Obi Egbuna Jr Simunye
On August 25, 2015 Cde Dedan Kimathi, formerly known as Kenneth Carr, the host of Freedom Now of KPFK radio in Los Angeles, California transitioned to the ancestors. Based on the manner he used the airwaves to defend President Mugabe and zanu-pf, it would only be just if all Zimbabwe’s fallen heroes from the first, second and third Chimurenga, along with the Kenyan guerilla fighter he named himself after, are there in the heavens to receive him with open arms.
Speaking to students and youths in every corner of the US in his efforts to build the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, the late Pan African giant Kwame Ture who was one of Cde Dedan’s biggest political influences, would fondly use two quotes that he felt captured the resilience of Africans struggling to be unified and liberated.
The first was from the Africans in the Caribbean who would say; “The rougher the water the stronger the swimmer”; the second is from Africans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana: “If you see me fighting with a bear, help the bear pour honey on me; I don’t need any help”.
Those sentiments of our people in those areas of the world truly encapsulate the words and deeds of Cde Dedan: He was a tireless and selfless organiser. The cadre in the All African People’s Revolutionary Party can certainly attest to that.
The KPFK station that Cde Dedan’s show was aired on was part and parcel of PACIFICA Radio, which according to its historical profile, is the world’s oldest listener-funded radio network and the first public radio network in the US.
The launchpad for PACIFICA Radio was Berkeley, California in 1949 with KPFA 94,1 and KPFB 89,3. In 1954 PACIFICA started KPFB 89,3, KPFK 90,1 in Los Angeles followed by WBAI 99,5 in New York which started in 1960, KPFT in Houston, Texas in 1970 and WPFW based in Washington DC in 1977.
For Zimbabweans in particular and Africans as a whole to grasp the immeasurable value of Cde Dedan’s efforts when defending Zimbabwe in the propaganda against US-EU imperialism, it must be known that PACIFICA is rooted in the pacifist and conscientious objector tradition, which were the ideological boundaries set by E John Lewis and Lewis Hill PACIFICA’s founding fathers.
We must never assume Mother Africa’s daughters and sons at home and abroad, that defending President Mugabe and zanu-pf on either PACIFICA’s airwaves or its extended outlets, is openly embraced by its board members or key talk show hosts or activists who they have been aligned to for nearly 70 years.
When addressing the OCLAE congress in 2000 Commandante Fidel Castro discussed how the 21st century would intensify the war of ideas. From this perspective Cde Dedan and the other courageous journalists who raised the Zimbabwe question on PACIFICA airwaves, were like guerillas in the jungle, whose will to win a war for liberation propels them to victory when the odds seem insurmountable.
The reason for raising this point is to also openly thank and acknowledge other so-called African American journalists who have ensured that Zimbabwe was defended on PACIFICA based shows.
In Washington DC there is Netfa Freeman of Voices with Vision, Dr Jared Ball when he hosted Jazz and Justice, and the legendary Askia Muhammad who had a show called the Morning Brew and still does the daily news. We also have to include Sister Akua Holt on KPFT in Houston and Mr JR Valrey, before being taken off the air of KPFA in the Bay Area of California.
Another former branch of PACIFICA Radio is WRFG in Atlanta, Georgia 89,3, had monthly Zimbabwe updates for more than two years.
This history is crucial for two reasons: Firstly, it sheds light for Zimbabweans whether President Mugabe and zanu-pf top officials or the everyday woman, man or child who crowds into a kombi, know their cause is being defended, and also how journalists that stand with them are harassed.
In 2008 Mr. Freeman who works at the Institute for Policy Studies was questioned about a show he hosted, when the topic came up concerning the relationship between TransAfrica Forum and the National Endowment for Democracy, since TAF helped start the Zimbabwe Solidarity Fund that funnelled NED money to 14 civil society groups in Zimbabwe.
One would think an organisation which had two of its workers murdered by agents of the Pinochet regime in Washington DC on Embassy Row, would welcome information about an organisation known for its demonstrations in front of the South African embassy, getting in bed with NED. Before this in 2007 Dr Ball was questioned about a remark made by a guest referring to former US Secretary of State and US Joint Chief of Staff General Colin Powell, as a modern day Buffalo Soldier, for the role he played in pushing for US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The next time US based progressives and liberals get the urge to stand on their soapbox, and accuse President Mugabe and zanu-pf of not allowing Press freedom, we will reveal irrefutable evidence that they too can become dogmatic and intolerant if it serves their interests.
After President Mugabe and zanu-pf established an inclusive government with both factions of MDC, PACIFICA’s most popular and broadcast show, Democracy Now, hosted by Amy Goodman, decided only to air the remarks of former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
During a previous broadcast Ms Goodman hosted a show that featured ZCTU leader Wellington Chibebe alongside the former Zimbabwean Ambassador Dr Simbi Mubako, this suggests when it comes to defending and uplifting Zimbabwe, Mr Chibebe and Ambassador Mubako are equals historically and politically.
When the world witnessed President Mugabe and zanu-pf humiliate Mr Tsvangirai and MDC at the election polls, Mr. Muhammad had a show discussing the outcome of the elections that featured Mel Foote from the Constituency for Africa. The commentary sounded like the words you would expect from a lobbyist, who represented those who were defeated, or someone whose quest for employment was rejected by those who emerged victorious.
Of all the PACIFICA reporters who stood with Zimbabwe, Cde Dedan was by far the most consistent. His intimate knowledge of the hypocrisy in PACIFICA inspired him when it came to Zimbabwe, to be on the offensive, no matter what it cost him personally or politically.
In 2008 Cde Dedan reached out to Mr George Charamba, the spokesperson for President Mugabe, concerning building a Press corp to defend Zimbabwe against the ruthless propaganda campaign of US-EU imperialism. Brother Dedan was also very instrumental in persuading former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to sign an appeal to the Obama administration, calling for the immediate lifting of US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe that he also signed himself.
Due to his upbringing Cde Dedan felt a unique kinship to Zimbabwe, because his mother was an Indian born in Trinidad, since India and Trinidad, like Zimbabwe, were also subjected to the colonialist exploits of Britain.
Brother Dedan was also a surfer and loved Mosi-oa-Tunya. When it came to defending Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and integrity brother Dedan rode a wave of Pan-African resistance we all should feel proud to follow.
Obi Egbuna Jr is the US correspondent to the Herald and a US-based member of the Zimbabwe-Cuba Friendship Association. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org