Queen Nzinga Mbande 1583–1663 (also spelled Njinga), was a monarch of the Mbundu people. Mbande was a resilient leader who fought the Portuguese’s expanding slave trade in Central Africa. Nzingha Mbande was the queen of the ethnic Mbundu kingdoms of Ndongo and Matamba, located in present-day northern Angola. (The Ambundu “Mbundus” are Angola’s second largest ethnic at about 25% of the population). The kingdoms she created would be a refuge for runaway slaves and a safe haven from European conquest for over two centuries after her death. Her actions as a women defying both male and colonial domination has also made her an important inspiration for more recent African feminists.
I first heard of Queen Nzinga during studying the Angolan civil war and Angolan wars for Independence. During the cold war when Angola was fighting for independence from a fascist Portuguese government Cuba sent troops to aid the rebels. Cuba has a famous Afro-Cuban slave rebellion leader Carlota Lucumi, La Negra Carlota de Cuba (see: Black Kos, La Negra Carlota de Cuba) that had some parallels to Queen Nzinga, so she became a rather noted figure in the Caribbean.
Nzinga reign was during a period of rapid growth in the African slave trade with the Portuguese Empire encroachment in South West Africa. Born into the ruling family of the Ndongo, the then princess Nzinga received military and political training as a child. Later as an adult she demonstrated an aptitude for defusing political crises as an ambassador to the Portuguese Empire. Portugal was attempting to corner the Atlantic slave trade. Nzinga fought for the indepence and stature of her kingdoms against the Portuguese and reigned for 37 years. Queen Nzinga's rise to power and her actions as a warrior, diplomat and nation builder would be an inspiration to those who would later fight for Angolan independence in the 20th century.
During the late half of 16th Century, both the stronger French and English kingdoms threatened Portugal’s near monopoly on the slave trade along the West African coast. This forced the Portuguese to seek fresh areas to exploit. By 1580 Portugal had already established a trading relationship with Afonso I in the nearby Kongo Kingdom (modern Congo). They then turned to Angolo, south of the Kongo.
The Portuguese first established a fort and settlement at Luanda the present-day capital of Angola in 1617, encroaching on Mbundu land. This outpost in Luanda would be a starting point for a long lasting conflict between the Ndongo and the Portuguese.
African states on the Central African coast soon found their economic power and territorial control threatened by these Portuguese establishing the Luanda colony. Many of these states had become regional powers through trade in African slaves.It was the growing demand for this human labor in New World colonies such as Brazil that ultimately led Portugal to seek military and economic control of this region. Old trading partners came under military attack by Portuguese soldiers and indigenous African raiders in search of captives for the slave trade, and rulers were forced to adapt to these new circumstances or face certain destruction. One leader who proved to be adept at overcoming these difficulties was the queen of Ndongo, Ana Nzinga.
In 1622 they invited Ngola (King) Mbande to attend a peace conference to end hostilities with the Mbundu people. Mbande was ruler of Ndongo a state to the east of Luanda populated primarily by Mbundu peoples. Mbande sent his sister Nzinga to represent him in a meeting with Portuguese Governor Joao Corria de Sousa. Nzinga was aware of her diplomatically awkward position. She knew of events in the Kongo which had led to Portuguese domination of the nominally independent nation. She also recognized, however, that to refuse to trade with the Portuguese would remove a potential ally and the major source of guns for her own state.
In the first of a series of meetings Nzinga sought to establish her equality with the representative of the Portugal crown. The story goes that when Njinga entered the room to negotiate with the Portuguese Governor he was sitting in a chair while she was expected to sit on a mat on the floor. Not wanting to be seated lower than her opposition Nzinga immediately motioned to one of her assistants who fell on her hands and knees and served as a chair for Nzinga for the rest of the meeting so she could negotiate on equal terms
Despite that display, Nzinga made accommodations with the Portuguese. She converted to Christianity and adopted the name Dona Anna de Souza. She was baptized in honor of the governor’s wife who also became her godmother. Shortly afterwards Nzinga urged a reluctant Ngola Mbande to order the conversion of his people to Christianity.
