Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Uproar over ambassador’s comments on Roma




PHOTO Amnesty International has been documenting cases of segregation of Roma in Slovak schools since 2006

A historic Slovak court ruling that the segregation of Roma in schools is unlawful sends a strong signal to the authorities that separate education based on the ethnicity of the pupils is unacceptable, said Amnesty International.

The Regional Court in Prešov, eastern Slovakia on Tuesday ruled that by segregating Romani pupils in separate classes, the elementary school in the village of Šarišské Michaľany had violated the law.The decision is final.

The complaint against the school was submitted by the NGO, Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa pre občianske a ľudské práva) in 2010.

"This landmark judgment is a signal to the authorities, including the Ministry of Education, that segregation of Romani pupils on the basis of ethnicity violates the right to equality and Slovakia’s international obligations to end discrimination," said Marek Marczyński, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International..

Amnesty International has been documenting cases of segregation of Roma in schools since 2006 and showing that the practice affects thousands of pupils throughout Slovakia.

The segregation takes various forms. In some cases, such as in Šarišské Michaľany, Romani children are placed in separate classes. In others, Romani pupils are segregated in special schools or classes which provide inferior education.

The case of Šarišské Michaľany is not unique in Slovakia. Amnesty International, along with Romani parents, has been campaigning against segregation of pupils in Roma-only classes in the elementary school on Francisciho Street in the town of Levoča, also in the eastern region of Prešov.

Succumbing to pressure from non-Roma parents, the school had placed Romani first graders into separate classes.

Although a small number of pupils were transferred to the mixed classes in the current school year, the school continues to run Roma-only classes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Ezra Levant: will push finally come to shove?


A little bird tells me that lawyer and notorious SubTV commentator Ezra Levant is once more in a spot of bother with the Law Society of Alberta.
Some may remember that prominent civil rights activist Richard Warman lodged a complaint against Levant with the LSA in early 2008:
The LSA found Mr. Levant violated the following rules of professional conduct: to “respect and uphold the law in personal conduct,” to “seek to improve the justice system,” to not “act in a manner that might weaken public respect for the law,” to be “courteous and candid,” and to not “harass any person or discriminate against any person” on various prohibited grounds. Mr. Levant confirmed the matter was dropped after he attended a “mandatory conduct advisory,” known as a “fireside chat,” with senior bencher Stephen G. Raby, QC.
A confidential letter signed by complaints manager Katherine A. Whitburn, dated last year, states that the senior lawyer would have to be satisfied Mr. Levant understands there is “a balance between freedom of speech and the obligations imposed on a lawyer… to maintain courtesy at all times,” and that he “undertake to cease the publication of [his own or others’] opinions… that are discourteous.”
A more recent outbreak of Levantian logorrhea led me to suggest that the issue of Levant’s conduct might appropriately be revisited. And that was before Levant’s hateful attack on the Roma people in a national broadcast on September 5, for which SubTV subsequently apologized. His slobbering rant is now the subject of a Toronto police investigation for possible breach of Canada’s criminal hate speech laws.
Once again, dear readers, given that the LSA appears to be taking this sort of thing seriously, may I suggest that those of us disgusted by his vile anti-Roma propaganda might want to make complaints of our own to reinforce what is apparently already in front of the Society?
Here’s how, and below is a suggested template, but for goodness sake develop your own content, don’t go full-tilt Wente:
The Law Society of Alberta
Suite 500
919 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta T2R 1P3
Attention: Complaints Department
Dear Sir or Madam,
RE: Mr. Ezra Levant
I write regarding the conduct of the above-noted member of the Law Society.
On September 5, 2012, Mr. Levant broadcast a nine-minute attack on the Roma people on his program The Source carried by SunTV. SunTV eventually apologized to its viewers, and Levant’s comments are currently under investigation by the Toronto police after a criminal complaint by the Toronto Roma Community Centre, although no charges have been laid to date.
There are three things that seem problematic about Mr. Levant’s public diatribe:
  1. It cannot be considered courteous speech. It does nothing to advance legal or political discourse. It cannot be accorded much constitutional protection under s. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (see R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 SCR 697). Certainly, it is not an expression that builds respect for the legal profession when a member of the Alberta Law Society utters this sort of thing on a national television broadcast.
  2. Mr. Levant appears to have shown no remorse to this day for his broadcast.
  3. Throughout this episode, Mr. Levant was a practising lawyer, as his program’s website clearly indicates (see
Members of the Law Society of Alberta are required to be courteous and non-discriminatory. Rule 6.03(1) of the Law Society’s Code of Conduct reads:
“A lawyer who engages in another profession, business or occupation concurrently with the practice of law must not allow such outside interest to jeopardize the lawyer’s professional integrity, independence or competence.”
As the Law Society’s code states, “lawyers should aspire to the highest standards of behaviour at all times and not just when acting as lawyers.”
It is public knowledge that the Law Society has received complaints about Mr. Levant’s uncivil conduct in the past, which it resolved by having him attend a “fireside chat” with another lawyer. This does not appear to have restrained his conduct.
As a private citizen, I respectfully request that the Law Society immediately investigate this matter, and that this investigation consider whether Mr. Levant possesses a suitable character for the practice of law in Alberta.
No harm in turning the heat up on the haters a degree or two.

Monday, October 29, 2012






There is more to know as a result of the Roma Health Forum held a while ago. As you recall: the purpose of the forum was to discuss the problems faced by Roma refugee claimants in Toronto.
Among those problems: poverty, bad teeth, lousy diet, scuzzy landlords, predatory immigration lawyers, racism, and a federal government determined to put all applicants from Hungary through a Kafkaesque wringer.

It is easy to see why some Roma harbour a fear, or at least a healthy suspicion, of authority.
There were many agencies and organizations in attendance at the forum, including the Red Cross, Epilepsy Canada, both school boards, Children’s Aid, Community Living Toronto, CultureLink, Access Alliance, Ryerson University, Women’s College Hospital, York University, and many more.
Instructive were their questions.

A worker from an employment services agency noted that her primary challenge was communication — very few community agencies in this city have Hungarian speakers on staff — and so her question was: what services does the Roma Community Centre provide?

Gina Csanyi-Robah, director of the RCC, said that she had a small grant to do a health survey among Roma seniors, but the only translation help she can provide comes from volunteers. She also said — and this is chilling — that some Roma refugee claimants are giving up, or simply not asking for help, because it’s just too hard to get help.

The moderator of the forum, Ruby Lam of Toronto Public Health, pointed out that service providers in this city are going to have to push the issue forward and ask for money for interpreters.
One of the panellists noted that there are 16 people on staff at her settlement agency; those people speak 20 languages in total, but not Hungarian. She persuaded her bosses to rewrite a recent job posting, making Hungarian a specific requirement.

