africa_map

Cuba and Zimbabwe: Hip-Hop’s Defining Foreign Policy Issue In 2011

For years I have thought, argued and even ‘worried,’ over the critical issue of preserving Hip-Hop’s political essence and evolving its international geopolitical influence. I have been excited by the energy of the youth which the culture and art form captures and always seems to represent, only to be disappointed by how that force – especially in America – is often misdirected into electoral politics, in the service of interests and political parties who don’t respect that essence. It is a subject that legendary Hip-Hop historian Davey D. and myself discussed at length in 2004 (http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=1033). It is the reason why I put out a mixtape with Eric Canada in 2004, awarded mixtape of the month by The Sourcehttp://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=1130)– where we offered a definition of ‘political’ to include 13 elements. 

On the international front I have had the same experience of joy and pain – witnessing the global impact of the United States-based culture and art form, impact the politics and streets of places as diverse as Senegal (where Hip-Hop was the difference in a national election and was highlighted in the documentary “Democracy in Dakar”: http://nomadicwax.com/democracyindakar/); Tanzania (where the popular Tanzanian rapper, II Proud, a.k.a Mr II a.ka. Sugu just won a seat in Parliament: http://buddhablazeworld.blogspot.com/2010/11/hip-hop-meets-politics-sugu-gets-sworn.html); Venezuela where the HipHopRevolucion collective is putting in work; and back to East Africa where the political impact on East Africa is documented by award-winning director Michael Wanguhu in “Ni Wakati” (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ni-Wakati-the-film/132059003488886) – only to see the rhetorical inspiration for these movements continue to be unsuccessful, even inept at shaping United States foreign policy. Creatively confronting this problem is one of the reasons I launched my Hip-Hoppreneur advisory services for U.S. artists looking to boost their international profile and vice-versa. And it is why I am honored to be in a position to sign an artist with both charisma and consciousness, like multi-lingual Kenya Hip-Hop star Bamboo (http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/kenyan-hip-hop-superstar-bamboo-signs-with-cedric-muhammad%E2%80%99s-hip-hoppreneur-%E2%84%A2-brand-management/) – who can put out statements on global affairs (see what he had to say about the Ivory Coast crisis: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=174139735949917&id=532785778) and make street anthems (check out his ‘Heya!’: http://soundcloud.com/bambooshakazulu/heya) that can move a continent.

The challenge of connecting art to policy is one of the things that Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and I would discuss regularly when I was advising her last decade.

In essence, the revolutionary lyrical content (and the critical mass of a generation who have grown up on it) never becomes a tangible progressive or radical factor of power changing American foreign policy for the better.

That is why I am overjoyed to learn of the work of Obi Egbuna – who is a member of the Zimbabwe-Cuba Friendship Association, a pan-African historian & advocate, and U.S. correspondent for The Herald of Zimbabwe (http://www.herald.co.zw/)- and Mutulu Olugbala (M1 of Dead Prez) who are working on a compilation album devoted to two causes, which they see as one: ending the 50-year United States embargo on Cuba and the U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe, put in place in 2001. For years, I have found it inconsistent that many individuals who describe themselves as progressives, pan-Africanists, socialists, radicals, and revolutionaries have somehow found a way to very vocally support the lifting of the Cuban embargo, while yet being silent on the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe (the lifting of which are supported even by the man many believe has most vehemently opposed President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai: http://www.economist.com/blogs/multimedia/2010/09/keeping_transition_track).

[It is a subject for another day but I have had the same questions about individuals who lift the revolutionary work of Commandante Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez but who can’t muster public acknowledgement of the unparalleled support of revolutionary causes (from the I.R.A. to the Palestinian cause to the A.N.C.) provided by Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi.]

So I was profoundly impressed and excited when I learned about M1 and Obi Egbuna’s stance to not just promote an artistic expression in support of a movement but also to tie it to an objective and obtainable goal that can be measured.

Both of them shared their motivations for the effort with me recently and why Cuba and Zimbabwe matter so much:

Obi Egbuna:On the issue of Cuba it is a question of gratitude. After all the doctors who have treated Mother Africa’s children at home and abroad, their medical brigades – active in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean – are, in the estimation of Commandante Fidel Castro, the greatest army Cuba has assembled. This means in his expert opinion this army is greater than the one who fought in Angola side by side with MPLA against the Portuguese and US Imperialism for 14 years, and also in Guinea Bissau, the Congo and Mozambique. Our beloved sister Assata Shakur is safe and sound in Cuba instead of a jail cell in the US, for resisting Police Terrorism stateside. The blockade is approaching 50 years old has cost Cuba 96 billion dollars, its aim is to destroy the country where Africans who are ancestral products of slavery and colonialism have a better quality of life than Africans languishing anywhere in this hemisphere, including the good ol’ US of A. The issue of Zimbabwe is for Africans what Palestine is for Arabs and Cuba is for Latin Americans – a rallying point no matter where we are on what Christians called god’s green earth. Zimbabwe is being punished for reclaiming our sacred land from the former colonial master, who expected us to function on their timetable, and we waited patiently for 20 years from 1980 to 2000. These US-EU sanctions are a vindictive response to the land question and also preventing the extension of colonial domination in the Congo through Operation Sovereign Legitimacy. The US-EU alliance are also frolicking at the mouth to get their filthy hands on the diamonds, since it has been estimated that Zimbabwe now possesses 25% of the world’s diamond reserves. They have tried to undermine elections this entire decade and the inclusive Government, so we are combining our cultural and political resistance to end the US blockade on Cuba and the US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Cedric, there is an important connection between Zimbabwe and Cuba that people need to appreciate. Cuba is responsible for the high literacy rate of 97% in the country because thousands of Zimbabwean Teachers were trained in Cuba. Lastly, President Mugabe is the 1985 recipient of The Jose Marti Award – Cuba’s highest honor; the only other Africans who have had this honor bestowed on them are Mandela and Sankara.

