Category Archives: Organizing the Diaspora

Discussions about how to organize, educate and mobilize the Diaspora.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Alton_Sterling):

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Philando_Castile):

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_shooting_of_Dallas_police_officers):

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Alton_Sterling):

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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Alton_Sterling:

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 (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/287057-gop-rep-obamas-divided-us-more-than-ever).

“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 (https://www.facebook.com/captainraylewis/) 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”:

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, b.s.ing, 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 (http://www.colorofchange.org) 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 ColorOfChange.org 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: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/DropTheFlagDropTheCharges/?source=mailingSignOn

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

DECLARATION OF THE IMMEDIATE CAUSES WHICH INDUCE AND JUSTIFY THE SECESSION OF SOUTH CAROLINA FROM THE FEDERAL UNION.

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 http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/south-carolina-declaration-of-causes-of-secession/.

 

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

PRESS RELEASE

CARIBBEAN GOVERNMENTS MUST INTERVENE AND DEFEND OUR  AFRICAN-AMERICAN  BROTHERS

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.

DAVID COMISSIONG
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
www.asalh.org

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
President
Click here to view this statement on our website

 

Statement from Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Charleston  

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
navc@googlegroups.com
Facebook.com/newarkantiviolencecoalition
Facebook.com/newarkanti-violencecoalition group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE!

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: shakabarak1@yahoo.com, or those designated by the President General Senghor Baye.

Emanuel AME Mourners 3 

 

 

 

Remembering Phil Africa

 

MOVE Phil Collage 1REMEMBERING PHIL AFRICA
Saturday, January 31, 2015, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Kingsessing Recreation Center, Philadelphia, PA

Mama Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE Organization’s house on Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia, addressed the hundreds of friends and supporters in the audience who had come from across the country to the Kingsessing Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to pay respects to MOVE Nine Member and New Ancestor Phil Africa on this cold Saturday afternoon, January 31, 2015.

“A lot of people have come up to MOVE People and asked us how we’re doing, are we okay.  Of course we grieve the loss of our brother.  John Africa [MOVE’s late founder, who died in the May 13, 1985 bombing of MOVE’s Osage Avenue house – Editor] has taught us that we are living beings, we’re alive, we have feelings.  So, we can be hurt, our feelings can be hurt.  But one thing is for sure, we can be hurt but we won’t be stopped.  And that’s what’s important.

“Phil touched the lives of so many people, and we got so many responses, so many statements, that we just can’t read them all. … But meanwhile, what we’re going to do is let you know how people, all across the globe, feel about Phil Africa.”

Mike Africa was born in prison, the son of Mike Africa Sr. and Debbie Africa of the MOVE Nine.  He has spoken about growing up the son of two Political Prisoners and how that legacy has guided his steps as he has grown to become a father himself.  He and Sis. Rain Africa, one of the Next Generation of the Youth of the MOVE Organization known as the “Seeds of the Seeds”, along with a Brother from Friends of MOVE New York, served as the emcees for the event.

I entered the hall to the sound of the tribute to Phil Africa from the world’s most famous Political Prisoner, Veteran of the Black Panther Party and longtime MOVE supporter, Mumia Abu-Jamal:

BRO. PHIL AFRICA (1956-2015), MOVE MEMBER
[col. writ. 1/10/15] © ’15 Mumia Abu-Jamal

He was born William Phillips, on Jan. 1, 1956, but few people called him by that name.

Most people knew him as Phil, and after joining the revolutionary naturalist MOVE organization in the early 1970s, most called him Phil Africa.

He was part of the confrontation of Aug. 8, 1978, in Philadelphia, where nearly a

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal

dozen MOVE members were charged in connection with that conflict, in which a cop likely died from friendly fire – but MOVE members were charged.

Among them, Phil Africa. Phil was among 9 MOVE men and women charged with murder, and convicted in a hotly disputed trial, of third degree murder. So disputed, in fact, that several days after the trial, Judge Edwin Malmed would admit, in a locally broadcast interview, that he “Hadn’t the faintest idea” (his very words) …who killed the cop.

The 9 MOVE members were sentenced to 30 to 100 years: the longest in Pennsylvania history since third-degree became law in PA. Judge Malmed reportedly acknowledged the illegality of such a sentence, telling those sentenced that it may be reversed on appeal, but, for now, it would hold them. It appears Malmed believed the State Appellate courts were fairer than even they believed.

But not to people named Africa it seems.

For today, 37 years after the events of August, 1978, the fact that 7 remaining men and women are still in prison is nothing short of a scandal.

The MOVE men and women should’ve been free, at least 7 years ago, when they reached their minimums.

But this is Pennsylvania, where madness passes as normality.

Phil lost a son back in the mid –‘70s, when police trampled his child, Life Africa.

On May 13, 1985, when the police bombed a MOVE home, another son, Little Phil, was among the 11 people shot and burned to death.

Phil was an extremely talented artist and painter. He was a man with a gift of lightness, a witty sense of humor, and an ever-present smile.

Phil Africa, MOVE member, will be long loved and remembered by his wife, Janine Africa, by his brothers and sisters in MOVE, and by many, many prisoners across the state, whom he counseled over the years.

Phil lived through 59 cycles of planet earth, before being returned to his Mother.

From Prison Nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mike Africa read the following statement from MOVE Nine Political Prisoner Debbie Africa just after I entered the hall. 

Remembering Phil
The one thing that always stands out in my mind when I think about Phil is his urgency to be family to all of us in MOVE and those outside of MOVE that love MOVE.  No matter what he was doing, if you needed his attention, he was there.  Phil always had an ear for anybody who needed to talk.  Phil always had a hope for anybody who needed a strong arm.  There was no time that was not the correct time to talk to Phil.  No matter what, he would drop what he was doing and make you his priority.  Long Live John Africa.  Phil was always ready to feed people MOVE’s Law, no matter who or what you are.  Black, White, Puerto Rican, French or German, always ready to encourage people with MOVE belief whether the garbage man, lawyer, clergy, or cops.  He always understood what his purpose was.  What his purpose is.  Everybody knows him.  People even name their sons after him.  He’s the big brother that anybody would want to have.  Phil never passed up an opportunity to talk our Move Nine Debbiebelief to people, and boy did he talk.  I believe that’s another reason we got along so good.  We shared that characteristic, talking.  Janine said, while in prison, Phil earned the respect of many, many inmates and staff alike.  Phil earned respect of prison guards because of his sincere commitment to be right.  Phil commanded the appreciation even from people who weren’t receptive to MOVE’s principles.  They had no choice but to acknowledge that example of loyalty to John Africa.  Phil took a lot of the younger kids in prison under his wing.  Working hard to keep them out of trouble, and steer them in the right direction, away from gang violence, drugs and nonsense.  They loved Phil at Dallas and called him Father Phil.  Phil never misused their trust to ego-trip or lord it over them or others.  Phil always remained humble, to model MOVE’s principle and always acknowledging of the source of his strength and courage: John Africa.  Phil even had time for the older generation in Dallas, making them feel comfortable and young by playing on the Dallas Senior Ball Team with them.  Everybody who came in contact with Phil loved him, as he left a vibration of courage and determination stamped on the hearts of all who loved him.  That vibration will live forever in us, as Phil will live forever, for Phil is with Mama and Mama will always be.  Ona Move!  Long live the Power that pulls all things together.  Long Live John Africa.

