Statements delivered in 2001 were heard and responded to by the UN. Oral statements were delivered by Mr. Silis Muhammad unless otherwise noted.
Documents of 2001 in order of presentation:
- Written Statement to the Commission on Human Rights, April 2001
- Oral Statement to the Commission on Human Rights
- Oral Statement to the Working Group on Minorities, May 2001
- Oral Statement of Attorney Harriett AbuBakr to the Working Group on Minorities
- Written Statement to the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, August 2001
- Oral Statement to the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
1) Written Statement to the 57th Session of the Commission on Human Rights
Provisional Agenda item 14, Specific Groups and Individuals (b) Minorities
During this 57th session of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Silis Muhammad will speak on behalf of so-called African-Americans for the ninth time. He has been bringing their collective prayer to the UN because the lingering effects of plantation slavery have left them in a deprived state. They are deprived of their original identity. They have experienced the forcible removal of culture, religion and 'mother tongue'. The annihilation of their 'mother tongue' is the extermination of their identity.
African-Americans in North, Central and South America and throughout the Diaspora all suffer from the loss of their identity. They did not come to the Americas willingly and they did not come as English speaking Christians with an Anglo-American culture. Neither did they come as Christians speaking Spanish or Portuguese or enjoying Spanish or Portuguese culture. Forcibly displaced from their common territory and scattered throughout the Americas Region and beyond, they have never questioned that they belong to each other as a group. Yet they have been denied the human rights that other groups enjoy: the right to speak their own language, practice their own religion and enjoy their own culture. Thus they are dispossessed of those human rights possessed by every minority and People and protected by the United Nations. They have not been in possession of their human rights for the past 400 years.
Although they are a People, and not a minority, African-Americans in the United States are placed within a minority status, as every scholar knows. The problems encountered in bringing the gravity of their position to light are extreme because the destruction of their identity has been hidden behind the U.S. Government's "melting pot" image. African-Americans mimic the identity of the majority. They are buried and hidden within the majority language, religion and culture, so very much so that United Nations in making its laws has left them out, it seems: it is not known immediately where they fit. To be left out of both the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is to not have political recognition of their human rights.
African-Americans support the notion that "Race" is a constituent element of the definition of minority. For more than 400 years they have been mindful, daily, of a consciousness of "otherness", with respect to racial differences. Unlike the Indigenous Peoples who were native to the territory, before colonization, and who formed many groups and spoke several languages, African-Americans were displaced from their common territory, and yet they invoke their similar characteristics in order to obtain their rights. Since the African-American "Racial" group is a group destroyed, it is axiomatic knowledge that they are a different racial group from the majority: they have neither racial dignity nor political bond.
Since collectively, they enjoy no political recognition, one might wonder how a complaint can be brought under international law. When they are able to argue about a violation of their human rights, and they should now be able in that they are racial members of the human family, this is their complaint: we are human beings, but to this date and time we are denied the human right of speaking our 'mother tongue' in violation of Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States of America has ratified.
Today the U.S. Government makes itself responsible for the rights of minorities within its jurisdiction to speak their 'mother tongue' in community with other members of their group. African-Americans cannot speak theirs. While the U.S. may assert that African-Americans are deprived of the use of their mother tongue, and not denied its use, scholars will agree that the very act of taking their 'mother tongue' away was for the express purpose of denying them the use of it. In fact, the act is tantamount to a permanent ongoing denial. Since their 'mother tongue' is taken away, they are both deprived and denied the use of it. And in its place, the U.S. continually has forced its Anglo-Saxon 'mother tongue' upon them for the past 400 years. Absent their 'mother tongue', they become a non-People, living without a permanent identity.
The African-American experience is an example for the civilized world of a holocaust wherein identity is forcibly and perpetually exterminated. Throughout their history, the U.S. Government, for the benefit of the white majority, perpetuated the crime by systematically obstructing their attempts to identify and bring dignity to themselves. The international community well understands that human dignity is attached to identity. African-Americans in the U.S. have cried out in many ways over many years for the restoration of their dignity as a people, yet their cry has been manipulated by the acts of the U.S. Government.
In the 1950s and '60s African-Americans by the hundreds of thousands joined and built the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, which was the most successful autonomy model for slave descendants in the U.S. During the same time period, the U.S. Government demonstrated its opposition to their rising consciousness in many ways, including its counter-intelligence program. Ultimately the U.S. Government used its media, its laws and its military to promote integration. As the international community knows, the integration and civil rights movement caused African-Americans to believe that they might one day achieve equality. Now they are beginning to understand that as long as they are forced to assume the identity of the ruling culture, they are placed in an underling position from which there is no escape.
