Malone Mukwende was born in Zimbabwe. His interest in science and medicine developed at an early age. After entering medical school at St. George’s University of London, 3 years ago, Mukwende observed that representations of black and brown patients were largely left out of study materials and textbooks. This concerned because he and his classmates were only being taught how to diagnose conditions on white patients. Mukwende noted, “There was a lack of signs and symptoms on Black and Brown skin… and I didn’t understand why we weren’t getting taught the full spectrum of people. I’d ask people for answers and I couldn’t get the answer… I decided I needed to do something to challenge this issue myself.”
Located in northern Africa, ancient Egypt is considered to be a pioneer in the fields of medicine. The Egyptians were also very intentional about dental care. Hesy-Ra was the first recorded dentist and is regarded as a pioneer of some of today’s dental techniques. He was not only a dentist but also a physician and a scribe.
Hesy-Ra lived during Egypt’s third dynasty, around 2600 BC. He served under pharaoh Djoser. Hesy-Ra may be earliest physician and dentitst identified by name. He was given the title “Chief of Physicians and Dentists” by Pharoah Djoser. This title seems to indicate that dentistry was recognized as a specialty even back then. Ancient records reflect that a portion of Hesy-Ra’s dental practice focused on laborers who were building the pyramids. Records indicate that some of his treatment methods included drilling holes in the teeth of his patients. This is quite remarkable when we know that the first dental instruments to perform modern-day root canals were not invented until the 1830’s. The drilling procedures performed by Hesy-Ra would have been excruciatingly painful for patients because anesthesia had not yet been invented.
Hesy-Ra’s tomb was discovered by French archaeologists Auguste Mariette and Jacques de Morgan in Saqqara. Wooden panels in the tomb were inscribed with titles that denoted his official duties, including being a physician, dentist, and scribe. Hesy-Ra is also believed to be the first physician to speculate about the condition of diabetes. He observed that it caused “frequent urination,” which we now know is a primary symptom of the illness.
The Berlin Conference ignited the “Scramble For Africa.” Colonial domination and control of Africa’s economic resources, natural resources, and trade routes was the goal. The conference was convened on November 15 1884, and was comprised of 14 western powers. At the time of the convening, approximately 80% of the African continent remained under local control. The western powers seeking to gain control would establish fragmented boundaries developed to serve their interests. No African leaders were part of the Berlin Conference. By 1914, European colonizers had accomplished their goal. Africa was now divided into 50 countries mapped out across hundreds of indigenous groups and regions.
The new configuration forced indigenous Africans into poverty while colonizers became wealthy as their lands were confiscated, and they were forced to labor at meager wages to support colonial exploitation of natural resources. European leaders viewed Africans as inferior and barbaric. It reminiscent of the concept of manifest destiny, which was the belief that expansion of the US throughout American continents was justifiable, inevitable, and justified by God. 14 western powers were in attendance at the Berlin Conference. Countries in attendance included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814 to 1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal emerged as the major power brokers at the conference.
Early forms of birth control were documented in Africa, dating as far back as 1850 BC. Papyrus scrolls have been discovered with instructions on making birth control with ingredients such as honey, acacia leaves, and lint which was used as a type of cervical cap to prevent sperm from entering the womb. The Kahun Gynecological Papyrus of 1850 also documents descriptions of pessaries of acacia gum used as a contraceptive. A pessary is a device placed in the vagina to prevent conception. Another method of birth control was to extend breastfeeding for up to three years. Perhaps the most famous form of birth control native to North Africa was the silphium plant. The use of the plant as a means of contraception was widespread among ancient Greeks and Romans. Found only in Cyrene (modern-day Lybia), it was exported to other regions and bought great wealth to the city.
December 5, 2018 marks the 63rd anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On May 21, 1954, just a few days after the groundbreaking Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision (declaring segregated schools unconstitutional) Jo Ann Robinson penned a letter to the mayor of Montgomery, AL on behalf of the Women’s Political Council (WPC). The WPC was a civic organization for black women. It was originally started because the local chapter of the League of Women Voters refused to accept black women as members. Robinson’s letter demanded better conditions and treatment for African American riders on city buses. She threatened a boycott if conditions did not improve.
On December 1, 1955, just a year and a half later, Rosa Parks, a then 42 year old seamstress and NAACP field secretary refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery. Her courageous effort was an act of planned and deliberate resistance. Of her efforts, activist, Eldridge Cleaver said, “somewhere in the universe a gear in the machinery shifted.” Parks was arrested and fined $10. Though Parks is historically recognized as the face of the boycott, there were many other unsung individuals who were critical to the success of the boycott.
Jo Ann Robinson and the Women’s Political Council had long been civil rights advocates; even before the Montgomery Bus Boycott galvanized leaders such as Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. The role that women played in the Montgomery Bus Boycott deserves more recognition. Many women, at that time were employed as domestic workers and used the bus for transportation; more so than men in the community. This often made them targets of mistreatment. The WPC began taking action even before the “Montgomery Improvement Association” had selected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr as its leader. On the night of Rosa Parks’ arrest they began distributing flyers calling for a boycott. Their efforts were an essential catalyst for the boycott. The majority of the 50,000 African Americans living in Montgomery refused to ride the buses during the 54 week long bus boycott. Instead they walked, bicycled and carpooled.
The revenue lost by the City of Montgomery due to the boycott was significant. While the boycott was under-way, the constitutionality of segregating public transportation was was being litigated in U.S. District Court (Browder vs. Gayle). On June 5, 1956, a panel of judges ruled 2 to 1 that segregation was unconstitutional citing the president set by the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the President of the Montgomery Improvement Association at the time. It was the organization that was coordinating the efforts of the boycott. Dr. King refused to end the boycott until the ruling was fully implemented. This occurred on November November 13, 1956. The City of Montgomery appealed the decision. Their appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Today we salute not only the heroic efforts of Rosa Parks, and also the unsung efforts of Jo Ann Robinson, The Women’s Political Council (WPC), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the thousands of men, women, and children participated in the boycott.
Nomzamo Winifred “Winnie” Madikizela-Mandela has died at age 81. The former wife of Nelson Mandela, the two were married for 38 years. However over three decades of that time was spent in separation sure to Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment due to his opposition of apartheid oppression.
Coffee originated in Ethiopia! It was first discovered around the 10th or 11th century. It represents 60% of Ethiopia’s export revenue. Second only to oil, coffee is the most valuable legally traded commodity in the world.
Many coffee farmers in Ethiopia have struggled financially with bulk of profits going to middle men and distributors. Many coffee farmers have abandoned the cultivation of coffee in favor of more lucrative crops. Climate change is also taking its toll.
Still, Ethiopia continues to be a larger exporter of coffee. Its various types of coffees are sought after all over the world.