Suzanne Ross, New York Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, made reference to one of Phil’s paintings, a lion with the caption “Real Power”, which she dubbed a self-portrait.  She never met Phil personally, but she exchanged many letters with him and he sent paintings to her.  “Phil knew that the deranged police and correctional officers, as much harm as they did, did not represent real power.  Phil’s revolutionary love and power was the kind of power we appreciate and support.  When I think of Phil’s passing I think in ultimate, extreme terms.  Good versus evil, love versus vengeance, revolution versus reaction.  Phil and MOVE represent [this] in all the positive ways and the System in all the opposite.  When my granddaughter, who is twelve years old, heard Phil had passed, she burst into tears and she said, ‘He never even belonged there in the first place!’  And the outrage of someone who never belonged there in the first place, and then ‘mysteriously dies’, is very hard, in just the simplest concept of justice, to accept.”

Ann Lamb, New York City Jericho Movement, shared her pain and her love with the crowd.  “It is really, really devastating [to have heard] that Phil had passed the night before, because there is no excuse for it, there is no reason for it to have happened, and it is really, really painful to stand up here and talk. … I never actually met Phil, but we corresponded for many years, and he did send me many of his paintings … and I extend from the Jericho Movement to the entire MOVE Family our sincerest love for what you are going through right now, and we will continue to support you, and all US-held Political Prisoners, until everyone is home, and everyone is free.  Because there is no alternative.”

Baba Karim, a longtime supporter and ally of MOVE, read a letter from Delbert Africa, another member of the MOVE Nine who was famously, and brutally, beaten by Philadelphia police as he was being arrested at the end of the 1978 police assault.  He began with the reading of the letter:

Delbert Africa being beaten by Philadelphia police, August 8, 1978.

Delbert Africa being beaten by Philadelphia police, August 8, 1978.

Ona MOVE!  Long Live John Africa’s Revolution!  Long Stand Phil Africa’s revolutionary example. … I’m in a state of shock, but handling those troubles as I know Phil would.  Working hard, keeping mind and body busy, so as not to [brood on] a lot of questions.  That way can only lead to depression, ultimately stopping work.  And that’s what the demon wants, to stop those working to revolute this foul system. … Yeah, it’s rough right about now, but Mama ain’t gonna put up no barriers in our way towards freedom.  It’s this damn System that took Phil away from us too soon, way too soon.  I can feel the void, you know.  I try to keep all the good times in mind, so as not to get too sad.  You do the same, Old Soldier. … I can handle whatever they come up with as long as I hold tight to MOVE Law. … With a warm revolutionary hug, and a sharp salute of solidarity, Ona MOVE Karim, Stay strong.  Delbert Africa.  Long Live John Africa Forever!

Baba Karim spoke of his experience meeting MOVE in prison and being impressed that none of the MOVE members were ever depressed, despite the fact that “everybody knows that MOVE didn’t kill that cop”, there were “nine MOVE members [who] were innocent in jail, they’re innocent!  They didn’t do nothing but try to protect their family, defend themselves against the brutal-ass police force headed by [police commissioner and future mayor Frank] Rizzo.”  About Phil specifically, “his dedication, his commitment, his honesty, his sincerity, being lighthearted all the time, is an example that we can all learn from.”

Paulette Dauteuil, National Jericho Movement, shared greetings from former Political Prisoner Larry Butler and current Political Prisoner Tom Manning.  She then added her own comments: “It is an example that we on the outside need to take.  As Safiya [Bukhari, former Political Prisoner, Veteran of the Black Panther Party and Founder of the Jericho Movement who became an Ancestor in 2003] said, we have to pick up this work to free our Prisoners. … There should be a thousand people sitting in this room for Phil.  [There were several hundred as it was – Editor.]  It’s great that we’re all here, but with the work we do, we need to embrace and organize more people.  So please, if nothing else, take Phil’s philosophy, and talk to people, and help people understand the lives of our Political Prisoners are at stake every day they are [inside those walls].”

Do Right Ministries supports prisoners in several Pennsylvania prisons.  Elder Lee G. Farrell sent a message of solidarity that was relayed by Mike Africa.  Elder Farrell had met Phil and Delbert while visiting his nephew Gabriel Pitman at SCI Dallas, where Phil and Delbert were being held.  He shared letters with Phil over the years and buried some of them under a tree in South Sudan to “spread his DNA in the Motherland.”  Mike Africa then read a poem Elder Farrell had sent him from Gabriel Pitman:

Bro. Phil, True Revolutionary
Mama called, and I answered.
Don’t y’all grieve for me.
As I lived life, so too I embrace death.
Free, able to see deep within, far beyond and far behind
These bars of steel and brick that bind
Lies Mama’s essence.
Just look around.  Can you see?  Can you feel the blessings of her presence?
If not, my sympathies are for you.
‘Cause truly you use her goodness for bad.
Living life in fear of losing things you never had,
And never will.
As your freedom, justice and equality
Are premised on all the people you’ve killed.
Liberty for all, it’s just an illusion.
That’s why, as I lived life, so too I’m choosing to die.
Free, in Revolution!  Yes, the whole damn system is guilty as hell.
Through our lives, this is proved.
So while the system dies, in fear of its self-made hell,
We’ll live life free, faithfully, forever.
Ona MOVE!
January 10, 2015 to Infinity
For Rebel Phil, for Sista Merle, and the whole MOVE Family,
Your light shines on forever.
A Messenger, 2015, a.k.a. Gabriel R. Pitman.
Long Live Phil Africa!

Kevin Gilroy, representing the Partisan Defense Committee, made a statement in support of MOVE, recounting the history of MOVE’s longtime conflict with the Philadelphia police that culminated in the 1978 police assault on the MOVE House in Powelton Village that led to the MOVE Nine’s imprisonment and the subsequent 1985 bombing of the Osage Avenue MOVE House that killed six adults and five children.

Sis. Taina Asili, New York-based vocalist and longtime supporter of MOVE, sang a beautiful and moving song she had dedicated to MOVE, Mumia and Political Prisoners, including Phil Africa, titled “Prison Break”.  Videos of her performances of “Prison Break” can be seen on YouTube, as well as on the full video of this event at MOVE’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/picturethestruggle.

Sis. Basiymah Muhammad-Bey, Longtime MOVE Supporter and Former Assistant President-General, UNIA-ACL, brought “warm greetings of revolutionary struggle.”  She met Phil Africa at age 17 during the Powelton Village police siege when her mother insisted they bring water to the MOVE Family as the police were trying to starve them out.  “She made us have an assembly line where we organized cases of water and we brought it to the compound. … We are under attack … and we have to help each other pull ourselves up.  Some of us are a little tougher than others.  But from what we see going on right now … all of Ferguson, all of New York, all of the world rising against the injustices to our people, and we are left to still tumble harder to Free ‘Em All!  So in the midst of all the storm that’s going on, look at MOVE.  Long Live John Africa!  Still standing strong!  That means something to you when you’re in the field.  I [remember] watching them, and thought that something was mentally wrong with them.  Had no idea that something was mentally wrong with me!  And so I say to my teachers in my school, of course the training that I have received, from MOVE and many others, has allowed my revolutionary fight to be as strong as the [air] that I breathe!”

Zack Africa, MOVE Family Member, presented a Slide Show he produced in honor of Phil Africa.

Sue Africa, MOVE’s first Minister of Confrontation, made some extensive comments, which we excerpt here: “I’m going to start out today by reading a quote from a book titled Strategic Revolution from John Africa because Phil is a true revolutionary, still revoluting, generating and moving. … To quote John Africa:

John Africa

John Africa

MOVE is strong-willed, clear-visioned, one-minded, true in dedication.  MOVE don’t stagger, waver or stumble or fall short.  With the MOVE Organization, a step forward is a step gained, and a step lost for the System, because the MOVE Organization will not take a step back.  Our aim is revolution, our trust is Mama, our drive is consistency, our target is System, and we will not be stopped, for we have the courage of fight, the understanding of true law, and the power of God in both fists.