Today the integration movement is viewed by experts as having brought about the demise of an independent Black economy and the weakening of the Black family and Black community. With their cohesiveness thus disrupted, the U.S. Government is now firmly in the position of being able to manipulate the African-American choice of leaders at the most crucial time in their rise.
There has never been a more grave situation for African-Americans and the United States of America. From the grass-root to the intellectual elite, they are coming into awareness that the U.S. Government has never intended or acted to do justice toward the descendants of its slaves. They are realizing that the lingering effects of slavery are intentionally placed to keep them in a permanent underling position. They are rising with this knowledge, and moving toward a mass cry for reparation. Concurrently, the potential for U.S. Government manipulation of African-Americans through media appointed leaders is at its highest point. If the African-American people see their upward movement being turned against them once again, violent racial confrontation is assured.
Once again, Mr. Silis Muhammad is delivering to the Commission on Human Rights a recommendation on behalf of African-Americans. He asks for United Nations expert and technical assistance in the establishment of an inclusive forum of African-American leaders. This forum would serve as the decision making and negotiating body for African-Americans in their dealings with the U.S. Government. The forum would also serve as a model for African-Americans in the Americas and throughout the Diaspora. It would provide a protected environment wherein the gravity of the current situation can be examined and the extent of damages can be determined. Within such a forum Black leaders from the grass-root, the community organizations, religious organizations, professional organizations as well as scholars, business leaders and politicians, can discuss and conclude on the means of reparation most beneficial to the restoration of African-Americans individually and as a People.
In conclusion, United Nations intervention is urgently called for in the restoration of the human rights and collective political identity of African-Americans. UN intervention is urgently called for as well, to protect and assist African-American leaders within a forum, as they seek to determine the damage they have sustained and the means of reparation needed in order to bring them back to life as a People.
2) Oral Statement to the 57th Session of the Commission on Human Rights
14. Specific Groups and Individuals: (b) Minorities
Greetings, Mr. Chairman. I have come to the UN, from the United States, where stands the Statue of Liberty. I do not say statue of Liberty in mockery. Liberty is an important word to me, and I hope it has a meaning to each and every one of you. We, African Americans, were, and are still mentally, politically and economically deprived, as every scholar knows. We were captured in slavery. My question is, do we now fit in the category of minority, or national minority or a people? Four hundred years of plantation slavery and its lingering effects have left us deprived and denied the use of our 'mother tongue', and thus, OUTSIDE OF a definite place within the UN system.
We are all from a common a territory, Africa, and from many tribes who spoke many languages. Like the Indigenous Americans, who were colonized and are receiving recognition as peoples, and reparations, we recognize ourselves as a "race" of people, by virtue of our origin and other commonalties and traits: the sufferance of slavery and its legacies, and the feeling of difference (or otherness) from the majority. We are not in control of our intellectual future, or our political and economic future. It would be impossible for the United States to implement a prayer for the reconstruction of our 'mother tongue', owing to forced breeding between slaves. We are without a definite identity, as to tribe, nation or people.
The international community does well understand that human dignity is attached to identity. We African Americans do not know where we fit. And what is more, I have learned, the United Nations does not know where we fit.
To this date and time we are denied, and deprived, the human right of speaking our 'mother tongue' in violation of Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. has ratified. Therefore, our prayer is for reparations, for the damage suffered, during this ongoing legal, and moral wrong. We ask that the Commission on Human Rights hear us as we demand our choice of reconstituting ourselves. May the Commission on Human Rights find a category within which we fit, or make a category in which we will fit? For the acts of wrong that the U.S. Government has committed against the very character of the UN -- HUMAN RIGHTS for everyone, everywhere -- we recommend a reparations sanction.
3) Working Group on Minorities, Seventh Session, 14-18 May 2001
Agenda Item 3 (b)
Examining possible solutions to problems involving minorities,
including the promotion of mutual understanding between and among minorities and Governments
If I could express a feeling in words, and that is difficult to do, I would like to say thank you to the Chairperson, Mr. Eide, Mr. Bengoa, and other members of the Working Group for their guidance, and for being dutiful to their profession.