Good idea; more of this, please.

Someone asked Gina what she thought of the federal government offering financial incentives to persuade Roma refugee claimants to leave Canada.

Gina said that the federal minister of immigration has been successful making the Roma believe they are not wanted here, and so some Roma are withdrawing their claims. And then someone else pointed out that the incentive money is for services, and that people who withdraw their claims are simply kicked out — they don’t get any money.

It was also noted that some Roma families are being taken advantage of by bogus interpreters; the question, then — how do you find trustworthy interpreters?
Nobody had a good answer.

But here is something that will be nightmarishly familiar to anyone who came to this country with a family, and not much English:

Because children learn a new language more quickly than adults, Roma kids sometimes end up acting as interpreters for their parents.

That’s profoundly unfair.

One of the people at the forum was a doctor who has Roma patients; she noted that many of her patients suffer from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, poor nutrition, high blood pressure and many other illnesses, some of which are chronic because they have not been treated. Someone noted that there is deep confusion, at our clinics and hospitals, about health benefits for refugee claimants.

And then someone else — OK, it was me — asked if there was any help for the Roma from the Hungarian community in Toronto.

Gina smiled one of those complex smiles; she said she had never felt welcome at Hungarian House; she once met the Hungarian ambassador, and he spewed stereotypical comments about crime at her.
She also took pains to note that there are some Hungarians who have helped, but that most of the hate mail she gets is sent by those who came here in 1956.

Yes, and some hate mail will come my way, from those same people, as a result of this column.

Joe Fiorito appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Email:

Sunday, October 28, 2012



Periodically, I like to just do a post for fun.

These musicians are wonderful.

Hope you enjoy them.


Saturday, October 27, 2012


Roma Memorial: Apology or Hypocrisy?
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, this week unveiled a memorial, in Berlin, for the Romani men, women and children who were murdered by Nazi Germany, during World War II. Almost 70 years since the liberation of Nazi extermination camps, this memorial is long overdue, yet this is hardly surprising when Germany only formally recognised the genocide of the Romani people in 1982. Perhaps it should be a time to celebrate, indeed it could be seen as a sign of progress in the fight for equality, but for me this memorial reflects hypocrisy rather than apology.

Under the expansion of the European Union, and the protection of ‘human rights’ this alliance provides, it would be true to say that Europe’s Romani population are no longer facing the threat of genocide in the traditional sense of the word, yet behind the façade of equality legislation lies a genocide of another kind – a genocide of culture.
While Merkel vowed her ‘sadness and shame’ at the extermination of an estimated 500,000 Romani people, it was perhaps convenient that she failed to remember the 10,000 Roma refugees who were deported back to Kosovo in 2010. Roma children, born and raised in Germany, expelled to a land they did not know. Their parents, returning to a land they fled from, where they had once faced the threat of death; with no hope for employment, and no faith that anything had changed.
Meanwhile in France, tens of thousands of Roma families have been deported to Romania and Bulgaria since 2009, however while the international community feigned condemnation, they appeared blind to the reality that the Romani people face extreme discrimination all over Europe. Sterilization, segregated education, forced evictions, absolute poverty, unemployment, third world living conditions, exclusion from political participation, forced assimilation – this is the reality for the Romani people, who are not only facing discrimination on a state level, but who are contending with neo-Nazi thought that is increasingly gripping European populations.
Time and time again, we have politicians and commentators, from across Europe, referring to this deplorable situation as the ‘Roma Problem’, with the likes of François Hollande going as far as proposing forced deportations as a ‘Roma Solution’. It was not from within the Romani community that these inequalities were formed; antizignanism is the product of the non-Romani world, thus it is not a ‘Roma Problem’ but a ‘Racist European Problem’ for which there is only one solution: tolerance. Tolerance, however, is reserved only for the non-Romani, indeed it could be said that Europe are more interested in planning ‘the final solution of the Romani question’.
While genocide is no longer a policy employed by European governments, it is safe to say very little has changed for the Romani people post World War II. Though antisemitism is still present, the situation for Jewish people has improved significantly. While there are still pockets of archaic attitudes towards Jewish people, such as their political exclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the scale of the atrocities committed against them and the poignant images of their suffering that remain etched into our minds, have lingered as a reminder that this must never happen again. The Jewish population will never forget the Holocaust, yet the change of attitudes towards them has allowed a platform for which they have been able to rebuild their lives, and reinstate their position in society.
This, however, has not been the case for the Romani people. While the memorial opened in Berlin this week makes certain that the Porajmos cannot be airbrushed from the history books, it says very little about the commitment to prevent it happening again. Yes, there should be memorials for those who were murdered, but a water feature in Berlin means very little when Nazi attitudes towards the Romani people are still very much alive in Europe. Germany, and its war time allies, have a responsibility to learn from the horrors of the past and should be at the forefront of any initiatives promoting equality for the Romani people.
No compensation has ever been rewarded to the survivors of the Porajmos, or to the families of those who were murdered. As a relative of Porajmos victims, I know all too well that no price can be put on the lives of those who were lost, and while justice can never fully be served, the sorrow could be eased if Germany were to compensate the victims through a financial and sincere commitment to exterminating antiziganism, rather than exterminating Romani culture.
If I have children, I want them to go to school and read not a line in a text book about the Porajmos, but a chapter. It should not be some second thought, and the deaths of 500,000 Romani people should not have been in vain. Europe should have learnt from these atrocities, but instead have allowed Nazi attitudes to linger and thrive. Memorials are built so that we don’t forget, but it seems Europe do not wish to be reminded of their responsibilities. As for the Romani, how can we ever forget? We suffer the same as our forefathers and while they no longer kill us, they won’t let us live either.




WASHINGTON–The Chairman and Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission welcomed the unveiling of a memorial in Berlin for the Romani victims of the Nazi regime’s genocide against the Roma.

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, commended German Chancellor Angela Merkel for participating in this historic event and honoring the Romani people who suffered and the estimated 500,000 who perished in the genocide of WWII. “Today marks an important step in acknowledging and teaching about the fate of Roma at the hands of the Nazi regime and the Axis powers: persecution, confiscation of property, forced sterilization, slave labor, inhumane medical experimentation, and ultimately genocide.”

Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission, noted the Commission’s long-standing support for building a memorial and stated “I commend Romani Rose, who lost so many of his own family, for his tireless work to ensure that Romani victims of genocide are remembered and honored. I am deeply heartened that efforts to build this memorial, underway for over a decade, have finally been realized. There is much work still to do, however, across the entire OSCE region to change the attitudes and prejudices that were at the heart of Nazi crimes.”

