Tanzania is a large Eastern African country whose size permits it to border several countries; Kenya in the North, Mozambique and Zambia in the South, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo in the West, and the Indian Ocean in the East. The country's population is 51 million, making it one of Africa's largest countries population wise. Most of what the Western world knows about Tanzania is related to its natural wonders e.g. Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa, and one of the largest in the world. Also, the live animal parks like Serengeti, etc. The dominant language in Tanzania is Kiswahili. "Official" sites will tell you that English is also an official language. This is historially true since Britain did colonize Tanzania (previously the region was two countries - Tanganika and Zanibar), but in recent years, Tanzania - like other African countries - has taken a turn (forward) towards reducing its dependence upon English and featuring Kiswahili as its national and official language. As a result, you find that very few people on the streets speak much if any English at all.
Another issue of clarification for people in the West is that most of folks here view international travel as something you do specifically for vacation purposes e.g. tourism. That's why some of you are dumbfounded when people like me tell you no, I didn't go on a safari. Nothing against those who do, its just not my personal interest. I figure that if I see a lion strolling in my neighborhood, I am potentially in danger and have the right to defend myself if needed. Consequently, I feel that if a lion sees me in their neighborhood, they have that same right. Therefore, I secede their neighborhoods to them and they needn't be conerned about me invading their space. Besides, I wasn't in Tanzania as a tourist. I was there as an organizer for the All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) the same way I've been present in all of the glorious countries and continents I've traveled to. Our purpose for going to Tanzania was to build ties with our young comrades in the A-APRP there in an effort to help solidfy our work to build a worldwide fighting force for our objective: Pan-Africanism, the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism.
That means our initial assignment was to touch bases with our young organizer comrades who would guild us during our stay in Tanzania. This happened immediately with those comrades greeting us at the airport in Dar Es Salaam. Dar, as its affectionately called by people in Tanzania, is the country's largest city at just about 4.5 million people. The first task before leaving the airpot was converting U.S. dollars into Tanzanian shilling. The transfer rate was $1.00 USD for every 2,170.00 shilling. Then we were off and since we are not tourists, we don't ever stay in big fancy hotels, although Tanzania has those types of hotels. Downtown you can stay at the luxourious Hilton or the East Africa Hotel, but that's never our tract. We stayed at the home of local people. A wonderful family related to one of our organizers. We stayed in their very comfortable home which operated as a collective and commual type environment with several neighbor families. They had expansive and wonderfully scenic land and they raised chickens - hundreds of them - to raise money to supplement the husband's day job. Practially all of them spoke no English, but we had no difficulty communicating around food, bathroom usage, and social activities. This is true because African culture is universal. Although words may be different, mannerisms and styles of communication are universal within African culture so if you are in tune with that, communicating around issues is not always easy, but it can be accomplished. I've seen this in all of my travels although it is essential that Africans in the West begin to prioirtize learning African languages for various political and economic reasons.
Our activities consisted of standard fare work for A-APRP organizers. We did presentations in the schools operated by A-APRP comrades in Dar. We spoke in a school of dozens of young students with the full support and encouragement of the school's headmaster, something that I could not imagine happening in Western capitalist schools. We traveled to meet various comrades throughout the city and we participated in community events. Including one where a Western trained economist tried to assert that Tanzania's economic dependence was the result of bad trade relations. Of course, we didn't let him get away with that. Tanzania, and all of Africa's, bad trade position continues to be the direct result of capitalist domination of international trade since and during the colonial period. It was interesting how some of the local people in attendance seemed to view Tanzania's "Ujaama" economic period of the 70s and 80s with the perspective that socialism doesn't work, but we were able to effectively explain that because of imperialism's balkenzation of Africa and its colonial and neo-colonial exploitation of the continent, it is not possible for any African country to successfully implement a socialist program because the country's as they currently exist were created and imposed by imperialism and are therefore not economically viable through any economic system on their own as Tanzania attempted to do. Our argument, which is ill-refuable, is that the only solution for Africa is one unified socialist continent under one unified government, but the discussion was valuable because it reveals how important it is for us to continue our political education work for Africans everywhere.
After several days in Dar, we traveled by bus to Arusha. It was a grueling twelve hour bus ride that was highlighted by sightings of the Masai people herding cattle and goats as well as several baboon sightings. Our objective in Arusha was to connect with the United African Alliance Cultural Center (UAACC). The UAACC was founded by Charlotte O'Neal (affectively called Mama C), and her husband Pete in the early 70s. Both were former Black Panther Party members in Kansas City. Pete was targeted by the FBI'S illegal counter intelligence program and he and Mama C had to flee the U.S. to escape him being railroaded into a long imprisonment. U.S. prisons are filled with dozens of comrades who were unable to escape before being unfairly incarcerated, but Pete and Charlotte made it to Tanzania, were enthusiastically welcomed by the government there, and established the UAACC. Today, the UAACC is a sprawling center with dozens of comfortable rooms, a wonderful community meeting area known as the Red Onion, a recording studio, a school, and many other wonderful attributes. The center is the stopping point for international travel abroad programs. It was also the landing space for Geronimo Ji Jaga (Pratt) who made the UAACC his home after being released from prison in 1997 after 27 years of wrongful imprisonment after being targeted by state police for his involvement with the Panthers in Los Angeles in the late 60s and early 70s. For note, Geronomo received the largest wrongful imprisonment settlement to date in U.S. history and he used those resources to relocate to Tanzania and help strengthen the UAACC.
