By Reza C. Clifton
(This article appeared in the Providence American Newspaper)
PROVIDENCE, RI JANUARY 26, 2005-While many groups and individuals spent the week—or at least the earlier part of the week—of Sunday January 16 celebrating the work of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and the nonviolent theory and practice to which he devoted himself, one group took an opportunity to celebrate a different leader of Black liberation.
Marking the anniversary of his assassination, on Thursday, January 20, the African Alliance of Rhode Island presented “Celebrating Black Liberation Movements Here and Abroad: Amilcar Cabral and the History of the Revolution in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.” The event offered a glimpse into a second community group, for it was held at the headquarters of Providence-based DARE—Direct Action for Rights and Equality—on Lockwood Street.
Orchestrated by the Education Committee of the African Alliance, the event was multifaceted and eclectic featuring an introduction to the group given by the President Julius Kolawole; a welcome extended by the chairperson of DARE, Dale Jackson; and spoken word performances provided by Eriq Andrade and Tem Blessed of New Bedford.
The event continued from there with a lecture on Cabral’s life, philosophy, and leadership orated by Professor Peter Mendy, and a brief discourse by Celestiano Da Veiga on modern Cape Verdean and Guinean (Guinea-Bissau) statistics, geography and culture. The two-hour event didn’t end there, though.
Particularly unique, and what was likely a factor in the event’s success—which saw approximately 40 to 50 people in attendance—was the time allotted for audience participation. Prior to the event’s start, organizers stamped a random set of
chairs with memorable quotes by Cabral, whose occupiers were later asked to read them and postulate on the relevance of the quote to themselves.
It is likely, though, that audience participation would have occurred even without this innovation of the organizers. Young and old, professional and working-class, and people of Cape Verdean descent and otherwise were notably intrigued, moved, and inspired by the details of Cabral’s life and leadership, the impact his work had or continues to have, and its relationship to themselves.
Born on September 12, 1924 in Guinea-Bissau, Cabral’s awareness of his ancestry and upbringing—father was Cape Verdean, but born in Guinea Bissau—envisages what was to occur throughout his entire life. Namely, the desire to unify: the two countries against the dictatorial, colonial regime of the Portuguese; the oppressed peoples against the oppressors.
Intelligent and educated to the extent available in Lusofone Africa, Cabral moved in 1945 to continue his studies in Portugal. While there, his student and political activities included participating in support of democratic movements and joining with antifascist organizations.
While in Portugal, he also met and engaged with students from other Portuguese colonies. This would influence his choice to join and participate in independence dialogues, struggles, or political parties in countries like Angola and Mozambique as well as Vietnam, the United States, and more.
In 1959, Cabral was one of the founding members of the African Party for the Independence and Union of Guinea and Cape Verde (known by its Portuguese acronym PAIGC). Cabral and the PAIGC worked to foster understanding with the people to define liberation and the results of liberation, to define their oppressor not as the soldiers attacking them, but as the government ordering it, “to make the revolt meaningful to everyone participating in revolt” explained Professor Mendy.
Cabral was assassinated on January 20, 1973, but as this talk proved—and as Executive Director of DARE Sara Mersha points to his books “Unity and Struggle” and “Return to the Source”—Cabral’s legacy of panAfricanism and liberation lives on.
For more information on the African Alliance of RI, email AfricanAlliance@yahoo.com; for more information on DARE go to www.daretowin.org For more information on Amilcar Cabral, visit www.vidalusofonas.pt/amilcar_cabral_2.htm and www.cvwa.homestead.com/AlmicarCabral~ns4.html
by Reza C. Clifton
(This article appeared in The Providence American)
PROVIDENCE, RI, JANUARY 16, 2005-During the year 1994, more than one million children, nationally, were victims of abuse and neglect, a twenty-seven percent increase from 1990.
Forty percent of the nation’s homeless are former foster children.
In Rhode Island, there were 2,541 indicated cases of child abuse and neglect in the past three years mostly concentrated in Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, Westerly, West Warwick and Woonsocket.