The United Nations does not recognize us, the African American people in the United States, or know where we fit, I have seen. Four hundred years of plantation slavery and its lingering effects have left us deprived of and denied our 'mother tongue', and thus, outside of a definite place within the UN system, in violation of Article 27 of the ICCPR. This is an ongoing wrong. It is our prayer that the Working Group on Minorities will eventually recognize us, for we do recognize ourselves as the African American people, internally.
We are all from a common territory, Africa, and from many tribes who spoke many languages. Like the Indigenous Americans, who were colonized and are receiving recognition as peoples, and reparations, we recognize ourselves as a "race" of people, by virtue of our common origin, the sufferance of slavery and its legacies, and the wrongful act of forced breeding between the slaves which produced a changed African American people. Thus we are without a recognized identity as to tribe, nation or a people, and we are not in control of our future.
We are a people experiencing, in reality, the process of ethnogenesis. We ask that the Working Group on Minorities let us know what it recommends in relation to our desire to reconstruct our lost ties and reconstitute ourselves, since there are at present no international instruments, arbitrations, mechanisms or laws requiring the recognition of minorities that can restrain ethnic conflict.
4) Statement of Attorney Harriett AbuBakr
To the Working Group on Minorities, Seventh Session, 14-18 May 2001
Agenda Item 3 (b) Examining possible solutions to problems involving minorities,
including the promotion of mutual understanding between and among minorities and Governments
Greetings Mr. Chairman, Members of the Working Group on Minorities. My name is Harriett AbuBakr. I am an attorney at law, and founding member of the National Commission for Reparations, an organization representing African Americans in the United States. For several years I have come here to speak on the particular problems of African Americans. The response of the Working Group to African American issues has been steadfast, and it has given me confidence in your guidance. This year I will attempt to place my remarks within the broad theme that you have given us, the right to effective participation of minorities in the society of which they form a part.
We African Americans, whose ancestors were taken captive and enslaved, are a new people, and a new family among the families of man. Amongst ourselves we are keenly aware of our kinship and our difference from others, including even the Africans from whose arms we were torn. Today we are a part of a society established by those who captured and enslaved our ancestors.
During slavery we were forcibly removed from our mother tongue, culture and religion, and cruelly subjected to forced mixed breeding. We cannot look upon ourselves today and say "I am this or I am that." The painful truth is that we do not know ourselves. Forged in the most terrible of human experiences, that of being stripped of our very humanity, we have risen with the sure knowledge of one thing: we are human beings and we are entitled to know ourselves, to be ourselves and to enjoy human rights.
As a new people, our call for reparation is motivated by a profound desire for justice in human society. Our first concern is with our own restoration as a people. To be restored, we must form a foundation upon which to manifest our human spirit, new and changed as it is. We want our will for our future generations to be made manifest in the society in which we live. How can this occur?
We have no place in the Constitution of the United States. It is a document which to this day defines us as 3/5 of a human being. How can we effectively participate in a society where such a constitution is held sacred? Most of us believe the majority citizens would rather go to war with us than break down and rebuild their constitution in order to make it include our living will and protect us with the law that arises out of it.
Reparations for us must involve restoration of our human rights. In order to effectively participate in the society in which we live, we feel we must have some appropriate degree of autonomy, otherwise the insult to our human spirit that we are forced to endure daily will continue to erupt in physical violence, such as the widespread rioting that shut down Cincinnati approximately one month ago.
We continue to call for the expert guidance of the Working Group on Minorities in order to find the way through this delicate time in our resurrection. In the United States we are among those leading the African American people into an understanding of what has happened to them. The cry for justice and reparation is arising in us as if from the bottom of a deep well. With your assistance we must make sure that it leads to our restoration.
The needs of people are the reason for the development of law. We ask, will the Working Group on Minorities go to the farthest extent of its mandate in order to cause minority protection to develop in accord with our needs? Thank you for your attention.
5) Written Statement to the 53rd Session of the
Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Agenda item 5. Prevention of discrimination and protection of indigenous peoples and minorities
The following statement is offered by Mr. Silis Muhammad on behalf of the African American people.
We know that the United Nations does not recognize us, the African American people. Four hundred years of plantation slavery and its lingering effects have left us deprived of and denied our 'mother tongue', and thus outside of a definite place within the UN system. Although we are a people, and not a minority, in the United States we are placed within a minority status. We mimic the identity of the majority. We are buried and hidden within the majority language, culture and religion so very much that the United Nations in making its laws has left us out, it seems: it is not known immediately where we fit. This is an ongoing wrong. Throughout the Americas Region and beyond we are a people numbering 240,000,000, yet we live as if lost, without a recognized identity and without our human rights.
