Who am I?Where am I?

27 February 2009

On Death Row, Nigerian Draws the Hanged

I saw this article in early January. I think this is an excellent article that bears reading.

- Nomadic Richard

On death row, Nigerian draws the hanged

By KATY POWNALL Associated Press Writer

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - The doomed man's eyes stare blankly ahead as he shuffles down a dark corridor, spreading a hush through the death-row cells. The hangman pushes a black hood over the convict's head and tightens a noose around his neck. The trapdoor opens beneath his feet with a clang that reverberates around the stone walls. A gurgle, one last rattle of chains, then silence.

Through the iron bars of his cell near the gallows of this Nigerian prison, Arthur Judah Angel watched the hangman do his morbid work for almost a decade, witnessing the hangings of more than 450 of his fellow convicts. He committed their names to memory and many of their images to paper.

Now, 51 drawings that survived Angel's incarceration are attracting the attention of human rights activists and art lovers alike, allowing the artist to turn his years of horror into activism against the death penalty.

"I had to document our ugly world," said Angel, 46, who spent a total of 16 years in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit before being freed in 2000. "It was drawing that kept me going in there. It gave me a purpose."

Angel was beaten and thrown behind bars in January 1984 when he went to visit a friend who had been taken into custody at a neighborhood police station. He was 21 then and planned to begin university that year.

Five days later he was charged with murdering a policeman. Police asked for a bribe to free him, but his mother was too poor to pay, he says. So Angel was held for two years until his case went to court. After a six-day trial in which police were both the complainants and only witnesses, he was sentenced to hang.

On death row, he lived in a seven-foot-square cell with up to 13 other condemned criminals. A bucket in the corner was the toilet. At night the cellmates had to lie down side-by-side to sleep. If one wanted to turn in the night, he would have to stand and then squeeze himself back in.
The cell was one of 18 which housed over 200 condemned men in Enugu prison _ one of Nigeria's largest.

A detailed pencil drawing by Angel on rough pink cardboard shows the semi-naked prisoners hunched in awkward positions. Scrawled across the grimy walls are the names of previous occupants and the dates of their execution. Angel named the drawing "Sleeping in Limbo."
"That existence is one between life and death. You don't belong to either world," Angel explains.
Condemned criminals were not allowed to keep pens or paper so Angel's first prison drawing was done on a cell wall with charcoal smuggled from the kitchen. It was a cartoon cowboy designed to cheer up his cellmates, but it also caught the eye of the wardens.

"They started coming to me and asking me to do drawings for them," he recalled. "I would draw cards or portraits for them and in return they would allow me a pencil and a spare piece of paper."

By night, Angel turned his artistic focus from the images he was commissioned to do, to the macabre sights around him.

The cell's concrete roof had a small hole in the center that provided a circle of light when the moon shone. Angel would jostle for position beneath the hole and squat with a sheet of paper on his knees to do his secret drawings.

Some of his pictures are scrawled on book pages, others on faded cardboard. Many are rough at the edges, slightly torn or damaged by damp. Most of these dark artworks did not survive.
The 51 that endured were smuggled out by his parents when they visited. These now provide a unique insight into daily life on death row: from the shuffling, chained and hooded figures driven by the guards' clubs toward the gallows, to the stooped heads and empty expressions of the other inmates, a captive audience at the execution.

"You don't know if next time it will be your time to go," Angel says. "From Monday to Friday you expect executions in the morning. When the gallows are prepared, we all got nervous. You hear the chains clanking, and the trap door banging. You see the hangman walk past the cells. Most inmates don't have the strength to eat before midday."

Angel was prepared for execution once _ fed his last meal with his legs chained _ but at the end of the day his name was removed from the list.

"I once saw 58 executed in one day," he says. "But I wasn't meant to die in there."
In October, Amnesty International asked the Nigerian government to declare a moratorium on executions, saying the country's criminal justice system was "riddled with corruption, negligence and a nearly criminal lack of resources."

The London-based rights group said over half of the 736 inmates facing death were convicted on the basis of written confessions that many said were extracted under torture.

In addition, at least 80 death row inmates were sentenced with no right to appeal, Amnesty said, and others faced decades of delays on appeals because of missing case files or a lack of lawyers to represent them. The group used Angel's images to illustrate its reports and organized exhibitions of his work to further its campaign against the death penalty.

In what amounts to an acknowledgment of flaws in its criminal justice system, the government has appointed two commissions of inquiry, both of which also recommended a moratorium on death sentences.

No such action has been taken, but on Nov. 14, President Umaru Yar'Adua pardoned a man who had been on death row for 22 years and ordered the justice minister and attorney-general to review prison inmates' records and bring other "deserving cases" to his attention. It was not clear what prompted the pardon or what constituted "deserving cases."

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, with 140 million people according to government census figures. Despite being Africa's biggest oil producer, poverty, violent crime and corruption are widespread.

Angel's luck changed when a representative of the British Council, the British government-funded cultural organization, got one of his drawings. He visited Angel on death row and organized two exhibitions of his work in Enugu town in 1993 and 1994.

The exhibitions were well attended and widely covered by the media, and soon petition drives were organized to demand Angel's release. In 1995, a prominent human rights lawyer took his case and after a series of appeals he was released in February 2000.

Angel now works as an artist and a human rights activist, painting in a small studio in a rundown suburb of Lagos, Nigeria's biggest city. He has married and has three small children.
He sells the portraits and landscapes he now paints, but his real passion remains the works depicting what he saw in prison. Rights groups from around the world have used his 51 death row works to lobby for the abolition of the death sentence, and Angel says he could never sell them.

"These works represent the 16 years that were taken from my life," and even if Nigeria abolishes the death penalty, the pictures "will remind the government that we mustn't go back to such a time," he says. "These are works that price tags cannot be attached to."

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


Letter to President Obama concerning Peace Corps

You may have already heard that the Continuing Resolution for 2009 budgets just $340 million for the Peace Corps- just a $9 million increase over the 2008 budget. This increase will result in hundreds of fewer spots in the Peace Corps due to costly new security procedures worldwide. I am emailing you to contact President Obama today to increase this number to $425 million to fulfill his campaign pledge. You have until March 6, 2009 to act or we will have to wait one year.

Our government is not supporting the Peace Corps. Over 13,000 people applied in 2008 alone for fewer than 4,000 spots, and nearly 20 countries are asking for new programs, but we are about to make a decision that will slash the number of spots in 2009. It is unacceptable. The Continuing Resolution number is not logical, and a number which MorePeaceCorps flatly rejects. We need thousands of messages to President Obama from you, your families, and from serving volunteers all over the world. You don’t have to be a volunteer or even a US Citizen to write.

If we can galvanize the 195,000 former volunteers in this country and get the 7,876 volunteers presently in the field near a computer or cell phone, we can influence this process. We must collectively demand at least $425 million in 2009. The resolution could get passed on March 6, 2009. If you would rather call the White House and leave a message, the comment number is 202-456-1111. If you take action, please send a quick email to Rajeev Goyal (rgoyal@mrss.com) so that he can keep track.