She went on: “Long Live John Africa!  Like we’ve heard all throughout today, Phil touched a lot of lives.  I have some letters and readings that the inmates at Dallas with Del and Phil wrote.”  She then read a few of those letters, including one from activists at the Bruderhof, one from a MOVE support group in France, words of support from friends with Save the Children in Minneapolis, Minnesota and some remarks from Baba Omar Sadiki, a supporter living in Morocco. 

She finally shared some remarks from fellow MOVE Nine Political Prisoner Eddie Africa:

Eddie Africa

Eddie Africa

Ona MOVE!  My brother Phil is a good man.  A father, a husband, a brother, a good soldier.  I sit here thinking of him and I’m smiling.  I can hear his voice, see his laugh, and it touches me in a good way.  The memories of our brother are countless and I think of them a lot. … At times I would call on his strength.  I would lean on him to get past a particular problem.  He would give me MOVE Law to make me strong.  And his smile showed his love.  We spent a lot of time together and I will hold that time together close to me. … He is not perfect, but he strives for it, as we all did.  His friends are many, prisoners and staff.  They gravitated to Phil.  Some of them not understanding why, as the stories told about us were supposed to turn folks against us.  But the lies that are told don’t match Phil and MOVE’s behavior, how we really are in person. … Phil was taught to revere family.  Life, wherever, whoever it was, without prejudicial characterizations.  Phil’s example is a good one, and instead of feeling down about him, I will use his life to strengthen mine.

Mama Alberta Africa, the wife of The Coordinator, MOVE Founder and Ancestor John Africa, spoke about Phil.  “Phil and I were extremely close.  He always took care and looked out for me. … I have a small quote here from Alphonso Africa.  It’s very small, just one line.  It’s from when he was on trial with The Coordinator.  And Alphonso said, ‘Now, as MOVE Members, we are secure in that we live, so shall we live.’  And I have a little something here from the writings of John Africa:

Everything that is dependable has always been here.  And everything that has always been here stays here.  Because it don’t fail.  You don’t see a thing outside your window that is within the Law of Life that hasn’t always been here.  The sky you see was here for your mother to see.  The sun in the sky was experienced by your grandmother as by you.  The grass that abounds the earth that you walk was witnessed and walked by your grandmother’s mother.  The water that is wet to your touch today was wet to the touch of your parents a zillion years ago and beyond, because the composition of water don’t fail.  The language of life is very plain.  Life plainly states to live, as death plainly states to die.  MOVE don’t have to be fearful of death.  MOVE will never know the suffering of death.  Because our belief is engaged in the principle of life.  All that life just outside your window, that is MOVE Law you’re looking at.  All of that life you see didn’t just happen to be here.  Life is here because life is alive.  MOVE believes in life.  And it ain’t life that disappears.  It is death that will not last in the Law of Life.

Mama Alberta concluded her remarks: “Life is the most powerful thing there is, and Phil Africa is connected to that force, a proven prophet of God, a MOVE Member.  All those involved in interfering with Phil Africa’s work, MOVE’s work, will not be able to will away the suffering they’ve got to do for violating MOVE.  Long Live John Africa.  Long Live MOVE.  Long Live Phil Africa.”

Mike Africa, who had been serving as one of the emcees for this event, took some time to share some remarks of his own.  “All this dates back to ’78 when they arrested Phil and they arrested the MOVE Nine, that started as a result of March 28, 1976, when the police came out there and they killed Phil Africa’s baby [Life Africa, who was knocked out of the arms of his mother, Janine Africa, and died when his head

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

hit the pavement – Editor].  People don’t know that.  Because the police tried to say that the baby didn’t exist because the baby didn’t have a Birth Certificate.  Phil Africa was in prison because of the work to protect our children.  To protect us.  And this is how the System repays people for trying to protect children!  It’s no different than when they killed Jesus Christ, when they were looking for Jesus Christ because they had heard that the Messiah was coming to bring peace.  It’s no different than when they killed Martin Luther King.  It’s no different than the killing of Malcolm X.  Because the System is not here to help us.  It is here to eliminate anybody [that opposes it].  And this family here, this MOVE Organization, is a family, and we’ll work together, and we’ll be close to each other and we will continue to fight this system as Phil Africa did.  Long Live John Africa.  Down with this rotten-ass System.”

There were a few musical performances from supporters of the organization.  Three strong young Brothers from MOVE had formed a group named Raw, and they performed “We Ain’t Crazy” for the appreciative crowd.

Baba I Abdul Jon spoke about his introduction to MOVE and the devotion he has felt toward them ever since: “I was following the MOVE Organization [since] 1976 when they came out with the arms [the famous “Guns on the Porch” incident when MOVE Members stood on the porch of their Powelton Village house with rifles in a show of defiance toward the brutality of the Philadelphia police – Editor].  I thought that was the most amazing, craziest thing I had ever seen in my life.  They were standing their ground with their weapons [saying that] no longer would they allow [police] to come in and beat on them. … It was Phil Africa’s child who was killed [in 1976].  Phil Africa had a child killed prior to August 8, 1978 and on May 13 [1985, the police bombing of the MOVE house on Osage Avenue that killed six adults and five children, among them another of Phil Africa’s children – Editor].  The MOVE Nine is making sacrifices. … If we have to spread some of this work out, people have to start standing up for themselves. … The MOVE Organization is standing up against this government in a manner and way in which nobody has ever done, and in a manner and a way that everybody needs to do.  One of the things that Phil told me is that it only takes a few people. … There’s no compromising with this System because they don’t have anything that they ever offer you.  They don’t have health, they don’t have wealth, they don’t have anything. … It’s just war and murder!”

The Commemoration of Phil Africa.

The Commemoration of Phil Africa’s life at the Kingsessing Recreation Center.


The Daughter of Delbert Africa spoke briefly and shared her feeling with the audience.  She spoke of her connection to Phil and the MOVE family even when she lived in a different world.  “I want you all to know that the movement continues.  It continues whether there’s rhetoric, whether there is marching, poster boards; life lives within.  It was taught and bred in me from the time I was born in Canada till today.  I have never denied my MOVE Family, nor have I denied my lineage, and I make sure that everyone is clear, I am here because of my father, because of what Uncle Phil taught me, because of my mother. … I want you to keep love in your heart. … I’m glad that he existed and he exists still within me.  Ona MOVE.”

Fred, a local supporter, sang a brief song and then he recounted a conversation he once had with Phil.  “I remember trying to express the [pain] I felt from the darkness this System had imposed upon me.  And he stopped me and said, ‘Fred, look.  We all have done bad things.  But when you came to MOVE, and you embraced John Africa’s teachings on life, these things no longer mattered.  Under the System’s influence you had no choice but to be corrupt, and in the dark, because the System is sick and corrupt.  John Africa’s influence is the influence of innocence, truth.  Once you turned around, you started to leave that [corruption] behind, and as long as you stay, work, keep on generating, you only get cleaner, and you leave that darkness behind.’  I never met a man who brought so much light into the darkness.  I love you Phil.  Long Live Revolution.  Long Live John Africa Forever.”

