Hands Free : The Story of the Free State of Congo (1885 – 1908)

Welcome readers,

Thirty-Two Towns Were Destroyed While Mapping The Congo:

King Leopold II hired a British explorer Henry Morton Stanley, so he could get help with the establishment of the Congo Free State. Stanley was already acquainted with the region having explored it and mapped out most of the Congo River. In addition, he made contact with and had experiences with the Congolese. Stanley wasn’t evil and there was no malice in his intentions to explore the Congo. However, there was tension between his men and the Congolese. Their different cultures clashed and misunderstandings occurred since both groups couldn’t understand each other. Moreover, those misunderstandings led to fears of brutal violence. For instance, seven aggravated Congolese tribes convened and confronted Stanley about writing in his journal which they considered to be witchcraft, and when they demanded he stop or he and his men would be killed, Stanley responded with disregard and began shooting the Congolese. At the end of the expedition, he burned down 32 of their towns. His men retaliated more viciously. They would kidnap and rape African women and beat the men to death using whips for the smallest infractions. As a result, this marked the beginning of the Congo Free State. Leopold II hired and demanded that the area be turned into a workhouse, and they did that by enslaving the Congolese. Their cruelty set the tone for the future of Congo and the darkness would soon envelop the Congo with no way for resistance. 

The Entire Population Was Enslaved: Once King Leopold took control of the Congo, he started bleeding the country dry for profits. Stanley came upon and reported that there were temples of ivory, and rubber was available to be retrieved. Therefore, Leopold’s determination led to him turning two-thirds of the country into his private land. That private land needed workers and the Congolese were forced to work for him. At first, the slaves were given a penny per pound of rubber, but Leopold soon ceased any compensation, and instead, he called harvesting rubber, a tax that every Congolese who lived on the land was required to pay. Equally important, the Congolese were oblivious that their land was sold, and now were forced into labor so they could remain living on it. Slaves had a huge daily quota to fulfill. For one, the average Congolese slave had to work 20 days per month just to meet the rubber quota and all that was done was with no compensation. In their spare time, they were allowed to work to feed their families. 

Workers Who Didn’t Meet Their Quotas Were Dismembered And Killed: 

The most infamous act of savagery that was done under King Leopold II’s reign of power over the Congo was the dismemberment of the Congolese. For better context, what led to this needs to be explained. So, rubber profits began booming in the 1890s in the Congo and Leopold was heavily profiting from it. Leopold was selling more rubber than he could harvest. Leopold demanded that the rubber be harvested expeditiously and if quotas failed to be met, then punishment in ways of beatings and death was awaiting. In addition, African soldiers were enlisted to enforce rules, but this put the Belgians in a precarious situation and at risk. These soldiers would sometimes spare insubordinate slaves and waste ammunition on non-human targets. Consequently, the Belgians set up a law: Every time a worker was killed, the African soldiers were to chop off one of their hands and deliver it. The soldiers followed these orders because they were afraid of what would happen if they didn’t. Quotas were met by filling a basket with the severed hands, sometimes even collected from their mothers. An old man was once killed in front of a missionary by an African soldier and he explained why he did it, saying, “Don’t take this to heart so much,” “They kill us if we don’t bring the rubber. The commissioner has promised us if we have plenty of hands he will shorten our service. I have brought in plenty of hands already, and I expect my time of service will soon be finished.”

Gathering Rubber Was Deadly – Fear of death only made the Congolese work that much harder, but that fear wasn’t the only motivating factor. For one, they were motivated to meet quotas by any means but gathering the rubber was a challenge because it was hanging high up in the trees. The drudgery was made easier with ones at a lower level but everything had to be collected for harvest so climbing higher and higher to get everything was mandatory. This was dangerous and many would slip and fall to their deaths. Additionally, the slaves who survived the daunting task would chop up the vines to squeeze out a little extra sap. It worked, but it removed its benefits and eliminated those vines as a resource. If the slaves were caught beatings and death were inevitable. One commissioner wrote a note after catching a worker chopping a vine saying “We must fight them until their absolute submission has been obtained,” he wrote, “or their complete extermination”. 

Workers Were Brutally Beaten – Different commissioners handled disciplinary actions differently. Some were satisfied with removing the workers’ hands, but other commissioners wanted to amplify their sadistic intentions. For example, the slaves were given number discs around their necks so their quotas could be tracked. If the slaves fell short of the target amount, they would receive 25 lashes with a whip. It sometimes went to 100 lashes if efficiency was poor. The whip used was made of hippopotamus hide that would break the skin quickly and excessive beatings led to death. Furthermore, when other Europeans started traveling to the Congo they were astounded and unimpressed with the environment. One European officer reported that he complained to Mr. Goffin, the secretary of the Railway Company in the Congo, who said that he had witnessed men being kicked, whipped, and chained by their necks. Mr. Goffin was business as usual and was cavalier in his response, shrugging his shoulders to be exact. 