I served in South Africa from 2002-2004, and it was a watershed time in my life. I learned about myself, connected with many other people from other cultures, learned about the oneness of humanity. My time as a teacher trainer was simply amazing. The 27-month Peace Corps model is like no other, and we need to redouble our efforts and fight hard for the President to keep his promise which is plainly stated on Whitehouse.gov to double Peace Corps by 2011. Peace Corps volunteers do more for the image of this country (and therefore its national security) and the wellbeing of millions of poor people around the world than all of the diplomats and state department officials combined, and yet the Peace Corps is being neglected. Think about that and please take action, or we will see hundreds of opportunities lost. You can go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ to send your message.

This is sample text for your email which you can adjust.

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to you from_____________

I recently learned that the Continuing Resolution for 2009 requests just $340 million for Peace Corps, a very disappointing $9 million increase over 2008. At a time when you have pledged to double the Peace Corps, this budget figure will result in hundreds of volunteer positions being cut. I urge you to support at least $425 million for Peace Corps in FY 2009 to build the foundation for expanding the Corps into the 20 countries that are asking for it today. I cannot overstate my disappointment at the Continuing Resolution figure but trust that you will increase it before March 6, 2009.

We need Peace Corps now more than ever, but it is shrinking in size due to neglect. This is a program that profoundly affected my life. I served in South Africa from 2002-2004. This was a watershed event in my life and affected many of my subsequent choices and my desire to work to support the oneness of humanity. I hope you keep the promise stated on your website. I don’t see how Peace Corps can double if it is dwindling in 2009:

Expand the Peace Corps: Double the Peace Corps to 16,000 by 2011. Build an international network of overseas volunteers so that Americans work side-by-side with volunteers from other countries.



25 February 2009

South African Humo(u)r

Julius Malema meets with Nelson Mandela.

He asks him, "Mr President, how did you run such an efficient government? Are there any tips you can give to me?"

"Well," says Mandela, "the most important thing is to surround yourself with intelligent people." Malema frowns. "But how do I know the people around me are really intelligent?"Mandela takes a sip of tea. "Oh, that's easy. You just ask them to answer an intelligence riddle."

Mandela pushes a button on his intercom. "Please send Thabo Mbeki in here, would you?"Thabo Mbeki walks into the room. "Yes, my President?"Mandela smiles. "Answer me this, please, Thabo. Your mother and Fatherhave a child. It is not your brother and it is not your sister. Who is it?"Without pausing for a moment, Thabo Mbeki answers, "That would be me."

"Yes! Very good," says Mandela. Back in Luthuli House, Malema asks to speak with ANC president Zuma." Answer this for me. Your mother and your Father have a child. It's not your brother and it's not your sister. Who is it?"

"I'm not sure," says Zuma. "Let me get back to you on that one." Zuma goes to his advisors and asks everyone, but none can give him ananswer. Finally, he ends up at the COPE meeting and bumps into Terror Lekota. Zuma looks around to see if anyone can overhear them whisper, "Terror!Can you answer this for me? Your mother and father have a child and it's not your brother or your sister. Who is it?" Terror whispers back, "That's easy. It's me!" Zuma smiles and says "Thanks!"

Zuma goes back to Luthuli House to speak with the youth leader. "Say, I did some research and I have the answer to that riddle. It's Terror Lekota."

Malema gets up, stomps over to Zuma, and angrily yells into his face,"No, you idiot! It's Thabo Mbeki!


24 February 2009

Madagascar in the News

Within weeks of my arrival in South African in January 2002, I became ill. My childhood asthma, which has dissipated as I grew older, returned with a vengence. During the medical briefing on Monday of week 6, the Peace Corps doctor heard me coughing and decided I needed to go to Pretoria. After that meeting, I was whisked away and taken for medical tests.

It was a great week and broke the monotony of training! I was able to explore Pretoria while staying in a nice guest house...all on the Peace Corps. While there, I met other Peace Corps Volunteers who had something seriously ailing them. One such Volunteer was a stationed in Madagascar. She had been in Pretoria for a month. She had been evaucated from Madagascar for health reasons but had been cleared to return. The only problem in February 2002 with that plan: the political unrest that was gripping Madagascar.

In 2002, Marc Ravalomanana, the former mayor of the capital city of Antananarivo had run for President against the incumber President, Didier Ratsiraka. When the results were announced, neither candidate had a majority and thus a run-off was required. Ravalomanana and his supporters protested against this result claiming that Ravalomanana had in fact won a majority and did not need a run-off. This led to street protests in Antananarivo, which was pro-Ravalomanana. As a result, the capital city was sealed off by supporters of Ratsiraka. Ravalomanana declared himself president in February giving Madagascar two Presidents.

The vote was recounted and it was deemed by the High Constitutional Court of Madagascar that Ravalomanana was indeed the winner. He was then declared President again in May. The violence and unrest did not end in May. Ratsiraka's supporters then began protesting and causing unrest. This unrest lasted until July, when Ratsiraka was forced into exile in France (for the second time) after losing control of most of the island.

So upon what does the current violence in Madagascar center? There has been growing unrest brewing over the past few months. According to Lova Rakotomalala, the recent problems have been brewing since December of 2007 when Ravalomanana's party lost the municipal elections. The mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, came to power during that election. He has much in common with Ravalomanana in that both are self-made businessmen. Instead of seeing eye-to-eye, the two clashed.
Andry Rajoelina
On November 19 of last year, Daewoo signed a deal with the Malagasy government that, according to The Financial Times, allowed them to lease half of the arable land in Madagascar for 99 years. This was a way for South Korea to gurantee food security for the next century. Needless to say, this was extremely controversial, with many viewing this deal as a blatant act of neo-colonialism. This viewpoint was further supported when it was revealed that Daewoo was actually not paying one-cent for the lease, but was instead offering to hire Malagasy workers to work on Malagasy land. Daewoo would pay to clear the land for farming. Thus is in a country with a unique biosphere and a problem with deforestation, Daewoo had offered to clear land the size of half of Belgium, and hire a few Malagasy workers in exchange for taking all of the crops grown out of the country and exporting these crops to South Korea. This offer had then been accepted by Ravalomanana's government.

A second recent flashpoint came in December when VIVA, a national broadcaster owned by Andy Rajoelina, broadcast an interview with former President Didier Ratsiraka. The current government was not amused and ordered the station closed. This led to a conflagration between the Mayor and the President, which was further exacerbated in January when three separate prison breaks occured within two days. These prison breaks were not reported on by the media until much later. Consequently, Rajoelina criticized the government. Strikes ensued in the capital, and subsequently ministry buildings have been occupied and then re-taken by troops loyal to the President. This has all resulted in chaos and confusion in a country that has seemingly lurched from one crisis to the next over the past few years with only intermittent lulls.

Only today did the two leaders sit down and begin negotiations to end the crisis. This after scores of unnecessary deaths. Clearly, Madagascar's political system needs to be reformed. One can only hope that the talks today are a first step in a legitimate process that leads to improved governance on the island.