He then read a statement from Kristen Reed, a longtime supporter of MOVE and Mumia who now lives in New Mexico:

The best word I’ve seen in the aftermath of this tragedy that describes Phil’s open and honest demeanor is love. … You knew he would always be there for you. … To try to make sense of such a loss is impossible.  The world has lost one of its strongest, brightest and warmest souls. … Rest in Power, my friend.  You are sorely missed.

Political Prisoner Sundiata Acoli, imprisoned since 1973 as a result of a Shootout with New Jersey police that left Zayid Shakur dead and led to the conviction of himself and Assata Shakur (who subsequently escaped and now lives in Cuba) in the death of police officer Werner Foerster, released a statement through Prison Radio:

I could not have met a better comrade. … Very intelligent, good confidence and courage, yet easygoing and not concerned with his own self-importance.  Or, in other words, a comrade’s comrade, who was too soon transferred to points unknown, but left indelible favorable impressions on me.  And while I’d like to use this occasion to commemorate both the MOVE 11 [who died in the 1985 Osage Avenue bombing – Editor] and the MOVE Nine … we commemorate the dead by remembering them, by honoring them, for as long as one person remembers their name, they yet live.  We commemorate them by remembering and honoring them all, and by coming together, working together with them, for we all know MOVE Political Prisoners want freedom, all Political Prisoners want freedom, and it’s time we brought our Political Prisoners home.  So let’s … get together and make it happen, for MOVE Political Prisoners and all Political Prisoners.  Free them all.  Bring them home.  I thank you.

Mama Pam Africa, President of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ), roused the audience with her usual revolutionary fire: “Phil’s life is an example of resistance, of true resistance.  And you find that in Phil, but you find that in every last MOVE Member. … Everybody talks about the greatness of Phil, and you could talk for hours and never even get to the tip of the iceberg. … When I met MOVE and Phil, I thought that I was coming to help MOVE.  When I saw the confrontation in 1978, ’77, and police had surrounded MOVE, I thought I was out there for me to help them.  But through these years it’s been MOVE Pam Africa 1MOVE helping me, and I want everybody else to understand the battle that the MOVE Organization is doing and waging against this government is for each and every last one of us.  Inside the prison, outside the prison, and when for years, all you hear MOVE speak about is life, about Mama, about the air, the water, the soil, and that is so important.  To fight for these things, the necessities of life, is something that we all must get involved in.  I remember one time, when our sisters were fighting about water the prison, and another Political Prisoner said ‘Y’all are talking about water?  I’m talking about freeing Political Prisoners.’  Well, if you can’t make the connection between water and Political Prisoners … you’re not making the connection at all, because you need water to survive. … My brother Phil died in that prison because he wasn’t supposed to be there.  He was healthy and strong when he went in. … And they write letters about the people that are now dying in prison on a regular basis. … We say ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’; all lives matter! … The same information and love and understanding that people get on the street, is what you get from every last MOVE Member that’s in prison.  We can’t tell you enough what it means to fight for your air, your water and your soil.  That is revolution.  That is protecting yourself. … This system didn’t come after MOVE because MOVE cursed and MOVE demonstrated against Puppy Palace and things like that.  They came after MOVE because MOVE is waking people up about all life.  The Animal Rights Movement now – I learned about animal rights in 1977 when MOVE was battling toe-to-toe about animals that are in prisons, and people who see zoos as a place to go and take your family and think that the animals are doing fine.  Those are concentration camps, death camps, just like the ones that people recognize that people are in inside those prisons.  I’ll never forget, when I first encountered MOVE, they were demonstrating at Puppy Palace. … It’s MOVE who will make you understand about the necessity of life, and if you’re talking about freeing Political Prisoners, all prisoners, you’ve got to take it all the way across the board, or no one’s going to be free.  That’s what John Africa taught us. … The same monster, the same government … the same people that are doing all these things, are the same people that are doing it all the way across the board. … This fight is about each and every last person that’s in this room, and your children, your family. … And I know I appreciate what MOVE has done for me, and my children and what’s continuing to be done for me and my children. … These [people] thought when they dropped the bomb [in 1985], that would be the end of MOVE.  I’ll never forget Rizzo saying the same thing in 1978.  Now he’s gone, all the judges are gone, a lot of the cops are gone, and MOVE is stronger, and these people are getting weaker.  When you saw Occupy, that was their children coming up against them. … When you see ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’, you see their children coming up after them because of the wrong that they do. … You want to do something for Phil?  Do what Phil has done, and what Merle has done. … Stand up, continue to resist, continue to fight. … Let’s get to Philadelphia on that day [May 13, the 30th anniversary of the MOVE bombing on Osage Avenue – Editor], so that we can shut it down.  And we want them to feel us coming. … Ona MOVE, Long Live John Africa, Long Live the Power that pulls all things together.  Ona MOVE!”

Bro. Russell Shoatz, son of Political Prisoner Russell “Maroon” Shoats, followed up Mama Pam’s comments by briefly recounting his own awakening to the importance of MOVE’s decades-long resistance.  “I’m that ignorant kid, I’m that person who didn’t know.  There are still people outside this room, who don’t know.  And Pam is 110% right.  We’re talking about ‘People’s Socialism’ and ‘Maroon the Implacable’, my dad’s new book.  But I remember the conversations about MOVE, about the Africas, that were in prison.  They aren’t crazy!!  Now, the crazy done come full circle now.  Now the crazy’s come so full circle that we’ve got a whole movement talking about People’s Socialism, but they were doing that a long, long, long time ago.  But nobody is pointing back and saying ‘do you remember when MOVE was getting locked up for defending animals and everybody was saying they were crazy?’  Now we’ve got a whole movement, trying to save the planet, White folks, Asian folks, Purple folks, Green folks.  But nobody is saying ‘here’s a whole family that was bombed’ [for taking a similar, uncompromising stand – Editor]. … It ain’t about nothing but freedom.  And these people exemplify freedom.  Behind the walls, and here.  In front of your face.  You want to see freedom?  You want to see life?  Look at MOVE.  You see life.  You see freedom.  Long Live John Africa.  Ona MOVE!”

To close out the event, the Seeds of Wisdom, the MOVE Organization’s original youth group who are now adolescents and young adults, gathered on the stage and recited, in unison, the following creed:

In MOVE Law we trust.
All things in order of life.
The Power of Truth is Final.
Long Live MOVE.
Long Live John Africa’s Revolution.
Long Live John Africa.
Long Live John Africa.
Long Live John Africa.
Ona MOVE!

On Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 12:00 Noon, supporters and activists will gather again to commemorate the 30-Year Anniversary of The May 13 Massacre: The 1985 Bombing of the MOVE Organization by the City of Philadelphia.  The event will be held at First District Plaza, 3801 Market St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  For more details, be sure to visit http://www.onamove.com or the MOVE Facebook page, www.facebook.com/picturethestruggle.

 

 

 

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, http://njpop.org 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, http://blacklivesmatter.com and the Washington Peace Center, http://washingtonpeacecenter.net), 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

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

A Road to Pan-Afrikan Unity

By Bro. Cliff
Editor, KUUMBAReport
Online
cliff@kuumbareport.com

I’ve been reading a lot of emails and other communication that, thankfully, have started to move away from personal arguments to what I believe is a principled discussion of the ideas we all have for organizing Afrikan people in the Afrikan Diaspora as well as in the Mother Continent.  While I agree with many of us that immediate concerns such as jobs and wealth are important, they will be nothing but band-aids for a sucking chest wound unless we put together a real organizing model from top to bottom that will work to bring the Pan-Afrikan World to total freedom.  I’d like to share with you one piece of that total model, as well as a few thoughts on how it could work as part of a much larger and more comprehensive plan, based on what I believe is (or at least should be) a familiar conceptual model for organizing the Afrikan Diaspora and Afrikans in the Continent.

