People seem to love making “New Year’s Resolutions”. Actually, the Ancient Afrikan (Kemitic) Calendar says this is actually the middle of the year 6258 (I may be off by a year or two). So, they are actually “Mid-Year Resolutions”.
I had originally titled this piece “2018: Writer’s Block”. I had started this post intending to explain my absence from these pages over the last month or so. I was going to explain it as a simple consequence of “holiday blues” or “winter doldrums”, but perhaps a better explanation can be made by comparing it to the overall malaise that has afflicted many in the United States and, I suspect, the world in general, fatigue.
This fatigue is what often happens when one is stuck on a merry-go-round of unrelenting drama, as so often has happened in the US of late because of the rather unprecedented (un-Presidented?) political freak show going on in Washington, DC, and its impact on our level of compassion and commitment to communities around the world that are struggling. It can cause one to grow so fatigued at the constant media drumbeat of near-apocalyptic political news (especially on the major cable networks like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC) that one simply grows tired of hearing it all and decides to bury one’s head in the proverbial sand just to obtain some relief. Much of that has led me to refrain from repeating analyses I’ve already made several times on this site, and it has similarly led others to simply shut down and cease all involvement in politics or activism. We are reduced to a bunch of complainers who rail against the evils of “the system” but, when challenged to offer a solution, we fall silent.
I’m reminded of one night when I was driving home and happened to be listening to the radio. On the air at the time was a show called “Night Talk”, hosted by legendary Black-Talk Radio host Bob Law. Someone called in to complain about the pressing issue of the day. Suddenly, Baba Bob Law interrupted him with, “And now therefore?” The caller fell silent. The host explained, “Too many times people call my show and complain about how things are without offering any ideas for solutions, a ‘now therefore’, or ‘this is what we’re going to do about it’. And I’m not going to allow that anymore.” The caller had nothing to say in response, so Baba Bob Law ended the conversation and lectured the entire listening audience for about an hour on our collective failure to move from complaint to response. And he was absolutely right.
We do this much too often. We complain about the way things are and expect someone else to figure out the solution, and as a result we spend all our time complaining and never responding or building or solving anything, adding to our feeling of helplessness. Of course, this is what the enemies want.
We’ve posted articles on some of the machinations that have occurred in the Afrikan Continent, from preemptive war in the name of “anti-terrorism” to efforts by large agencies like USAID to hand control over Afrika’s food supply to major agricultural giants such as Monsanto, Cargill and Syngenta. We’ve looked at the most egregious incidents of police brutality across the country, and even at some of the violence that has been perpetrated against police officers in apparent retaliation. We’ve looked at incidents in our own communities in which some of us feed on the rest of us through violence and other crime. We’ve examined the flying circus that is the current presidential administration of Donald J. Trump. And we’ve highlighted efforts to organize people in grassroots Afrikan-descendant communities, especially in our home state of Maryland.
These are all ongoing issues which have been analyzed, discussed, argued and even agonized about on Web sites, Facebook posts and in emails and chat rooms around the world. But after a while, one has to move from passive analysis to involved, proactive action.
When Congress, state legislatures, city councils, the African Union or the United Nations want to say something and state an opinion, a Resolution (not the “New Year’s” or “Mid-Year’s” kind) is passed. Resolutions start off with a series of “whereas” statements, specific arguments, sometimes a paragraph long, that describe the current situation that is being addressed. Sometimes these “whereas” statements can go on for several pages as paragraph piles upon paragraph in an effort to paint a full picture of the issue being confronted.
But ultimately, the Resolution moves on from the “whereas” statements to the “now therefore” announcements. These are the equivalent of “now here’s what we’re gonna do about this” in diplomacy-speak.
And it is at that point that one’s analysis of the situation is often reduced to repetition of what was already said ad nauseam, on this site, in emails, in Facebook posts, and in the words of other, more qualified and able analysts from other Web sites and media outlets.
In the cases of many of these issues, we have reached that point. In some cases, we’ve been at that point for a long time, but we simply have refused to acknowledge it, because to do so would require us to act based on our analysis.
“What’s Africa Got to Do with Me?”
The articles we’ve posted over the last several years from the Africa Policy Forum events sponsored by California Congress member Karen Bass have discussed a number of critical issues across the Afrikan Continent, including Boko Haram, famine, ebola, and efforts by American businesses to build bridges to Afrikan nations. American influence has not always been constructive, however, as our research has shown that some of the initiatives by the US government have drawn suspicion of actually being efforts to undermine the independence of Afrikan farmers through the introduction of genetically-modified patented seeds and neoliberal economic models that enrich agricultural and financial corporations at the expense of the people of Afrika.
