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Respecting Zimbabwe, Aretha Franklin

Obi Egbuna Jnr Simunye
The African world is 48 hours removed from our Queen of Soul, Sister Aretha Franklin’s tribute at the end of Black Girls Rock 2018, and nearly three weeks removed from her sendoff on Friday August 31 2018.

Our Sister Queen’s home-going was a nine-hour event that brought together some of our most high-profile frontline organisers, social critics, entertainers, luminaries, including many of our people’s white liberal-minded couple, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Without over-indulging in the sensational accounts of this gathering, this analysis was written for the benefit of our children, who prior to her transition to the ancestors knew very little about Sister Queen Aretha’s cultural impact on and off the stage.

We start by evoking the name of our dear brother, the blues iconic broadcaster and concert promoter Pervis Spann, who at the Regal Theatre over 50 years ago dubbed Sister Aretha the Queen of Soul.

This humbling and selfless act by brother Spann further confirms regardless of our geographical disconnect from Mother Africa, and the amputated narrative that our former colonisers and physical captors use classrooms at all levels of education to force down our throats, the matrilineal approach to life and culture that anthropologist Chiekh Anti Diop taught us about is what we are truly most comfortable expressing and celebrating. When Brother Spann bestowed this title on Sister Aretha, he was in the exact frame of mind that drove ours to use the name Moses when referring to Queen Mother Araminta Ross/Harriet Tubman on the underground railroad.

For the record, Sister Aretha’s title of distinction is in no way glorifying feudalism, during Mother Africa’s antiquity, where as Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah correctly points out in his book “Consciencism”, is where monopoly capitalism finds its treacherous and inhumane roots.

This dynamic was everyday Africans first introduction to ruthless exploitation, long before any interaction with Arab or European invaders, with an insatiable lust in their hearts for our human and material resources.

Sister Aretha was and is affectionately called a Queen in the tradition of the Garveyite and historical figure Queen Mother Audley Moore, a co-founder of the provisional government of the republic of New Afrika, who also founded the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women and the Committee for Reparations for Descendants of US Slaves.

Let us not forget in March of 1969 the PGRNA’s armed stand-off with Detroit police occurred at the New Bethel Baptist Church that was led by Sister Aretha’s father, Reverend C. L. Franklin, who in addition to his capacity as a pastor of this robust church, was active in the NAACP, the National Urban League and served on SCLC’s executive board and chaired Detroit’s Council on Human Rights.

At the height of Dr King’s prominence, Reverend Franklin organised a March Towards Freedom down Woodward Avenue in Detroit in June of 1963, two months before the historic March on Washington for jobs and freedom in August of 1963.

Once we learn about Reverend Franklin’s commitment to the social gospel and liberation theology, it should come as no surprise, why Sister Aretha expressed these sentiments about why Sister Angela Davis did not belong in prison.

“Angela Davis must go free. Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up for disturbing the peace and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is a hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a black woman and wants freedom for black people.”

That type of make -up and character confirms Sister Aretha’s soul extended far beyond the stage, recording studio or sitting behind an organ or piano. We are speaking of her absolute comfort with the African fighting spirit.

Whenever the mighty people of Zimbabwe heard Sister Aretha sing “you make me feel like a natural woman”, it has to conjure up the images of our sisters who were at the forefront of the First, Second and Third Chimurenga.

Those who reject the bogus notion being propagated by opportunists intellectually out of their league, that the struggle for pan-Africanism is dead, clearly understand that Aretha’s melodic voice conjures up the images of Mbuya Nehanda , Amai Sally Mugabe, Amai Julia Zvobgo, Mafuyana Joanna Nkomo, Amai Sabina Mugabe who are national heroines appropriately buried on Zimbabwe National Heroes’ Acre.

When Sister Aretha sang about a “chain of fools” one thinks those amongst us who felt deprived because former US president Barack Obama decided to skip her home going celebration. At the root of their disappointment was the fact that former president Obama attended the funeral of late US senator and his opponent in the 2008 presidential elections John McCain.

As the bitter truth unfolded it was revealed that later Senator McCain requested that former president Obama speak at his wedding, if honesty and transparency is the order of the day, former president Obama is more ideologically compatible with Senator McCain than he could ever be with Sister Aretha.

