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Mama Aretha Franklin and Us, a View from Africa, by Gabriel C Banda


Mama Aretha Franklin and Us,

a  View from Africa,

by Gabriel C Banda


ARETHA Franklin has passed on!

Many persons in America and other parts of the world have been greatly moved by the passing of the very gifted singer, music artist, and actress Mama Aretha Franklin, Thursday, August 16, 2018, in Detroit, Michigan, USA. She went down following some cancer condition.

Aretha Franklin, born 1942, was from her childhood and teens performing and reaching many church and popular audiences. She established herself in the hearts of many worldwide.

Mama Aretha Franklin came onto the wide world stage at a time of great transformation in human relations.

Aretha Franklin reached more than persons of African descent. Yes, in America, Africa, and other places with numbers of persons of African descent, people were inspired by persons like Aretha Franklin.

People in various parts of the world did not consider her American, but foremost as one of them, a human being close to them.

                                             One of Our Mothers

For the young in Africa, Aretha Franklin was considered One of our Aunts, One of our Mothers. For those older, such as our biological fathers and mothers, Aretha Franklin was one of their Sisters.

In Africa, some widely respected singers we then considered our Mothers and Aunts included Mama Miriam Makeba and her friend Mama Dorothy Masuka. Mama Dorothy Masuka we considered one of our Mothers when at some point of my childhood she lived some forty metres or so near us along Mulilima Street, Libala II, Lusaka, Zambia.

In America, there were singers like Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, and Joan Baez. Music artists, as with other artists, could be both gifted singers and activists in favour of rights, harmonious humanity, and life.

                                                       Of  African Descent

In the 1950s and 1960s, as Africa’s societies were getting independence, there was still organised racism and apartheid in USA. The US Constitution had some two hundred years earlier proclaimed the freedom by birth of human beings while it had massive, organised, slavery against persons of African descent.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Martin Luther King and others were fighting racism and apartheid in the United States.

In 1960s Africa and the Americas, images and symbols were important. Music and the arts were important channels for freedom. In the 1960s and 1970s, fighting for their fundamental rights, Africans and persons of African descent were wearing themselves with pride.

They were parts of the human race. They were legitimate parts of humanity in both its unity and its deep and pleasant variation. No person was by birth in a particular group born superior or inferior to another of some other group. Africans were not on the margins. They were also on the centre.


Rather than just fit into the agenda being designed and dominated by others, artists of African descent sought clothing and colours that they found creative for their situation. They made creative and artistic expressions that were very innovative.

The physical features of Black African persons were not to be stigmatised and repressed, but to be celebrated. The African, in all particular features, was a legitimate part of humanity. The African was not inferior. Thus the decision to take a stance of acceptance and pride in their inherited features.

It was not one’s fault that they were Black or White. In fact, it was not a fault to be Black. Being of African descent was to be accepted and celebrated.  Thus the skin tone was accepted.

And thus, the Afro hair style, as promoted by persons like Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Angela Davies, Muhammad Ali, and millions of persons in USA, Africa, the Caribbean, UK, and other places of residence of persons of African descent, asserted their hair as part of being a person and being a natural part of the human world and life itself.

For persons of African descent, Mama Aretha Franklin and others were symbols of self-appreciation and self-acceptance.

It was not just about the message in their songs. Some fans were not concerned about the message but that the singers were persons of great deepness. The singers could stand up as great persons of African descent. Some were inspired not by their songs but images they proudly pronounced, images like Afro Hair style.

And when they were singing, they DID sing!  It was singing from the soul and reaching your soul. They not only moved the listener who was of African descent but others of other backgrounds. The artist of depth is able to reach the human soul in whatever circumstances the person is found in. True art is universal.

Many loved these persons, these beings, these beings showing and sharing deepness.


Mama Aretha Franklin has been one of those that stand out as great movers of the various sectors they are in. Indeed, their work affects people from other fields.

This is in similar ways that during the struggle against racism and Apartheid in Southern Africa, a person like Mama Winnie Mandela, sparked strength in many persons in various fields, including music and the arts.

In various fields, they have affected how things will be done.  They move things in directions that forever transform sectors and, indeed, the whole society.

They affect many things near and far. They heavily affect those in later generations.

                                                                  Deep Talent

From their presence, musicians and artists like Aretha Franklin have set the direction in which things will move. They do their remarkable works with ease. The easiness flows with great depth and reach.

