Date Published: 06/25/09
Exclusive: The Jermaine Jackson Interview
“My brother, Michael Jackson, is humble and kind”
* Hope and Help is on the way for Africa
The world famous Jackson Five stormed the world music scene in the 1970’s. The story did not end there as each of the five famous Jackson’s have since moved from glory to glory, and indeed, ascending on rapidity from stardom to super stardom and even to mega stardom.
Jermaine Jackson, the guitarist prodigy since launching his solo effort, has always proved that he is not mean stature. An all round robust gifted personality, people talk of him an accomplished musician but check him out, you would find more than that. Jermaine Jackson the political activist. You would also find more than that. You would also find Jermaine to be a spiritually gifted individual, thoughtful, down to earth, tough, yet humane.
This enigma of a man lately has caught the image of somebody that is passionately in love with and rapidly involved in uplifting Africa. Mother Africa, which is the continent where his ancestors were once violently plucked. Today, he is preaching peace, unity and development for those left behind in squalor, strive and instability and those who live in the Diaspora.
Jermaine is blunt in his assessment of happenings in Africa as he insisted that Europe and America have over the years raped and ripped Africa of its most valuable resources, both human and material.
In this breath taking no-holds-barred world exclusive interview with Jackson Ude and Oladimeji Abitogun, held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Los Angeles, California, he makes a case for the rebirth of Africa. He wants Europe and America to be involved in the development of Africa as a way of restitution, for the continent’s past and current contributions to the human race.
Jermaine who explained what he meant by “modern day lynching” of his younger brother Michael Jackson also shed light on what Earth Care, the non-Governmental organization founded by him, has been doing to alleviate the sufferings of the African people.
Q: Sir, could you please tell us who Jermaine Jackson is and what are those things that are not known about you?
Ans: Am one of the siblings of Joseph Jackson, am one of the Jackson five, one of the brothers who got married and had several children, someone who cares about people, knowing who they are and what they are. Specifically, people simply like our people, where we come from, why we worked so mush to get to America. Why we are the people suffering so much and yet have a strong will to survive, why we made it, why we are warriors.
Q: Could you also give us insight into the driving forces that have made you who and what you are now?
Driving forces come from God, but it has also has to come from our parents who instill that in me. I guess, I feel that I have been choosing to do certain things outside of music and outside of my brothers as well as my immediate family lies. I know I have a passion for seeing people who are less fortunate and finding a solution of sort, to find ways and the wherewithal to improve the living conditions for those people. I started traveling to Africa many years ago. I have been to different parts of the continent, observing firsthand the conditions and aftermath of the ruins of a people. I have not been given answers by researchers on the state of affairs of Africa during the colonialism days. It is clear that when Europeans came over from different part of Europe to Africa, they did not even look at the beauty in there. They just looked for and went after whatever they could pick from there, never putting in place proper infrastructure so that the people can be self-sufficient. It is like always picking up and not putting back!
And in traveling to Europe and seeing how Europe is so developed and how they didn’t have any feeling about Africa but it was Africa that really placed Europe in the position that they are in today. Yet we built Europe. Why then is there so much sickness, crises and death in Africa? Why have Africans not been able to do something for themselves? It was these and other similar issues that informed my determination to do as much as I can through music, through giving my time and energy, through friends and other people. It is not even enough because you cannot find the kind of heart you have, so I decided to do as much as I can do by myself and that was how my foundation, Earthcare International, came into place. I founded Earthcare; it is primarily committed to alleviate the sufferings of human kind anywhere in the world. It is just that I started in Africa. If I care about people it is not just people in Africa, I care about people all over the world. I started in Africa because African is the cradle of civilization. That is where we all come from, all of us. We have so much natural and human resources and wonderful things that have given so much contribution to the world and you wonder why Africa is not safe, why the corruption from the leaders who happen to be Africans and I felt that the umbilical cord between Europe and Africa need to be cut and they need to stand alone and forget about the life they thought all these years of interactions with Europe would breathe into them.