Smith added, “Earlier this year, I chaired a hearing on the extreme violence and threats of violence against Roma which, in some countries, are actually on the rise. Just a month ago, a Romani camp near Marseilles was burned down by a mob. While today provides an opportunity to remember the tragic genocide of Roma, those experiences should compel us to intensify our efforts to combat today’s bigotry and acts of violence.”

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.



Editor’s note: Fotis Filippou is regional campaign coordinator for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International. The views expressed are the author’s own.

A new memorial in Berlin to commemorate hundreds of thousands of Roma who were systematically murdered by the Nazis during World War II is an important official step towards marking the atrocities of the past. But given the treatment of Roma in today’s Europe, the monument near the Reichstag should give current political leaders pause for thought about the 12 million Roma who continue to face prejudice and persecution across the continent.

And we’re not talking about some vague sentiments here. Anti-Roma feeling in many European countries still translates into official policies that result in segregation of Roma from the rest of society, deepening and exacerbating their existing poverty and marginalization. In some instances, discrimination bubbles over into racist violence, when hatred espoused by extreme right-wing parties is acted out by youth mobs and vigilante groups.

Even as German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the new memorial this week, local authorities in Germany have proposed measures that may block access to a fair asylum procedure for Serbian and Macedonian citizens – the majority of them Roma.

Across Europe, Roma who are often poor, socially excluded, and discriminated against are easy targets when governments carry out plans to clean up slums and informal settlements. More often than not, this is done while turning a blind eye to international obligations. Such requirements include proper consultation with residents ahead of an eviction, advance notice about any such plans and full arrangements for adequate alternative housing that meets basic international standards.

In the rare instances where Roma are provided with alternative housing, it is often segregated, poor, in the margins of cities, and next to garbage dumps, or industrial and toxic areas.

A string of recent operations to dismantle Roma camps across France continued to fall short of the international legal protections against forced evictions. In an op-ed earlier this year, the French minister of interior called for “firmness” in dealing with the settlements and an inter-ministerial meeting on the issue in August seemed to mark the government’s will for a new approach, but has so far failed to lead to new policies backing adequate consultation, notification and alternative housing for Roma facing evictions.

By dismantling camp after camp without providing sensible alternative housing solutions, the authorities are merely kicking the problem down the road.

Roma living in Italy face a similar situation. So-called “Nomad Emergency” legislation that came into effect in 2008 has allowed local authorities in Rome, Milan and other cities to be heavy-handed in closing Roma settlements. Such operations continue, despite a November 2011 ruling by the Council of State (Italy's highest administrative court) that the emergency plan is unlawful. The forced eviction of more than 350 Roma from the Tor de’ Cenci camp in Rome, completed just a few weeks ago, sends a signal that it’s business as usual.

In the cases when alternative housing is provided, it generally consists of moving families to another authorized camp on the false assumption that all Roma want to live in camps. Such settlements, like La Barbuta – a segregated Roma camp that opened alongside the noise and bustle of Rome’s Ciampino airport in June – are typically in remote areas with no easy access to services, cutting Roma communities off from the rest of society.

Elsewhere, forced evictions have other harsh ramifications. In Serbia’s capital Belgrade in April, city authorities forced more than 1,000 Roma out of the downtown Belvil settlement without giving a reason. Around 124 of the evicted families were moved into metal containers in segregated settlements around the capital, where they have no access to work. Another 133 families were forced to return to inadequate housing in poor municipalities in southern Serbia, while 94 families from Belvil still await eviction before construction of a new bridge funded by the European Investment Bank.

Many Roma experience discrimination from a young age – thousands of Romani children across Slovakia,for example, remain trapped in substandard education as a result of widespread discrimination and a school system that keeps failing them. They often face outright segregation in special schools for children with “mild mental disabilities” or are ethnically segregated in mainstream schools and classes, sometimes even being locked in separate classrooms or corridors to prevent them from mixing with non-Roma pupils.

The new national government, in power since March, has dropped previous references to ending such segregation and now talks of setting up separate boarding schools for "marginalized communities".
In neighboring Czech Republic, very little progress has been made to guarantee Romani children equal access to education, five years after the European Court of Human Rights found that the country discriminated against Roma by placing them in special schools without the necessary safeguards.

In some parts of Europe, stigma against Roma has become a pervasive part of public office. Before winning a landslide election victory in June, the new mayor of Baia Mare in northern Romania stated that “dismantling Roma shacks” in five informal settlements was his main campaign priority. He previously built a wall to partition one of the town's Roma housing estates.

And in Hungary¸ the discriminatory attitudes of the far-right party Jobbik has allegedly on more than one occasion stoked intimidation and violence against Roma communities. This included in August, when police were accused of standing by while some 1,000 people on a march organized by Jobbik and vigilante groups violently attacked the homes of Roma families living in the western village of Devecser.

It is imperative for governments across Europe – at the local, national and EU levels – to set about changing public attitudes and policies that fuel the ongoing human rights violations against the Roma. EU member states have yet to follow through on promises made in Brussels earlier this year to improve the lives of Roma children, women and men – the EU Commission must weigh in and make things right.

During the opening of the Roma Holocaust memorial, German Chancellor Merkel paid an emotional tribute to the victims, stating that: “Every single fate in this genocide is a suffering beyond understanding. Every single fate fills me with sorrow and shame.”

Commemorating the horrendous abuses suffered by Roma during the Holocaust is a key step, but Europe’s politicians must also be ashamed about the racism and discrimination that continues to affect millions of Roma today.

Friday, October 26, 2012




Valeriu Nicolae



I just returned from two great days at the Forum 2000 in Prague: many brilliant minds, most of them ready to engage in debate, to expose their vulnerabilities, and to learn from others.
Following this experience, I decided to write a series of articles about things I would like to see changed; things that are stridently in contradiction with the Forum 2000 and Havel’s ideals. Ideas I heard during last years at Aspen seminars and Plato’s virtues of the city and care for the soul also influenced my decision.
October 2012. I attended a conference about transition and conflict focused on North Africa, the Middle East, Cyprus and Eastern Europe. The director of the USAID office of the Middle East Program commented on Turkey as a member of the European Union. His comments showed that he was ignorant about the most relevant initiatives of the European Union in his field. He was also unaware that all Eastern European members of the EU are donor countries and for some of them, one main target of their development aid is Egypt. He was unaware of the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Egypt, and did not know that Turkey is a major donor in the region. His office is based in Egypt.
During the last ten years I have heard many similarly astounding comments from people at the highest level, both bureaucrats and politicians. At an OSCE meeting a few years ago, I dared to wake up a dozing ambassador (I wanted him to hear what I was about to say about his country). My request to ‘please wake up the ambassador’ was considered rude: but I didn’t know the appropriate diplomatic protocol for waking somebody up during a high-level meeting! I also could not find a more diplomatic word than ‘incompetent’ to describe an incoherent and rather offensive speech on Roma delivered by another ambassador a day later. He had no practical or academic experience on the issue but was in charge of Roma issues within the OSCE.

