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The Transatlantic Slave Trade: 500 Years Later the Diaspora Still Suffers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The fact that slavery was underway for a century in South America before introduction in North America is not widely taught nor commonly understood,” said Felicia Davis of the HBCU Green Fund.

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The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) has launched a global news feature series on the history, contemporary realities and implications of the transatlantic slave trade.
(Read the entire series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” — Muhammad Ali

“We need to exert ourselves that much more, and break out of the vicious cycle of dependence imposed on us by the financially powerful: those in command of immense market power and those who dare to fashion the world in their own image.”  — Nelson Mandela

The most enduring consequences of the migration for the migrants themselves and for the receiving communities, were the development of racism and the corresponding emergence and sustenance of an African-American community, with particular cultural manifestations, attitudes, and expressions.

The legacy is reflected in music and art, with a significant influence on religion, cuisine, and language, according to Paul E. Lovejoy, a distinguished research professor and Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History at York University in Toronto.

“The cultural and religious impact of this African immigration shows that migrations involve more than people; they also involve the culture of those people,” Lovejoy said in a recent post about the creation of the African diaspora.

American culture is not European or African but its own form, created in a political and economic context of inequality and oppression in which diverse ethnic and cultural influences both European and African – and in some contexts, Native American – can be discerned, Lovejoy said.

“Undoubtedly, the transatlantic slave trade was the defining migration that shaped the African Diaspora. It did so through the people it forced to migrate, and especially the women who were to give birth to the children who formed the new African-American population,” he said.

These women included many who can be identified as Igbo or Ibibio but almost none who were Yoruba, Fon, or Hausa.

Bantu women, from matrilineal societies, also constituted a considerable portion of the African immigrants, and it appears that females from Sierra Leone and other parts of the Upper Guinea Coast were also well represented, Lovejoy said.

“These were the women who gave birth to African-American culture and society,” he said.

After many rang in 2019 with celebratory parties and gatherings, there were still others who solemnly recalled the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade that started 400 years ago – 500 years, depending upon the region.

For Africans throughout the diaspora, their struggle not only traces back 400 or 500 years, but it continued and was underscored as recently as 135 years ago when the infamous Berlin Conference was held.

The conference led to the so-called “Scramble for Africa” by European powers who successfully split the continent into 53 countries, assuring a division that remains today.

“There isn’t a single thing that was more damaging to Africa than the Berlin Conference,” said African Union Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao.

“Africans weren’t even invited to the conference,” she said.

At the conference, which took place over three months in Brazil beginning in February 1884 and attended by 13 European nations and the United Sates, ground rules were established to split Africa.

“Africans still are suffering the consequences,” the ambassador said.

Said John W. Ashe, the president of the United Nations General Assembly:

“The Transatlantic slave trade … for 400 years deprived Africa of its lifeblood for centuries and transformed the world forever.”

There’s no question that legacies of the slave trade persist today in most of the countries Africans were taken to, said Ayo Sopitan, founder of Pendulum Technologies in Houston, Texas.

“I have been thinking about how Africans and the diaspora need to get together – through proxies in the persons of recognized leaders – and have a conversation about the past, the role that African collaborators played and how we can unite as a people. Then, and only then will we be able to excel as a people,” Sopitan said.

“I have sat at lectures by Henry Gates and learned about blacks in the Americas. The conclusion is that wherever we are, blacks are usually at the bottom of the totem pole. This does not have to continue,” he said.

The transatlantic slave trade was an oceanic trade in African men, women, and children which lasted from the mid-sixteenth century until the 1860s.

European traders loaded African captives at dozens of points on the African coast, from Senegambia to Angola and round the Cape to Mozambique.

The great majority of captives were collected from West and Central Africa and from Angola, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – UNESCO.

The trade was initiated by the Portuguese and Spanish especially after the settlement of sugar plantations in the Americas, UNESCO officials noted in a 2018 web presentation titled, “Slavery and Remembrance.”

European planters spread sugar, cultivated by enslaved Africans on plantations in Brazil, and later Barbados, throughout the Caribbean.

In time, planters sought to grow other profitable crops, such as tobacco, rice, coffee, cocoa, and cotton, with European indentured laborers as well as African and Indian slave laborers.

Nearly 70 percent of all African laborers in the Americas worked on plantations that grew sugar cane and produced sugar, rum, molasses, and other byproducts for export to Europe, North America, and elsewhere in the Atlantic world, according to UNESCO.

Before the first Africans arrived in British North America in 1619, more than half a million African captives had already been transported and enslaved in Brazil.

By the end of the nineteenth century, that number had risen to more than 4 million.

Northern European powers soon followed Portugal and Spain into the transatlantic slave trade.

