Qaddafi Eulogized in Bed-Stuy

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Late Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi was remembered in Bed-Stuy on Thursday night, at a memorial service organized by the December 12th movement.

Photos by Anna Codrea-Rado

Viola Plummer (Photo: Anna Codrea-Rado/The Brooklyn Ink)

They gathered at Sistas’ Place, a jazz and blues restaurant on Nostrand Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant to remember Muammar el-Qaddafi.

They spoke of him as “a freedom fighter,” and a “great revolutionary.” They chanted his name and condemned the United States and NATO for their roles in his demise. No matter that across the world, and throughout Libya, Qaddafi’s death at the hands of his own people after 42 years of brutal and at times bizarre rule has been hailed as a highpoint in the Arab Spring.

Tonight there was no talk of Qaddafi sponsoring terrorism, no talk of deaths threats against vast numbers of his people. Instead, those who gathered did so to tell a story that followed a very different narrative. Some one hundred people filled the room. One by one, the speakers walked to the stage at the front. Qaddafi’s portait – taken years ago, when he was still the young, charismatic and handsome colonel who overthrew a king – was flanked by photographs of the Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe, the Sandanista leader Daniel Ortega, and the young Qaddafi’s hero, the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Elsewhere in the room hung portraits of John Coltrane.

More on this story

>>Qaddafi’s Pen Pal Revealed
>>Brooklyn, Twitterverse, react to Qaddafi’s Death

The event was organized by the December 12th Movement – an organization founded by the late and fiery community organizer Sonny Carson to protest police brutality against black people. The group plans to “put NATO on trial” at a tribunal it plans to hold in January. The event’s emcee was Viola Plummer, a former City Council aide fired in 2007 after threatening the assassination of Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr. She is also a prominent member of the December 12th Movement.

She scoffed at the idea of the revolt against Qaddafi happening in “some place I never heard of called the Middle East.” She chanted “Libya is in…

“Africa!” the crowd screamed in response.
“Libya is in Africa,” she chanted. The crowd chanted with her.
“Egypt is in Africa.”
“Tunisia is in Africa.”

She reminded everyone about the tribunal and the petition drive to “put the criminals on trial.” The group, she explained, needed a minimum of “400 Africans” to sign the petition it plans to present to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Four hundred, she added, “is a magic number,” because it is the same number of Africans who went to South Africa for the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, where the trans-Atlantic slave trade was declared a crime against humanity.

Andre T., 25, a CUNY student, said he had come to the memorial to learn about a man portrayed as an “evil terrorist.” He said the service showed him that Qaddafi “did a lot of good stuff for Africans.” He added that believed Qaddafi was killed because of the imperialism of the CIA, NATO and the United States.

Sylvestre Kouadio, from the African Diaspora for Democracy and Development – an organization that delivers aid to the people of his native Ivory Coast – spoke about the political situation in his homeland. He cited last April’s arrest of Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast. Seeing that the crowd was no longer with him, he brought the discussion back to Qaddafi, whom he said “helped African countries, and instilled in the African leaders the idea of pan-Africanism.”

Andree Crawford, 47, who is also from the Ivory Coast and works with Kouadio, said Qaddafi was a great leader for Africa and that the “world didn’t understand his fight,” which she said was for freedom.

When asked whether she thought the Libyan people shared her view, she replied that it would take time for the Libyans to understand they “have lost a big man.”

Plummer screamed into the microphone, “We are an African people!”

The crowd echoed her words.

“And African people will be free,” she said.

She introduced Charles Barron, the Brooklyn city council member, former Black Panther, and founder of the Freedom Party of New York. Immaculately dressed in a gray Nehru suit, Barron radiated presence. In a magnetic deep timbre, he told the crowd, “Out there, they don’t know that Qaddafi was our brother.” He dismissed claims of Qaddafi’s brutality. “People say ‘Didn’t he kill all those people?’ I say, ‘I don’t know anything. The man was a freedom fighter.” He gestured to a poster of a young Qaddafi. “Can you imagine what this man had to go through?” He urged the crowd to rise up and organize. “You might as well get bold, black, and bad, and take care of business.” He asked them to chant “Long live Muammar Qaddafi,” four times, and exulted, “Long live African freedom,” before walking off the stage to rapturous applause.

Eric Borenstein, 70, came to the event from the Bronx because he wanted to know why the United States killed the Libyan leader – although by all accounts it was the Libyans themselves who killed him. Borenstein, who described himself as a communist, said he “disagrees with everything that goes on in the US.” He said New York is “ugly” and “full of decay,” and that he would like the opportunity to go to Cuba to “get his teeth fixed.” He said he didn’t know a lot about Qaddafi.