The EU Commissioner in charge of Roma, Viviane Reding, similarly has no background or experience on Roma. At the start of her mandate I heard the Commissioner stating emphatically that there should be no Roma-focused EU policy. Nowadays – a few years and a few crises later – the Commissioner presents the EU Roma Policy as her major achievement. Her staff avoids at all costs putting her in the position to engage in open discussions on Roma and ensures she leaves the scene as quickly as possible after any speech she delivers on Roma. She might have some great ideas but the tacit refusal to debate makes her vulnerable to critics. After all these years in charge of Roma issues she has yet to prove interest in learning. I am not aware of even a single visit in a ‘difficult’ Roma neighborhood. I could not find even a mention of this. Some of her colleagues did it in the past – serious progress was achieved also due to those visits.

The extraordinary meeting on Roma issues this year in Brussels organized by her directorate was extraordinary only in regards to the abysmal proportion of Roma speakers, the incredible lack of dialogue and the near zero input from those who work at the grassroots level. The cost of the meeting and the lack of results were also extraordinary.

This type of situation appears to me to be a general rule rather than an exception all over Europe. Decision-making, when it comes to extreme poverty and social exclusion, relevant to the case of many Roma, is almost always in the hands of people who completely lack the skills to take such decisions. The relatively few competent people in the EU and intergovernmental structures, as well as in governments, remain blocked in irrelevant positions and struggle to advance even minor changes.
The major output of the EU and similar institutions when it comes to Roma issues so far is hot air, expensive reports written in a language almost incomprehensible for those working at the grassroots level, and resources wasted on fancy and irrelevant meetings.

Criticism is strongly discouraged – lip service is required nowadays not only to advance in a bureaucratic career within the above-mentioned institutions but also to ensure presence at EU and international meeting as well as funding for NGOs. There is yet not a word of any negative experience when it comes to European Funds to be found on the Commission’s website.

The dependency of a strong majority of NGOs in Europe on EU funding is a disastrous development. Watch-dog NGOs – fundamental to safeguarding civil liberties and human rights in EU member states – now depend on funding that is practically controlled by governments or the European Commission. Criticism towards the government or the European Commission in many cases equates with no access to European funding and the eventual disappearance of those NGOs.

Financing for grassroots interventions in the most problematic areas is almost impossible to come by. The focus on projects and quantitative indicators – mostly designed by people with superficial or no knowledge of the reality on the ground – has led to an explosion of activities with no impact on the ground, and in turn, this significantly dilutes the legitimacy of NGOs.

Ghettos provide the most severe example of social exclusion. A grassroots activity within a Roma ghetto is very complex and needs to take into account a volatile and quickly changing environment. Drugs, prostitution, small criminality, high mobility (people go abroad, or are imprisoned at a much higher rate than average), extreme poverty, violence, and very low educational levels are all reasons why such interventions need to be long-term and cannot provide the typical and immediate indicators required by EU funding.

On the other hand, its easy to justify spending some 2 to 3 million Euros on a project with clear indicators, for example: 10 meetings with 20-30 people each sharing experiences, 3 reports, 5 roundtables, 2-3 trainings, 5000 flyers, 200 posters, 8 partners in EU member states, and 3 TV broadcasts. And the real results? Hot air and paper production with no impact whatsoever on social inclusion. Such a project has a good chance to obtain funding, despite the fact that 10 to 20 projects in ghettos could be financed with the same money.

In the last years NGOs have become social contractors that show a worrisome tendency to adapt to whatever the project requirements are. I have witnessed NGOs staffed by the same (very few) people developing projects dealing with education, health, housing, anti-discrimination legislation, monitoring policies, media campaigns, poverty and exclusion all at the same time. Often none of the staff members are experts in any of the above-mentioned topics. People working in the field joke that if there was money for the social inclusion of Roma on the moon, there would be no lack of NGOs ready to prove their required three years of experience for accessing European funds.

In the following weeks I will give examples and argue that:

1. There are major problems with the system of big intergovernmental institutions dealing with Roma issues. Most of them show clear signs of institutional racism.

2. A significant part of the funding available at this moment works against Roma civil society rather than for it.

3. Many decision-makers at the level of intergovernmental institutions and governments are unprepared, and sometimes completely inept when it comes to Roma issues.

4. A significant amount of the already insufficient funding targeting Roma is wasted.

5. There are major problems with Roma leadership and the existing European concept of Roma identity is both fake and detrimental to social inclusion.

6. The main European incentives work against addressing the huge problems within the poorest and most excluded Roma communities.


These articles are not meant in any way to be attacks against institutions. They will be indeed critical analyses of these institutions made with the strong belief that critical thinking is the responsibility of any European citizen and the only way to prevent aberrations from and improve democracy. The exposure of major flaws of the leadership of these institutions is meant to help address existing and prevent similar occurrences. There are many cases of the Kings of politics, bureaucracies but also of civil society that are far too used to admiration for their invisible “clothes”. Civil society is responsible to make sure they embarrass themselves and the rest of us for as a short time as possible.
There are some amazing people that work within these institutions and NGOs. I can only hope that what I will write will help them to achieve their goals.

I do believe many good things happened due to these institutions (stakeholders). But as an admirer of Havel I also believe that intellectuals have a responsibility to predict and talk about problems and leaders (political or bureaucratic) have a duty to listen and act.

I expect my rationale to be flawed at times and I hope my readers will let me know and help improve the arguments and proofs in my articles.


The lives of the Sinti and Roma in Germany

FROM DEUTSCH WELLE.Author Philipp Jedicke / jlw


At a small dead-end street in a suburb of Cologne-Roggendorf, well kept houses line the streets. Popularly known as a "Gypsy settlement," the area is home to 18 Sinti families.

Children play in small groups on the street, men stand on the sidewalk, and at the end of the row of houses, women prepare food. The smell of firewood hangs in the air on a warm, sunny day in October.

Markus Reinhardt, a musician has lived here since his youth. When the settlement was planned at the beginning of the 1970s, in a suburb on the outskirts of Cologne, there were disagreements with locals, he said, "the old-timers didn't want us to be here." One of the local bar owners even put a sign up saying "no entry for gypsies" before removing it later himself out of fear of legal action against him. The situation has relaxed somewhat over the years.