Immediately after the Obama administration in conjunction with the racist white supremacist NATO Alliance cowardly bombed the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahariyah, which claimed the life of our beloved brother Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, one of the first congratulatory messages came from Senator McCain.

Our sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe can tell you for the eight years former president Obama occupied the colonialist and imperialist castle located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he used his pen to extend the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA) like clockwork.

Before defeating Senator McCain in 2008 president Obama while still a junior senator representing the State of Illinois, wrote former president Bush a letter in 2007, pleading with him to maintain US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe, until the dark cloud of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was lifted once and for all. During this same period the late Senator McCain oversaw the right-wing fascist think tank, the International Republican Institute, whose main focus in Mother Africa was an illegal racist regime change in Zimbabwe. For the purpose of showing the US imperialism’s regime change agenda in Zimbabwe is truly non-partisan, it was agonising to watch the Clinton’s bathing in adulation at Sister Aretha’s funeral, knowing that Mrs Clinton was a co-sponsor of ZDERA.

When every ounce of political vitriol that is currently being aimed at the Trump administration, coming from US-based Africans, that is clearly being orchestrated by the Democratic machine better known as the Civil Rights Movement, another important point is our most celebrated entertainers and athletes have always taken a non-partisan approach to both visiting and receiving recognition from the White House.

Shortly after Sister Aretha’s passing, during a television appearance on MSNBC right on cue National Action Network leader Reverend Al Sharpton could not resist using that platform to share how while doing her make-up while performing at the White House in 2015 shouting to him “Reverend it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Since Reverend Sharpton is only two years removed from having backdoor White House access from 2010 to 2016, which is the crowning achievement for a Civil Rights spokesperson’s political career, one could argue that Reverend’s Sharpton’s loyalty to the Democratic Party is even stronger than his Christian faith.

This clearly explains why no one expected him to highlight the image of Sister Aretha at the White House in 2005 receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, shedding tears while sandwiched between the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan and the British poet and writer Robert Conquest, who defected from the Communist Party of Great Britain and joined the British Foreign Office’s Information Research Department whose main focus was to as they put is collect and summarise reliable information about Soviet and Communist misdoings.

Another intriguing aspect of Sister Aretha’s background was her under the table support for indigenous people’s struggles and rights worldwide and other movements that supported native American and First Nation Cultural Rights.

This demonstrates that Sister Aretha while registered as a Democrat, clearly understood that all indigenous people deserved to control every inch of land that inherently belongs to them, it is a tragedy that she never received the opportunity to travel to Zimbabwe and sing her rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, followed by a call on Africans everywhere to support Zimbabwe’s land reclamation programme and an immediate lifting of US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Perhaps like so many of us who are gun-shy about embracing and defending Zimbabwe, Sister Aretha was confused after watching the isolationist policy of US imperialism against our kith and kin in Zimbabwe, being embraced by former US president Barack Obama and 95 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus. It was laughable watching CBC member Congresswoman Maxine Waters flash the Wakanda symbol at Sister Aretha’s homegoing celebration, while right here on earth she has consistently worked for Zimbabwe’s demise.

When Sister Aretha sang “Until You Come Back to Me” on a strategic level, this title can be used to reaffirm our commitment to fighting harder than ever before, to fundamentally change US policy on Africa. Ironically, this song was written by Morris Broadnax, Clarence Paul and none other than the world renowned musical genius Brother Stevie Wonder.

Zimbabwe is ever so grateful to Brother Stevie who on his song “Master Blaster” in the third verse sang “

Peace has come to Zimbabwe

Third World’s Right On The One

Now’s the time for celebration

‘Cause we’ve only just begun

It was right around this period that we learned that the war criminal and chameleon former US president Ronald Reagan was on a quest to sabotage the Lancaster House negotiations, which guaranteed a return of the land to indigenous Zimbabweans, which Reagan’s predecessor, former US president Jimmy Carter ,along with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher agreed to in principle.

Until a global movement with no compromise pressures US imperialism – meaning both Democrats and Republicans – Brother Stevie’s genuine words and Sister Aretha’s position on indigenous people’s rights won’t bear fruit until these genocidal sanctions are lifted once and for all. Long live Aretha! Long live Zimbabwe!

Source :

The Herald

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