I want to start by telling you about an organization known as the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC, http://srdcinternational.org).  It is primarily based in the United States, but in realizing that the Afrikan-American population comprises only about 40 million of a total of 300-million-plus Afrikan Descendants around the world living outside the Mother Continent, this organization is dedicated to the organization and uplift of the entire Afrikan Diaspora, and to the need for the Afrikan Diaspora itself to control its own method of organization and uplift.

SRDC: One Major Plan for Organizing the Afrikan Diaspora

Since the African Union added Article 3[q] to its Constitutive Act in 2003, which invited the Afrikan Diaspora to participate “in the development of the African Continent and the building of the African Union”, the effort on the part of the SRDC Logo Official 2013Afrikan Diaspora to respond to that invitation has been pursued.  In April 2006, a Pan-Afrikan Roundtable was held in Los Angeles, California, at which the AU’s definition of the Afrikan Diaspora as “people of African descent and heritage, living outside the Continent, regardless of their country of citizenship, who are willing to assist in the development of the African Continent and the building of the African Union” was accepted (though it was acknowledged at that time to be in need of review in the future) and the effort to organize the Afrikan Diaspora began in earnest.

The first objective of the Afrikan Diaspora, according to the African Union’s “roadmap” for our incorporation in the AU, is the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), a council of Representatives from civil society organizations, activists, the general public, the “people on the ground” as one might say.  The AU’s requirement is that the Afrikan Diaspora develop “modalities for election of Representatives” to ECOSOCC (as stated in the Statutes of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, available on the AU’s website).  In other words, Representatives to ECOSOCC cannot be anointed, appointed or self-proclaimed.  They must have been elected by their people, and the Afrikan Diaspora must develop a means to accomplish this and submit that method to the AU for their review and approval.  Because the Afrikan Diaspora currently has only been designated to receive 20 seats out of the 150 total in ECOSOCC, that means that we have to make those 20 seats count by finding serious, quality Representatives while adhering to the standard that they must be elected positions.  But how do we do that?

SRDC, in partnership with a number of other Pan-Afrikan organizations in the US, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Canada and Europe, has developed a plan in which we begin by organizing our communities at the local level.  In the US, that means state-by-state, while in other parts of the Afrikan Diaspora, this may mean organizing province-by-province (as in Canada), island-by-island (say, in the Caribbean) or country-by-country. 

Each local organization determines a local Facilitator, a Community Council of Elders and two (2) Elected Representatives, that is, they are elected through a process in which the community in that local area is invited to a public forum where they learn about the effort, nominate and elect people from their own community to take the needs as well as the ideas of that community to the national, and even to the international level.  The Council of Elders is needed to provide their guidance and wisdom, and to make sure that those who are nominated to be Representatives are indeed qualified, serious activists, thinkers and workers and not opportunists or manipulators as happens too often when our collective guard is down.

Once a reasonable number of local organizations are formed in a large country (like the US) or a sub-region, a National or Sub-Regional Summit is held to allow local organizations to share information, develop a more consistent organizing strategy and determine who the best Representatives from that sub-region, from among the local Representatives who were elected by their own communities, will be.  Those national and sub-regional Representatives would then meet in a Full Diaspora Summit which would lead to a group of Representatives who take the Pan-Afrikan Agenda (the needs, issues and constructive ideas of all the communities in the Afrikan Diaspora) to the African Union in this case, but this model could also be used to develop Representative Councils outside the AU if need be.

SRDC is currently in the process of building this model and putting it into practice in the US, while affiliated organizations are doing similar work in Canada, Central America, South America and Europe.  AU member nations are also pursuing a process whereby similar Representative assemblies are being developed in the Continent.  SRDC’s method for organizing the Afrikan Diaspora has been submitted to the AU since 2007, and the AU’s official assessment of the proposed method is expected later this year.  In the meantime, though, SRDC realizes that it cannot wait on the bureaucratic process to unfold before implementing this method.  If necessary, adjustments to that method will be made, but in the meantime, the work to organize the Diaspora must move forward.  In late July SRDC concluded its seventh National Summit, which included contingents from several US states, and affiliates from Canada, from the Caribbean and from other Pan-Afrikan organizations.  SRDC’s work continues apace, and they invite you to come and work this model with them.  Contact organizingsrdc@aol.com or srdcpub@gmail.com if you want to connect with an SRDC organization where you are, or if you want to create one if there isn’t one where you live.

A Part of The Bigger Picture

This portion of the discussion is based entirely on my personal opinions as a Pan-Afrikan activist, and does not necessarily represent the positions of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus or the Pan African Descendants Union.

The work of creating a Representative-based method and strategy for organizing the Afrikan Diaspora is only a part of the whole picture we all must paint together.  There are clearly other means and avenues we must pursue if Spokes of the Wheel General GraphicAfrikan people are to fully realize the freedom, self-determination, justice and prosperity we all need and deserve.  Businesspeople who have an Afrikan-centered worldview are needed to help us pursue economic development, but not Western European development in blackface; rather, it must be culturally and spiritually relevant to Afrikan people, and must be pursued in a way that will not oppress and exploit us or defile the environment of the Continent and planet which we all call home.  We also need our Spiritual Community, which must include the Christian, Muslim and Hebrew elements but also ancient Afrikan spiritual traditions such as the Yoruba, the Akan, the Vodou, the Santeria and others, to find a way to come together in a true Spiritual Alliance.  We need our Cultural Community to help keep us inspired creatively and to remind us of what and who we are working, building and fighting for.  Our revolutionary and direct-action groups in the Diaspora and in the Continent that are all fighting for the people must find a way to work cooperatively if we are to reach our full potential for Pan-Afrikan Unity.  We need Legal Warriors who are ready to defend us, our activists and our interests in domestic and international courts.  Our scientists, doctors, agriculturalists, engineers, economists and teachers must work together more effectively so that we will have and develop the knowledge base we will need to chart our course of independence from the West as well as the East.  We need our Elders, our Women and our Youth, as well as greater strength of will and strength of morality among our Men.  We need a strong Pan-Afrikan Media to ensure that our people are properly informed about what is happening in the world around us.  And we need a strong moral center to help guide it all from an ethical standpoint; I personally think the Ancient Afrikan moral system of Ma’at would be perfect there.

There are so many different areas in which the work needs to be done, but they must all find a way to work cooperatively toward the total goal of Afrikan Unity, Afrikan Self-Determination, Afrikan Prosperity, Afrikan Morality and Afrikan Justice.  While some may see the missions of the different organizations as a series of roads that cross each other (and thus lead to a spirit of rivalry and competition, since everyone wants their “traffic light” to be green always), I prefer to see our various organizations as occupying spots on a large circle, the objective of a free, prosperous and just Afrika in the center of that circle and their missions as lines that extend from the circle to the center.  The conceptual Spokes of the Wheel Bicycle Wheel Graphicimage is that of a bicycle wheel.  A bicycle wheel is strong only when all the spokes are strong, the wheel is straight and even, and it can roll smoothly, allowing us to ride it to victory.  But when spokes are cut, that wheel bends and is unable to roll smoothly.  The result is what we have been getting: we crash on the side of the Road to History while everyone else passes us by.

