Michael, when he appeared on my show on WBAI 99.5 FM Radio in February.
On Monday morning I overheard some music that triggered memories of my sister Barbara Allimadi, whom I loved dearly and who passed away in April. Barbara was a freedom fighter, bravely battling 34 years of tyranny under Western-backed dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.
I thought of how Barbara, trained as an engineer, had evolved as a leader and student of political economy. I had no doubt in my mind that she could have one day become an excellent leader in Uganda. Barbara was so brilliant that she and I often spoke about how she should sometimes remain in the shadows so she wouldn’t be undermined by envious colleagues in the liberation struggle.
Then I also thought of how my friend and comrade, Michael Brooks, had also been impressed with Barbara. He’d mentioned how he’d love to have her on his popular show The Michael Brooks Show (TMBS), where I’d been a guest on many occasions.
Monday evening I was boarding the subway train to return to the Bronx from Manhattan when I saw a posting on Facebook by someone expressing sadness on learning of the passing of Michael Brooks. It must be another Michael Brooks was my immediate thought. I quickly checked other media outlets and, sadly, it was the same Michael Brooks, my friend. I felt a weakness in my knees, the same feeling I had when I was informed of Barbara’s passing. I didn’t board the train but exited the station and found a bench where I sat and wept.
I was just interviewed by Michael on The Majority Report, which is another show he hosts, last Thursday. I’ve been on his popular TMBS on numerous occasions. We always had great conversations, sometimes about U.S. politics and socio-economic problems, but mostly about Africa.
I confess that I was initially wary, years ago, when Michael first invited me to appear on his show. We’d met when we were both guests on another news program. Frankly, I was tired of superficial conversations about African “crisis” points— “look at what these Africans are doing to themselves.” I suspected that Michael’s show would be much more informed—he’d already struck me by his intelligence and wit—but would probably focus on “conflicts” in Africa, which are merely symptoms of the broader malaise.
Michael was persistent. Eventually I accepted his invitation. I thank Michael for his determination. I’m glad I went on his show—and on many more after the first time.
Michael and I discussed contemporary crises in Africa from a historical perspective. We critiqued Western imperialism, capital, and neocolonialism. We discussed the NATO war on Libya and how it destablized North, West and Central Africa, and how the West ignored ethnic cleansing of melaninated-Libyans in order to install a client regime. We discussed Kwame Nkrumah and his book Neocolonialism The Last Stage of Imperialism. We discussed Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral and many other revolutionary leaders. We discussed the ANC’s betrayal of Steve Biko’s vision for South Africa, AFRICOM, and how the neocolonial state has taken a firm grip on Africa.
Michael was always prepared and asked excellent questions. He allowed me latitude to present long historical explanations. He allowed me to connect the dots. I was able to discuss how Africa in the 21st century was not much different than the Africa of the 19th century when the continent was divided amongst the European powers of the day—Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany—at the Berlin Conference of November, 1884 to February 1885.
We discussed how Africa in the 19th century was turned into a plantation—it was slavery-light, that institution having been abolished in the New World. Under the European colonial regime, Africans became producers of resources—agricultural as well as minerals— that were shipped off to Europe, used to manufacture products which were then sold back at highly inflated prices to Africans. So each colony was a resource source for Europeans and a captive market of consumers. Africans were kicked off their land which were seized and handed over to European occupiers–so called “settlers.” How do you “settle” land that is already inhabited?
Africans were progressively impoverished while Europeans increasingly enriched.
Even after so-called formal independence was won by African countries the dependency relations continued under the neocolonial system maintained today. Africans remain producers of raw materials and consumers of manufactured products from the West. Now, China too, benefits from Africa’s resources. The late Oginga Odinga summed it well in the title of his book from the 1960s, “Africa Is Not Yet Uhuru.”
Western countries maintained corrupt genocidal rulers in Africa, so long as they served as clients, allowing access to raw materials, markets, and renting the national army to act as a proxy of Western imperialism. Mobutu, who, working with the CIA and Belgian and British intelligence services, overthrew Lumumba and had him murdered, was maintained in power for 37 years. Gen. Museveni has become the 20th century’s version of Mobutu.
African countries that try to chart a non-neoliberal economic regime are cut off from international capital. World Bank and IMF financing come with conditions that preclude African countries from building integrated industrial economic systems, an issue that the late Samir Amin always addressed. Leaders, like Thomas Sankara, who preached pan-African unity, food and economic self-sufficiency, were eliminated.
Michael offered TMBS as a platform to discuss all these issues. Our discussions always generated excellent reviews. Every time I appeared on Michael’s show my twitter followers increased by anywhere from 50 to more than 100.
Michael also appeared on my Black Star News Show on WBAI 99.5 FM Radio in February to discuss his trip last year to Brazil where he’d met at interviewed the popular former president Lula.
Michael was loved by his fans. I was once stopped at a Whole Foods store by a complete stranger. He first apologized then asked for permission to greet me. Yes, we’d never met but he felt compelled to say hi because he’d seen me on TMBS, he said. I insisted on a selfie video and tweeted it because I didn’t think Michael would believe me. Another time, a Starbucks barista refused my money— “Anyone who’s on The Michael Brooks Show doesn’t pay in here,” he said. I tweeted that encounter too.
Michael and I planned to collaborate on a book. He’d suggested that we do a series, starting with Lumumba and Sankara. He also encouraged me to launch a podcast and, as I announced on our last show, I just created Patreon/Africanhistoryclub.
His loss leaves me with a profound sadness. He was a friend, a brother, a committed and serious comrade dedicated to playing a role in creating a better world by disseminating critical analysis. He allowed me to explain why, and how, Africa remains impoverished. Last week’s show covered much ground.
Here are Michael’s parting words to me as he closed the show last week: “Milton Allimadi we learn so much from you. I’m just honored. It’s a pleasure, I enjoy it….Thank you so much. Stay safe. Stay strong. Be well.”
In turn I said: “Aluta Continua! Stay well.”
Yes, Michael. Stay well.