Category Archives: African Diaspora

The issues that keep African-descendants apart based on geography, religion, complexion, gender and nation of citizenship, and how to overcome these issues to create unity.

Come to the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meeting! June 24, 2017

SRDC Pan Afrikan Town Hall June 24 2017aCome to the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meeting!

Join us as we discuss the issues that impact us in the State of Maryland, as we explore the connection between our local struggle and those of People of Afrikan Descent across the United States and around the world, as we build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda of important issues and ideas, and as we make plans to join with the Global Community of People of Afrikan Descent to take our message out of Uncle Sam’s courts to the World Stage.

Afrika Arch Social Club Montage 1

We will meet at the historic Arch Social Club, located on 2426 Pennsylvania Avenue in the Penn-North Community in Baltimore, Maryland.  Penn-North has a storied place in history as a cultural nerve center in the 1950’s and 1960’s, anchored by the committed members of the Arch Social Club, and the neighborhood also gained a degree of national notoriety two years ago, as the focus of the rebellion that followed the brutal death of Freddie Gray on April 19, 2015.  The committed members of Arch Social Club continue to hold social and community events at the Club to this day to help strengthen the Afrikan-American community in Baltimore, affectionately known as “Harriet Tubman City” to Pan-Afrikan activists.

The Community Town Hall Event will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2017 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

What is the Purpose of the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall?

We will work together to build a local Pan-Afrikan grassroots organization that will:

  1. Build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda: Issues that are of importance to Black People here in Baltimore and across the State of Maryland.  These could include concerns about economic development, police brutality, mass incarceration, environmental sacrifice zones, the lack of a true sense of community and Black love, and the need to build an education system that not only better educates our children in math, science and reading but also on our Afrikan roots and the real history of our struggle in the United States.  Any or all of the above concerns could be part of the Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and no doubt there are many more that should be considered.  But it’s important that the community determine what these issues will be, and not just someone in a position of electoral power or self-appointed leadership.
  2. Nominate and elect a local organizing leadership team: Afrikan tradition requires that a Community Council of Elders be established.  If we already have one, then let us meet them and acknowledge them, and let them take the position of Elder Leadership for which they are so desperately needed by our community.  If we do not have one, let us nominate people from our community who have the experience, the wisdom and the demonstrated body of work to show that they are prepared to guide us through the struggle that lies ahead.  We also must nominate and elect Representatives, energetic, knowledgeable and committed members of our community who can and will take the decisions that our community makes on this day and at future Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meetings and represent them at national and international gatherings, from the African Union (AU) to the United Nations (UN) to various Pan-Afrikan Conferences (PACs).
  3. Discuss how we will grow this effort and move forward: How we will ensure that more members of our community are informed about the effort we’re launching this day.  How we will take our Pan-Afrikan Agenda to the people who can best help us carry it out.  Some of the items of our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will be initiatives that we can build on ourselves, by finally bringing our various organizations, activists and service providers together in a Cooperative Coalition.  Some are issues that can be dealt with by combining our efforts with those of communities in other states, or even other countries, that are building their organizations the same way that we are.  Some items will be expressed as demands that must be made to local City officials, to State political leaders, to national bodies, or to international groups such as the African Union or the United Nations.  But none of the issues in our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will bear any fruit unless we are ready to formulate a plan to see that they are done.

We invite the members of the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to finally join together in the spirit of Black Unity which we have been calling for over these many decades.

Background on the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Process

There are many activists and organizations that have ideas and plans to propose to help people of Afrikan descent unify, organize and mobilize ourselves.  We would like to talk a bit about the organization we belong to, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, or SRDC.  Put simply, our mission is to establish the voice of the grassroots
Pan-Afrikan Diaspora on the world stage, primarily through the African Union but also through other global organizations and avenues, such as the United Nations or independent Pan-Afrikan Congresses, that would be helpful in the development and uplift of Afrikan people.  We want to do this in a well-informed, diplomatic and helpful way, and we realize that this effort will only succeed if we all participate together.  No one organization can do this alone.

The African Union Initiative for the Diaspora

We were inspired to this mission by the African Union Initiative, which issued an invitation of sorts to the Diaspora in 2003 to become involved in the effort to build the African Union.  The AU proposal currently involves members of the grassroots Afrikan Diaspora establishing a small delegation (say, 20) of elected representatives who would join a much larger number of Afrikans from the Continent as voting members in its Economic, Social and Cultural Council, or ECOSOCC, which is a group of community activists, businesses, and regular citizens who would advise the Heads of State on how to best serve the people of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.  This is the civil society advisory group within the African Union.  While ECOSOCC does not craft legislation or take an official hand in establishing the AU’s organizational priorities, it does provide important input into the affairs of state from the perspective of what is often referred to as “civil society”, that is, private citizens, non-governmental organizations, businesses and community groups.  This would be the first organization within the AU where the Diaspora would seek to establish a voting presence in the form of representatives.  The prospects here are that, if all goes well with the Diaspora’s contribution to ECOSOCC, the Diaspora could be granted an opportunity to seek membership in the Pan-African Parliament, which does assist in the crafting of legislation and participates in the decision-making processes of the AU on a more official level.

Just What Is The “Diaspora”?

One early step in advancing the Initiative was settling on a definition of the Diaspora, which was proposed by the African Union in 2006 and accepted at a Pan Afrikan Roundtable that was held in April 2006 in Los Angeles, California in the United States.  The key aspects of the definition are that one be of African descent, that one lives outside the Continent, regardless of their country of citizenship, and that they be “willing to contribute to the development of the Continent and the building of the African Union.”  At this time, the AU also began promoting the concept of the Diaspora as the Sixth Region of Afrika, to go along with the current five regions (North, South, East, West and Central Afrika).  It is from this designation of the Sixth Region that SRDC derives its name.

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be clarified is the fact that the Afrikan Diaspora does not just mean Afrikan-Americans, as some of us unfortunately seem to believe.  There are just over 40 million of us in the United States, but there are over 300 million Black people total between the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and the last thing we need is for these different communities engaging in a free-for-all to claim for themselves the presumed right to speak for all 300 million-plus people around the world of Afrikan descent.

Why are We Doing This?

Two questions which are often asked at this point are: Why did the AU invite the Diaspora? and Why should the Diaspora accept the invitation?  The African Union has several incentives to include the Diaspora as voting members.  One is the reversal of a trend of Africans leaving the Continent, gaining education in the West and never returning home.  This was called the “Brain Drain” or the “Exodus”.  Involving the Diaspora increases the likelihood of the return of many of Afrika’s brightest minds and the resources that they carry with them.  Another incentive is the enlist-
ment of members of the Diaspora, especially the descendants of Africans who were enslaved centuries ago, in the development and establishment of the United States of Africa, or Union of Afrikan States, from provision of material and technical assistance to influencing their countries of citizenship to support and endorse a Union Government for the Afrikan Continent.  Our incentives for accepting the invitation include the developing and strengthening of our cultural and ancestral ties with our Mother Continent and the opportunity to take our grievances with America and the West to the international arena, through the African Union.  This is, in fact, akin to what Ancestor Malcolm X told us to do back in 1964, to stop “taking our case from the wolf to the fox” by seeking redress from Uncle Sam’s crimes against us in Uncle Sam’s own courts.

One more point needs to be made here.  While our effort was inspired by the African Union and our primary goal is to establish a presence in the AU, we realize that the AU is a very bureaucratic institution that many Pan-Afrikan activists do not entirely trust.  The African Union was modeled after the European Union, and it does often depend on assistance from the outside international community to maintain its operations.  Sometimes, the snail’s pace of progress in pursuing our goals has been as a result of a lack of communication with the AU, and this has frustrated many of us.  Others in the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora look at the AU, rightly or wrongly, as a neoliberal puppet of the West.  Finally, there remains the possibility that the AU could decide that this “experiment” in Diaspora representation was not worth pursuing after all, and withdraw the invitation.  This does not mean we would pack up our work and go home.  In that case, the exact same plan of local, national and global Afrikan Diaspora organization will still work, only in this case the final goal would be the establishment of an international delegation of elected Diaspora representatives who would meet in the United Nations, the World Social Forum, the next Climate Change Conference, or an independent Pan-Afrikan Conference of our own design and planning.  Either way, we would be taking our argument and our collective voice outside the courts of the United States or the country in which we happen to reside, and we would go to the International Arena, where, if we do this right, we will achieve a level of organization and strength that international groups would have no choice but to listen to what we say.

The SRDC Plan to Organize and Mobilize the Diaspora

So, how does SRDC propose that 300 million African Descendants and Continental Africans living in the Diaspora will be able to effectively elect 20 Representatives to speak for us on the World Stage?  How would we determine an elected delegation that could take the people’s concerns to the African Union’s ECOSOCC, or the United Nations, or to Pan-Afrikan Conferences?

The general idea can be briefly summarized in the cliché, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, for that is exactly what our plan involves.  Everything starts with the establishment and development of local organizations that bring people together at the grassroots level.  These local organizations then come together in national caucuses (in the United States, for example), or in the case of areas of the world where there are many small countries (like the Caribbean or Central America), Sub-Regional caucuses.  These national or Sub-Regional groups then come together for a Global gathering to establish, from the work of the local and Sub-Regional groups,
a Pan-Afrikan Diaspora Delegation that would, pending approval from the AU, represent the combined voice of the Global Pan-Afrikan Diaspora in ECOSOCC for that term.  This Delegation would present and support a Combined and Comprehensive Pan-Afrikan Agenda at the following ECOSOCC Meeting, UN Conference or Pan-Afrikan Conference.

This would represent the first truly significant effort at not only repairing the fractured state of the global Afrikan Diaspora, but also initiate the process of bringing the Diaspora “back home” to our long-separated relatives in the Mother Continent.

As we stated, the process begins with the establishment of local grassroots organization.  This would be done by forming an Organizing Committee, or a “Chapter” as some would call it, at the local level.  In the United States, for example, this would mean at the state level, specifically, 50 states plus Washington, DC.  In other parts of the world, perhaps in Central America, South America, Europe and the Caribbean, where our population is more scattered across several relatively small countries, this organization would occur at the country level, while in Canada, organization might occur by province. 

Each local organization would begin when a committed volunteer hears of this plan and takes the initiative to begin such an organization where they live (if one does not already exist).  That person becomes the Facilitator of that local organization and now must assemble a team of volunteers who will assist in planning, scheduling, promoting and holding a public Community Town Hall Meeting, at which the Afrikan-Descendant public is given information about the SRDC Mission and Plan, and the further steps which must be taken to make that happen. 

The community begins to formulate a list of the issues that they feel need to be addressed that impact upon their community or Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and then they commence the process of nominating people who would become the leadership team that would help to take that Agenda to the national and international level.  That leadership team includes a Council of Elders, two Representatives and five Observers.  The community nominates people for these positions and then, at a later date, a Candidates’ Forum is held where the community votes to formally elect those who will fill these positions for a two-year term.

SRDC Plan At A Glance 1

Once a year, all of the local committees gather together in a National or Sub-Regional Summit.  In the United States, National Summits are used, so we will refer to them as such here.  At these Summits, the local groups share news, information and ideas, they encourage each other, they discuss issues that impact the community at the local and national level, and they discuss and vote on decisions that must be made between the local organizations, including deciding which of the
local Representatives would be best to include in the Delegation that would go to, for example, the next AU Summit and take a seat in ECOSOCC.  Information
sessions about the African Union and the process would be held, as well as training sessions in building organizations, diplomacy and conflict resolution.  Plans and projects for the upcoming year of local and national organizing would also be discussed and decided.  Similar local and national or Sub-Regional organizing work would be done in other parts of the world where Afrikans live in the Diaspora, usually through the efforts of one or more of our global organizational allies, such as the African Union-African Diaspora Sixth Region (AUADS) in The Netherlands or the Central American Black Organization (CABO/ONECA in Spanish) in Central America.

After the National and Sub-Regional Summits have been held, a Full Diaspora Summit would take place.  The AU has already sponsored several of these Summits, even though the local and Sub-Regional process has not been fully implemented yet.  These Summits bring together activists in the Afrikan Diaspora who are recognized by the AU as playing an important role in the process of “Building the
African Union”.  When the local and Sub-Regional process has been fully implemented, these Representatives who were chosen at their respective
National or Sub-Regional Summits will participate in that Full Diaspora Summit.  There, they would gather with other Representatives from throughout the Diaspora and they would also prepare to join the 130 Representatives from the African Countries at the ECOSOCC Meeting of the AU Summit.

SRDC Plan Flow Chart 1

As we mentioned earlier, this same process can be used to develop an international Diaspora delegation to take our combined voice to the United Nations, the World Social Forum, environmental summits such as the Climate Change Conventions, or independent Pan-Afrikan Conferences that we might organize ourselves.  The point here is really for the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to take the responsibility, and with it the authority, to organize ourselves on the local, national and international level.  At this point our influence and voice on the World Stage will increase dramatically, and our power to control our own destiny will finally be placed within our grasp.

More Killing and More Dying in Black and Blue

BLM asks Stop Killing Us 3For many, the issue of police brutality and the social upheaval it brings was brought home with the killing of Michael Brown two years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, and the cell phone video-inspired emergence of a nationwide protest movement centered on police violence and abuse against Black people and other people of color.  Just before that, of course, was the killing of Trayvon Martin by police-wannabe George Zimmerman and the rise of Black Lives Matter as protests started spreading across the nation.  Some of us remember Abner Louima (1997), Amadou Diallo (1999) and Sean Bell (2006) in New York City, and Oscar Grant in Oakland and Adolph Grimes in New Orleans, both on New Year’s Day 2009.  For others, it was the 1991 beating of motorist Rodney King, the first time many of us ever saw videographic evidence of police brutality, and the 1992 Los Angeles “Rebellion” (or “riots”, depending on your perspective) that followed.  Those with more of a sense of history will recall the August 28, 1955 lynching of Emmett Till by an angry mob of White vigilantes, or the bombing of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, both under the direction of White hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan but clearly with the acquiescence of local law enforcement.  And those who want to go “all the way back” will point out the fact that the earliest municipal police departments were often commissioned to pursue runaway slaves in enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850, a pursuit reminiscent of the slave catchers that kidnapped our Ancestors from Afrika in the first place.  Despite the recent killings of Martin, Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Tyrone West, Freddie Gray and so many other, lesser-known victims of police brutality over the last two years, the annual fireworks spectacle on July 4th seemed to provide a chance for many of us to marvel at the rockets’ red glare, revel in the belief in (or the illusion of) “one nation indivisible” and go back to sleep for a while.

But one day after Americans engaged in their often food-stuffed and drink-soaked Alton Sterling 1celebration of the independence of the United States, Alton Sterling (June 14, 1979 – July 5, 2016), known locally as “CD Man”, was shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as he was selling compact disks outside a convenience store.  This account of the events of that day comes from Wikipedia(

The owner of the store where the shooting occurred, Abdullah Muflahi, said that Sterling had started carrying a gun a few days prior to the event, because other CD vendors had been robbed recently. Muflahi also said that Sterling was “not the one causing trouble” during the situation that led to the police being called.

The police officers involved in the shooting were Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni. Lake had three years of law enforcement experience which included a previous shooting of an African-American male for which he was placed on department-mandated leave; Salamoni had four years of experience.[8] Salamoni and Lake had both been previously investigated, and cleared for use of excessive force.

At 12:35 p.m., at 2112 North Foster Drive, in the parking lot of Triple S Food Mart, Sterling was detained by Baton Rouge Police Department officers after an anonymous caller reported that a man believed to be Sterling was threatening him and waving or brandishing a handgun while in the process of selling CDs. Sterling was tasered by the officers, then the officer grabbed Sterling, who was of heavy build, and tackled him to the hood of a silver sedan and then to the ground. Sterling was pinned to the ground by both officers, with one kneeling on his chest and the other on his thigh, both attempting to control his arms.

One officer exclaimed, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” One of the officers yelled, “If you f##king move, I swear to God!” Then Salamoni was heard on the video saying, “Lake, he’s going for the gun!” One of the officers aimed his gun at Sterling’s body, then three gunshots are heard, and then the camera pans away; just before the camera pans back, three more gunshots are heard. The police officer sitting on Sterling’s chest is out of the picture, and the officer who drew the gun is about a meter away with his gun trained on Sterling, who has a clear gunshot wound in his chest. According to witness Abdullah Muflahi, the officers then retrieved a firearm from Sterling’s pocket. The officers then radioed for Emergency Medical Services.

According to Parish Coroner William Clark of East Baton Rouge, a preliminary autopsy on July 5th indicated that Sterling had died due to multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.

Multiple bystander cell phones captured video of the shooting, in addition to store surveillance and officer body cameras. One of the bystander videos was filmed by a group called “Stop the Killing” which listens to police scanners and films crimes in progress as well as police interactions in an effort to reduce violence in the community. A second video was made available the day after the shooting by the store owner and eyewitness Abdullah Muflahi. In a statement to NBC News, Muflahi said that Sterling never wielded the gun or threatened the officers.

On the night of July 5, more than 100 demonstrators in Baton Rouge shouted “no justice, no peace,” set off fireworks, and blocked an intersection to protest Sterling’s death. Flowers and messages were left at the place of his death. …

On July 6, Black Lives Matter held a candlelight vigil in Baton Rouge, with chants of “We love Baton Rouge” and calls for justice.

Philando Castile 1Then, as though following the unfortunate tradition that one bad turn must lead to another, Philando Castile was killed by a Minnesota police officer during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop (

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. Castile was driving a car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter as passengers when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer. According to Reynolds, after being asked for his license and registration, Castile told the officer he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and had one in the car. Reynolds stated: “The officer said don’t move. As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times.”

Diamond Reynolds live-streamed a video on Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. It shows her interacting with the armed officer as a mortally injured Castile lay slumped over, moaning slightly and bleeding from his left arm and side. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Castile’s death a homicide and said he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The office reported that Castile died at 9:37 p.m. CDT in the emergency room of the Hennepin County Medical Center, about 20 minutes after being shot.

Philando Divall Castile (July 16, 1983 – July 6, 2016) was 32 years old at the time of his death.[

Micah Xavier Johnson

Just as the nation was beginning yet another perfunctory discussion about the precariousness of Black lives at the hand of police, Micah Xavier Johnson rather brutally turned the tables (

On July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers and injuring nine others. Two bystanders were also wounded. Johnson was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran who was reportedly angry over police shootings of black men and stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers. The shooting happened at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter-organized protest against police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, which had occurred in the preceding days.

Following the shooting, Johnson fled inside a building on the campus of El Centro College. Police followed him there, and a standoff ensued. In the early hours of July 8, police killed Johnson with a bomb attached to a remote control bomb disposal robot. It was the first time U.S. law enforcement used a robot to kill a suspect.

Reaction to the Shootings

National and international reaction to the shootings of Sterling, Castile and the Dallas police officers included public statements calling for racial justice from entertainers such as Nick Cannon, Snoop Dogg and even White rapper Macklemore; travel advisories from the governments of the Bahamas, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates that cited racial tensions in the United States; and a statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) condemning the killings of Sterling and Castile.  Protests in Baton Rouge led to arrests and some injuries as policed clashed with demonstrators (

On July 8, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement strongly condemning Sterling and Castile’s killings. Human rights expert Ricardo A. Sunga III, the current Chair of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, stated that the killings demonstrate “a high level of structural and institutional racism” in the U.S., adding that “the United States is far from recognizing the same rights for all its citizens. Existing measures to address racist crimes motivated by prejudice are insufficient and have failed to stop the killings”. …

Professor Peniel E. Joseph, founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, editorialized that “the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile evoke the past spectacle of lynching” and that for change to happen, Americans must confront the pain of black history. …

Louisiana U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond said that the footage of Sterling’s shooting is “deeply troubling” and called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the man’s death. Governor John Bel Edwards announced on July 6 that the Department of Justice would launch an investigation. A civil rights investigation was opened by the Department of Justice on July 7.

Again, from

Speaking shortly after the shootings of Sterling and Philando Castile, President Barack Obama did not comment on the specific incidents, but called upon the U.S. to “do better.” He also said “Americans should feel outraged at episodes of police brutality since they’re rooted in long-simmering racial discord.”

Gavin Eugene Long

Then, on July 17, Gavin Eugene Long shot six police officers in Baton Rouge, the city where Sterling had been killed by police 12 days earlier.  Three officers died, two of whom were members of the Baton Rouge Police Department and the third of whom was a deputy for the East Baton Rouge Sherriff’s Office.  Long was shot and killed by a SWAT officer during the shootout.  While some reports have linked him to so-called “Black separatist” organizations and have even attempted to blame Black Lives Matter for the shootings of police officers, others have pointed to the written statements of both men that they were acting alone, and a few people we have spoken with have cited the failure to release the recordings of police negotiations with Micah Xavier Johnson to bolster their belief that he and Long may have been “patsies” as part of a series of “false flag” attacks designed to stir up racial tensions in the United States, usher in a more authoritarian government and reverse whatever gains were made during the Obama administration in the area of racial justice.

Giuliani 4

The Right Wing’s Bombast

Needless to say, as these events were unfolding, the backlash against the police-brutality protests was steadily escalating, from the emergence of the hashtags “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” to public statements from elected and former-elected officials. Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, known throughout at least the Black community for his “zero-tolerance” stance toward so-called “Black thugs” while he covered for New York City police officers’ acts of brutality (Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and many others), appeared on Meet The Press on Sunday, July 17 to publicly declare that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was “inherently racist”.  The slogans “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” began to gain in popularity, especially after two Black police officers publicly called for it at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, July 19.

Giuliani and others have also directly accused Black Lives Matter of placing a target BLM asks Stop Killing Us 2on the backs of police officers across the country and calling for the execution of police, despite no evidence whatsoever that any BLM activist has ever advocated for such a thing. But the racist vitriol didn’t stop there.  Texas Republican Representative Louie Gohmert declared that President Obama has repeatedly failed to unite Americans after tragedies like the shooting in Dallas (

“He has divided us more than ever,” Gohmert said July 15 on Fox Business Network. “Every time there’s been a tragic shooting by police, he has taken the chance to call out police.

“He always comes out against the cops. This administration has supported Black Lives Matter as even their leaders have called out for killing cops. The president has failed miserably as he’s been so divisive.”

Needless to say, Gohmert demonstrates here one apparent prerequisite for becoming a right-wing public official: the liberal (pun intended) and consistent use of wild exaggeration, inflammatory (and unfounded) accusation and bombast for the purpose of stirring up racial tension and paranoia.

The Police: From Conflict to Compassion

Meanwhile, police departments across the United States have gone to “high alert” as their paranoia towards Black protesters has increased.  Some might say that the recent events have forced police departments to become more conscious of the fear of being attacked and killed for no reason, something that Black motorists, pedestrians and children playing with toy guns have felt not only for the last two years, but for the past several decades.  The fact that no one should have to live with this fear should go without saying, although Black people, from entertainers to athletes to elected officials to the President of the United States are expected to say this on behalf of “blue lives” while there are relatively few prominent police officers consistently saying this on behalf of Black lives.  But there are some.

Police Capt Ray Lewis 1In spite of the multitude of bombastic comments that appear designed to increase tensions between the police and the citizenry (particularly the Black citizenry), there are White voices, and White police voices, that have swum against the current and have been raised against police brutality.  A consistent voice in opposition of late has been that of retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis (no, not the future Hall of Fame football player), who was once a self-admitted “brutal cop” who came to realize the abusive nature of his job and since that time has frequently been arrested, in full police uniform, while protesting against police brutality.  His Facebook page ( features a post that answered the question, Is “All Lives Matter” Racist?

You betcha! It’s an attempt by white racists, to frame blacks, as ONLY caring about black lives with their “Black Lives Matter” slogan. Anyone with a minimal knowledge of language, realizes that if that was the message that blacks wanted to convey, the slogan would read, “ONLY Black Lives Matter.”

Captain Lewis also wrote a post titled “Alton Sterling Would Be Alive Today If He Were White”:


The call was “anonymous,” and NO complainant was on the scene upon police arrival. The police had no reason to even question him, let alone immediately tackle him.

WITHOUT A COMPLAINANT, nor seeing the individual waving a gun at others, there is NO job here! WITHOUT A COMPLAINANT no arrest can be made. The report is written up as UNFOUNDED, and the officers resume patrol. PERIOD! END OF STORY! And Alton Sterling is alive.

How do we make sense of this?

Investigations continue in an effort to determine whether or not Micah Johnson and Gavin Long acted alone, as well as what caused them to embark on their violent anti-police campaigns aside from their connections to military service (Iraq, Afghanistan) and their shared outrage over the continuing police violence against Black civilians which usually went unpunished (the killers of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York were never even charged, while the killers of Freddie Gray in Baltimore have now been acquitted in all three trials that have run to completion as of this writing).

At the same time, some in the Pan-Afrikan community are dealing with how they should regard these two vigilantes. These men apparently saw themselves as acting in response to the terrorism Black communities feel subjected to at the hands of a “colonial” police force, but at the same time they men committed acts of terrorism themselves by firing upon people who had made no aggressive actions toward them.  Thus, they have been referred to as “cowards” by many in the mainstream press, as “martyrs” by some Black people who are themselves fed up with police violence against our communities, and as the “freest Black men on earth” by some who saw them as fighting back against the constraints put on us in our efforts to resist oppression.  We do not see them as “cowards” simply because they had to know what the response would be to their actions, they took these actions personally and in the field of conflict (as opposed to launching a drone from a comfortable control room to strike a village halfway around the world), and they both paid with their lives in the end.  We also do not see them as “martyrs” as use of that word would lend a degree of heroism to their actions than we see as warranted.  After all, ambushing any unsuspecting group of people, cops or not, who were actually demonstrating at least some solidarity with the protesters – more than most police departments do nationally – would be seen by most of us as against the principles of Ma’at and this not as an honorable act.  Too often, we see our young men come home from the theater of war damaged, as these men BLM and Police 1apparently did, and they turn their skills at combat inward on themselves or outward against their own communities or against the police.  And the result is often as we see here: a backlash against Black activism of any kind, an escalation of the militarization of police forces and a crackdown against the civil liberties of all those who would speak out in protest against the encroaching police state.  Instead, what our young battle-tested but combat-weary men and women must do is come “home” to their people, learn to use their skills for the defense of their community instead of the assault on an enemy they often misidentify and cannot defeat, help to teach our young people how to use their skills constructively for their people, defend our community leaders from the gang-bangers as well as the storm-troopers, and heal themselves and our communities at the same time.  In the face of heightened antagonism from the political right-wing, paranoia from the police and feelings of anger, confusion, misdirection, aggression and hopelessness from our own community, what we need now are safe spaces where we can share together, heal together, grow together and, most importantly, build together.  Now more than ever, especially with the prospect of a new president in the White House whom many Black people will either distrust or outright fear, it is important for us to, as Ancestor Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) said decades ago, organize, organize, organize.

