'Don't Let Anyone Divide You. Fight Ignorance About Yourself' says African-American Network Stalwart Mama Dee at Castecon

A landmark first-of-a-kind conference Castecon 2023 was held in San Francisco and convened by Pandit Satish Sharma and Richa Gautam with the leadership and support of a grassroots team. This was the first such event where many important voices against the caste bill SB403, came on a common platform to raise their concerns about the false caste allegations on the Hindu American community. The bill was finally defeated on October 7th with a Governor's veto. Castefiles will print a series of articles with key excerpts from the Castecon conference.

Dec 24, 2023 - 06:35
'Don't Let Anyone Divide You. Fight Ignorance About Yourself' says African-American Network Stalwart Mama Dee at Castecon

Built on Slavery and Segregation, the History of America is Racial and Biracial 

As part of the ‘Each One Teach One’ program that we teach, we teach about culture. We teach about appreciation of the differences that we have. We teach about customs and religions, and that they are not a threat to the United States of America because guess what, in 1619 and before that, Africans were brought to this country to build it. And in the process of building, you have what you call today “Biracial”. Many of us are biracial, right? I also have Islanders in my veins. 

So, we encourage people to study the history of the United States, that's how you are going to understand racism, caste, and segregation. It's all about how to keep a darker color of people under control as part of labor in building this country with no pay. We are feeding you. We are clothing you. I'm your master. You are on my plantation. So why should I pay you? I own you. But you are lower than a horse. You are lower than my cattle. You are not human. You shouldn't be educated. And if you're caught, we are going to make you an example by hanging you or cutting your feet off. You can try to run away to another state. Many Africans tried to go back to Africa but had no idea where they were, or to go in what direction. So many of them who tried were killed, harmed, burnt, lived in shanties, barely clothed, and worked from sun up to sundown. 

African Americans Led the Fight For Civil Rights That Indian Americans Enjoy

So, you tell me about this, caste was there? Why is it coming up again? We put a band-aid on it – “The Civil Rights Act”. The very first when you hear about the Constitution, you need to study that. How about the Bill of Rights, free speech?

 How did the small numbers of Africans fight to put in place the 13th Amendment? They wanted to be free but with that came a lot of pain that small number of slaves and their children said, it was worth it! I might as well die trying. Guess what, the 13th Amendment is there. And the 13th Amendment is the beacon for every immigrant and anyone within the United States of America to be free. The number one amendment is Free Speech. 

The 14th Amendment said, oh, we are going to make you a citizen. It was worth trying to purchase a home, and trying to write, because some didn't know how to write. Pay taxes they didn't quite understand. Some were never educated, but they dreamed and they prayed for freedom. 

They were a part of every war in the United States. During the revolution, the Civil War, and after the Civil War, Congress granted in 1866 the Buffalo soldiers who were slaves to rebuild what was torn down during the Civil War. African-American descendants of slaves built California parks and Yosemite, they rebuilt buildings and houses. Do you ever hear about it? Absolutely not!

So there's no understanding of the word racism. No one understands it because you don't have the history to put it together. We are together; we love each other because you look like me. But then will we distinguish a difference between us? And what I experience is called ‘Divide and Rule’. No group should let anyone divide you.

Come together! It’s okay to disagree, it's okay to have opinions, it’s okay to dream, to have visions. But it's not okay to compromise because you have to keep moving forward as a group to understand one another to fight the ignorance of others, and that's what it is. 

Some do not know the history of the United States of America. They are fearful because someone has influenced them. The darker they are, they are criminals and thieves. The same thing applies to a lighter shade of person. A European with fair skin will brutalize you just like a person with dark skin. And that's because it's fear of one another. We don't appreciate each other. We don't look at each other as a man, a man regardless of race - a Native American here in the United States or an Indian from abroad. We are humans first -men or women. They don't understand the human race and this is what I advocate for.

Research. Be Proud of Your Communities' Legacy

Understand, who you think is your enemy. Don't look at the color of my skin. Don't look at where I come from. Don't look at how much money I have or which ZIP code I live in. Talk to me and find out who I am. This is what we teach our students. In our programs, we teach ethical behavior, and respect for that what you don't understand. Research it. 

There are numerous books, authors, educators, and institutions that can help you understand where you live, and who lives in your neighborhood. Those who are in the leadership role, do not fear them. We introduce our students from K on up to adult, go talk to your leaders within your community; have a relationship with them, if you can. Let them know more about you and find out who they are. Everyone within the United States of America as well as the world has an opportunity and obligation to teach and to be proud of who they are. 

I am proud of who I am. I have been in situations of being denied. Did I take up arms? No. Was I threatened by someone with arms? No. Because I let them know your ignorance is what's in front of you, young man or young woman. I just know your shortcomings. You don't know anything about me. The cell phone that you are using has a gamma electric cell that was invented by a black man – the first nuclear engineer in the United States. Your railroad crossing is a black thing, you love a tablet, you love your computers, your color screens, your light switch, your air conditioning, your refrigeration. Study that and you will see what the Africans and later African Americans built. We created inventions and built many buildings and architectural designs. Many were at the forefront of the medical community, many in teaching and many went into judiciary. Small numbers but it's there for everyone to enjoy. 

So, if you leave with anything today, start researching and be proud of who you are. And yes, the fight, it has been going on. I guess I'll die and it'll still be going on, but take up the fight for knowledge. Stand up and say this is wrong. 

- Dee Slade: Executive Director, African-American Network of Kern County (AANKC)

Castecon Desk Hindu community leader in the UK, Pandit Satish K Sharma, and Indian American activist and researcher Richa Gautam joined hands with a group of community grassroots members for holding a landmark conference Castecon 2023 in San Francisco. The first event of its kind, Castecon 2023 brought together a number of important voices in the Indian American community against the Caste Bill SB403. The event went a long way in laying out the current and future challenges for the Indian American community, especially the weaponisation of a non-issue like caste. Castefiles will publish a series of articles culling insight from the speakers at Castecon 2023 with excerpts from speeches. The articles will hopefully lay the basis for the community's strategy to meet the challenges of the future.