Since 1997 we have been delivering written and oral statements to the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. We have informed the Sub-Commission that we, the African American people, have been denied the human rights that other groups enjoy, as protected by Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. Government has ratified. We have told the Sub-Commission how we suffer from having been denied and deprived of our original language, our original culture and our original religion. We have told the Sub-Commission that we have been in this condition, living without our identity for the past 400 years
We have informed the Sub-Commission that the U.S. Government has systematically obstructed our attempts to identify and bring dignity to ourselves. We have told the Sub-Commission that we want our international political identity restored, and as a result of the U.S. Government's acts against us, we require UN assistance. We have prayed to the Sub-Commission for specific assistance in our efforts to resurrect ourselves, and receive reparations and restoration of our human rights. Thus we are confident that the Sub-Commission is aware that human rights are not presently being enjoyed by the African American people.
We have also brought our prayers to the Working Group on Minorities: a working group of the Sub-Commission. This Working Group has been entrusted with the task of promoting the rights of minorities in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. We thank the Sub-Commission for continuing to authorize the Working Group on Minorities, and support its efforts. We recognize that the Working Group on Minorities has made a consistent effort to respond to our prayers, and bring our issues to the Sub-Commission. We would like to thank the Working Group on Minorities, and urge the members, who are also members of this esteemed Sub-Commission, to steadfastly continue their efforts on our behalf.
It is our prayer that the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights consider the following three recommendations to this, its 53rd Session:
We urgently recommend that the Sub-Commission place the African American people on its agenda, alongside indigenous peoples and minorities. By placing us on the agenda, the Sub-Commission would acknowledge that it recognizes us as a group: as we have never questioned that we belong to each other as a group. We ask the Sub-Commission to take the bold step of beginning the official UN recognition of us by placing us on its agenda. We also asked to be placed on the agenda so that the experts of the Sub-Commission may be able to consider our issues and make decisions and offer resolutions on our behalf.
We recommend that the Sub-Commission invite the Working Group on Minorities to present before it a Working Paper of the Working Group on Minorities entitled Existence and Recognition of Minorities, document E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.5/2000/WP.2, written by Sub-Commissioner Mr. Jose Bengoa. We believe that presentation and discussion of this working paper will benefit the Sub-Commission by offering some alternatives to the present understanding of the situation of the African American people in the United States and throughout the Region of the Americas.
In regard to the mass cry for reparation of the African American people, which the UN is confronting at the upcoming World Conference Against Racism, we ask the Sub-Commission to put forward a specific recommendation. We ask the Sub-Commission to recommend that UN expert and technical assistance be granted in the establishment of an inclusive forum of African American leaders from the U.S.: a forum which would serve as a model for the Americas Region. This forum would seek to determine the damage we have sustained and the means of reparation needed in order to bring about our resurrection and restoration. It would also serve as a negotiating body for the African American people in their dealings with the U.S. Government. Without UN protection, there will be dangerous potential for U.S. Government manipulation of this mass movement, as there has been with mass movements of our people in the past.
6) Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Oral intervention under agenda item 5:
Prevention of discrimination and protection of indigenous peoples and minorities
We recommend a forum for the African American people, who are descendants of slaves, throughout North America, Central America, South America and the Diaspora. We recommend that a trust fund be established for activities under this forum.
We did not come to the Americas willingly, and we did not come as Christians, speaking English, Spanish or Portuguese. We are all from a common territory, Africa, yet we are from many tribes who spoke many languages. The Indigenous Americans who spoke languages, and who were colonized, are now receiving reparations and recognition as peoples. We, likewise, recognize ourselves as a "race" of people, by virtue of our common origin, the sufferance of slavery and its legacies, and the wrongful act of forced breeding between slave and the slave masters. This forced breeding produced a changed African people approximately 240,000,000 strong, living the Americas Region, and lost from our identity. Thus we are without any UN recognized identity.
We urgently recommend that the Sub-Commission place the African American people on its agenda, alongside indigenous peoples and minorities. We have never questioned that we belong to each other as a group. By placing us on the agenda the Sub-Commission would then be able to consider our issues, including where we fit. At the very least, we are another category of people; but presently, we have no recognized UN Human Rights.