The Africans have life within themselves; they have to stand up for themselves. The problem is education. They need to be educating themselves to prepare to put themselves in a position where they can be economically independent and strong. Africa is the richest continent. The rest of the world has gained immensely from its natural and human resources. It is therefore time for the world to give back to Africa because Africa has, through the centuries, given so much to the world. It is time for the world to give back to Africa.
Q. Your responses so far indicate that these thoughts and worldviews did not come overnight. They must have been part of you for a long time. These, we think, encapsulate the side of you that is not yet public knowledge, part of your shadow years. Would you want to give our readers a peep into these years?
Those shadow years comprised the period in which I was just one of the members of the Jackson family, developing into what I am today, which is a very passionate person who cares about feeling, about people. Those shadow years were just the years I was preparing myself as a young man and a person who cares about people. I can’t put enough emphasis on someone who cares about people, because in order to have peace, you have to have passion in your heart to want peace and in order to have peace, you have to know how to bring about and sustain peace. I can’t say that I’m going to create peace by having foreign affairs that are not adequate for anybody in any condition to live and to even want to wake up and say I’m happy with my life, but if I’m ill, where can I have relevant Medicare, where can I have food, where can I get anything. I can’t say am going to bring about peace when I’m behaving as if I’m better than someone else. I’m not going to have peace when the way I treat people is determined by the color of their skin.
To have peace, you have to look at these things and say, why are we here? We are here, we are the product of God and it doesn’t make me any better than anyone else but what it does make is if I’m in a position to create peace, am going to look at the things that are most important to people. I find that love and devotion to people are some of the topmost priorities among humans. You must have deep passion and commitment to them first. That is the only way we are going to get peace. I feel that Africa has suffered so much for so many years because no one cares about people; they only care for the material and what Africa can produce. In America we cannot go to space without the magnesium, uranium, sulphur and other elements found in Africa. But is Europe or America going to self-empower Africa so that it can stand on its own and be self-sufficient? No! Because there is always this thinking that if Africa is helped to stand on its own, then they would pose some threat to our economic interests. I think that this has informed America’s foreign policy decisions through the years, decisions which at times led to extending support to bad governments abroad, leading to uprisings and hatred against us. So I feel that, through this policy, America has done a lot of good and also a lot of bad. For instance, if they want peace in the Middle East, how can you support opposition and expect peace? How can you give weapons to the opposition and expect to have peace? How can you give financial power and expect peace? You wonder why you are being attacked; you wonder why the world looks at you like you are monster! You know why.
And that is my feelings, from my heart. I have loved, and admired people like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, and Kofi Annan. These are people who have passion in their heart, the deep-rooted desire for peace. You have to have passion in your heart because it I’m given all the money in the world, it means nothing if I’m not doing anything to help others, it means nothing. Who can I share with, what would my needs be if I have it all. But if I can take back and help others grow, to see adequate infrastructures and institutions to facilitate the resolution of problems and thereby assure the self-sufficiency of others.
Another problem is that I always ask a lot of the young African students who come over to the United States to study what they intended doing after their formal education. Very often they indicate intention to stay put here in America, not wanting to return home. They forget that their formal education skills are needed back at home from building institutions, facilitate and sustain self-help projects, growth and progress. By doing so, they won’t need France, Germany; they won’t need Europe. They won’t need to live in London or in any other place outside Africa. They will feed the minds and bodies of their people, cater for their welfare needs and improve their conditions of living. Education is the key as well.
Q: As a Good will Ambassador, you have been involved in a lot of life-saving projects. What are some of these projects and your experiences so far, in this regard?