After the death of her father her brother became king. But In 1626 her brother committed suicide in the face of rising Portuguese demands for slave trade concessions. After her brother’s suicide she effectively became Queen of the Kingdom of Ndongo. Nzinga negotiated a second treaty with the Portuguese in 1624 allowing for the Portuguese to trade (including slavery) and missionary work in return for the Portuguese respecting the territorial integrity of Ndongo and demolishing a Portuguese fort which was within Ndongo territory
But Ana Nzinga had inherited rule of Ndongo at a moment when the kingdom was under attack from both Portuguese as well as neighboring African aggressors. Nzinga realized that, to remain viable, Ndongo had to reposition itself as an intermediary rather than a supply zone in the slave trade. To achieve this, she allied Ndongo with Portugal, simultaneously acquiring a partner in its fight against its African enemies and ending Portuguese slave raiding in the kingdom. Ana Nzinga’s baptism, with the Portuguese colonial governor serving as godfather, sealed this relationship.
But unlike her brother Nzinga, refused to allow the Portuguese or any European to control her realm.
By 1626, however, Portugal had betrayed Ndongo, and Nzinga was forced to flee with her people further West, where they founded a new state at Matamba, well beyond the reach of the Portuguese. To bolster Matamba’s martial power, Nzinga offered sanctuary to runaway slaves and Portuguese-trained African soldiers and adopted a form of military organization known as kilombo, in which youths renounced family ties and were raised communally in militias.
Looking at how quickly the Portuguese had broken their first treaty Nzinga must have been suspicious of Portuguese intentions to keep their promises with the second treaty. So Nzinga also fomented rebellion within Ndongo itself, which was now governed indirectly by the Portuguese through a puppet ruler. To regain control over the internal politics of the Kingdom of Ndongo the Portuguese began to back rival claimants to the throne and pushed them to rebel against Nzinga.
To fight both the Portuguese and her domestic rivals she would need to increase her military strength. In 1627, after forming alliances with former rival African kingdoms, she led a united army waging a thirty-year war against the Portuguese.
Nzinga also exploited European rivalry by forging an alliance with the Netherlands, which seized Luanda for their own mercantile purposes in 1641. With Dutch help, Nzinga defeated a Portuguese army in 1647. But their combined forces were insufficient to drive the Portuguese completely out of Angola. The Dutch were defeated by the Portuguese the following year and withdrew from Central Africa in 1648. After Luanda was reclaimed by the Portuguese, Nzinga was again forced to retreat to Matamba. From this point on, Nzinga focused on developing Matamba as a trading power by capitalizing on its position as the gateway to the Central African interior. Now in her 60s she still personally led troops in battle. She also orchestrated guerrilla attacks on the Portuguese which would continue long after her death.
At the end of her life Queen Nzinga became more devoutly Catholic. Some academics argue that this was for strategic reasons to cement Portuguese support for her rule and silence any domestic dissent. According to some sources throughout the 1640s she had taken several men as husbands and many at the same time, these relationships soon developed into a kind of harem of male concubines. Some academics argue that the reason for adoption of concubines was to adopt typical masculine behaviors to increase her legitimacy in the eyes of the other noble lineages. In any case, after her re-affirmation to Catholicism in 1656 she gave up her concubines and married one man. After the peace treaty with Portugal her followers were told to give up their kilombo ways (youths raised communally in militias). This action meant that her people would finally settle in villages instead of mobile camps, and women would be allowed to once again raise their own children.
Despite repeated attempts by the Portuguese and their allies to capture or kill Queen Nzinga, she died peacefully in her eighties on December 17, 1663. By the time of her death in 1663, Matamba was a formidable commercial state that dealt with the Portuguese colony on an equal footing. Nzinga, who reconverted to Christianity before her death at the age of eighty-one, became a sensation in Europe following the 1769 publication of Jean Louis Castilhon’s colorful “biography,” Zingha, Reine d’Angola, in Paris.