As if to offer an explanation for the decades of abuse and terror ascribed to Qaddafi, Douglas Mohammad, former secretary of the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 7, told the audience that “every regime has to perform some uncivilized tasks. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” This, he explained, was in reference to the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mohammad said that he “was hurt” when he heard the news of Qaddafi’s death. He said he felt “somewhat embarrassed” that his organization was not able to mobilize a large turnout in August to protest NATO’s bombing of Libya. He characterized American policies as “an attempt to recolonize Africa,” and said that Qaddafi had stood against it.

He was “a revolutionary leader,” Mohammad said. “A great revolutionary leader.”

>>More on this story

Qaddafi’s Pen Pal Revealed
Brooklyn, Twitterverse, react to Qaddafi’s Death

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19 Responses to “Qaddafi Eulogized in Bed-Stuy”

  1. Debbie Davis
    November 4, 2011 at 3:31 PM #

    Good for you! I have been horrified and haunted by his death. He was a MAN and he refused to be condescended to! He was generous and he made his country a land to be envied. He was still exhuberant and passionate, and someone with a voice for the things he believed in. I am glad someone is standing up to the unversal portrait that is being painted of him as a butcher and terrorist. He wasn’t. I believe Libya will learn a bitter lesson soon enough that without him, Libya will be far less. So sad.

  2. Guy Smiley
    November 7, 2011 at 10:18 AM #


  3. Florian
    November 7, 2011 at 5:30 PM #

    The people stood up against him. He was a dictator who’s sons and family ran a muck and did what they wanted from rape, to murder, to drug infused all night parties using the oil wealth of the nation which should have gone to the people. Granted Qaddafi did SOME good things for his nation, however most was EVIL, detrimental to the nation, and in the interest of himself and family. Libya was a huge oil producer in the world, one of the largest, yet the people were living off of $2 a day???? Selfish, egotistical, ignorant, chieftan warlord who was given a world stage to show off his bantering.

  4. chrisgee
    November 8, 2011 at 12:16 PM #

    this is kind of astounding to me, Qaddafi was totally racist against blacks, believing that their inherent laziness and promiscuity would eventually lead to revolution. it’s actually a lot like Charles Manson’s belief in a worldwide race war, but Qaddafi expected to come out on top by paying lip service. this is not to mention the fact that he was a documented brutal dictator who killed countless people and funded terrorism. this is more than a few ‘uncivilized tasks.’ whatever good he may have done when he was young was more than cashed in during his decades of rule. it worries me that so many people believe he was a good man.

  5. Hiten Samtani
    November 8, 2011 at 12:31 PM #

    Hi Chris, Florian, thanks for your comments. It was a surprise for us too, to see the kind of reverence Qaddafi commanded from some who were in attendance that evening. One speaker, Sylvestre Kouadio, explained away Qaddafi’s crimes by saying that “you have to look at a leader holistically.” To be fair though, many in the audience did not know too much about Qaddafi, and were there either because of the Freedom Party or because they wanted to see whether the mainstream media’s reportage on Gaddafi was accurate.

    Lots was said about Qaddafi’s contribution to the Pan-African economy, but there was no word of his having bankrolled Charles Taylor’s invasion of Liberia, and his chess games with many unstable African regimes. The organizers of the service wanted to use his death as a catalyst to mobilize the black community. I wonder how this will play out.

    Hiten Samtani (@hitsamty)

  6. Hiten Samtani
    November 8, 2011 at 12:35 PM #

    Debbie, thank you for your comment. I’d like to know more about how you feel Libya will be “far less” without Qaddafi. And what’s your stance on his actions within his own country?


  7. Peter King Oloo
    November 8, 2011 at 1:43 PM #

    Thank u people,
    No matter what they say, Moammar El-Gaddafi’s name shall always be registered up there among Africa’s bravest defenders. Few know this, bt he even gave us Nelson Mandela-yeah, i hear murmurs.

    Long live Gaddafi, ur legacy will gain more relevancy when Libya joins Somalia as a failed state-with looted oil. How much they r going to pay their colonial masters is great.

  8. Peter King Oloo
    November 8, 2011 at 1:45 PM #

    It’s not the destination so much as the journey….i cry for my continent, that we are re-colonised in broad day light, why cant we ever pause to think? Why, is it some inherent curse?

