Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Word is My Bond

All bonds are built on trust. Without it, you have nothing.

The phrase "My word is my bond," can be found in Shakespeare's works, Greek literature, and has been the motto of the London Stock Exchange, stretching back to the year 1500.

Of course many of us were introduced to a variation of this phrase:
Word is Bond from black culture and one of its creations -- hip hop.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Film Review: Stolen (WORLD Channel Debut)

Editor's note: The broadcast of Stolen was initially scheduled for Feb. 5, but was pushed back to Feb. 26 because lobbyists on behalf of the Algerian government and the Polisario Liberation Front tried to stop the showing of the film on World Channel, according to Violeta Ayala, one of Stolen's directors. 

by Alicia Benjamin

“Why isn’t somebody doing something about this?” This is the question you’ll ask yourself as you watch this film about modern day slavery in Western Sahara.

Let’s come back to that.

When directors Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw started shooting Stolen, a documentary about people reuniting with their families in the Saharawi refugee camps in Western Sahara, they were dumbfounded to discover modern day slavery practices in the region.

While filming the story of Fetim Sellami’s reunion with her mother Embarka, who Fetim hadn’t seen in 30 years, the directors discovered that Fetim and thousands of other black residents of the refugee camps, controlled by the Polisario Liberation Front, were serving as slaves to some of the white Arab camp residents.

During the year of filming, Ayala and Fallshaw noticed that Fetim’s relationship with Deido, the woman she and her children referred to as their “white grandmother,” was subservient. “We noticed Fetim was doing the domestic work for both her's and Deido's house,” Ayala said.

The story that unfolds is a long history of black Africans working as slaves for white Arabs in Western Sahara. The revelation of the intricacies of the kidnapping, selling, lies, and deception seems to warm up on the screen like a slow simmering pot of stew.  Along with the directors, we slowly see the story of one group of people dominating and controlling another. Of course in 2009, when the film was shot, this seems implausible and unbelievable, if it were not for the actual people working as slaves telling their own stories.

What’s also disconcerting about this tale, is that it is told against the backdrop of the beautiful Western Sahara desert. The silhouettes and colors of the desert and the elegant people don’t seem to mesh with the sordid tale of modern day slavery that neither the United Nations, Polisario Liberation Front, nor the other affected countries, want to admit is happening.

What’s noteworthy about Stolen is the subtle concealment of the injustice that apparently still exists today in parts of Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Mali, and Senegal. No organization or country wants to take a stand and intervene in the mess, which a UN representative refers to only as “a cultural issue that is existing.” (Whatever that means.)

Fetim’s friends and relatives also discuss another ugly aspect of this slavery practice – the male slave owners use the female slaves in any way they want. We learn that Embarka was a slave to Deido’s father, who forced Embarka into a sexual relationship and as a result, Embarka had a child by this man.

Some of the black Africans featured in the film use stark language to describe some of the atrocities that occur in this oppressive system: “When a white man wants a black woman, he doesn’t marry her. No! When he wants her, he f---s her,” says one of Fetim’s friends.

When Deido’s father died, Embarka’s daughter Fetim was forced to work as a slave for Deido, who took Fetim to live in the Western Sahara refugee camps. Now Fetim’s children are looking at a life of servitude, unless someone can stop the vicious cycle.

One of Fetim’s cousins makes one of the most profound statements in the film when he says, “Slavery man-to-man is the saddest thing in the world and it still exists here!”

Sadly, it seems that Fetim is helpless and has no context in which to put her story. As Ayala looks at Fetim with compassion, she is visibly taken aback by Fetim’s question, “In America, aren’t there slave families?” Fetim has been so repressed that she literally does not know what time it is.

At the end of the film, Fetim’s daughter writes a message in the beautiful warm and golden sun-bathed desert sand: “We want freedom and peace.” Surely, that’s not too much to ask.

And so again, why isn’t somebody doing something about this?

Stolen has been presented at 60 festivals worldwide, and has won 12 awards, including  Best Feature Documentary Prize at the 2010 Pan African Film and Arts Festival in Los Angeles and will be televised on the WORLD Channel's AfroPop series, Tuesday, Feb. 26. World Channel programming is produced and distributed by PBS affiliates in Boston and New York.

Violeta Ayala, one of the directors of Stolen
Read about how the directors had to hide their tapes and flee the refugee camps because of threats to their lives and the preservation of their footage. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jamaica Kincaid: See Now Then

Jamaica Kincaid is featured in the “10 Questions” section of Time magazine’s February 4 issue and I must say, I’m motivated to read more of her work. Evidently she has a new book out called See Now Then about a Caribbean writer who lives with her composer husband and their two children.

Although the description of the main character and her circumstances seem to parallel Kincaid’s life, she says the book isn’t about her.

In the interview, and apparently in her book, she talks about love, hatred, marriage, the concept of “dead” marriages, and a bit of her views on race and power.