Next door to the Gadjes

Today, there is still friction between the Sinti and their neighbors, the non-gypsies, or Gadjes, over everyday things. "They get upset once in awhile about the smoke," said resident Sekulo Steinberger. "When we party a little longer than we should, the police are here really quickly. Then we use our steam-violin, that sounds really romantic. That's how we send our neighbors to sleep," he added with a grin.

Community life in the village happens outside. In the spring, some families without school-age children take a caravan and go on a holiday. "When the first rays of sun come out after winter, we get itchy feet," said Johann Feix, who left Saarland for Cologne and married into the local tribe.

Language identifier

Amongst themselves, people here speak the language of their ancestors. "We have no written language, everything is passed on orally. The elders are our books, so we are dependent on them," said Reinhardt.

Members of both the Roggendorfer Romani clans speak fluent German. And like other languages the Romer language is constantly changing. "For many things we use German words. For example we don't have a word for war in our language, because we've never been a nation who has had to defend themselves," said Reinhardt.

The politically correct term "Sinti and Roma" is not one Reinhardt said he likes, "We want to be called Gypsies, that is the normal German word for us. That it was used so negatively in the Third Reich is one thing, but Sinti and Roma is just wrong. What is with all the other clans that are simply omitted?"

Reinhardt said he and his family regard Cologne as their home, "When the FC [football club] loses, then half the settlement is crying," he said. And his cousin Johnny added, "We are Cologne Sinti."

In addition to the language, the cohesion of family is vital to the survival of the culture. Only then is it that everyday rituals are taught to the younger members of the clan.

"The boys see what we do," Reinhardt said. "That makes the gypsy life. If I live alone, I can't share my knowledge with the community."

Gypsy music

Another link between old and young, is music. "My great uncle Django Reinhardt, for example, played old favorites, but in a very specific way," Reinhardt said. "We learn music, like children learn language. We watch the older people, until we can do it like they do."

Dislo, Reinhardt's son, and a friends Samjo and Speckoformed the hip hop group Westside Sinti Music (WSM), and although they speak perfect German, they said they choose to rap mainly in Romani "because it flows better." Their lyrics are about everyday things like being outside, going on holiday and the strong cohesion within the settlement.

Integral part of Cologne's cultural life

The entire settlement attended the 2012 Rheinland Gypsy Festival, organized by Cologne local Han Krauthäuser, and heard WSM play.

"Our family thought it was cool," Specko said. It's thanks to the Gypsy festival, which was attended by enthusiastic non-Gypsies, that the Sinti-culture now has a firm place on the Cologne culture scene.

Clichés are there to be changed the settlements inhabitants said. Completely relaxed, they play to the public's perception and greet us with patience, humor and hospitality. As a Sinti musician, Reinhardt moves between the two extremes, romanticization and stigmatization. Prejudices mean nothing to him, he said, you just have to be willing to change them.

Author Philipp Jedicke / jlw
Editor Sean Sinico

You can find the complete article here:

Thursday, October 25, 2012



This is a wonderful interview with Angela Davis on the 40th anniversary of her arrest in New York, as Public Enemy # 1.

I am so glad there is Amy Goodman and Democracy Now.  The main media in this country should hang its head.  But it won't of course, because it's part of the problem.
Please visit the website to hear and see the broadcast.

I admired Angela in the 70's as I do today.  She is definitely my hero.  Morgan
"For over four decades, Angela Davis has been one of most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. An icon of the 1970s black liberation movement, her work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements for years.

She is a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a fugitive on the FBI’s Top 10 most wanted list forty years ago. Davis rose to national attention in 1969 when she was fired as a professor from UCLA as a result of her membership in the Communist party and her leading a campaign to defend three black prisoners at Soledad prison.

Today she is a university professor and the founder of the group Critical Resistance, a grassroots effort to end the prison-industrial complex. This year she edited a new edition of Frederick Douglass’ classic work, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself.

We spend the hour with Angela Davis and play rare archival footage of her. [includes rush transcript]

Angela Davis, professor emerita of history of consciousness and feminist studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a visiting distinguished professor at Syracuse University. She is a founder of the group Critical Resistance, a grassroots effort to end the prison-industrial complex. She has just edited a new edition of Frederick Douglass’s classic work, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (City Lights). She will be appearing with the author Toni Morrison at the New York Public Library on Oct. 27 for an event titled  'Frederick Douglass: Literacy, Libraries, and Liberation'.



Over four decades, Angela Davis has been one of most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. An icon of the 1970s black liberation movement, her work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She is a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a fugitive on the FBI’s top-ten most wanted list forty years ago.

Angela Davis rose to national attention in 1969 when she was fired as a professor from UCLA. It was Ronald Reagan who had her fired as a result of her membership in the Communist party and her leading a campaign to defend three black prisoners at Soledad prison. This is a clip from an NBC newscast in 1969 after the UCLA Board of Regents voted to fire her. It begins with then California Governor Ronald Reagan explaining why he pushed for her ouster.
GOV. RONALD REAGAN: Academic freedom does not include attacks on other faculty members or on the administration of the university or speaking to incite trouble on other campuses. Now, I think, once again, in this particular case, we’re talking simply about an issue of whether to hire or not. And this comes up a great many times, and there are many people who are decided not to hire, and it does not become a great case in which publicly there has to be a debate as to why we chose someone else instead of this other individual.
NBC NEWS: While the Regents were voting, Ms. Davis was a few blocks away in a rally, protesting the treatment of black prisoners in Soledad State Prison. She sees her dismissal as a case of political repression, which she may or may not challenge.
ANGELA DAVIS: I’m going to keep on struggling to free the Soledad Brothers and all political prisoners, because I think that what has happened to me is only a very tiny, minute example of what is happening to them. I suppose I just lost that job at UCLA as a result of my political opinions and activities.
AMY GOODMAN: In 1970, Angela Davis was charged with murder after guns used in a botched kidnapping attempt to free the prisoners were alleged to be hers. Davis briefly escaped capture before her arrest here in New York City forty years ago this month. In an interview from prison then, she talked about the role of prisons in the black liberation struggle.
ANGELA DAVIS: There came a point where the revolutionary forces at work in the black community began to express themselves in jails and prisons. However, unlike, say, the campuses, unlike any other area in the society, even the armed forces, the room for any kind of meaningful political activity is so narrow that obviously, as soon as the prison officials became aware of what was happening, they would confront these new developments with the most devastating kind of repression imaginable. And this is why, when I was involved in all of the problems at UCLA surrounding my membership in the Communist party and when I was fighting for my job, I had just become aware of what was happening in the prisons, and I always insisted that people who were supporting me in my fight to retain my job, regardless of what my political beliefs and political activities were, had to look at the prisons.
AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, speaking from prison forty years ago. In 1972, she was acquitted of all charges in a trial that drew international attention.

