Featured Film of the Week- “Waiting for the (t)rain”

Poster Waiting for the (t)rain

Director: Simon Panay
Synopsis: A small village lost in a dusty desert in Burkina’s bush. Two times a week passes the train. Various food items and water bottles thrown by the passengers while passing by constitute the main income of the village, and the only source of water during dry season. Different portraits follow each others. The older one s have known slavery in the service of France, the young dream of distant horizons


Camera Operator: Nicolas Canton & David Capsir
Sound: Souleymane Drabo
Music: Sessimè
Editing: David Capsir
Director & Producer: Simon Panay

“Sheer Amazement”

“Sheer Amazement”
By: Jerome Fitts- April 2015

In wrapping up the the current documentary film “The WorthJourney”, we decided to include a few subjective thoughts and excerpts from scenarios that was cut from the final version of the film. We couldn’t fit what is written below into the film because the people that supported me filming did not experience the same challenges and adversities. So I thought the best way to clear my desk with the relevant experiences that wouldn’t go away, was to put it into a blog that one particular well-known publication is going to publish anyway. Besides in my opinion, the sole purpose of blogs, is to share the experiences and provide the social proof to back up the story.

Here goes:
Case 1:
In May of 2013, when I was going through passport control in the city that created the ingredients of “bullshit”- Los Angeles, I was asked; “How do you have two passports and why are you going to Ireland?” My reply was simple: “I live in Dublin sir”.

1

Dublin, Ireland 2014. Photo taken by J.Fitts

His response while stamping my American passport was; “Why, you’re not Irish and you certainly don’t sound Irish?” My response: “No of course I am not, but what does that have to do with my house, family, friends and paying tax in Eire over the last 20 plus years! I am using my American passport because I just want the easiest way to go through passport control bro. I have had enough of LA LA land.” Ironically enough, exactly a year after that incident leaving Canada with Tamara, I entered the States with my Irish passport and had no trouble. Tamara, who is Irish, was questioned..- Yeah go figure.

While walking through, after he stamped my passport, I told him that after going home for a few weeks I was going to Rodos, Greece for the summer then onwards to Sierra Leone my ethnic origin to start filming a documentary. His response was: “Well that is ok then, but where is that?”. Bro please.

Setting sail within the Greek Islands. 2014

Setting sail within the Greek Islands. 2014

Not only did this idiot at passport control provide more fuel for my fire for The WorthJourney, but I was also amazed how this guy, who was a person of color, held this position of control. You know I wonder why someone from Homeland Security or Passport Control wasn’t educated enough to know that people of color have been enabled to roam the planet as they choose for sometime. Perhaps we were equally amazed at one another but from two different perspectives. I felt like the guy in 12 years And A Slave that could read and the fellow slaves were pissed off at him for being able to and he just didn’t get it.

Leaving Santa Monica. May 2013.

Leaving Santa Monica. May 2013.

Was it because I looked like a basketball player wearing shades and nursing a hangover trying to being too cool that threw him off or was it because I didn’t flirt with him? Well I am heterosexual and if it had been an attractive female perhaps I would have- who knows? Although that did get me in a lot of trouble at the Greek/Macedonian boarder a year later, but man do I remember her smile. At any rate isn’t it amazing that this guy was giving me a hard time because he couldn’t understand how I was roaming freely without a care in the world?

Case 2:
It amazes me how many people hate America but love the programs, the freedom, the music and try so desperately to be American, even though they have never set foot in the land of the free.

During my trip through the Balkans region in the summer of 2014 and I couldn’t believe the amount of Yankees baseball hats there were as well as the amount of American Selfie poses there were. The world’s third largest country (Facebook) and the key holder of the Internet (Microsoft) were both created in America so why hate the land so much?

The world is a smaller place these days because of the latter, but it should also serve as some sort of platform for education and comparisons of traditions. Lets be frank, America doesn’t have any real traditions and in 2015 no true race. It’s still a new conquered land and a Big Party that has arguably or inarguably gone wrong. But is that the average hard working American fault? I love that Big Party, well at least in spurts.