There is currently a “Super-Coalition” that is pursuing such a vision of Pan-Afrikan Cooperation, based on the principle of “Unity Without Uniformity”.  It is called the Pan Afrikan Descendants Union (PADU).  And there certainly are, or will be, other honest efforts by principled activists to build cooperative coalitions among our organizations.  If you want to find out more about PADU, feel free to contact me by email and I can tell you more about PADU and how to contact it officially.

The mindset we have too often insisted upon following until now, that of rivalry and competition, has been the equivalent of taking a set of wire cutters to that Wheel of Pan-Afrikan Unity.  This is a large part of why our organizing efforts have failed so many times, and that mindset has frankly got to stop.

Spokes of the Wheel Where Do YOU Fit InWhy do we seem to gravitate toward the politics of competition and rivalry instead of the politics of teamwork, mutual respect and Ujima?  Why have we apparently insisted upon following such a failed concept for so long?  I chalk it up to a Western-influenced mindset that is based too much on a My-Way-Or-The-Highway philosophy that is based largely on individual and organizational ego.  We have to move away from ego (Some people say “EGO” stands for “Edging God Out”) and toward coalition-building and the realization that none of us has all the answers.  We also tend to hold on to personal beefs and arguments, based on something that someone did or said in the past, that quite frankly are small compared to what our true enemy has done and continues to do to us.  We have to learn to atone for those misdeeds we have done to others and to forgive others for those things they have done to us that we didn’t appreciate.

We need to finally decide that truly coming together in a spirit of Pan-Afrikan Unity is something we really want to do.  Every time Black Handshake 1we fail to answer that call is another way in which we disrespect our Ancestors and Elders, we leave our struggling Brothers and Sisters in deprivation and danger, and we betray our children and those unborn.  Let’s start, today, to chart that course toward Pan-Afrikan Unity, Prosperity, Freedom, Truth, Justice and Righteousness.

Peace and Power,
Bro. Cliff
Editor, KUUMBAReport Online
http://kuumbareport.com
cliff@kuumbareport.com

 

 

Africa: Claim No Easy Victories

The following commentary comes from the web site www.africafocus.orgWe have found AfricaFocus to be a valuable source of analysis of many of the issues that impact upon Afrika and Afrikan people today, from Cairo to Cape Town, from Senegal to Somalia, and across the Afrikan Diaspora.  The analyses, edited by William Minter, are sometimes controversial, but they are always thoroughly sourced and footnoted, and they examine today’s events in the context of Afrika’s historical and sociopolitical realities.  This commentary features William Minter’s reflection on the immortal words of Ancestor Amilcar Cabral, which have been paraphrased so often that they have practically become a mantra of Pan-Afrikan organizing: “Tell no lies … claim no easy victories.”

Africa: Claim No Easy Victories

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AfricaFocus Bulletin: June 19, 2013 (130619) (Reposted from sources cited below)

AfricaFocus Editor’s Note

“Don’t tell lies. Fight lies when they are told. Don’t disguise difficulties, errors, and failures. Do not trust in easy victories nor in appearances. … Practice and defend the truth, always the truth, to militants, leaders, and the people, whatever the difficulties the knowledge of the truth can create.” – Amilcar Cabral, 1965

These words from Amilcar Cabral, more familiar in the shortened version “Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories,” have inspired many not only in Africa but also around the world. More than forty years after Cabral was assassinated and almost fifty years after he wrote these words, his counsel remains highly relevant to all seeking not only to analyze reality but to change it.

The brief essay below was written at the invitation of Firoze Manji and Bill Fletcher Jr. for their forthcoming book, with almost 40 contributors, due to be published later this year. I entitled my reflection “Telling No Lies is Not Easy.”

Coincidentally I am reading the new book by Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t. Silver is probably best known for his 538 blog in the New York Times ( http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/) which correctly predicted the electoral votes in the 2012 election [personal aside: my son, whose election blog (http://www.abulsme.com/tag/2012-electoral- college/) also correctly predicted the electoral votes with a similar methodology, gave me the Silver book for father’s day.)

In many respects, of course, Cabral and Silver have little in common. But Silver’s book, which deals with predictions in fields as widely dispersed as baseball, politics, economics, the weather, and climate change, clearly echoes several of Cabral’s central themes. Pay attention to reality, realize it is probably more complex than you think, and, above all, recognize that you may be wrong and be willing to correct course accordingly.

Silver cites a retrospective study of predictions by television pundits, showing that the most popular and self-confident pundits were also the least likely to make correct predictions. Few of us may aspire to be television pundits, but we should all regularly remind ourselves to pay attention to new data and new insights and to think again.

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Telling No Lies is Not Easy: A Reflection on Following Cabral’s Watchwords
by William Minter
Editor, AfricaFocus Bulletin ( http://www.africafocus.org)

[Chapter to be published in the forthcoming book Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral, Edited by Firoze Manji and Bill Fletcher Jr. Dakar: CODESRIA/Daraja Press, 2013.  William Minter’s most recent book is No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000, coedited with Gail Hovey and Charles Cobb, Jr.]

Amilcar Cabral 6Although I was engaged with liberation struggles in Mozambique and Angola from the mid-1960s, I never had the opportunity to meet Amilcar Cabral. Nor have I ever visited the countries for whose freedom he lived and died. But like countless others in Africa and around the world, I have taken inspiration from the clear-minded guidance and analysis he provided while leading the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

For me the watchwords from Cabral that have meant the most are the call to “tell no lies, claim no easy victories.” There are many characteristics required for effective participation in struggles for social justice. But one is surely the determination to base one’s actions on an analysis of concrete realties, be honest with ourselves about difficulties we face, and, as Cabral noted in another context, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward … to preserve the future of their children.” [Guinea-Bissau: Toward Final Victory!: Selected Speeches and Documents from PAIGC  (Richmond, Canada: Liberation Support Movement, 1974), 32. Although appearing in the collection in the same text as “tell no lies,” this is in fact from another document, the Portuguese original of which I have been unable to locate.]

While I have often cited these words, the request for this article prompted me to look a bit deeper into the context and to seek out the Portuguese-language original of the “General Watchwords” for the party from which they were taken. Both the Portuguese and my translation into English are included at the end of this article.  It is clear “tell no lies” was not an isolated slogan, but part of a complex reflection on the need for criticism and self-criticism among members of the movement.

In trying to apply those guidelines today, in a context almost fifty years removed, we must, as Cabral insisted, take concrete realities into account. We  are far from the era of disciplined and apparently unified liberation movements (with both their strengths and weaknesses). While the goal of national political freedom has been attained, the broader goals for which Cabral fought are far from achieved, not least in Guinea-Bissau, which was the terrain of his party’s armed struggle.

With globalized communications, his further admonitions, such as “Do not hide anything from the masses of the people” and “Practice and defend the truth, always the truth, to militants, leaders, and the people, whatever the difficulties the knowledge of the truth can create” are just as hard to implement as in his time, and perhaps even more so. While PAIGC militants may have been able to address “the people” in gatherings in the bush, the constituencies for today’s social justice movements are almost always dispersed and diverse enough that they can hardly be gathered in one place. Messages through multiple technologies to “militants” and “the people” are inevitably seen,  heard, and interpreted or misinterpreted by multiple other audiences as well.

That said, I am convinced that the fundamental principles of Cabral’s guidance on criticism and self-criticism still apply. And these watchwords fit within the broader context of his determination to base strategy and action on sober analysis of realities. [See also “Start out from the reality of our land – to be realists,” in Amilcar Cabral, Unity and Struggle (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979) 44-63).] It is an eminently “scientific” approach, where theory is used not as a lazy substitute for empirical investigation but as a guide to it. It is an approach which recognized that the same formula could not be applied to situations as different as GuineaBissau and Cape Verde, or even to different regions within Guinea-Bissau.

