port of harlem magazine

May 26 - June 8, 2011


Eritrea Celebrates 20th Independence Day

map of ertreaLike the United States and Canada, Ethiopia and Eritrea have cultural and ethnic affinities and since 1991, when Eritrea won it’s independence from Ethiopia, they have been separate nations. The Organization of Eritrean Americans celebrated their independence in Washington Tuesday with a conference, “The Quest for Peace in the Horn of Africa.”

Three panelists who shared the stage generally agreed that there could be no peace in the horn of Africa until Ethiopia and Eritrea settle their border dispute which is rooted in colonialism. The dispute, says panelist Dr. Ghidewon Abay Asmeroon of Virginia Commonwealth University, is the “big elephant in the room.”

Eritrea, according to the panelists, is the only one of 53 African countries whose borders the world powers did not recognize and the colonial period ended. Instead, the world powers, including the United States, “gave” Eritrea to Ethiopia. Guided the U.S.’s focus on pleasing Ethiopia, “the U.S. blocked Eritrea’s independence,” added Dr, Asgede Hagos of Historically Black Delaware State University. “The U.S. should not put all its eggs in one basket,” he continued.

While celebrating its independence, most of the more than 75 people in attendance shied away from speaking evil of Ethiopia and her success of never being colonized by Europeans, which Black nationalists often praise. However, Dr. Berhe Habtegiogis of Rowan University, who fled his homeland 30 years ago as an Eritrean nationalist added, “Eritrea was fodder for that success.”

More on Eritrea in Port of Harlem


port of harlem gambian education partnership

Governor O’Malley Expected to Sign Lifers Parole Bill

Mivy and tyroneMaryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced that he will not veto the “lifers bill,” which will allow the Maryland Parole Commission to make decisions to release lifers. "We have been waiting and praying every step of the way since the bill was first in the House, then in the Senate, and now at the governor’s desk," wrote Ivy Alston, girlfriend to Port of Harlem contributor Tyrone “Ty” Michael Colbert, who is a “lifer,”or whom the courts have sentenced to life imprisonment or more.

The way it will work is that the Parole Board will recommend a lifer for release and if the governor doesn’t disapprove in 180 days the person will be released. Under current law, no lifer may leave prison without the governor's signature. “The Parole Commission already has it in Ty’s file that he has done well and has never had one violation," continued Alston.

According to O’Malley’s press secretary, “The General Assembly has a role in this process as well and if they feel that a time limit will help improve the process, then the governor can be supportive of that.”

Tiffany Alston (D-Prince Georges) agreed with the change. “People who are given life sentences with the possibility of parole deserve for that possibility to be a reality,” Susan Ausuman (R-Timonium) disagrees, “This decreases accountability by the Governor for public safety. If the Governor does not have time to review the submission by the Parole Review Board, the criminal will be paroled. We are talking about murderers and rapists. Getting tough on crime is diluted with this bill.   We need to stand for justice for the victims and their families.” In the United States, about 48 percent of lifers are Black, 33 percent are White, and 14 percent are Hispanic.

Note: Alston met Colbert after reading Port of Harlem and contacting him. Read their full story in the Nov 2009 to Apr 2010issue of Port of Harlem.

Pictured: Port of Harlem reader Ivy Alston with boyfriend and Port of Harlem contributor T. Michael Colbert.

Movie Review:
The Lena Baker Story

ida jones
The Lena Baker Story
Barnhotlz Entertainment/Lionsgate Entertainment
(DVD, $26.98)

“What I done, I done in self-defense, or I would have been killed myself,” pleaded Lena Baker before her public execution by electric chair in 1945. The just released Lena Baker Story is a cinematic interpretation of the life and death of the only woman ever executed by the electric chair in Georgia.

Baker was born in the Cotton Hill community of Cuthbert, Georgia in 1900 to a God-fearing single mother. Baker and her mother worked the cotton fields of various plantation owners and sought to keep their lives under the radar of Whites who responded with violence to “uppity Negro” behavior.