A: Like I was in Gabon and I was looking at a lot of housing projects that were never finished but even if these housing projects were completed, the way they were constructed, they looked more like pieces... to others. It is very hard to take a concrete structure and put a tin roof on top and expect it to be cool, You are going to spend so much money trying to keep it cool and then in the winter, you are going to spend so much money trying to keep it warm because the architectural problems that have been in the past is like piece to others and the heat stays in. But we in Earthcare International have put together a team dedicated to addressing the problems and needs of Africa, whether it is in the fields of medicine, housing, clean water, waste management, energy (electricity) or education. These are things that I found by traveling to Africa for 30 years. This is what is needed. We look at ourselves as a one-stop…. That we can come in and make things happen with the team of people that we have.
Q: You have been in and out of Africa, what are your views on corruption in that Continent and love for each other?
A: First of all, it bothers me. I feel particularly about what was happening in Liberia under Charles Taylor. It bothers me what they were doing. They took a tire and put it on a person’s body and they lit it with fire. I said to myself, how could anybody have deserved that, whatever crime he or she had committed. And just seeing all that corruption, they want to be in power, they stage one coup d’ etat after another so as to be there. I think and I really feel that some of these coups in Africa are being funded by Europe because they want to put someone in power that they can control. There are some strong leaders that may have been looked at to be non-cooperative with the United States policies. That is always the case when you stand up for yourself and really believe. You are looked at as “he can’t be controlled… he doesn’t want to cooperate”.
I have seen a lot of corruption. I was very close to Arab Moi, the former President of Kenya and have heard different things. I have heard about all the accounts that are being kept in Switzerland, a lot of money. You go to the countries there is not a clean hotel, there is not adequate medical facilities but they have people who are very very wealthy and then you wonder, are they doing it in conjunction with leaders of Europe to have these bank accounts instead of taking these money and building up their own countries where people can come in? People create tourism, they create… you can spin up other businesses with that.
These are some of the things going on in South Africa, which is really really tough because for all the years that Mandela laid his life down, to be incarcerated for so many years, you still see the corruption in there; you ask does anybody get it on what he stood for. You wonder what is going to bring on the change, when is it going to end, when is it going to stop.
On the AIDS problem, I think the whole thing with the AIDS problem was out there. It didn’t come from no monkey and all those kind of stuff. There was no AIDS, ever. I feel Africa had been a dumping ground for everything, from products that manufacturers in America don’t want that are not the best of the best, and they give it to Africa. I feel that pharmaceutical firms take medicines that are contaminated and say, lets use it on Africans, they are dying anyway, this is the mind set. And when you get people who think this way in these times, then we looking at the last days because man doesn’t have love for fellow humans and that is what had been going on. The day you find someone like Kofi Annan, a man with deep passion in his heart, deep passion for people. Today this same Annan is going to be rubbished inspite of all that he has been doing to bring on peace, to bring on a change and I wish him all the love we can give him.
Q: You mentioned Africa as a dumping ground are you saying there is a conspiracy to keep Africa at the lowest ebb of development?
A: Absolutely, because when you look at a continent that is so endowed with everything and which had contributed to the world for many years, why is it that they still do nothing for themselves and why is it that it is so many years and you believe that is how it is supposed be. You are going to become nothing; no one is going to believe that.
Look at South Africa, Johannesburg: you will think you are in a city in America, why? Because of finances, De Beer’s family, a lot of different institutions have gone in there and because it is rich with natural resources. They have diamond. To develop South Africa is seen by the whites as, we are going to make Johannesburg our city. We are going to make them walk the streets if we want them to walk the streets. We are going to do whatever we need to do but we are not going to give them power, the Apartheid system.
I never ever wanted to go to Africa during those days. What saddens me is all of a sudden Mandela gets out and everyone says apartheid is over with. There is no way you can live your life these many years with hate in your heart and all of a sudden cut it off like that. We are happy that apartheid is lifted but the people who felt that way I feel they still feel that way. It doesn’t go away that easily, it doesn’t go that way, and it doesn’t!
