National Black United Front (NBUF) asks:
BOYCOTT UPN-TV AND BLOCKBUSTER

By Khalfani Mwamba

There are many ways for an organized few to attack a disorganized manyperhaps a national ethny (Afrikan Americans)and its sense of community. You could attack its recognized leadership. (The FBIís Pres. Carter administration-revealed Cointelpro Operation set out to disrupt and discredit organizations with revolutionary to reformist programs, from the Black Panther Party to the NAACP.) You could systematically unemploy the target groupís male members. (Of Afrikan American men contacted by the latest census, fewer than half held full time employment during the year.) You could infect its population with a sexually transmitted virus and withhold the antidote. (AIDS is now the leading cause of death for younger Afrikan Americans.) You could separate large segments of its male and female population from each other. (Today in 1998, more Afrikan American men are in jail/prison than are in college; and 55% of these in the state of Washington are awaiting trial, incarcerated, or on probation/parole.)

Also, you could attack the ethnyís positive image of itself, in the present and/or IN THEIR PAST. Here is the essence of our problem with "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer," where the main character "a noble Englishman of Moorish decent, is mistaken for a SLAVE and taken to America where he maneuvers himself into a position on Lincolnís kitchen staff." (UPN Trailer via Internet) The sickening series of "jokes" this reveals runs counter to the Afrikan American popular view of its ancestry dealing courageously with the worst of times. Intended or not, this UPN/ PARAMOUNT/BLOCKBUSTER production is a vicious attack on our understanding of ourselves during a disorganized and painful period in our 42,000 year-old civilized history.

Any attempt at humor regarding the general condition of Afrikan people in the Western hemisphere between 1501C.E. and 1888C.E. is an assault on the common sense and sensitivities of Afrikan Americans specifically and People of Conscience in general. This was a condition of being battered, brutalized, branded and bought; of being owned, tax-claimed, sold and savaged. NO PART OF IT WAS FUNNY THEN AND NO PART OF IT IS FUNNY NOW!!! In fact, the most generous way to refer to this period today is...UNRESOLVED!

What is the relationship between the Ravaged Afrika of today and the Slave-Raided Afrika of yesterday (and today!)? How are the descendants of 5 to 15 million Afrikans in the U.S.A. aloneowned as chattel, who forcibly worked 16 generations for freeto be compensated for this multi-national crime? What has happened to the $56 million of UNSPENT FREEDMENíS BUREAU revenues that were NEVER DISPERSED? The "Louisiana Purchase" of 1803 DIDNíT include some 3 million acres in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi belonging to Afrikans already there when Spain "sold" the land to France (who, then, couldnít have sold these acres to the U.S.A.) What separate consideration is owed to Afrikan Americans for THIS seizure and others like it?

Surely, clearly, issues of this period are BOTH unresolved AND unfunny. It is not time to laugh at what we have not fully cried for nor even fully understood. Whether or not there truly was a "Desmond Pfeiffer" who doubled as " the key advisor in Pres. Abraham Lincolnís (war) cabinet" AND AS THE CAPTAIN OF HIS KITCHEN CREW...as UPN would have us smile at; this just isnít the stuff of comedy NOW OR EVER!!! Are you really gonna laugh at an Afrikan American, ACTING like a Moorish Spaniard, with a German name, whoís British nobility canít keep him from working like a 19th Century SLAVE IN AMERICA? Is each part of our history and culture, then, just a profit-producing joke?

We do applaud UPNís efforts to engage qualified Afrikan Americans as employees and not just viewers. Yet we find it unfortunate that a few of these engaged in the development of "...Desmond..." like we find it unfortunate that a few Afrikan Americans engaged in the development of chattel slavery itself. We wonder too, if their staff was as diverse as the communities they serve, would this TV embarrassment ever have been produced? It proves now is no time to soften commitments to Affirmative Action hiring since proportional Afrikan American staff participation might have prevented this TV embarrassment. Also, for UPN/PARAMOUNT/ BLOCKBUSTER to fail to consult with even a single professional Afrikan American organization regarding the Cultural Insensitivity of a sitcom set during Chattel SlaveryAND the Civil War (?!?!) is at best insulting, and at worst inflammatory. They should officially apologize to our Community and the Community of Conscience.

At NBUF-Seattle weíre saying that UPN, with 166 affiliates serving 93% of U.S.A. television households, should immediately cancel this "show" while the PARAMOUNT/ BLOCKBUSTER network should commit to a racially diverse workforce reflecting the communities FROM and TO which they broadcast. E.G.: The Seattle/Tacoma area served by UPN affiliate, KSTW-11, enjoys a 5% Afrikan American populationso too should KSTW. And to address the periodic problems that arise in multicultural settings, UPN/PARAMOUNT/BLOCKBUSTER should frequently engage the Consulting services of the Black Psychology Association headed by Dr. Samella Abdullah.

Unless and until all above points are met by the parties named, Afrikan Americans and People of Conscience who believe that CHATTEL SLAVERY IS NO LAUGHING MATTER are asked to:

  1. BOYCOTT U.P.N.!!! STOP WATCHING IT COMPLETELY
  2. BOYCOTT BLOCKBUSTER ENTERTAINMENT INC. (Also a Paramount subsidiary)
  3. TURN OFF ALL TVíS MON. 9:00pm (The time "the Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer" airs)
  4. MAKE MONDAY NIGHTS A SPECIAL WEEKLY TIME FOR NYUMBA (family) with a focus on homework, games at home, storytelling, reading, etc.

Khalfani Mwamba
(206) 725-3274

9/9/98
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