Instead of shying away from public life, Davis resumed her academic work and social activism. Today she is professor emerita of history of consciousness and feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a visiting distinguished professor at Syracuse University. She is founder of the group Critical Resistance, a grassroots effort to end the prison-industrial complex.

Her books include Women, Race and Class, Abolition Democracy, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Are Prisons Obsolete? This year she came out with a new critical edition of Frederick Douglass’s classic work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. She will be appearing with the author Toni Morrison at the New York Public Library on October 27th for an event called "Frederick Douglass: Literacy, Libraries, and Liberation."

Professor Angela Davis joins me now for an extended conversation from Ithaca, New York.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Angela Davis

ANGELA DAVIS: Thank you very much, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have just taken not only listeners and viewers, but you, as well, on a journey through your life. It was quite remarkable to see then-Governor Ronald Reagan speaking about you. Why was he so intent on preventing you from taking on your assistant professorship at UCLA?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I’ve always thought that it was not so much about me as an individual as it was about discovering a scapegoat who could be targeted in order to frighten people away from the radical movement at that time, and especially the black liberation movement. You know, one of the points that I became aware of after I was arrested was that literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of black women were stopped and arrested. And, of course, not all of them could have looked like me. So, yeah, I think this was a part of a strategy of terror designed to prevent people from getting involved in movements at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, of course, it only mobilized people. He put pressure on the California Regents. They fired you before you could even teach your first class, except you did. What did you have? Something like 150 people enrolled in the class? But 1,500 people came out as you decided to teach it anyway, even though you were fired?

ANGELA DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah, that was really a marvelous display of solidarity. I, myself, was really shocked to see so many people. And it was interesting, because that first class was in a course that I had designed to — a course by the title of "Recurring Philosophical Themes in Black Literature." I was teaching in the Philosophy Department, but we did not have at that time a field called black philosophy or African philosophy or African American philosophy. So I was improvising, attempting to address some issues that would also be relevant for the contemporary period.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to a break, and we’re going to come back. And we want to talk about your life, and we also want to talk about this very interesting new critical edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself, with essays that — written by you, Angela, as well as your lectures on liberation. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.

AMY GOODMAN: "Angela" by John and Yoko. That’s right, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Plastic Ono Band. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest for the hour is Angela Davis.
Angela, does that song bring back memories?

ANGELA DAVIS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, it does, yes. I can hardly believe that forty years have gone by, four decades. And it’s interesting because on October 13th, a couple of days ago, someone said, "Isn’t this the anniversary of your arrest?" And I thought about it, and I said, "Yes." The person said, "Isn’t it the thirtieth anniversary of your arrest?" And I said, "Actually, it is. But it’s not the thirtieth, it’s the fortieth." And I had to explain that I generally remember the date of my liberation, but I try — I think I repress the date of my arrest.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about that. So, you went from, well, first getting a job to be an assistant professor at UCLA to Ronald Reagan, then governor, having you fired, to teaching 1,500 people anyway, because they came out in solidarity, students and professors, to ending up in jail. How did you wind up in jail?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, while I was teaching at UCLA, I received threats literally every day, death threats. As a matter of fact, someone even came into the Philosophy Department looking for me. I was not there. And they attacked, physically attacked, Professor Kalish, who was the chair of Philosophy Department at that time. So it was necessary for me to have security, and during those days it was armed security. On the campus, the UCLA police accompanied me to each class, and they searched my car each day to make sure there had not been a bomb planted, and so forth. And I also had to have people who were doing security for me in my house and wherever I went. I should say the — I always like to point out that the UCLA police did a marvelous job of doing security on the campus, but they waved goodbye to me every day as I exited the campus. And I used to like to say that UCLA wanted to make sure that I wasn’t killed on the campus; they really didn’t care what happened after I left the campus.

But in any event, I purchased a number of weapons. And people who did security for me used those weapons. One of the persons was the younger brother of George Jackson, Jonathan Jackson. And on August 7th, 1970, he took those weapons and went into a courtroom in Marin County, San Rafael, California. And Jonathan was killed in the process, as were a number of prisoners. You know, Jonathan was very young and very passionately involved with his brother’s situation, George Jackson. He really wanted to see his brother free. And while he was active in the campaign to free him, as many of us were, I don’t think that Jonathan recognized that perhaps we could indeed free them through our activities, organizing activities, the building of a mass movement. In any event, as a result of the event on August 7th, I was charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, because the guns that were used were registered in my name. And after that, of course, I was placed on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. I was underground for several months, until I was arrested in New York City on October 13th, 1970.

AMY GOODMAN: And you were held for more than a year in prison.

ANGELA DAVIS: I was held for sixteen months. I was released on bail before my trial took place. So the whole ordeal lasted about eighteen months. I was arrested in October of 1970, and my trial concluded with an acquittal at the beginning of June, on June 4th, 1972.

AMY GOODMAN: How did your experience in prison and going through what you went through then shape you today and your work in these forty years, in these four decades?

ANGELA DAVIS: Of course, one always creates narratives of one’s life in retrospect. And I do think that the period of time I spent behind bars helped to consolidate an interest which was already there, namely, working around cases involving political prisoners. George Jackson, of course, helped us to understand that it wassn’t just a question of freeing political prisoners, but it was a question of looking at the institution of the prison and its repressive role and its role in shoring up and reproducing a racism.

Actually, I can talk about the fact that my mother was involved in campaigns to free political prisoners. She was a very active member of the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis, but she had been involved as a college student in the campaign to free the Scottsboro 9. So, I had actually, in a sense, followed in the footsteps —

AMY GOODMAN: And the Scottsboro 9? The Scottsboro 9 were...? The young men who were accused of rape.

ANGELA DAVIS: Nine young black men who were accused of rape in Alabama and who were arrested and held in prison for many years, some charged with death. And the last Scottsboro defendant was not released until the 1980s.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve mentioned your —

ANGELA DAVIS: And so, I was saying that that —

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.

ANGELA DAVIS: No, I was saying that, in a sense, that work around political prisoners is, in part, an aspect of the way I grew up. It was, in a sense, in my blood already, when I began to work on cases such as the campaign to free Nelson Mandela, the campaign to free Lolita Lebrón and the Puerto Rican political prisoners, and of course the Attica Brothers and many others.

AMY GOODMAN: You were born, Angela Davis, in Birmingham, Alabama, home of Bull Connor. Interestingly, Condoleezza Rice just came out with a memoir of her time in Birmingham, her civil rights growing up, as she describes it.

ANGELA DAVIS: Yes. We were — we grew up in the same area. I didn’t know Condoleezza Rice. She lived in a different part of the city, and she’s somewhat younger than I. But it’s always interesting to see how trajectories can be so markedly different, even though one had what one might consider to be a similar upbringing.

