The Advancing Abolitionists
We must be getting a lot more information now that there's a 24-hour news cycle and as communications behemoths merge their multimedia resources (Time Warner and AOL, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times).
So how come there has been hardly any attention to a rapidly growing coalition that is determined to abolish slavery in Sudan? It is led by the American Anti-Slavery Group, but includes organized labor, college students (including Students for a Free Tibet at 600 campuses across the country), and black and white churches.
On April 4, C-SPAN covered an hour-long, detailed denunciation of the Sudanese government by Congressman Donald Payne and the D.C. delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton. They are among the abolitionists. Did you see anything on that indictment outside of C-SPAN? If this were about white slaves, would there be such indifference?
On March 23, in Boston, the new abolitionists targeted Goldman Sachs. That powerful investment firm was hosting a luncheon for potential investors in an IPO (initial public offering) for PetroChina. This is a newly formed domestic subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Company, Communist China's largest oil operation.
China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) has a 40 percent stake in the $40 billion Greater Nile Project in Sudan, which involves the drilling of 4 billion barrels of oil at $10 a barrel. This enterprise, in partnership with the government of Sudan, is connected to the ethnic cleansing of black Christians and animists in the south of Sudan, who occupy lands where the oil is. The oil also provides fuel, as noted here last week, for the government's bombing of black schools and hospitals in the south.
Jon S. Corzine, currently running for the Democratic nomination for the Senate in New Jersey, was the cochair of Goldman Sachs and still benefits from its profits. He owns more than $50 million worth of its stock. One of his campaign ads brags that under his leadership, Goldman Sachs's underwriting activities helped keep or create 700,000 jobs in New Jersey. As The New York Times (April 11) reported, Jim Florio, his opponent for the Democratic nomination for the Senate, has asked Corzine to sell his shares in Goldman Sachs if the company does not end its relationship with PetroChina. Will Corzine divest himself from slavery?
In Boston on March 23, the new abolitionists marched through downtown streets and held a rally outside the hotel where Goldman Sachs was trying to recruit investors for the PetroChina IPO. The protesters handed out information on slavery and the killing of blacks in Sudan to potential investors on the way in.
Speaking at the rally, former Sudan labor minister Dr. Oliver Albino said: "The Chinese National Petroleum Company helps the fundamentalist government in Sudan cleanse indigenous African populations from several provinces in the southern Sudan to make way for oil explorations. The Chinese provide heavy trucks with Chinese drivers for the Sudanese army to clear areas which had been earmarked for exploration."
Another speaker was Kathleen Casavant, secretary-treasurer of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, who said that Massachusetts state treasurer Shannon O'Brien has advised her own staff dealing with Massachusetts investments funds "to look seriously at the PetroChina IPO."
At the rally, American Anti-Slavery Group student organizer David Rossini told the crowd about the group's campaign against the Canadian oil company Talisman Energy, a partner with the Sudanese government in oil development in the south, where slave raids on black Christians and animists continue. Said Rossini:
"We crushed Talisman's share price by explaining to American investors how they have become complicit in slavery and genocide in Sudan. PetroChina will be no different. We will target all investors, and we guarantee the same devastating share devaluation."
Boston was the center of antislavery organizing in the 19th century, led by William Lloyd Garrison. I was a pupil in the Boston elementary school named after him. Like Joe Hill, the spirit of William Lloyd Garrison goes marching on.
Four days after the abolitionists exposed Goldman Sachs, the coalition declared a national boycott of Amoco gas stations because of British Petroleum-Amoco's involvement in slavery in Sudan.
Amoco, says Dr. Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, "seeks to invest $1 billion in PetroChina, the subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Company. Amoco has become the proxy of a genocidal regime in Sudan. It must step aside, or face withering opposition."
Meanwhile, the Paradise Baptist Church in New Jersey, part of the abolitionist coalition, spoke truth to the power of Amoco. Pastor Jethro James noted that Amoco's slogan is "clean gasoline." And Marsha Myers, lay leader of the church, talked of mounting a picket line at the Amoco station two blocks from the church.
"We won't," she said, "let Amoco sell its slave-and-slaughter gas in our neighborhoods."
In New York City, Comptroller Alan Hevesi has said that none of this city's "international investment managers" will invest pension funds in the PetroChina IPO. The reasons, he said, were PetroChina's "failure to fit the pension systems' risk profile and its lack of promise as an investment."
I asked his office if slavery in Sudan was involved in his decision. "It was a factor," I was told.
Will any of the hordes of local and national reporters covering the Giuliani-Clinton Senate campaign ask what those aspirants think of investing in genocide and slavery?
And once again, why the hell does Jesse Jackson remain silent? William Lloyd Garrison said: "I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.