They come in and do angles that other persons will be inspired with. They show others how things could be done. Their talent fills up and provides the direction and the minimum standards to follow. Their innovation becomes a way of doing things.

Mama Aretha Franklin brought out deep talent. She was deeply passionate in her singing. She was confident in her talent. She was one of those eternal artists that take a space in their generation and move on to reach generations that follow.

They reach relevance in all generations. They cross generations. Deep art is boundless. True art is eternal. True art lives on after the maker. The maker lives on in the art.

Their arts and works reached many in the world. They were appreciated as innovators and masters in their fields. What they said and did had great influence on many others.

                                                               Foremost Human

From various backgrounds, Aretha Franklin and colleagues were foremost human. They showed that each is valuable. We are valuable to others and to the body of humanity as a whole.

Apartheid and racism were sins against humanness. They were sins against humanity, as individuals and as a whole. Apartheid, racism, tribalism, and sexism are crimes against humanity. They are sins against life itself.

Africans and persons of African descent, as all humans, were human first. We were legitimate. All skin tones of humanity were legitimate. Wherever you were born was also an important part of the world.

Aretha Franklin reached and crossed generations. She linked generations. Aretha Franklin has been an important figure in people emphasizing the humanity of all persons from all backgrounds.

Over the six and half decades, performing to her Brothers and Sisters of various backgrounds, singing at the Martin Luther King funeral in 1968, singing in the presence of President Barack Obama in 2009 and later, or presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton before that, with a Presidential Medal of Freedom given to her by George W Bush Jr in 2005, or playing roles in the very memorable and enjoyable Blues Brothers movie, Aretha Franklin put her soul into her performance.

Aretha Franklin did not hesitate, delay, or avoid practising her talent. She expressed the deep wisdom that Barack Obama was to, decades later, in 2008, say:

“… Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope …”

Yes, “we are the ones that we have been waiting for.”  I believe this, from Barack Obama, is one of the biggest transforming realisations you will find.  And, without hesitation, decades earlier, Aretha Franklin had started to follow and practise her artistic gift.

Like others, I felt some bond with Aretha Franklin. Some of us have lost another of our Mothers and our Aunts.  Mama Aretha Franklin has passed on and her works continue to live on in the souls of many worldwide, now and in future.


The writer, based in Lusaka, Zambia, is independently involved in writing and the arts, social development work, and observation of peace and conflict process issues. 

*                         *                         *

GCB, August 2018, LUSAKA.






Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 05: The ICC and Us,

Gabriel C BandaThe ICC and Us,

And How ICC Can Worsen Conflict


Gabriel C Banda

IT was eventually bound to come to this! This October at Addis Ababa, Ethipoia, Africa’s rulers gather, as the continental African Union grouping, to discuss whether their governments should continue to be part of the International Criminal Court, ICC.

The ICC has the task of helping humanity through the trial of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. While the ICC can be an important institution for the world, it has been considered partial, selective, in picking who to prosecute.

There is increasing concern that the ICC prosecution has targeted rulers from Africa while some possible offenders from other parts of the world, including the western world, have not been brought before international judicial platforms, including the ICC at The Hague.  

The ICC has decided to put to trial Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, and his deputy, William Ruto, who has already been at The Hague for trial. Kenyatta and Ruto had been on opposite sides in the national elections of 2007. They were accused of organising violent attacks on each other’s supporters.

But in March 2013 elections, the two stood together as a pact for president and vice president, and emerged winners. There are accusations that some external forces had not wanted Uhuru to be president and thus moved the ICC charge to prevent him from standing for elections and winning.

From the Kenya case, there are practical issues. How will a country function when its president and vice president are not around because they are out of the country, and on trial?  The two are not convicts. How does ICC deal with sitting rulers?

The earlier reluctance of Africa’s rulers to support arrest and trial of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir by ICC may have been more linked to potential effects of the trial on society, at a particular time, than shielding the ruler. There are many stability factors that Africa’s rulers may be considering.

Some persons consider ICC prosecutions as Made for Africa. Some persons in the West are considered, from their actions as government rulers, to have caused huge suffering of societies and humanity. They are not being touched.