Q: What would you consider the biggest challenge to Africans, whether in mother Africa and those in the Diaspora in the contemporary world?
A: The biggest challenge for Africans is to find a way to bring forth peace, find a way to build infrastructure, get rid of corruption… One thing is this, this didn’t happen overnight for Africa to be in this condition. So it is going to take awhile before it puts itself out there. But I think the more and more you have people who want to bring about change, it should put some types of snowball where the other leaders like John Kufour and Jerry Rawlings, of Ghana, these are great guys. There is so much to do. So what we are going to do is to they to bring an awareness which is coming together as one to the world every year in Monaco, and have people look at what we are trying to do in Africa and show them housing projects, to show them a clinic and to show them hepatitis B vaccine that is not contaminated and to show them that we can produce our own medicine and we will also show and expose those pharmaceutical companies that reap and give contaminated medicines.
Q: How can trade relations be encouraged between Africans and Africans in mother Africa?
A: Trade relations are good if Africa is going to benefit from it. At the same time, America has everything it needs and Africa doesn’t have it. I think it’s going to be some form of give and take in order to create a trade but at the same time, we trade with China, we trade with other countries. But I want to see Africa where it stands on it’s own. It is not going to be a connection with Europe because of OPEC and so on. At the same time, there is so much that can be done to build just private institutions within different countries, different places in Africa where they can be self-sufficient. I think the young generation has to really come out of America, go back to Africa and set up various types of opportunities where they can build businesses and see it work and grow. The construction, which is poorly done, needs to be looked at. When you look at the refuse in the streets, and you then know why there is so much typhoid, yellow fever and all types of diseases, because of mosquitoes and the rest. I have seen it, I have been in the medical center, and you then know why people are sick.
There is so much to do. But I think if we start somewhere we can show the world that some good are being done with their money and their dollars and stuff and that we can sort of have certain people like Kofi Annan and other world leaders. We are not a political organization, we are just people caring about people but we bring leaders and open their eyes and the passion that lies in their hearts and hidden for so many years to show them that we need to care about people, people need to care about people.
Q: in assessing the legacies of Martin Luther King Jnr., do you think that there is a vacuum to be filled?
A: I feel that Dr. King, his whole legacy is a foundation for us blacks to really remember. Here is someone who lived and died for his belief. I feel that you cannot change the way people think when they have been beaten over the head for so many years. They had been told they were nothing and terrorized by the whites for so many years. So if we wake up from that, some of us never do. I feel that Martin Luther King, the reason he is the foundation of what I feel, is hope and just a part of righteousness for human kindness. He stood up against racial segregation at a time when no one was ready to do so. I feel there is none to wear his shoes and that is why we are a lost people. We are looking for that leader. He has done a lot of good. I put him in the category of Mahatma Ghandi, people who worry about peace, people who believe what they believe. I feel that a lot of young black people today need to know all about King and what he stood for because this generation doesn’t even know who he is, who happens to be black.
We all know that DNA has proved that everyone comes from Africa. It wouldn’t be anybody if DNA wasn’t traced back to the beginning, but at the same time, to give us a month and it happens to be the shortest month of the whole year and say this is the Black History Month, is like really a slap in the face. There will be no history if it wasn’t because of Black History, there will be no history at all.
Q: In the array of African leaders, who among them would you say is pursuing the visions and dreams of Martin Luther King?
A: As far as the leaders, I think Omar Bongo is a great leader. President Mandela, while in power, did all he could but at the same time, he was faced with having to show that he wasn’t upset because of what happened to him. He came out looking at the problem and I felt he couldn’t voice out his opinion of what was going on with South Africa because if he had made a move, they would have said he was too much and he was incarcerated for too long and he was coming out with vengeance and he was upset.
There are some leaders who are trying to make a change now. The old world is going out and the new one is coming in, but corruption will end when people care about people and not the finances and what Africa can produce.