Nomadic Richard

Sources used for this article are as follows:


23 February 2009

Courage To Resist

What do Cliff Cornell, Blake Ivey, Robin Long, Benjamin Lewis, Andre Shepard, Tony Anderson, Benjamin Lewis, Ehren Watada, Suzanne Swift, Augstin Aguayo, Jeremy Hinzman, and Brandon Hughey have in common? Who are these people? These soldiers all had the courage to resist.

During the Vietnam War between 50,000-125,000 Americans moved to Canada because they were opposed to the Vietnam War. Of these, approximately 20,000-30,000 were draft eligible men who were dodging the draft. Immigration between Canada and the United States is not unprecedented. During World War I and World War II, Americans had joined the Canadian armed forces before the United States entered each war. Furthermore, approximately 30,000 Canadians joined the US military during the Vietnam War. The two countries have a history of exchanging citizens...both hawks and doves...during times of strife.

Dating back to slavery in the 1800s, Canada has provided a refuge for those Americans who conscientiously opposed the United States government and wanted to leave. Abolitionists and runaway slaves alike moved to Canada before the United States abolished slavery. The "underground railroad" for runaway slaves often terminated in Canada.

After George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, the Canadian immigration, the Canadian government's Department of Citizenship and Immigration website received over 115,000 hits...or six times the daily traffic. Americans were interested in moving North again. And some did! The individuals above made the choice to move to Canada. There were two interesting things about their decision: they sough refugee status and their occupation was a soldier.

The current war in Iraq is not different from many wars in American history. Like all wars in American history, a certain element of the population has opposed the US involvement in whatever claflagration the country is currently embroiled. Many colonists wanted to remain part of England. Lincoln had opposition to the Civil War whilst many Americans opposed World War I and to a lesser extent World War II. Likewise, the war in Iraq had many dissenters. While many soldiers oppose the war in Iraq, these soldiers have grudgingly deployed and engaged in combat within Iraq. The individuals mentioned above have chosen another alternative. They have gone away without official leave (AWOL) from the military and fled to Canada. In other words, they have deserted.

Since the United States military became an all-voluntary force following the Vietnam War, the rate of desertion has been slightly less than 1%. This contrasts with the 3.4% desertion rate in 1971 towards the end of the Vietnam War. The American military does treat desertion as a foofaraw. Desertion is a crime in military law and is punishable with a jail sentence and a dishonorable discharge. The American servicemen and women who have fled to Canada face this punishment if they return to the United States.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once declared, “[War resisters] have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.” Sadly, this is not the case in 2009. Many American servicemen who have fled to Canada seeking refuge from an unjust war are now being turned over to the American government. This is being done despite the fact that a plurality of Canadians are opposed to the Iraq war.

Furthermore, the House of Commons has passed a resolution that allows for war resisters to apply for permanent Canadian residence. The truth of the matter is that Americans who has sought refuge in Canada are being turned away and returned to the USA. This amounts to Canadians, and their government, viewing these men and women as criminals who merit the prison sentence. I can understand the re-foulement of these soldiers if they were common criminals. Afterall, who wants criminals in their country who are not from that country. But the fact is that these men and women are criminals only because of their beliefs and these "criminal" beliefs are shared by a majority of Canadians. Thus, the deportation of these ex-soldiers is akin to the United States turning away Jewish refugees on the eve of World War II and sending them back to Germany where they faced the ghoulish Nazi regime.

This was not considered justice then and it should not be considered justice now. Here is how you can help. Visit http://www.couragetoresist.org/. Check out their links. Write a letter to the Canadian government asking them to stop deporting asylum seeking ex-US soldiers. Sign their on-line petition. You can also send personalized letters to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and/or the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley. There contact details are listed below.

Like Mohatma Gandhi famously said: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."


Nomadic Richard

Send personalized appeals to:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900

Mr. Harper can also be e-mailed at: pm@pm.gc.ca

Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley
Citizenship & Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1,

Minister Finley can be e-mailed at: minister@cic.gc.ca

The following were used as resources for this article.


20 February 2009

Support the Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009 (House Bill 1066)

Hey Everyone,

This message is for everyone but I am asking the Americans who read this blog to take action.

Most of you know that I hold Peace Corps dear to my heart. Under President George W. Bush, the programme was initially extended, post 9/11 but more recently funding has been cut, necessitating a potential drop in the number of PCVs sent overseas each year. Both my father, who is supposed to leave in June, and my sister, who is in the early application stages, have applied to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.

On February 13, 2009, RPCV Congressman Sam Farr (CA-D) introduced the Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009 (House Bill 1066) in the House of Representatives, with 40 co-sponsors. The ambition of the bill and the number of co-sponsors sent a shock wave through Congress.

*We have to rally to support HR 1066.* Click here to read the full text.

The Act, which cites growing numbers of applications to Peace Corps, calls for $450 million in FY 2010 to support and expand the Peace Corps. This is a $120 million increase over the FY 2009 budget, followed by $600 million for FY 2011, and $750 million in FY 2012.

To ensure that this legislation is passed, each of us must 1) support Congressman Farr’s initiative and 2) reach out to our members of Congress to grow the number of co-sponsors. Members of Congress should get in touch with RPCV staffer Marc Hanson (marc.hanson@mail.house.gov) in Congressman Farr’s office to have their names added.

Here's what you can do to take action:

Check and see if your Congressman/woman is already a co-sponsor. It your Member is already a co-sponsor, send a supportive message by calling the toll-free number for the Capitol switchboard (877 851-6437) and asking to be connected to your representative's office. Leave this message:For Members who are already co-sponsors.

"I believe the Peace Corps is underfunded at a time when demand for service has never been higher. Thank you for becoming a co-sponsor of House Bill 1066, the Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009. I hope that you will reach out to other Members and invite them to co-sponsor this important bill.

If your Member is not yet a co-sponsor, use the same toll free number asking to be connected to your representative’s office. Leave this message for Members who are not yet co-sponsors.

"I believe the Peace Corps is underfunded at a time when demand for service has never been higher. Please consider becoming a co-sponsor of House Bill 1066, the Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009. Contact Congressman Farr to become a co-sponsor and support the Campaign to increase the size of the Peace Corps.”

Please note this is a House action only so don't call your Senator yet!

I choose to send my Representative an e-mail. The link to send your Representative an e-mail is: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml


Nomadic Richard


19 February 2009

Cartoon Thoughts

I would really like to know the thoughts of the readers of this blog on this cartoon. It was published in the New York Post. How do you interpret this?