While there is talk about details of crimes some persons of Africa are accused of, we hear no proper answer about why George W Bush Jr and Tony Blair have not been brought for trial before international crime platforms. George W Bush Jr, besides the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, has over him some warrants issued for torture. So far, he is not being touched.

If the USA is not part of ICC, the UK still is. There seem strong reasons to consider the trial of Tony Blair for crimes of aggression over Iraq, with the deep suffering and instability that followed.

There is also need to deal with crimes that may have been committed in Libya by external and local forces fighting the Muammar Gaddafi regime. There is need to investigate the targeted killings and harming of Black Libyans and Black Africa migrants during the Nicolas Sarkozy’s French forces 2011 campaign in support of some opponents fighting Gaddafi?

And in Libya, UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, over Libya, did not allow external governments to have troops on the ground. Yet anti-Gaddafi external coalition forces and troops from neighbours like Qatar and Sudan where on the ground fighting the Gaddafi forces. International systems should consider investigating crimes of aggression.

As in Libya and Syria, some consider the ICC as another front against some regimes targeted for change. The ICC, United Nations, and others cannot just sit by and say Africa’s governments have no reason to pull out from ICC.

And it is not enough to say Africa’s rulers are against ICC because they are thinking of escaping justice. To avoid being ignored and going into a cocoon and decline, there is urgent need to address concerns raised by critics of the ICC.

Fearing that membership of ICC has potential punishments, many may withdraw membership. Withdrawal may be a safety, protective, mechanism against possible arrest. And not all who will pull out have things to fear but may just believe the ICC has been unfair. Even clean rulers may leave the ICC.

Criticism of ICC is beyond Africa. Already, besides Rwanda in Africa, China, India, Israel, Syria, the United States, and many others do not cooperate with ICC.

Now, I believe issues are more than about ICC being partial and biased against Africa. Away from issues of leaving out non-African offenders, one believes we also must, worldwide, consider concepts of punishment and retribution and their effects.

In some situations, ICC may, unintentionally, act as an instrument fanning war, strife, and conflict. What are effects of ICC trials on conflicts and societies? And we must consider other factors like the timing of ICC action and how that affects societies.

The ICC can end up worsening a situation. The threat of ICC over members of Gaddafi’s Libya regime may have contributed to more vicious conflict. Similarly, threats of ICC charges against Syria regime members may actually harden the current armed conflict.

Whether guilty or not, there are times when some arrest, punishment or sanction, or their timing, end up causing many others to suffer, beyond the convicted persons. Many generations can be negatively affected.

In some cases, the primary objective is to stop atrocities and heal a society. Poorly applied punishment will create further problems, especially for fragile or divided societies. Instability may follow.

Yes, it is crucial to stop atrocities and their causes. But the ways of the ICC may not be the best to deal with conflict in some societies. While reigning in guilty actors, a harsh judicial retributive approach may actually worsen armed conflict. Thus the ICC may be contributing to continuation of wars, instability, and delay of ending armed conflict.

There is need to consider how proportional ICC processes and judgement are when related to various potential effects on a society. Poorly timed and executed, ICC action can lead to further suffering and disharmony.

Although not perfect, South Africa’s landmark Truth and Reconciliation process showed humankind possible ways of dealing with injustice and moving towards healing.

One’s argument is not that the ICC should not be there, but must be fair. ICC must be just. Its actions, focussed on punishment, must not cause the suffering of many others. Its concept of “justice” needs to be broader than just achieving some narrow accountability, punishment, and retribution.

The ICC can be an important international instrument for protection of basic human rights worldwide. It can help avoid biased local prosecution of opponents by those who control governments.

Those who conquer others and get into government may affect the fairness of local trials of their vanquished opponents. It is not easy for Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to be tried in his native Libya. Thus, for fairness and basic human rights, there is need for international legal institutions beyond states.

It is important not to dismiss concerns raised about the ICC by persons from Africa and other places. It is important to answer the issues raised.

International and state systems must not be biased to prosecute or not prosecute some persons because of factors like colour, culture, religion, language, origin, citizenship, political link, social status, being male or female, and other conditions.

The international community needs to consider issues of selective prosecution, timing, and effects of ICC procedures on stability of societies. October 2013 is a turning point for Africa, the ICC, and all of us worldwide.


Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing, social development, and peace issues.

          GCB September, +Thursday, October 10, 2013, LUSAKA.