The April 2000 Osage Avenue Interview

MOVE Bombing 1985i Remember the Osage Avenue VictimsEditor’s note: This interview was conducted on April 29, 2000 with five residents of the Osage Avenue neighborhood which had been the scene of the May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE Organization.  The interview has been edited for length, and the names of the interviewees were not recorded to ensure their privacy.  The text had been saved on an old computer hard drive and was only recently recovered.

I’ve had the last 16 years since the interview (and a couple of years before that) to meet and talk with members of MOVE, particularly Mama Ramona Africa and Mama Pam Africa, and to see the integrity of the members of the MOVE Family, as well as their compassion and affection for those who would go so far as to simply listen to them.  Over the years, MOVE may have “softened” their approach (not as many swear words, for example), but they have never wavered in their commitment to resisting this “rotten-ass system”.  I pretty much understood this even back then on April 29, 2000 when I sat down to interview the five gentlemen on Osage Avenue, but still, I wanted to be sure they had their say.  And the more they said, the more I saw that their concerns were not that different from those of MOVE, even though they disagreed with, and at times even condemned, MOVE’s methods.  I hope that understanding comes through as you read the interview below.

Interview at Osage Avenue
April 29, 2000

There are a number of articles on this website that describe the ongoing struggles of the MOVE Organization from the MOVE perspective, as well as links to the MOVE site.  While we at KUUMBAReport would not personally practice every tactic, strategy and philosophy of MOVE, we agree with them in general and remain committed to defending MOVE’s right to live their lives as their philosophy has determined to be in harmony with their beliefs and their convictions.  We call for justice for the six adults and five children who were victims of the 1985 MOVE bombing and for the hundreds of neighbors who lost their homes and faced a protracted struggle to make their lives while again.  We call for justice and full vindication for Mama Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor of the bombing, and the members of the MOVE Organization who were forced to endure the violent deaths of their family members that day.  We advocate for the immediate release of the imprisoned members of their family, the MOVE Nine (seven of whom still are alive in prison since the 1978 Powelton Village assault by Philadelphia police) and for the exoneration and liberation of their best-known defender, journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.  But there was one perspective I had always wanted to hear, that those of us who support revolutionary struggle rarely have an opportunity to truly engage with – that of the “average citizen” who does not share the “revolutionary” philosophy and who might be strongly critical of it, but who might actually share more with us than we would expect.

On April 29, 2000, I visited the Osage Avenue neighborhood where the infamous MOVE bombing took place.  Fifteen years after an entire city block of 61 houses was burned down and eleven people – six adults and five children – were killed, the houses had been rebuilt, some of them several times over.  A friend of mine from my daytime employment had grown up in Philadelphia, and as we had debated the fear he had expressed of the MOVE Organization, I had been able to disabuse him of most of his misconceptions.  As a result, he had gotten me in touch with someone who lived in that Osage Avenue neighborhood and, through contacting this person, an interview with several people who had a rather unique perspective on the confrontation was arranged.

I did not record the names of the interviewees on the audiotape, in part to protect their identities in case any of their opinions were considered too controversial to ensure their privacy.  I have instead listed them as “Mr. A”, “Mr. B”, “Mr. C”, “Mr. D” and “Mr. E”.  These were five gentlemen who lived in the Osage Avenue MOVE Bombing 1985bneighborhood at the time of the MOVE bombing on May 13, 1985. Their opinions regarding MOVE were at least somewhat varied. Some were more sympathetic to MOVE than others.  They all agreed that their perspectives were different from that of MOVE, and thus they generally did not approve of MOVE’s methods of confrontation.  They also agreed, however, that what happened to MOVE, from the Osage Avenue bombing to the Powelton Village confrontation in 1978 to the years of abuse they had suffered at the hands of the Philadelphia Police Department, was undeserved and was the result of the actions of a corrupt, racist and repressive system.  They also made several allegations regarding the conduct of the 1978 and 1985 police actions and the subsequent investigations that some might consider shocking.

Interviewer – Bro. Cliff (KUUMBAReport)
Interviewees – Mr. A, Mr. B, Mr. C, Mr. D, Mr. E

KUUMBAReport: We’re here in the 6200 block of Osage Avenue and we’re talking about the history of the MOVE Organization in this neighborhood as it led up to the 1985 bombing, and even some issues that might have come out since then because I’m sure that wasn’t the last anyone heard of the MOVE Organization. What was the first time that people had heard in this neighborhood about MOVE, and what were the first impressions of people about them?

Mr. B: Well actually we had heard about MOVE prior to this experience that we had with them – back in Powelton Village. At the time, I just figured it was one of these radical groups, from what I’d seen in Powelton Village. … But I really didn’t pay that much attention to MOVE then, not until we had this experience. I don’t care what your religion might be or whatever. That’s yours. But don’t infringe it on me. If I don’t want to listen to your [political or religious agenda], then that’s my prerogative. They just seemed to have this thing where their people were in jail, but that didn’t have anything to do with holding us prisoner because their people were in jail, which we had nothing to do with. And we had a lot of elderly people around here, kids and whatever, and their lives were in jeopardy, they were in danger, and to me, I just lost all respect for them.

Mr. A: They told us, basically, “if you don’t help us, we’re going to irritate you so bad that the police are gonna come in,” but then what happened, we used to call the police, and the police used to say “we’re not coming in there. We can’t come in there. And you better not go in there messing with them. Just leave it alone.” A hands-off situation.

KR: Was this during Wilson Goode’s administration?

Mr. A: It was during Wilson Goode’s administration, when he got in office, because we had a meeting with him downtown one day and I remember, I said “Why don’t you do like [former mayor Frank] Rizzo did – just knock down the whole building?” He went off on me. He said “I’m not gonna do nothing.”

KR: Of course he wound up doing something even more extreme.

Mr. E: But what happened is, if you were following it very closely, he was pushed into it politically because who really pushed the button, and people don’t realize it, is Joan Spector. She pushed Wilson Goode to the point where he had to try to do something. She was a city councilperson; Arlen Spector’s wife. What happened was, Wilson Goode, before he turned it over to [police commissioner Gregore] Sambor, he kept putting it on the news, “Anybody with any peaceful solutions, please step forward and try to do something,” so people came through here and talked to them through the window and all of that kind of stuff, and so then, when he put it in the White man’s hands, that was it.

KR: So, once he turned it over to Sambor…

Mr. A: See, when a Black man says “I’m gonna kill you,” it doesn’t mean the same thing as when a White man says “I’m gonna kill you”; he literally is gonna kill you. We use that term all the time, “I’m gonna kill you.” It’s not the same.

KR: They’ll kill you for real.

Mr. A: That night just before the MOVE thing busted off, that was Sunday night, they were up there, MOVE people were saying that they were going to kill the White cops and all that. Getting into “The Dozens”.

KR: I understood that MOVE took the art of talking stuff to a new level.

MOVE 1Mr. A: That was a political thing to keep it hyped up. See, because they wanted a confrontation to try to get the people on their side. The whole issue, the whole thing boiled down to one thing – getting their people out of jail, and it’s still like that. That’s what it’s all about.

KR: Because their people are still in jail. The MOVE Nine are still in jail and one of them died [Merle Africa, 1998 – Editor].

Mr. E: That’s the whole issue. … But the deal is, if you go to war and you lose, hey, you’re fighting the system. You can fight the system like the NAACP,, or you can physically fight the system. And the NAACP is a good example because they spend a lot of money – they really don’t do that much, in my opinion anyway. What’s gonna happen, if you get back to the 60’s and all that stuff in my era, if you really checked it out, the people who really made the difference – they gave Martin Luther King the glory, because he was always talking about peaceful demonstrations … but the little communities … had the same agenda, “hey, I can’t work for these wages. I’m tired of these White people doing this to me.” Everybody was on the same accord. But … he was holding the Blacks back. Same thing in South Africa, Tutu, he was always “peaceful demonstrations”, they let Mandela out. [But] they’re worse off now with him being the president. Only thing he did was put a buffer on those Mau-Maus and the Zulus, they would have took over Africa. … And that’s what people don’t understand, these so-called Black leaders. And then after the civil rights thing in the 60’s, all these so-called preachers, “Oh, we’ll teach [you] how to be a carpenter, we’re going to go through all these programs and the money trickles down”; we don’t learn crap. The White people are still controlling, they’re still making all the money.

KR: It almost sounds like the philosophical argument between, say Booker T. – cast your bucket down where you are – and Garvey – the whole Pan-Afrikanist concept.

Mr. E: I was in church today, and this minister said something today that really blew my mind, and I said “Good, Blacks are finally coming out and saying the truth.” He was talking about Ethiopia and he was saying Jesus was a Black Ethiopian, he was a Black man. They don’t even teach that, the Bible was written about Black people basically, but Black people are never mentioned. So, everybody has an agenda, like MOVE has an agenda, but what makes a revolution is when everybody gets on the same accord, and they’re thinking the same way, “I ain’t taking this crap no more.” I don’t have to tell you, you don’t have to tell me, we just wake up one morning and you say “No, I’m not gonna do this no more,” and then that’s what the revolution is, the same thing is in everybody’s mind. But what the White man, the media does, he tries to pick the one that’s most peaceful; “hey man, let’s talk.” Just like Malcolm X; “let’s not do this, no.” The only way you get anything in the end is physical force, when you’re dealing with Whitey, you cannot make compromises, because he kills you every day. That’s the only way you can do it. That’s just my opinion.

“We were pawns in the game”

KR: I don’t know whether there’s any consensus around any of this or not, but, in looking at say, for instance, the way the MOVE Organization was dealing with whatever their grievances were, would you say that most of the Osage Ave. residents disagreed with the MOVE Organization itself, disagreed with its philosophy, or disagreed with its tactics?

Mr. B: Well, I think both the philosophy and tactics. …

Mr. A: Well, one thing I’ll never forget. It was Christmas Eve 1982. It was the first time we heard the bullhorns because everybody came to the door, and we were trying to figure out, What in the world was going on? All of a sudden we hear these voices and we’re sitting in there, getting ready for the holiday and everybody comes to the door, What was that? First thing they had was a speaker this big [about one foot tall], well that grew to a stadium-size speaker. And I remember, I used to talk to Conrad [Africa] all the time and one day Conrad came up the street, and we were standing out in front of my house, and I was complaining about what was going on, and he told me, right up front. He said, “All of what we’re doing, we’re not doing it because we have anything against you people as neighbors. But we need you to go to City Hall to get these people’s attention.” So we were used; he told me, point-blank. He said “We will use you to get to them.” We were pawns in the game.

KR: Had they ever approached you to ask you for your assistance?

Mr. A: They asked us. My answer to them was hey, I didn’t do it. I didn’t start it. I’m not in your organization. What can I do? You know, I didn’t start none of this.

KR: Did they try circulating petitions or anything like that?

Mr. A: I think they did do that one time.

Mr. E: I never got a clear-cut picture of what they really stand for. I still don’t know. Can you tell me what they stand for?

KR: Basically, what I understand about the MOVE Organization—this is primarily from what I’ve read in some books and some other things—is that essentially, they’ve been described often as a back-to-nature organization, and I don’t know that they necessarily describe themselves that way but that’s probably as close as you can get, at least with a cliché, in terms of what they were about. There were a number of things they did not believe in doing. Supposedly in Powelton Village this led to some difficulties smell-wise because they didn’t believe in the traditional way of, for instance, disposing of garbage. And that led to some difficulties with the Powelton Village neighbors but ultimately, I think, one of several mediators – and I want to ask you about whether any of these outside mediators came through either – I know they came through Powelton Village and they worked pretty extensively; I know Oscar Gaskins was a lawyer, Walter Palmer was a community activist.

What I also understood about them is that there were a number of other things that they didn’t believe in; for instance, one of the things Pam Africa talks about now is Ritalin. It’s being given to, apparently, a lot of children in a lot of public schools, apparently in Philadelphia, I know it’s in Baltimore, it’s in DC. And Ritalin is sort of like Prozac.

Mr. A: It’s to keep them calm?

KR: It’s supposed to deal with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, and that’s a major cause for her now, so she’s branched out a little bit now from just “Release Mumia, Release the MOVE nine…”

Mr. E: This is what fascinates me too, about this whole setup, you take the kid, you try to change the kid, when the kid comes. You stop it, you get it from the root. The parent is the root. That parent must be re-educated, because you go the malls and stuff. I was up at the Pathmark [grocery store] a couple of weeks ago and this man was talking to his daughter. He said “Look here, little b—-, if you don’t shut up, I’m gonna kick your ass.” I’m serious. This is a man, talking to a little kid, about 8 or 9 years old. That person needs to be re-educated, because people now don’t have any morals. Morals is out. The thing is, “Long as I don’t get caught.” It’s nothing to do with what’s right or wrong.

Mr. A: Well, you know what it is? The things that you are saying is symptomatic of what our society has come to. There doesn’t seem to be any civility out there anymore. It’s like people just don’t care. And you’re right—people need to be re-educated. They need it but they don’t want it. They seem to be satisfied with the status quo. But there’s many of us out there, just like you, that, we’re not satisfied with the status quo. [But] we’re not going to allow people like MOVE to just force their will on us. Everything that we did was within the law. We never stepped out of the boundaries of the law, even up to today.

Mr. E: There’s two laws; there’s man-made law, and there’s nature’s law; God’s law.

KR: Even that’s kind of close to a lot of things that I’ve heard come out in MOVE statements. There’s this one thing that I sometimes get a kick out of whenever this thought comes to my mind but it’s something that I’ve heard a lot, and it’s a quote: “Down with this rotten ass system.” And, basically, what they’re doing is they’re looking at a lot of the same things that we’re looking at, and their claim is that a lot of the things that are going on now in our community are the result of the influence on our minds by the prevailing system.

Mr. A: Can I ask you a question? They say “Down with the system” but did they ever come up with what they had to put in the place of the system that they want to take down? So you can’t take a system down, not unless you’ve got some idea as to replacing it. I’ll put it another way. We have a lot of radical groups in this country. They’re all out west and different places. They get their little cults … down in little villages. Just take your idea and move somewhere else with your little group, and leave me alone. I’m in the mainstream, I’m catching hell in the mainstream, right? But if I don’t really like it, I’ll go down south in the woods somewhere, okay? I’m not going to try to kill everybody off. My point is, if MOVE says “Down with this damn system”, what are you gonna put in its place?

Mr. E: But this system is corrupt and everything…

Mr. A: Well, we know that!

KR: I don’t think MOVE’s problem is even one of not having anything to replace it with, because, technically, if you were to ask any member of MOVE “What would

John Africa

John Africa

you replace the system with?”, they would say, “We have John Africa’s Guideline.” From what I understand, when John Africa first got a foothold in Powelton Village, he was walking neighbors’ dogs and then the Powelton Village people gave him a house in return for various handyman duties he was performing around the neighborhood, and then Donald Glassey, this White guy, comes in. He’s fascinated with the consistent way John Africa was living his life. And so they sit down, [John Africa] transcribes this Guideline, and it comes out to something like 800 pages long. Next thing you know, members of John Africa’s family are meeting in his house, some of his friends are coming along, and they’re having these study groups around the Guideline, and then that was basically the genesis of MOVE.

Mr. C: MOVE always said that Glassey, who I think was a student or something, was just – he just wrote down what John Africa told him. Glassey had no part in setting any guidelines, or establishing the concept or anything. He was just a viewer.

KR: I’ve also read he turned informant after a few years. Some people think he always was.

Mr. C: Well, I can believe that.

Mr. E: I used to see Glassey every day, I used to work at Temple, I used to go past there every day. And what really kicked off the thing with the MOVE people was they were going pretty good, walking the dogs and all, but when these White girls started hanging around there, that’s when the crap hit the fan.

KR: White girls became attracted to John Africa’s organization and all of a sudden….

Mr. E: Oh yeah, that’s when the crap hit the fan!

Mr. C: But what he’s talking about is a college community. We have our working-class White neighborhoods but …

Mr. E: What’s that campus? What’s that school down there?

Mr. C: Drexel.

Gentrification Looms Over Everything

KR: I think Drexel and Penn were buying up land in the Powelton Village area, so the residents had a beef – that was another thing, the residents of Powelton Village, even though there were a lot of White folks in that neighborhood, they had this major beef with Drexel and Penn gentrifying the neighborhood and they had a beef with Frank Rizzo, because they didn’t vote for Rizzo, they didn’t like Rizzo.

Mr. E: That’s political, same thing with Temple. The community was crying about that. Temple’s all into everything. They’re pushing everybody, they’re just pushing. Now you go down Diamond Street, they got all them White folks living there on Diamond Street. … White folks are gonna take over North Philly. They’re gonna actually take it over. People think you’re crazy when you say it but you watch what they’re doing. Now, [year 2000 Philadelphia Mayor John] Street, Wilson Goode and a couple other of the politicians and [prosecutor and future Pennsylvania governor Ed] Rendell, he went in with it, now they got these new homes they built down there, right off of Girard Avenue, around 15th… they got all these new homes around there. But see, they’re making these houses so high, the prices are gonna be so outrageous for Blacks, who’s gonna buy them?

Mr. C: Well, what do you think they’re trying to do around here?

Mr. E: Sure, it’s the same thing. All the White folks, they’re coming back into the city, because it’s too long a drive, they’re tired now.

KR: So the whole city’s basically being gentrified.

Mr. E: Sure, sure.

Mr. C: Yeah, it’s too high. … Except for this area right here. This area right here, that they call Cobbs Creek. This has 80% Black home ownership, and it’s the largest Black neighborhood in the city. It’s larger than Mount Airy, and all the rest of them. There’s no place else that you have a Black neighborhood where you have 80% Black home ownership. But the reason they can come into other neighborhoods is because of the lack of home ownership. Because a lot of times we are in places where we are renting, so we don’t have control over who comes in and takes over the properties. Here, they would like to come in here, but we’re not moving out, as a community. Because it’s a nice area, you’ve got the park, you’ve got transportation, you’ve got everything that anybody would want in a community.

Mr. A: Really it started coming back in the latter part of the 70’s. When I moved in, in 1976, that was the beginning, because I think that the interest rates were down to about 9 percent … and the interest rate I remember because a buddy of mine – I was saying “man, you better buy a house.” The interest rates went up to about 18, almost 20 percent.

Mr. E: Mine was about 5¾ when I bought mine.

Mr. C: There was a 6% interest rate back in around ‘70.

Mr. E: But I remember there were 4 houses over there, right?

Mr. A: In this general area there were about 8 houses that were empty, I remember. So, the whole area, there was a whole bunch. You can’t find one in this area now.

Mr. B: What it was back then, in the middle 60’s and early 70’s, you had the city, they wanted to come in here … and they wanted to run an expressway through here. So what they were doing, the city wanted to buy up all this land, all these houses around here … so what they were doing was trying to get the Black people so that they would move out of here. … Redlined this area. Couldn’t get a mortgage, couldn’t get a loan, couldn’t get anything. And, whatever came of it, I didn’t really follow it that much, but at that particular time they said they were trying to lay this expressway in here.

KR: Then you try to destabilize it, you funnel the drugs into this area of the city and then everyone’s gonna run.

Mr. C: And probably because there was so much home ownership, they couldn’t do it. Say, for example, there had been less home ownership, then they could have grabbed up all the houses that Blacks didn’t own, let ‘em go down so that the people that did own homes didn’t want to live next to this abandoned house – this is the way they’re doing it in north Philly – they just put everybody out, let the house go down, or let somebody live in there but the house is still going down. …

The Lack of Common Ground between Neighbors and MOVE

KR: The way it kind of looks to me, it looks like a lot of the things that we’re concerned with in general, are actually a lot of the same things MOVE were concerned with, but for whatever reason, they didn’t know how to make their point [to you].

Mr. A: The real problem we had with MOVE was they were selfish in what they wanted to do. The only concern they had was the concern for what was theirs, and what they needed to do. They weren’t concerned about our right to pursue happiness, our right for our families to be safe and secure. They had one agenda and that’s really what angered us. It wasn’t the fact that we didn’t want to help them. I feel as though if they had approached us in the right way, we may have been willing to assist them. But they forced themselves on us. They forced us into the middle of a conflict that we had nothing at all to do with. They forced us, and that’s the problem we really had with them … their back-to-nature situation, they forced this on us. They made us feel like we didn’t have a right to live. They had all the rights in the neighborhood and we weren’t going to allow that. So that’s where our problem really came in with the MOVE people.

KR: I guess part of the problem here is that, in order for agreements to come between MOVE and the neighbors of Powelton Village, you still had to have third-party intervention, so it wasn’t a situation where the two sides were going to see eye-to-eye just left to their own devices, because I’ve read about a number of the third-party interventions. I wrote some of the names down so I wouldn’t forget them – but it seems to me from here, and I don’t know how effective they were on Osage Avenue, but Walter Palmer and Oscar Gaskins seem to be the closest ones in Powelton Village to actually settling anything, because I think they had helped to broker a composting agreement with Powelton which basically had MOVE taking their garbage and cycling it in their backyard. The smell problem went down, the rat problem went down, MOVE got exercise, they sold compost to the neighbors. In other words it was something that the Powelton Village organizations and MOVE ultimately agreed on and that actually started to ease tensions in that area, but by then Rizzo had already instituted the blockade.

Mr. B: We didn’t have that here.

Mr. A: We had no intervention. We were left standing alone. We wanted the city, they didn’t want us. We wanted the politicians. They came in and they lied to us. So we were virtually left standing alone, fighting against something, we really didn’t know, from one moment to the next, what was gonna happen or what was gonna go on. But we knew one thing: we were gonna protect our families, at whatever cost it might take.

Mr. B: Not only that, when MOVE first entered the block, you would see maybe one or two of them. You didn’t pay them any attention. And as time went on and you started seeing more and more of them, moving into the house over there; this is, I would say, a pretty middle-class neighborhood here. Everybody tries to take care of their property. Then all of a sudden you turn around, you see boards being put all up on top of the houses, windows being boarded up, the driveway back there – this is a driveway for everybody that lives on that side of the street. Why is it that one family can say “this is mine, you can’t use it”? They didn’t take into consideration the other neighbors.

Mr. C: What Mr. B is talking about is, they blocked off the driveway from their property line on one side to their property line on the other side, because they were picking up all the stray dogs in the community. So they would start feeding them all kinds of raw meat and stuff, out in the driveway … but the stuff that wasn’t eaten, then the rodents came because you got the field mice and everything coming up, roaches and everything. … An exterminator could have bought an apartment on the block, if it was an apartment complex, and lived there and paid rent based on just going up and down. Because you would always have to keep going because there was nothing that they could do to stop the rodents from coming in because of the way they dealt with their feeding of these animals. Although they got out and they swept the fronts and they were clean in their own way, but then they were dirty in our way, because we’re not going to leave food and stuff out in the driveway because we know that that’s going to bring rodents.

KR: They were once quoted as saying, “As long as [the rodents] ate good, they didn’t bother us” in Powelton Village before the composting agreement. So it almost sounds as though, even though they had succeeded in coming to a composting agreement in Powelton, when they came here to Osage, they didn’t have that same practice when they got here automatically.

Mr. C: I think, here, it was different than down there. Down there, the city went to them, because that is like what we were talking about a little earlier. That’s rapidly being taken over by Drexel University. So that’s a Black area that the university and the city were trying to make White through expansion of the university. So the city wanted them out, so they would use whatever techniques available under the law such as health codes and this, that and the other.

KR: Did that make independent mediators more likely to try to get involved there too, because they had a concern over what Rizzo might do to them, or what Rizzo might do to the entire neighborhood?

Mr. C: I don’t know, but I think that that’s a good possibility because I think the Black community didn’t trust Rizzo because he had alienated himself from the Black community…

The Notorious Brutality of the Philadelphia Police Department

KR: Well, the regular police were called “Rizzo’s Thugs”. Amnesty International said they were the most brutal police force in the country, bar none.

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

Mr. C: I was on the police force myself, when Rizzo became commissioner. I was on there before he became commissioner, and I was on there when he became commissioner. And his philosophy was, shoot first, ask questions later. His philosophy was, a show of force, and if anybody had to use force he was going to back them up.

KR: So this started when Rizzo came into power?

Mr. C: Right, exactly. And so, the general feeling of the members of the police force is that they were above the law when it came to using deadly force because they thought that nobody on the police force was going to be disciplined. If you shoot someone unnecessarily and they die, it wasn’t going to be a problem. I’ve witnessed cases where unnecessary shootings were rewarded, so that the officers who did it were promoted.

KR: Well, you had something like that in Louisville last year, where an unarmed man was shot by police officers. The police chief, later that year had an awards banquet where he gave, among others – not just these two – but among other officers, he gave these officers medals, and the mayor turned around and fired the police chief for that, and then immediately after that, the rank-and-file police in Louisville started protesting, and they called it a “slowdown” where they stopped making as many arrests. The strange thing about it was that the number of arrests went down but the crime did not go up!

Mr. C: That proved the point that they were wrong from the beginning.

KR: And the community said “You’re not going to protect us!” And they said “Well, the slowdowns that we’re making in our arrests are, we’re not doing the kind of proactive policing that we were doing before.” So now it seems that the cliché has gone from “zero-tolerance” to “proactive policing” where if you’re reaching for your wallet, you may be reaching for a gun, let’s shoot you 19 times.

Mr. A: [Amadou] Diallo.

KR: Yeah, and Patrick Dorismond also. “You won’t tell me where the marijuana is?” Bang!

Mr. C: We had a guy around here, Dante Dawson, he was shot; remember that time, right when he’s sitting in his car. Very extreme – I mean, it’s not extreme by police standards, but it’s extreme by our standards because he was unarmed. He was asleep in his car, and when they approached him and he didn’t respond the way they ordered him to, although he was unarmed, then they opened fire on him.

KR: One of the things I read in some of these books is, actually, there was a difference between the regular police, who were the ones who have been accused of brutality, and George Fencl’s group, and they were considered a much more professional unit.

Mr. C: They were just an undercover unit. I worked undercover before. They’ll take, maybe, whoever they think might be good for undercover. They may take sharpshooters or something like that, put them in undercover, like narcotics or any kind of vices. They were like a vice squad. Gambling, prostitution, whatever. Fencl was the captain of an undercover unit, and they operated in a certain way. He got a lot of notoriety and a lot of acclaim for his results. Just an undercover operation that might have gotten a lot of publicity, but his people were taken from the general population of the police force. They weren’t like specially groomed for that. They just, maybe, had specific talents that could be utilized in something like that.

