Monday, December 19, 2005

Revisited: Mawonaj

As a way to keep myself honest and accountable, I want to begin to revisit pieces that I have written in the past which have become problematic, in which my thoughts have changed or about which I have unresolved ambivalent feelings.

Today I want to begin with the most recent of such pieces: my recent comparison of the fire at Cafe Mawonaj with the flooding of New Orleans , and a "Mawonaj Update" in December.

Since the publication of these writings, I have learned a lot of things about Cafe Mawonaj and Concei, its current owner, that have caused me to SERIOUSLY rethink my position.

Up until the my December 9th post on Mawonaj, I did not take seriously any of the public accusations about Mawonaj on Indymedia because they were anonymous. As an open publishing forum, Indymedia has often been filled with . Since then people have taken responsibility for those accusations, including friends and colleagues of mine, as well DJ D'Salaam, host of a weekly event at Cafe Mawonaj. D'Salaam, along with others, claims to have been the recipient of unauthorized credit card charges by the restaurant.

My original piece shows some of my ambivalence toward Concei and his claims, qualifying Concei's claims by saying "according to the owners" and "Mawonaj has long claimed." I did, however, give them the benefit of the doubt because of the good work I had seen being done at Mawonaj and the prestige of DC organizations that Concei has worked with. His story about the fire and his interpretation of malicious intent were always suspicious, but again, I thought I would let his words speak for themselves.

New revelations about his relationship to the Common Ground clinic in New Orleans and the possible defrauding of Mawonaj's greatest supporters has left me also feeling defrauded, as someone who publicly supported Concei's statements following the fire. My skepticism of Concei's claims are so great that I think Mawonaj owes the community an opening of its books and its accounting for all supposed donations to orphanages in "Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to, as well ...[the] radio project in Senegal," and all donations on behalf of the Common Ground relief operation in New Orleans. Only with this accountability can the local community be confident that it is not being taken advantage of when we have resources to give in solidarity with activists in need. Only this way can the good work that Mawonaj has done (or at least claims to have done) be further developed and expanded.

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