Millions Died Of Disease – Disease was rampant in the Congo Free State. The Belgians didn’t care for the livelihood of their slaves and fed them poorly, only giving them enough to survive. Frequently, slaves were given rotten meat which made the men sick. As a result, work conditions became more horrid as the men were forced to work in areas infested with tsetse flies that spread diseases. Illness swept across the Congo and from there other parts of Africa. To make matters worse, the worst disease contracted was the “sleeping sickness”, a disease that was often fatal. It had a widespread impact throughout affecting the harvesters to the villagers. In some places, a third of the population was infected and perished. It’s estimated that the disease killed 500,000 people in the Congo.

Villages Were Burned To The Ground – Nothing was safe. When an entire village failed to meet its quota or refused to pay a rubber tax, they were reprimanded by soldiers. Specifically, an army of men marched into the town, commenced slaughtering people, and burned villages to the ground. Not to mention, some villages were destroyed for almost no reason at all. For instance, one village was decimated by soldiers. 50 men were killed and 28 were made prisoners. The women were chained neck to neck and dragged out of town. Even if they met the required quota, their recorded infractions one of them being that “the rubber brought by the villagers to the State was not of the best quality.

Women And Children Were Tortured The petrifying events that happened in the Congo Free State had a purpose, they were meant to scare the people into work. Fear was their weapon and used it to the fullest. The Belgians intended to enforce slavery, physically and psychologically were ways to motivate the Congolese, and since they were seen as subhuman, the Belgians were “free” to do whatever they wanted with their “property”. Women were often kidnapped from their villages that didn’t deliver enough rubber. They would be held ransom until the chief met the required quota. There was no limit to how nefarious the Belgians were to the Congolese. For example, after being sent to raid a town for not meeting its quota, one African soldier noted that his European commander had ordered him to make an example of the town. “He ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades, also their sexual members,” the soldier said, “and to hang the women and children on the palisade in the form of a cross.

Overseers Cannibalized Their Workers 

If this historical time wasn’t morbid enough, cannibalism was used in some places to instill fear and keep the slaves in line. It’s difficult to determine how often this happened, but one man reported that when someone was declared as “shot” in his area, it also meant that the victim had been eaten. Regarding this, the word for this was the Zappos Zaps, they were a particularly vicious tribe whom the Belgians recruited as soldiers. Documents have reported, “Some of the victims were eaten by cannibals. [ . . . ] The bodies of all who were slain were mutilated, their heads having been cut off. From three bodies, the flesh has been carved and eaten.”

All This Was Done By A Humanitarian Organization 

 Initially, Leopold II didn’t enter the Congo as an invading army, he went there with philanthropic intentions. He founded a group that was originally called the International African Association. They were a humanitarian organization that promised to improve life in Africa and donations came from around the world. Begging for donation, Leopold gave a compelling speech, “To open to civilization the only part of our globe which it has not yet penetrated, to pierce the darkness which hangs over entire peoples, is, I dare say, a crusade worthy of this century of progress. All in all, it was a facade to cover up his diabolical intentions, the organization that people thought was funding to better the lives of African people was exploiting them and getting rich. In private, Leopold told an ambassador, “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake”. And with that, Leopold cut his slices which were backed by the donations of concerned citizens. 

The value in everyone, especially who?!