KR: So, was it maybe by virtue of the kinds of assignments they had or do you think it might have been by virtue of the kind of atmosphere they were working in that they didn’t get the same reputation as the regular police?

Mr. C: It was just because … the regular police weren’t on undercover, so they didn’t do, say maybe the large scale busts that Fencl’s group might do. They weren’t doing it on a regular basis like Fencl’s people. …

KR: But Philadelphia had gotten a pretty strong reputation for excessive force …

Mr. C: Brutality. Say for example, Rizzo, when I think he was commissioner, we had a situation where the schoolchildren felt like they were not being educated properly and they were protesting in front of the school administration building on Ben Frank Rizzo 1Franklin Parkway in center city. So Rizzo ordered the police to go in there with horses – it was the type of thing reminiscent of the protest marches in the South when they had the dogs and the horses and everything; I don’t think they had the water hoses but I think they had dogs and I know they had horses, and what they did was they beat up on school kids. So they treated the school kids, they didn’t treat them like they were school kids, they treated them like they were criminals. So I think that was one of the first instances of how bad our city police force could be when they would not understand how to handle school age children, when they would handle them the way they would handle hardened criminals. Rizzo had a reputation from when he was just a regular police officer as being a macho type of person. And so when he became police commissioner he just carried his reputation on and expanded it throughout the whole police force. And then you had those who had that mentality on the police force, adopted Rizzo’s tactics of brutality, especially when they knew that they weren’t going to be penalized. You had a whole lot of times when a guy had been arrested – he was stopped and they gave him a ticket, and maybe he was disorderly and so they arrested him. Then, a couple of hours later, he would be found hung in his cell. It was like more than a couple of occasions that that happened. They had a case where, down by the police administration building, a guy was arrested for stealing a car. And when they went to take him out of the police wagon to take him into the police administration building, he ran. Still handcuffed behind his back. So the police ran up on him, shot him in the head and killed him.

KR: We’ve had a number of cases like that in Maryland too. Archie Elliott III, handcuffed behind his back, strapped in the front seat of a police cruiser, and all of a sudden the two police officers claim that they saw him pointing a gun out of the window of the car. Now, how do you do that if you’re handcuffed behind your back, strapped in the front seat? You’ve got no gun because you’ve already been searched. You’re wearing a pair of cutoff shorts, some sneakers and no shirt. You’ve been searched and no gun has been found and yet somehow, you came up with a gun, pointed it out the window of the police cruiser with your hands cuffed behind your back. They shot him 12 times, through the door of the police cruiser and killed him. [Of course, by 2016 there have been countless more atrocities on Baltimore alone, most recently the murders of Tyrone West in 2014 and Freddie Gray in 2015, as well as police murders of unarmed Afrikan-American men and women across the country, and certainly many more will come to light as the year goes on – Editor.] 

Mr. C: That’s the type of thing that was happening. With the case that I just mentioned, it was found that the young fella owned the car. It was his car. He was just afraid. He was intimidated by the police. And rightfully so, because of what happened to him. He knew that this is how it was. So he didn’t want to be in the building with these police, not knowing what they were going to do to him, and tried to make a getaway. But the fact that they had to shoot him, with his hands handcuffed behind his back, tells you something. So that was the atmosphere during the Rizzo years.

KR: And in the middle of all of this, up pops MOVE.

Mr. C: Right. So MOVE didn’t care about Rizzo or none of his police, and they were back-to-nature, but they were also anti-government. And I think the main thing with MOVE, I think everybody, for the neighbors here, I think we all agreed that they had a right to their own opinion and a right to their own way of life, but we didn’t think they had a right to involve us in their plight, although they said it’s all of our plight, but we felt that we had a right to fight the official oppression the way we chose. We didn’t think it was right to force us to have to do it the way that John Africa dictated, because we didn’t all subscribe to John Africa. I don’t think there were any neighbors who subscribe to John Africa’s philosophy. They may have agreed with his identification of problems, but maybe his way of addressing it we didn’t agree with. I don’t think any of us would have brought our children into a place that we were having a standoff with the police in. So, we would say well, maybe we’ll take our kids somewhere else, leave them with somebody we would trust, family or whoever, rather than put them in harm’s way. I’ve heard the MOVE people say, “Well, we didn’t want them in the system, and if we didn’t have them with us they were going to be in the system and we’d feel like they were dead anyway.” We wouldn’t have taken that type of outlook on it. We would have said “Well, at least they’ll be alive to live another day,” and maybe they can figure a way to deal with the oppression rather than putting them in harm’s way and not giving them a decent chance to continue their lives. After all, they were children. They should have the right, we felt, to grow up and make their own decisions, once they were mature enough.

KR: You’re referring to their decision to keep everyone together in that house on Osage Avenue, even though they knew the assault was coming?

Mr. B: See, they used us as a shield, the neighbors as a shield, and the children as a shield. Before that confrontation, right before it, they set all the kids outside, on the steps, so I guess they more or less thought like, with the kids out there, the police would not try to initiate a confrontation…

KR: They probably figured that this government was far too civilized to bomb a house with children inside.

Mr. C: Right. They believed something that they preached against. They preached that the government was violent and they preached that you couldn’t trust them, but then they wound up trusting. They put their kids’ life on the line in trust of the same system that they said they didn’t trust. They contradicted themselves in that aspect.

KR: The wild thing about it is, when [official police] patience does run out [and they Move Nine Delbertchoose to attack] it seems to run out to the extreme. … And even here, you had the situation where they waited and they waited and they waited, Frank Rizzo barricaded them up for a year, tried to starve them out before he assaulted them back in 1978, but it was like, whenever the decision was made that, okay, we’re out of patience, we’re going to make a move, it’s always extreme violence and results in death. Here it was eleven people; in [the ATF assault on the Branch Davidians and David Koresh in] Waco, Texas it was 74; Ruby Ridge, Idaho – Randy Weaver was a racist, he admitted it, he was a White separatist, though it may be different from being a White supremacist – but they killed his 14-year-old son, killed his dog first, and they shot his wife in the face, when she was holding her infant in her arms. … She was shot from a distance of 200 yards.

Mr. B: We still don’t know what the circumstances might have been, the reason why. Like me, I spent 33 years in the military. We always plan our strategy, what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. So you sit down, you make your plans, you get your objectives and everything. And you keep doing it, and then you get to that point where you’re not getting any results. The final moment is coming, and you make your move. And I think this is to say that the city and everything with MOVE, Waco or whatever, after a while patience runs out and you’ll have no more sympathy.

KR: Well, looking at the Weaver situation, from what I’ve read so far, Weaver was acquitted on all the charges except one minor one leading up to the incident, and basically, he was also acquitted of all charges regarding the actions he took during the standoff. So they actually pretty much determined that he was shooting back in self-defense. In Waco, now there was a question as to whether or not the weapons that they had in Waco were really illegal weapons or not, there is some degree of question about the child abuse allegations that had been filed, so a lot of the charges that were leading up to a lot of these confrontations, upon further review, are being either revealed or being considered to possibly have been relatively minor and it makes you say “Well, why did we go through all of this stuff in the first place?” Randy Weaver is in an isolated cabin!

Mr. C: He wasn’t a threat to anybody, and that’s why he won his case – I don’t know if it was so many millions of dollars or so, but he won his case. But the same thing happened with Ramona. She was acquitted [of almost all of the charges against her], she represented herself in her case when she went to jail for inciting a riot. But every other charge they had against her was thrown out because they couldn’t substantiate it. And, the original arrest warrants that they had on the people were never substantiated as far as their validity. So, it was questionable whether Ed Rendell, the former mayor who was the DA at that time, had the proper evidence for Lynne Abraham who is the DA now and was a judge then …

KR: And she wants to see Mumia Abu-Jamal dead. There’s all kinds of connections here!

Political Connections and Cover-Ups?

Mr. C: You see, everybody who was connected with the MOVE case and with Mumia’s case, everybody with maybe the exception of the judge, everybody made progress in their careers. Like the DA who actually held that grand jury there, Ron Castille, he became a judge.

KR: He actually wound up being one of the people who decided that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would not hear Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal, which a lot of people thought was very strange, when you have someone who was trying to convict him back in the 1980’s and now he’s sitting on the Supreme Court saying “We’re not going to review his case!” That’s like Sabo reviewing the appeal of his own conduct!

Mr. C: And that also happened [when] some of us from this block went to the Justice Department to get them to reopen the MOVE case.

Did the people die in the fire or were they shot?

KR: To reopen it?

Mr. C: Yeah, reopen the case, because it was found that there is a forensic pathologist who sent in a report to the MOVE grand jury that the deaths of those 11 people were homicides. There was another pathologist who was brought in to identify the sex and ages of the bodies. He also agreed that the deaths were homicides because they found bullets in several of the MOVE people. Also, they found that at least two heads were missing. From John Africa, I think Conrad Africa’s heads were missing. And saw marks on their necks. [In the] Temple University archives … we saw some of the pictures of the bodies that were fully clothed but were supposed to have burned up in the fire. But they were actually fully clothed. So that led us to believe that they were outside of the house when they were killed.

KR: Do you think they were killed by …?

Mr. C: The only people back there were police.

KR: Because Ramona did say when they tried to leave out of the back of the house they were shot at.

Mr. C: And so did the young boy. Birdie Africa said the same thing.

KR: Of course he turned on MOVE shortly after he got out.

Mr. C: He turned on MOVE but he never changed his story as to what happened that day. So he still says that – and he maybe had a personal problem with MOVE because he was a young man under the influence – but his testimony never changed and it still hasn’t changed today. [“Birdie Africa” would later change his name back to his given name, Michael Ward, and raise a family before dying on a cruise in 2014 – Editor.]

KR: That’s interesting because I don’t even know that the newspaper articles even talk about his testimony that you were just saying.

Mr. C: Well, they discounted his testimony because they said that he was too young.

KR: And he said they were fired upon?

Mr. C: He said they were fired upon. He even recounted what it sounded like. Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat, like a machine gun, automatic weapons fire. So they both corroborated each other. But what happened was, when the grand jury was convened, and this particular doctor who was sent here to Philadelphia to monitor, to evaluate the Medical Examiner’s office here – the Medical Examiner’s office lost their accreditation at that time because they didn’t handle the autopsies properly – this doctor submitted his information to the DA’s office and they conveniently did not use that information. … The grand jury never heard his report that said that they were homicides. And the only mention of homicide that the grand jury heard was a little excerpt from the doctor who was brought in to tell the sex and ages of the bodies. So, his primary reason for being there was to determine sex and ages. So his focus was not on whether it was homicide or not, but he did put in his report that the deaths were homicides.

KR: Oh, he stuck it in there?

Mr. C: He put it in there, and they said there was no corroboration but they withheld information that [there] was. So it was strange that they withheld this – we didn’t find out about the withheld homicide information until after statute of limitations had run out, which in federal, it’s a five year statute of limitations. Now local it’s not, but federal civil rights violations is five years. So anyway, we went down there and everything, but what we got out of it – they turned us down – but we found out that Richard Thornburgh, who was the attorney general at that time, he had been governor, so when you mention about conflict of interest with Castille maybe, or his motivations being suspect, we had the same situation because the bomb was dropped by a helicopter that was property of the state, and the state governor was Richard Thornburgh. Then he went right to become attorney general, so quite naturally, the people who investigated the civil rights violations here were under his thumb, so he investigated himself!

Mr. A: We were blocked at every turn!

Mr. C: He investigated himself, and like I was talking to one of his assistants in Washington, and he said, really, they got away, he said, with the evidence that came out, it doesn’t matter. He said even if somebody comes out and admit that they did it, statute of limitations has run, so they’re not going to do anything because statute of limitations allowed them to beat it. So the reports were withheld until after that. We went on the fifth anniversary and we didn’t find out until after the fifth anniversary that this information existed. So here you actually have proof of homicide but you know what? No politician, no big-time civil rights advocate, including Johnnie Cochran – because I was in touch with Johnnie Cochran’s office and they were afraid to deal with it, and they passed it off they couldn’t do this, that and the other, so many reasons, but the end result was they couldn’t do it – because this is a situation where, if you are able to put a charge on somebody, you’re talking about a charge of murder. And when you’re talking about a charge of murder, you’re talking about linking these big politicians, not only them, but you’re talking about linking the President of the United States, because the C-4 was released by the FBI, which was the active ingredient in the bomb. And the attorney general at that time was Ed Meese. And he publicly said – I saw it on TV, he said to MOVE Bombing 1985g Helicopter Bomb DropWilson Goode – “Job well done” after everything had happened. Now, I have enough sense to know that the attorney general doesn’t authorize the release of a military bomb to a local police department unless they have a strategy that the President approves of, because he could get fired like that [snaps his fingers] doing something dumb like that. So, I do know from being on the police force, and which I know any of you all who have been in the service [also know], the chain of command is held in strict adherence, and a lot can happen to anybody who violates the chain of command. So anybody who tackles this case would be bringing out the responsibility for these murders by all these big political figures, all the way up to the President. So nobody, at all, ever, no law firm – I talked to a lot of law firms, I talked to a lot of big-time law people in the city and outside the city, and none of them had the courage. I talked to the ACLU and I talked to a lot of people. …

KR: The ACLU wouldn’t touch it?

Mr. C: The ACLU said they didn’t have the manpower to put on the case for the type of time they would need. So, it’s a murder case here, 11 murders that were swept under the rug, there’s evidence. I even talked to the district attorney on a radio program, Lynne Abraham. And I posed the question about this withholding of evidence to her, and that the evidence existed that there was homicide by this forensic pathologist, and what she did, she assassinated this guy’s character. She said “Well, I wouldn’t believe anything he said because I think he was removed from his position as a medical examiner” in such-and-such a place which was over in Jersey, “and I think he’s such-and-such” so she was saying he was not credible.

KR: She didn’t hire him, he was an independent pathologist?

Mr. C: He was independent, but when I talked with him, he said first of all, he never was removed from any position he ever has held, and he said second of all, she has and was currently using him as an expert witness for the prosecution while she was DA. So if she felt he was not credible, how could she use him for her side? So it was one of those things where some of these people will blatantly lie because if she had accepted that what I said was accurate, that it was homicide, then she would have to explain what transpired. So to avoid that, she just called him a big nothing, you know. So there’s a lot to this case here that has not hit, and the thing about the evidence of homicide, and that the medical examiner didn’t use the proper procedures and all of that, so they could not find the accurate reason why the deaths occurred and they attributed all the deaths to accident, because the fire caused them to die, and the fire was meant to do one thing but, inadvertently, another thing happened.

KR: Meant to blow a hole through the fortified roof and instead burned down the houses.

Mr. C: The bomb meant to blow a hole. The fire meant to drive them out. But instead they’re saying, they stayed in there. They tried to come out, they ran back in, and they just all perished right inside the building.

KR: Whereas instead, they actually ran out and they were shot?

Mr. C: And there was a TV news conference with the mayor, Wilson Goode at that time, and the police commissioner, Sambor at that time, where Sambor actually said that “the MOVE people ran out the house, they were running toward the parkway which is at the corner, they got halfway between the MOVE house and the parkway we’re involved in a gun battle with them right now.” And he said, “I don’t know if anybody was killed so far, but right now we’re involved with a gun battle.” So then he came back later in the same news conference and said, “Uh, excuse me, the alleged gun battle” – and he had just said it was a gun battle – “the alleged gun battle did not occur, and there never was a gun battle between MOVE and the police department.” So now you have him coming up with that. Where did he get this information from in the first place? Then you find out that you have people who were in the house, supposedly found dead in the house, fully clothed, but the house burned down to the ground, the whole three blocks is burned down, and they were inside the house but they were fully clothed. Not even a singe on their clothing.

Mr. A: Tell him where they found all the bodies.

Mr. C: Well they claim they found all the bodies within the MOVE house boundaries, property lines of the MOVE house, but human nature is going to tell people that nobody is going to run into an inferno.

KR: Only a horse runs into a burning barn.

Mr. C: And we’re not horses! So you actually had proof of homicide, based on circumstantial evidence, and the testimony of forensic pathologists, more than once so they can corroborate, all this information was withheld from the grand jury, and no one wanted to reopen the case to bring out, to allow the facts and the other information to come out. So right now it still stands as accidental deaths.

“We will kill you down to a little baby”

Mr. C: Right here they notified the hospitals that they had, like when they took out Birdie Africa and Ramona Africa, sent them to the hospital, they notified them to be ready, they were going to send some more people to the hospital. But then, they said all the people were dead. See what I mean? So the other people never materialized in the first place. So this is symptomatic of the entire country, this type of police operation, and I think what it amounted to was, I think the whole thrust is that the government is trying to scare anybody who may disagree with the government, who wants to protest, scare them to the extent to say “We will kill you down to a little baby.”

KR: And they make an example out of a group like MOVE who, because of the in-your-face, extremely radical way that they communicated their point, they’d be able to turn off a lot of people simply by virtue of their methods….

Mr. C: Well that’s what happened. That’s what happened something like with Hitler and Germany. Some of the well-to-do Jews, my understanding is that they OK’d some of the means and methods of Hitler that were put on the so-called lower-class Jews, and never realizing that it could happen to them, and then when Hitler said, “Okay, instead of just those Jews, now all Jews …” But same thing with MOVE. When it happened here, a lot of people felt like, “Well, they were like, terrible people because of the way they acted,” so a lot of people didn’t have a lot of sympathy for MOVE. But as time unfolded, as time went on and other atrocities unfolded, they found that the police – see, at that time, so much had happened in Powelton Village, but by and large, a lot of people who maybe weren’t grass-roots people, still felt like the police, if they ever did anything to you, it was because you were wrong. So in later years, after the MOVE thing happened, you started having other atrocities happening, here in Philadelphia and around the country, so it evolved to the point that people now recognize that the police are not always right, and they’re not always fair.

KR: Maybe MOVE had a point with a couple of those incidents.

Mr. C: Maybe MOVE was more right than wrong, because a lot of people today feel like no matter what MOVE’s method of protest was, they weren’t killing anybody. They inflicted imposition on us, the neighborhood, residents, but they weren’t killing anybody, so they didn’t deserve to be killed for their actions. Maybe they deserved to go to jail for six months or something like that, or 90 days or something like that, okay? But they didn’t deserve to be gunned down, a bomb dropped on them, we residents didn’t deserve to have them to burn the whole area out.

KR: Sixty-one houses?

MOVE Bombing 1985cMr. A: Using the flames as a tactical weapon.

KR: And they let it burn for a while.

Mr. A: Absolutely! They let it burn. They used it as a tactical weapon.

Mr. C: They said that there was a bunker on top of the front of the house, and since the bomb didn’t blow the bunker off the roof, they wanted to let the fire burn enough to burn the bunker off.

KR: As skilled as these guys are at imploding a large building without touching any of the properties on either side of it, you’d think they’d be able to exercise something like that with a little more precision.

Mr. C: Right. See, that was their story but we don’t believe that was their goal. Their goal was extermination.

Mr. A: Their intention was to do exactly what they did. That’s what their intention was.

KR: But why would they want the whole neighborhood gone?

Mr. C: Because then the evidence gets lost in the shuffle.

Mr. A: Why? Why? Because we’re Black folk. This isn’t the first time they’ve used the bomb on us. They did it once before in Philadelphia!

Mr. B: But not only that, they knew that John Africa was in there and the majority of the MOVE people were there. So therefore they figured if they could exterminate them and let the fire burn, get rid of MOVE, that would be it. But it failed on them.

KR: Pam Africa was not in there!

Mr. B: Right. Not only that, Ramona and Birdie escaped. But they figured, knowing that he was in there, he was the root of it. If they killed the head…

KR: Of course, they martyred him. Now, was there any sense among the neighbors, as the conflict was going on – because one impression I got after reading about Powelton Village and reading about everything that went before, was that, in many ways, the things that MOVE was doing and the way they were acting was more because of all the stuff that had happened before, whereas earlier on they might have been a little bit purer in their political focus, but as time went on and as their people got beat and as their babies died and as people got thrown in jail for a hundred years, that after a while maybe it affected them psychologically, to the point where now they’re just fixated on their own political prisoners?

Mr. C: Well, they were fixated on their strategy when they were down in Powelton Village, but they became fixated on getting those people who were arrested in Powelton Village out of jail. That’s why they did what they did here on Osage Avenue. They were on a mission from Day One. Because I had talked with them when they were down in Powelton Village. We knew some of them; the mother of one of the members and the sister of the founder lived on the block. So some of us had talked with them and they were on a real mission, but here their primary focus was on getting their people out of jail. And they told us, “We’re going to use you, because if we go out into the wilderness, nobody’s going to listen to us.”

KR: I remember reading that quote. They said “No one’s going to listen to us, so….”

Mr. B: They didn’t have the protection.

Mr. C: So they just believed in something they really said they didn’t believe in, and that was the compassion of the city, the government.

KR: It almost sounds like the difference between the rhetoric and whether they really thought they would do it. They threw the rhetoric out there that these people are snakes, they’re cancerous, they don’t care what they have to do to whom, and yet they still gave them some small credit for being civilized enough to not kill them all.

Racial Politricks

Mr. C: I think that was attributed to the fact that we had a Black mayor. See, because this was our first Black mayor, and I think they really felt that a Black mayor would not allow it to happen. And they didn’t consider that maybe this Black mayor might be constrained by other government, and as we found out, the federal government was involved. So, maybe if they had analyzed it that way, then they wouldn’t have put so much trust in this Black mayor.

KR: Was there any sense here, among the neighbors in general, that MOVE, through their in-your-face actions, was showing up Wilson Goode? I know, for instance, in Baltimore City, I know that there were a number of people who were so much behind Kurt Schmoke, not necessarily because of his record, but because of the fact that he was the first elected Black mayor of Baltimore City, and they didn’t want to see him embarrassed. Was there any sentiment along the lines of, These folk up here are basically making a fool out of the first and maybe the only Black mayor in Philadelphia’s history?

Mr. B: No, I wouldn’t say that. I think what it was, Goode would show more sympathy because they were Black. But, here’s the thing also. If you remember, the police and the fire department, their contract was screwed up, and Goode did not give them what they were looking for in a contract, and it was brought out that the police department and the fire department – especially the police department – had a gripe with Goode. And so therefore, in order to show Goode up, to get even with him, this was Sambor – he was the police commissioner, and to me, he was one of the biggest racists around.

KR: So Sambor, if anyone, was the main person who was trying to show Goode up, to make him look like a fool.

Mr. B: So, this was to disgrace the mayor.

KR: Now, there was one other thing that I had read, that when Wilson Goode was the city manager…

Mr. C: Managing director.

KR: Yes, when he was the managing director. He had implemented a whole lot of things. He’d had a Crisis Intervention Network … supposedly in part as a result of the 1978 confrontation, so he puts this entire network of agencies that are supposed to deal with these kinds of situations, he puts that in place, but then as mayor, he doesn’t use it here.

Mr. C: Well my understanding is, I don’t know what he put in place…

MOVE Bombing 1985aKR: I even heard they de-funded it! I heard Bennie Swans was frustrated because they were getting ready to de-fund the whole thing because they thought they were too activistic in ‘78.

Mr. C: Well, I don’t know what Wilson Goode did as far as initiating crisis intervention or funding it or what have you, but I do know some of the people who were in that crisis intervention and who I saw out here, but at a certain point they were told to discontinue negotiations.

KR: Yeah, they were told to go away.

Mr. C: Right. So, in effect, the use of trained crisis negotiators was taken away. So they had no professional negotiators to attempt a resolution with MOVE after a certain point. Like, in the last days before they had this attack on MOVE, you had some political types to come out.

KR: I’m surprised they didn’t call up Walter Palmer on the Bat-Phone right away, because from what I’ve read, in Powelton Village, he came the closest to actually solving everything. They’d actually come up with an agreement on May 5, 1978. They had an agreement that had MOVE vacating the house, that had them finding another place to live, but supposedly a number of things happened. I think the farm had something to do with it, I think Delbert Africa was concerned that they were either going to be used as slave laborers on the farm or else the farm was surrounded on three sides by a marsh and it was a setup, to get them out of the public eye, to get them away from witnesses, so they could be exterminated. Which was the reason why Geronimo [jiJaga] Pratt, in 1970, fought off the police in L.A. for four hours because he said, “We’re not giving up until the press and the general public are here to see it, because if we surrender you’re going to do the same thing to us that you did to Fred Hampton, which is execute us. So there seemed to be at least some precedent – whether or not MOVE’s concern was rational I don’t know – there seemed to be some precedent for saying “We don’t want to be put in a position where we’re going to be isolated, there’ll be nobody there to see what happens to us.”

Mr. C: That could be also, and probably was, but their strategy said that they should be here because, in order to be heard, they had to be in an urban environment, because if they’re voicing their complaints and they’re out in the wilderness nobody’s going to hear them.

KR: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

Mr. C: Here, they just disrupted our lives, which they told us that was their method, to make us mad enough to go to City Hall, and make City Hall mad enough to come out and try to resolve it. So, I think they had to have it in this type of environment in order to get the result that they wanted. But it just goes to show you that the government found another way to beat a murder rap, so they didn’t care if it was on TV, in an urban environment, right in a little row house block, surrounded by people. They didn’t care. They were still going to commit murder. But the way that they go about beating a case is controlling the evidence.

KR: Just like they bulldozed the Powelton Village house the day after the assault.

Common Oppression, but No Common Philosophy

Mr. B: There’s something. To have a confrontation with the city because you have members in jail and you want them out. You have your confrontation, and where are those members now?

KR: They’re still in jail. They did not succeed.

Mr. A: The best laid plans of mice and men.

Mr. B: They had a bad strategy. In other words, we are members of the same community as MOVE, so we share the same oppression that they share. They had their way to deal with it, we had our way to deal with it, they were different ways. But, no way is good when I’ve got to hurt somebody that I’m on the same side with to get to the person who I’m against. Why should I go against my own brother to try to get to somebody over this? That’s what they, in fact, did to us. They stepped on us to get to the city.

KR: Do you think a coalition could have been made…

Mr. C: No. Us and them?

KR: From the beginning, if, maybe, some of the things that had been done hadn’t been done?

Mr. C: No. Because they were fixated with John Africa’s strategy. And so we could never have compromised a direction … and come to agreement on a strategy that we could agree to because it was either their way or no way. You see what I mean? So, we didn’t have a choice because we couldn’t subscribe to what they were going to do, and they didn’t have a choice because they couldn’t subscribe to what we were going to do.