Many of us turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to these issues, in part because of the vast distance between our local neighborhoods and these Afrikan nations, in part because we have been conditioned by our national leaders in the Diaspora to disregard or discount that fact that the people of Afrika are our family. So, the beginning of our “now therefore” is to learn and to re-connect with our Afrikan heritage. Modern technology has actually made this journey more accessible, with the increased popularity of genetic-research products such as Ancestry and 23 And Me. Once this connection is made, our next move involves acting as though we recognize the family from which we came and learning the history of our ancestral home, a history that is far more complex, and more accomplished, than our oppressors want us to realize.
“Support Your Local Sheriff”
Just because the cases have not been given as much attention and notoriety as those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner does not mean the carnage has ceased. Even in the case of Eric Garner, the tragedy is not over, as his daughter Erica Garner, who became a tireless activist in search for justice for her father despite having children of her own and suffering from a heart condition, recently succumbed to a massive heart attack. Are we to believe that her father’s senseless murder by New York police officers was not a contributing factor to this latest tragedy? Are we to accept that her passing was just “collateral damage” based on her existing health challenges as some of the more heartless would have us believe? One only need ask the surviving family members of any of the victims of police brutality to know better. One only has to ask Sis. Towanda Jones, who has organized a protest every Wednesday for years since her brother, Tyrone West, was killed by a Baltimore police officer, to know better.
The activist organization Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), which has lobbied in Annapolis for years to force changes to the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), has educated the public about the 10-day period during which police officers are able to delay surrendering to investigative officials after a deadly shooting, a provision which has outraged anti-police corruption advocates. LBS can also tell you about the undue influence of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in ensuring that this provision is maintained, above the objections of citizens in Town Hall meetings.
We see the corruption that compromises the mission of the police departments of the United States. But we remain stuck in the “whereas” because of our confusion. This is in part because too many of us still do not see the contradictions of policing: the historical connection to slave patrols that signaled the beginnings of the modern-day police department, and the current acts of obstruction by police organizations against any oversight of their actions. As a result, not only do we bend over backwards to avoid offending police even as we criticize them, we sometimes are willing to swallow the analysis of the law-enforcement community whole, without any critique or analysis.
LBS’s Bro. Dayvon Love, Bro. Lawrence Grandpre, Bro. Adam Jackson, Sis. Nadirah Smith and other activists are working to increase our understanding of these issues and have organized pressure on state of Maryland officials through bus trips to Annapolis to confront state legislators, as well as informational “teach-in” style events to explain the issues to the public. Their “whereas” is to arm our communities with the information they will need to determine how our “whereas” can be expressed. But we need to make the commitment, again, to act on what we learn.
The Harm We Cause to Ourselves
We wring our hands about crime in our communities. Some of the misguided among us criticize the police-brutality activists because they “don’t speak up about Black-on-Black crime.” Aside from the fact that there is no more “Black-on-Black” crime than “White-on-White” crime (which no one talks about), the fact is, these activists do speak out on the crime in our own communities, and many who are working on the healing and security of their communities, like COR’s Bro. Munir Bahar, who has organized marches through many of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods and is presently mentoring youth and building security forces in the Collington neighborhood, and Mama Victory Swift of Our Victorious City (whose son, Victorious, was murdered on March 26 of last year in the Mondawmin area of Baltimore), who is presently engaged in reaching out to other victims of crime across the city.
These people are moving from the “whereas” to the “now therefore” in their communities. When are we going to join them?
In the case of the Trump administration, there seems to be a new development every day, providing fresh new material upon which to comment, from Trump’s waffling on key planks in his political agenda to the latest official to be fired from the White House, from the most recent developments in the Special Counsel’s investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion to the latest efforts by the Trump team and members of the House and Senate to impugn or even derail the investigation, from the latest tell-all book about the rampant dysfunction in the White House and evidence of Trump’s alleged childlike tendencies to Trump’s own insistence that he is “like, a very smart person” and “a stable genius”, from Trump’s saber-rattling trash-talk toward North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to assertions that Trump lacks the mental fitness to even serve as president of the United States.