It is also one in which fighting against an “enemy” never obscured the recognition that enemy forces were composed of human beings, many of whom might become friends under other circumstances. In this, Cabral shared the conviction of leaders such as Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique, that distinguishing friends and enemies on the basis of race, nationality, institutional affiliation, or other generic characteristics was a fundamental mistake. And that assuming individuals and political structures could not change was a recipe for failure in the struggle. “Know well our own strength and the enemy strength” was also a mandate to know how to win new allies, including among the enemy forces themselves.

This short essay can hardly be adequate for an extensive discussion of the application of Cabral’s principles to specific situations facing us today. But it would be incomplete without at least some mention of areas in which, in my opinion, progressive forces have been particularly weak in recent years, evading Cabral’s imperatives to investigate concrete realities and to speak the truth.

Let me very briefly address two areas, as examples. One concerns the international debates about political conflicts in Africa, including recent or forthcoming military interventions. The second is the sensitive issue of whether progressive as well as mainstream nongovernmental organizations are willing to live up to Cabral’s directives about truth-telling; or, in other words, to practice for themselves the accountability and transparency they freely demand of African and Western governments.

Every internal conflict on the continent features different narratives from parties to the conflict, which are taken up and propagated by international allies. It would be presumptuous for anyone to assume that there is one easy “truth” in the conflicts in Zimbabwe, Libya, or Mali – to cite only a few prominent examples. The only country of the three I know enough about and have enough personal trusted contacts in to write about at any length is Zimbabwe (see, for example, my 2010 article with Briggs Bomba: http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/zim1004.php). But in reposting material from other sources in AfricaFocus Bulletin, and providing brief introductory editor’s notes, I have to distinguish between analyses I regard as worth reading and those which are so dubious they should rank as “lies”, or at least, using a term also cited by Cabral, as based on superficial “appearances.” [You can see what I decided I thought worth reading, among sources available to me, at http://www.africafocus.org/country/countries.php, and clicking on the relevant country name for the AfricaFocus Bulletins on the country.]

Perhaps I am remiss in not naming names falling among the latter. But they include those who, decades after ZANU-PF ceased to be a liberation movement to become the enforcer of a new repressive and oligarchical system, insist on supporting the incumbent regime in Zimbabwe simply because its critics include Western governments. It includes those who see developments in Libya as primarily the outcome of a Western plot and disregard the agency of Libyans themselves in his overthrow of Qaddafi, or dismiss his opponents as Western dupes. And it includes those who think there is any easy answer to the current question of whether to intervene and who should intervene against the Islamic extremists who have devastated Northern Mali.

Rejecting such interpretations as “lies”, or based on “appearances”, does not imply that there are not also real questions about the motives and strategies of other opposing forces, both internal and international. It is not a blanket endorsement of those who now oppose ZANU-PF or the Islamists in Northern Mali, or those who contributed to the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime. It is simply to say that in none of these situations, or in other conflicts on the continent, is simply opposing what the United States does or what the West does a substitute for analysis of the concrete realities of each country, its surrounding region, and changing international power balances.  Progressives may and will reach different conclusions about the best course of action after making such analyses. But the ideological shortcut of making judgments based on “ideas in people’s heads” rather than analysis of complex realities, is clearly one that Amilcar Cabral would have rejected.

Finally, a few incomplete and admittedly inadequate words about non-governmental organizations and the pressures that work against transparency and accountability to broader constituencies. A high proportion of such groups, both mainstream and progressive, are governed by selfperpetuating boards of directors. For funding they depend either on a small number of large institutional donors (foundations or indirect government support) or fundraising appeals to a large number of individual donors, most of whom have no role apart from sending in their donations. In most cases, membership dues from a engaged and active membership are only a small proportion of income at best, and the role of such stakeholders in governance is most often token at best and commonly none at all. The boards of directors therefore may have little sense of accountability to their activist supporters or feel any real obligation to keep them informed.

It would be a mistake to interpret accountability and transparency as a dogmatic mandate to never have private internal discussions or to “tell everything”, regardless of the consequences. Despite his call below to tell the truth, regardless of the difficulties it may cause, Cabral was well aware of the need for discretion in public discussion of sensitive issues, such as the difficulties his party faced from host countries such as Senegal and Guinea (Conakry), or the support the struggle received from Cuba. Nevertheless, I think many nongovernmental organizations, including progressive ones, most often err on the side of secrecy in speaking with their supporters about difficulties faced.

For much of the history of the organizations with which I have been most involved over my time as an activist, most notably the predecessor organizations of Africa Action (Africa Fund, American Committee on Africa, Washington Office on Africa, and the Africa Policy Information Center), this structural flaw was balanced by the fact that foundation income was minimal and government income non-existent. The bulk of individual donations, both large and small, came from engaged activists who expected and received accountability from those governing the organizations, including regular reports on program and financial status.

Yet all progressive activists are well aware of crises in multiple organizations run by progressive people whose good intentions we respect, in which the constituencies who have helped build the organization are kept in the dark about current developments reflecting weaknesses. It would not be appropriate to go into details, so as not to violate Cabral’s companion insistence in the text below that criticism should not edge over into “intrigues.” But it is surely no secret to anyone concerned, for example, that those who contributed their writing skills to Pambazuka News over more than a decade have had no report from the governing board of Fahamu on the crisis which led to the resignation of the founding editor.

Most painful to many of us involved in Africa solidarity work in the United States has been the prolonged crisis at Africa Action. In August 2010 staff unexpectedly failed to receive their salaries. It was subsequently discovered that a reserved endowment had been fully drained, in part by fraud by an office manager and in part by use of endowment funds for operating expenses. Since then, the organization’s board has managed to keep a shell of the organization in existence. Yet more than two years later there has still been no coherent accounting to the organization’s constituency of what happened nor a strategy for the future which could address the crisis of confidence among former staff, board, and supporters of the organization. Despite the good intentions of the board members, it is likely that the failure to follow Cabral’s advice by confronting hard realities and “telling the truth” will have done as much or more damage to the organization as did the original financial crisis.

I am well aware that these brief remarks fall far short of any “full truth” or even a comprehensive analysis of any of the issues raised. But hopefully they may serve at least as a call to follow Cabral’s example in analyzing concrete realities more deeply rather than relying on appearances, and in using criticism constructively to learn from our own and other’s mistakes.

William Minter, Editor, AfricaFocus


Excerpts from Chapter VIII, “Apply Party Principles in Practice,” in General Watchwords, November 1965.

Portuguese original is in “Palavras de Ordem Gerais,” in P.A.I.G.C.: unidade e luta / Amilcar Cabral (Lisbon: Nova Aurora, 1974), 9-66.

English translation below by William Minter

[Alternate English translation of full text of “General Watchwords” is available in Amilcar Cabral, Unity and Struggle (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979), pages 246-249.]

1. Develop the spirit of criticism among activists and officials.

Give everyone at each level, the opportunity to criticize, give their opinion about the work and the behavior or actions of others. Accept criticism, wherever it comes from, as a contribution to improving the work of the Party, as an expression of active interest in the internal life of our organization. Remember always that to criticize is not to speak ill or engage in intrigues. Criticism is and must be the act of expressing one’s frank opinion openly, in front of those concerned, based on the facts and in the spirit of justice, in order to evaluate the thought and action of others, with the aim of improving that thought and action. Criticism is to build, to help build, to show genuine interest in the work of others and the improvement of that work.