Nomadic Richard


One.org-Help for Zimbabwe

Dear Readers,
Zimbabwe is beyond a state of crisis. Zimbabwe was once one of the most promising countries in Africa with a thriving agriculture industry, one of the region’s highest literacy rates and a robust healthcare system. Today, Zimbabwe is a land of devastation. 28 years of increasingly dictatorial rule by President Robert Mugabe have led to hyperinflation, food shortages and a breakdown of basic public services.Last year, the world watched Zimbabwe suffer through a botched and violent election. But last Wednesday, after months of bitter negotiations with President Robert Mugabe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as the new Prime Minister, forming a “unity government” that will attempt to move the country forward. It won’t be easy. Last year’s disastrous election and President’s Mugabe’s continued presence casts doubt about how much change is possible. The good news is that Zimbabwe does not have to do this work alone. The African Union (AU) will serve as guarantor for this new government and it is critical that they take immediate action to ensure Zimbabwe’s unity government takes steps in the right direction. You can show the African Union that the world is watching to make sure it keeps its promise to Zimbabwe’s new unity government, by signing our petition to the newly-elected African Union chairman Muammar Gaddafi:

Petition text:

Please ensure that the African Union executes its role as guarantor of the new Zimbabwe unity government.

The African Union can put Zimbabwe on the right footing and show the world that it is serious about change by aggressively policing the agreement, and, at a minimum, acting on the four recommendations offered by civil society groups in Zimbabwe:
  • Insist on the immediate cessation of abductions and torture, as well as the release of the human rights activists and political prisoners.
  • Demand that humanitarian agencies be allowed to work in an unrestricted environment.
  • Call for an immediate repeal of unjust legislation like the Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).
  • Ensure an enabling environment for the new unity government.

The consequences of years of poor governance in Zimbabwe are poverty and disease on a tragic scale that demands a global response. Public hospitals have been without running water for months, creating a petri dish for easily preventable killers like cholera. More than 3,000 people have died in Africa’s worst cholera epidemic in 19 years. Schools have been shut down because teachers can’t be paid. The agricultural sector has collapsed, half the population requires emergency food aid and humanitarian aid groups are struggling to keep up.We’re not the only ones calling for action. In South Africa, activist and co-founder of the Global Campaign Against Poverty, Dr. Kumi Nadoo had this to say: "Unity within governmental structures alone does not address the humanitarian and human rights issues that the people of Zimbabwe face on a daily basis. Therefore, the AU must – first and foremost – demand that the Zimbabwean government listen to and respect its people."You can help make that happen. Take action now by adding your name to our petition asking the African Union to do its job as guarantor of the unity government, and work to end the political repression that has crippled Zimbabwe.


Thank you for making a difference,

David Lane, ONE.org


15 February 2009

Jason Champion-Author of Speaksbeliefs

My sophomore year at Howard University, I roomed with Jason Champion. He has recently began to publish some of his poetry. I think he is brilliant! As much as this blog is social commentary, his blog is social commentary that is also artistic. I love it. You can check it out for yourself on his website listed below.

Enjoy the poetry and social commentary!

Nomadic Richard


12 February 2009

Monster's Ball

On Friday, 19 December 2008, a bell tolled from inside the grounds of Her Majesty's Prison in St. Kitts. The macabre sound marked the death of Charles Laplace. The bell marked the beginning of one man's boycott of St. Kitts....mine.

Before I begin, I want to say that I am hypocritical. I am American. We do have capital punishment in the United States. Capital punishment is legal in 38 states plus the District of Columbia. I am probably not going to boycott these individual states and as an American, I can't easily boycott my country. I am admitting however, that there are flaws to this blog.

Who was Charles Laplace? He was a convicted murderer convicted of killing his wife in a fit of rage. He was a citizen of the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean. So why am I writing about him and not one of many other people executed in the world? Why am I picking on a relatively poor, small nation in the Caribbean. I did go to China, which carries out more executions than the rest of the world right?

The answer is two-fold. I am a vehement opponent of capital punishment, espeically in the United States. I find the entire process macabre, and essentially feel as though the government believes that it is protecting my rights by executing someone. I have two problems with this particular execution. First, the manner in which this execution was carried out was horrific. According to the Daily Mail, Laplace was taken from his cell around midnight. He was thrown into a cell next to the gallows where he remained on a mattress, bound both hand and foot for eight hours. He had no food nor water during this time. Nor was he allowed to make final calls, visit with a minister, or any of the other things that condemned men in the United States are offered. Furtermore, he had to endure the sound of guards having their version of a monster's ball while playing cards, laughing, joking, and drinking mere meters from where he was interred.

The executioner was paid well for carrying out this execution. Simeon Govia, He is reportedly a reprobate beach gigolo who tries to sleep with female tourists. the gigolo turned hangman, was also given a significant amount of alcohol to ease his qualms about carrying out his duties. All of this, while Charles Laplace was immobilized on a dirty mattress meters away. This is human rights St. Kitts?

The term monster's ball stems from the Lucullan party that was thrown for condemned men the night before their execution. This practice originated in England. Thus it may come as little surprise that England's first colonial outpost in the western world apparently continues slavishly upholding many of the traditions of its colonial master. Some of these are undoubtedly good. Cricket for example (I bet you thought I would never work cricket into this post.) However, the abominable disregard for human rights demonstrated by the Kittitian authorites deserves strong censure.

Denzil Douglas, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, has stated that something must be done about the crime rate on the islands. Apparently, this was his government's solution. What Mr. Douglas fails to realize is that this knee-jerk reaction will not change the fact that the island is now the murder capital of the world. This will have an impact on tourism. However, sadly for Mr. Douglas, historical analyses of the effects of capital punishment seem to indicate that it has no bearing on acting as a deterrent and reducing crime. The social issues that belie criminal activities are still present. Therefore, the malfeasance will continue as long as government continues to employ a synecdoche approach to addressing the crime problem while not addressing the root of the issue.

The second thing that really bothers me about this is the reasoning behind the government's decision to speedily execute Laplace. The government is concerned about the image of the island. This is understandable. Furthermore, Kittitians are tired of the crime spree plauging their pristine island. They are urging the government to act. I am not going to sit here and say that it is my right to tell the people of St. Kitts how to govern their land. However, if the government is indeed worried about it's tourism industry being decimated the way Antigua's industry was nearly ruined by the murder of a British couple on their honeymoon, then it needs to address the problem on a more grassroots level.

I have lived in the most violent, crime-ridden, society (statistically speaking) in the world (South Africa). Societies that have huge crime problems have these problems largely because of social issues, which are often difficult to cure. South Africa has toyed with the idea of re-instating the death penalty. Thus far, it has not happened though there are calls from sections of the ANC, the ruling party, for it's reinstatement. What South African leaders, to their credit, have realized (and Denzil Douglas presumably has not) is that the death penalty cures none of the societal ills that cause crime to be commited in the first place.
It galls me to think that this execution was carried out because St. Kitts is trying to deter crime specifically to attract more tourists. Shouldn't the deterrence of crime be because the government is trying to protect it's citizens? Using this logic, Laplace was hanged because the Douglas government wants me to visit St. Kitts and Nevis. In other words, he was hanged so that American tourists could see that the island was safe and that the government was tough on crime. I find this unconscionable. It is even more upsetting to know that, according to Amnesty International, Laplace had more legal options open to him, which he was not allowed to carry out. Is this China? Mr. Douglas was frown upon the comparison, but even the Chinese have at least a show-trial and generally, all the legal options condemned inmates have are exhausted before an execution is carried out.