KR: So, it’s almost like a “lose-lose” situation, then?

Mr. C: Well, that’s what happened.

Mr. B: Like I said, it was a bad strategy, eleven lives lost, and the members are still in jail.

Mr. D: What I still can’t understand, is why they kept the kids in the house.

Mr. C: Because they felt like Wilson Goode had compassion and authority.

KR: Some people would say it was the same reason that Dr. King had children in the marches in Birmingham, Alabama. There were children in those marches. There were men, women and children who were marching peacefully through the streets, and they were getting hosed, and they were getting attacked by dogs.

Mr. A: And MOVE didn’t learn anything from that, because it didn’t work then and it wasn’t going to work for them. They got more than what they really bargained for. They never imagined, they never imagined. …

Was MOVE as “Dangerous” as the Hype?

KR: I’ve heard claims that MOVE’s weapons were inoperative. Was there anything behind that?

Mr. C: Well, they only had a couple of weapons in the first place. I think they had a revolver, a shotgun and a rifle or something like that. They only had two or three. And I don’t know if they were inoperable or not, but it was never proven – and this is what the whole thing was based on, the attack was based on this – the attack was based on that MOVE people shot at the police, and that the police retaliated.

KR: In Chicago, they tried to say the same thing about Fred Hampton. Never any evidence that bullets came out of Fred Hampton’s house.

Mr. B: I don’t know who fired first. My wife and I were sitting right there at 63rd and Spruce when the first rounds were fired, then the “pinging” and bullets flying across the parkway, and it scared me so, I’m sitting right there, I’m trying to start the car to get out of the way, the door flies open, I’m about to fall out of the car, you know what I mean? And the cops are running, and one thing that was happening…one police officer was down, they dragged him down Pine Street, they threw him into an emergency vehicle. We never heard anything else about it.

Mr. C: And see, they also brought somebody out of the park down here. And nobody ever heard anything about it. A lot of strange things that happened with this whole thing, because at one time it was thought that the MOVE people had dug and tied into the sewer system.

KR: And they supposedly planted explosives [a rumor that was never supported by any evidence] in the neighborhood too. Did anybody really buy into that?

Mr. C: Well, we weren’t sure. Because we know that they had gas cans up on the roof. And we know they were in a state of mind where we couldn’t be sure what they would do or what they wouldn’t do. So we felt like it was a possibility because we felt like, maybe, if the police came in and they got to a certain point where they might detonate something around here–we didn’t know–it was hard for us to know what they would do.

Mr. A: They moved a lot of dirt out of there. It was kind of deep. It was interesting watching them build the bunkers on the houses, and watching the police sit up there and watch them build the bunkers. …

Mr. C: Well I hope you got something for your report.

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

KR: I expected it to be a very positive and eye-opening thing for me, because, basically, the impression that was given by what I’ve read and what I’ve seen was that Powelton Village was an integrated community where they didn’t like Frank Rizzo, so they were kind of supportive of MOVE. Osage Avenue was a Black community they were supportive of Wilson Goode and they didn’t like the fact that Wilson Goode was being made a fool of by MOVE so Osage Avenue was nowhere near as tolerant of what was going on with MOVE as Powelton Village was. And I’m coming to see that that’s really a ridiculously simplistic analysis of the whole situation. I mean, there’s a whole lot more going on there than who the mayor was and what the racial makeup of the community was. It would seem to me, more than anything else, it was more the fact that by the time MOVE got here, their whole attitude had been ratcheted up several times. I mean, however freaked out they were in Powelton Village, I’m thinking that, if I’m freaked out in Powelton Village and the official response is to assault my house, convict nine people of shooting one bullet into one police officer [James Ramp] when they don’t even know what gun it came from, they don’t know what direction it came from, they don’t know if it was friendly fire or not….

Mr. C: But see, the thing is, they do know. They know the bullet came from behind…

KR: They know that?

Mr. C: That was a fact proved by the medical examiner.

KR: They know that the wound in the front of his neck was an exit wound?

Mr. C: Right.

KR: Did they know he was rushing the house at the time?

Mr. C: Well, I don’t know, I don’t know that. But I do know that the trajectory was inconsistent with where MOVE was located, so MOVE couldn’t have fired it.

KR: Okay. I’ve heard that contention, but only from MOVE. First time I’ve heard it from somebody other than MOVE.

Mr. C: Well that was a known fact, and that’s why MOVE was protesting so vehemently about it, because they said “There’s no way we could have killed him. We didn’t even fire any weapons.”

KR: And then nine people get nailed for one bullet.

Mr. C: But the law is that if you participate in an act that causes a death then you’re as guilty as the shooter.

KR: As a matter of fact, they were saying that in the case of the MOVE Nine, they were saying that the third degree murder conviction that they got nailed with was a compromise verdict and they could easily have been convicted of first degree. But, third degree murder as a compromise verdict and they’ve been in jail for how long?

Mr. A: A hundred and nine years they got!

KR: They’ve been in jail since 1978, Merle Africa has since died of ovarian cancer. So Merle Africa’s was a death sentence, because she died two years ago. [Of course, by now we have also lost Phil Africa, as of January 2015 – Editor.]

At this point, I said my final good-byes to my gracious hosts and spent a few minutes reflecting on the story that had unfolded here and the unexpectedly thoughtful perspectives they shared with me.  Today, sixteen years after our discussion and thirty-one years after the MOVE bombing, I remain thankful that these gentlemen allowed me to visit their once war-torn community and talk with them about this critical issue in their homes.  It was my hope, with this interview, to gain a better understanding of how the “average person” might have seen what was perhaps the most misunderstood military-style attack on a civilian population in modern American history.  I went in expecting to hear the opinions of “good citizens” who were fiercely critical of MOVE and their philosophy, and who would have little sympathy for their political struggle.  What I came away with instead was the knowledge that, while the “average person” may not understand the philosophies and methods of those who we refer to as “revolutionaries”, they do agree, at least on a basic level, with the idea of oppression and that, somehow, such repression must be resisted.  Perhaps that is a place to start.

Tear Down This Flag

Bree Newsome 1As everyone is well aware by now, Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole in front of the State House in South Carolina on June 27 and took down the Confederate Flag that had waved defiantly since 1961, the centennial of the Confederacy and, coincidentally (right) the approximate time of the rise of the Civil Rights Movement (hence the defiance).

As she brought the flag down, she was immediately arrested, and the flag was re-hoisted within the hour.

Color Of Change ( shortly thereafter circulated an online petition drive to have the charges against Sis. Bree dropped and to have the flag permanently removed from state government property.

We can think of few better tributes to the spirit that is celebrated in the first week of July than to repost the appeal from Color Of Change for Sis. Bree and also to repost the iconic speech by Ancestor Frederick Douglass, “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?”

Here is the post from Color Of Change from June 27:

Early this morning, a multiracial group of Carolinians led by teachers and activists took down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds — within an hour the state had raised the hateful banner once again in time for an 11 A.M. white supremacist rally. 

Bree, the Black woman who climbed the pole and cut down the flag, was Bree Newsome 3 FreeBree2arrested and taken into custody by Capitol Police. She should be promptly released from jail, any charges should be dropped, and the legislature should immediately vote to permanently remove the flag. 

I demand all charges against Bree are immediately dropped and that South Carolina never raise the flag again. 

According to a statement from the activists they took down the flag because:  

“We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continue to fly above their caskets.” 

The Confederate flag was born out of a government defending the enslavement of Black people and resurrected as an emblem for whites violently opposing racial integration. Any government that recognizes the flag is declaring that it cherishes a history of racial terror.

Taking down the flag is just one step but one that strikes a blow at the visible symbol of white supremacy. Make no mistake about it, however, racism isn’t just a flag or words it’s baked into our economy and inequities in our democracy and criminal justice system. 

In Bree’s own words: 

“It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”

South Carolina officials have sided with white supremacists in choosing to restore the flag before a planned rally. The legislature must immediately vote to permanently remove the Confederate flag from the capitol and all state buildings.

I stand with Bree!

Thanks and peace,

Rashad, Arisha, Hope, Brandi, Brittaney, Johnny and the entire team

Color Of Change later released an Update: Bree Newsome was released from jail and the state is throwing the book at her. She and Jimmy Tyson, the white ally supporting her from the ground, were both charged with “defacing monuments on state capitol grounds” and face up to 3 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. This follows a growing trend of prosecutors from Oakland to Baltimore and across the country overcharging people who take non-violent direct action in defense of Black lives. Sign up here to stay updated on ways to help the fight to drop the charges:

Bree Newsome 2 FreeBree1The Stars & Bars vs. the Stars & Stripes

There has also been much discussion regarding the importance of the Confederate Flag as a symbol of culture or of hatred in South Carolina in the first place.  Some argue that the flag itself is only a reflection of heritage and history, overlooking the fact that it’s the flag of what would today be regarded as a gang of traitors that plotted to overthrow the United States government and, incidentally, lost the resulting war.  Apparently, flag apologists never asked whether or not any group that declared war against a sitting government was ever allowed to fly its flag in that country afterward.

Besides this point, there is the fact that the Confederate flag is not a simple symbol of “southern culture” but is, in fact, a symbol of the enslavement of Afrikan people, a point that backers of the flag would apparently prefer be kept under wraps.  This fact is clearly spelled out in the Couth Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession, which we share below.  Its numerous references to their defense of the “states’ rights” to own slaves should be obvious:

South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession
Convention of South Carolina
December 20, 1860


The People of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D. 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act.

In the year 1765, that portion of the British Empire embracing Great Britain, undertook to make laws for the government of that portion composed of the thirteen American Colonies. A struggle for the right of self-government ensued, which resulted, on the 4th of July, 1776, in a Declaration, by the Colonies, “that they are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; and that, as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.”

They further solemnly declared that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.” Deeming the Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they declared that the Colonies “are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

In pursuance of this Declaration of Independence, each of the thirteen States proceeded to exercise its separate sovereignty; adopted for itself a Constitution, and appointed officers for the administration of government in all its departments — Legislative, Executive and Judicial. For purposes of defense, they united their arms and their counsels; and, in 1778, they entered into a League known as the Articles of Confederation, whereby they agreed to entrust the administration of their external relations to a common agent, known as the Congress of the United States, expressly declaring in the first article, “that each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not, by this Confederation, expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”

Under this Confederation the War of the Revolution was carried on, and on the 3d September, 1783, the contest ended, and a definite Treaty was signed by Great Britain, in which she acknowledged the Independence of the Colonies in the following terms:

“Article 1.– His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that he treats with them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.”

Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country as a FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE.

In 1787, Deputies were appointed by the States to revise the Articles of Confederation, and on 17th September, 1787, these Deputies recommended, for the adoption of the states, the Articles of Union, known as the Constitution of the United States.

The parties to whom this Constitution was submitted, were the several sovereign States; they were to agree or disagree, and when nine of them agreed, the compact was to take effect among those concurring; and the General Government, as the common agent, was then invested with their authority.

If only nine of the thirteen States had concurred, the other four would have remained as they then were — separate, sovereign States, independent of any of the provisions of the Constitution. In fact, two of the States did not accede to the Constitution until long after it had gone into operation among the other eleven; and during that interval, they each exercised the functions of an independent nation.

By this Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several States, and the exercise of certain of their powers was restrained, which necessarily implied their continued existence as sovereign States. But, to remove all doubt, an amendment was added, which declared that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people. On 23d May, 1788, South Carolina, by a Convention of her people, passed an Ordinance assenting to this Constitution, and afterwards altered her own Constitution, to conform herself to the obligations she had undertaken.

Thus was established, by compact between the States, a Government, with defined objects and powers, limited to the express words of the grant. This limitation left the whole remaining mass of power subject to the clause reserving it to the States or to the people, and rendered unnecessary any specification of reserved rights.

We hold that the Government thus established is subject to the two great principles asserted in the Declaration of Independence; and we hold further, that the mode of its formation subjects it to a third fundamental principle, namely: the law of compact. We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties the obligation is mutual; that the failure of one of the contracting parties, to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other; and that where no arbiter is provided, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the fact of failure, with all its consequences.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert, that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused for years past to fulfil their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

The Constitution of the United States, in its 4th Article, provides as follows:

“No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio river.

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the Institution of Slavery has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the general government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these states the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the state government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constitutional compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The ends for which this Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of Slavery; they have permitted the open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the Common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the Common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that Slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the subversion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons, who, by the Supreme Law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its peace and safety.

On the 4th March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced, that the South shall be excluded from the common Territory; that the Judicial Tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The Guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error, with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief.

We, therefore, the people of South Carolina, by our delegates, in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.

We rest our case.  For now. 

More on this and other tidbits of American history can be found at the website


Human Rights Organizations Speak Out on the Charleston Massacre


Dylann Roof Arrest 2By now, the news media have run out of excuses to insist that the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was anything other than a hate crime.  Politicians from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to several US Congress Members have called for the Confederate Flag that still waves in front of the South Carolina State House, considered a key inspiration for the murderous rampage of Dylann Storm Roof, to be taken down.  Church leaders and prominent members of the Afrikan American community have spoken words of sympathy and healing for the families of the victims and for the communities of South Carolina and, frankly, across the South, as they struggle to come to grips with a yawning racial divide that they have ignored for far too long.

A number of Human Rights Organizations across the United States have made statements concerning the massacre of nine Afrikan people as they prayed in a Charleston, South Carolina church on Wednesday, June 17.  A few of these statements were sent to us, and we share them with you below.

A related post includes statements from several Pan-Afrikan organizations, and we will offer some of our thoughts in a separate post as well.

Heather Gray of the Justice Initiative wrote the following article for Counterpunch Magazine:

The Violent Roots of Southern Racism
The Massacre in Charleston:
“What Then Must We Do?” 
By Heather Gray

On Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 three black men and six black women were killed by a white youth in Charleston, South Carolina’s renowned Emanuel AME Church. Below are their names:

Cynthia Hurd, 54 years old

Suzy Jackson, 87 years old

Ethel Lee Lance, 70 years old

Rev. De’Payne Middleton-Doctor, 49 years old

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41 years old

Tywanza Sanders, 26 years old

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, 74 years old

Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 years old

Myra Thompson, 59 years old

Regarding the loss of these remarkable community leaders at the Emanuel AME Church, I am reminded of the “Sweet Honey in the Rock” song named appropriately “Biko”. This was after the brutal 1977 killing of South Africa’s Steve Biko by the South African apartheid regime. Biko was the one of the major founders of the “Black Consciousness Movement” in South Africa. He was famous for his saying “black is beautiful!” Indeed. Sweet Honey sang “You can break one human body, I see ten thousand Bikos”.

Seeing ten thousand “Bikos”? Yes, I would say that we are already witnessing thousands of people expressing outrage at this painful killing in Charleston. So the fact is that there might be a killing of our leaders, but thousands or millions of people will honor them and continue their work for justice in whatever way they can.

This heartbreaking massacre did not occur in isolation. It has been identified as a hate crime. I frankly think it should be identified as domestic terrorism. And, unfortunately, this incident in Charleston was not unique. It is part of a long and painful white supremacist culture in America. The roots run deep. It keeps raising its ugly head.

But then, we can look for our enemy and often realize it is us. Those of us born and bred in the United States. In fact, when President George W. Bush said he was going after terrorists following 9/11 I thought “Good, that means he’ll need to go after the Klan and many right wing Christian groups in America.” It was, of course, wishful thinking on my part.

Here’s what Raw Story/Alternet had to say in its June 18, 2015 article by Alex Henderson:

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organized terrorist movements. Yet many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups (Henderson)  

The problem, therefore, rests with those of us who are white and of European ancestry. We are the ones who created this culture and maintain it today. Most of us refuse to admit or acknowledge our racist past and the immorality of it much less to understand and teach its history of exploitation so that we can move beyond it. We keep our heads in the sand most of the time and it clouds our minds and distorts our vision. Generally, we also let other whites get away with too much when we should be stopping them in their tracks. Then many of us teach our youth that because they are white they are somehow special compared to others in the world. It’s a false and distorted pride and resides in a vacuous empty shell of lies.

I would venture to say that many whites, particularly in the South, are still of the opinion that there are different species of our modern humans. This is called racial essentialism, as in, there is different biological intellectual capacity or other characteristics such as industry and character between people of color and so-called whites.  

As Professor William Richman in 2006 has stated regarding his article on genetics: “This article answers that basic question (of racial essentialism) by resorting to the rapidly expanding field of molecular population genetics…There simply are no genetically-based pan-“racial” differences in character, intelligence, or any other set of traits crucial to individual or societal success or position; racial essentialism is intellectually bankrupt (Richman).     

I invite you to read Richman’s excellent and detailed article about recent genetics studies regarding the dispersal of humans from Africa – Genetic Residues Of Ancient Migrations: An End To Biological Essentialism And The Reification Of Race.

Our different colors are another issue often used to differentiate humans, yet we are all “homo sapiens” with different colors. The colors have to do with our closeness or not to the equator (please go to the footnote below for more detail on skin color.) Race differentiation? There is no such thing. It’s a myth. We are all of the same species with a variety of different colors (Robert Wald Sussman).   

The thing is, even if there were differences why would there be this oppression in the first place? Why this long lasting inhumane exploitive behavior by Americans?  All this rationale has been in place for centuries to justify slavery, then Jim Crow and now the current legacy of it all. The fact remains that, as was stated, these justifications are fallacies and cultural constructs by the western propagandists and the elite in the U.S. as a way to control the masses for their own intent, and that intent being greed.

All of the above have been tools used by the Southern elite, in particular, from the slavery era. They used the age-old divide and rule strategy of working class whites against the black community in order to achieve their goals. Greed is compelling!  

And, unfortunately, the Southern elite, ever since slavery, has instilled this deadly model that we have yet to bury in the dustbin of human history. I venture to say that more than likely the young Dylann Roof, who killed the nine AME pastors and members, was brought up in this distorted and white supremacist culture and/or he managed to find it easily through the media and internet.

It is also important to note also that the white working class in the South is the most marginalized in the region. They are not liked by the middle and upper class whites and have been trained keep their distance from blacks creating a conflict there as well. They are generally exceptionally poor and not engaged politically or civically except in the church, which is often exceptionally fundamentalist in the South. Please be mindful also that the late philosopher Leo Strauss, the godfather of the many on the right, said the people need to be controlled and religion, any religion, he said, is the best way to do this. Many organizers on the right have followed Strauss’ insidious “control” directive, although there has been a long history of using religion as a control tool in the South.

Furthermore, the South has never had the diverse economic system with labor rights that has, in the past, been the model in many parts of the country. But the South never really had a chance with this model compared to other areas. The southern elite simply never let businesses into the region if the business had labor union availability. (Read James Cobb’s “The Selling of the South” regarding actions of the southern elite and businesses coming into the South.) And now U.S. businesses have moved to other countries for cheaper labor and offering no benefits at all, if they can get away with it. Given this, the rural South is all the more desolate as opportunities are all the more bleak. This, of course, is all a part of the neoliberal business plan, being to seek cheap labor, again for greed.

In the rural South, this lack of a diverse economy, including lack of opportunities in the predominant agricultural system that is becoming more industrialized, along with concentrated elite wealth, has led to increased conflict, unsolved murders and drugs.

Finally, the South is, of course, unique in so many capacities regarding white supremacy largely thanks to our slave past and on-going oppressive culture. South Carolina particularly stands out because of its unique slave history and, of course, African resistance to it. Here are some facts from the excellent International African American Museum:

Slavery in South Carolina was different from anywhere else in America:

  • Over 40% of all enslaved Africans to the U.S. came in through Charleston
  • Population ratios could be as high as 9 enslaved persons to 1 white resident in the Lowcountry
  • Enslaved persons comprised nearly 50% of Charleston’s population before the Civil War

Today, nearly 80% of African Americans could potentially trace an ancestor who was brought through Charleston.

South Carolina was the only state founded exclusively as a slave colony.

Founded exclusively as a slave colony, South Carolina quickly grew to have the highest ratio of enslaved persons to free whites of any mainland colony, or later, state.

In the years preceding the Civil War, enslaved people comprised about half of Charleston‘s inhabitants. Population ratios in the Lowcountry were even more extreme, where some areas had 9 slaves to every 1 white resident.

In order to maintain control over the enslaved population, slave laws and methods of punishment were harsher in South Carolina than elsewhere in the country.

It’s important also to know that the primary slave work in South Carolina was in rice production. South Carolina slave owners opted for highly skilled rice growers from West Africa where rice had been grown for at least 3,000 years.

The South Carolina planters were, at first, completely ignorant of rice cultivation, and their early experiments with this specialized type of tropical agriculture were mostly failures. They soon recognized the advantage of importing slaves from the traditional rice-growing region of West Africa, and they generally showed far greater interest in the geographical origins of African slaves than did planters in other North American colonies (Yale). 

Furthermore, South Carolina was home – and understandably so – to the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. Namely, the Stono Rebellion in 1739. This was almost a century before Denmark Vessey (who was associated with the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston) planned a slave rebellion on June17, 1822. Please note that the killings at the AME Church in Charleston took place on June 17, 2015 – a coincidence? Probably not.

And as Leo Tolstoy stated “What Then Must We Do?”

We need, I think, a new paradigm to recover from this sickness that serves only to destroy the other and ourselves as well. The responsibility of making this change rests with whites in partnership with the black community. The response from blacks and white groups joining with black groups the past year, however, around the killings of blacks by white police officers, is impressive; there are groups around the country beginning to address seriously the issue of white supremacy. The Quakers are, as always, noteworthy for their excellent work on this, as has been the case here in Atlanta. The “Black Lives Matter!” movement is taking on a life of its own throughout the country. I am sure these efforts will continue and/or we need to make sure that’s the case!

But most of us need to be more comprehensive in our efforts regarding education about the beginnings of and extent of white supremacist thoughts and action in our culture and ways to counter this, which includes finally learning about Africa and its profound history.

Two rather symbolic, yet important efforts, are, for one, to take the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in South Carolina as is now being demanded by many South Carolinians. As a friend of mine said, “Having the confederate flag there is a disgrace”. I agree. The other symbolic gesture is that the U.S. Congress has yet to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow.

…just months after President Barack Obama took office, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. The Senate acknowledged “the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery” and apologized “to African Americans, on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery.”

The House of Representatives had passed a similar measure the previous year. But Congress could not resolve the two apologies because of differing views on how the resolution would be used in any discussion of reparations. The Senate version was insistent that an apology would not endorse any future claims. The House could not agree. Significantly, the office of the president of the United States has never issued an apology.

In other words, the United States has never given an unconditional apology for slavery. For a nation that can’t even agree on an apology, the recent conversation around reparations could be seen as little more than an exercise in oratory ().

These directives are but a start to rid ourselves of this white supremacist sickness in America. There are many other recommendations as well, of course. The time is now!

Heather Gray is a writer and radio producer in Atlanta, Georgia and has also lived in Canada, Australia, Singapore, briefly in the Philippines and has traveled in southern Africa. She served as the director of the Non-Violent Program for Coretta Scott King in the mid-1980’s in Atlanta; and for 24 years worked with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund focusing on Black farmer issues and cooperative economic development. She holds degrees in anthropology and sociology. She can be reached at

Footnote: As humans left Africa and then further away from the equator our skin color changed and became more varied over time. Our black or white skin or variations of color have largely to do with our adaptation to heat – the closer we are to the equator the darker our skin as the melanin is an effective absorber of light; the (darker) pigment is able to dissipate over 99.9% of absorbed UV (ultraviolet) radiation” (Wikipedia) and in this way we can better survive in an exceptionally warm climate; consequently the further away from the equator, the lighter our skin because we need to absorb more heat and vitamin D (Smithsonian) in order to survive (see the world map of skin color below). There is also a third factor that effects our skin color and it has to do with diet combined with UV rays: 

….coastal peoples who eat diets rich in seafood enjoy this alternate source of vitamin D. That means that some Arctic peoples, such as native peoples of Alaska and Canada, can afford to remain dark-skinned even in low UV areas. In the summer they get high levels of UV rays reflected from the surface of snow and ice, and their dark skin protects them from this reflected light ().

Our different skin colors mean an environmental adaptation, with the exception of diet plus environment for Arctic peoples. That’s it! 

Emanuel AME Mourners 11

Statement from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Among several statements on their website, Morris Dees and Richard Cohen wrote the following commentary to the Opinion Page of the New York Times for the Southern Policy Law Center:

White Supremacists Without Borders
By MORRIS DEES and J. RICHARD COHEN Southern Poverty Law Center
JUNE 22, 2015
The Opinion Pages – New York Times

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A VARIETY of clues to the motives of Dylan Storm Roof, the suspect in last week’s mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., have emerged. First, we saw the patches he wore on his jacket in a Facebook photo: the flags of regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia that brutally enforced white minority rule. Then, a further cache of photos of Mr. Roof – seen in several bearing a Confederate flag – was discovered on a website, Last Rhodesian, registered in his name, together with a manifesto, a hodgepodge of white supremacist ideas. The author (most likely Mr. Roof) calls on whites to take “drastic action” to regain dominance in America and Europe. These themes, popular among white supremacists in the United States, are also signs of the growing globalization of white nationalism. When we think of the Islamist terrorism of groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, we recognize their international dimension. When it comes to far-right domestic terrorism, we don’t. Americans tend to view attacks like the mass murder in Charleston as isolated hate crimes, the work of a deranged racist or group of zealots lashing out in anger, unconnected to a broader movement. This view we can no longer afford to indulge. When, according to survivors, Mr. Roof told the victims at the prayer meeting that black people were “taking over the country,” he was expressing sentiments that unite white nationalists from the United States and Canada to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Unlike those of the civil rights era, whose main goal was to maintain Jim Crow in the American South, today’s white supremacists don’t see borders; they see a white tribe under attack by people of color across the globe. The end of white rule in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, they believe, foreshadowed an apocalyptic future for all white people: a “white genocide” that must be stopped before it’s too late. To support this view, they cite the murders of white farmers in South Africa since the end of apartheid. In recent years, extremists have distilled the notion of white genocide to “the mantra,” parts of which show up on billboards throughout the South, as well as in Internet chat rooms. It proclaims “Diversity = White Genocide” and “Diversity Means Chasing Down the Last White Person,” blaming multiculturalism for undermining the “white race.” The white nationalist American Freedom Party has made the mantra’s author, a segregationist from South Carolina named Robert Whitaker, its vice-presidential candidate in 2016. White supremacists across the country, some displaying the apartheid South African flag, have participated in “White Man Marches” to raise awareness of the so-called white genocide. A neo-Confederate group, the League of the South, also uses the white genocide argument to call for laws against interracial marriage. White nationalist leaders are traveling abroad to strengthen their international networks. At the Southern Poverty Law Center, we have documented more than 30 instances in the past two years. In 2013, Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, a group that publishes pseudo-academic articles purporting to show the inferiority of black people, addressed groups of white nationalists in Britain and France on their common cause. “The fight in Europe is exactly the same as ours,” he said. The movement is bound to produce more violence, not necessarily from organized groups but from lone wolves like Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed more than 70 people in his country in 2011 because he wanted “to save Europe from Islam.” Mr. Breivik had ties to American white nationalists as a registered user of Stormfront, a web forum founded by a former Ku Klux Klan leader that has more than 300,000 members (about two-thirds are American). Europe has also seen the rise of a powerful, far-right political movement that rejects multiculturalism. The anti-Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn in Greece are prime examples. In Germany, there has been a series of murders by neo-Nazis. Britain, too, is experiencing an upswing of nationalist, anti-immigrant politics. This month, S.P.L.C. staffers will join activists from the United States and Europe at a conference in Budapest about this transnational white supremacism that is emerging as the world grows more connected by technology. The message of white genocide is spreading. White nationalists look beyond borders for confirmation that their race is under attack, and they share their ideas in the echo chamber of racist websites. The days of thinking of domestic terrorism as the work of a few Klansmen or belligerent skinheads are over. We know Islamic terrorists are thinking globally, and we confront that threat. We’ve been too slow to realize that white supremacists are doing the same.