Q: To what extent has the affirmative action policy been effective, are you comfortable with the policy?
A: Not really. When you look at jobs and what it takes to get a job and the qualification required, it hasn’t done that much but I think that at the same time we are used to going through so much to survive. It is very tough because if I go for a position and I’m not who I am but I am just an average Africa-American and you have a white person who goes for the same job, they don’t even have to think about what each of them has upstairs, they are going to look at the white person and favor him before the black person. This is what has been taking place. At the same time, jobs are given, they should be given to the person who has the ability to execute and to perform but in this case, it is not. I feel that we are the ones who usually get caught if we do not have a good job. We are looking for survival, to feed our families and ourselves and to do the best we can. Here in America, the problem is that everybody wants to live better, everybody wants more. If I show you someone who gets a new car or a new house, somebody who can afford if they don’t feel happy for that person, they feel that they should have that too. But do they have the ability to work to get that as well? That is the key! Are you willing to work hard and to put yourself in the position to get that, some of us do, some don’t.
In Africa, there are no jobs. The jobs are there, they pay for little but at the same time, people are happy with working. I was in Kenya and they told me that the salary of one person in America could take care of 24 Kenyans. The problem is the wages, the problem is the value of the different currencies and it is all political. One American dollar, in some African countries, equals at least 67 units of their national currencies. With such a poor exchange rate against the American dollar, how can anybody survive in such countries?
Q: Do you share the belief that African Americans are lazy?
A: It is an insult because there are a lot of African Americans doing well. How can we be lazy, we are the ones that did the labor. We are used to working in sugar cane fields. We are not lazy, that is an insult. That sounds like a racist insult to me. We are not lazy. What it is, we are not going to work and not get paid, we are not going to do your work and not get the benefit. We have been bent over in the hot heat, so why are we not going to work.
Q: The Bush administration led a vigorous campaign for debt relief for Iraq. Considering what Africa has contributed to the development of the Western world, don’t you think African countries also deserve debt relief?
A: Absolutely. That is another way to keep them down, which is another way to keep them dependent on the Western world and what they can do for themselves. I love what Omar Bongo of Gabon has done but the same time when you look at something being said, it is America’s best interest to get involved with Africa. That is what I’m still trying to find out. When Bongo made the statement what then it means is that it is in America’s best interest to get involved with Africa because Africa has been robbed and they need more? No, they don’t. And we know that America is not going to go into Africa and rebuild it or bring some assistance in there so they can have proper road and waste management, water and electricity and telecommunication. It bothers me that when I call Africa, the lines are either not existing or do not work. Simple things like telephones, you cannot get through at certain times of the day because the phone lines are not adequate.
Q: How much of the Bush administration’s Iraq war effort, do you think, was informed by the need to make a preemptive strike to secure peace in the world?
A: My opinion on that is that I feel that it was ill designed, it is propaganda. They have to show that if I’m going to go somewhere to kick on someone’s butt in another country, I should have a good reason but then, who am I to say I have the right to do that.
The whole thing with Iraq, I think, was not worked out in America’s best interest. At the same time, we look at the popularity of Bush. It is a question now in American peoples mind because you can’t lie to the people and you can’t say there was a weapon of mass destruction and then you don’t find anything and then, if you look at what powers this country, it is oil and what politics is really is, is oil and we are the largest importer of oil, because we need it. We cannot produce it. So in order to get it, what do you do, you have to take it and you have to put yourself in a position to say whatever story it takes to make the world or the Americans think that they have been threatened or be in trouble with someone else.
I feel that you can’t fool the people the people are now smarter. You can’t say something and they take it for the gospel truth. I think that the people are smarter today and they feel that difference in attacking Iraq. We had been brainwashed. They said they were going after Bin Laden and they haven’t gotten him yet and now it is about Saddam. They found Saddam, they have him but was that really the problem?
Q: Do you think that what happened to Saddam Hussein under the Bush administration can happen to any other oil producing countries in Africa?