“My website is the Bible” – Ye West Disclaimer: I am not justifying anything Ye west said in his interview with Alex Jones on InfoWars. What I will say in this post is my perspective on how he has conducted himself thus far. He has said some egregious things lately and as of now has had his Twitter account suspended. Anyway, leave a like, comment if you’d like to chime in, and hit the follow button so you can stay up to date with my future posts. Unless you’re not on social media then you’ve seen that “Ye” West formerly known as “Kanye ” broke the internet with a provocative interview with conspiracy theorist political pundit Alex Jones. Once the interview dropped, which is on an uncensored network called InfoWars, it caused an uproar on social media, specifically Twitter where he was condemned for saying outlandish (taboo) proclamations such as him professing his love for infamous German dictator Adolf Hitler. The interview is a little over three hours so what was shown to the public were snippets that were to elicit a reaction, but I saw the interview and don’t want to use selective perception. During the interview, he kept explaining his pious belief in Christianity which accepts everyone under the sun including The Nazis. The aforementioned is absurd and asinine but if you were to watch the entire interview there are a few cogent points Ye makes regarding the corruption social media outlets like Instagram do in terms of propagating pornographic images. Additionally, he doubles downs on Pornography in general and some vices he deems that is unholy. All his beliefs fall under Christianity, but to compare pornography with grown adults to pedophilia is an overreach. He contradicts his standpoint because he still stands with Balenciaga after they were exposed for being a borderline cult and depicting child pornography. Moreover, the interview was three hours long so unless people are open-minded to sit through the three hours, then you won’t listen to his entire perspective on faith, freedom of speech, “Antisemitism”, and more.    A lot of people see Ye on a self-destructive path, but he sees himself living through Jesus Christ and he has no energy to hate and claims “He loves everybody”. From my perspective, this man conveys his thoughts in a mediocre way. Another thing, he’s been aligning himself with people who are using him for their interest, and with that, his rhetoric slightly changes with every conversation. Furthermore, he has pompous energy about him whenever he speaks, but if you get past it and listen, even if you don’t agree you can see where he’s going with his thoughts (I.e. He loves everyone under Christianity even the ones who are evil ones). Black Twitter and black people with a pro-black mindset would deem him a “Coon” and I don’t blame them because he’s associating himself with individuals who are anti-black and who will continue to manipulate him. From there he’ll continue to say reprehensible things like his praise for Nazis and “slavery was a choice”. Lastly, it’ll be a challenge for Ye to repair his public image and recover from these controversies but he’s comfortable being used (He wouldn’t think that) to spread rhetoric that is inflammatory, outrageous, and asinine. I’ll take it a step further and say that I think this man believes he’s in a winning position (even though he can’t be with all his recent losses) because he has God on his side. His next moves will determine how much more of a decline his image will take with all this so-called Antisemitism.

real free – flowing words Podcast: The Cold Ways Of A Pimp


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Book Review : Pimp The story of my life by iceberg slim

  • Welcome readers, this is a book review on the latest book I’ve read, Pimp : The Story of my life by Iceberg Slim. I haven’t done a book review in a long time and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to write something on this captivating book. Leave a like if you enjoyed what you’ve read and give the page a follow so you can stay up to date with future posts. As always, peace and keep it real.
  • A pimp is the loneliest bastard in the world”. An older pimp’s wisdom to Iceberg Slim.

Robert Beck a.k.a Iceberg Slim lived a fast life as a pimp in the American Midwest during the ’30s and ’40s. The memoir is a brutal and honest recount of a man who had the intelligence (stated to have a high IQ) to live a “square” life, but as a young black man in White America during segregation, all his options were stifled and he found his way to success even if it was an unflattering one to the rest of America. Furthermore, the way Iceberg narrates his life is explicit, introspective, poetic, and intense especially when he describes his relationship with his whores and the cruel ways he disciplined the ones who were obstinate. In addition, the street slang used in the narrative and dialogue adds an element that encapsulates the reader and with that, it makes the setting and time extremely vivid. Granted a majority of the vernacular is antiquated, but its constant usage by Iceberg and the supporting characters is something I enjoyed learning. Words such as “Jip” (Mouth), “Slat” (Money or a time spent in prison), “Jasper” (Lesbian), “Murphy” (A con played on suckers looking for whores) and more were interesting to learn and is something a lot of readers will not be familiar with, so a glossary is provided at the end of the book. However, I didn’t use it and still understood a majority of the slang. The ones I didn’t understand I researched. With that said, the narration reminded me of Noir detective novels I’ve read in the past, a look into the criminal underworld where the protagonist was a criminal. Anyway, before I start the summary of Iceberg’s life, I want to say that I believe a book like this one couldn’t be published today because of the political climate we live in such as “Cancel Culture” and political correctness. For one, a lot of readers will find the way Iceberg Slim conducted himself as a pimp and con man as meticulous when he set his mind to a goal and knew the strategies for a successful outcome. On the other hand, he applied stringent stipulations his stable (a pimp’s group of whores) had to adhere to, which sometimes had violence accompanying if disobeyed. In regard to this, he prefaced the book by explaining that what you’ll be reading is a raw story that is filled with violence, drugs, sex, and a plethora of misogynistic language, it isn’t to be glorified or revered. I found this book to be a profound reading experience for its intriguing themes such as; Street life in the ’30s and ’40s, Racism, Power dynamics in business relationships, Recidivism, and more.   

