On Feb. 1, 1968, Echol Cole and Robert Walker were crushed to death while riding out a cold, driving rainstorm in the back of an outmoded “packer” garbage truck in Memphis. Unsafe working conditions, racism and abuse had long been intolerable for the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers. On Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, Monday, February 12, they refused to go to work. Later attacked by the police, the news media, and the city government, their fight under the banner “I Am A Man” for union rights and a living wage marked a turning point for the movements of the 1960s from civil rights to economic justice.
It was “Groundhog’s Day” at Stateville Prison; that is to say, another redundant night. I sat on the top bunk in my small concrete box, head scraping the low paint-chipped ceiling, cursing my two-hundred dollar 13-inch flat screen television. It was defiantly cutting off every few minutes, despite my chastising finger mashing the power button and my verbal assault on its character: “piece of crap!” I’d only had it for a year. The joint had sold me a lemon.
In June 2015, a coalition of six Pan-African activist networks launched #StoptheBleeding Africa in Nairobi, Kenya to curb the hemorrhage of resources from the African continent. As the #BlackLivesMatter movement continues to gain strength in the United States, this Pan-African coalition came together to expose and mobilize global support to end illicit financial flows – money that is illegally earned, transferred or used. Estimates of illegal transactions in Africa show a loss of at least $50 billion to $80 billion in wealth every year, a figure that would be incalculably more if transfers made legal by loopholes and unfair treaties were included. Some flows are only seen as “legal” because the laws are written and interpreted by those profiting from the system. Nevertheless, the outflow of clearly illegal funds is far greater than the estimated $40 billion a year that Africa receives in official development assistance.