  9. Mzalendo
    November 8, 2011 at 4:05 PM #

    Wouldn’t all of you want to have so- called dictator if he provided the below to each of his beloved people. Also, we shouldn’t forget Khaddafi left $160Bil in the Libya Reserves…

    1. There is no electricity bill in Libya ; electricity is free for all its citizens.
    2. There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.
    3. Home considered a human right in Libya – Gaddafi vowed that his parents would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a home. Gaddafi’s father has died while him, his wife and his mother are still living in a tent.
    4. All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 Dinar (US$50,000) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start up the family.Traditional wedding in Tripoli, Libya
    5. Education and medical treatments are free in Libya . Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans are literate. Today the figure is 83%.
    6. Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and livestock to kick-start their farms – all for free.
    7. If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government funds them to go abroad for it – not only free but they get US$2,300/mth accommodation and car allowance.
    8. In Libyan, if a Libyan buys a car, the government subsidized 50% of the price.
    9. The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter.
    10. Libya has no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion – now frozen globally.Great Man-Made River project in Libya … $27 billion11. If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.
    12. A portion of Libyan oil sale is, credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.
    13. A mother who gave birth to a child receive US$5,000
    14. 40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $ 0.15
    15. 25% of Libyans have a university degree
    16. Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Man-Made River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country.Which other dictator has done much good to his people besides Great Man-Made River project in Libya … $27 billion

  10. jerry
    November 8, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

    its time for barron and his crew to leave the USA and head home

  11. Azzali
    November 9, 2011 at 3:48 AM #

    Lets read what Gaddafi had to say…

    for 40 years, or was it longer,
    I can’t remember, I did all I could
    to give people houses, hospitals, schools,
    and when they were hungry, I gave them food,
    I even made Benghazi into farmland from the desert,
    I stood up to attacks from that cowboy Reagan, when
    he killed my adopted orphaned daughter,
    he was trying to kill me, instead he killed that poor innocent child,
    then I helped my brothers and sisters from Africa
    with money for the African Union, did all I could to
    help people understand the concept of real democracy, where
    people’s committees ran our country, but that was never enough,
    as some told me, even people who had 10 room homes, new
    suits and furniture, were never satisfied, as selfish as they were
    they wanted more, and they told Americans and other visitors,
    they needed “democracy,” and “freedom,” never realizing
    it was a cut throat system, where the biggest dog eats the rest,
    but they were enchanted with those words, never realizing
    that in America, there was no free medicine, no free hospitals, no
    free housing, no free education and no free food,except when people had to beg or go to long lines to get soup,
    no, no matter what I did, it was never enough for some, but
    for others,
    they knew I was the son of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the
    only true Arab and Muslim leader we’ve had since Salah’ a’ Deen,
    when he claimed the Suez Canal for his people, as I claimed Libya, for my people,
    it was his footsteps I tried to follow, to keep my people free
    from colonial domination—from thieves who would steal from us—

    now, I am under attack by the biggest force in military history, my little African son, Obama wants to kill me, to take away
    the freedom of our country, to take away our free housing, our free medicine, our free education, our free food, and replace it
    with American style thievery, called “capitalism,” but all of us
    in the Third World know what that means, it means corporations run the countries, run the world, and the people suffer,
    so, there is no alternative for me,
    I must make my stand, and if Allah wishes, I shall die
    by following his path,
    the path that has made our country rich with farmland, with food and health, and even allowed us
    to help our African and Arab brothers and sisters to work
    here with us, in the Libyan Jammohouriyah,

    I do not wish to die, but if it comes to that,
    to save this land, my people, all the thousands who are all
    my children, then so be it.

    let this testament be my voice to the world,
    that I stood up to crusader attacks of NATO, stood up to cruelty,
    stood up to betrayal, stood up the West and its colonialist ambitions, and that I stood with my African brothers, my
    true Arab and Muslim brothers, as a beacon of light, when
    others were building castles, I lived in a modest house, and in a tent,
    I never forgot my youth in Sirte,
    I did not spend our national treasury foolishly,
    and like Salah’a’deen, our great Muslim leader, who
    rescued Jerusalem for Islam,
    I took little for myself…

    in the West,
    some have called me “mad,” “crazy,”
    but they know the truth
    but continue to lie, they know that our land is independent and free, not in the colonial grip,
    that my vision, my path, is,
    and has been clear and for my people
    and that I will fight to my last breath
    to keep us free,
    may Allah almighty help us to remain faithful and free

    Colonel Qathafi

  12. KBR in Bed-Stuy
    November 9, 2011 at 10:41 AM #

    Wow, seriously with this? I know who I’m voting for — or rather, who I’m NOT voting for — the next time I vote for city councilman.

  13. Abou Fote
    November 9, 2011 at 2:37 PM #

    As a defender of democracy in Guinea, I can’t sit quietly as people defend someone who supported rape and murder Guinea. On September 28, 2009, Dadis Camara lead his army to murder 150+ peaceful Guinean democracy protesters, followed by at least a hundred rapes. This was the first time rape had been used as a weapon of war in Guinea, which shocked the country. Luckily, Guineans were in no mood to take more despotic rule by a man going crazy in front of his eyes. The whole world was appalled, and the only world leader to send arms and comfort to the murder of Guineans was Gaddafi. (Though China also seemed willing to help Dadis, along with some Israeli mercenaries.)

    My pan-Africanist friends agree: Gaddafi was bad for Africans. Whatever good he may have done for revolutions in the 1960s, he turned into an enemy of Africans in the 2000s and 2010s.