Bill Clinton Statue.. In all places-- Prishtina, Kosovo. 2014

Bill Clinton Statue.. In all places– Prishtina, Kosovo. taken by JFitts. June 2014

If we all take the approach of accepting the Big Party that everyone wants to be apart of then perhaps we can concentrate on less negative attitudes towards the Big Party. Or else we could all shut up and stick to our own and not share, but don’t take from the Big Party and run home. Get it!

I get the political side of things and at some point who could disagree, I know most Americans hate the war(s) as well but someone has to maintain stability right?

None of this has anything to do with Fashion. That is a totally separate post altogether. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world where people dress the same except in the 50 States that makes up America.

Zurich, Switzerland. late 2013

Zurich, Switzerland. late 2013- taken by. JFitts February 2014

Music and Television however seems to be a completely different story. The licensed television shows in different languages such as; the X-Factor, and the God awful reality shows are hilarious. With the exception of Ireland and England, there are more copycat programs exported from the Fat of Land than ever.

I wonder what Ice T and Afrika Islam would think of the kids that are trying to be what they were 30 years ago when they created hip-hop? Its amazing that some of those kids in either the Balkans or Greek Islands would tell  Ice T or “Izz” they got it wrong. Imagine that.. Funny right, well Google it.

It would be a sin to leave out G.A.S (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) in this but we have to blame the degenerate expats who wouldn’t go home after their service for allowing them to call hip hop “Black Music”. Isn’t that amazing that urban/hip-hop or soul could be considered Black Music and no one is offended. Hmm food for thought. If everyone is getting alone then why bother, or is it a case of keeping the blinds shut on equality.

Big Steve Def Jay Radio. Photos used by kind permission. 2015

Big Steve Def Jay Radio. Photos used by kind permission. 2015

What if Americans were taking traditional music from the Polish and singing it on street corners then tell the Polish they have it wrong. You guys want an example, put on a pot of coffee and research it.  

What’s the point I am trying to make? I was amazed that this is still going on. Is it about race? “No”. Is it about education? Hmm you’re the reader you be the judge. I personally think it has a lot to do with laziness and lack of communication amongst one another as people.

Irish Ferries. Copyright Controlled. 2015

Irish Ferries. Copyright Controlled. 2015

I miss those glory days of catching a ferry from Dublin to Holy Head, Wales after a great night out. Then meeting exciting people from all over the world that had very little fear and would buy each other beers.

Thank God for my local pub!

JFitts

Hans Massaquoi; “Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany”

By:  Jerome Fitts
February 4th, 2015

To celebrate Black History Month, we, (WJ), are honored to feature individuals who are people of color, that set examples and standards for our society today. On February 4th, 2015 we are celebrating the life of Hans Massaquoi.

Hans Massaquoi (1926-2013)

Hans Massaquoi
(1926-2013)

Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of EBONY magazine (1957-1997) most noted for his award winning 1999 memoir; “Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany”. In the book Massaquoi, details his difficult, sometimes desperate life as a child and teen during a murderous time in modern history.(1) His book, has been recognized as the “sole” biography of the Nazi era from a black person viewpoint.

Hans Jurgen Massaquoi was born on January 19, 1926, in Hamburg, Germany and passed away on his birthday in 2013. He was the son of Al-Haj Massaquoi, an African business man from Liberia and Bertha Baetz, a German nurse.

His father (Al-Haj), who was the son of a Liberian consul general, left Germany because of the rise of the Nazi regime.

Hans Parents-

Hans Parents- Al-Haj Massaquoi and  Berthan Baetz

Unlike other German women at the time who were giving their “Brown Babies” up for adoption, his mother Bertha, decided to raise Hans in Germany alone instead of joining Hans father in Liberia.(2)

In his autobiography Hans mentions being taunted on a daily bases in regards to his colour stating his classmates would say ; “Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger!” (*Schornsteinfeger means chimney sweep in English)-Ed

It is highlighted in “In Destined to Witness”, that when Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in 1933 he was fascinated by the uniforms, “goose-stepping” marches and the military might of the Nazi soldiers. Massaquoi recalled the first time Hitler’s motorcade came to Hamburg, and the thrill that he experienced watching the new “Führer” roll past.(1)

“Like everyone around me, I cheered the man whose every waking hour was dedicated to the destruction of ‘inferior non-Aryan people’ like myself.”- Massaqoui

tumblr_mh2xdnHtTD1qcw9y0o1_250As a 7-year-old boy in Hamburg, Massaquoi noted that his proudest moment was when a baby sitter sewed a swastika on his sweater. He also stated that the disappointment he had because a teacher told him he couldn’t join Hitlers Youth.

