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US artistes take on sanctions

INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed hip hop group Dead Prez recently announced plans to make a song that would call for the lifting of the US-EU sanctions against Zimbabwe, as well as the US blockade on Cuba. En route to Washington DC, one of the group’s lyricists, brother Mutulu Olugbala whose stage name is M-1 gave The Herald’s US correspondent, Obi Egbuna (OE) an exclusive interview and shared the reasons behind the decision for a song focusing on both Zimbabwe and

OE: Brother Mutulu, thank you for granting The Herald this interview. Could we begin by having you share the reason for doing
a song concerning US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe and the US blockade on

M-1: In the case of Zimbabwe, the US-EU sanctions are approaching 10 years very rapidly, and the monstrous US blockade on
Cuba, is approaching 50 years old.

This tactic being used by our former colonial and slave masters to politically isolate countries and
stifle their economic growth and ability to strengthen basic
infrastructure is as destructive as war, military invasions (and)
natural calamities like hurricanes and tornadoes. But (it) hasn’t
received the same attention.

We feel the US Government is extremely hypocritical when it labels both Zimbabwe and Cuba dictatorships, boldly claiming both countries
deprive its people basic democratic freedoms.

However, the international community vehemently opposes US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe and the US blockade on Cuba and the White House, US Senate and Congress won’t budge at all.

I sincerely hope this song will not only bring more awareness to the suffering
these policies have caused in Zimbabwe and Cuba, but also celebrate the
resilience of the leadership and people on the ground in these
countries, who overcome daily challenges therefore standing firm in the
face of adversity.

OE: Brother Mutulu, the timing of the decision to do this song will be received very well in Zimbabwe and Cuba.

In Zimbabwe Akon, Sizzla Kalonji and Maxi Priest have all performed there recently, and in Cuba earlier this year Kool and the Gang performed and received an award. Will Dead Prez do this song alone or reach out to other artistes to have more impact?

M-1: We will definitely reach out to the artistes you mentioned who performed in Zimbabwe and the artistes who we know have performed in
Cuba. We also want to involve artistes in both Zimbabwe and Cuba because
in the final analysis who else can
speak better for their leaders and people?

I was amazed when I was told that Zimbabweans affectionately refer to their country as the
land of musicians, and we know in the case of Cuba, it would be hard to
find a country that has used art in a revolutionary framework better
than they have.

I am getting excited just thinking of the potential of this song. It will cross genres and generations, and complement the genuine efforts
of countless freedom fighters who dedicated their lives to building
bridges between people driven by an unyielding passion for freedom and

OE: Brother Mutulu, what in your opinion are the broader implications of having the first US president of African descent
extending sanctions on Zimbabwe two years in a row, and approaching
lifting of the US blockade on Cuba on the Democratic Party’s timetable, instead of the ties of the world community?

M-1: First and foremost, it is important for President Obama to look at Zimbabwe and Cuba as a US Democrat and not
an African; therefore he is mainly preoccupied with US interests in both
nations, not what is in the best interest of the masses.

If he is not challenged he will maintain the course of his predecessors.
Frederick Douglas taught us, "Power concedes nothing without demand",
therefore we must intensify the battle to lift US-EU sanctions on
Zimbabwe and the US blockade on Cuba in the streets of the United

In our case as artistes, until we match the pressure of the international community in relationship to US policy on Zimbabwe and
Cuba, the US government will go on with business as usual.

If we don’t aggressively confront President Obama about lifting US-EU
sanctions on Zimbabwe and the US blockade on Cuba, we give the
impression his failure to do so has our political blessing.

OE: Brother Mutulu, inside the United States we saw the leader of the National Action Network, Reverend Al Sharpton recently organise a march in commemoration of the historic March on Washington in 1963 where Dr Martin Luther King, Jr made the "I have a dream" speech.

Because Zimbabwe and Cuba were both liberated through armed struggles, do you
think that's what makes Africans born and raised in the US who consider
non-violence as a cardinal principle reluctant to embrace these nations?

M-1: This is a rational explanation but nevertheless is not acceptable. The most moderate and conservative elements in our community
all celebrate the Civil War as the driving force in relationship to
abolishing slavery, but ignore 200 slave revolts in response to forced
free labour, rape and torture.

These same groups amongst our people have also written the Deacons for Defence out of the history of the civil rights movement. You have touched on overcoming the colonial and slave mentality,
therefore embracing all
genuine forms of resistance, because you celebrate true progress
regardless of the political manner in which it was brought about.

Zimbabwe defeated the second most powerful European army on the African continent, and Cuba launched a guerrilla war from the Sierra Maestra Mountains. This meant both countries overcame almost insurmountable
odds to attain independence. Both stories bring tears to my eyes, and
must be taught to our children without apology or hesitation.

OE: Brother Mutulu, what would you say to this generation of Zimbabweans and Cubans who might not appreciate Dead Prez wanting to stand with them, and would like the opportunity to relocate to the US?

M-1: The inability of the formerly enslaved and colonised to fully contextualise their political significance and succumb to pressure is
part and parcel of the
struggle to defend your sovereignty.

Our artistic mission is to capture for the African world, the true plight of the African in the
United States, which defiantly contradicts the colonialist and
imperialist version of our story.

This will make not only this generation of Zimbabweans and Cubans, but all young people not yet in touch with their fighting spirit realise
that the battlefield for oppressed people is truly heaven on earth.

OE: Thanks for your thoughts and time!M-1: Long live the heroic people and leadership of Zimbabwe and Cuba!

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