Vol. 10    No. 16
AUGUST 6, 2015
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
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Before I launch into this issue’s column about Africa Fest, I do feel compelled to reflect on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 6, 1945, the
United States dropped the first atomic bomb on a population center, Hiroshima, Japan in an attempt to force the Japanese to surrender
unconditionally and save the countless American lives — no mention is ever made of Japanese civilians — that would be lost in an invasion
of the Japanese island. Hundreds of thousands were killed immediately or soon after from the bomb’s impact and the ensuing radiation.

When there was no immediate surrender, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 2015 with the same impact on the
Japanese civilian population and the Japanese unconditionally surrendered a few days later. What had been a protracted and bloody fight in
the Pacific was over.

My dad was wounded during this fight and received a Purple Heart when the aircraft carrier he was head of airplane maintenance on was hit
by a kamikaze plan and killed many of the men who were under my father’s command. My dad suffered from “survivor’s guilt” for the rest of
his life.

I have often wondered if these atomic bombings were necessary. I can’t help but believe that part of the reason was revenge because of the
savagery of the Pacific fighting. A heavy price was paid for every island won by the American troops.

I have always wondered why the bombs weren’t dropped out in the nearby sea where the Japanese could see the destructive power of the
atomic bombs without inflicting such a heavy civilian toll. I wonder why there wasn’t a “shot across the bow” before civilian targets were hit.

I think human targets were hit too hastily — I feel some degree of racism was at play here since there wasn’t any talk about using the bomb on
Germany to my knowledge — and we have been paying the price ever since because for every action, there is a reaction.

At times, I wonder if perhaps Al Qaida’s and other terrorist organizations’ desire to use a nuclear device against the United States isn’t driven,
in part, by our original use of atomic weapons. We let the cat out of the bag. I hope the insanity of an atomic bomb explosion never again
occurs on our Planet Earth. And I continue to remember those hundreds of thousands of people who perished on August 6th and 9th eternal
peace.

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On August 15th, this Saturday, the African Association of Madison will be kicking its game up to another level when it hosts Africa Fest in
Madison’s Central Park between E. Washington Avenue and Williamson Street. For any of you who have attended La Fete de Marquette or Bob
Queen’s Central Park Sessions, you know that Central Park is an excellent venue to hold a festival. It will be laid out nicely with a big stage
due to the festival’s collaboration with Bob Queen who will be holding one of his fabled Central Park Sessions the next day in the park.

One of the features of this year’s Africa Fest will be the African Women’s Association’s cultural tent. It will be simulating an African
marketplace, so that all Madisonians can get a feel for African life as well as Africa’s contributions to the world.

In the article on this page about the African Women’s Association’s efforts, Zainabou Cole, a native of The Gambia talks about the African
marketplace and the foods that are sold there. Black-eyed peas, yams and okra came up in the conversation because they are found in
abundance in many countries in Africa. One can’t help but wonder if the Africans who were made slaves and shipped to the Americas brought
yams, okra and black-eyed peas with them as staples. These foods are at the heart of African American soul food. These foods are one thing
that constantly connects the African Diaspora.

Another important feature of Africa Fest is the dancing and the music. Like in past years, Africa Fest will be featuring cultural dances and
performances by Madison-area residents including a favorite on the Madison music scene, Tani Diakite and the Afro-Funkstars. The music and
dance are very enjoyable and informative and again connect the different regions of the African Diaspora.

Something that is very new this year will be two performances by Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba from Mali. This band is an international
sensation driven by Kouyaté who is a descendent from a long line of griots. His wife Sacko is the lead singer and is a star in her own right. I
liken their music to the clarity and naturalness of water in a babbling brook. This is top notch entertainment.

When I wrote a story about Bassekou based on a phone interview with him, he talked about meeting Paul McCartney and Taj Mahal. And they
remarked on his musical style that it sounded like he was playing the blues. Well Bassekou was playing the music native to Mail, music that
he had learned from his father and his father’s father.

All of this highlights the fact that Africa has been a creative caldron for the world. It may not always get credit for its contributions to world
civilization, but those contributions are real. The theme of Africa Fest this year is ‘A Market of Africa’s Creative Bounty.’ While Africa does
have a myriad of problems that it faces, there is no denying its assets.

In addition to the music and the marketplace, beer and wine will be sold along with the food of several food vendors.

Every year at Africa Fest, I learn something new. Come on out on Saturday, August 15, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. to Africa Fest and learn about the
contributions of the Cradle of Humanity.
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