Because of the complete disregard for due process, human rights, and dignity, I have organized a one-man boycott of St. Kitts until the government abolishes the death penalty. Only after doing this will St. Kitts and Nevis receive the guerdon of my hard earned cash.

Nomadic Richard
The following sites were used for this blog.


11 February 2009

Spanish Cyclists

Here are a few pictures of two Spanish cyclists (and I) who I hosted in my flat last month. They are bicycling from Nepal to South Africa and then back to Spain! Amazing people. They are currently in Yemen and will cross into Djibouti and Ethiopia next.

Nomadic Richard


Was Abraham Lincoln a racist?

I do not generally like Henry Louis Gates Jr. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed reading this balanced assessment of Lincoln. I am keen to actually read this book after reading his comments here.


Nomadic Richard

Was Lincoln a Racist?

The Great Emancipator was far more complicated than the mythical hero we have come to revere.

By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. Posted: February 9, 2009 at 7:49 AM


I first encountered Abraham Lincoln in Piedmont, W.Va. When I was growing up, his picture was in nearly every black home I can recall, the only white man, other than Jesus himself, to grace black family walls. Lincoln was a hero to us. One rainy Sunday afternoon in 1960, when I was 10 years old, I picked up a copy of our latest Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, and, thumbing through, stumbled upon Jim Bishop’s The Day Lincoln Was Shot, which had been published in 1955 and immediately became a runaway bestseller. It is an hour-by-hour chronicle of the last day of Lincoln’s life. I couldn’t help crying by the end.

But my engagement with the great leader turned to confusion when I was a senior in high school. I stumbled upon an essay that Lerone Bennett Jr. published in Ebony magazine entitled “Was Abe Lincoln a White Supremacist?” A year later, as an undergraduate at Yale, I read an even more troubling essay that W.E.B. Du Bois had published in The Crisis magazine in May 1922. Du Bois wrote that Lincoln was one huge jumble of contradictions: “he was big enough to be inconsistent—cruel, merciful; peace-loving, a fighter; despising Negroes and letting them fight and vote; protecting slavery and freeing slaves. He was a man—a big, inconsistent, brave man.”
So many hurt and angry readers flooded Du Bois’ mailbox that he wrote a second essay in the next issue of the magazine, in which he defended his position this way: “I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed. ….”

To prove his point, Du Bois included this quote from a speech Lincoln delivered in 1858 in Charleston, Ill.: “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
Say what? The Lincoln of 1858 was a very long way from becoming the Great Emancipator!
So which was the real Lincoln, the benevolent countenance hanging on the walls of black people’s homes, the Man Who Freed the Slaves, or this man whom Du Bois was quoting, who seemed to hate black people?

In the collective popular imagination, Abraham Lincoln—Father Abraham, the Great Emancipator—is often represented as an island of pure reason in a sea of mid-19th-century racist madness, a beacon of tolerance blessed with a cosmopolitan sensibility above or beyond race, a man whose attitudes about race and slavery transcended his time and place. These contemporary views of Lincoln, however, are largely naive and have almost always been ahistorical.

When Peter Kunhardt—my co-executive producer in the making of the PBS series “African

American Lives”—asked me two years ago to co-produce, write and host a new PBS series on Lincoln, timed to air on the bicentennial of his birth, I realized that making this film would give me, at long last, the chance to ask, “Will the real Abraham Lincoln please stand up?” I also extensively researched and analyzed Lincoln’s writings and speeches for my book, Lincoln on Race and Slavery.

Lincoln’s myth is so capacious that each generation of Americans since his death in 1865 has been able to find its own image reflected in his mirror. Lincoln is America’s man for all seasons, and our man for all reasons. In fact, over and over again through the past century and a half, we Americans have reinvented Abraham Lincoln in order to reinvent ourselves. The most recent example, of course, is captured in the journey of our 44th president, Barack Obama, who launched his presidential campaign in Lincoln’s hometown, Springfield, Ill., cited Lincoln’s oratory repeatedly throughout his campaign, retraced his train route to Washington from Philadelphia and even used Lincoln’s Bible for his swearing-in ceremony.

On the eve of the 200th anniversary of his birth, the Lincoln fable is as vital today as ever. For my PBS series, I filmed all over the country, from a Sotheby’s auction where an obscure letter of his sold for $3 million, to the annual convention last summer of the Sons of the Confederacy, where one official told me that Lincoln is the biggest war criminal in the history of the United States, that his face should be chiseled off Mount Rushmore and that he should be tried posthumously for war crimes under the Nuremberg Conventions!

In the black community, despite strident critiques of his attitudes about blacks by historians such as Bennett, Lincoln continues to occupy a place of almost holy reverence, the patron saint of race relations. But the truth is that until very late in his presidency, Lincoln was deeply conflicted about whether to liberate the slaves, how to liberate the slaves and what to do with them once they had been liberated. Whereas abolition was a central aspect of Lincoln’s moral compass, racial equality was not. In fact, Lincoln wrestled with three distinct but sometimes overlapping discourses related to race: slavery, equality and colonization. Isolating these three—like the three strands of a braid of hair—helps us to understand how conflicted the man was about African Americans and their place in this country.

Interspersed among these three discourses is the manner in which Lincoln seems to have wrestled with his own use of the “N-word.” Lincoln used the word far less than did Stephen Douglas, his Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate, but he did indeed use it in prominent contexts including debates and public speeches. Even as late as April 1862, James Redpath recorded Lincoln’s saying of President Fabre Nicholas Geffard of Haiti (who had offered to send a white man as his ambassador to the United States), “You can tell the President of Hayti that I shan’t tear my shirt if he sends a nigger here!”

Lincoln despised slavery as an institution, an economic institution that discriminated against white men who couldn’t afford to own slaves and, thus, could not profit from the advantage in the marketplace that slaves provided. At the same time, however, he was deeply ambivalent about the status of black people vis-à-vis white people, having fundamental doubts about their innate intelligence and their capacity to fight nobly with guns against white men in the initial years of the Civil War.

Even as he was writing the Emancipation Proclamation during the summer of 1862, Lincoln was working feverishly to ship all those slaves he was about to free out of the United States. So taken was he with the concept of colonization that he invited five black men to the White House and offered them funding to found a black republic in Panama, for the slaves he was about to free. Earlier, he had advocated that the slaves be freed and shipped to Liberia or Haiti. And just one month before the Emancipation became the law of the land, in his Annual Message to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862, Lincoln proposed a constitutional amendment that would “appropriate money, and otherwise provide, for colonizing free colored persons with their own consent, at any place or places without the United States.”

Two things dramatically changed Lincoln’s attitudes toward black people. First, in the early years, the North was losing the Civil War, and Lincoln quickly realized that the margin of difference between a Southern victory and a Northern victory would be black men. So, despite severe reservations that he had expressed about the courage of black troops (“If we were to arm them, I fear that in a few weeks the arms would be in the hands of the rebels…”), Lincoln included in the Emancipation Proclamation a provision authorizing black men to fight for the Union.

