News

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Internationalism: MLK On Ghana, South Africa, Vietnam & Global Revolution

From African anti-colonial movements to the fight against Apartheid, MLK's thoughts on these struggles were a long way from the American mainstream


It's become a common complaint, that the corporatized version of Dr. King—of Google doodles and Coke ads—the man dreaming of racial harmony and nonviolence, largely misses the point of his life's work. King defanged. For MLK Day 2016, we wanted to go beyond the caricature to find the man beneath.

Some of Dr. King's most memorable sermons and writings are where he deftly connects the struggle for freedom at home with struggles for freedom abroad. From African anti-colonial movements to the War in Vietnam and the fight against South African Apartheid, King's thoughts on these struggles were, and continue to be, a long way from the American mainstream.

Even a quick look through King's archives brings to life a thinker whose wealth of historical knowledge, his Christian faith and the African American experience merge into a radical worldview that feels as relevant today as it did in the 1960s. We've put together some of our favorite internationalist moments and quotes from King's archives.

King in Ghana

King's account of the Ghanaian independence ceremonies notes the humble prison uniforms which the father of Ghanaian nationhood and his ministers wore while administering the independence ceremony. Nkrumah's prison cap and coat, for King, is a reminder and symbol not just of Nkrumah's struggle for Ghanaian independence but of the need for struggle everywhere. In a 1957 sermon to his congregation at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church King relates the meaning of this symbolism back to the fight for civil rights in America:

Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first, that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it. And if Nkrumah and the people of the Gold Coast had not stood up persistently, revolting against the system, it would still be a colony of the British Empire. Freedom is never given to anybody. For the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.
Source: The King Center

Against South African Apartheid

King was also a vociferous opponent of South African apartheid which he called “a medieval form of segregation organized with 20th century efficiency and drive." At an address to Hunter College in 1965, Dr. King called for an end to economic relations the White supremacist regime.

Africa has been depicted for more than a century as the home of black cannibals and ignorant primitives. Despite volumes of facts contravening this picture the stereotype persists in books, motion pictures, and other media communication. Africa does have spectacular savages and brutes to-day, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa who profess to be cultured, religious and civilized but whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern day barbarians.
Source: The King Center

Vietnam as Neo-Colonial Adventuring

King saw the Vietnam War as a colonial project and a violation of human rights. From an address to the Nation Institute in Los Angeles, California February 25, 1967:

The second casualty of the war in Vietnam is the principle of self-determination. By entering a war that is little more than a domestic civil war, America has ended up supporting a new form of colonialism covered up by certain niceties of complexity. Whether we realise it or not our participation in the war in Vietnam is an ominous expression of our lack of sympathy for the oppressed, our paranoid anti-communism, our failure to feel the ache and anguish of the have-nots. It reveals our willingness to continue participating in neo-colonialist adventures.
Source: The King Center

Social Justice at Home as Part of a Human-Centered Global Revolution

From "Beyond Vietnam," an address, given at New York City's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967,

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Source: The King Center
popular
(From left to right) Stéphane Bak and Marc Zinga in 'The Mercy of the Jungle.' Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Congolese Actor Stéphane Bak on His Intense Experience Shooting 'The Mercy of the Jungle' In Uganda

We catch up with the actor after the film made its North American premiere at TIFF.

When actor Stéphane Bak first got the script for The Mercy of the Jungle (La Miséricorde de la Jungle), he knew there was one person he had to consult: his father. "My dad did school me about this," he says. While Bak was born and raised in France, his parents had emigrated from what was then Zaire in the 1980s—before the events of the movie, and not exactly in the same area, but close enough to be able to pass on firsthand knowledge of the simmering ethnic tensions that underpin the action.

The story takes place in 1998, just after the outbreak of the Second Congo War—which came hot on the heels of the First Congo War. Two Rwandan soldiers find themselves separated from their company and have to make a harrowing trek through the jungle to link back up with their regiment. Bak plays Private Faustin, the young recruit hunting Hutu rebels to avenge his murdered family, a foil to Marc Zinga's seasoned Sergeant Xavier. As a Congolese militia swarms the area, and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell enemies from friends, the two are forced off the road and into the thick vegetation.

Their journey is physically difficult, but the jungle also nurtures them, providing food, water, and shelter. "The title is very explicit in a way," says Bak. It is the human beings they encounter, from rival soldiers and militiamen to the hostile security forces guarding illegal gold mining operations, who bring sudden danger and violence. The challenges are conveyed as much through the actors' physicality as through the minimal dialogue. As for the strain on his face, Bak says it was all real. "To be honest, it was very difficult," he says of the shoot, which took him 25 days. "I had to learn my accent in two weeks." Prior to commencing, there was training with the Ugandan army for realism. Due to the ongoing conflicts in the DRC, the movie itself was shot in Uganda.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Brazil Has Made Yoruba an Official Language

The language will also be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum in the country, says the Minister of Culture.

Yoruba history and culture has an undeniably strong presence in Brazilian society, due of course, to the Transatlantic slave trade which brought millions of enslaved West Africans to the Americas. Despite the inhumanity they faced, many managed to keep their ancestral culture and traditions alive.

Centuries have passed, and Yoruba influences still continue to thrive in various regions of the country, as many Brazilians maintain a strong relationship with the language and religion. Its influence can be seen through the music, food and spiritual practices of various communities. Last month the Ooni of Ife—the spiritual leader of the Yoruba people—visited the country, where he was met by crowds of Black Brazilians who turned up to pay their respects.

This connection will likely remain strong for future generations, as the language has now become an official foreign language in the country.

WATCH: How Ilê Aiyê Brought Blackness Back to Carnival

Brazil's Minister of Culture, Dr. Sérgio Sá Leitão, has said that the language will now be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum, reports the Nigerian Voice.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

This EP Blends the Afro-Brazilian Rhythms of Bahia With Bass Music

Get into Telefunksoul and Felipe Pomar's Ré_Con Ba$$ EP.

Brazilian producers Felipe Pomar (of TrapFunk & Alivio) and Telefunksoul come through with a dizzyingly energetic EP in the form of Ré_Con Ba$$.

Telefunksoul, who happens to be one of the main promoters of Bahia Bass music, came up with the concept of exploring the rhythms coming out of Recôncavo of Bahia and showing how they can fit into bass music.

Through the 7-track Ré_Con Ba$$ EP, him and Pomar mold and transform the diverse music of Bahia, fusing its rhythms with afrobeat, future house, deep house and much more.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.