There are many fascinating things about the UAACC, but one of the most important is how that center has become a landing spot for Africans from other parts of the world who are hoping to relocate to Africa. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the story of these brave people is a story that is virtually unknown in the Western world. We met several Africans from the U.S. and the Caribbean who have moved to Tanzania. Some have been there for years. Other's for months. All of them possessing great skills and a desire to contribute to Africa. I've made no secret of my personal plan to follow these people home to Africa. Their existence at UAACC, some as people who stayed there and have since gotten their own homes in the Arusha area, others who are in the process of transitioning to their own homes, is an inspiration for those of us who recognize that our home is in Africa. They are learning Kiswahili and by their own admission not having a difficult time adjusting to life there. In fact, they are thriving and this is the narrative the U.S. slave plantation so desperately wants to hide from its 50 million slave descendents. We do have options and choices. There is life, a much better llife, outside of the U.S. In the Arusha area, I observed 2000 square foot homes, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, tiled floors granite counters, plumbing, electricity, cable ready, two car garages, for the shilling equivalent of about $100.00 USD to rent per month. Most landlords require about six months advance rent (Africa has no credit bureau type evaluation system - thank God!), so for about $600.00 USD you can move into the home of your dreams! But many of you don't hear me though because Uncle Sam has you tricked. Maybe that's not a bad thing for now because that could mean that when I'm ready to make my transition within the next five and one half years, not many of you will have moved to take advantage of this opportunity which means prices will remain stable for people like me. No, actually, I'd welcome higher prices if that means more of us returning home.
We met and hung out with wonderful people at the center. We talked about expanding the A-APRP's work there to complement what's happenig in Dar and we had conversations about the conditions of African people late into the warm nights. Since the center is a hub for the arts, there were jam sessions and I felt perfectly at home sitting in that wonderful Red Onion and spending hours writing and editing my current novel project. There's nothing like sitting in Africa, writing a story about Africa. Its a sense of motivation and inspiration that I just cannot capture in the Western world.
Sadly, after a week, we left Arusha to take the 12 hour bus ride back to Dar. One thing about the bus ride. The movies shown give you quite a glimpse into popular Tanzanian culture. There is a growing phenomenon called Tollywood which features Tanzanian movie stars and story lines. Some of them are extremely entertaining and interesting.
Back in Dar, I had one of my life's most honored experiences by being welcomed into the Cuban Embassy and given a personal tour by the Cuban ambassador of the secret apartment inhabited by Ernesto Che Guevara in 1964/65 after the unsuccessful military mission to liberate the neighboring Congo from imperialist domination after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1961. Che regrouped in Dar and it was there at the initial contacts were made in Africa between Cuba and African liberation movements that faciliated Cuba's outstanding role in helping defend Africa up through the 80s. Seeing where Che slept, studied, and ate, will forever be a highlight of my life. His example has always inspired me. I joked with the local comrades who were back and forth with the Cuban ambassador about future follow up and work to be done there while I was mostly focused on my spiritual connection to Che and the Cuban revolution. They have continued relations with Cuban officials while that has not been a possibility for us in the U.S. so I weighed in the experience. For the Cuban ambassador, they have always valued and respected the relationship with the A-APRP. They know that we have maintained consistent support for them long before it became vogue to do so. And that support will continue. So, all haters of Che and Cuba, here's hoping your hate makes you rot! We have absolutely no concerns for your feelings. I was proud to express my personal sadness at the loss of Fidel Castro to the Cuban ambassafor and if that offends someone please let me know so I can acknowledge how happy I am to have hopefully ruined your day.
Finally, there were the days leading up to the so-called Chiristmas holiday. The only thing I'll say about that is we spent that time with the family in Dar, participating with the community members. There was much food and absolutely no presents exchanged. Not a single one. There were scores of children and none of them expected presents. They were all happy to have family and friends. I spent a lot of time with one of the neighbor's children, a child named Arafat (yes, after the Palestinian leader and founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization). Arafat had no inclination to expect material presents on Christmas. Instead, all that child wanted from me was to dance, which I happily obliged. In fact, everyone did a dance together called the Quittoo dance. Here in the U.S., it would be called the electric slide. Again, African culture is universal. And, I'm happy that I missed the consumer, capitalist driven madness that disguises itself as Christmas in the U.S.
Twenty right hours of flying later, I'm back in the U.S. I'm thankful to the two young comrades who guided us around Tanzania. I'm thankful to the new friends we met in Arusha and relationships we started building. I'm thinking about 2017 and the work that must be done. I'm also thinking of concrete steps I'm going to be taking to solidy my transition home. Pan-Africanism is on the move. I'm on the move. And, no force on Earth can stop us.