Here are three of the Q&A excerpts that I find most intriguing:

Interviewer: What do you mean when you write that one form of love is hatred?
When you find someone you hate a lot, you should really look at it. It’s bending toward that thing called love. When you find someone you love intensely, you should watch it. It’s getting closer to its opposite.

There’s less in this book about slavery and race than in some of your prior work. Are you still interested in those subjects?
Race is not particularly interesting to me. Power is……

So it’s not interesting to you that the most powerful man in America is black?
Not really. But here’s an interesting thing. As I say, race is not important to me. The first time I saw Barack Obama, he gave a wonderful speech. But what made me really like him is that his wife came out and she was darker than he is. It’s so rare to see a black man married to a woman who is darker than he is.

And check this out! I didn’t know that Time has video footage of these interviews!

Watch Jamaica Kincaid answer Belinda Luscombe's 10 questions

Monday, January 28, 2013

Watching God or Push

It's that time when Gigi is going through my book shelves to see what books she can read. Of course she picked "Precious" (originally called "Push"), and that's a no no.  I haven't even read "Precious." After the first few pages of Sapphire's novel, I had to put it down. I haven't seen the movie yet either. I can't bring myself to watch the horror.

I pulled out some books that I'm giving her permission to read, including "Mama Day" and "There Eyes Were Watching God."

Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. -- Their Eyes Were Watching God

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Amy Winehouse: Made You Look


It's too bad I didn't pay much attention to Amy Winehouse until after she died. I had heard bits of her singing and recognized that she was a uniquely talented musician, but I've only recently really listened to her vocals. I have to say, I'm quite taken with her music and the quality of her voice. You can hear the jazz, soul, hip hop and so much more in her music. When I think of the phrase, "Gone too soon," I definitely think of Amy Winehouse.

Here's her song "In My Bed," from her CD titled Frank. Don't think you're crazy if you start thinking of Nas and his song "Made You Look." He used this same sample from the Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" in the same way, and both songs have the same producer -- Salaam Remi. I gotta say -- Salaam did both Amy and Nas justice with his take on this rhythmic ride.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Senegalese Style

When I wear head wraps, this is exactly how I wear mine and have been doing so for many many years. This lady is from Senegal.

Who says there's no such thing as ancestral memory? 

Senegalese woman and children

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Natural Hair in Brazil

This gives a whole new meaning to the term "natural" hair. I love it!

Natural Hair in Brazil

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Django Unchained: Q. Tarantino Speaks

Check out this excerpt of the NPR interview Quentin Tarantino gave with Terry Gross on Fresh Air.  He talks about his film Django Unchained. This section deals with the way directors usually present films about history and how he felt his approach was much more real and of course, exciting. Here it is from the horse’s mouth — which is always a good way to try to discern what’s on somebody’s mind.

I enjoyed the film thoroughly — what about you?

GROSS: Is it a coincidence, is it any coincidence that after taking on World War II and the Nazis in "Inglourious Basterds," you set your new movie in the time of American slavery? So you've taken two absolutely horrible chapters in history whereas, you know, your other films are contemporary; you know, set it contemporary times. So what made you want to take on just like, two just abhorrent chapters of history?

TARANTINO: Because I actually thought they would be really good stories. I've had both stories in my head for a while. It just took them a while to sit in the incubator until they were ready. And "Inglourious Basterds" popped out first, and then it really set the stage for "Django." But I like the idea of telling these stories and taking stories that oftentimes, if played out in the way that they're normally played out, just end up becoming soul-deadening because you're just watching victimization all the time. And now, you get a chance to put a spin on it and actually take a slave character, give him an heroic journey, make him heroic, make him give his payback, and actually show this epic journey; and give it the kind of folkloric tale that it deserves, the kind of, you know, grand opera stage it deserves.

GROSS: So there's a lot of violence in your movie. Slaves are being whipped and tortured, slaves forced to fight to the death like gladiators, lots of shooting and splatter. So what are your - how do I put this exactly? What are your limits for, like - what's your sensibility for how much splatter, how much violence, how much sadism feels like right, like it's part of the genre, like there's a certain, like, style to it that you're trying to express? And what's going to the point of, like, past where you want to go, to the point of, like, revulsion and exploitation to, you know, to a degree that's just - I don't want to use the word immoral but just, you know, bad?

TARANTINO: Well frankly, I mean, you know, what happened during slavery times is a thousand times worse than I show. So if I were to show it a thousand times worse, to me that wouldn't be exploitative; that would just be how it is. If you can't take it, you can't take it.
Now I didn't want - I wasn't trying to do a "Schindler's List" you-are-there-under-the-barbed-wire-of-Auschwitz kind of movie. I wanted the film to be more entertaining than that. Like I said, I wanted it to be an exciting adventure movie.