A: One day it will, if Africa becomes powerful, self-sufficient and able to stand on its own. It is like, Iraq is perhaps the first or second largest oil producer in the world and its quality of oil is quite good. And if you look at some of the families, from Tony Blair of the United Kingdom to Bush and Cheney of the United States, they are oil families. They are in the oil business and this we know. I think the world was better off before these attacks, because now am I as an American citizen feeling safer? No, I don’t. But I know that we have been told certain things. I have the opportunity to look, read in between the lines and know how much of it was propaganda. If I was asked the question, I will say we were better off before they made attacks in the Middle East because now we have to live in fears for the rest of our lives, whether it is true or not.
Q: Would you advocate for a strong and virile media for the Black people?
A: When you take media institutions like Fox News, CNN, Euro Vision, Sky Channels, the BBC, these are all white organizations. I think if Africa want the world to know the truth, they have to build their media institutions and be able to have their own and report what really goes on. For Example, each time I’m in Europe, and I watch the CNN or Sky Channel, they make the conditions of Africa so miserable that no one wants to go there. You see people toiling, starving and dying and so on. If it is not these, it is something on corruption. We have been programmed to think that Africa is all bad, all devilish and deceitful…. that God had put a curse on the people of the continent. Africa is very often depicted as an enclave where nothing is possible. The Sky Channel shows all these all the time.
But we know that there are good things that happen in Africa. Why are they not showing the abundant resources that they have been tapping from the continent to build Europe? Why are they not showing how they are exploring and exploiting all the gold in Ghana? No, they don’t show that. I think if Africa wants to show the world that they are self-sufficient and they can stand up and report what goes on in a positive manner, then they can effectively denounce or neutralize the regular negative reports on Africa that characterize the broadcasts of media outfits such as the CNN.
Q: Let me quote you “this is modern-day lynching”. What informed your making this statement?
A: What I meant was that instead of lynching with tires and terrorizing like they used to, they are going it with the power of the media. They do it in a way to… because everything now is done through the media. And how the media jumped all over these just to make money, to look at how much they can separate a family like mine that had been so positive in enlightening young people and people around the world. Obviously, my brother (Michael) has done so much good over the years and that good is looked at and perceived in a different light from what it really is and what it was all about.
You don’t have someone write all these songs with messages and spend all the time and efforts to give to the world. He is still the biggest independent element ever. Hundreds of millions of dollars went to organizations and people in need around the world and now just that, the time to write the songs, like “Heal the World” and “Man in the Mirror” and so on and enlightening people and giving them hope and self-esteem to be somebody, to address the problems In the world, to force politicians to change, to wake up and say do you know that that song had made an impact on me and I’m going to try and do something. His kindness, his humbleness, empowered him and that in turn became a threat and that is why all this is going on.
Q: There is this talk about the Jackson Five tour and re-union, how soon is that going to be?
A: We have a lady who is playing a very important role in making that happen. She had worked very hard. It is going to happen because between her and myself, we are going to make sure we give the world one more round of the Jacksons in music, in tour, in concerts and it is going to be very adventurous and very exciting. It is going to be very exciting during this time when so many negatives are working against us but we stayed focused and we stayed on track and it will happen soon.
Q: what message do you have for Africa?
A: They should hold on, not lose faith. The world is watching and there are people who are out there trying to help bring a change and at the same time, there are a lot to do and it is a little time but help is coming. They should stay strong. They are chosen to take a lot of tough conditions and times and trials and tribulation but they would come through ultimately. I would like to see the continent’s leaders have a meeting of minds to really put aside the corruption, to sort of look at the people. It is the people that will save Africa tomorrow. The babies that are now dying, it is they that will save Africa in future. If you don’t educate them now, there is not going to be any hope with us. I would like to see change of heart and look for the passion for people; people are always in search for people who have passion in their hearts for others.