AMY GOODMAN: Very interesting. And we can have a longer discussion about that. Maybe we’ll have you and Condoleezza Rice on.


AMY GOODMAN: And it would be a very interesting time of reminiscence.

ANGELA DAVIS: I’m not sure about that, but...

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting. Recently we had Michelle Alexander on, the author of The New Jim Crow, and she said there are more African Americans under correctional control today, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began, which is an interesting way to link your work today around the issue of prisons — the US has more prisoners than anywhere in the world — back to the middle of the nineteenth century, when Frederick Douglass was enslaved, your newest book.

ANGELA DAVIS: Absolutely. And, of course, any of us who are interested in African American history, and particularly the black liberation movement, have to address Frederick Douglass, the system of slavery. And we’ve come to think about the prison-industrial complex as linked very much to slavery, as revealing the sediments and the vestiges of slavery, as providing evidence that the slavery we may have thought was abolished with the Thirteenth Amendment is still very much with us. It haunts us, especially in the form of this vast prison-industrial complex, a prison system within the US that holds something like 2.5 million people, more people in prison than anywhere else in the world, more people per capita, as well. The rate of incarceration, one in 100 adults in the US is behind bars. And that’s really only because of the disproportionate number of black people and people of color whose lives have been claimed by the prison system.

As a matter of fact, it’s very interesting that we think about the history of the prison system in this country as grounded largely in the northeastern penitentiaries, the Auburn system here in New York, not very far from where I am teaching, and the Philadelphia system. And as a matter of fact, Robert Perkinson has written an interesting new book called Texas Tough, in which he argues that the Southern system, which emerged in the aftermath of slavery, which made use of the violent forms of repression that were linked to slavery, is as much a part of the genealogy of punishment in the US as the New York and the Pennsylvania penitentiaries.

AMY GOODMAN: We, by the way — I want to let our viewers and listeners know — have a Facebook page,, where you can post questions for Professor Angela Davis. She’s speaking to us from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York — and a shout-out to our friends at Ithaca College — and has written a new critical edition that features her lectures on liberation, along with the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. And I would like to go there now with you, Angela Davis, the idea of the plantation-to-prison pipeline. Let’s start from the beginning. And why now, at this point in your work, in your activism, in your life, you’ve chosen to go back to, to bring out once again and give us your critical perspective on Frederick Douglass? Why was he so significant. And tell us about his life, as you respond to that question.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, Frederick Douglass is, of course, the germinal figure in the history of African American liberation. But Frederick Douglass is also an absolutely central figure in US history. And I think that it is important to understand his contributions, particularly given the fact that we constantly refer to him. And in my introduction, I pointed out that when Barack Obama was campaigning for office, he very frequently referred to that — perhaps the most famous passage in Frederick Douglass’s work, which was a speech that he gave on West Indian Day. And it begins, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

I thought that it might be important to think about Frederick Douglass from the vantage point of where we are in the twenty-first century, particularly given the feminist contributions, given the contributions of black feminism, particularly because, historically, the conceptualization of freedom has been linked to manhood, the conceptualization of black freedom to black manhood. And I refer to that passage that everyone who has read Frederick Douglass knows, about his confrontation with the slave breaker Covey. And in the aftermath of this physical altercation, in which Frederick Douglass emerges as the winner, he realizes that he has, in the process, defended his manhood. But that is his way of experiencing the possibilities of freedom. So I ask in that introduction, you know, what about women? What is the trajectory of freedom for women? And in the nineteenth century, of course, at least within the literary genre of the sentimental novel, that trajectory ended with marriage. So marriage was the equivalent form of freedom for women. And I also refer to Harriet Jacobs’ wonderful narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, in which she makes a point of pointing out that her story does not end with marriage, but rather with freedom. So the question is, how can we recognize the masculinist dimensions of our conception of freedom and move on from there here in the twenty-first century?

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the significance of Frederick Douglass being enslaved as a youth, as a teenager in St. Michaels? Interestingly, Covey’s property in St. Michaels is called Mount Misery, is now owned by, well, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. That’s his vacation home. He bought it in 2003 to be near his close friend Vice President Dick Cheney. But —

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, it’s very interesting. Go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know if there’s a "but" there, but if you can talk about how Frederick Douglass — what his role in the abolition movement was and how the abolition movement shaped not just Black America, shaped America?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, Frederick Douglass was the most prominent black abolitionist — the most prominent abolitionist, I would argue, because such an amazing figure as William Lloyd Garrison, the great white abolitionist, also had his problems. And then I would like to perhaps point out that we have still not come to grips with the fact that John Brown was a part of that abolitionist movement. He was during that time referred to as insane, and many people treat him today as if he must have been mentally disordered in order to devote his life in that way to the struggle for freedom for black slaves. Frederick Douglass was the germinal figure of the abolitionist movement.

And abolition — the abolitionist movement is important for us today, because it continues — well, it has its contemporary presence in what we call the twenty-first century abolitionist movement, which attempts to, first of all, of course, abolish the death penalty — and I’m thinking of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is such an important figure in that abolitionist movement — and to abolish the prison-industrial complex. We see the effort to abolish imprisonment as the dominant mode of punishment and to shift resources from punishment to education, to housing, etc., in a way that is very similar to what Frederick Douglass might have argued with respect to the abolition of slavery. And, of course, here, we also have to mention W.E.B. DuBois, who called for — whose notion of abolition democracy is very much an inspiration for those of us who are struggling to abolish the prison-industrial complex today.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and then we’re going to come back. Angela Davis is our guest. Professor Davis is now teaching at Syracuse University. She is professor emerita of University of California, Santa Cruz. She is an author and activist. Her latest book is the release of a critical edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, yes, Ma Rainey, here on Democracy Now!, certainly ties in to an earlier book of Angela Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. Gertrude "Ma" Rainey met Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. In fact, if we can be a little stream of consciousness here, Angela Davis, our guest for the hour, how would you tie in Ma Rainey with the resistance movement that we’re talking about today?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I think that the blues women, blues men, but especially blues women, gave expression to a whole range of social issues from the vantage point of working-class black women. And I came to study women and the blues because I was dissatisfied with what was available in the written archives regarding the history of black women’s feminist approaches. So I made an argument in that book that many of the issues that we claim as feminist issues — violence against women, for example, the relationship between intimate violence and institutional violence — could be discovered in the lyrics of the blues, in the work of Ma Rainey and, of course, Bessie Smith and Victoria Spivey and many others.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Davis, we’ve just gotten a Facebook question. Folks going to Daniel Chard writes, “In your book Abolition Democracy, you briefly discuss the US prison system as a form of state terrorism. In what ways do prisons function as a form of terrorism?”