Morris Dees is the founder, and J. Richard Cohen the president, of the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Pan-Afrikan Organizations Speak Out on Charleston Massacre




Emanuel AME Mourners 6We include here statements from several Pan-Afrikan organizations as they express their sympathy for the victims, their analysis of what happened and their conviction that the slogan “Black Lives Matter” must translate to the commitment to defend the Pan-Afrikan Community, wherever we are found around the world, against oppression and violence.

These are clearly not all the statements that have been offered from our many and varied organizations and they do not represent the entirety of thought in the Pan-Afrikan activist community; they are but a sample.  We will share commentaries and analyses from human rights organizations in the general community in a separate article, and we will offer some of our own thoughts in a separate article as well.

Statement from the Clement Payne Movement, Barbados, The Caribbean



The critical importance of the United Nations International Decade For People of African Descent becomes more and more apparent with each passing day!

A case in point is the massacre which occurred [June 17] at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in the United States of America, in which nine African- American women, men and children were brutally shot to death by a White male.

This latest genocidal outrage comes at a time when right-thinking people all over the world are expressing shock and horror at the phenomenon of White American police officers callously killing literally hundreds of unarmed Black-American men and women, and the U S Criminal Justice system routinely declaring that the killers are not even required to stand trial for their wrong-doing.

Indeed, the U S Justice System recently sent such a loud and clear message that Black-American lives do NOT matter, that it is not surprising that an ordinary White civilian racist would get it into his head to enter the sanctuary of an historic African -American church and assassinate Black men, women and children who were in a posture of prayer!

But the inherent message of the UN International Decade For People Of African Descent – which began on 1st January 2015 – is that the African- American people of the United States of America are our Black Barbadian and Caribbean kith and kin!

The nine Black American men, women and children who were so brutally murdered [June 17] are our “brothers and sisters”. And they are our brothers and sisters because their African ancestors were brought to the Americas in the same slave ships that brought our African ancestors, and were subjected to the same architectonic socialisation experiences of chattel slavery and colonialism in “Plantation America” that our ancestors were subjected to on the plantations of the Caribbean.

The only truly significant difference between ourselves and our African-American brothers and sisters is that we are Blacks in a Black majority society, while they are Blacks in a White majority society.

This fundamental difference is responsible for the fact that we possess pre-dominantly Black governments, legislators, nation states, police forces, judicial officers, diplomatic representatives, and the list goes on, while they remain a relatively powerless and under-represented minority in the White majority institutions of the USA. Furthermore, it has now become absolutely clear that the traditional White American establishment that orchestrated the anti-Black slavery and slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries has no intention of ever permitting the Black US-based descendants of their former slaves to ever be truly and fully free!

The very existence of the UN International Decade For People of African Descent impels us as Black people to come to this profound understanding of the predicament of our African-American brothers and sisters, and to the responsibilities that we must undertake as a result of that horrific predicament.

And the clearest such responsibility is that we Black Barbadian and Caribbean people who are racial majorities in our national societies, and who possess predominantly Black nation-states, national governments, and diplomatic seats at the United Nations and other high councils of international decision-making, are duty-bound to speak up for and to defend the rights of our African-American brothers and sisters! We simply can no longer allow our interest in our brothers’ plight to be restricted because they are supposedly citizens of a different nation! No! We who are joined together by deeply rooted ties of ancestry, kinship and affinity, must not permit artificial national barriers to keep us apart!

The time has therefore come when the Prime Ministers, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and the various Ambassadors and consular officers of our Caribbean nations must accept that they have a duty to speak up for and defend our African-American brothers and sisters.

Just as the American State Department, Secretary of State, President and Vice-President believe that they possess a right to intervene in and pass judgement on our national domestic affairs, our Caribbean high officials of state must assert an even greater right to intervene in and pass judgement on the existential predicament of our African-American brothers and sisters within the national arena of the USA.

And it is therefore high time that our premier officials of state intervene with US President Barack Obama and call upon him to do his duty to the African-American people of the USA!

The sad reality is that President Obama has spectacularly FAILED— during his Presidency— to address the issue of the deeply entrenched anti-Black racism that exists in the bowels of American society and in the very DNA of the institutions of the USA.

Even with this most recent racist massacre, President Obama shamelessly side-stepped his duty to represent the African-American cause and sought to characterize the massacre as being related to the ease of access to guns in the USA, rather than to pinpoint the fact that it was underpinned by the trenchant anti-Black racism that exists in U S society .

Way back in the 1960’s, the late Lyndon B Johnson, a white American president, distinguished himself on the race issue by establishing the Kerner Commission to enquire into the endemic racist conditions that were at the heart of the race-based civil disorders of the mid-1960’s and to propose possible solutions. What has President Obama done on the issue of anti-Black racism since becoming President? The tragic answer is:– nothing of consequence!

Truly, the time has come for us to move forward on this issue! The advent of the UN Decade For People of African Descent says to us that the time has come for us as Black people to express solidarity with each other right across the Black Diaspora! The time has come for us to collectively declare an attitude of zero tolerance towards all elements of anti-Black racism and racial discrimination!

The time has also come for us to address the U S Government about this issue of the racial oppression of our African-American brothers and sisters, and to use our political leaders and diplomats to take this issue before the United Nations organization and other international human rights bodies!

Quite frankly, in this UN International Decade For People of African Descent, the time has come for us to undertake powerful trans-national campaigns of activism to finally and permanently destroy the centuries- old demon of institutionalized anti-Black racism!

On behalf of the Clement Payne Movement of Barbados, I hereby call upon the political leaders and Governments of the Caribbean to accept and embrace this new understanding of their duty to our African-American brothers and sisters, and to act upon it with a sense of urgency!

May our recently martyred brothers and sisters rest in peace.

President, Clement Payne Movement


Statement from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Association for the Study of African American Life and History LogoAssociation for the Study of African American Life and History
The Howard Center, 2225 Georgia Avenue, NW, Suite 331 Washington, DC 20059

June 18, 2015

A Statement Concerning the Massacre at the Emanuel AME Church 

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) speaks out against the violence in Charleston, South Carolina, that took the lives of nine African Americans in the Emanuel AME Church. We extend our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones, the members of the Emanuel AME Church, and the entire Charleston community. May your faith sustain you through this storm.

As all Americans now know, this African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a rock in our community since the early days of this republic when the members of the congregation, enslaved and free, could not be citizens of either the state or this nation. The church itself was implicated in the Denmark Vessey plot to throw off the chains of slavery, and it has been a site for our struggle for racial justice and equality across the centuries. The congregation represents how slavery itself could not and cannot extinguish the human thirst for freedom and true citizenship.

This massacre strikes at the heart of our democracy. According to the witness Sylvia Johnson, a member of the church, the shooter told his victims, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country – and you have to go.” As an expression of white nationalism, this slaughter of American citizens – for being citizens – is thus even more than a hate crime. The accused, Dylann Roof, assaulted our common democratic institutions and engaged in domestic terrorism. His purpose could have been none other than to foment greater racial strife, if not race war. We cannot let it stand.

We call on our elected officials at every level of government to denounce white supremacy as an ideology and to root out this form of terrorism. Our nation offers itself to the world as a beacon of racial progress, the hope of a true multi-racial society and we must uphold by this self-appointed mission. Moreover, the state of South Carolina–where the citizens can elect Nikki Haley, a South Asian woman, and Tim Scott, an African American man, as their Governor and United States Senator, respectively– cannot allow white nationalism to undermine our efforts to build and maintain a common democracy.

Daryl Michael Scott
Click here to view this statement on our website


Statement from Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal


A young white man, barely at the age of his majority, walks into Charleston’s most storied Black church and, before he leaves, a new history is written.

Attending the Wednesday night Bible study, he sits for nearly an hour, but his mind isn’t on the life of Jesus nor his disciples. It’s on murder, mass murder. When the door shuts behind him, nine Black souls, elders mostly, had been slain, Bibles in hand.

The man, or boy more than man really, hadn’t come to learn about religion, for he had a belief, white supremacy, or the profound hatred of Black people.

White supremacy is the mother’s milk of Charleston, of South Carolina, of the South, of America. For surely as slavery funded and built America, the underlying principle was the devaluation, exploitation, and oppression of Black life. It’s the only thing that makes the church massacre in Charleston even remotely intelligible.

Nine Black people were sacrificed to the blind idol of white supremacy for the same reason that thousands of Black men and women were lynched on American elms and pines: as sacrifices to an idea, to perpetuate a system of economic injustice.

Dylan Roof, the 21 year old accused of this massacre, had no friends to speak of, no place to stay other than an associate’s couch, no job, and a tenuous relationship with his parents. Isolated, alienated, alone in the world, his sole remaining possession was his whiteness, the only thing that gave his existence meaning. That was the energy that fueled the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.

It now sits like an incubus in the American soul, seething hatred and fear, waiting for more Black lives to consume.


Statement from The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition on the Mother Emanuel AME 9 Massacre: Calls Pinckney Killing an “Assassination”

The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition (NAVC)
(908) 605-NAVC group


The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition speaks out on the Massacre of the Mother Emanuel AME 9 in Charleston, South Carolina, but unlike most condemnations of the heinous act, the NAVC asserts that the incident be also be treated as an ‘assassination’ of Rev. Clementa Pinckney for his leadership on police brutality!*

“Why are we not demanding that this act be treated as assassination of Rev. Pinckney,” asked media advocate Zayid Muhammad.

Rev. Dr. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Dr. Clementa Pinckney

“Pinckney was not only that church’s beloved pastor, he was also a state legislator who got out in front of the highly contentious issue of police brutality, when he unified area elected [officials] to insist that all police officers wear body cameras as a basic, but critical, reform, in light of the videotaped police killing of [Walter] Scott in South Carolina.

“That reform, to his credit, passed, in spite of that area’s deep, dark baggage of racial oppression and terrorism.

“That reform was bound to have engendered some very real enemies, seen and unseen, as a consequence.

“We have to ask: ‘Was this man’s killing in particular a message to Black leadership, saying, do not dare get serious about pushing for serious police reform?

“We just wonder, if Rev. Pinckney were white, would this tragedy be dismissed simply as a crazed ‘lone gunman’ gone off on a rampage?”

The NAVC then insisted there be a full and complete federal investigation of the case along those lines.

They then related Pinckney’s police reform efforts to [Newark, NJ] Mayor Ras Baraka’s local police reform efforts. Mayor Baraka created the first civilian review board in the country to have subpoena power over the Newark police. He did this just several weeks ago by executive order.

“We cannot understand why Black electeds in cities allover the country have not applauded this move and have not followed his lead and done so in their own cities.”

The statement also challenged Black elected officials to emulate Pinckney’s leadership and Newark Mayor Baraka’s leadership on the issue of police brutality.

The NAVC also demanded that federal security anti-terrorism efforts be expanded to provide greater protections to elected officials pushing for police reform. The full text of the statement is annexed…

*Newark will be the site for a national march against police brutality on July 25th…

Statement from the UNIA-ACL

The Tragedy of White Hatred and Injustice in South Carolina
By Shaka Barak, Minister of Education 06-21-15

For over 100 years the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA & ACL) has been trying to protect our race from the crimes against them, by whites and other alien races, not only in South Carolina, but all over the world. We wrote in our governing constitution and bylaws a provision that states our desire to establish commissionaires and agencies in the principle cities and countries of the world for the representation and protection of all Africans and people of African descent, irrespective of nationality. What has happened in South Carolina was bound to happen, and unfortunately will continue to happen more frequently and on a larger scale if we don’t unite. It happened in the United States to African men after World War I, when they returned to America from shedding their blood for so-called democracy. This was a time when African GI’s returning from the battle fields in France, wounded and battle torn, were lynched in their uniforms. Africans loved America so much that they not only lined up to fight for America, but the masses immediately raised hundreds of thousands of dollars by purchasing war bonds. This love was because of the promises of freedom, justice and equality President Woodrow Wilson alluded to when he said it was a “war for Democracy.”

During that WWI period from 1914-1918, and after, three United States Presidents were members of the Ku Klux Klan, including Wilson, Coolidge and Harrison. From the founding of the UNIA & ACL, by the Honorable Marcus Garvey to the President General the Honorable Senghor Jawara Baye, knowing how white supremacy destroys the minds of white people, they have tried to prepare our race so that we wouldn’t have to face these atrocities, but be so united and strong no white or any alien race would dare lay their hands on a Black man or woman anywhere in the world.

Since the Honorable Marcus Garvey has passed June 10, 1940 what has our race done? We have abandoned Universal African Nationalism and allowed the alien races who have attacked us since we became vulnerable 400 years ago, to now lead us. These whites and their surrogates have not sought to lead us on the course laid out for us in our constitution, and the course taught by the foremost Black Nationalist the Honorable Marcus Garvey and all his successors, but away from Garveyism. The others have led us away from Garveyism and nationalism on a course they would direct called integration because they could control that course. We have been on a course that would not lead to; racial pride and love; not to self-reliance; and not to self-determination and not to self-government. Without the proper preparation in South Carolina and other parts of the world, we were not ready to protect ourselves. Scattered throughout the world as a disunited race, in this weak state, we have been, could be and will be easily massacres by the enemy from without and the enemy’s surrogates from within. The divide and rule tactic is being used against us on every continent on earth.

We must understand the lesson of Marcus Garvey, and you can only get that truth in the UNIA & ACL. We had more respect as a race in 1920, by that generation of alien races than at any other time in America. Under the UNIA & ACL we were seen as more serious, bolder, and aggressive and determined when it came to pursuing our human rights. We had more measurable success as a race, when we built and supported our own Universal Grocery Stores, and Universal Restaurants. When the UNIA & ACL members launched the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation, it gave the then estimated 400 million Africans and people of African Descent pride, in that an accomplishment, but it also made other races either jealous or fearful as they saw the BSL as a competitor in the maritime industry.

One-hundred years later the same organization that launched those ships and gave our race the restaurants and grocery stores is still alive and pleading with our race to join us at the UNIA & ACL 58th International Convention. This is the place where we can come together and build the right economic, educational, and political structures to address all the problems of the 1.2 billion members of our race at home and abroad. We did not solve all the problems in the 1920’s because we cannot undo 400 years of slavery and colonialism in less than 175 years of emancipation, especially with powerful white forces fighting us with the deadly tools of their civilization every step of the way. We have not given up but are on the same course to get our people to replace the feeling of hope with the feeling of confidence. We need the confidence that makes us believe, to a man, that whatever other races and nations have done we can do. We need confidence that we can build and maintain a racial hierarchy, and a 1.2 billion member and growing racial empire.

Today’s leaders on the other hand have confidence in the white man, his just-us system, his military, his Supreme-mist Court, and his economic system. They find it hard to imagine a nationalistic program ran and controlled by and for Africans. So without the proper vision we see what has happened in South Carolina also happening in Libya, after Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi was assassinated. It happened in Egypt, when President Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak Mabarrack was disposed. It happened to Africans in Syria, when Bashar al-Assad leadership was undermined. Africans are lured to sleep thinking it’s safe in the world without their shield of Universal African Nationalism to protect them in case things go south, which often happens. Let us remember, forget Black Wall Street in Tulsa Oklahoma, when all seemed well until that faithful evening when whites dropped bombs on innocent African in the Greenwood District.

Atrocities against our race instigated by whites are happening in Nigeria, in Angola, in South Africa, in Brazil, in Austria, in India, and in the Dominican Republic. Why are they happening in the far corners of the earth? It is because we lack unity. The UNIA & ACL can build its divisions all around the world, but to make that happen, and to show how it all that make sense we must come together at the 58th International Convention, and meet face to face. We must see those delegates not only from South Carolina, but see those who represent the members of our scattered race all over the world. We realize that the problems facing the Africans in Brazil cannot be solved by the Africans in Brazil alone. If the Africans in Brazil, Mexico, India, Japan, China, France, Spain, Germany and other countries, don’t unite, then they will be destroyed by being isolated and picked off one by one.

European countries, and states in the US are being led by their bankers into bankruptcy, and they will use the African as a scapegoat that will lead to whites rioting and massacring the Africans among them. The basis for a race war is when most whites are led to believe that, if there are jobs, they need to take those jobs even if it means murdering Africans and scaring them out of certain cities, and urban areas. It has been done before, because up until President Barack Obama, America has had nothing but racist white presidents that inherited a racist system of government. They have been men, backed up by white women, who nursed their babies with the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, and manifest destiny”. What they did to enslave each other, the indigenous populations worldwide, and the African is a long forgotten part of their history. They pursued the acquisition of wealth, land and power by any means necessary with the belief those future generations would either forget or forgive the acts of genocide and extermination. The white man especially hopes the victims of his barbarism forget or forgive.

Let’s take a close look at South Carolina, and how easily the white race has murdered other weak and unprepared nations in the past and the present. There were over 20 different native tribes in South Carolina before the white man came there from Spain in 1521. These so called Indians were not only the first there but in the majority until they were murdered or forced off that land. South Carolina has always been the leader of the racist southern states. It led southern states to question the Union, build southern nationalism, support slavery, seek a southern literature, seek southern religious nationalism, seek a southern nation through succession, and pushed for expansion through the ideology of “Manifest Destiny”.

In 1817 an independent African Association was organized in Charleston, South Carolina because Africans were tired of white preachers conducting their religious affairs. In 1817 the Immanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed by Moorish Brown with 1000 organizers. Seventeen years prior in 1800 Denmark Vessey an AME member, who was freed in 1800, the same year the 24 year old Gabriel Prosser organized a rebellion, the same year Toussaint l. Overture organized the Haitian revolution, and 4 years after in 1804 the Underground Railroad was formed. So Vessey saw 6000 Africans leave white churches and go to the AME. Vessey also saw the founding of the American Colonization Society with the intent of taking free Africans to Liberia. Vessey seemingly had his mind made up to reject that offer and fight for freedom against the injustices in his own way. For just one example of these injustices, whites first had 469 Africans who wanted to pray, arrested in 1817 under false charge of disorderly conduct. Then they invoked the 1800 law prohibiting the assembling of enslaved Africans without a white person present. Breaking this law led to 140 free Africans being arrested, and the Bishops and ministers had to either go to jail for one month or leave the state and others were given the choices of 10 lashes with a whip or pay a $10 fine each. White legislators rejected any appeals made by Africans to conduct their own independent worship services. Enslaved Africans in South Carolina could not gather in groups of more than seven and sometimes even funerals were under suspicion.

The United States also embraced nationalism, especially when John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was Vice President. The founding fathers were nationalist. A Noah Webster of the famous Webster’s Dictionary was a nationalist who published nationalist educational material such as the American Reader, American Grammar, American spelling book and the American dictionary of the English Language. Likewise, at Harvard College in 1818 Edward T. Channing delivered an address entitled “Literary Independence.” America he said, “must establish a domestic literature upon what is peculiarly our own, our scenery, our institutions, our modes of life, our history and the antiquities of our country. “By 1810 to 1820 Blacks had surpassed whites in South Carolina. South Carolina was the spokesman for the slave holding states. A well-known nationalist and defender of slavery was Thomas Cooper, President of South Carolina College.

The deeper the south, the stronger were the UNIA & ACL Divisions. We had divisions in Anderson, Beaufort, Charleston, Chehan, Church Parish, Coosaw, Island, Georgetown, Green Pond, Labaco, Lake View, Midland Park, Mount Holly, Pineopiolis, Rock Hill, St. Andrew, Strawberry, Union Heights, and Yemassee. Had we maintained our divisions in South Carolina, there would have been no way [Roof] could have gotten into a prayer meeting where our elders and children were. We would have scanned him, frisked him, disarmed him, and then fed his behind to some alligators in a swamp, and told the police where to look for any of his remains.

In conclusion, the UNIA & ACL under President General Senghor Baye sends condolences and sympathy to those who lost loved ones in the mass murder by the white man Dylann Roof, of Columbia South Carolina. The names of those Africans he murdered include Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Daniel L. Simmons, Susie Jackson, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. We will be extending an invitation for the family members, the church members and citizens of Charleston, South Carolina to send a delegate to attend the UNIA & ACL 58th International Convention. Inquiries can be made to Shaka Barak, UNIA & ACL Minister of Education, email:, or those designated by the President General Senghor Baye.

Emanuel AME Mourners 3 




Annapolis Day of Action Against Police Brutality

Marshall Park 3The handwritten poster read, at the top, “Stolen Lives in Maryland 2014”, followed by a list of 25 names of people who had died in police custody or in altercations with Maryland law enforcement in one way or another during the year 2014.

A few of the names were people who most would consider to have been truly dangerous judging by the accounts in the news reports which we researched (and are not mentioned here), but most of them were individuals who seemed to have died under unclear, questionable or suspicious circumstances.  Some, like Perry Webb, Rajsaun McCray, Jameel Kareem Harrison, Briatay McDuffie and Arvel Williams, died after car chases, when they were either tased, shot or, according to the stories about Webb, may have shot themselves.  Some, like Hernan Milton Osorio and Darren Friedman, were apparently attempting suicide and the police, who were allegedly trying to stop them, killed them themselves when threatened, while Luis Arturo Hernandez Jr. was allegedly attempting suicide while holding his wife as a hostage.  Ryan Charles Deitrich and Donovan Bayton were reportedly behaving in a threatening manner (though not necessarily committing any crimes) while holding knives, and Mark Anthony Blocker simply would not drop his pellet gun.  Eric Harris was killed by police when his fake gun was apparently mistaken for the real thing.  Bernard Lofton was killed after a suspected burglary.  George King became unruly in a hospital and a Baltimore police officer tased him several times, which killed him.  Tyree Woodson was arrested on a murder charge and allegedly committed suicide in a police station bathroom with a gun that he somehow managed to get past a police search, while 78-year-old William R. Walls Sr. reportedly committed suicide during a gun battle with police in a hostage standoff at his home.  Angela Randolph fought with a Maryland Transit Administration police officer and was shot, while Antonio Moreno reportedly suffered a heart attack during a struggle with police on a bus.  And finally, Winfield Carlton Fisher III was killed in Salisbury under circumstances that were unknown, according to the news article.

The poster concluded with an alarming statistic: “In 2014 Maryland law enforcement killed someone every 14 days.”

The Sister who held that poster had boarded one of several buses from Baltimore City to participate in a rally in Thurgood Marshall Plaza, nicknamed “The People’s Plaza” because of its popularity as a gathering and rallying place for actions such as this one.  We were there in Annapolis, on January 15, 2015, what would have been the 86th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the shadows of the buildings that house the offices and meeting rooms of Maryland’s state senators and delegates in the legislature, to press for the enactment of reforms to the laws that regulate police conduct in the state.  Chief among the demands being pressed this day were the incorporation of body cameras for police, the creation of a Special Prosecutor’s Office for cases of alleged police misconduct, the empanelment of a Civilian Police Review Board and other key changes to be made in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a measure thought by several politicians, but more importantly the vast majority of community activists, to allow corrupt, racist and violent police officers to continuously commit acts of brutality and go unpunished.  One particularly objectionable provision in the original Bill is the establishment of a ten-day period after the launching of an investigation into police misconduct that would allow potential police defendants to formulate their alibis.  This provision evokes memories of the February 4, 1999 police murder of an unarmed Amadou Diallo in the entrance of his own New York City apartment and the two-day period during which the four police officers who had gunned him down had been able to construct the infamous “we feared for our lives” narrative that ultimately resulted in their acquittals at trial.  Not only had internal NYPD investigations concluded the officers had acted “within policy” (much as in the recent cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner), but their claims of having feared for their safety may have set the stage for the use of this self-defense motive to escape criminal charges in future killings of civilians by police.

This particular weekend, there would be many rallies, protests and discussions across the United States centered around the juxtaposition of Dr. King’s birthday and the recent uprisings, in the spirit of Dr. King, against the police violence against civilians that seized the country’s attention starting with the killing of Ferguson’s Michael Brown this past summer.  Marches in New Jersey (one by the People’s Organization for Progress, in Newark on Monday, January 19) and New York (the MLK “Dream 4 Justice” March at Malcolm X Blvd @ 110th Street in Harlem at 12 noon on Monday, January 19), rallies and teach-ins in Washington, DC (several of them sponsored by Black Lives Matter, and the Washington Peace Center,, and activities in Cleveland, Ohio, Ferguson, Missouri, Los Angeles, California and places across the country, show the potential for the anti-police brutality movement to morph into a new Civil Rights and Human Rights Movement that could continue for weeks, months or longer.  Demonstrations will be held.  Streets will be blocked.  Arrests will be made.  Politicians will make speeches.  Police union leaders will complain about disrespect of law enforcement.  Talk radio shows will bring the voices of the People to the airwaves.  Panels will provide analysis.  And in Annapolis, rallies were held directly in the faces of Maryland state law makers.  Perhaps some of them will listen.