But after a while, one reaches a point of overload, at least in terms of the urge to comment and analyze something that the evidence has already made excruciatingly clear and intuitively obvious to the casual observer:
The man is crazy.
After a while, one reaches a point where the only important question is: What are we going to do about it (Now, therefore)?
We’ve been going through the “whereas” of our dealings with the Trump administration for about a year now. We’ve tried in vain to analyze this administration to make sense of the senseless. Much of this is because of the model being presented to us by the United States’ so-called political leaders: Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who once called Trump “a kook” who is “unfit to hold public office” and who now openly condemns anyone who dares refer to Trump as “a kook” or someone “unfit to hold public office”. Officials like Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai, who rammed through the imminent destruction of Net Neutrality on a strict 3-2 party-line vote despite the overwhelming opposition of the people, or the United States Congress and Senate, which passed a tax-break-for-the-rich bill which they know will gore the ox of the very citizens who voted them into office in the hope of no longer being the “forgotten Americans”. These people have given us a model of leaders who disparage their leaders as unfit, then drop to their knees in spineless fealty to the power of those same leaders. We learn to whine and complain but do nothing because we see a model of limp-wristed hypocrisy in the country’s political leadership, and we feel we have no choice but to cave to the “you can’t fight City Hall” mentality. We find ourselves stuck in a feckless, powerless “whereas” feedback loop.
But the “whereas” part of this particular Resolution is pretty much over. There may be some important update to share sometime in the near future, but for the most part we all know what we are dealing with.
There are grassroots political organizations that hold teach-ins about administration policies and congressional activities. There are organizing meetings, rallies, marches and think-tanks that meet regularly. If voting is your thing, then vote. If you believe that voting has been reduced to choosing between “bad” and “worse” and you refuse to play that game, then work to build grassroots organizations. If there isn’t an organization that supports that which you hold dear, then build it yourself. But do something. Move from the “whereas” to the “now therefore” in your political life.
A United Afrika
There are a number of organizations that are working to organize people of Afrikan descent. Some of them are large, established groups that are led by notable activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton. Others are more “radical” Pan-Afrikanist organizations like the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM) that push forward without the advantage of having major national figures in leadership. Some operate strictly in the United States as political or civil-rights organizations, while still others seek to bring the entire Afrikan Diaspora together and re-unify it with our Brothers and Sisters in Afrika, like the Pan African Federalist Movement (PAFM) and the All-Afrikan Peoples Revolutionary Party (A-APRP). But these organizations are there for us to work with in moving from the “whereas” to the “now therefore”, many of which you may have never heard of.
I work with an organization called the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, or SRDC. We have chapters in Maryland, Tennessee, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington State, with allies in Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, the US Virgin Islands, the French Caribbean island nation of Guadeloupe, several countries in Central America, and The Netherlands. Numerically, our organization is still small, and organizing the people on the ground where we live can be difficult, but most organizations start out that way and struggle for years before an explosion of activity and popularity hits. We have chosen that path because of our mission to take the voice of the Diaspora to the World Stage, our focus on the grassroots community and a “bottom-up” organizing philosophy that is inconsistent with most “top-down” organizations.
As with any effective international grassroots organization, local organizing is still a key component. This is why SRDC focuses on the local Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meeting as a way to bring the local grassroots community out to lift up and organize its voice. We develop a Pan-Afrikan Agenda that comes from the concerns of the local community members who attend. We nominate and seat a Community Council of Elders. We nominate Representatives who are charged to take the local community’s Pan-Afrikan Agenda to national and international meetings when the opportunity arises. And we seek ways to build Cooperative Coalitions between organizations such as the ones I mentioned above, because as our enemies and historic oppressors assault our community on several fronts simultaneously and in a coordinated manner, we must build a response that is multi-faceted, coordinated, cooperative, simultaneous and strategic, bringing together the artists, spiritual leaders, businesses, scientists, Elders, revolutionaries, state-builders, prison activists, educators, community activists, legal warriors and Pan-Afrikan Media. In Maryland, that work is proceeding and is expected to start achieving concrete results this year, with the leadership and guidance of a committed, proactive Grassroots Community Council of Elders.
You may not like the mission, strategy or tactics of one or more of these organizations. You may not like any of them. In that case, determine your vision, how you see yourself contributing to the cause of truth and justice, and create an organization of your own. The key is, do something. Move from your “whereas” to your “now therefore”.
Baba Bob Law would be proud of you.