Olive Morris was born to parents Vincent and Doris Morris in St. Catherine, Jamaica in 1952. The Morris family moved to London, England in 1961 where she would leave a legacy her community would never forget. It is said the Morris did not complete grade school but she did go on to earn her doctoral degree in social science from Manchester University. As a teen living in South London Morris became active within the political movements that were gaining momentum in London. In her adult years she was a founding member of several groups who fought for the rights of blacks, women and “squatters.” (Squatters were the less fortunate people of London who usually in abandoned buildings.) The Organization of Women of African and Asian Descent, the Brixton Black Women’s Group, the Manchester Black Women’s Co-operative, the Manchester Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group, and the Brixton Law Center are the organizations Morris help to found. She was an active and visible ally to the squatter’s movement as well as a member of the Black Panther Party during the 1970’s.
At the age of 27 Morris unfortunately died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but her spirit and influence did not leave the people of South London. Morris’ contributions were not overlooked by her community, the Lambeth Council, a local authority for the Borough of Lambeth in Greater London, honored her by naming one of its council buildings after her. The people of London voted to have Morris depicted on the one pond note of the local currency in Brixton, London. To call Olive Morris a brave woman would be an understatement; in 1969 she witnessed a Nigerian Diplomat being arrested because the police thought his Mercedes was too fancy for him. As the police began to beat the man, Morris broke through a crowd to come to the man’s aide. She was threw to the ground by the police, kicked and stomped in the breast, and finally stripped naked by the police as they told her; “This is the right color for your body,” referring to the bruises upon her body. Despite facing constant racism, threats and attacks, she continued to fight for the rights of black people, women and the poor people of London. She was determined to exhaust her energy and resources to make sure her people would no longer be oppressed. Olive Morris, we proudly stand on your Shoulders.
The La Victoria District of Lima, Peru produced one of South America’s most important ambassadors of Afro-Peruvian culture. Nicomedes Santa Cruz Aparicio and Victoria Gamarra Ramirez produced ten children; the ninth of their ten children was Nicomedes Santa Cruz. After Santa Cruz completed elementary school he would go into the workforce, his first job was a locksmith then he worked as a blacksmith until 1956. During his free time Santa Cruz would write poems but in 1953 he would also open his own shop providing locksmith services. He would close his sop a few years later to give his time to revitalizing and preserving Afro-Peruvian culture. Santa Cruz would go about promoting his culture through his theater company he opened with his sister Victoria Santa Cruz; he would also use the Peruvian media to spread his message. His messages were spread through publications in newspapers such as Expreso and El Comercio; Santa Cruz’s push for the recognition of his history and culture came at a time when black people in Peru were treated as animals.
Santa Cruz would record his first poetry album Nicomedes Santa Cruz y Su Conjunto Kumanana with his group Conjunto Cumanana in 1959. He would follow with the recording of his second poetry album Ingá and Décimas y poemas Afroperuanos in 1960. In 1964 he released a poetry album titled Cumanana Poemas y canciones, and in 1967 he recorded the poem “Benny ‘Kid’ Paret while attending the Canción Protesta Encuentro in Cuba. Santa Cruz was known as a pioneer in terms of using his craft to fight racism and injustice against the black people of Peru. His poetry, music, stories, publications and parties were his vehicles to empower his people. Santa Cruz realized that black historical figures were absent from history lessons; his own family wanted him to marry a woman who would help to “improve” the race, meaning a black woman was not good enough for Santa Cruz.
An outspoken opponent of racism, Santa Cruz was viewed as a trouble maker for seeking to enlighten his people to their current conditions. In 1957 he made his theatrical debut in a show titled Black Rythems of Peru with the Pancho Fierro Company at the Teatro Municipal de Chile. Santa Cruz’s influence led to the creation of such events as the Black Arts Festival which was first held in 1971, an event Santa Cruz and others used to further promote Afro-Peruvian culture. He would become an ambassador for his culture around the world visiting Senegal, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Columbia and Japan. In 1980 working as a journalist would take Santa Cruz to Madrid, Spain where he would live until 1992. His time in Madrid was spent recording a collection of songbook albums titled Espana en su Folklore, which was released in 1987. He taught a seminar on African culture in the Dominican Republic in 1989, followed by participating in the Expedition Adventure 92 Tour of Mexico and Central America.
At the age of sixty-six Santa Cruz would die from lung cancer but his influence on his people and culture is still living today. He was influenced by Porfirio Vasquez and his work in Peru in the 1920’s, Vasquez was an early pioneer of the décima form of poetry used in Peru. A decima is a ten line poem of Spanish origin still used today. Santa Cruz is regarded as the most important black intellectual in twentieth century Peru; he gave his life and used his many talents to make sure black people in Peru knew their ancestral history. He made sure his people understood that they should experience justice and have the ability to improve their lives, and the lives of their family members. Even though he was a victim of racist attacks himself, Santa Cruz kept fighting for his peoples freedom. Nicomedes Santa Cruz, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Information suggests that Abu al-Misk Kafur was born in Ethiopia around 905 AD. He is described as a dark skinned boy who was very intelligent and was also a eunuch. He was brought as a slave in 923 AD by Mohammad ibn Tughj al-Ikshid the founder of the Ikhshidid dynasty of Egypt. Kafur was said to be loyal and always completed his duties with vigor. Because of his positive attributes Kafur was given the title of the supervisor of princely education, this made him the primary educator of the children of Mohammad ibn Tughj. Kafur excelled in his role as an educator and was rewarded with a second promotion to a military officer. As an officer Kafur participated in and lead military expeditions to Syria and the Hejaz, a region on the Western boarder of Saudi Arabia known as the “Western Provence.” His intelligence would often be on display during diplomatic negotiations between the Ikhsidid ruled Egypt and the caliph of Baghdad.
Kafur became a high ranking political advisor to Mohammad ibn Tughj before becoming the ruler of Egypt after the death of Mohammad ibn Tughj in 946 AD. Even though ibn Tughj had son’s Kafur was placed in charge of the boys, therefore he held seniority over them as it pertains to ascending to the throne of Egypt. Kafur’s rise to the throne was viewed as a rags to riches story, he was viewed as a capable and steady ruler by his peers. At this time in Islamic history it was rare for an African slave to rise to the position of a ruler. It was common for African slaves to become a part of the military or even military leaders, but Kafur was one of the first to help break the mold.
He ruled Egypt under the name of the Ikhshidid until 966 AD after the death of ibn Tughj’s youngest son Ali. Kafur defended his crown against the Ghalbūn rebellion from 947 to 948. He survived a coup d’état and negative propaganda from his enemies. Kafur’s army and mystique was powerful enough to suppress the Fatmid expansion into Egypt. He maintained economic stability along with displaying his love for the arts. The poet al-Mutanabbi praised Kafur in his writings, until Kafur refused to reward the poet with a high ranking office; ai-Mutanabbi then used his poetry to discredit the ruler of Egypt. Kafur is one of our lesser known figures in history, his influence in the Islamic world is barley spoken of in the world history classrooms across the United States. Kafur, like many other African heroes have helped to change the world, but their stories are almost lost within the pages of history. He was able to become the de facto ruler of Egypt despite being made a eunuch and enslaved as a child. The Ikhshidid were invaders ruling Egypt but his ascension returned an African born ruler the throne. Abu al-Misk Kafur, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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