The majority of African captives were carried by the Portuguese, Brazilians, the British, French, and Dutch. British slave traders alone transported 3.5 million Africans to the Americas, UNESCO reported.

The transatlantic slave trade was complex and varied considerably over time and place, but it had far-reaching and lasting consequences for much of Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

The profits gained by Americans and Europeans from the slave trade and slavery made possible the development of economic and political growth in major regions of the Americas and Europe.

Europeans used various methods to organize the Atlantic trade.

Spain licensed (by Asiento agreements) other nations to supply its Spanish American and Caribbean colonies with African captives. France, the Netherlands, and England initially used monopoly companies.

In time, the demand for African laborers in the Americas was met by more open trade which allowed other merchants to engage in the trade with Africans.

Thus, formidable private trading companies emerged, such as Britain’s Royal African Company (1660–1752) and the Dutch West India Company of the Netherlands (1602–1792), according to UNESCO.

The profits generated from the Atlantic trade economically and politically transformed Liverpool and Bristol in England, Nantes and Bordeaux in France, Lisbon in Portugal, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, and Newport, Rhode Island, in the United States.

Each port developed links to a wide hinterland for local and international goods in Asia and capital to sustain the trade in African captives.

European merchants and ship captains – followed later by those from Brazil and North America – packed their sailing vessels with local goods and commodities from Asia to trade on the African coast.

Enslaved Africans, their often violent capture and enslavement out of sight of the European general public, were exchanged for iron bars and textiles, luxury goods, cowrie shells, liquor, firearms, and other products that varied region by region over time.

Much of the wealth generated by the transatlantic slave trade supported the creation of industries and institutions in modern North America and Europe.

To an equal degree, profits from slave trading and slave-generated products funded the creation of fine art, decorative arts, and architecture that continues to inform aesthetics today, UNESCO officials said.

“European countries – Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish – are most complicit in the transatlantic slave trade. This pernicious form of slavery was driven by European capitalistic countries seeking to expand their nation-states and empires,” said Dr. Jonathan Chism, assistant professor of history and a fellow with the Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston Downtown.

The hurt continues today.

“The fact that slavery was underway for a century in South America before introduction in North America is not widely taught nor commonly understood,” said Felicia Davis of the HBCU Green Fund.

“It is a powerful historical fact missing from our understanding of slavery, its magnitude and global impact. Knowledge that slavery was underway for a century [before it began in North America] provides deep insight into how enslaved Africans adapted,” Davis said.

She continued:

“Far beyond the horrific seasoning description, clearly generations had been born into slavery long before introduction in North America. It deepens the understanding of how vast majorities could be oppressed in such an extreme manner for such a long period of time,” Davis said.

“It is also a testament to the strength and drive among people of African descent to live free.”

Uncategorized

Multi-Cultural Chambers of Commerce, Wells Fargo Bank, Coach Oakland Business Owners on Getting Access to Capital

Representatives from the following Chambers were in attendance: Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.

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The Multi-Cultural Chamber of Commerce received a check for $100,000 from Wells Fargo. Present were (left to right): Rick Da Silva Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Jessica Chen, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Chuck Baker, Wells Fargo; Cathy Adams, Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce; Ken Maxey, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; Erica Trejo, Wells Fargo; Oakland Councilmember Loren Taylor and Joe Partida, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Auintard Henderson.
The Multi-Cultural Chamber of Commerce received a check for $100,000 from Wells Fargo. Present were (left to right): Rick Da Silva Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Jessica Chen, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Chuck Baker, Wells Fargo; Cathy Adams, Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce; Ken Maxey, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; Erica Trejo, Wells Fargo; Oakland Councilmember Loren Taylor and Joe Partida, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Auintard Henderson.

By Post Staff

The Multi-Cultural Chambers of Commerce collaborated with Wells Fargo bank to give business owners information and access to capital at an event was held Nov.18 at Higher Ground Community Center, 2010 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, California.

Banking professionals and representatives from Community Development Financial Institutions shared their knowledge en masse in the morning, then, following lunchbreak speakers, were available for one-on-one networking.

“We are excited to have hosted an informative workshop with representatives from Working Solutions and KIVA,” said Cathy Adams, president of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce. “Our businesses have suffered in so many ways during this pandemic and we need to take advantage of each opportunity to access capital for our businesses to increase revenue sales.

“I am equally proud to have Wells Fargo as a partner with the Multi-Cultural Chambers of Commerce to unite our efforts to support our businesses in Oakland. The grant in the amount of $100,000 will assist each Chamber to do similar workshops starting January 2022,” Adams said.

Representatives from the following Chambers were in attendance: Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.

Wells Fargo Bank provided business owners the opportunity to learn what banks look for when they review loan applications. Wells Fargo Team Member Network discussed how they provide support for local business owners.