    If you think Gaddafi is good, please do your research. Find out how much harm he did in many countries. I know about Guinea, but Africans from other countries are even stronger in their hatred of Gaddafi.

  14. abdullahiedward
    November 9, 2011 at 3:09 PM #

    I just wanted to add something relevant to Mazalento’s list.
    There was no inflation in Libya. Whatever you aid for something in 1970 that was what you paid for it in 2011 BTI (Beffore the Invasion).
    Libya owed no money to anybody, any bank, any country!!!! How many of the countries who combined to kill him can say the same – 0 (ZERO).
    His community based system of government was more democratic than any of the so-called democracies on earth.
    All the stories about him being a brutal dictator are just that – stories! Don’t forget, that since 1981 then president Reagan started the campaign of black propaganda against Gaddafi. This campaign was continued up til this year when they decoded that they had adequately brainwashed the worlds population against him to the point where wveryone swallowed their prolonged stereo-typical type casting of the traditional dictator. Just ask yourself this:- if Gaddafi was such a tyrant would he have done all those things for his people??? I live in a third world country and I can assure you that if we had a leader who did for us what Gaddafi did for Libyans we would all be very happy and he would still be alive!!
    Just like Castro in Cuba, the late Ayatolla in Iran and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Gaddafi islamo-socialist brand of goverment is too anti-capitalistc for the liking of the western powers. They will do whatever it takes to remove anyone who behaves as these true leaders have.
    May his sould rest in peace. Amin!!

  15. Pan Africanist
    November 10, 2011 at 9:56 AM #

    Thank goodness Africans are finally standing up against colonialists like Gaddafi. His country was rich because he stole from hard working Africans. Now that he is gone, the Pan-African movement can finally grow, because it is no longer hijacked by men who kill Africans for their own greed.

    Hey all you fake Pan-Africanists: Real Africans have stood up against Gaddafi and other murderers. The real African spirit is rising, and you will have to either join with the new forces of justice, or sit back with your rose-colored view of men like Gaddafi who may have done one or two great things, but whose careers have been filled with hundreds of offenses against Africa.

    God bless Africa. I hope we can move forward now.

  16. Tarnell Brown
    November 12, 2011 at 3:53 PM #

    I am glad that someone here in the states sees through the Western media propaganda, and the government’s drive to vilify what is, in essence, a truly heroic figure. Whether it was bringing cheap telecommunications to the African continent, providing humanitarian assistance to developing neighbors, or attempting to build pan-African counterparts to institutions such as the IMF and the World bank whose policies kept the continent down, this was a man concerned with building a better future for a downtrodden people. The West’s wickedness will not go unpunished in this matter.

  17. toronto ammar
    November 24, 2011 at 11:43 AM #

    mr.qadaffi deserved tht…he killed many innocent ppl…
    i am surprised ppl have so many sympathies for him…..
    even here,u knw abt qadaffi stadium(lahore)….
    i think he was a good person(fighting for weak n oppressed)…in tha beginning,he did great public service to not only libyan ppl but also to several third world communities as well.
    however,later on,he got naughty….killed his own ppl…like most other dictators…may b thts a human instinct…absolute power corrupts absolutely….
    …..will follow up on tht

  18. toronto ammar
    November 24, 2011 at 11:48 AM #

    i must add tht had he not given up his toys(weapons of mass destruction),he would have survived…he had given up under an illusion tht his government would not be disturbed …
    still,NATO attacked him bcz his gov. was too weak to face mighty french fighter planes…
    it sets a wrong example for other countries struggling to possess or maintain nuclear arsenal…
    they will think twice before giving up their arsenal..

  19. Dawn R.
    December 16, 2011 at 3:14 AM #

    Some of the commentators here know very little about history. Libya was one of the poorest countries in Africa before Gaddafi. Foreign oil companies were taking all the wealth out of the country. Then Gaddafi and Libyans nationalized the oil industry. The standard of living grew until Libyans had the very highest standard of living in all of Africa! It does not make any sense that people who were so impoverished in their lifetime, and who then obtained the benefits for themselves and their children Gaddafi & nationalization brought them, would want to overthrow the person who made all that happen.

    What makes a lot more sense is that the European colonialists could not stand seeing the largest oil reserves in Africa being used to benefit African people. Libya’s richest provided an African satellite for phone service that cost $400 million. Before that African countries had to pay a total of $500 million a year to RENT European satellites. Libya’s new Man Made Water Project was poised to turn Libya-Egypt-part of Sudan into Africa’s new breadbasket, another huge financial loss for Europe/parts of the Middle East.

    The people who mindlessly believe that Gaddafi was a dictator that engaged in large-scale murder are undoubtedly the same people who thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Think people, media companies who receive a large percentage of their income from oil companies are going to have to say what their funders want. How else do you explain Iraq?

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