Thursday, December 14, 2006

Conflict... Blood... Peace Diamonds? Russell you are still not Hip-Hop!


A couple years back Rosa Clemente penned a heavy letter about Russell Simmons called Russell Simmons You Are Not Hip Hop. Back in 2001 it caught me, it helped me remember why I got sick of people sweating Russell. It got me to realize why I did a little "mouth vomit" when I heard someone refer to him as the Godfather of Hip-Hop (didn't Herc already have that title?). Recently Russell opened his mouth again, this time to defend the diamond industry.

This past weekend I shelled over my hard earned bills to see Blood Diamond at the theaters. Going in, I had my expectations set at the level that I set them when I'm going to listen to a Method Man album (that's pretty darn low). But I was rather impressed with the film. Of course there were your standard issues of gender and race (e.g. Black Africans find White woman in the bush and she charms them with her camera -- don't even get me started) but the message about conflict diamonds was very clear to me. Conflict diamonds help support war and distinguishing between a conflict diamond and free diamond is damn near impossible. Neither of which were new concepts to me, but I thought they were both well illustrated in the film.

When the film was rolling out, I was interested to see that Nelson Mandela came out with a statement about diamonds and their positive impact on African economies. I was immediately a little bit concerned, as were others. Eventually, I had to wrestle with Mandela potentially selling out or if there was a degree of pragmatism attached to support of the diamond trade for the wealth or rather reduction of gross debt for African nations. I think my history with Nelson Mandela allowed me to take his statements within a larger context, when Russell Simmons opened his mouth however, I heard cash registers ringing.

Who the hell died and made Russell chief of Diasporic Affairs? And can I really take him seriously if Jim Jones is on his side with a diamond crusted bracelet? Okay, that's just my bias! For years, I saw Russell Simmons as I saw Bob Johnson, a damn good Black capitalist (not endorsing this just calling em like I see em). Now with his explicit support and retort to Blood Diamond, I see he's graduated to a damn good (Black) capitalist pawn... I wonder is there a difference between the two?

6 comments:

ann said...

Dumi.

Once again I made a post, and I do not see where it posted. I will attepmt another post of my comment.

Thanks.

ann said...

In the end, no one truly knows whether a diamond is "conflict free" or not.

But then again, this has not been much of a mystery to me. Knowing the history of DeBeers and their cruel tactics to keep diamond miners from keeping back some of the diamonds for themselves, if caught, the overseers of the DeBeers Corporation would have the black miner hobbled to keep them from running away.

Hobbling involved chopping the ankles just so where the foot remained attached, but horribly crippled the man.

I have personally boycotted diamonds for more than 25 years because of the hateful apartheid racist practices of South Africa, and therefore, I would not buy ANY diamonds whatsoever. Nor gold.

I have boycotted the buying of Granny Smith apples because the bulk of them were grown in South Africa. I am still boycotting the Quaker Oats product line because they still persist in keeping the "Aunt Jemima" racist image on their products. It matters not that they have removed her headrag and put pearls on her and given her a perm.

A racist image, is a racist image, and I do not do business with a company that continues to disrespect black women.

And that goes for "Uncle Ben's Rice" or "Cream of Wheat".

Until these racist images are retired to the dustbin of history, they will continue to be boycotted by me.

Ys, I am only one person, but when I go to bed at night, I do not have the fear that at least with diamonds I am contributing to another black person's suffering and degredation.

I can live without diamonds.

Just as I can live without Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's and any other thing out there in the world that seeks to debase and destroy black people, literally, and figuratively.

Anonymous said...

From an article in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles:

Sierra Leone is now at peace, achieved with the help of international intervention, and trying to recover from its strife. But its recent history makes for many harrowing scenes in "Blood Diamond." The fact that the rebels sold diamonds to support their monstrous acts, relying on a worldwide "lust for bling," might make some moviegoers wonder about their own unwitting complicity in all this.

