Hat tip to Runoko Rashidi and TheBlackList
ISTANBUL – The black population of Turkey has a message for U.S. President Barack Obama.
Mustafa Olpak, author, activist and president of the Africans’ Culture and Solidarity Foundation in Izmir and other foundation members crave a meeting with Obama even for just a few minutes. But with Obama’s schedule and the foundation’s lack of funds for the trip, the group realizes it will not happen. Still, Olpak told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review they were excited about the visit. “The spirits of his African ancestors, who were enslaved and excluded from the white man’s world, are with Obama,” he said.
Black people were not being bought and sold only in Europe and America, but in the Ottoman Empire, too. The island of Crete in the Aegean Sea was the most important center for the slave trade. Olpak comes from a family whose members were sold as slaves on this island. Although the family chose to remain silent on the matter, Opak has broken the silence with his recent book “Kölekıyısı-Kenya’dan Istanbul’a” (Slave Shore from Kenya to Istanbul). The book, out on Punto Publishing, features photographs and documents. There was also an exhibit at the EU center in Ankara, which opened with the book’s release.
The exhibit, titled “The Blacks of Turkey,” will be reopened in Ankara on the occasion of Obama’s visit with additional photographs from Opak’s family album added. “Maybe Obama cannot visit the foundation to meet us but he should see the exhibit at least,” said Olpak.
The foundation of Africans in a suitcase
Olpak said that black people’s poor fate had not ended yet and over 50 million black people were enslaved in the last century according to data by UNESCO. “It is still possible today to buy a black child as a slave in Sudan and in inner parts of India,” said Olpak. He also said there was still a record number of applications from black people in Turkey on lost family members. Although Olpak mentions the Africans’ Culture and Solidarity Foundation, the foundation does not have a street address. The building of the mentioned foundation in Ayvalık was burned to ashes after a fire in recent years. Olpak has the documents he saved from the building and the new applications in a suitcase that he carries with him all the time.
The black man’s son is the master of the White House
Olpak said especially in Europe and America black people were perceived as inhuman and enslaved. “The son of the despised and enslaved Africans became the black master of the White House that his ancestors had built with great difficulties,” said Olpak. He also said the African people had big expectations of Obama. “Let him be the friend of the oppressed and alienated societies. Let him be on the side of rightness and justice as his ancestors expect from him,” said Olpak.
Olpak said the protection of Obama’s ancestors’ spirits would be with him as long as he was on the right path and added, “Our hearts and prayers are with you even though we have never met.”
The majority of the Olpak family was kidnapped in 1895 at Zanzibar, the area called “slave shore” in today’s Kenya, and brought to the Ottoman Empire as slaves. The roots of the family belong to the Kukuri tribe. Olpak may be reached at www.afro-turk.org.