The other factor that began to affect his attitudes about blacks was meeting Frederick Douglass. Lincoln met with Douglass at the White House three times. He was the first black person Lincoln treated as an intellectual equal, and he grew to admire him and value his opinion.

Three days before he was shot, Lincoln stood on the second floor of the White House and made a speech to a crowd assembled outside celebrating the recent Union victory over the Confederacy. With his troops and Frederick Douglass very much in mind, Lincoln told the cheering crowd, which had demanded that he come to the window to address them, that he had decided to recommend that his 200,000 black troops and “the very intelligent Negroes” be given the right to vote.

Standing in the crowd was John Wilkes Booth. Hearing those words, Booth turned to a man next to him and said, “That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God! I'll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make.” Three days later, during the third act of Our American Cousin, Booth followed through with his promise.

It is important that we hear Lincoln’s words through the echo of the rhetoric of the modern civil rights movement, especially the “I Have a Dream” speech of Martin Luther King Jr. It is easy to forget that when Lincoln made a public address, he was speaking primarily—certainly until his Second Inaugural Address—to all-white or predominantly white audiences, who most certainly were ambivalent about blacks and black rights, if not slavery. When Lincoln talked about wrestling with the better angels of our nature, he knew whereof he spoke: about his audience and, just as important, about himself.

It should not surprise us that Lincoln was no exception to his times; what is exceptional about Abraham Lincoln is that, perhaps because of temperament or because of the shape-shifting contingencies of command during an agonizingly costly war, he wrestled with his often contradictory feelings and ambivalences and vacillations about slavery, race and colonization, and did so quite publicly and often quite eloquently.

So, was Lincoln a racist? He certainly embraced anti-black attitudes and phobias in his early years and throughout his debates with Douglas in the 1858 Senate race (the seat that would become Barack Obama’s), which he lost. By the end of the Civil War, Lincoln was on an upward arc, perhaps heading toward becoming the man he has since been mythologized as being: the Great Emancipator, the man who freed—and loved—the slaves. But his journey was certainly not complete on the day that he died. Abraham Lincoln wrestled with race until the end. And, as Du Bois pointed out, his struggle ultimately made him a more interesting and noble man than the mythical hero we have come to revere.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is editor in chief of The Root. He is co-host of the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, which premieres Feb. 11 (check local listings for time). His book, Lincoln on Race and Slavery, is available now.


Racist Roommate Discusses Rooming with Michelle Obama

I just read this article after a friend sent it to me. I think that if nothing else, Barack Obama's election has forced Americans to confront race and racism head on and try to work through our societal issues in a cathartic manner that can only be beneficial to America. Enjoy reading.


Nomadic Richard

Georgian recalls rooming with Michelle Obama


on: 04/13/08 http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/2008/04/12/roommate_0413.html

Catherine Donnelly shopped at Kmart, settled into her dorm room and soaked up the Gothic stone buildings where, over the next four years, she would grow into her own woman. But her first day at Princeton held a surprise, too. And Donnelly knew it would mean confronting the past.

She walked into the historic Nassau Inn that evening and delivered the news to her mother, Alice Brown. "I was horrified," recalled Brown, who had driven her daughter up from New Orleans. Brown stormed down to the campus housing office and demanded Donnelly be moved to another room. The reason: One of her roommates was black. "I told them we weren't used to living with black people — Catherine is from the South," Brown said. "They probably thought I was crazy."

Today both Donnelly, an Atlanta attorney, and Brown, a retired schoolteacher living in the North Carolina mountains, look back at that time with regret. Like many Americans, they've built new perceptions of race on top of a foundation cracked by prejudices past — and present. Yet they rarely speak of the subject. Barack Obama's run for president changed that. When the Democratic senator from Illinois invited more dialogue on race last month, Donnelly and Brown, both lifetime Republicans, were ready. But their willingness to talk isn't a response to the candidate born to a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya. It's more about Obama's wife, Michelle. She's that roommate from a quarter century ago.

The acceptance letter from the Ivy Leagues was really the culmination of two peoples' hard work. "My mother was thrilled," Donnelly jokes, that she got into Princeton. Divorced and living paycheck to paycheck, Brown found a way to get her only child into New Orleans' elite Isidore Newman School: She taught 8th-grade science there. They were a mother-and-daughter team, then with the surname Rodriguez.

Donnelly, now 44, captained the basketball and volleyball teams. She was the homecoming queen. And she racked up science and math awards, often with the help of her mother. But the "Three R's" weren't the only thing Donnelly learned from an early age. There was a fourth one. Her mother and grandmother filled her head with racist stereotypes, portraying African-Americans as prone to crime, uneducated and, at times, people to be feared. Brown, 71, explains that she was raised to think that way. She recalls hearing her grandfather, a sheriff in the North Carolina mountains, brag about running black visitors out of the county before nightfall. And Brown's parents held on to the n-word like a family heirloom. In fact, upon learning that her daughter had a black roommate at Princeton, Brown's first call was to her own mother. Her suggestion: yank Donnelly out of school.

The fourth-floor room had three beds, three desks and space for little else. The ceiling sloped in concert with the roof, creating a cramped perch atop the upper crust of American education. Quick-witted and nearly 6 feet tall, Michelle Robinson had no problem filling the room, Donnelly recalls. The future Michelle Obama, from Chicago's Southside, would playfully tease the third roommate, who was white. Obama's long fingers still narrate stories in Donnelly's mind. "From the minute we met," she says, "I liked her."

Donnelly doesn't think Obama ever picked up on her mother's behind-the-scenes maneuvering. She remembers nothing but friendly words. Only now, looking back, does she see the wall between them. Donnelly was surprised to find something familiar – segregation – alive and well on a prestigious campus in the Northeast. The university's private eating clubs, host to frat-style parties, were largely white. The social scene for many minority students, including Obama, revolved around an activity building called the Third World Center.

When Obama began hanging out with other black students on campus, Donnelly never thought to join them. "Here was a really smart black woman who I found charming, interesting and funny," Donnelly says with disappointment. "Just by virtue of having different color skin, we weren't going to be friends." Other than confirming that Donnelly was her freshman roommate, Michelle Obama declined, through a campaign spokeswoman, to comment for this story. Her senior thesis, however, delved into the experience of black alumni at Princeton and provides some insight into her mind-set at the time.

In the introduction, Obama wrote that Princeton made her more aware of her "Blackness" than ever before. "No matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong," she wrote. "Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with Whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second."

Donnelly, meanwhile, was struggling with her own identity. She came out that first semester, chopped off her hair and partied with other lesbians on campus. Soon she, too, learned what it feels like to be part of the "other" group, to be seen as a student second.

Donnelly said she and Obama had established separate circles of friends by second semester. That's when another room – the one her mother had requested – opened up. By then, it just made sense to trade cramped quarters for roomier ones. Donnelly doesn't remember having another meaningful exchange with Obama. She graduated with a psychology major in 1985 and forgot all about that tall roommate from Chicago.

