I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Villawood detention centre. Most of what I knew came from mainstream media, which usually ignores a particular perspective: that of the refugees themselves. “Queue-jumpers”, “expensive”, “unwelcome”, “should be sent back” are common themes. This rhetoric reduces asylum seekers and their experiences to nothing more than blood-sucking parasites looking for a warm place to nestle. “Boat people” make up only 3% of all refugees coming to Australia. The rest arrive in planes. Where’s all the hype about “plane people”?
Beyond Black & White By Manning Marable Verso Press, 2009, 319 pages Review by Malik Miah Manning Marable’s latest book is an update of a valuable critique of Black and US politics first issued in 1995. He revised it last year, adding new chapters covering the period from 1995 to 2008, including an analysis of the meaning of the election of the first African American president of the US, Barack Obama, in November 2008.
In the United States, Google-owned video-sharing site YouTube has banned the video for hip hop star M.I.A.’s new single “Born Free”, citing the graphic nature of its content. More than nine minutes long, the clip, directed by Romain Gavras, begins with heavily armed soldiers with US flags on their uniforms raiding someone’s home. The location is not known, but the setting is reminiscent of Baghdad or the Palestinian West Bank.
In a turbulent meeting on April 20, City of Yarra councillors voted to reinstate a ban on public drinking, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The motion was passed by a coalition of Labor councillors and independents, five votes to four. The votes against were from the Socialist Party councillor and three Greens. It overturned a March decision to lift the drinking ban during daylight hours. The ban, known as Local Law 8, was passed in October and implemented in December.
Forty refugee rights supporters protested outside Labor foreign minister Stephen Smith's office on April 23, demanding an end to the government's "freeze" on asylum-seeker applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Speakers included Refugee Rights Action Network members Phil Chilton and Victoria Martin-Iverson, Socialist Alliance candidate for Perth Alex Bainbridge and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. The next action planned by the Refugee Rights Action Network is an overnight vigil outside the Perth Immigration Detention Centre on May 7.
Over April 19-20, Indonesian police and naval officers forced almost 150 Tamils onto buses at Port Merak and took them to the Tanjung Pinang detention centre. For seven months, more than 250 Tamils had withstood appalling conditions aboard a squalid boat at the West Java port. Their hope was for refugee status in Australia. Their fear was of being locked up in Indonesian detention centres or deported back to Sri Lanka.
Have you heard about the campaign called “Four Days in July”? Well, you are about to. From now until July 6 we are planning to ask: “Will you join us in Alice Springs for a better future? Just four days in July, that’s all we are asking.” Such a small thing to ask but imagine the momentum: it won’t stop at Four Days in July, it will be historic, people will talk about it for years to come. They’ll talk about:
Hip-hop artist Chuck D, best known as a rapper with progressive band Public Enemy, has released a new track in response to the extreme racist, anti-immigrant law passed on April 23 in Arizona entitled “Tear Down That Wall”. The song can be downloaded at SLAMjazz.com. Chuck D and his wife, Dr Gaye Theresa Johnson (director of Black and Chicano studies at UC Santa Barbara), also released the following statement against the racist law. * * *
This will be the last column I write about the major league baseball team Arizona Diamondbacks in the foreseeable future. For me, they do not exist. They will continue to not exist in my mind as long as the horribly named anti-immigrant “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”, signed into law on April 23, remains on the books in Arizona. This law has brought echoes of apartheid to the state.
The following is a transcript of a speech by award-winning journalist John Pilger at the Sydney Teachers’ Federation on April 23. It was part of a public launch of the Four Days in July national Aboriginal rights convergence in Alice Springs from July 6 to 9. * * * I am honoured to be on this platform tonight, and I would like to express my warm appreciation to Richard Downs for asking me to join him in launching this extraordinary call-out to all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.