It is an issue directly tied to the Jewish community. The diamond industry has traditionally employed many Jews in all its manufacturing and sales aspects. Here in Los Angeles, Jews -- including many who are Orthodox -- are well-represented as merchants in the downtown Jewelry District.

On its Web site, the Israeli Diamond Industry claims to manufacture two-thirds of all gem-quality diamonds in the world, and the World Diamond Congress held its annual meeting in Israel this year. The German-Jewish Oppenheimer family led De Beers to become the worldwide leader in the mining and sales of rough diamonds, although its patriarch reportedly converted to the Anglican Church in the 1930s. De Beers also has a worldwide retail operation, including a store on Rodeo Drive.

According to author Edward Jay Epstein, who wrote "The Rise and Fall of Diamonds," Jews turned to diamonds as an asset during the Spanish Inquisition, because they could be easily concealed and instantly redeemed wherever they were forced to move. When they fled Lisbon and Antwerp, for instance, they moved to Amsterdam and established diamond-cutting factories.

"One of the great historical ironies is the fact Jews needed a currency for the Diaspora -- something small, something that can be taken with them -- and that led to roles within this industry," Zwick said. But he also added that the "conflict diamond" problem "is more about an industry than a religion."

Or is it?

"Yes, it's a Jewish issue because [so many] of the diamond dealers in the world are Jewish," said a Jewish Los Angeles diamond merchant, who asked not to be named for security reasons. "Think of how many people are employed in the diamond industry in Israel and how vital it is to that economy."

Y. Carrington said...

Russell Simmons has finally graduated from capitalism to its highest stage---imperialism. I guess it was inevitable. If he could exploit the trauma of poor African American men and women here, I figure glossing over the atrocities against Black people in Sierra Leone and Angola is the next logical step.

As far as the jewelry industry goes, every damn diamond is a conflict diamond. DeBeers was born in blood, as was every major European multinational operating in Africa today. Nothing that Rush Simmons says will erase that fact.

Dumi said...

Ann and Y-
Wow, ya'll put it quite clearly. Ann you resolve is pretty amazing, the best I've done in that boycott department was on Nike and Timberland! But I do think that the diamond question beckons us a global citizens to really make some tough descisions. Do either of you think there exist the potential for these industries to be "clean" enough to purchase from? My boy is buying a stone from a co-op based out Ohio that is supposed to be conflict free. He's researched it exstensively and found it to be pretty legit, but you think smaller co-ops like that are partial solutions? I ask this in part because even though I don't really support Mandela's statement, there is something that suggests diamonds are a key part of economies (though I recognize this just perpetuates exploitation). Oh goodness, I'm rambling.

ann said...

Dumi.

" Do either of you think there exist the potential for these industries to be "clean" enough to purchase from? "

No.

Somewhere along the way, the diamond will have become "bloodied" before it reaches the hands of the lapidary, and ultimately ends up on the finger of a human.

Whether the diamond is mined by a young child or woman, brutally worked from sun-up to sundown, with a gun to their head; whether the diamond is carried, mule-like, by young teenage boys for a warlord, warlords whose whims can sway with the wind and if tested too much, will cut off the arms or legs of a child who doesn't move fast enough to pack the diamonds for the next courier; whether the diamonds are fought over by opposing groups who want to corner the market in their part of the African continent, Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc., so that they can sell the diamonds like a mess of pottage to the highest bidder; whether the rival factions of neighboring villages fight and kill each other, destroying their villages because of a gem that grew from soft coal to a hardness strong enough to cut glass-------these are factors that must be taken into consideration before purchasing a diamond.

Is it worth that much to have a diamond?

Can people find it in themselves to ask is the life of a human more important, or is the owning of a diamond more important?

In the end the choice is ours to make.

A diamond.

Or a human life.

Which in the end will have the greatest value? Which in the end will we care the most for?

DeBeers's slogan "A Diamond is Forever", has held cachet over women (and men) for decades.

Isn't it about time for another slogan:

"A Human Life is More Precious."

I certainly think so. And it is a way of thinking whose time has long been overdue.