More than two decades passed, and Donnelly, who normally doesn't care much for politics, found herself intrigued by one of the Democrats running for president. She was a little surprised to hear her mother liked Barack Obama, too. Brown had never voted for a Democrat. But she's a sucker for Harvard grads, especially eloquent ones. "He thinks well," Brown said recently, though she and Donnelly are still undecided voters. "He seems to be a thoughtful person. He considers everything."

When Donnelly first saw Obama's wife on TV, she was struck by how tall and graceful she looked. Then she studied her more closely. Michelle Obama looked so familiar, down to those long fingers. Could that be Michelle Robinson? A Google search gave Donnelly the answer. Obama was far more than a first-lady hopeful. She had gone to Harvard Law School, had been an associate dean at the University of Chicago and rose to vice president at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Like Donnelly, she was mother to two children.

"I was inspired," she says. "I was amazed. And I was envious of all she had accomplished." Donnelly called her mother, who in turn phoned the friend who had traveled with her to Princeton all those years ago. The friends had stayed up that night calling everyone they knew with a connection to the university, hoping to get Catherine moved. "We thought this is so ironic," Brown says. "[Obama] could be the first lady, and here we wanted to get my child out of her influence."

As her 2- and 5-year-old boys play on the front porch, Donnelly flips through a photo album of her own childhood. Brown, in Atlanta for her monthly hair appointment, looks over her daughter's shoulder. "There we are," Brown says, "at your graduation." In the photo, Donnelly clutches a bouquet in front of her white dress, smiling next to her mother and her grandmother.

The story of race in America is one of generations: what's passed on, what isn't and the friction between the two. When Brown heard about Barack Obama's former pastor — his angry rants against white America — she didn't like it. But she understood. "If I had been treated the same way blacks havebeen treated," she says, "I'd be resentful, too." It was Donnelly, however, who understood Obama's response: "The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static."

Society changed, and Donnelly has seen her mother nudged along with it. Says Brown: "It's become politically incorrect to talk about black people in a negative way. It's like smoking." Brown quit smoking in 1996. She's still working on the other. Brown says she wouldn't mind if her child or grandchild roomed with a black person today. But she's far from colorblind. "Where I draw the line is interracial marriage," Brown says. "That I can't quite deal with."

She holds firm to the belief that African-Americans don't take enough responsibility. "Bill Cosby says the same thing," she says. "Get off your rear end and work hard and improve yourself." Donnelly has more empathy. Her junior year psychology paper on affirmative action concluded that the effects of "covert, deep-rooted prejudice" are enduring. And she generally agrees with what Barack Obama said last month: "The disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to the inequities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of Jim Crow."

Living as a gay woman has made Donnelly far more aware of what it's like to be judged by a trait beyond your control. "Being gay is such a small part of who I am." Now she wishes she had reached across racial lines at Princeton. "I don't think I ever set foot in the Third World Center," she says of the popular hangout for minority students. "It's like this mystical place." Since then, Donnelly has worked and socialized with African-Americans. Yet she hasn't grown close to any of them.

"I've just never had an opportunity," she says, "to have a good friend who was black."

"You did with Michelle," Brown snaps.

Donnelly rolls her eyes.

She believes the cycle of racism can be stopped. Donnelly turns the pages in the photo album to a picture of an African-American boy standing next to her at school back in New Orleans. "He and a white guy and I would fashion ourselves after the Mod Squad," she says. "We liked to think of ourselves as a little club." The friendship started in fifth or sixth grade. And Donnelly sees it as evidence that children have the right instincts. Truth is, many paths to the future start with the past. Donnelly thought she'd left that Princeton dorm room for good. Then those long fingers from the campaign trail waved her back inside. At first, she saw only herself and two roommates.

Now she sees her children and Obama's children waking up in those beds, in a room with no barriers.


Is it Healthy to Blow Your Nose

Blowing your nose to alleviate stuffiness may be second nature, but some people argue it does no good, reversing the flow of mucus into the sinuses and slowing the drainage.

Counterintuitive, perhaps, but research shows it to be true. To test the notion, Dr. J. Owen Hendley and other pediatric infectious disease researchers at the University of Virginia conducted CT scans and other measurements as subjects coughed, sneezed and blew their noses. In some cases, the subjects had an opaque dye dripped into their rear nasal cavities.

Coughing and sneezing generated little if any pressure in the nasal cavities. But nose blowing generated enormous pressure — “equivalent to a person’s diastolic blood pressure reading,” Dr. Hendley said — and propelled mucus into the sinuses every time. Dr. Hendley said it was unclear whether this was harmful, but added that during sickness it could shoot viruses or bacteria into the sinuses, and possibly cause further infection.

The proper method is to blow one nostril at a time and to take decongestants, said Dr. Anil Kumar Lalwani, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the
New York University Langone Medical Center. This prevents a buildup of excess pressure.


Blowing your nose can create a buildup of excess pressure in sinus cavities.


08 February 2009

West Indian Cricket

I'm a huge cricket fan and passionate supporter of the West Indies! Since I became a cricket fan in the late 90s, this is easily the proudest moment! YES YES YES!!!

What's happened to West Indies?
Vaneisa Baksh
February 8, 2009

When coach John Dyson uttered the pre-combat words, it had struck me that he must have been trying some new approach with this West Indies team to be sounding so confident. And when Sir Viv Richards said it was time to turn things around, adding that "Either they are going to come through with John Dyson's method or we've got to go on another ride again," it seemed that something different must have been emerging under the new coach.

Yet nothing portended anything significantly different. Both England and West Indies teams seemed lacklustre as entities. One was reeling from in-house upheavals; the other relied on its captain to be in party mood and was only otherwise propped up by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a producer not quite renowned for provoking excitement.

So the first Test at Sabina Park offered no thrill, merely a window through which to observe how England was coping with its new structure, and to see how Suleiman Benn and Brendan Nash would fare. It was placid watching over the first three days. The teams seemed fairly evenly matched, and although there was no sense of top drawer cricket, it was a reasonable way to spend the days. But there was something starkly different in the West Indies approach. It seemed measured, patient and disciplined. Kevin Pietersen made 97, but then both Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan scored centuries, patient ones that lingered in the mind for the difference in application that was reinforced by Nash's stoic going. It removed the feeling of impending collapse that inevitably clouds a West Indian innings.

The bowlers were not flying all over the place. Jerome Taylor was good in the first innings, but in the second he was riveting. Bowling straight and true and always controlled, he muttered murder with every delivery, and it invoked Curtly Ambrose in a way no West Indian bowler has been able to do for a long time. He deserved the Man-of-the-Match award for his 5 for 11, but also because he has been the most consistently improving player in a team that has seemed to be languishing in amniotic fluid for too long.