In the years following her death, Nzinga has become a historical figure in Angola. Her memory is accredited with helping to inspire the successful 20th Century armed resistance against the Portuguese that resulted in an independent Angola in 1975. She is remembered for her intelligence, her political and diplomatic wisdom, and her brilliant military tactics. A major street in Luanda is named after her. In 2002, a statue of her in Largo do Kinaxixi, Luanda, Angola, was dedicated by Angolan President Santos to celebrate the 27th anniversary of Angolan independence. Queen Nzinga actions as a women defying both male and colonial domination has made her an important inspiration for African feminists and black woman of African descent world wide.
Wikipedia: Nzingha Mbande
Black Past: QUEEN NZINGA (1583-1663)
Met Museum: Women Leaders in African History: Ana Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo
BBC on YouTube
South African History Online: Njinga Ana de Sousa
News round up by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
One million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease a progressive condition that causes problems with body movement. And every year about 90,000 Americans are newly diagnosed. But studies show that black patients are far less likely than others to be diagnosed and when they are diagnosed it’s an average of four years later than white patients.
New research by a group of Nigerian, British and U.S. doctors has identified a genetic variant that increases the risk of Parkinson’s in people of African descent. And that variant is not seen in those of European ancestry.
Ekemini Riley is the managing director of Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s, which coordinated the project’s researchers. Dr. Riley, from your perspective, what is the significance of this research, not only for our understanding of Parkinson’s, but also for these underserved communities like people in America with of African descent?
Dr. Ekemini Riley, Managing Director, Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s : I think that it showcases the importance of inclusion, and this real, intentional inclusion of people that are traditionally underrepresented in research here in the U.S., and also abroad. And I think what we’ve done through ASAP, the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s, as you mentioned up top, and the program under our umbrella that has really moved this forward, the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program, what they have really done is been inclusive through and through by creating a global coalition of investigators to really be able to enable this work.
On Wednesday (September 20), Google and Howard University will announce a dynamic partnership entitled Project Elevate Black Voices. The collaboration has one underlying principle: to make it easier for Black folks to use automatic speech recognition technology (ASR). In order to successfully use voice products, we frequently have to “code switch” to be understood.
Google’s own research confirmed that Black people’s experience with ASR is worse when compared to white users and is working diligently to change that. In conjunction with Howard, the tech company embarked on Project EBV which will assemble a premium African-American English (AAE) speech dataset. In addition, the renowned HBCU will be able share the dataset while creating a blueprint for responsible data collection.
One of the most impressive characteristics of the alliance is that Howard University will retain ownership and licensing of the dataset. “We want to make sure that we are creating these inclusive experiences,” Google Responsible AI Researcher and social psychologist Dr. Courtney Heldreth tells The Root. “It was very clear to us that we were falling short when it came to voice technologies more broadly.
“A lot of the things that my team looks at is how do we collect new data responsibly and ethically—knowing the history of data collection practices for African Americans. There’s a lot of distrust and mistrust, rightfully so, towards technology. We want to make sure that when we’re collecting something that’s as sensitive as voice data, which is considered biometric data, we are doing it in partnership with folks who are very connected to and understand the Black community.”
When the Supreme Court struck down the use of race-conscious admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina last term, the conservative justices behind the decision robustly claimed to seek the end of racial discrimination, espousing a view that “eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.” Meanwhile, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted a major irony: Despite claiming that consideration of race violates the guarantee of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, the court has repeatedly condoned racial profiling as a law enforcement tool that does not violate the Fourth Amendment. The court tolerates pretextual traffic stops and has sanctioned police reliance on an individual’s “apparent Mexican ancestry” at the border and its “functional equivalents” to be a relevant factor justifying a traffic stop based on reasonable suspicion.