These are just some of the statistics and facts that Rhode Island’s Governor Carcieri faced before selecting Warwick lawyer, Jametta Alston, as his candidate to the Child Advocate post. He announced his decision Thursday, January 13, though it won’t be final until the Senate confirms her.
The Child Advocate’s Office, or OCA, was established to protect the rights of all children involved with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The chief purpose of the OCA is to monitor DCYF and its operations, operations which include providing prevention, outreach, foster care placement and other services to children and families.
In a release provided by the statehouse, Carcieri noted his reasons for selecting her, saying “Those who have worked with Jametta over the years attest to her intelligence, her dedication, her compassion, and her capacity for hard work. She brings a passion to her work; which is a critical part of ensuring the safety of children.”
Alston herself credits years of practicing law as a factor for her nomination, saying she has always worked more on the civil side than on the criminal side. She cites work doing family law and familiarity with Family Court as qualifications. Plus during her work at the Attorney General’s office from 1993-2002, she says, she worked frequently with DCYF. Alston also points to interactions she has had with the OCA and DCYF related to her own adopted child.
If approved, Alston will be the first African-American to head the Child Advocate Office, an accomplishment for her not entirely unique to this position. As current president of the Rhode Island Bar Association, she is the first black person to hold that title, and until December, she was the first black woman to hold the position of Cranston’s City Solicitor.
Despite these honors—earlier and currently—Alston is not convinced that the governor’s selection will be a historical point in Rhode Island, nor that this will be in textbooks. She insists and implores that it is up to our community to spread this type of news and these types of accomplishments; that people need to tell their children that it’s possible. One of her approaches, she explains, is by speaking and spreading the message at schools and universities.
To secure the post, Alston and others were interviewed and reviewed by a committee who then passed on hers and four other names to the governor who would conduct the final interview.
The other candidates recommended by the committee were Andrew J. Johnson of Warwick; Sharon O’keefe, the assistant child advocate; Cindy Soccio of North Scituate; and Michael D. Coleman of Cranston.
Alston stressed, though, that the process is not as generic as submitting a resume and sitting through an interview or two—evidenced primarily by the presence of the governor. As a matter of fact, when she heard the announcement about the opening of the position, Alston explains that she contacted the outgoing head of the OCA, Judge Laureen D’Ambra, and appealed to her for tips and pointers.
The guidance she sought from Judge D’Ambra was not with regard to the position to which she was applying, but to the process of applying–obtaining proper and precise representation from letters of recommendation, letters to Senators, and other steps unique to a position under the governor.
Guidance aside, Alston says she scaled back the number of letters of recommendation she requested in favor of providing fewer and what she felt was a more genuine reflection of who she is. She says it was very important for her to demonstrate more than just a professional side, which she accomplished both by requesting a letter from a member of her church, and by talking about her personal philosophy as it was tested during her stay in Cranston.
Alston disclosed that while serving as City Solicitor in Cranston, the way that she dealt with hostility she experienced from the City Council was by remaining true to her religious and familial background. “The politics became a blood sport,” she said, “but you always remain courteous and deliver respect and kindness.”
Initiatives enacted into law precipitated or carried out by the OCA include national criminal background checks on foster and adoptive parents; strengthening criminal child abuse laws; criminal background checks for personnel of youth servicing agencies; and college grants and scholarships for children in DCYF care.
Alston says that she is looking forward to looking at and addressing policy issues related to children. If approved by the Senate, she explains that she will try to meet again with Judge D’Ambra to talk in more detail about the 15 years in which D’Ambra headed the post, and how D’Ambra sees the future, ideas which she will incorporate with the staff’s and her own.
While she waits, Alston’s own ideas and what she sees as an important emphasis is taking the office to the community. “Speaking to children about their rights,” she explains, “help[ing] the community realize that this is what we’re doing, and this is what you can do.”
“There are so many pieces—the homeless issue, domestic violence issues, poverty issues—and there are a lot of great groups working on it. What can our office do, to work with them and for them?”
For more information on the Child Advocate position, visit www.childadvocate.ri.gov
For more information about this and other announcements by Governor Carcieri, visit www.ri.gov/news