By RON FANFAIR
Controversial United States politician, Cynthia McKinney, claims the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attempted to recruit her while she resided briefly in Jamaica in the early 1980s with her then husband, Dr. Coy Grandison.
“This was a time when there was, like, a renaissance of all of this pride movement, anti-U.S., anti-imperialism, pro-communism and pro-nationalism and this was a way for small countries to find a way to live outside of U.S. and European domination,” McKinney said in her keynote address at the York University Black Students Alliance’s (YUBSA) sixth annual Black Voices conference on Saturday.
“And there was this Michael Manley, and he was charismatic, he had written several books and he tried to stand up to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and he made friends with (Fidel) Castro and he did all of these things that you are just not supposed to do. During the time that I was there, the island was full of CIA agents and they even asked me to join them in spying since I seemed to have a little hook up with the PNP (People’s National Party) which was Manley’s party.”
Considered one of the most outstanding political figures of post-colonial history in the Caribbean, Manley became Jamaica’s fourth Prime Minister in 1972. He held that office until 1980 and again from 1989-1992 when he stepped down as PM and party leader for health reasons. He succumbed to prostate cancer in March, 1997.
McKinney’s ex-husband was an active PNP member who later became the party’s caretaker candidate for the Central Clarendon constituency. Their short-lived marriage ended in divorce in 1987 and produced a son, Coy McKinney, who graduated from the University of British Columbia last year.
Former CIA operative, Philip Agee, claimed a few years ago that the CIA supplied guns and anti-PNP propaganda to its arch-rival, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
While McKinney was living in Jamaica and pregnant in 1986, her father – without her knowledge – put her name on the ballot for the state legislature. Billy McKinney is a retired police officer and former Georgia state legislator who is credited with integrating the Atlanta Police Department.
McKinney returned to the U.S. a year later and served as a Democrat in the House of Representatives for 12 years before joining the Green Party as its presidential candidate in the 2008 elections.
Her political career has been marked by boldness and controversy.
She challenged House rules requiring women to wear dresses by putting on slacks, voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement, charged that former president, George W. Bush, knew about the September 9/11 attacks before they occurred and that some of his business associates have profited from the war on terror.
She supported anti-war legislation, introduced articles of impeachment against Bush, former vice-president Dick Cheney and ex-Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and was involved in a much-publicized confrontation with a Capitol Hill police officer.
Last December, she was on board a humanitarian mission ship that the Israeli Navy confronted as it attempted to enter the Gaza strip. The Israelis decried McKinney’s actions as provocative and irresponsible.
McKinney introduced legislation three years ago to re-open congressional hearings into the covert activities of the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) which, she claims, has contributed to the Black leadership crisis.
“The full force of the U.S. government has been employed everyday to make sure you don’t know who you are and to make sure you don’t have a program,” said McKinney, who was the first Black woman to represent Georgia in the House. “If you are lucky enough to organize in such a way that you excite the Negroes, you will be, in terms of the FBI, neutralized.
“The COINTELPRO program, I think, is fundamental when we start talking about the crisis in Black leadership because it is not that we are inherently unable or incapable of leading ourselves.
“There are tremendous forces that are put in place everyday to make sure that you remain lost because these forces are there and they operate everywhere we happen to be. So if we are on the continent, they are there and if we are in the U.S. they are there. They are probably in Canada too, but I can’t speak with such authority about what goes on here.
“Canada used to have a very good reputation as I would go around the world traveling with Congressional delegations. I was always ashamed of what U.S. policy was and I did my best to try to improve U.S. foreign policy in particular. The Canadian presence in the world was actually one that was doing good. They had good programs. But then something happened and that all changed.”
The theme of this year’s YUBSA conference was, “Race Matters: Critical Examination of Diasporic Leadership”. Workshops focused on sexuality and gender, the mis-education of Black students and the role of religion.
The youth organizers also paid tribute to Dr. Patrick Solomon, one of the pioneers of the York Faculty of Education’s Urban Diversity Initiative, who died of cancer last October.
“He was an inspiration for me and many other students on campus,” said YUBSA mentorship director, Anser Dualeh, who aspires to be a teacher. “In fact, I had signed up to do a research project with him at the time of his passing. That was difficult, but the hardest thing for me is that no one at the university told us that he had died. That broke my heart. Patrick, like many of the Black professors here, was a voice for minority students.”