“Wells Fargo is proud to team up with the Multi-Cultural Chambers to create a three-phase coaching platform that can demystify access to capital,” said Chuck Baker, vice president of social impact and sustainability for Wells Fargo. “The first phase is the kickoff event that helps businesses understand how to access capital at a broad level — from crowdfunding via Kiva, to low-interest loans with Working Solutions Microloans, to up to $200 million through Wells Fargo.”

The next phase will be the culturally relevant workshops that will be conducted by each chamber in early 2022. The third phase will be one-on-one coaching that will occur directly with businesses, including in-language tools and direct technical assistance for their members

The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce OAACC was established in 2003. It is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to advance economic opportunity and strengthen Oakland’s Black business community. We provide a number of services for our business associates and members including access to workshops, business development opportunities and advocacy.

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Coronavirus

San Francisco to Mandate Vaccines for City Contractors to Protect City Workers and The Public

Any contractor who works in-person on a regular basis alongside public employees must get vaccinated

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Close up of a mature man taking a vaccine in his doctors office

Mayor London N. Breed issued a Mayoral Order on October 8 mandating vaccination for all City contractors who work alongside City employees on a regular basis at a facility owned, leased, or controlled by the City. This mandate will also apply to all City Commissioners. All contractors will be required to be fully vaccinated by December 31.

This City Contractor Mandate will work in concert with San Francisco’s Worker Vaccine Mandate, which requires all City employees to be fully vaccinated no later than November 1, with earlier deadlines for those who work in high-risk facilities like jails, hospitals, and homeless shelters.

Contractors who work in high-risk settings are already required to be vaccinated under Health Orders. The City Contractor Mandate will ensure that all those who regularly work alongside City workers are vaccinated. Examples include:

  • If a contractor employee has a work station at a City office building and is working there in person a few days per week.
  • If a nonprofit employee is working at the nonprofit work site where City employees are regularly working.

Contractors may grant exemptions for employees based on qualifying medical reasons or religious beliefs consistent with the City Worker Mandate.

“Our vaccine mandate for City employees has always been about protecting the public we serve and protecting our workforce,” said Breed. “By extending the mandate to contractors who work alongside our City workers, we are continuing to do everything we can to keep our City workforce strong and healthy. Vaccines are safe and effective, and they are our path out of this pandemic. San Francisco is leading the way on implementing strong vaccine policies that will lift us up in the months ahead as we push forward with our recovery.”

Under the Mayoral Order, the City Administrator’s Office is tasked with issuing processes and procedures to implement this vaccine mandate and providing guidance to City Departments and Contractors regarding the policy.

“Our workforce is our most valuable asset. We’ve leaned upon our workers to continue delivering critical public services throughout the pandemic because that’s what we all signed up to do,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “Vaccine requirements to those who work beside us is a natural extension of our commitment to protect our workforce and the public we serve.”

San Francisco’s City workforce has one of these highest vaccination rates of any City in the country. Currently, over 94% of City workers are vaccinated against COVID-19, with just over 2,000 employees out of 35,000 registered as either unvaccinated or have not yet reported their status.

Under San Francisco’s vaccination requirement for employees, which was the first implemented in the country, all City employees must be fully vaccinated no later than November 1 in order to continue employment with the City, with exemptions provided for qualifying medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs.

“We are pleased with our high vaccination rate and that our employees, who interact with vulnerable populations on a daily basis, have made the decision to protect their colleagues and our communities by getting vaccinated,” said Carol Isen, Human Resources director. “Mandating that all contractors who work alongside City employees, is the right thing to do and supports all of the precautions we have taken thus far to keep our workers healthy and safe throughout the pandemic.”

The City Contractor Mandate, as well as the City Worker Mandate, are part of San Francisco’s broader effort to combat the impacts of COVID-19 with the most effective tool available: the vaccine.

Currently, over 82% of eligible San Francisco residents are fully vaccinated, which is the highest of any major city in the country. San Francisco has a current average of 77 cases per day, a drop from 309 at the height of the summer’s surge.

Cases among fully vaccinated individuals are currently at 7.4 per 100,000, while among those not fully vaccinated are 14.4 per 100,000. The vaccines remain highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death.

“City contractors are an important part of the broader workforce that delivers needed services to San Francisco, so it’s important for contractors to also be vaccinated and contribute to lowering the spread of COVID-19 on City facilities and among staff,” said Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax. “Vaccines remain our best defense against COVID-19, and everyone who is eligible for should get one.”

 

This story comes from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communication.

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Black History

The Way West: Reparations Task Force Looks at Black Migration to California

During its third meeting, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans looked at reasons formerly enslaved Black people migrated to the Golden State — and detailed setbacks they faced after arriving. 