Suleiman Benn had intrigued me with his unexpected combination of height and spin, and I had been keen to see him unravel it on England. When you think about it, Benn is something of an anachronism, coming at a time when West Indians have lamented the loss of big, tall quick bowlers to stock their arsenal. He is the tower on the team, but he is a spinner, and the little one, Jerome Taylor is the dread man with the fast ball. I think between them, the West Indies may have finally made a mental breakthrough in terms of arming itself. They were bowling as a pair, a quickie and a turner, not grouped in the conventional categories, and it worked. And this might be a big step in shifting the predisposition of selectors for quickies who are really throwaways with no control and opting for bowlers who can determine their deliveries. Benn has an unusual advantage with his height, one that should add to his complexity, and his success will augur well for slow bowlers waiting in the wings.

It was weird enough to see the team play in this composed manner throughout the match. Even as the bizarre England collapse was underway in the second innings and cameras were panning out to their shell shocked supporters; and chants of London Bridge is falling down filled the air, even as I wondered what they were thinking, I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the West Indies team. What were they thinking?

It was clear they were thinking throughout this match, keeping their composure, and sticking to a plan. England on the other hand, crumbled outstandingly. It was hard not to feel sorry because the truth is that Taylor was simply superb, and the batsmen were out of their depth.
At the astounding end early on Saturday afternoon, a deliriously shocked Jamaica crowd celebrated a total victory that was all the more precious because of its rarity, and a series that had seemed lacking in lustre was suddenly lit up with anticipation.


06 February 2009

Gadaffi Nkosi

Dear Readers of this Blog,

I apologize in advance for the length of this blog. If you are reading this it is because you found your way to this site somehow. If you know me at all, you will appreciate what a watershed time in my life my Howard University experience was for me. Looking back on Howard, a big part of who I am today is because of my Howard experience.

Pursuant to this, you may also know that until August of 2008, I had resided in South Africa for the previous 6.5 years. I am on the board of directors for two NGOs, both of whom help kids who are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. I personally sponsor one kid in order to help him attend better schools and procure an education that will at least give them a fighting chance in the "New" South Africa .

In the summer of 2007, The Douglass Foundation, one of the NGOs I am active with, was offered one slot for one young man to attend the Kappa Kamp held at Piney Woods School in Mississippi . We choose Gadaffi Nkosi. We choose wisely. He seized the opportunity and caught the eye of Piney Woods School ’s administration, who offered him a bursary. Whilst at Piney Woods, he has done a fantastic job and is on the honor roll. He will graduate this year and Howard University is one of his top choices. At this point, he would go just about anywhere. He plans to study international relations and then return to South Africa and enter politics. I have no doubt that whatever he decides to do, he will be successful.

However, Gadaffi has no financial sponsor. He is very willing to work his way through as I did. However, this is still far short of what is needed. I personally would love to see Gadaffi at Howard University or any school in the United States that he wants to attend. I have spoken with Gadaffi and told him that at best, barring corporate sponsorship, he could expect one year of fees. He would need to work hard, earn a Trustee Scholarship based on grades, apply for an Resident Assistant job, etc., to ensure that he continued with his education.

Below you will find two letters from the Douglas Foundation. One is from Gadaffi personally. The other is one from Victor Williams, the founder and chair of the organization. We are looking for sponsorship from corporations specifically as well as private donors. Another thought I had was that if we had a slew of people donate small amounts towards a fund for Gadaffi, then we could raise enough, or at least a very significant portion, of the amount needed to cover Gadaffi's costs for one year. Contributions can be made directly to The Douglas Foundation (bank details and Pay Pal link below) and will be tax deductible if you are a US or South African citizen. I have said on numerous occasions that my money and my kids (when I have them) will go to Howard University.

Gadaffi is an amazing young man whom I am proud to know and support. Please write me back directly, or post a comment on the blog with your email address and I will contact you, if you are interested in helping Gadaffi achieve his goals and/or know somebody else who I should contact


Richard Lee Wilkin, III

Howard University
Class of 2001

P.S. You can check out the Douglas Foundation website (though it under construction) at www.douglasfoundation.org

South African students ROCK the U.S.
Special Message from our Senior at Piney Woods!

Dear Rich,

Yes, they can! What happens when talented students -- who just happen to come from disadvantaged backgrounds -- are given a chance? We can tell you: amazing things! The South African students we placed at Piney Woods School are on the Honor Roll. Just half-way through their first year at Piney Woods, Claudia and Sidwell will serve as Pages in Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran's office. Gadaffi, a Presidential Scholar, is now sending out college applications with the hope he'll win a scholarship.

Special Message from Gadaffi Nkosi:

I am Gadaffi Manqoba Nkosi; a 17 year-old student originally from Pretoria , South Africa . I grew up in a township called Mamelodi and lived with my grandmother because my mother was unemployed. I attended school with very few resources and my grandmother paid for my school fees with the money she received for pension.

When we completed primary school, most of my friends could not afford to go to high school and as a result, dropped-out so they could go work at supermarkets and construction companies. My community was poverty-stricken and crammed with negative influences stimulated by crime. Everything around me was constantly deteriorating, but the poverty I experienced kept me determined to succeed in school and also bring up my community from the stigma that has been attached to it.

After winning an essay and oratory contest sponsored by the Douglas Foundation and Kappa Alpha Psi, I received an opportunity to attend Kappa Kamp at the Piney Woods School . My impressive performance during the camp got me a TV interview and honored as the most outstanding speaker. Following a remarkable camp, I was awarded a scholarship to attend at the Piney Woods School . I am currently a senior with a 3.5 GPA. During my stay in the United States I have achieved being classified as a presidential scholar, honor-roll student, and student ambassador. I have also attended the Morehouse College Pre-freshman Summer Program where I took three college courses and successfully graduated with straight A's. In March I will be interviewed by CNN and will also be featured in the Kappa Alpha Psi Journal.Upon my graduation, I intend on going to college where I will major in political science and international relations and pursue a career in the diplomatic field. Although I have received numerous offers from colleges in the US , I still cannot afford to enroll as a student unless I receive a scholarship or grant that will help pay for my education. I am reaching out to you because I need your help regarding to this matter. If possible, I would appreciate it if you can provide me with contact details of people, organizations, scholarship programs that help unprivileged international students, or any suggestions pertaining to raising funds for college.


Gadaffi Nkosi

Be part of the solution. We need your energy and support to make a difference in the lives of South Africa 's youth. These scholars are thoroughly vetted; some of them have been accepted by Make A Difference Foundation (MAD), a dynamic and progressive South African organization providing long-term mentoring and pledges for university scholarships. These kids have proven themselves to be stars.

Your investment funds tomorrow's leaders TODAY. Please forward this email to family and friends. Consider making it a family project to sponsor one of our kids. Together we can continue changing the world, one student at a time. Want to talk more? I encourage you to email me directly at vwilliams@thedouglasfoundation.org Thanks for making a difference!
Victor Williams, President
The Douglas Foundation

TODAY is the day you can change a life. It's easy!

President Victor Williams with students from Pretoria Secondary School 's leadership club (photo taken at the U.S. Embassy, Pretoria , South Africa ).

The Douglas Foundation consists of two partner non-profit organizations, one in the U.S. and one in South Africa, that work together toward the same goal: to provide long- and short-term educational opportunities to underprivileged South African students and to encourage youth development within communities.