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Person Of The Year is Exposed! December 28, 2007

Posted by Reginald Johnson in Culture, Humor, International, Life, Politics.
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It should not have been a surprise to me. I should have known…or at least put the pieces together. As I mentioned before, I attended the Time Magazine’s Person of the Year breakfast here in Washington earlier in the month. While attending, a panel spoke of whom they consider as Person/Thing/Idea of the Year. The moderator of the event, James Carey [Time Magazine’s Washington Bureau Chief], said something interesting. He said, “I’m just a moderator here, so I won’t put my two cents in; but I will say that Putin needs to be looked at.”

On into the breakfast, a person in the audience also mentioned the Russian president’s name. Mr. Carey finally mentioned that he had lived in Russia for three years working in Time Magazine’s Moscow office. He then went to great detail about Putin’s success and what changes he had brought to Russia.

It didn’t hit me at that moment. I was too busy thinking about the oddity of Sen. Brownback wanting to nominate the ‘immigrant’ as person of the year. It’s an oddity because Brownback and his GOP supporters are the main opposition to immigrants in the United States. They want to limit those that come and make it harder for those that do come to become U.S. citizens (All of this is another story for another day).

Back to the Person of the Year: I would have never guessed Putin would have been selected. Granted, he has changed the landscape of Russia; but I would have thought Time would have gone for someone from the West.

Putin is a good choice. Some believe that the Russian President is devoid of emotion. They say that the strict government doctrine of the former Soviet Union flows coarsely through his veins. They also say that he clearly understands that power might be achieved by the suppression of ordinary needs.

Putin has very little visible security at his dacha, Novo-Ogarevo, the grand Russian presidential retreat west of Moscow. The 25-minute drive there takes you through the soul of modern Russia, past decrepit Soviet-era apartment blocks, the mashed-up French Tudor-villa McMansions of the new oligarchs and a shopping mall that boasts not just the routine spoils of affluence like Prada and Gucci but Lamborghinis and Ferraris too.

President Vladimir Putin stands at 5 ft. 6 in. He seems like a small guy, but has spent years as a black-belt judo expert and spends his early mornings swimming for an hour or more. Putin is unmistakably Russian. He has those historic Russian chiseled facial features and cold heartless penetrating eyes. Putin does tell reporters that he listens to classical composers like Brahms, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. He shockingly reveals that he has never sent an e-mail in his life and often reads from a Bible.

He clearly preaches about Russia’s role in the world, “The dissolution of the Soviet Union was a tragedy; particularly since overnight it stranded 25 million ethnic Russians in ‘foreign’ lands”. He admits that he has no intention of trying to rebuild the U.S.S.R.

He often likes to explain that he does not desire to win over the West. Putin has an interest to restore to Russians a sense of their nation’s greatness. When historians talk about Putin’s place in Russian history, they draw parallels with Stalin or the Tsars. Putin, one can’t stress enough, is not a Stalin. There are no mass purges in Russia today, no broad climate of terror. But Putin is reconstituting a strong state, and anyone who stands in his way will pay for it. Putin has returned to the mechanism of one-man rule.

The problem with Putin is that anything he has worked hard for could go wrong. The depth of corruption, the pockets of militant unrest, and the ever present vulnerability of the economy to swings in commodity prices—all this threatens to unravel the gains that have been made. But Putin has played his own hand well. As Prime Minister, he is set to see out the rest of the drama of Russia’s re-emergence.


Africans In Canada December 21, 2007

Posted by Reginald Johnson in Africa, Canada, Culture, International, Odd News.
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Africans have been coming to Canada for a number of decades.  Many have braved the cold and quasi-non immigrant sentiment to live within the county’s borders. 

In 1996 the official Canadian census reported about 2% of the total population is composed of Canadians of African descent. Some people wonder why would Africans want to settle in Canada?  Originally, the slave trade brought many Africans to Canada. Very few came directly from Africa. Many were transported to Canada from the British colonies in North America and the West Indies or from the French controlled West Indies. Once in Canada, the slaves worked in urban settings as domestic help. This is in contrast the slavery as practiced in the U.S. and the West Indies, where slaves worked primarily on farms and plantations.

After the American Revolution, slaves migrated to Canada.  They came on their own and also came as slaves of U.S. born loyalists of the British Crown.  The American-owned slaves pledged their allegiance to the British because the British promised them that after the war, they would be given their freedom.

At the end of the war, the British evacuated the Black Loyalists from America. About 3,500 were relocated in Canada and given small tracts of land by the British government. The Africans settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in segregated communities; such as Africaville. The land the blacks were given proved to be insufficient to give them with the means to provide for themselves. Many were disappointed and left Canada and immigrated to the British colony of Sierra Leone in West Africa. During the War of 1812, the British offered to send runaway slaves to British colonies, where they would be free. Many former slaves came to Canada and lived in the segregated African communities. Runaway slaves, or maroons, continued to flee to Canada for freedom. At the time of the Civil War in America, approximately 30,000 maroons were living in Canada. At the end of slavery, many of Africans moved back to the US.

Another significant migration of peoples of African descent to Canada occurred between 1909 and 1911. African Americans from Oklahoma, who worked as farmers, moved to Alberta, Canada. A third increase in the black population in Canada came in the 1960s, when the Canadian government removed immigration restrictions, allowing more peoples of non-European origins to come into the country to live and work. Between 1960 and 1995, 300,000 immigrants from the West Indies and 150,000 from Africa migrated to Canada. They settled primarily in the eastern cities of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.


In the 1980s, approximately 8,000 Ghanaian refugees came to Canada. A refugee is someone who leaves his/her country to escape persecution or oppression. Between 1981-1991, Ghanaians experienced difficulties and hardships in Ghana that caused them to leave the country. Political turmoil, harsh economic conditions, scarcities of goods and foodstuffs in the markets, high inflation, and job lay-offs made life in Ghana difficult. The refugees hoped that they could find better opportunities in Canada. You will remember that you learned about political and economic problems in contemporary Africa

The Ghanaians who came to Canada settled in communities with other Africans, and often with other Ghanaians, that tended to be isolated from other immigrant groups and Canadians. In these communities, they often communicated by speaking Twi, a language spoken by most Ghanaians. Most Ghanaian refugees worked in factories or as taxi drivers, even though most of them were well educated, many with university degrees. Some enrolled in college in Canada. Many refugees, however, did not have enough money to go to college, and Canadian government did not give all refugees permission to enroll in school.

Ghanaian communities organized many social groups and voluntary organizations. One example of such an organization is the Ghanaian Canadian Multicultural Association. This Association sponsored social activities and entertainment such as dinner dances for the Ghanaian community. Other organizations such as the Ashani Kotoko Supporting Club held soccer tournaments. Ghanaians established churches, too. Many joined the membership of The All Nations Full Gospel Church.


Ghana is not the only African country from which immigrants came to Canada. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza was born in Zimbabwe, but both of her parents were from Malawi. He attended college in Malawi, and now lives in Canada.

Despite the prejudice and discrimination blacks have had to encounter in Canada, black contributions to Canadian history and culture have been many. Unlike peoples of African descent living in India, Canadians of African origins, whether children of maroons or recently arrived immigrants, have created and maintained connections to Africa. As described in this module, blacks tend to live together and therefore had the ability to keep African cultural practices alive. Black communities formed churches and other social institutions. They published their own newspapers such as the Canadian Observer and the Clarion. Peoples of African origin have produced unique styles of dance, music and art.

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