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"Scott and Violet Arthur arrive with their family at Chicago's Polk Street Depot on Aug. 30, 1920, two months after their two sons were lynched in Paris, Texas. The picture has become an iconic symbol of the Great Migration. (Chicago History Museum)"[1]/ Wikimedia Commons

 I was leaving the South

to fling myself into the unknown…

I was taking a part of the South

to transplant in alien soil,

to see if it could grow differently,

if it could drink of new and cool rains,

bend in strange winds,

respond to the warmth of other suns

and, perhaps, to bloom.

- Richard Wright, the author of Black Boy, 1945

    During its third meeting, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans looked at reasons formerly enslaved Black people migrated to the Golden State — and detailed setbacks they faced after arriving. 

    During the period historians dub the “Great Migration”– which lasted from the early 1900s through the 1970s – approximately 6 million Black Americans relocated from Deep South states to Northern, Midwestern, Eastern and Western states. Significant numbers ended up in California, escaping Jim Crow laws and racial violence and seeking economic opportunity. 

     Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, “described the movement as “a redistribution of Black people.”  

    “It was the only time in America’s history that American citizens had to flee the land of their birth just to be recognized as the citizens that they had always been,” Wilkerson said, pointing out that no other group of Americans has been displaced under similar conditions.

     After President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction era began. It was a period of prosperity as some Blacks in different places began to establish businesses and communities; contest for (and win) political office; establish schools, and more. 

     But it was short-lived because of white backlash, Wilkerson said. 

     By the early 1900s, racist white Southerners began to terrorize freed Black people with cross burnings, and racial violence — and discriminate against them by instituting Jim Crow laws. 

     There was a spike in lynchings, and a sharecropping system that mirrored the conditions of slavery began to take form in the 11 former slaveholding states.

     Under those policies, opportunities for Blacks were almost nonexistent.

    After World War World I began in Europe in 1914, there was a shortage of labor. Factories started luring Black people North to fill vacancies. By 1919, an estimated 1 million Southern Blacks had departed for the North.

    By the 1930s, the Great Depression had slowed Black migration. But the revival of the exodus from the South, a period historians call the “Second Great Migration,” started around 1939. 

     This time around, California was a major destination. 

    As Black people left the South, Wilkerson said, they “followed three, beautifully predictable streams — pathways to freedom.” The first two led to Eastern and Midwestern states. The “West Coast stream,” Wilkerson told the task force, “carried people from Louisiana and Texas out to California and the entire West Coast.”

    World War II created an expansion of the country’s defense industry, according to the Southern California public television network,. During this time, more jobs were available to African Americans. California cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland began to see an influx of Black people.

    According to KCET, a Southern California public television network, the Black population in Los Angeles grew from 63,700 in the 1940s to 763,000 in 1970. The migration was largely fueled by job openings in industries manufacturing automobiles, rubber, and steel. The presence of Blacks became evident along Central Avenue between 8th and 20th streets in California’s largest city.

     “(Black southerners) were recruited to the North and West to fill labor shortages in the steel mills, factories and shipyards,” Wilkerson said. “It turned out that they wanted the labor but did not want the people.”

    The response to the Great Migration was “structural barriers of exclusion,” Wilkerson said. Restrictive covenants required white property owners to agree not to sell to Black people and many areas in large and mid-range cities were redlined to deny services to Blacks. 

   “By law and by policies, parents, grandparents or great-grandparents of almost every African American alive today (were denied) the greatest source of wealth in this country: homeownership, the American Dream itself,” Wilkerson said.  

    “With all the testimony I’ve heard, I don’t see how any person of conscience, character and civility could not understand that the facts have been given,” said Task Force vice-chair, the Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of that city’s NAACP branch. 

   The purpose of the nine-member task force is to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans and recommend appropriate ways to educate the Californians about the task force’s findings.

    Sanctioned from 1619 to 1865, legalized slavery in the United States deprived more than 4 million Africans and their descendants of citizenship rights and economic opportunity. After it was abolished, government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels perpetuated, condoned, and often profited from practices that disadvantaged African Americans and excluded them from participation in society.

     “On those sugar, rice, and tobacco fields (in the deep south) were opera singers, jazz musicians, novelists, surgeons, attorneys, professors, accountants, and legislators,” Wilkerson said. “How do we know that? Because that is what they and their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have often chosen to become.”

    Wilkerson first gained national attention in 1994, when she became the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1994, while employed as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times.

    Wilkerson’s parents are both from Southern states, but they stayed in Wash., D.C., where she was born, after meeting at Howard University. It was her parents’ migration northward, she says, that inspired her research on an era that helped to shape the country’s current demographics.  

     “Slavery has lasted so long that it will not be until next year, 2022, that the United States would have been a free and independent nation for as long as slavery lasted on this soil,” she said. 

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