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, prisons create the assumption that those who are a threat to our safety and security are behind bars, but in actuality, the techniques of violence, the techniques of terror that are most dangerous, are the ones used within the system itself. And I would say that it’s not simply a question of racist repression. It’s also a question of gender repression. It’s also a question of repression of sexualities. You know, one of the — as I’ve been pointing out, one of the most interesting developments within the anti-prison movement looks at the way in which the prison itself serves as a gendering apparatus, looks at the violence inflicted on people who do not identify as male or female in the conventional sense, who identify as transgender or as gender-nonconforming, the violence that is inflicted on people who do not subscribe to compulsory heterosexuality, violence against lesbians, violence against gay men, so that you might say that the prison is this institution that is grounded, in so many ways, in violence.

And the violence of slavery, which we assume was abolished with the Thirteenth Amendment and afterwards, is very much at work within US prison institutions. And because the prison has been marketed on the global capitalist circuit, we discover these prisons, the US-style prisons now, all over the world, in the Global North as well as the Global South.

AMY GOODMAN: How would you like to see them changed? You’re a founder of the Critical Resistance movement in this country. You talk about the abolition of the prison-industrial complex. What would you want to see in this country?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I would like to see, as Fay Honey Knopp, who was an abolitionist during the '70s and the ’80s and one of the co-authors of a wonderful book called Instead of Prisons: An Abolitionist Handbook, you know, I would like to see an emphasis on decarceration, an emphasis on ex-carceration. You know, I would like to see us examine the ways in which the criminalization of certain behaviors, such as drug use and drug trafficking, has allowed the prison system to expand the way that it has. The vast majority of women who are behind bars are in prison in relation to a drug charge. I would like to see us decriminalize drug use, for example. I would like to see us engage in a national conversation on true alternatives to incarceration. I'm not speaking about house arrest and probation and parole and so forth. I’m talking about ways of addressing social problems that are entirely disconnected from law enforcement.

And that would mean an emphasis on education. As Frederick Douglass pointed out, education is indeed the way to liberation. Frederick Douglass taught himself how to read and write, because he recognized that there could be no liberation without education. Now there seems to be a greater emphasis on incarceration than education. So we have to say, "Education, not incarceration." And then, of course, healthcare, physical healthcare, mental healthcare. And, you know, even though we should be happy that some kind of healthcare bill was passed, but it doesn’t even begin to address the real problems that people have in this country. Mental healthcare, the prison system serves as a receptacle for those who are unable to find — poor people who are unable to find treatment for mental and emotional disorders. So, in a sense, you might say that the abolitionist movement, the prison abolitionist movement, is a movement for a better world, for a different society, for a world that doesn’t need to depend on prisons, because the kinds of institutions that provide — that serve people’s needs will be available.

And in this sense, we have to return to the notion of abolition democracy. There were those who were struggling to simply get rid of freedom — sorry, there those who were struggling to simply get rid of prisons and assuming that freedom would be the negation of slavery. There were those who were struggling to simply get rid of slavery, assuming that freedom would be the negation of slavery. But there were those who recognized that there could be no freedom without economic equality, without political equality, without educational institutions. And even though we are under the impression that we abolished slavery, we’re still living with those vestiges, the lack of an educational system that serves all people regardless of their economic background, the lack of a healthcare system, the lack of access to housing. And this is in large part the role that the prison has played. It has become a receptacle for those who have not been able to find a place in society. And this is true not only in the US, but literally all over the world. This is why we are experiencing an expansion of the prison system in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America. And this is very much connected to the rise in global capitalism. So, prison abolition is about building a new world.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I wanted to ask you about building a new world and ask you about your thoughts on the eve of the election of President Obama, what you were thinking, the hopes you had at the time, and now, two years later, where we stand today. I mean, November 4th, 2008, this remarkable moment, an African American man elected in a land with the legacy of slavery, you know, the land of Frederick Douglass. Where we came from then and where we are today, Professor Davis?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, of course, initially, few people believed that a figure like Barack Obama could ever be elected to the presidency of the United States, and because there were those who persisted, and, you know, largely young people, who helped to build this movement to elect Barack Obama, making use of all of the new technologies of communication. And so, on that day, November 4th, 2008, when Obama was elected, this was a world historical event. People celebrated literally all over the world — in Africa, in Europe, in Asia, in South America, in the Caribbean, in the US. I was in Oakland, and there was literally dancing in the street. I didn’t — I don’t remember any other moment that can compare to that collective euphoria that gripped people all over the world.
Now, here we are two years later, and many people are treating this as if it were business as usual. As a matter of fact, many people are dissatisfied with the Obama administration, because they fail to fulfill all of our dreams. And, you know, one of the points that I frequently make is that we have to beware of our tendency here in this country to look for messiahs and to project our own possible potential power on to others. What really disturbs me is that we have failed. Well, of course, I’m dissatisfied with many of the things that Obama has done. The war in Afghanistan needs to end right now. The healthcare bill could have been much stronger than it turned out to be. There are many issues about which we can be critical of Obama, but at the same time, I think we need to be critical of ourselves for not generating the kind of mass pressure to compel the Obama administration to move in a more progressive direction, remembering that the election was, in large part, primarily the result of just such a mass movement that was created by ordinary people all over the country.

AMY GOODMAN: That issue of movements versus a person, that certainly brings us back to Frederick Douglass, while such a significant person within the abolitionist movement, needing that movement to change America, and where you see movements today and also the power of money. We’re just about to come into another election day, midterm elections, with money drowning politics now, unleashed throughout the United States. Also the money and the power of the prison lobby in this country, how prisons stay not because of the logic of prisons necessarily, but because now they are big business, and the privatization of prisons. Can you talk about how movements are affected by money and the power of the corporation today, how you think movements can take on this corporate money?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, of course, it is far more difficult than it has ever been to engage in and move successfully in the direction of progressive change, and this has to do with the fact that capitalism has really consolidated its influence on so many levels, and as you pointed out, privatization, not only privatization of prisons, but privatization of educations. I think of, you know, Looking for Superman and the move away from struggling for a public education system, which is what we need, that will satisfy the needs of all the people. So, privatization, corporatization, global capitalism, but again, I don’t think that we can assume that we are entirely powerless if we have no access to that money.

AMY GOODMAN: We have fifteen seconds.

ANGELA DAVIS: Again, I would return to the election of Barack Obama. Barack Obama was elected despite that kind of a lobby, despite the power of money. And so, we have to continue the campaign for a better world, drawing upon all of our resources.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We didn’t have enough time. You can go to our website at

ANGELA DAVIS: Thank you very much, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.