June 28

1981, 1903 

Many names, dates and events to place on today's page, but this is personal history, so I must take the personal first: the death, today in 1981, of Terrence Stanley Fox, a nobody really, in the world of great artists, thinkers, politicos, scientists, a 23-year-old kid from Winnipeg in Canada, who didn't really do anything, except get very, very sick, and understand that there was nothing anyone could do about it, and then god damn it he did something about it himself, the only thing he could...and then he died.

Terry Fox, as those of us who joined the annual race in his honour, raising funds for cancer research, preferred to call him, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, when he was just 17; they amputated his right leg six inches above the knee in 1977, and gave him a prosthetic leg at a time when prosthetics were hardly any further out of their infancy than he was. Research was needed, for cancer especially, and research requires funding; so Terry decided to raise some. He set out on his Marathon of Hope from St. John's, Newfoundland on April 12th, 1980, planning to cross Canada at the rate of a marathon, twenty-six miles, per day, seven days a week until he got there.

Given that he came from the nobodies, it was only to be expected that nobody would pay him any attention; but gradually some of the somebodies heard about it, and he was drawing crowds to salute him, the media were following, the police were providing an escort, and the money was dripping in - at about the same rate as chemotherapy, which is slow and painful, when what he badly needed was fast, and lots. 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) of hobbling his way through Quebec and most of Ontario had brought him to Thunder Bay on September 1st 1980, and from there he would get no further. The cancer was in his lungs and the only place he was hobbling to now was hospital. He died today, June 28th, the following year.

My own minuscule involvement was as a Head of School in Toronto in the early years of this century. Like almost every school in Canada, our kids trained for weeks, and filled up their sponsorship forms for months, so that they could be participate in the Terry Fox annual run, a mere few miles around the local park in our case, but these were 5-13 year olds, and distance wasn't the objective.

Since that first day in St John's Newfoundland, more than $750 million Canadian dollars have been raised for cancer research in Terry's name, and it still isn't enough. Feel free to make your personal donation here.

One day earlier, and George Padmore would have found a place in my novel "A Journey In Time", where he might have been mildly uncomfortable alongside Emma Goldman, Harry Pollitt, Earl Browder and Danielle Casanova, all of them convinced Marxists who fought for freedom and the rights of the common man, but without necessarily yielding their intellectual dignity to the Kremlin or the Forbidden City. Alas he didn't make it, because he was born on June 28th 1903, and the criterion for admission to that novel was birth, or death, or some incident of significance, on June 27th.

I am guessing that you have never heard of George Padmore, though his name should be on the honour board in your personal hall of fame, alongside Martin Luther King and Seretse Khama and Nelson Mandela and Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah and Steve Biko, as one of the key figures in the progress made by Africans in Africa, and in the post-slavery and post-imperial world beyond, in rediscovering their dignity, and asserting their rights, in reclaiming their identity, and demanding their freedom.

He was born Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse in Trinidad, graduated from St. Mary's College in Port-of-Spain, became a reporter for the Trinidad Guardian but then moved to America in 1924, intending to study medicine but taking a law degree instead, in order to become an anti-racism advocate under his new name, George Padmore. In 1927 he joined the Communist Party, and edited the "Negro Champion", later called the "Liberator", based in Harlem. At a time when blacks in America could only rise above their lowly status if there was a noose around their neck to lift them there, Padmore moved to the Soviet Union, where he and the Jamaican poet Claude McKay were the only non-politicos from the west to be given an office within the Kremlin. His job, as head of the Negro Bureau of the Red International of Labour Unions, was to edit the organisation's journal, "Negro Worker" (he also published his first book at this time, "Life and Struggle of Negro Toilers", an investigation of the working conditions of black people around the world), and especially to travel, spreading the word of Pan-Africanism wherever he could, recruiting leaders for African liberation movements, which he did gladly, until he was instructed to stop. The Soviets had joined with Britain and France against Hitler, and suddenly supporting African liberation was an obstacle to that union. Padmore was incensed, refused, and was expelled, first from the Komintern, then the Communist Party, and finally from Russia.

He moved to London next, where he published his second book, "Africa and World Peace", organised the International African Service Bureau (IASB), edited its journal "International African Opinion", and befriended C.L.R James, the author of "Black Jacobins", an extraordinary account of the liberation of Haiti from the French, British and Spanish. Padmore's third book, "How Russia Transformed Her Colonial Empire: A Challenge to Imperial Powers" did not go down well in wartime Britain, and even less well in post-war Britain, where the Soviets were once again the enemy, and the Pan-African Federation, with which Padmore had merged his Bureau in 1944, were simply anathema - Jomo Kenyatta of would-be Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah of would-be Ghana, the Fifth Pan-African Congress which had the gall to assemble in Manchester and call for the end of colonialism and imperialism throughout Africa, and of which Padmore was one of the principal organisers and speakers. When he published "Africa: Britain's Third Empire" in 1949, the British banned it in both Kenya and the Gold Coast. Dauntless, and at the personal suggestion of Nkrumah, he followed up with "The Gold Coast Revolution" in 1953, a study of that colony's struggle to achieve self-government, and then, in 1956, "Pan-Africanism or Communism?", which represented his final break with Communism as much as it did his commitment to the need for an indigenously African way forward.

When the Gold Coast became independent Ghana in 1957, President Nkrumah invited Padmore to Accra as his personal adviser on African affairs. Two years later, at a conference in Liberia, he was taken ill, flown to London for treatment, but died, on September 23rd 1959, and was buried at Christianborg Castle, a relic of Dutch imperialism in Osu, Accra, and now the seat of the Ghanaian parliament.

For a full list of Padmore's writings, I cannot resist the irony of directing you to the website of marxists.org, and with rather less irony to the institute established in his name, which splendidly describes Padmore's "vision of a world unburdened from the arrogance and tribulation of empires and dedicated to equality, solidarity and hope."

Amber pages

Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish painter, born today in 1577

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French philosopher, born today in 1712

Luigi Pirandello, playwright, born today in 1867

Treaty of Versailles signed ending WWI, today in 1919 - did they choose the date symbolically?

First black US cabinet member sworn in (Robert Clifton Weaver), today in 1966 (is it frankly credible that it took this long? does this not just tell you everything you didn't want to know about white-black relations in America - and MLK assassinated on April 4 of the same year!

Stonewall Inn riots started in New York, today in 1969. (First the niggers, then the faggots! Better watch out or it'll be the Yids and the pussies next, and then they'll be trying to shut down our beloved NRA and KKK, and then what hope for glorious America? ... I wonder if this is the place to write about that oddity of language, that the words "compassion" and "mercy" in both Hebrew and Arabic, which is to say in both the Jewish and the Moslem worlds, are etymologically connected to the word for "womb", while all those symbols of "power" and "supremacy", the guns and rifles, the submarines and airplanes, the sports cars and the sports sticks, every one of them without exception is phallic).

US Supreme Court reversed Muhammad Ali's conviction for refusing induction in the US Army, today in 1971. A moment of redemption, I guess. I wonder how Muhammad Ali and George Padmore would have got on.

And last, because it allows me a wonderful symmetry on this page, the amazing and extraordinary Helen Keller, deaf, dumb and blind since she contracted scarlet fever when she was just nineteen months old, graduated with honors from Radcliffe College, today in 1904 (the day after her 24th birthday). Special mention to the always forgotten Anne Sullivan, her guide and teacher - more on both of them, and Gavrilo Princip, the man whose gun triggered World War 1 by assassinating Archduke Ferdinand today in 1914, in "A Journey In Time".

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment