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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Abeng Interviews Clairmont Mali Chung from Roots Culture Media (Part 1)

Greetings. This is an exclusive Abeng interview with the CEO of Roots and Culture Media, Clairomont Mali Chung, who is a film maker, which is only one of his creative talents. Roots and Culture Media is the producer of the documentary Walter Anthony Rodney Stories (or W.A.R. Stories). This is Part 1 of  2

Kaya @TheAbeng +The Abeng World-wide: Bro. Clairmont, how you doing, Man?
Clairmont Mali Chung: I'm doing good, Kaya. How are you doing?

@TheAbeng: Beautiful, Man, Beautiful. Its good to talk to you. It's good to finally have you here with The Abeng. Been a long time in planning. Could you first tell the readers whats the concept behind Roots and Culture Media?
CMC: Well, it started out really as a gallery that had began in Guyana by a group of artists back in the early Eighties. And ah, many of them had migrated and the group that had sort of loosely arranged and I suggested that we have an extension of it in North America. And...when I set all of that up I realized that the medium, we needed more access to a wider range of audience, And so, I began to think of producing other kinds of media and writing also.
So Roots and Culture Media is really an attempt, then, to consolidate all aspects of the arts and provide a forum that people can express themselves.

@TheAbeng: Can you tell us who some of those artists were?
CMC: Well you have people like Dudley Charles, people like Gary Thomas; one of the benefactors was Camo Williams- a pan player; Omowale, Lumumba, and bout four or five others... Winston Strick was an important figure in that, Ras Ita, but those were the core of it.

@TheAbeng: How did you get into film making?
CMC: Well it, its not exactly clear, its more by default 'cause I'm not really trained. I did do a course in college on film and another course on television. And then many, many years later, almost twenty years later, I had helped produce a local TV program for the public channels. And I realized the power of it, or it reinforced the power of the media; and then I decided to do the Rodney project which had been languishing for thirty years and no one seemed to either be inclined to do it and so I decided that would be one of my first.

"Money can't save us..." ~ Clairmont Mali Chung

#TheAbeng: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced?
CMC: I think most people you ask that question to, including myself, people would say the money...right... 'cause the money answers a lot of questions. But at the same time, if money is the thing keeping you back, then you'll never get it done, because you'll never get the money; you'll never have enough, even if you get money. So, yes the biggest problem is the money, but if the money is gonna stop you then perhaps this is not the thing for you.
Artists on the whole, and I don't really consider myself an artist even though, you know, I'm in the arts, they don't produce work because of the money, they produce because they have to, and they can't exist any other way...
@TheAbeng: They have to get their voice out.
CMC:..Right, they have to produce or they'd just wither and die. And so, right, ordinary people are concerned with money, people who are serious are not concerned with money.

@TheAbeng: That's a very true statement, Man, that's a very true statement, especially for us writers...
CMC: Money can't save us is the final analysis. And it wouldn't save the arts, the arts exist in our genetic, historical memory and make up. And that cannot be purchased. People try to buy it but it defies a valuation, you know, we just loan our creations to the society because nobody could really pay for what people create.

@TheAbeng: So let's talk about one of my favorite documentaries of all time, which is W.A.R. Stories, aahm, Walter Anthony Rodney Story. When did you first decide on that project?
 CMC: Well it was around...well thank you first of all for the compliment... sometime around 2006 I was still producing the local television show and I was toying around with the idea of what to do with this new tool. And being, you know, a little familiar with what had happened to Walter Rodney, the importance of Walter Rodney to Guyana, to the Caribbean, to the Africa, to the World, it seemed like a project that would be important to the entire planet.

 "Since the government itself has taken over so many facets of economic life, has nationalised the bauxite, has nationalised sugar, has nationalised a number of private firms, justifiably so, it has taken up a position as the principle, far and away the largest, single employer in the country. Consequently, the ground is really set for utilization of this device of the party card, of political control by means of denying the right to work." ~ Dr. Walter Rodney (see at 5:55 of this video clip W.A.R. Stories)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Op-Ed: My Why by Carla Thomson

My Why

By Carla Thompson

In November 2016 Trump won the presidential election to become the next president of the United States; who would have thought? For years we have watched him lie, deceive, and cheat. Then America voted for him.
Trump being elected president wouldn’t have bothered me if the man’s character held any positive value- if he had used his wealth for the betterment of the world, like say Bill Gates. But enough of that; the only reason Trump matters in my story is he caused me to open my eyes.

I was born in Guyana and immigrated with my parents to the United States around eight years old. I was teased in school by Black kids and sixth and seventh grade sucked. Those years made me wish I was lighter, prettier, and didn’t speak with an accent. I desired to become better, which to me at the time meant lighter. I separated myself from my blackness.
I didn’t listen to hip hop or rap, I choose soft rock and easy listening. I didn’t speak slang and I got upset with family members who did. I even wanted to marry a white man, so my kids wouldn’t be as dark as me. I had issues, bullying issues.
And this leads me back to Trump.

During the months leading up to the election a dog whistle was blown: “Make America great again”. I believe what was heard was “I will make America as it was in the 1950’s and before”. I wasn’t a frequent visitor to Facebook until February 2017, A.D., which is "after Donald" took office. It amazed me how people of color are hated because we have a complexion that had nothing to do with a decision we made, nor an intrinsic choice. It was just hurtful.

The big lie America told those of us who don’t know our history, is that we are equal in her eyes. The issue isn’t black or white, America says, its rich or poor. Anyone can be rich if they work hard, and keep their nose to the grind stone. Work hard and things will change. Never mind Jim Crow laws, all that ended in the 1960s and is irrelevant in 2017.

My insight to being black changed in those days A.D. Although I had been taught as a child to hate who I was because of the color of my skin, I had grown to learn that bullying is not just a black thing, it's a human thing. My accent, complexion, hair, and face were things that were different to them.

The awakening caused me to read about true history, not the fairy tales that were taught in school. I didn’t know about Liberia, red lining, Brown v. Board of Education and so many more decisions made for people of color. Before, I was one who thought my vote didn’t count so I only voted in the  presidential-election years; then, I complained my vote didn’t count and how old Caucasians made decisions for me. I went out like millions of others who had to figured out that the midterms elections mean something.

Midterms are when members of state and federal congress  are elected; and yes, they do matter! I want to get involved in the decision making. I want to get involved in activism. I want people of color to know that voting matters. How can you complain in a household if you don’t know what is happening?

President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." And he appointed the first black to HUD agency.
I'm just saying!

Carla Thompson
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