not too late. Get up get out and let your voice be heard. As Samantha Smith recently discussed on her IG Live, this year's election is too important to sit out.

Snoop Dogg will be voting for the first time this year—and he's not the only one. Ziggy Marley voted for the first time this year also and documented the process on social media. "I decided to vote and I wondered to myself why," Ziggy wrote on his IG. "Then I thought about those who came before, the price they paid. In part, I am voting in honor of them and to honor them, to not belittle their many sacrifices and struggles with my high jaded righteousness and indifference. Many brothers and sisters from numerous backgrounds and origins marched, bled, and died to give people like me basic rights in 🇺🇸 , the right to be treated like a human being, the right to vote."

As the eldest son of the Robert Nesta Marley aka the King of Reggae, Ziggy is part of a mighty musical legacy, but his father is more than a musical legend.  The new film Freedom Fighter—part of the 75th anniversary series "Bob Marley Legacy"—examines Marley as a symbol of human rights with a voice more powerful than any politician.

Ziggy has continued his father's musical mission as a solo artist and part of the Grammy-winning family group Melody Makers. His 2018 album, Rebellion Rises opens with a song entitled "See Them Fake Leaders," leaving no doubt about his views on the institutions of government. Still, Ziggy remains engaged in the political process, doing his part and encouraging others to do the same.

"Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and others thought, 'Voting rights? Civil rights? Who cares? What difference will it make?'" Ziggy wrote on IG. "Just imagine what the world would have looked like now if not for their sacrifices. Go ahead, imagine it. Can you see it? Well, what do you think?"

"To be clear voting is not the end-all," Ziggy Marley added. "It is a small piece of a puzzle and just one of the tools in our toolbox that we must use as part of a larger effort to bring positive beneficial changes for all people. The work must continue at maximum effort after elections regardless of the outcome." Ziggy emphasized that he was not voting for a party or a person for an idea. "Even though we have differences we can be better human beings, more united human beings, more loving human beings, equal human beings, just human beings. The politics will come and go left right and center but still through it all the humanity that we must show to each other is not negotiable."

Ziggy voted by mail this year, but for those of you standing in line today to exercise your right and let your voices be heard, Ziggy curated a special playlist for Tidal's "Hold The Line" campaign. Music to vote by—from Ziggy and Bob to Fela and James Brown, not to mention Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine.

Ziggy Marley’s new album, More Family Time, is out now on all music streaming platforms.

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