“Of course I wanted to join. I was a kid and most of my friends were joining. They had cool uniforms and they did exciting things – camping, parades, playing drums,”- wrote Massaquoi.

During his teenage years Massaqoui and his mother lived in fear because of the Nazi elimination of all non Aryans. He mentions that although he was not deported himself, he credited this to being black. He felt because he was black he was more of a rarity than a threat.

“Unlike Jews, blacks were so few in numbers that they were relegated to low-priority status in the Nazis’ line-up for extermination,” Massaquoi said.

When Massaquoi’s mother lost her job because she had a black son, he boxed as well as played saxophone in a “Swing Jazzband” to support himself and his mother. It should be noted that at the time and yet still today (February 2015), Swing and Jazz music as well as any type of Urban Music is considered “Black Music” in Germany. Massaquoi, who dreamed of immigrating to America as he followed the careers of African American sports heroes Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, boxed to earn extra money but was forbidden by law to take on Aryan opponents in the ring.(1)


He also revealed the kindnesses of German neighbors and friends who helped him and his mother survive during these difficult months. At one point, Massaquoi even attempted to join the Germany Army after recognizing that he was the only young man left in his neighborhood who did not wear a uniform. “This Lieutenant Colonel bawled me out saying how dare I even presume to ask. So that did it for me. That was the real turning point. By then, I had got all the Nazi stuff out of my head, and it was the final insult.”- Massaquoi recounted.

In 1948, Massaquoi left Germany for Liberia and lived with his father. However, he became dissatisfied with the black-on-black racism and applied and received a student visa for America.

Hans arriving in America. *photo used by kind permission.2015

Hans arriving in America.
*photo used by kind permission.2015

While attending aviation mechanics school in Chicago, he received a draft notice to fight in the Korean War, despite having alien status. Massaquoi was stationed in the deep south of America ironically enough during the start of the Civil Rights movements.

After the Korean War, in which he was never deployed to fight in combat, he returned to Chicago to resume his studies. Massaquoi began working at Ebony Magazine in 1957 in as an associate editor. By 1967, ten years after working at the prestigious publication, Massaquoi was awarded the Managing Editors position. He held this position for another 30 years until his retirement in 1967.

Encouraged by the late Alex Haley (Roots), he penned the remarkable “adversity turned triumphed”, autobiography “Destined To Witness; Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany.” (3)

Qouting Hans Massaqoui Jr in loving memory of his late father; “Hans Massaquoi lived to become not just a footnote in history, but a figure of note.” (4)

nie-hans

Hans Massaqoui, The WorthJourney not only celebrate your remarkable life, but we thank you for setting the example of creating and accomplishing your dreams.- J.Fitts

We encourage all of our readers to not only buy the book but read it!

 

Career: Played saxophone in jazz clubs in Hamburg, mid-1940s; British Military Government, Hamburg, Germany, interpreter, 1945-48; National Association of Educational Broadcasters, Urbana, IL, editor, 1956-57; Jet Magazine, Chicago, IL., associate editor, 1957-58; Ebony Magazine, Chicago, associate editor, 1958-64, assistant managing editor, 1964-67, managing editor, 1967-.

Awards: Overseas Press Club of America citation, 1975, for coverage of Heads of Government Conference in Kingston, Jamaica.

References:
(1) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873200048.html
(2) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/20/germanys-brown-babies-still-searching-for-their-american-fathers
(3) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015.By Jerome Fitts. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/hans-massaquoi-who-grew-up-black-in-nazi-germany-dies-at-87/2013/01/23/3faaa5bc-64b1-11e2-b84d-21c7b65985ee_story.html
(4) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.npr.org/2013/01/26/170281062/ebony-editor-began-life-black-in-nazi-germany