In her 20s, Baker worked in a “cat-house” as a prostitute catering to White and Blacks. During this period of her life, she encounters a White, middle-aged fictitiously named Elliot Arthur whose anger fueled by binge drinking, loneliness and entitlement initiate a troubling and violent relationship between Baker and himself. In real life, Elliot Arthur was Ernest B. Knight, a gristmill owner. The torrid affair included kidnaping, beatings, imprisonment and rapes. After murdering her rapist, the “justice” system sentenced her to the electric chair while Baker was resolute about acting in self-defense.

Still, Baker speaks from beyond the grave through her descendants who advocated for her pardon. Baker was posthumously pardoned in 2005. Overall, The Lena Barker Story is a provocative film, released on DVD in January, that answers some questions and creates others about the woman Lena Baker as well as countless other Black women steeped in southern poverty during the first half of the twentieth century.

Baker, played by Tichina Arnold of Everybody Hates Chris, and her mother, Ms. Baker, played by Beverly Todd of Roots, gives depth to racialized gender discrimination.


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Port of Harlem Resumes Scholarships for Port of Harlem Gambian Education Partnership

wayne young with binta jallow in nema kunku, the gambiaAfter focusing on helping the Nema Kunku community restructure the neighborhood’s nursery school, Port of Harlem is preparing to once again seek scholarship donations for its students. The scholarships per student will now be only $25 for one full year of schooling versus $149 for a four-year scholarship.

The effort to restructure the school started when the former headmaster begin asserting that the school was his personal possession and not that of the community. The founders of the school and the school’s major benefactor, Gambia Link, asserted the school was for the community. Port of Harlem, with Gambia Link’s financial support, organized the case through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in The Gambia. ADR settled the case in the community’s favor. The school now has a new headmaster and a community board running the school.

The Port of Harlem Gambian Education Partnership hopes to resume the scholarship program later this year.

Things to Do

In the Blood
by Suzan-Lori Parks
Mead Theatre Lab @ Flashpoint
916 G Street NW

Washington, DC 20001
through June 11, 2011 - Thursdays through Saturdays at 8p & Sundays at 2p
Tickets are $20 general admission
$15 students & senior citizens

Tony Browder
discusses and signs his latest book:
Finding Karakhamun

Saturday, May 28, 4p
Sankofa Bookstore
2714 Georgia Avenue
Washington, D.C.

6th Annual Ultra White Party
Africa-International Music | DJ YVECO
Sunday, May 29, 9p
1350 Okie Street, NE
Washington, DC
$20 -$40

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Theo Hodge, Jr. M.D.

Former Georgia Representative Questions American Libyan Policy

"I want to say categorically and very clearly that

these policies of war ... are not what the people

of the United States stand for and it's not what

African-Americans stand for," Cynthia McKinney told

Libya State TV.

cynthia mckinney


Coalition Gearing Up For
US Budget Fight

A coalition of 117 U.S. national civil rights and civic organizations have sent a letter to U.S. senators establishing five principles for ensuring that the Fiscal Year 2012 budget and debt limit deals address the nation’s debt with what the coalition believes is a fair, equitable, and responsible manner.

The letter lays out five principles that the coalition urges the Senate to follow as budget negotiations unfold:

  • Congress must reject global federal spending caps or entitlement caps
  • Any deficit reduction agreement, as well as any budget enforcement mechanism, must rely at least as much on revenue increases as on spending cuts
  • The burden of deficit reduction must not be borne by low- and moderate-income individuals
  • Congress must reject any effort to impose a Constitutional balanced budget amendment
  • Congress must protect investments that are vital to our nation’s economic advancement
The coalition includes a broad range of interests including the National Association for Colored People, National Organization for Women, Central Conference of American Rabbis, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Congress of American Indians, and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.

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