But there's two types of violences in this film: There's the brutal reality of the violence that slaves lived under, under the slavery laws, 245 years. And then there's the violence of Django's retribution. And that's movie violence, and that's fun, and that's cool, and that's really enjoyable. It's kind of what you're waiting for.

Quentin Tarantino Talks about Django Unchained on Fresh Air -- Listen to the entire interview.

Georgia Anne Muldrow: Drawing Roses

I know a poet when I hear one. Here's a great one, Georgia Anne Muldrow, singing her song "Roses."

When I'm down,
I just draw some roses
On a pretty piece of paper
With my red Stabilo pencil
Halfway through,
I feel so much better
I imagine happiness,
and it runs right to me,
such amazing beauty

Please also check out the music video for "Roses" that features those playground scenes that we all (well, some of us) remember from childhood.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Roots: A Piece of Light

Here's my inspiration for at least a week:

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Film: Modern Day Slavery in Western Sahara

Two Australian filmmakers set out to tell the stories of people reuniting with their families in Saharawi (Western Sahara) refugee camps in 2006, and stumbled upon, what is evidently modern day slavery practices in the region. The end result of what they’ve found is captured in the documentary Stolen, a film about people in this region who are forced to serve as modern day slaves.

While following the story of Fetim Sellami’s reunion with her mother Embarka, who Fetim hasn’t seen in 30 years, filmmakers Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw discovered that Fetim, a black African refugee who was living in Western Sahara, was actually taken from her mother to live several hours away in another part of Western Sahara. Deido, a white Arab refugee woman who took Fetim, says Embarka actually gave Fetim to her. This is just one of the discrepancies that the filmmakers found. Ayala and Fallshaw began to see that Fetim was actually doing all the cooking, cleaning, and childcare in Deido’s household. The filmmakers then discovered that Fetim was not the only black person being forced to do this kind of work for no pay.

The filmmakers heard from other black Saharawis who speak out against being slaves. The black refugees are taken away from their parents, the filmmakers say. Many of them are beaten by "white-Arab" masters, the women must succumb to sexual demands by the “masters,” their names are changed, and they can’t marry without the master’s permission, the filmmakers say.

At Odds with the Polisario Liberation Front

The organization that controls the refugee camps, the Polisario Liberation Front, disputes these claims that modern day slaves are held in the refugee camps. Morocco’s takeover of Western Sahara in the late 1970s forced people from that region to flee to the deserts, where they continue to live in refugee camps run by the Polisario.

The Polisario Liberation Front has campaigned against the film in Sweden and Australia, Fallshaw said. They say the film is a fraud – that Fetim is not a slave and that the filmmakers have twisted the story. The PLF have taken the filmmakers to court, tried to stop festival screenings, and have tried to discredit the filmmakers to media outlets around the world.

“From the moment the Polisario authorities realized we were filming material they didn't like, they tried to stop us,” the filmmakers state on “They detained us and demanded we hand over our tapes; but luckily we'd already hidden them, hoping someone could smuggle them out later.”

According to Fallshaw, the PLF paid for Fetim to travel to Sydney, Australia to call the film a sham. Although Fetim doesn’t say that she is a slave, the evidence that the filmmakers have found strongly suggests that she is one. “Stolen doesn't say Fetim is a slave,” Fallshaw told Cappuccino Soul. “Only Fetim can answer that question. Other people in the film refer to themselves and the black people in the camps as slaves. To stand up and say, 'I'm a slave' takes an awful lot of courage,” he said.

Fetim’s Story

While filming Stolen, Fallshaw told Cappuccino Soul that he and Ayala discovered that Fetim’s mother, Embarka, was purchased in a slave market in Mauritania when she was a small girl by Deido's father and he took her back to Laayoune to serve his family. Embarka was born into slavery and doesn't remember her mother or where she is from, he said. Deido is the woman Fetim lives with today and the woman who took her to the refugee camps.

Fetim was born in Laayoune Western Sahara. “When she was 3 or 4 years old she went to live with Deido in another city several hours away in Western Sahara,” Fallshaw said. “Deido says Fetim was given to her by Embarka -- Embarka says Deido took her.”

“We suspect Embarka had children by Deido's father, his brothers and sons,” Fallshaw said. “The children of slaves are automatically slaves unless the master frees them. In the refugee camps slavery officially doesn't exist. But the reality is different. All of the black people in the camps have a history of slavery in their families.”

Fetim and her people deserve to be treated as free and equal in dignity and rights as all people. Hopefully, Stolen will focus much needed attention on the modern day slavery practice happening in refugee camps in Western Sahara and the other hellish places in the world that treat humans inhumanely.

Stolen has been presented at 60 festivals worldwide, has won 12 awards and will be televised on the World Channel, Tuesday, Feb. 5. World Channel programming is produced and distributed by PBS affiliates in Boston and New York.

Watch the trailer for Stolen here:

Friday, January 04, 2013

Proverbs 21:2: Every Man's Way

Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.