“A pimp has gotta know his whores, but not let them know him; he’s gotta be god all the way.”- Sweet Jones, “Pimp: The Story of My Life”  

The quote above is from an older pimp who gave Iceberg a rundown (a breakdown of how things are) on how he was supposed to be an almighty force to his stable. He couldn’t let his whores see him falter or lose his composure. His calm temperament was how he earned his nickname Iceberg but I’ll get to that later, but first, l want to start with Iceberg Slim’s (Robert Beck) background. Born in Chicago on August 4th, 1918, Robert Lee Maupin later Robert Beck spent most of his childhood in Milwaukee and Rockford Illinois before returning to Chicago. At the age of three, his caretaker molested him, and the way he describes what she did to him in the book is revolting. From that experience, his mind was skewed when it involved sexual matters. His mother was abandoned by his deadbeat father who tried to reconcile with Iceberg when he was at the pinnacle of his pimping days. However, Robert disregarded his advances to make amends. Iceberg still had a father figure in his life when a man named Henry Upshaw began a relationship with his mother. Robert had a lot of respect and love for Henry. Unfortunately, the relationship ended badly as Robert’s mother betrayed Henry and callously left him for a con man named Steve who would constantly beat her, and killed Robert’s cat in front of him. It was then that Robert knew he never wanted to be in a position like Henry. He planned to assert dominance in his future relationships by any means necessary.  

Moreover, Robert was an intelligent young man enrolling in Tuskegee University and helping his mother with her salon business. Pimps were frequent patrons at her salon. Even though his mom had high hopes for him, the street life was enticing to Robert when he saw the pimp game happening outside those salon doors. He learned to con during his teenage years with a street hustler and con man named Party Time and it wasn’t too long after his criminal acts with Party Time that he was expelled from Tuskegee for bootlegging and went to pursue the pimp game. I don’t want to get into the intricacies of pimping, but I will briefly explain how Iceberg handled his stable and conducted himself after he met Sweet Jones and his friend and fellow pimp Glass Top. Furthermore, both these men had a major influence not only on his introduction to become a pimp but whenever he had a dilemma and needed a rundown on how to find a solution to his growing stable or as he referred to his whores as his “family”. For example, Iceberg had a whore he called “Runt” and she put in significant work for him in the streets, turning tricks (a prostitute’s customer) heads left and right, and would bring Slim the exact scratch (money) he expected. Being a high earner for Iceberg she began to become hubris and defiant toward Iceberg and what he demanded from her. So, what Iceberg did was psychologically break her down with verbal threats since he knew the life background of his whores, but it didn’t do much. She would go on and threaten to leave him and find another pimp to work for, which was one thing a pimp didn’t want to hear. From there, Iceberg needed to establish control over his whore and he went to “upper management” on how he should get her to be compliant and not leave. He would confide in the older pimp Sweet Jones. Sweet Jones would tell him to not worry about it because what he would explain to Iceberg would work and keep the Bitch in line. The method of discipline he would bestow to Iceberg was to beat that Bitch with a coat hanger. I know this sounds extreme, but after the act, Iceberg would alleviate her pain by giving her pills and running her bath. She would be grateful for what he did and relaxed that she would forget he was the asshole that beat her. Now that’s some cold shit.

In addition, he would con one of his whores near the end of the book as she was threatening to leave his stable and influence other whores to do the same. You would have to read the book to understand the elaborate way he not only kept his whore in line but had leverage over her on something she couldn’t live down. Equally important, in the book Iceberg broke down what a bottom bitch was, and if you’re unaware of the concept I’ll explain. A bottom bitch is a pimp’s main whore and his foundation. She would manage the egos and competitiveness of the other whores in his stable. Additionally, Iceberg was said to have over 400 whores, and many bitches came and went, some got snatched up by other pimps when he was locked up and got pregnant by them, and some flamed out due to exhaustion opening it up for many tricks. Before I forget, I want to mention how he got his nickname Iceberg. Iceberg Slim was a heavy drug user during his pimping days, from Cocaine to Heroin, to the combination of the two called a speedball, and he would also smoke weed. In regard to this, Iceberg was turned out (introduced to the first life of drugs) by a prostitute named Pepper in his rookie pimping days. She would engage in kinky sex with a young Iceberg and got him hooked on hard drugs, specifically cocaine. Anyway, I digress. One night he was high off cocaine at a bar and a shootout happened. Standing still as the bullet went through his lid (Hat), he finished his drink as if nothing had happened. He left the bar relaxed, and not fazed by the spectacle. His friend Glass Top, astonished by his cool demeanor called him Iceberg because the way he acted was so chill in the face of danger, and from then the moniker stuck with him. 

All in all, this was a riveting read. Iceberg had an influence on hip-hop artists and pimps that followed him and used him as a reference to their pimp game. In addition, he lived a life where he was ruthless, scrupulous in the pimp game, and aware that he had to be in power not only with his stable of whores, but within himself when in the face of adversity. He could have achieved his mother’s wishes of having a credible profession like a lawyer or doctor, but he found the pimp game and street life that made him who he was and he capitalized off it. I’d say after reading this that street life is foul, never fair. 

Book rating: 4/5

Grade: B+

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