Combat severely evil tongues, intrigues, ‘so-and-so says,’ unfair and unfounded criticism. To evaluate the thought and action of a comrade does not necessarily mean to speak ill of them. To speak highly, praise, encourage, or stimulate is also part of a critique. Always be vigilant against personal vanity and pride, but don’t stint on praise for those who deserve it. Offer praise gladly and frankly to all those whose thought and action serves well the progress of the party. …

Learn from the mistakes we make or that others make, to avoid making new mistakes, to not fall into the traps that others have fallen in. Criticizing someone does not mean setting yourself against them or victimizing them. It is showing that we are all interested in their work, that we are part of one corporate body, that one person’s mistakes affect us all, and that we are vigilant, as friends and comrades, to help them overcome their shortcomings and increasingly contribute to the improvement of the Party.

But critique (proof of the willingness of others to help us or our willingness to help others) should be supplemented by self-criticism (proof of our own willingness to help ourselves improve our thinking and our action).

Develop in all militants, leaders, and combatants, the spirit of self-criticism: the ability of each to make a concrete analysis of their own work, to distinguish good from bad, to recognize their own mistakes and to discover the causes and consequences of these errors. Making a self-criticism is not just to say “yes, I admit my fault, my mistake, and I apologize,” while getting ready to commit new faults and new errors. It is not to pretend to repent, while still being convinced that the other person just doesn’t understand. Nor should self-criticism be performed as a ritual, while continuing to make mistakes.

Self-criticism is not doing penance. It is an act of honesty, courage, camaraderie, and awareness of our responsibilities, a proof of our willingness to do our duty and do it well, a manifestation of our determination to be better every day and give our best contribution to the advancement of our Party. An honest self-criticism does not require absolution: it is a commitment we make to our conscience not to commit more errors, to accept our responsibilities to others, and to mobilize all our capabilities to do more and better. Self-criticism is to rebuild oneself to better serve.

4. Practice revolutionary democracy in all aspects of the life of the party.

Everyone responsible for leadership must assume their responsibilities with courage, should demand the respect of others for their activity, and should respect the work of others. Do not hide anything from the masses of the people. Don’t tell lies. Fight lies when they are told. Don’t disguise difficulties, errors, and failures. Do not trust in easy victories nor in appearances.

Revolutionary democracy demands that we fight opportunism and not tolerate errors, baseless excuses, friendships and camaraderie based on interests contrary to the interests of the Party and the people, or the conviction that any leader is irreplaceable.

Practice and defend the truth, always the truth, to militants, leaders, and the people, whatever the difficulties the knowledge of the truth can create.


Portuguese original:

1. Desenvolver o espirito da crítica entre os militantes e responsáveis.

Dar a todos, em cada nivel, a oportunidade de críticar, de dar a sua opinião sobre o trabalho e o comportamento ou a acção dos outros. Aceitar a crítica, donde quer qua ela venha, como uma contribuição para melhorar o trabalho do Partido, como uma manifestação de interesse active pela vida interna da nossa organização. Lembrar-se sempre que críticar não é dizer mal nem fazer intrigas. Críticar é e deve ser o acto de exprimir uma. opinião franca, aberta, diante dos interessados, com base nos factos e com espírito de justiça, para apreciar o pensamento e a acção dos outros, com o objectivo de melhorar esse pensamento e essa acção. Críticar é construir, ajudar a construir, fazer prova de interesse sincero pelo trabalho dos outros, pela melhoria desse trabalho.

Combater severamente a má lingua, a mania das intrigas, o ‘diz-que-diz,’ as críticas injustas e sem fundamento. Apreciar o pensamento e a acção dum camarada não é necessariamente dizer mal. Dizer bem, elogiar, encorajar, estimuar—também é críticar. Sempre vigilantes contra as vaidades e orgulhos pessoais, devemos no entanto poupar elogios a quem os merece. Elogiar com alegria, com franqueza. diante dos outros, todo aquele cujo pensamento e acção servem bem o progresso do Partido. Devemos igualmente aplicar uma crítica justa, denunciar francamente, censurar, condenar e exigir a condenação de todos aqueles que praticam actos contrários ao progresso e aos interesses do Partido; combater cara a cara os erros e faltas, ajudar os outros a melhorar o seu trabalho. Tirar lição de cada erro que cometemos ou que os outros cometem, para evitar cometer novos erros, para cairmos nas asneiras em que os outros cairam. críticar um camarada não quer dizer pôr-se contra o camarada, fazer um sacrificio em que o camarada é a vïtima: é mostrar-lhe que estamos todos interessados no seu trabalho, que somos um e um só corpo, que os erros dele prejudicam a nós todos, e que estamos vigilantes, como amigos e camaradas, para ajudé-lo a vencer as suas deficiências e a contribuir cada vez mais para que o Partido seja cada vez melhor. …

Mas a crítica (prova da vontade dos outros de nos ajudar ou da nossa vontade de ajudar os outros) deve ser completada pela autocrítica (prova da. nossa própria vontade de nos ajudarmos a nós mesmos a melhorar o nosso pensamento e a nossa acção).

Desenvolver em todos os militantes, responséveis e combatentes, o espirito da autocrítica: a. capacidade de cada um fazer uma análise concreta do seu pr6prio trabalho, de distinguir nele o que está bem do que está mal, de reconhecer os seus próprios erros e de descobrir as causas e as consequências desses erros. Fazer uma autocrítica. néo é apenas dizer sim, reconheço a minha falta, o meu erro—e peço perdão, ficando logo pronto para cometer novas faltas, novos erros. Não é fingir-se arrependido do mal que fez, e ficar, no fundo, convencido de que os outros é que n~ao o compreendem. Nem tão-pouco fazer autocrítica e fazer uma cerimónia para depois poder ficar com a. consciéncia tranquila e continuar a cometer erros.

Autocríticar-se não é pagar um responso ou uma bula nem é fazer penitência. A autocrítica é um acto de franqueza, de coragem, de camaradagem e de consciência das nossas responsabilidades, uma. prova. da nossa vontade de cumprir e de cumprir bem, uma manifestação da nossa. determinação de ser cada dia melhor e dar uma. melhor contribuição para o progresso do nosso Partido. Uma autocrítica sincera não exige necessariamente uma absolvição: é um compromisso que fazemos com a nossa consciência. para não cometermos mais erros; é fazer aceitar as nossas responsabilidades diante dos outros e mobilizar todas as nossas capacidades para. fazer mais e melhor. Autocríticar-se é reconstruir-se a si mesmo, para melhor servir.

4. Praticar, em todos os aspectos da vida do Partido, a democracia revolucionária.

Cada responsável deve assumir com coragem as suas responsabilidades, deve exigir dos outros o respeito pela sua actividade e deve respeitar a actividade dos outros. Não esconder nada às massas populares, não mentir, combater a mentira, não disfarçar as dificuldades, os erros e insucessos, não acreditar em vitárias fáceis, nem nas aparêcias.

A democracia revolucionária exige que devemos combater o oportunismo, a. tolerância diante dos erros, as desculpas sem fundamento, as amizades e a camaradagem com base em interesses contrários aos do Partido e do povo, a mania de que um ou outro responszivel é insubstituivel no seu posto.

Praticar e defender a verdade, sempre a verdade, diante dos militantes, dos responséveis, do povo, sejam quais forem as dificuldades que o conhecimento da verdade possa criar.
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