The January 15 Day of Action Against Police Brutality at the Maryland State Legislature in Annapolis had been organized by the Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in North Baltimore; Bro. Faraji Muhammad of WEAA-FM and the American Friends Service Committee; Bro. Davon Love of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle; Bro. Tre Murphy of The Algebra Project; Sis. Towanda Jones and the Family of Tyrone West (who was killed by Baltimore City police in July 2013 and whose family still seeks justice); and several other activists who attended and assisted in the organization of the rally, march and planned meetings with members of the Maryland House of Delegates.  Special guests at the event included students from Connexions Charter School, who had come to see an example of “civics in action”.  Buses had been contracted to pick up participants from at least three meeting locations in Baltimore City and nearby areas of the state.

Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, called the rally toHeber Brown 1 order at 10:00 AM.  “I want to be clear, that if anybody has any questions about who the leaders are, do me a favor.  Because I want to introduce you to the leaders.  Look to your left.  Now look to your right.  You have just seen the new leaders of the movement for social justice in our generation.  We are the leaders.  We have our own spheres of influence, our own circles, where we are connected.  You have opportunity to lead where you are.  We are here this morning, bringing together all the leaders, from Baltimore City, from Anne Arundel County, Harford County, PG [Prince Georges County], Montgomery County.  We’re bringing together all the leaders to address the situation that addresses and challenges all of us.  We are here to stand against police violence and police brutality.  Can I give you a word of applause and encouragement right now?  Because I’m so proud of you.  Because they thought we’d sit down and shut up.  They thought after a few marches, after a few rallies, they thought that we’d just calm down again, get back to Scandal, get back to How To Get Away With Murder. … We’re tired of other people getting away with murder.  We’re tired of the scandal in our community.  Black and Brown people are being brutalized and terrorized by those abusing the powers afforded them. … After we rally right here, we’re going inside these buildings. … We’ve got some meetings to have today.  There are some elected officials that we need to meet with today, and be clear about some specific legislation.  We didn’t come this far to have a picture taking party. … We’ve got some work to do.  There’s some work that we must do; there’s some work that only we can do.”

Sis. Taya Angelou gave a song-and-spoken-word performance to rouse the crowd, which had grown by this time to about 100 people.

Bro. Tre Murphy of The Algebra Project reflected on the fact that this rally was being held on January 15, what would have been the 86th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  “Look around.  About 100 people standing here today, who have marched on Annapolis today because the issues of police brutality and our communities being under attack stem from the underlying issues of systematic racism and systematic oppression. … The system of White Supremacy has undervalued and devalued the lives of Black people.  I wonder if MLK were still alive today, what would he say?  What would he do?  I can’t help but think that MLK would not appreciate the silence of the Black Church, that has not taken a stance onTre Murphy 2 these issues.  I can’t help but to wonder and to think that MLK would not appreciate that [there are] Elders who sit idly by while young people speak out against injustice.  I can’t help but to wonder and think that MLK would not appreciate that politicians and law enforcement, whose job is to protect and serve our communities, care more about protecting killer cops than they do about passing laws that adhere to bring justice to the Black community. 

“We are at a pivotal time in history.  A time in history where we have the opportunity to create a better future for generations to come than what was left for us.  It has the hope and reassurance that somewhere out there lies a bigger, better and brighter tomorrow.  And that it doesn’t just end with today.  That’s the vision that we must hold on to.  So, in closing, here’s my call to action in the spirit of MLK’s birthday today. 

“To every clergy member, I ask that you join us, for the silence of the Church has been insufficient to the work of creating a better life for God’s people.  I hope to convene a roundtable of religious and clergy leaders to talk about a long term strategy of what the roles of churches are in this work.

“To all of the older civil rights organizations, the ACLU, the NAACP, Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, Rev. Al Sharpton, whoever you are, this is my call to action for you.  Stand with us.  Support community-based organizations and people who are out here making a change.  For it is this work, the work of transforming communities, that will be the determining factor between us staying in the past of yesterday or moving forward into the bright visionary futures of tomorrow that MLK had envisioned. 

“To all the Black community members, who sit idly by while our communities are under attack, I say to you, get off the fence and join the Revolution.  The movement needs your energy and your spirit. 

“To our White counterparts, and other communities alike, I say to you, join our cause.  You want to be on the right side of history when this goes down in the history books.  This is the call to action, and I hope that all will answer to it.”

One Brother who was occasionally called upon to speak made appeals to the group to access that spiritual source that provides the courage to boldly confront the state’s lawmakers.  “We are not asking questions. … Questions are for yesteryear.  Now we are making demands.  We urge them … to give us answers. … We are not, we will not and we cannot continue to allow these injustices within our neighborhoods and our communities to continue.  All I want you all to know is, and I want the state of Maryland to know and I want the United States of America to know, the next funeral I go to is the funeral where we bury injustice, the funeral where we bury all violence, where we bury issues, where we bury all the mistrust.  We are here to forge forward, fortified, ready, standing strong, Black Power, togetherness, unity, we are tied together.  Malcolm said it, and Martin said it.  We are tied together by the garments of mutual destiny. … I am ready to reconnect this movement because we are lost, but today … we will bridge the gap that death created.  We are risen today.  Let’s forge forward.”

Pastor Stephen A. Tillett, President of the Annapolis Chapter of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and President of the Anne Arundel County NAACP, pointed out that the Black Church was present this day, and then explained the agenda of the rally and visit to the legislative chamber that was to follow on this day.  “The Church is in the house.  I just wanted to point that out. … My assignment today is to state in clear terms what we want and why we are here. … All across the nation, communities are rising up in a new human rights movement, to demand constructive change from those who are elected to serve us, and from those Rev Tillett 1empowered to protect us.  And so we are here to demand that those who serve us do so in a moral, just and fair way.  The knee-jerk reflexive response to our protests has been to label us as anti-police.  Let me be clear.  In my congregation are local, county and federal law enforcement officers.  I’m a member of the United States Military.  So we are not anti-law enforcement.  This is not an anti-police protest, but it is an anti-excessive force protest.  It is an anti-police brutality protest.  But we unequivocally support the good cops doing their job the right way.

“The question Pastor Brown has asked me to address today is, What do we want.  What do we want?  Equal protection under the law.  What do we want?  Equal treatment under the law.  What do we want?  Equal justice under the law. 

“There are several things we can do immediately to ensure more equal protection, equal treatment and equal justice.  First, we want for Maryland to take advantage of the federal funding offered by President Obama for body cameras for the police, and we support passage of legislation to make that happen.  You see, when there is a body camera, that eliminates a lot of he-said-she-said, because it’s on film.  Of course that’s what we thought with Eric Garner, but at least we know what really happened.  Hello, somebody!

“Number two, we support legislation to establish an independent Special Prosecutor’s Office to adjudicate cases involving accusations of excessive force and police involved shootings.  We need a prosecutor who is not connected to and dependent upon the police on a daily basis to render unbiased decisions on prosecutions.  This eliminates the current conflict of interest that exists when close co-workers are involved.  Bottom line, what that means is, that right now the prosecutors who decide whether to take a case to the grand jury, what instructions to give the grand jury, are the same prosecutors who depend on police to win their cases.  That’s a conflict of interest.  So what we’re saying is that there should be an independent prosecutor who is not connected to that at all, and let him or her render decisions, bring cases to the grand jury if necessary, and the chips will fall where they may.

“Number three, we support legislation to create Civilian Police Review Boards throughout the state.  Our friends in law enforcement seem to oppose it because they feel that only police can accurately evaluate what happens in the line of police work.  Let me give you an illustration.  In the Church, let’s say that there’s some financial impropriety, and you bring that financial impropriety or accusation of financial impropriety to my attention, and I say ‘Well, the Deacons and I will look into it and we’ll get back to you.’  There’s some accusation of sexual impropriety in the Church, and you bring it to me and I say ‘The Deacons and I will look into it, and we’ll get back to you.’  That process is not transparent, and nobody’s going to believe what we come up with.  This Civilian Police Review Board is actually to the benefit of the police, because what it does is create a transparent process that some of you, or some of us, may be a part of, and when the decision is rendered, at least the people will be able to say, ‘Well, Pastor Brown is on that Review Board, so that’s what they came up with, I’ve got to trust Brown.’  You’re not going to get an outcome that you want all the time, but at least it will be a transparent outcome.

“Dr. King correctly said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  It was true then, and it’s just as true today.  And only truly when we know justice, will we know peace.”

Pastor Brown thanked a number of organizations and communities who had come out to support the rally, including a Jewish organization named Repair the World Baltimore, several LGBT activists who had come out in support, the Christian Church Pastors, several of whom had attended the rally, the Muslim community, those from other faiths, the Agnostic and Atheist communities and a host of representatives from various cultural traditions.  He also mentioned that several hundred cards had been printed for the legislators that included a concise list of the group’s legislative demands “so they know quite clearly, that we didn’t come down here just to make noise, we came with an agenda, and the agenda is printed there on the back of the card.”

Marching to the Taylor Bldg 1At this point, the assembled crowd marched to the Casper Taylor legislative building, chanting a variety of call-and-responses, including “No justice, no peace/No racist police”, “Black lives matter”, “Hands up/Don’t shoot”, and “What do we want/Justice/When do we want it/Now”.

Outside the Casper Taylor building, Bro. Tre Murphy addressed the crowd again.

“We’re not taking this any more.  There’s not going to be one more Michael Brown.  There’s not going to be one more Tyrone West.  There’s not going to be one more Anthony Anderson.  There’s not going to be one more Tamir Rice.  There’s not going to be one more Ramarley Graham.  There’s not going to be one more Oscar Grant.  There’s not going to be one more Sean Bell.  There’s not going to be one more of our people from our community that has been assassinated, their lives having been taken, because of this system of oppression, because of police brutality, because of evil people who hide behind this system of injustice … and we’re here to say Not One More.

The crowd gathered inside the Casper Taylor building, in the hallway outside the conference room where the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that initially hears and votes on those pieces of legislation that will go to the full House of Delegates, was about to meet.  Rev. Brown gave the assembled protesters some final words of encouragement prior to entering the conference room.

“We don’t have to walk into these spaces like we need permission to be here. … You pay for these pretty lights in this building, and the wonderful carpet on this floor.  But beyond that, let me also let you know that as legislators and law makers are walking in, you are not looking at gods in flesh.  You are looking at everyday men and women. … We don’t have to cow and bow and curtsey like we’re meeting people who are gods.  Remember, they are here because people voted them here.  And if people don’t vote them in and vote them out they’ll be home, just like us.  So when we engage our law makers about specific policy demands, do it in the spirit of courage.  Do it in the spirit of confidence.  You don’t have to cow and bow and curtsey.  Because you are the ones with the power. … Remember, when we meet with them on this glorious day, the birthday of our Ancestor, Martin Luther King Jr., we’re giving him a gift today.  We’re giving him something more than just a Facebook status.  Something more than something to post on Twitter or Instagram.  Our Ancestor is smiling today.  Because if he was on this earth in the way that we are, he’d be right here with us, pushing the issue.  Remember, when you look at these pictures, when you look at him and so many others standing, they were standing just like we’re standing.  They were engaging in actions of courageous disobedience just like we are.  And so, when we’re talking about these legislative items, when we’re talking about amending the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, we’re not saying ‘Excuse me Sister, Brother Legislator, can you please, do you think it would be okay if, or would you mind if …?’  We’re saying, ‘This is what the People want.  We want you to change the laws that you were sent here to do, this is the will of the People, and if you do not do the will of the People, then you will be in retirement the next election.’  We’re here to strengthen the Civilian Review Board, and we’re going to push the envelope on that because there needs to be civilian oversight … and finally, other measures to make sure our communities are going to be protected.  Let’s be clear.  These things on this paper [the printed cards with the agenda items on the back], alone, are not going to be the answer to all of our issues.  This is a part of the answer.  We’re also doing stuff back home where we are.  In the city and the county, we are already working in other ways as well.  So I just want to make sure you’re encouraged. … This is your building.  These people work for you.  And guess who you are.  You’re the supervisors.  You set the rules.  You lay out the agenda.  You tell them what they’re going to do.  And if they don’t do Casper Taylor Bldg 1it, you organize and stay together and we change some people in these seats.  And there’s some nice seats in there too.  I’m sure somebody else would love to sit in those seats, if somebody doesn’t act right around this agenda. … We’ve got people who are not from Baltimore who are here.  And we’ve got to make sure that you all know that before there was Mike Brown, there was Tyrone West.  Tyrone West is our Mike Brown. … We want to make our way inside the hearing room now, and listen: walk in like you own the place, because guess what?  We do!”

Once inside the hearing room, Rev. Brown took the opportunity to briefly discuss what happens when the Maryland House Judiciary Committee meets here.  “This is the place where a lot of bills die, or they get the ‘green light’ to move forward.  That’s why we’re in this room.  Because the first leg of our battle … will be in this room.  So be real comfortable with this room, because we’re going to be here throughout this Session. … We’re going to give you a real Social Studies lesson this year, and let you see Social Studies, civics, in action.”  That brief “pep talk” should have been sufficient to prepare everyone for a variety of political tricks that could be employed by those in the halls of power who might not want to hear the protesters’ demands, but a relatively simple act, which may have been an innocent part of the original schedule for the committee or may have been a cynical ploy to avoid a direct confrontation with the protesters, seemed to then take some in the group by surprise.

Members of the House of Delegates who sat on the Judiciary Committee announced themselves in a ritual of reintroduction after their long vacation that took close to 20 minutes.  Then, in a move that surprised some of the protesters who thought they had come to directly address the delegates, the “law makers” got up and left the room.

A smaller group of organizers of the protest followed several of the delegates to a side room to discuss the agenda of the protest in detail.  This group included Rev. Brown, Bro. Davon Love, Bro. Faraji Muhammad and Towanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West.  Meanwhile, Bro. Tre Murphy explained what was happening, as several members of the group had become suspicious and frustrated about the Conf Room 1sudden departure of the delegates.  Jill Carter and Frank Conaway, Jr., two supportive delegates from Baltimore City, explained some of the political maneuvering that we needed to be prepared for and encouraged everyone to continue the struggle to be heard as Rev. Brown and his group held their meeting in close quarters with the delegates in the other room.

To be fair, there are a number of delegates who are committed to doing the People’s work.  Delegate Jill Carter, who personally interacted with the group during the rally and after the session in the hearing room, has been consistent as an “activist” legislator, speaking at community forums and meetings such as one that was held at the University of Baltimore on January 8 (along with outgoing delegate Aisha Braveboy), “friending” local activists on Facebook (including us), and supporting rallies such as this one.  Delegate Curtis Anderson was one legislator who has previously gone on record in support of efforts to amend the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.  Delegate Frank Conaway Jr. also spoke to the group after the rather curious-looking walkout, explaining that he wanted to hear the anti-police brutality agenda and become educated about it.

This rally had begun as rallies often do, with great energy, commitment and expectations that come from a renewed commitment by a mass of people to work for and achieve some measure of social justice through group struggle.  People from a wide variety of organizations and walks of life had come together to stand in the cold Annapolis winter in the hope of turning that rally into some concrete achievement by exercising their right to confront those who had been elected to look out for the People’s best interests.  That group, many of whom had not worked together before, had in one day been exposed to the warmth and euphoria that comes with the grand pronouncements of the speakers, the call-and-response that encourages group consensus, and the feeling that their elected officials would listen to them, this time.  Whether it was a procedural step that would have been taken anyway or a cynical move by legislators seeking to avoid bring forced to answer hard questions and agree to the demands of “rabble-rousers” who were taking democracy just a bit too seriously, the simple act of leaving the hearing room at the end brought home the stark reality that it would take much more than a feel-good rally in Annapolis to bring about real change in the lives of Afrikan people and those in marginalized communities in the state of Maryland.  It would take constant pressure, and it would take getting “real comfortable with this room”, as Rev. Brown was telling us in the hearing room before the delegates left.  It will also take much organizing that has little direct bearing on rallies in Downtown Baltimore, marches across the country or meetings with legislators in Annapolis.  It will take Grassroots Assemblies where the community comes together to decide what their priorities are, independent of the politicians and the business interests.  It will take the Pan-Afrikan activists and organizations to come together, put their often-trivial differences aside, and work out a common Pan-Afrikan Agenda and an Agenda of Truth and Justice for the larger community.  It will take the People organizing amongst themselves, determining their own priorities and making plans to develop the independent power to force uncooperative legislators and “law makers” to agree to do their jobs and to truly do the People’s business as they were elected to do.

I Am A Man

MOVE’s Phil Africa Passes to the Ancestors

Phil Africa, a member of the original MOVE Nine who have been imprisoned since Move Nine Phil 21978 after a highly controversial police assault in West Philadelphia, has died under suspicious circumstances in a Pennsylvania prison hospital.

In the early 1970s, a man once named Vincent Leophart was known for walking the dogs of neighbors in the Powelton Village area of West Philadelphia.  After finding a permanent home for himself, in 1972 he developed a philosophy he called The Guideline, which would become the basis of the principles of the MOVE Organization.  He took the name John Africa, and those who would join MOVE would take the name Africa as a surname, thus establishing themselves as a “family”.  MOVE was often characterized, rather simplistically, as a “back-to-nature”  and “Black liberation” organization, but their membership, while largely Black, also included White and Latino members, and their ideology went beyond just a commitment to natural living, including support of truth-and-justice issues and a consistent stance in opposition to the increasing use of drugs such as Ritalin on school children, issues about which they have regularly warned the public during rallies and teach-ins for decades.

Philadelphia in the 1960s and 1970s was extremely turbulent, as were many urban centers in the United States, as Frank Rizzo, first as Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner and later as its mayor, mirrored the “law-and-order” philosophy of the Nixon Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover in the pursuit and destruction of Black Liberation and Civil Rights organizations from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, among others.  Rizzo made it his business to eradicate first the Philadelphia Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, and then MOVE in the 1970s.  A series of harassment arrests, complete with gratuitous assaults by Philadelphia police against MOVE members that resulted in the death of Life Africa, an infant member of MOVE, increased tensions between MOVE and the police.  In 1977, a neighborhood dispute between MOVE and other residents of the Powelton Village community drew the attention of several community mediators who finally saw MOVE reach an agreement with their Move Nine Powelton Villageneighbors, but also of the Philadelphia police, which had already earned the nickname of “Rizzo’s Thugs” with many city residents who had come to recognize the brutality, racism and corruption of the police force.  Rizzo’s police blockaded the house where the MOVE family lived for a year, attempting to “starve them out”, before deciding to launch an assault on August 8, 1978.

The assault on the MOVE compound employed fire hoses in an attempt to drown the MOVE people who were hiding in the basement or force them out to the main floor of the building, where they would be met by hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds of ammunition fired into the house.  Indications are that one of those rounds hit Philadelphia police officer James Ramp in the back as he was storming the house, killing him.  Because of Rizzo’s unbridled hatred of MOVE and the fact that MOVE Move Nine Delberthad successfully resisted the Philadelphia police blockade for a year, the MOVE people, who had been hiding in the basement and possessed several non-operational firearms, were to be blamed for Ramp’s death.  When the MOVE people were finally extracted from the house, four Philadelphia police officers viciously beat Delbert Africa in a scene that was captured in a rather famous (or rather, infamous) photo (right).

Eleven MOVE people were arrested and taken to trial.  Prior to trial, however, they were offered a “deal”: renounce MOVE and go free; remain loyal to MOVE and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Two of the eleven took the “deal” and charges against them were dropped.  The other nine — Merle, Debbie, Janine, Janet, Delbert, Phil, Mike, Chuck and Edward Africa — who refused to renounce MOVE, were taken to trial and convicted on a variety of charges connected to the assault on the house and the death of police officer James Ramp.  They each were sentenced to terms of 30 to 100 years in prison, and prosecutors as well as police and politicians have steadfastly insisted that they will impose the full 100 year sentence on all of them, meaning that they will all die in prison.  These people would be known as the MOVE Nine.

The four police officers who viciously beat Delbert Africa, on videotape and in photographs, were also tried, but the judge ordered a “directed verdict” at the last moment and acquitted all four of them of any charges in connection with the beating.  This behavior is seen today in the recent grand jury decisions to not charge police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, as well as hundreds of other cases of unpunished police brutality over the last several decades.

Among the better-known advocates of MOVE is current Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Minister of Information for the Philadelphia Black Panther Mumia 15Party who, as a journalist during the Powelton Village siege and assault, had broadcast interviews with MOVE members over the radio and helped to counteract the dehumanizing propaganda that had been spread about them.  Mumia was targeted by the Philadelphia police and was arrested on December 9, 1981 for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.  He was convicted in a trial replete with withheld evidence, witness intimidation and many other forms of prosecutorial, police and judicial misconduct, and was sentenced to death, which has since been commuted by a federal judge to life without the possibility of parole after years of appeals, rallies and court challenges.  Mumia’s daughter, affectionately known as “Goldii”, recently died as she and the MOVE Family have been fighting for Mumia’s exoneration and release from prison. 

On March 13, 1998, the first of the MOVE Nine died in prison, Sis. Merle Africa.  A statement that day from the MOVE Organization said the following:

Today our sister and family member Merle Austin Africa died under very suspicious circumstances. After a short bout with a stomach virus from which she was almost Move Nine Merlefully recovered (family visited with Merle last Thursday) she fainted in the cell last night going to the bathroom. The prison authorities removed Debbie Sims Africa and stayed in the cell with Merle for 45 minutes and finally called an ambulance and took her to an outside hospital.

We were not allowed any information and only after Merle’s mother insisted was she told that Merle had died.

Information is sketchy but on Thursday the 5th Merle was looking good and feeling back to her old self and gave strong hugs to family who came to visit. Merle was a young woman in her mid-forties of good health and strong spirit.

One week after she is dead. We need to have answers!

Now, the second member of the MOVE Nine has died in prison, and under Ramona Africa 1remarkably similar circumstances.  The following statement was released by Mama Ramona Africa (pictured, right), who was the sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 Osage Avenue assault on MOVE that killed five children and six adults (including MOVE’s visionary founder, John Africa).

On Saturday, January 10th Phil Africa, revolutionary, John Africa’s First Minister of Defense, and beloved brother, husband and father,  passed away under suspicious circumstances at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, PA. On Sunday, January 4th Phil Africa wasn’t feeling well and went to the prison infirmary. Though he wasn’t feeling well, other inmates saw Phil Africa walking, stretching and doing jumping jacks. Hearing that Phil was in the infirmary MOVE members drove up to visit him and were denied a visit by the prison. While they were visiting with Delbert Africa, Phil was secretly transported to Wilkes Barre General Hospital where he was held in total isolation, incommunicado for five days.

Prison officials at SCI-Dallas wouldn’t communicate about Phil’s condition. They told MOVE that Phil was at Wilkes Barre General hospital and the hospital denied he was there. The hospital and the prison behaved very suspiciously denying Phil the ability to call family members or his wife of 44 years, Janine Africa, stating that she was not a blood relative. The hospital and prison received hundreds of phone calls in support of Phil from around the world. When they finally submitted to pressure and allowed Phil to call Janine on Thursday, January 8th he was heavily drugged, incoherent and couldn’t even hold the phone to talk to her.

On Friday, January 9th Phil was sent back to the prison infirmary and placed in hospice care upon arrival. On Saturday, January 10th Ramona and Carlos Africa were granted permission to visit Phil in the prison infirmary. When they reached him he was incoherent and couldn’t talk or move his head to look at them. An hour after they left Delbert called with the news that Phil passed away.

Inmates in the infirmary and others in the prison were shocked when they heard the news. They had witnessed his vigorous health for decades in the prisons, had just seen him stretching and doing jumping jacks six days earlier. This rapid decline all occurred while he was being held for six days in isolation, incommunicado from his MOVE family at Wilkes Barre General Hospital.

The fact that Phil was isolated for the six days before he passed, that he was in such better health before he was taken to the hospital, and that the hospital refused to release his medical information is beyond suspicious.

This is another example of how the system hates MOVE and will do anything to stop MOVE. You can look at the example of August 8th, 1978 when the MOVE 9 were illegally imprisoned, and May 13th, 1985 when the government dropped a bomb and intentionally murdered 11 MOVE members to see this point clearly. When Merle Africa died in prison on March 13th, 1998 the conditions were very similar. She had been one way in the prison, but within hours of being forced to go to an outside hospital she was dead.

Move Nine PhilPhil made a deep impression on people all around the world. He was constantly writing, often dozens of letters a day, encouraging solidarity and strength, and warmly advising hundreds of people. Phil worked hard to learn to paint and created countless paintings which he sent to supporters for free to draw attention to issues, get raffled off for the struggle, and bring people together. Phil took his commitment and work as a revolutionary very seriously, but was often smiling, laughing, and giving people hugs and encouragement. He was a warm father figure to many in the prison where he taught inmates how to box, to think, and how to get stronger. Despite having two of his children murdered by the system and being separated by prison, Phil was a father figure to many. He was separated from his wife Janine for over 36 of the 44 years they were married, but he worked hard to stay connected with her even though they were so callously isolated by the system.

It’s this system’s  intention for MOVE people to die in prison. The MOVE 9 never should have been imprisoned at all, and according to their sentence they should have been paroled over six years ago. The death of Merle and Phil Africa rests directly at the feet of this government! Phil will never be forgotten. He is dearly missed, but his strong example should inspire everyone to fight harder for the freedom of the MOVE 9 and all political prisoners!





Memorial Service for Phil Africa

A memorial service is being planned for Phil Africa on Saturday, January 31 at the Kingsessing Recreation Center in Philadelphia.  Here is the announcement from Mama Ramona Africa about the memorial service:

ONA MOVE, Everybody. First, let me thank each of you for your genuine and kind words to this family regarding the loss of our brother, Phil Africa.  We wish we could thank you individually but the sheer number of the responses we have received makes that impossible.  Know that we love you all and our family truly appreciates your response to our loss.  We want to inform you that there will be a celebration of the revolutionary life our brother, Phil Africa, on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the Kingsessing Recreation Center, located at 49th and Kingsessing Ave. from 1-4 pm. We’re inviting all of you that can attend.  If you choose to, you can take the opportunity to verbally express how Phil touched you; what his revolutionary life means to you or whatever you would like to say about Phil Africa.  If you are located far away or can not attend for whatever reason but would like to send us a brief comment about Phil, please do so and we will see that it’s read at the celebration.  Again, thanks to each and every one of you for all of your kind words of support. 

Ramona Africa for The MOVE Family

More information is available on the MOVE Organization’s Website,, including the following statement:

Many people have asked where they could send cards to Ramona Africa and the entire MOVE Family. Please send a card to the MOVE Family at this difficult time at:

The MOVE Organization
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
(215) 386-1165

and Phil’s life partner/beloved wife Janine Africa at:

Janine Phillips Africa #6309
451 Fullerton Ave.
Cambridge Springs, PA 16403-1238

and all members of the MOVE Family still unjustly and illegally imprisoned by the anti-life,  money-loving Philadelphia-Pennsylvania-U.S. authorities. Free the MOVE 9!