The federal landscape for addressing racialized policing is thus deeply baffling. Although racial profiling is permitted, the mechanism for challenging racially discriminatory policing—selective enforcement in violation of the 14th Amendment—requires showing an officer’s discriminatory intent. Finding evidence of an officer’s racist intent is increasingly improbable, given that police are unlikely to state (or write) their racial biases. Like most of us, they possess implicit racial biases that are inaccessible even to themselves.
Within this incredibly difficult legal context, one New Jersey appellate court earlier this year boldly addressed implicit racial bias in the decisions of ordinary policing. The facts of State v. Scott presented a unique instance in which racial bias could be “proved,” and this New Jersey court provides a road map for other state courts to offer similar protections.
On Dec. 9, 2019, a woman was robbed in Jersey City. She quickly reported it to a 911 dispatcher and provided a description. When the dispatcher asked whether the suspect was “Black, white or Hispanic,” she responded that she did not know. But when relaying the description to police officers, the dispatcher improperly added to the woman’s account that the suspect was a “Black male.” It appears this error was inadvertent, a mistake reflecting a pernicious implicit bias linking Blackness with criminality.
William L. Scott subsequently challenged the constitutionality of the police stop leading to his arrest, maintaining that the improper injection of race into the be-on-the-lookout description violated the state’s constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. The appellate court agreed. Emphasizing the importance of “deterring discriminatory policing in all of its permutations,” the court suppressed all evidence obtained from the subsequent unlawful stop. Scott is the first example of a state appellate court holding that evidence of implicit racial bias in policing establishes a prima facie case of racial discrimination justifying the exclusion of evidence. Other state courts across the nation should take note and adopt similar determinations.
The US Military Academy at West Point is being sued for its race-based admissions policies by the same group that won a landmark case against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Supreme Court over affirmative action earlier this year, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities could no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis for granting admissions – except for US military service academies. It was a significant decision against affirmative action policies, which have focused on improving opportunities for historically excluded minorities.
The new lawsuit asks the court to find the use of race in admissions at the military academy in New York unconstitutional and prohibit them from “considering or knowing” an applicant’s race during the admissions process.
“West Point has no justification for using race-based admissions. Those admissions are unconstitutional for all other public institutions of higher education,” Students for Fair Admissions, a conservative group, said in the complaint. “The Academy is not exempt from the Constitution…Because West Point discriminates on the basis of race, its admission policy should be declared unlawful and enjoined.”
When reached by CNN, a spokesperson for West Point said, “The U.S. Military Academy does not comment on ongoing litigation to protect the integrity of its outcome for all parties involved.”
As gold sunlight filtered into her kitchen, English teacher Mary Wood shouldered a worn leather bag packed with first-day-of-school items: Three lesson-planning notebooks. Two peanut butter granola bars. An extra pair of socks, just in case.
Everything was ready, but Wood didn’t leave. For the first time since she started teaching 14 years ago, she was scared to go back to school.
Six months earlier, two of Wood’s Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students had reported her to the school board for teaching about race. Wood had assigned her all-White class readings from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” a book that dissects what it means to be Black in America.
The students wrote in emails that the book — and accompanying videos that Wood, 47, played about systemic racism — made them ashamed to be White, violating a South Carolina proviso that forbids teachers from making students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their race.
Reading Coates’s book felt like “reading hate propaganda towards white people,” one student wrote.
Antonio Saint Louis lives in constant fear. A housekeeper in Haiti’s capital, he says bandits killed a friend’s brother weeks ago as they laid unrelenting siege to the sprawling Carrefour-Feuilles slum.
Saint Louis, 34, fears an invasion of his own community is inevitable. He has little faith that Prime Minister Ariel Henry — unelected and unloved — or the Haitian police — outmatched and outnumbered by gangs — can restore order on their own.
“A [foreign] intervention would not be the ideal course of action,” he told The Washington Post. “But to suppress the gangs and stabilize the country, we don’t have any other choice.”
It’s been almost a year since Henry appealed to the international community for a “specialized armed force” to bring stability to a country asphyxiated by gang violence and interlinked humanitarian crises.
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