When the history of Southern Africa is written, Zimbabwe’s role in helping FRELIMO and Samora Machel was just as vital as Cuba fighting side by side with MPLA in Angola. This courageous stand and sacrifice led to two CIA trained group of mercenaries – UNITA in Angola and RENAMO – in Mozambique being defeated on the battlefield.

Mutulu Olugbala (M1): We are cultural workers and activists on the frontline. I have used song to fight against police brutality and Zionist Aggression against the Palestinians, and Dead Prez has been to Cuba on three occasions. The Cultural arm of their revolution is truly breathtaking. The Cuban revolution deserves our maximum effort fighting to lift the blockade and Zimbabwe exposes how genuinely misinformed those who have reputations for being informed can be, if they are not careful. When I watched and helped the struggle in South Africa, I always felt there was unfinished business in the rest of Southern Africa, therefore defending Zimbabwe is truly a liberating feeling and I plan to build on that and get other artists who walk what Nkrumah calls a Revolutionary path to respond to the call of frontline duty on both issues Zimbabwe and Cuba.

****

There is much work to do to make the decades-long struggle on behalf of the people of Cuba and Zimbabwe relevant to the masses today. I have argued for years that the movement will have to do more to eliminate what I believe is an economic blindspot that still leaves anti-imperialist countries dependent upon the West. I wrote about this in 2009 in a blog-essay, “The Crown Jewel Of Marx and The End Of The Colonial Economy Part I” (http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/the-crown-jewel-of-marx-and-the-end-of-the-colonial-economy-part-i/). In addition, the economic relationship these nations form with China, Malaysia, and Turkey will also be a key to success in the game of geopolitical chess-playing.

Until a massive economic restructuring and monetary integration takes place among the natural resource rich nations of Central and South America; Africa; Asia, and the Islamic World (there are lessons still to be applied from the 1955 Bandung Conference); the colonial economy which finds nations like Cuba and Venezuela still desperately seeking U.S. dollars (and Zimbabwe dumping its hyper-inflating currency in favor of the euro, dollar and South African rand) will continue. As part of my work with the African Union’s First Congress of African Economists (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuP7uR2RSPk&feature=related) I have been advocating that the nations of Southern and East Africa (SADC and the EAC) form a regional currency and monetary union that Zimbabwe could join. I plan to go further into this in the near future and how it relates to the African Diaspora in the Western Hemisphere.

And while the Socialist and African liberation movements have elevated the importance of human capital – through investments in the healthcare and education of the poor – their remains the work of producing and supporting entrepreneurs who can produce the progressive innovations that every country needs. I have written about this tension in both my review of Moky Makura’s “Africa’s Greatest Entrepreneurs,” (http://www.africaprebrief.com/pages/posts/the-most-important-book-on-african-economic-development-28.php?g=0)and another blog-essay from this year, “Minister Farrakhan, Spiritual Economist.” (http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/minister-farrakhan-spiritual-economist/)

There is a serious economic conversation that socialists, pan-Africanists, progressives, and those who identify themselves as communists need to have about entrepreneurship, the nature of economic development, the transfer of business knowledge, and the cultivation of professionals into their movements. I think a great starting point are the thoughts of Dr José Bell Lara, professor at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Havana (FLACSO-Cuba) as expressed in an interview in September of this year, “Cuba: Economic changes and the future of socialism”: http://links.org.au/node/1916

Lifting the sanctions in Zimbabwe and ending the embargo on Cuba are without question significant elements of the economic liberation of Black and oppressed people all over the world, that can further other necessary steps toward economic development and growth.

*****

As often as I can, I try to regularly read the always interesting reflections of Fidel Castro (http://www.granma.cu/ingles/reflections-i/reflections-i.html). His Dec. 13, 2010 message to the participants in the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students in South Africa is well worth a read (http://www.granma.cu/ingles/cuba-i/14dic-Message.html). This portion of what he stated – regarding the activism of previous generations – I found especially relevant to Obi and M1’s work, “The most progressive youth were fighting for the right of all human beings to a dignified life; the old dream of the greatest thinkers of our species when it was evident that science, technology, labor productivity and the development of consciousness was making that possible.”

That, I believe, is the political and international essence of Hip-Hop, and I’m glad to know that this generation has produced two giants in Obi Egbuna and Mutulu Olugbala with courage, willing to sacrifice their lives, invest their talents, and lend their voice to a cause that may not be politically correct today, but one which I believe, will one day be vindicated by its success, and the accurate recording of history.

I’m standing with them and I hope Hip-Hop will too.

This is a defining moment, and movement…

[M1 and Obi Egbuna are currently on a speaking tour devoted to the issue of lifting the sanctions on Zimbabwe and ending the embargo on Cuba. Those interested in this and the compilation abum they are working on dedicated to this issue can contact Obi Egbuna at: obiegbuna15(at)yahoo.com]

Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. He’s CEO of CM Cap where he provides brand management services to Hip-Hop artists: http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/cedric-muhammad-unveils-hip-hoppreneur-%E2%84%A2-advisory-service-for-international-artists/. Cedric is a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Secret’ (http://theEsecret.com/). His Facebook Fan page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedric-Muhammad/57826974560?ref=ts and he can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)cmcap.com.

blog comments powered by Disqus