Janine Africa, as drawn by her husband Phil Africa.

Janine Africa, as drawn by her husband Phil Africa.

Seeds of Suspicion: Feed the Future, Afrika and GMO Foods

 “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
— Morpheus, to Neo in The Matrix (1999)

Seeds of Suspicion 1THE RABBIT HOLE: Seeds of Suspicion

On September 26, 2014, the Africa Braintrust event was held at the John Wilson Convention Center in Washington, DC.  The annual event, organized by United States Congress member Karen Bass (D-California), brings together a variety of speakers and panels to discuss issues of interest to Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.  This year’s event centered around the August USA-Africa Summit, in which President Barack Obama met with 50 Afrikan heads of state to discuss USA-Afrika relations.

In earlier posts, we reported on the keynote address by former US Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the first of three panels that were held at the session, and the keynote address by Dr. Rajiv “Raj” Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Dr. Shah began his address by commenting about the continuing Ebola crisis, then discussed two signature USAID programs: Feed the Future and Power Africa.  Last year, we attended a Congressional Policy Breakfast about Power Africa and the Electrify Africa Act, and we wrote about that session for this Web Site, including many of the concerns raised by community activists and concerned Afrikans about access to power in rural areas, questions of who primarily benefited from Power Africa and the potential environmental and human rights consequences.

Here, we will spend some time on USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.  The stated aims are laudable: increasing the crop yields of rural farmers so the populace can eat instead of starving, so that children can play and go to school instead of wasting away through malnutrition, and so that countries can effectively feed their people instead of waging oppression and war over scarce resources.  But the picture is far more complicated than that.  The journey we will undertake here will delve into USAID’s checkered past in Latin America, examine the agency’s ties with major multinational biotech and agribusiness corporations, take a look at the concerns surrounding genetically modified (GM) food, scrutinize the issue of patents and food sovereignty (which is different from “food security”), and ask the question: Is this the Future we want for Afrika?

What Dr. Rajiv Shah of USAID Says About Feed the Future

First, here are the words of Dr. Rajiv Shah at the 2014 Africa Braintrust event as he touted USAID’s Feed the Future initiative:

“The first [of USAID’s current signature programs] is Feed the Future, and when Rajiv Shah USAID 1President Obama took office, he really made this the top developmental priority.  The slide you’re looking at is a picture of an Ethiopian farmer and daughter collecting the harvest.  In Ethiopia today, through Feed the Future, we’re working with DuPont and a host of local farming cooperatives to increase the farm yields for 35,000 maize farmers and their families.  Today, as a part of our Feed the Future partnership, the government has liberalized its seed sector, has refined the way it protects private capital investments, has offered licenses and engaged foreign investors, and has built upon the innovation labs that were set up across American colleges and universities.  Now, we measure the results of these efforts through legitimate and widespread household surveys, and we now know that as a result of this program in Ethiopia, public and private, Ethiopia has driven down the rate of hunger, of poverty, of stunting, which is an expression of malnutrition in children that robs them of their future, and has increased the rate of reduction of poverty and malnutrition three times in just the last two and a half years.  That’s an extraordinary achievement, and as a result 160,000 children today who would have been hungry are now laughing, learning, playing, going to school, and not because we’re handing out more American food, but because we’re helping their farmers, mostly women, improve the productivity from their own labor and their own ingenuity.  That kind of story is playing out in Ethiopia, but also in 14 other countries in Sub Saharan Africa.  It’s playing out across more than 200 companies that have committed more than $10 billion of private investments.  It’s playing out in the African Union that has reaffirmed this year is the year of agriculture for Africa, and has put into place a set of leadership commitments and policy reforms, and it plays out at a global level in last week’s announcement of global hunger levels that have come down by more than 40 million individuals, almost all of whom are in Sub Saharan Africa over the last three or four years.

“Today, as a part of our Feed the Future partnership, the government has liberalized its seed sector, has refined the way it protects private capital investments, has offered licenses and engaged foreign investors, and has built upon the innovation labs that were set up across American colleges and universities.”
— Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID

“These are extraordinary successes and gains, and I just want to note and thank the United States Congress and its leaders, including Representative [Karen] Bass, for introducing, on a bipartisan basis in both the House and the Senate, Feed the Future legislation that will authorize this program into law and ensure that we can stick with it, using this model of development to continue to drive down hunger and poverty and drive up agricultural investment and growth for decades to come.  So I would like to take this moment to ask for your support for Feed the Future, and that you support Representative Bass and that you support the bipartisan members of the House and Senate that are going to try to make this happen, we hope, in the Lame Duck Session this year, because I think it’s telling that our political leaders, at a time that, sometimes, is a little fractured and a little partisan, can come together to support this kind of an effort, executed to this level of excellence.   So thank you for your leadership, Representative Bass. …”

We thank Rep. Bass for her continued commitment to bring information to her constituents and to concerned Afrikans and Afrikan Diasporans.  Her Africa Braintrust event provides an opportunity for us to learn about the analysis and plans of a number of activists, scholars and government officials from the United States and Afrika.  That being stated, it is necessary for us to now compare the words of Dr. Shah to what others around the world have said, what the corporate partners of USAID have said and done, the warnings of food activists and farmers’ advocates, and what the implications will be for Afrika as the next frontier (target?) of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.  We will reference and quote a number of articles, statements and Web Sites during our journey, and we include the locations of these articles, analyses and statements so you can look them up for yourself, and perhaps dig even deeper down the rabbit hole.

What Latin American Activists Say: USAID’s influence in Latin America & The Caribbean

An article dated July 21, 2012, titled ALBA Expels USAID from Member Countries (, translated by Rachael Boothroyd for the Web Site, reported on the Resolution from the Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) for the immediate withdrawal of USAID from member countries of the alliance.  The Resolution goes as follows:

On behalf of the Chancellors of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, on June 21st 2012.

Given the open interference of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the internal politics of the ALBA countries, under the excuse of “planning and administering economic and humanitarian assistance for the whole world outside of the United States,” financing non-governmental organizations and actions and projects designed to destabilise the legitimate governments which do not share their common interests.

Knowing the evidence brought to light by the declassified documents of the North American State Department in which the financing of organisations and political parties in opposition to ALBA countries is made evident, in a clear and shameless interference in the internal political processes of each nation.

Given that this intervention of a foreign country in the internal politics of a country is contrary to the internal legislation of each nation.

On the understanding that in the majority of ALBA countries, USAID, through its different organisations and disguises, acts in an illegal manner with impunity, without possessing a legal framework to support this action, and illegally financing the media, political leaders and non-governmental organisations, amongst others.

On the understanding that through these financing programmes they are supporting NGOs which promote all kind of fundamentalism in order to conspire and limit the legal authority of our states, and in many cases, widely loot our natural resources on territory which they claim to control at their own free will.

Conscious of the fact that our countries do not need any kind of external financing for the maintenance of our democracies, which are consolidated through the will of the Latin American and Caribbean people, in the same way that we do not need organisations in the charge of foreign powers which, in practice, usurp and weaken the presence of state organisms and prevent them from developing the role that corresponds to them in the economic and social arena of our populations.

We resolve to:

Request that the heads of state and the government of the states who are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives from their countries, due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, June 21st 2012.

Signed by: The government of the Pluri-national state of Bolivia, The government of the Republic of Cuba, The government of the Republic of Ecuador, The government of the Commonwealth of Dominica, The government of the Republic of Nicaragua, The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Why did ALBA make such a statement?  Surely, USAID doesn’t use its status as a global “humanitarian” agency (Isn’t “International Development” their last name?)USAID Logo 1 cannot be attempting to destabilize legitimate governments, can they?  Well, perhaps we need more information and testimony, such as the following article from the Web Site, published August 8, 2014, titled The member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of Our America (ALBA) demanded the United States cease its subversive actions against Cuba.  Here is an excerpt:

The statement released this Thursday follows revelations about the recruitment and employment of young Latin American people since 2009 in a bid to convert contemporary Cubans into “agents of change” and promote political dissent on the island.

The U.S. based agency Associated Press revealed on Sunday that the U.S. agency for International Development (USAID) sent a group of young people from Costa Rica, Venezuela and Peru to Cuba under the guise of carrying out health and social projects, when in reality their main goal was to find and encourage anti-government activists.

In the text, ALBA expressed its “indignation”, describing the project as “immoral”.

“The ALBA condemns this new plan against Cuba, and demands and end to the subversive, illegal actions partly covered by the U.S. government, that violate the sovereignty and right of the Cuban people to self-determination.” added the communiqué.

“The countries of ALBA express their deep solidarity with the Cuban Republic and demand the United States respect the Cuban people’s will in continuing to improve its economic and social model, as well as the consolidation of its democracy, without any external interferences.”

An analysis of USAID’s objectives in Latin America was presented last month in an article on the Web Site, USAID in Latin America: More Than Just Aid, published 27 October 2014, which said, in part:

After being expelled from numerous Latin American countries for dubious activity, the United States organization USAID has developed a reputation of an organization that while providing aid is also developing ways to undermine governments in a number of the continent’s countries.

According to their website, USAID’s mission is “furthering America’s interests, while improving lives in the developing world.” However in practice, they may well be furthering the United States interests, but not by improving lives in the developing world but by supporting the activities of groups that are opposed to democratically elected governments.

The most recent damning revelations are that the agency not only had attempted to create a twitter style social media network in Cuba to undermine the government, but on top of this an Obama administration program secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change in order to overthrow Castro’s government, which the United States has been trying to do for over 50 years now, with no success.

After it was revealed that USAID had been interfering in Cuba, the House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz said, “That is not what USAID should be doing … USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

The USAID operations in Latin America, which are overseen by what is known as the “Office of Transition Initiatives” (OTI), is a way for the U.S. to promote its interests through soft power. The U.S. calls these projects aiding in “transition”, whereas in reality it is nothing but meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. They work with many different NGOs and private companies, all under the guise of providing aid to developing nations.

USAID have engaged in activities to undermine democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Haiti and interfered in Brazil, Ecuador and most likely other nations. …

But not only is USAID’s image tattered in many parts of Latin America, it is also held in suspicion among several activists in Ayiti (Haiti). A report critical of USAID, which was released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), was detailed in the April 3, 2013 article New Report on U.S. Aid to Haiti Finds “Troubling” Lack of Transparency, Effectiveness (  Among the article’s revelations:

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) identifies significant problems with the delivery of U.S. aid in Haiti and finds an overall lack of transparency on how the billions of dollars obligated for U.S. assistance to Haiti are being used. The report, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti,” by CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston and Senior Associate for International Policy Alexander Main, examines the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to Haiti, how it is being administered, to what extent it is adhering to the “USAID Forward” reform agenda and what steps can be taken to ensure its more effective and transparent delivery.

“Billions in U.S. aid money are going to Haiti with little transparency to ensure that it is being used effectively,” paper co-author Jake Johnston said. “The situation for many people in post-quake Haiti is especially daunting, but for USAID it has been business as usual. No care has been taken to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being best utilized in Haiti.”

The report notes that the few audits and evaluations of USAID’s programs in Haiti since the earthquake present a “troubling picture of the manner in which U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts have been conducted so far.” Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors.

The paper shows that of the $1.15 billion in contracts and grants awarded since the 2010 earthquake, over half went to the top 10 recipients of global USAID awards, with the largest recipient being the for-profit company Chemonics International Inc., the single largest recipient of USAID funds worldwide aside from the World Bank and U.N. Meanwhile, just 0.7 percent of USAID awards have gone directly to Haitian businesses or organizations. …

The paper notes that despite USAID’s “Forward” reform agenda, the agency has blocked disclosure of additional information, including through Freedom of Information Act requests. …

“Without transparency, not only is it impossible for U.S. taxpayers to know what is being done with their money, but the Haitian government and the Haitian people have little opportunity to ensure that U.S.-funded projects actually assist Haiti in rebuilding and dealing with ongoing urgent humanitarian needs,” paper co-author Alex Main said.

So, there is evidence that USAID has acted, in the recent past, to undermine governments in Latin America, and that many of those governments have expelled USAID employees as a result.  There are also reports of a lack of transparency as to how funds are spent in countries, such as Ayiti (Haiti), where USAID has purportedly acted in a humanitarian capacity.  What has that to do with Feed the Future, and why should we assume that USAID will act in a similar fashion in Afrika?

What Food Activists Say: USAID’s Support of GMOs

Another troubling aspect of USAID’s practices over the years has been the agency’s consistent support of corporations that are engaged in the promotion of genetically modified (GM, or GMO for “genetically modified organism”) food, which goes back over a decade.  An October 2002 report by Greenpeace ( titled USAID and GM Food Aid, states, among other things:

In August 2002, Andrew Natsios of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) accused environmental groups of endangering the lives of millions of people in southern Africa by encouraging local governments to reject genetically modified (GM) food aid. Mr. Natsios said, “They can play these games with Europeans, who have full stomachs, but it is revolting and despicable to see them do so when the lives of Africans are at stake.” He added, “The Bush administration is not going to sit there and let these groups kill millions of poor people in southern Africa through their ideological campaign.”

In fact, the cynical manipulators of the famine in Africa are the US government, USAID and the GM industry. They are using the current situation to force the introduction of GM crops on countries desperate for food aid. There are numerous sources of non-GM aid available around the world, including the USA. Using these sources is the best way to both feed people and maintain their dignity, yet the US has made a clear policy decision to only supply GM contaminated aid from US suppliers. Aid agencies, the EU and UK Government all believe that best practice in emergency aid is to provide support to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in the form of cash, so that it can buy grain from the quickest and most cost effective sources. The only organisation that thinks otherwise is USAID. US policy thus impedes aid from generating maximum benefit.

It is clear that the current program of aid donation is the latest twist in a crude 10-year marketing campaign, led by USAID and designed to facilitate the introduction of US-developed GM crops into Africa. …

The simple fact is that USAID has chosen to supply GM maize as food aid, even though there are numerous grain companies in the USA from whom they could supply certified non-GM grain. …

During negotiations on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, part of a UN sponsored international agreement to control the movement of GM crops around the world, African countries made it clear that they did not want to become a test site or dumping ground for unwanted GM food. Yet this now seems to be the case. Indeed, in comments largely ignored at the time, the UK Chief Scientist Professor David King said that the Bush Administration’s efforts to force GM foods into Africa in the form of food aid is “a massive human experiment.  Professor King questioned the morality of the Administration’s desire to introduce GM into African countries, where people are facing starvation in the coming months. …

USAID has become increasingly frustrated over countries not taking GM contaminated aid – a US official was quoted as saying, “beggars can’t be choosers.” USAID clearly states, however, that among other things its role is to “integrate GM into local food systems” and “spread agricultural technology through regions of Africa.” US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Johannesburg, “In the face of famine, several governments in southern Africa have prevented critical US food assistance from being distributed to the hungry by rejecting GM corn which has been eaten safely around the world since 1995.” …

There is much more to this article, including an analysis of how the US’s specific means of delivering aid makes this result not only possible, but likely, as well as USAID’s connections with global agribusiness and biotech corporations and its efforts to further the opening of markets (“trade liberalization”) and the enforcement of patents, hardly an aid imperative.  The whole article can be found at the Web Site

There is more still to this part of the story, which we will cover in more detail when our journey takes us to India.  But now, we wish to share with you the words of an executive of Monsanto, one of the largest biotech and agribusiness corporations in the world and a major corporate partner of USAID.  Monsanto is quite proud of its role in pushing GMO food on the world, primarily through its proprietary hybridized seeds.  These seeds have been marketed to farmers in the United States, India and other parts of the world.  While Monsanto claims these “magic seeds” have brought nothing but benefit to farmers around the world, many of the farmers themselves have quite a different tale to tell.  But first, the words of this Monsanto executive, which makes it clear that USAID has been an enthusiastic backer of GMO food and biotechnology for quite some time, and that they enjoy a rather cozy relationship with USAID.

What Monsanto Says: The Promise of GMO Foods

Monsanto Logo 1Following are excerpts from a statement of Mr. Gerald Steiner, Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, Monsanto Company, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, July 20, 2010, which was posted on Monsanto’s Web Site,

Thank you for inviting me to testify today on a vital new initiative, Feed the Future (, which provides a framework for addressing one of our planet’s great needs, and great opportunities – the use of more productive and sustainable agricultural development to reduce hunger and poverty. 

Our company has made a three-pronged commitment to improve sustainable agriculture: We will do our part to help farmers double yields in our core crops of corn, cotton and soybeans between 2000 and 2030, while producing each bushel or bale with one-third fewer resources in aggregate (such as land, water and energy). And, just as importantly, in so doing we will help farmers to earn more and improve the lives of their families and rural communities. 

… Our cornerstone strategy is to actively engage and seek collaboration from a wide range of partners in the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society. 

… USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, when introducing Feed the Future to the Chicago Council Symposium on Agriculture and Security in May, asked for private-sector input. “Tell us what countries and donors can do to reduce constraints on business operations,” he said. “And please explore with us whether our tools to encourage investment . . . would help you make the commitment to invest greater resources in these specific value chains and countries.” …

… At Monsanto, we develop improved seed through advanced breeding as well as biotechnology. 

… Cutting-edge science and technology is built into the seed itself, which can be planted by an African farmer using a hoe, or an American farmer using sophisticated machinery. …

… These require systems approaches that begin with improved seeds, access to fertilizer and extension training, and end with functioning markets. What we need in order to effectively contribute – as noted in the Feed the Future Guide and implied in Dr. Shah’s question – are enabling business environments. 

That includes policies that provide predictability, such as reliable, science-based regulatory systems, as well as laws that protect the fruits of our research and development and the ability to fairly compete in the marketplace. … 

I am encouraged by Feed the Future’s endorsement of business- enabling policies, and by its support for public-private partnerships. … Monsanto is engaged in a variety of public- private partnerships in markets around the world. …

… we are equally focused on public- private partnerships that help farmers access and use agricultural technology to produce more abundant crops, while using fewer resources. One of these is Project Sunshine, a partnership with the government of the Indian state of Gujarat and local NGOs, which has helped thousands of subsistence farmers to increase corn yields and break the cycle of poverty. …

Farmers who planted hybrids doubled, or even tripled their corn yield – and, as a result, doubled or tripled their income. Those who accepted free seed and inputs in 2008 were able to purchase them at minimal cost the following year. By 2010, Project Sunshine generated additional farm income of $27 million, improving living standards and increasing spending power so that families can afford to educate their children. …

Again, these are Mr. Steiner’s own words.  Monsanto is clearly quite proud of its work in the development and promotion of GMO foods and its relationship with USAID.  Mr. Steiner’s mention of Project Sunshine is also important, for it is the subject of a case in the Gujarat State of India that we will examine in a few minutes.

What Food Activists Say: Monsanto’s Plans for Control of India’s Food and Farmer Suicides

Mr. Steiner’s statement above extols the benefits of GMO seeds for the farmers of India, but as we have already stated, numerous voices are saying something entirely different.  We will quote parts of some of the articles below and will simply refer to others, with their Web addresses included so you can read the articles in their entirety.

A Daily Mail article by Andrew Malone ( helped tell the world about The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops with this opening statement:

When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it’s even WORSE than he feared.

Sourcewatch ( released a report, Monsanto in India, which goes into more detail about the crisis of farmer suicides.  Here is part of that article:

Farmers in India are finding that the “biotechnology revolution” is having a devastating effect on their crop lands and personal debt levels. “In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved” says Vandana Shiva, leader of the movement to oust Monsanto from India in her 2004 article The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation. “As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness. As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. …”

UPDATE: “Since 1997, 182,936 Indian farmers have taken their lives and the numbers continue to rise. According to a recent study by the National Crime Records Bureau, 46 Indian farmers kill themselves every day – that is roughly one suicide every 30 minutes – an alarming statistic in a country where agriculture is the economic mainstay“.

Yet even this number may be underestimated. According to P. Sainath, rural affairs editor of The Hindu, “the states where these [figures] are gathered leave out thousands from the definition of ‘farmer’ and, thus, massage the numbers downward. For instance, women farmers are not normally accepted as farmers (by custom, land is almost never in their names). They do the bulk of work in agriculture – but are just ‘farmers’ wives’.” This classification enables governments to exclude countless women farmer suicides. They will be recorded as suicide deaths – but not as ‘farmers’ suicides’. Likewise, many other groups, too, have been excluded from that list.”

This has been called a genocide. Says the Deccan Herald, “Bt cotton requiring more water than hybrid cotton, was knowingly promoted so as to allow the seed industry to make profits. What happens to the farmers as a result was nobody’s concern. And never was. … Strange, the country has already jumped into the second phase of green revolution without first drawing a balance sheet of the first phase of the technology era. Such an approach will only worsen the crisis, and force more farmers to commit suicide or abandon their farms. As a result, India is sure to witness the worst environmental displacement the world has known and this will be in the field of agriculture.”

Others have also written extensively on Monsanto’s GMO seeds and their implication in the wave of farmer suicides in India.  An article on Global Research ( titled KILLER SEEDS: The Devastating Impacts of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Seeds in India by Iqbal Ahmed, January 12, 2012, states:

Monsanto’s operation in India illustrates monopolization and manipulation of the market economy, tradition, technology, and misgovernance. The world’s largest producer of genetically engineered seeds has been selling genetically modified (GM) in India for the last decade to benefit the Indian farmers – or so the company claims.

Prominent physicist, food and farmers’ activist and 1993 Right Livelihood Award winner Dr. Vandana Shiva (founder of Navdanya has Vandana Shiva 1authored more than 20 books and 500 papers in leading scientific and technical journals.  One of them, available on, is The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming (Global Research, March 13, 2014 and Asian Age and Global Research, April 5, 2013), which goes into detail to allege that

Monsanto’s talk of ‘technology’ tries to hide its real objectives of control over seed where genetic engineering is a means to control seed.

Tony Cartalucci, a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”, wrote an article for Global Research on March 14, 2014 ( titled GMO Agribusiness in India: Grassroots Action against Monsanto, Cargill, Sygenta, Grassroots Activism Builds Wall Against Western Imperialism.

Also from Global Research, Colin Todhunter wrote an article on June 20, 2014 titled Criminalising Dissent in India against GMOs and Monsanto (

There have been some victories, however small, for farmers and food activists in Indian courts and government agencies.  The Project Sunshine seeds that Monsanto executive Steiner was touting in his statement above, for example, were withdrawn from the project in 2012, as the following article from DNA India, Sun no longer shines on GM maize seeds (, April 27, 2012) explains:

Gujarat government on Thursday withdrew propriety seeds of multinational company (MNC) Monsanto from ongoing Project Sunshine of the government. Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and anti-GM lobby hailed the move.

“We cannot let our food security be compromised by giving unusual leverages to MNCs,” said Prabhakar Kelkar, national president – Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). Talking at a press meet in the city on Thursday, he said that the move is the first step towards ensuring food security in the country.

Popularly known after its brand name ‘Prabal’, Monsanto seeds are double-crossed hybrid of maize that was being distributed to tribal farmers of Gujarat under Project Sunshine. …

Speaking on the issue, agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani said that government was purchasing Monsanto seeds to be given to ‘Project Sunshine’ farmers, but it has now stopped doing so. …

Earlier, use of Prabal seeds by government in Project Sunshine invited criticism from BKS, scientists and NGOs. … It is also alleged that authorities selected the seeds despite adverse opinion of agriculture scientists.

Another article apparently sought to clarify the issue, however, by stating that the Gujarat government did not “ban” the seeds; it only ceased distributing them.  The article Gujarat says ‘no’ to ban on distribution of Monsanto hybrid maize seed ( is excerpted below:

Despite opposition from various quarters, including the agricultural experts and the farmers’ organisations, the Gujarat government has refused to impose a total ban on distribution of the Monsanto hybrid maize seed named “Prabal” to the farmers in the State, particularly the tribal agriculturists. …

“The State government does not distribute seeds, it only certifies for distribution, and therefore there is no question of stopping the distribution,” the official said. He said the State government had not taken any decision to “ban” the distribution of Monsanto seeds, but it had only decided to allow distribution of other varieties of seeds also along with Prabal if farmers chose it.

The State government had been distributing Prabal, the hybrid maize seeds developed by the American multi-national company Monsanto, to the tribal farmers since 2008. The agricultural scientists and experts, however, maintain that Prabal, which required more water and fertilizers than other varieties and needed deep soil, was not suitable for the usually dry and rain-fed areas like Gujarat, and particularly for the poor tribal farmers.

Then, in July 2013, an appeals court and India’s Intellectual Property Appellate Board rejected two patent applications from Monsanto for varieties of their GMO seed, as reported in the July 15, 2013 Nation of Change article Monsanto’s Patent Appeal Rejected by Indian Government, Saving Farmers, Food and Lives by Christina Sarich (

Part of the reason Monsanto was not able to pass their patents is because the 1970 Patent Act excluded patents in agriculture and medicine. The act had to be amended when India signed the World Trade Agreement (including sections covering Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights). Strong sections of the Act, like ‘what are not inventions’ in clause 3 and the especially 3d, ‘excludes as inventions the mere discovery of any new property or new use for a known substance,’ were key in Monsanto’s refusal. It was this same clause that kept the Novartis pharmaceutical company from patenting a known cancer-curing drug. They tried to challenge this in the Supreme Court of India, but lost. Many are saying that what the Novartis case is to our global Right to Health, the new refusal of Monsanto’s patents are the same Right to Seed and Right to Livelihood for farmers.

There are supposedly 27,000 farmers who have committed acts similar to a farmer in Bhiwandi taluka, India, who consumed pesticide after his crops failed miserably due to draught and increased debts to companies like Monsanto. Farmers have been petitioning the Indian government to help lift them out of poverty. While not every farmer blames Monsanto directly, the majority of these farmer suicides happen in the cotton belt, where Monsanto controls 95% of the cotton seed supply with Bt cotton. The costs of the seeds jumped more than 8,000% with the introduction of Bt cotton. …

Monsanto’s attempts to patent further seeds and bankrupt entire generations of farmers and their families that have successfully farmed for centuries have been halted – at least in India – for now.

What Monsanto Says II: No Connection Between GMO and Indian Farmer Suicides

Monsanto, of course, denies any connection between their GMO seeds and the farmer suicides in India.  On the Monsanto Web Site (, a number of statements designed to give the corporation’s side of this and other controversies can be found.  In the piece titled Is Bt or GMO Cotton the Reason for Indian Farmer Suicides, Monsanto makes the following contentions (among others):

Farming in rural India brings with it a set of systemic and social issues that can lead to hopelessness among farmers and an unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides. Significant research has documented the problem is complex and disproved the claim that GMO crops are the leading cause. …

The international community has conducted several studies to identify the reasons for the unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides in India over the last three decades. For example:

A 2008 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found indebtedness among Indian farmers can be linked to numerous causes, including a lack of reliable credit, changes in government policies, cropping patterns, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, and even shifts in the crops planted on the farm.

The Council for Social Development’s (CSD) June 2012 study, Socio-Economic Impact assessment of Bt Cotton in India, identified the key reasons leading to farmer suicides as lack of irrigation facilities, unavailability of timely credit and fluctuating cotton prices over the years. …

Despite claims by those who oppose GMO crops, research also demonstrates there is no link between Indian farmer suicides and the planting of GMO cotton.

Farmer suicides in India have been a problem for nearly three decades – starting well before the first GM crop (biotech or Bt cotton) was introduced in 2002. …

One contention that is not answered is that the problems with irrigation and resistance to pests might have been triggered by the need for larger volumes of water for Monsanto’s GMO crops in areas where irrigation was not available as well as increasing resistance of pests when they adapted to the GMO varieties and the new pesticides that were required to ensure their cultivation.  Also not mentioned was the “shifts in the crops planted” from cycling through different crops, as farmers have done for centuries before the advent of industrial farming, to “monocropping” to conform with the demands of factory (industrial) farming, as is promoted and practiced in many corporate agricultural environments.

“Terminator” Seeds and “Terminator” Courts: Threatening the Right to Save Seeds?

There has also been discussion about the several-thousand-year-old practice of seed saving, and the degree to which this age-old agricultural tradition is being threatened by the patenting of seeds by corporations like Monsanto.  Allegations of the development of a “Terminator” seed that produces sterile or non-viable offspring (to require farmers to buy seed every year instead of recycling the seeds from a previous planting) have been categorically denied by Monsanto (despite their acquisition in 2006 of a company that was conducting experiments in this very same technology), but Monsanto jealously guards its seed by patenting it, and then threatening farmers who try to save their seed (instead of buying it again from Monsanto) with lawsuits.  An article on the Web Site, Terminator Seeds Threaten an End to Farming by Hope Shand and Pat Mooney (,, Earth Island Journal, Fall, 1998, noted that

In March 1998, Delta & Pine Land Co. and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they had received a US patent on a new genetic technology designed to prevent unauthorized seed-saving by farmers.

The patented technology enables a seed company to genetically alter seed so that the plants that grow from it are sterile; farmers cannot use their seeds. The patent is broad applying to plants and seeds of all species including both transgenic (genetically engineered) and conventionally-bred seeds. The developers of the new technology say that their technique to prevent seed-saving is still in the product development stage, and is now being tested on cotton and tobacco. They hope to have a product on the market sometime after the year 2000.

Monsanto was implicated in this as well, based on its attempt to buy Delta & Pine Land in 1998 (which failed) and its ultimate success in acquiring that company around 2006.  Monsanto, however, has denied that it has any intentions to develop and market “Terminator” seed technology.  Again, from the Monsanto Web Site (, Myth: Monsanto Sells Terminator Seeds:

Fact: Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “Terminator” – seeds. Sharing the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment, with no plans or research that would violate this commitment.

Perhaps this is true, and perhaps Monsanto has stood by the commitment it says it made to “smallholder farmers” in 1999 to not pursue “Terminator” technology in its seeds.  Monsanto does, however, publicly defend its practice of prosecuting farmers who attempt to save their seeds, again from their Web Site,, Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?

When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy from us. More than 275,000 farmers a year buy seed under these agreements in the United States. Other seed companies sell their seed under similar provisions. They understand the basic simplicity of the agreement, which is that a business must be paid for its product. The vast majority of farmers understand and appreciate our research and are willing to pay for our inventions and the value they provide. They don’t think it’s fair that some farmers don’t pay.

A very small percentage of farmers do not honor this agreement. Monsanto does become aware, through our own actions or through third-parties, of individuals who are suspected of violating our patents and agreements. …

Whether the farmer settles right away, or the case settles during or through trial, the proceeds are donated to youth leadership initiatives including scholarship programs.

Also, from the Monsanto Web Site,, Seed Saving and Legal Activities:

In agriculture plants and seeds with enhanced traits or genetics may be patent protected. This is true in the U.S. for plant varieties as well as biotech innovations.  Monsanto is one of many seed companies that patent their innovations.  Growers who purchase our patented seeds sign a Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement — an agreement that specifically addresses the obligations of both the grower and Monsanto and governs the use of the harvested crop.  The agreement specifically states that the grower will not save or sell the seeds from their harvest for further planting, breeding or cultivation.

The United States Supreme Court seems to agree with Monsanto in this regard.  On the Web Site of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, GEN News Highlights, May 13, 2013 ( appears the story Unanimous Supreme Court Upholds Monsanto Seed Rights.  It reports on a case between Monsanto and an Indiana farmer over the saving of soybean seed.

The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously sided with Monsanto’s right to enforce its patents for genetically modified soybean seed beyond their initial sale, over objections from a 75-year-old Indiana farmer who used multiple generations of the seed.

So, we have established USAID’s links with Monsanto and other biotech agribusiness corporations.  We have seen how this alliance has been used to promote the use of GMO seeds in India.  We have seen how farmers in India have in many instances suffered because of the imposition of GMO seeds.  We have also read the words of Monsanto’s executives as they explained their denial of any connection between their GMO seed and farmer suicides, as well as their stated willingness to take legal action against farmers, even poor farmers, who rely upon time-honored practices such as saving seeds.  We have also taken a look at USAID’s record in Latin America and Ayiti, one which has inspired distrust in many corners of South America and the Caribbean.  And we have read the words of both Dr. Shah of USAID and of Mr. Steiner of Monsanto regarding the plans for Feed the Future, especially in Afrika.  So, what are the implications of all this?  Should Pan-Afrikanists, Afrikan Internationalists, Black Nationalists, progressives of all races and nationalities and people who just plain like to engage in such revolutionary acts as the eating of food be concerned, and why?

Implications for Afrika

Land Grab NC Black Farmer 1Paula Crossfield wrote a piece on (August 6, 2009) titled Food Security in Africa: Will Obama let USAID’s Genetically Modified Trojan Horse Ride Again?, which began with an August 5, 2009 visit to Kenya by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Representatives Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) and Nita M. Lowey (D-NY):

While the group was there on a broad platform to discuss economic development in Africa, including food security issues, the delegation took the opportunity yesterday afternoon to visit the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) lab, which is best known for unsuccessfully trying to produce a genetically modified, virus-resistant sweet potato under a US-led program. The trip to KARI highlights the poor vision the United States currently holds on furthering food security in Africa.

Historically, the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the US and other countries has primarily profited patent-holding companies, while creating farmer dependence on the chemical fertilizers and pesticides produced by a few US corporations, used to the detriment of human health, soil quality and the environment. The failed sweet potato project at the KARI lab was a product of a public-private partnership between Monsanto, KARI and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal organization responsible for most US non-military foreign aid. USAID is not shy about their desire to promote biotechnology, and have been working towards furthering a GMO agenda abroad since 1991, when it launched the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP). According to this in-depth research article by the organization GRAIN, the ABSP sought to “identify suitable crops in various countries and use them as Trojan Horses to provide a solid platform for the introduction of other GM crops.”

In Kenya, that crop was the sweet potato — the focus of the USAID-funded Kenya Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program, which sought for fourteen years at KARI, at a cost of $6 million, to create and bring it to market before the partnering groups abandoned the project. …

The point … is to show how a tangled consortium (these are just some of the groups), funded by taxpayer dollars via USAID, seeks to further the aims of biotech abroad, especially in Africa, where Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia were singled out and have been the testing grounds for this strategy.

The obvious beneficiaries of such international development are the handful of corporations which own the patents and the technology, and which produce the herbicides and pesticides required by the use of such seeds. … Africans … have a right to be worried — they can look to India to see what a future relying solely on biotech seeds could look like, where a depleted water table, poisoned waterways and farmer suicides have been the result of the first Green Revolution. …

After painting the picture of a corporate-influenced, GMO-friendly food aid regime being promoted by USAID, Ms. Crossfield goes on to suggest a better alternative based on a major report that was researched, compiled and released in 2009 by a team made up of hundreds of scientists and policymakers and which strongly recommended a locally-based, more sustainable means of fighting world hunger and improving food security (physical and economic access to food, whether self-determined or imposed upon a community) while maintaining a nation’s food sovereignty (the right of a community to control their own access to food and the standards their food must meet – more on that later):

But instead of tired solutions that are not working, we need a paradigm shift, says Dr. Hans Herren, who has worked in Nairobi for 27 years and was co-chair of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report. The IAASTD report [pdf] was sponsored by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and represented four years of work by 400 scientists. …

Biotechnology is a reductionist pipe dream which is overly dependent on waning resources. By contrast, the IAASTD looked at agro-ecological solutions that focused on agricultural resilience. Agriculture according to the IAASTD requires multifaceted, local solutions. While biotechnology has been promising drought tolerance and higher yields for years without delivering, there are real answers available now — like drought tolerant varieties, suited to certain areas, which are naturally bred; science that focuses on building the quality of the soil and the capacity for that soil to hold more water; or push and pull solutions that deal with pests naturally by attracting beneficial insects or planting compatible species that act as decoys for those pests.

… In light of what we now know about USAID, and the fact that there are biotech friendly advisers like Technology and Science Advisor to [then-Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton Nina Fedoroff and Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rajiv Shah in the administration, it is not hard to assume how those monies might be used. But President Obama should significantly change our policy if he wants to truly help the continent he says he cares so much about.

Obama administration: Study the IAASTD. If there is any hope for a better food system in Africa and the U.S., we must first accept that what is being practiced now is not sustainable, and begin to start the process of making it so. – See more at:

Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zurich, Institute of Integrative Biology, Zurich, Switzerland, wrote The IAASTD report and some of its fallout – a personal note (, to describe her experience as part of the group that had put together the IAASTD report:

The paradigm of industrial agriculture was maximizing profits from land by focusing on one factor only: productivity – the increase of yields literally at any costs. With the help of chemicals and cheap oil, cheap food was brought to many in the industrialized world and has brought unimaginable profits to the chemical and oil companies. This came at the expense of the health of humans and the environment, the costs of which were never factored into the economic equation in any meaningful way. The price was paid by all, including those who never profited from cheap food in the first place which for most humans constitutes fundamental injustice in itself. With today’s world population split deeply into a very affluent part in the industrialized world where many people eat themselves to death and an impoverished part where many people starve to death and live under the most appalling conditions ever, a shift in the obviously dysfunctional agricultural and food production paradigm has become paramount for global peace and justice. Exactly what went wrong and how we can improve on it was to be learned from the biggest ever review of global agricultural food production and the underlying causes for continued and growing hunger and starvation: the International Assessment of Knowledge, Science and Technology, or IAASTD for short.

The IAASTD was a multi-stakeholder process consisting of governmental and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, producers, consumers, the science community and multiple international agencies involved in the agricultural and rural development sectors. The expected outputs were critical, in-depth global and sub-global assessments of local and institutional knowledge and experiences. The participants had to create plausible scenarios for the future based on the past events and existing trends in population growth, climate change to mention just a few. ‘What if’ questions had to be developed and answered to the best of the current existing knowledge that would allow the implications of different technological options to be explored and understood. The aim was to inform processes of future planning and thinking as to what may happen as the world continues to develop over the next 30-50 years. The process lasted 3 years and involved over 400 experts and over 100 countries. The intergovernmental process ensured ownership by governments, while the Integrated Bureau allowed the full range of stakeholders to meet as a single body for constructive exchanges and consensus building. More information on the details of the process can be found on the IAASTD website (  Now, from the above said, it was clear right from the start that this process would be hard, very hard – tough truths would have to be faced and it was to be expected that those who profited and continue to profit from the existing situation would have to swallow some bitter pills. Well, as it turned out too bitter for some.

Thus, those with vested interests were able to exert influence over even the IAASTD report, though not enough to significantly blunt the report’s conclusions.

A few paragraphs above, we mentioned two terms that are often confused with each other: food security and food sovereignty.  “Food security” is often used by officials like Dr. Shah of USAID when describing a “foreign-aid” process in which the US or its corporate partners deliver food aid to a starving populace, akin to “giving a man a fish” on a massive scale.  Seeds that are “owned” by major agribusinesses are given, or sold, to poor farmers, who then plant the seeds, sometimes without question, based on the promises of greater crop yields and a resultant easier life.  But these farmers do not decide what seeds to plant; the corporations make that decision, often in their laboratories, a decision that becomes clear when the farmers try to “save” their seeds and find themselves prosecuted for it in local or international courts.  What these officials will not talk about is “food soverignty”, in which the people in the community take ownership in decifing what seed will be planted, how it will be done, and whether they will save their seed or not.  Farmers’ rights afvocates and food activists will usually speak of “food sovereignty”, which is much more self-determinative, akin to a community “learning to fish”.

Here is how a couple of Web sites define the terms and explain the difference between food security and food sovereignty.  The first is from

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Food sovereignty is a broader concept. According to the 2007 Declaration of Nyéléni, food sovereignty encompasses “The right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies. Food sovereignty means the primacy of people’s and community’s rights to food and food production, over trade concerns.” Food sovereignty is thus embedded in larger questions of social justice and the rights of farmers and indigenous communities to control their own futures and make their own decisions.


Food security and food sovereignty, although often used interchangeably, are considerably different concepts. Food security, a much more widely understood notion, refers to communities with access to food. NGOs that work with food security projects often work with a community to meet its food needs, denoting that it currently lacks the quantity and quality of food necessary to sustain community members. Food security does not necessarily stipulate what types of food are provided or whether or not that food is local or brought in from other regions, and it does not always require the direct involvement of the community to attain and administer that food (e.g., disaster-relief situations in which food arrives from outside sources). Food sovereignty, on the other hand, is slightly more specific and elicits certain guidelines that food security does not explicitly mention. Food sovereignty puts ownership of food systems into the hands of the communities themselves. It involves a sustainable, long-term process in which a community can establish its own food systems and produce its own local products without being subject to fluctuating international markets or dependent on external sources for the acquisition of seeds. Food sovereignty takes into account the cultural and social, political, geographical and environmental context of the community in order to develop an appropriate plan of action to address the community’s particular problems and needs.

So, what is at stake here is Afrika’s right to food sovereignty; whether it will be sacrificed so that corporations and superpowers can make the claim of having “saved the world” in the name of food security while fattening the pockets of the corporate CEO’s and shareholders.  What’s at stake is the ability of the farmers of Afrika to make decisions as to whether their food will be organic, conventional or GMO; whether they will control their own farming practices or whether they will be controlled by either foreign organizations like USAID or multinational corporations like Monsanto; whether traditional farming and agricultural practices that have sustained communities for centuries or millennia will be lost forever as corporations and their governmental allies work to bring into play yet another massive land grab based on the ruination of farmers through the economic pressures brought on by introduction of GMO food, that simple looking little “magic seed” which is really a Seed of Suspicion that might just raise the curtain on another disappearing act for the rights of the world’s peoples to feed themselves on their terms.  This battle has already played out in India, to disastrous effect for many poor farmers there.  Latin America and the Caribbean have perhaps avoided that Land Grab Ethiopia 4crisis but have suffered in other ways as their governments have been undermined and their leaders toppled.  Afrika suffered under a Scramble once before, at the time of the enslavement of millions of her Sons and Daughters in the Americas, Europe and Arabia.  Open your eyes and see the latest Scramble, this one for Afrika’s land and resources, one that has, in fact, already been going on for centuries through the extractive industries (gold, diamonds, coltan and other minerals) and more recently through the acquisition of farmers’ lands for the use by foreign and corporate interests for food export or for the growing of biofuels.  The latest theater is the Scramble for Control of Afrika’s Food, one that appears to be hiding behind initiatives like Feed the Future.

There is much more to look at here.  We won’t be able to do it in this article, which is already much longer than a “usual” blog piece.  We hope we have been able to keep your attention.  We hope we have been able to share some valuable information.  As stated above, the links to the articles should give you the opportunity to dig even deeper if you so choose.  One final link we’d like to share is to an article by Colkin Todhunter, GMO Agribusiness and the Destructive Nature of Global Capitalism (, which carries the discussion into a scathing critique of the entire capitalist system.  Perhaps that is a rabbit hole to be explored at a later time.

Fifty Years Later: Of Marches, Motivators, Monuments … and Motormouths

March on Washington 2013a

I wasn’t at the 50th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington.  Mind you, I wasn’t opposed to the March, nor do I consider marches as a waste of time as many critics do.  I had attended the Redeem The Dream March in 2000, as well as the Million Man and Million Family Marches in Washington, DC, the Million Woman March in Philadelphia, PA and the first Million Youth Marches in Harlem, A Phillip Randolph 1Bayard Rustin 1NY and Atlanta, Georgia.  Thus, while I don’t consider marches to be The Answer To Black People’s Problems, I am not a “Marchiphobe” either.  Marches can inspire people to take more concrete action in the cause of social justice, and as such they have a certain, if limited, value.  And there have been so many marches.  But the March on Washington, the 1963 March that was organized by A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin (above) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the March where America heard the “I Have A Dream” speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is considered by many to be the Granddaddy of them all.  Thus, we could expect that the 50th Anniversary of that March would be regarded as a near-sacred event by those who participated in and remember the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties.

The actual date of the March was commemorated on Wednesday, August 28, with speeches by any number of prominent persons, most notably President Barack Obama and Veteran Civil Rights Activist John Lewis.  And while the statements made on that day certainly were important and will be quoted often in the days and weeks to come, I want to concentrate this edition of my commentary on the March held the previous Saturday, August 24, in the absence of some of the high-level political operatives and high-powered celebrities, or what some may want to refer to as the People’s Version of the 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington (though some prominent people were there as well).

I understand the critiques of Marches as “picnics”, as Ancestor Malcolm X had statedRev Al Sharpton 1 in 1963, a sentiment echoed by critics of the 50th Anniversary March.  I also understand the compulsion many of us feel to participate in these Marches, as they often do help to motivate those activists among us who lose our focus and our motivation.  Marches such as these also help re-establish the need in the public eye for continued activism, as demonstrated by the expression of discontent by such a mass of people as only a March, or a riot, seems able to expMLK IIIress.  As Rev. Al Sharpton (right), President of the National Action Network (NAN) and one of the organizers of the 2013 March along with Martin Luther King III (left), son of the iconic Civil Rights Leader, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), stated the day after the 50th Anniversary March, “Marches don’t solve problems.  They expose them.”

An Unrealized Dream

Amid all the speeches delivered at the 50th Anniversary March, the most important themes revolved around the as-yet unrealized Dream of Dr. King and a Call to Action to all of us to help ensure that what remains of the Dream does not die.  In the words of Rev. Sharpton, “Fifty years ago, Dr. King said America gave Blacks a check that bounced.  Well, we redeposited the check. But guess what? It bounced again.”

Part of the issue here, though, is the fact that now there are an increasing number of groups trying to cash that check.  While Black people were primarily being lynched, terrorized and excluded from society by courts, police and vigilantes alike, and while our leaders were being assassinated, the beneficiaries of the collective suffering of Black people grew to include Isfet Chained Gatewomen’s groups, the Latino Immigrant community and the gay community.  True, the rights that were being fought for were meant to be equal rights for all, but as businesses owned by the White wives of politicians and businessmen were counted in the statistics of “minority enterprise”, opponents of affirmative action targeted the mild progress of Blacks as a signal that We Have Overcome.  As the Latino population has overtaken the Black population, in part due to Black Latinos being classified as “Hispanic” in many cases, Americans of Afrikan descent began to see the gains of the Civil Rights Movement slipping away.  And as gay citizens expressed their struggle for Marriage Equality as an issue analogous to the Civil Rights and Black Power Struggle, some in the Afrikan-American Community, and indeed in the Pan-Afrikanist Community, became frustrated at these other causes essentially “leapfrogging” the Black struggle by riding our coattails.  For some of us, this has led to resentment and a deepening distrust of the “system” that has oppressed us for hundreds of years, yet expects us to assimilate into as the price for our “freedom”.

The Death of Trayvon Martin and the Criminalization of Young Black Males

Over the weeks that have passed since the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, who had killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, the call had been to make the case, and the enactment of Trayvon’s Law against profiling of African-American youth, a major focus of the March.  The fact is that, since the Trayvon Zimmerman Composite 1March on Washington in 1963, there seems to have been little let-up in the targeting and murder of young, unarmed Black men by mostly-White authority figures who hide behind badges (in Zimmerman’s case, a Neighborhood Watch “badge”) and who make a case that they, despite being armed, feared for their lives.  Amadou Diallo, Elinor Bumpers, Sean Bell, Adolph Grimes, Ronald Madison, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and many others constitute a trail of human destruction that can no longer be passed off as “isolated incidents” despite the protests of apologists for out-of-control vigilantes and police.  The September issue of Ebony Magazine examines the Trayvon Martin case in the context of the increased criminalization of young Black males from a variety of commentators.

Myrlie EveMyrlie Evers-Williams 1rs-WillMedgar Evers 1iams, widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, reflected on “Stand Your Ground” laws that, at least indirectly, helped secure Zimmerman’s acquittal, and the parallels with her husband’s murder by White racists on June 12, 1963.  “Stand firm in the ground we have already made and be sure that nothing is taken away from us because there are efforts to turn back the clock of freedom.  And I ask you today, will you allow that to happen? … Stand Your Ground in terms of fighting for justice and equality.”

Martin Luther King III was able to move past the tired generalities of We-Still-Have-Work-To-Do and make a strong connection between his father’s unrealized Dream and the Martin tragedy.  “The task is not done.  The journey is not complete. … Sadly, the tears of Trayvon Martin’s mother and father remind us that far too frequently, the color of one’s skin remains a license to profile, to arrest, and to even murder without regard for the content of one’s character. … Regressive ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws must be repealed.  Federal anti-profiling legislation must be enacted.”

Escaping the Preschool-To-Prison Pipeline

The March was not all about bemoaning the injustices we still face, however.  There were calls to action made from the podium and during the talk shows that followed the next day.  Rev. Sharpton placed much of the responsibility for helping young Black men escape the Preschool-to Prison Pipeline on the Elders who often criticize and condemn them : “If we told them who they could be and what they could do, they would pull up their pants an d get to work.”

After the March: The Talking Heads Have Their Day

The Relevant

Of course, the Sunday morning talk shows managed to extract considerable mileage from the March, with pundit after pundit giving Ben Jealous 1their take on the 50th Anniversary, the March the previous day and the currentMarian Wright Edelman 1 state of Dr. King’s Dream.  There were the usual platitudes about how We’ve Come A Long Way, But We’ve Got A Ways To Go.  But there were some quite relevant and, dare I say it, important things that were said as well.  Those who had participated in the previous day’s March, specifically NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Jealous (above left), veteran educator Dr. Marian Wright Edelman (above right), Congressman and 1963 marcher John LeJohn Lewis 2wis (left, toJohn Lewis 1day and in 1963) and Rev. Sharpton, pointed out the continuing disparities in educaCorey Booker 3tion, economics, joblessness, voting  rights and equal protection under the law.  Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker Taylor Branch 1(right) pointed out the critical need for continued and escalated activism as part of a grand “Conspiracy of Love”.  (I sometimes feel that Bro. Booker seems a little too “clean-cut”, but he does come up with some ideas that I like.)  Taylor Branch (left), author in 1988 of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic Parting The Waters: America In The King Years 1954-1963 and one of the most vocal White proponents of the Marches in 1963 and 2013, lamented the current “partisan gridlock” in the halls of the Federal Government as being “driven by race and racial resentment” against President Barack Obama.

The Not-So-Relevant

The above statements, in my opinion, all represented positive, respectful interpretations of the importance of the March (whether you or I agree with them all or not).  A number of remarks, however, were simple (and simplistic) platitudes designed to mollify the masses into the type of sociopolitical submission that comes from having been convinced that we are all, in fact, “free”.  Proud examples of Black people who had escaped poverty to become Rhodes Scholars apparently overlooked the fact that the Rhodes Scholarship was named after arch-racist Cecil Rhodes (after whom Rhodesia was named) and was founded to prepare young Western (primarily White) Men to control the rest of the planet during the British Empire’s expected Colonial Age in Afrika.  An attempt by more than one commentator to draw “a direct line” from Dr. King back to Abraham Lincoln and the Founding Fathers failed to mention the facts that the Founding Fathers were in large part slaveholders who had sanctioned the extermiIsfet Rodney King Beating 1nation of the Indigenous People of North America, and that even Lincoln had stated on numerous occasions that, while he was against slavery, he harbored no “illusions” about Blacks being equal to Whites or even any desire that such equality should exist.  And right-wing so-called “conservatives” who continue to decry such Marches as an exhortation to the politics of entitlement and “hopelessness” seem to forget that the very “hopelessness” they decry was created through the draconian policies of criminalization and brutality that they imposed, and that the “entitlements” that they condemn are those claimed by their benefactors in the Big Business and political elites as they insist on greater and greater profits, coupled with tax breaks, while their activities impoverish more and more Americans and dispossess more and more people around the world.

Free or Just Loose?

We’ve been called to many Marches over the last 17 years, inspired by the example of the March on Washington in 1963.  All of them have embraced as a central theme the cause of Freedom and the ways in which the Black Community sees that Freedom as remaining out of our reach.  While such Marches do hold inspirational value for many, and as Rev. Sharpton said, they serve to constantly expose the injustices we still face, the practical results from most of these Marches have been inconsistent at best, and they will ultimately be seen as exercises in futility by an increasing number of our people in the absence of some near-revolutionary change for the better.  Many Pan-Afrikanists would argue that this is because we think our “freedom” is our birthright, won through the struggles of our Ancestors and Elders, when in reality this “freedom” is under constant attack from our enemies and taken for granted by our alleged friends, as a result of which it is under perpetual threat.  Witness the current effort to repeal provisions of the Voting Rights Act in several Southern states with a record of voter intimidation, and the enactment of “Stand Your Ground” laws in between 20 and 30 states.  We fail to realize that In reality, as Political Prisoner and Veteran Member of the Black Panther Party Marshall “Eddie” Conway has stated, “You’re not free; you’re just loose.”  We as Afrikan people will perhaps finally begin the process toward truly being “free” when we turn loose our sense of activism, as Mayor Booker urged us to do, and free ourselves from the bonds that others have placed on us, and we have placed on ourselves.

March on Washington 2013b