50 Years in the Making, We Must Again Confront and Reject U.S. Warmongering

Source:  Black Alliance for Peace (BAP)

ajama baraka.jpg

The need to break the silence

50 years ago, on April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King reconnected with the radical black tradition by adding his voice of opposition to the murderous U.S. war machine unleashed on the people of Vietnam. For Dr. King, his silence on the war in Vietnam had become an irreconcilable moral contradiction. He declared that it was hypocritical for him to proclaim the superior value of non-violence as a life principle in the U.S. and remain silent as the U.S. government engaged in genocidal violence against a people whose only crime was to believe that they could escape the clutches of French and then U.S. colonialism.

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems,” Dr. King said. “I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, ‘What about Vietnam?’ They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

In his speech at Riverside Church, King not only criticized U.S. actions in Vietnam but identified the cultural pathologies at the center of U.S. society. “I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values,” he said. “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

50 years later, what rational person can honestly argue against the position that the U.S. is still the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet?

A militant anti-war and anti-imperialist movement

 But what existed in 1967 that helped put moral and political pressure on King was a militant anti-war and anti-imperialist movement; a movement that in many respects was born out of the black-led pro-democracy and social justice struggles and organizing in the South. Many of the young white activists who took up opposition to the war and built such organizations as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) cut their activist teeth while working with black activists in the South. From the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) to the Northern-based Black Panther party, the cutting edge of the Black liberation movement took an early and resolute oppositional stance against the war on Vietnam.

After almost three decades of pro-war conditioning by both corporate parties and the corporate media coupled with cultural desensitization from almost two decades of unrelenting war, opposition to militarism and war is negligible among the general population. The black public has not been immune to these cultural and political changes. And with the ascendancy of the corporatist President Barack Obama, during whose tenure the U.S. continued its militaristic bent unabated and in fact ratcheted up its aggressive posturing in some parts of the globe, particularly in the Middle East, there was a decidedly rightward shift in the consciousness of the black public and a significantly dampened anti-war sentiment among black people.

Politically the result has been disastrous for the society and for the U.S. anti-war movement. The bi-partisan warmongering over the last two decades has met very little opposition, and the traditional anti-war stance of the black population has almost disappeared.

Opposition growing among young people

But once again we are seeing opposition to militarism, violence and war developing among young people. And once again we are seeing young black voices making the connections between opposition to domestic state violence and the moral necessity to be in opposition to the U.S. war machine reflected in the policy statements from the Movement for Black Lives, BYP 100 and the Black Lives Matter network. Those positions are supported by the Black Left Unity Network, the Black is Back Coalition and other black formations. What is needed at this historical moment is for those forces to be galvanized and given more strategic focus.

What is needed is a Black Alliance for Peace (BAP).

The BAP must be a people(s)-centered human rights project against War, Repression, and imperialism that seeks to recapture and redevelop the historic anti-war, anti-imperialist, and pro-peace positions of the radical black movement. So, on April 4, we are calling for a new alliance to help revive the black anti-war and peace movement in the black community as an essential component of a revived broader anti-war and pro-peace movement. Moreover, this new movement is even clearer on the connection between state violence and repression and the global war-mongering of the U.S. The pivot to Asia, the rotating of NATO troops on the borders of Russia, the destabilization of the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM), continued support for apartheid Israel, police executions and impunity in the U.S. and mass incarceration are all understood to be part of one oppressive, desperate structure of global white supremacy.

Dr. King also called upon the nation to understand the link between the unfulfilled economic needs of the majority of the population ground down by the ravages of an unforgiving racialized capitalism and the ruling class commitment to direct public funds toward militarism. His call for a poor people’s campaign was the human rights foundation of his anti-war position.

Militarism has a direct impact on working people and the poor. Even Republican president Dwight Eisenhower understood this when he issued what in today’s right-wing U.S. culture would read as a radical statement:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

There must be an alternative to the neoliberalism of the Democrats and the nationalist-populism of Trump. We need an independent movement to address both the economic needs of poor and working people and the escalating attacks on the Black community, immigrants, women, unions, the LGBTQ community, refugees, Muslims, the physically and mentally challenged, youth, students, the elderly, Mother Earth – all of us. We need a new movement to end the wars on black people and people around the world. The BAP is a significant step toward helping to revive the anti-war, anti-imperialist and anti-state-repression movement in the U.S. Let us on this 50th anniversary re-dedicate ourselves to building a movement for social justice that rejects the de-humanizing effects of war on everyone.

Ajamu Baraka, National Organizer, Black Alliance for Peace

Black Caucus Sells Out Its Constituents Again – to the Cops

Source:  Black Agenda Report
May 22 2018

Glen Ford, BAR executive editor

black caucus sells out.jpg

“This bill will be received as yet another attack on these communities and threatens to exacerbate what is already a discriminatory system of mass incarceration in this country.”

The bigger the Congressional Black Caucus gets, the more it betrays its constituents. Last Wednesday, three out of every four members of the Black Caucus in the U.S. House voted to make assaults on police officers a federal hate crime. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 is totally superfluous, since cops are already the most protected “class” in the nationNearly a million sworn officers inhabit a legal dominion of their own, where immunity from prosecution for even the most heinous crimes is the norm. As People for the American Way point out : “All fifty states have laws that enhance penalties for people who commit offenses against law enforcement officers, including for homicide and assault,” and federal laws already “impose a life sentence or death penalty on persons convicted of first-degree murder of federal employees or officers, killing state and local law enforcement officers or other employees assisting with federal investigations, and killing officers of the U.S. courts.” However, like the Israel lobby, the cop lobby demands abject, groveling obeisance from the people’s representatives — lest there be any doubt as to who rules in either of the world’s white settler states.

“Nearly a million sworn officers inhabit a legal dominion of their own, where immunity from prosecution for even the most heinous crimes is the norm.”

The Protect and Serve Act, which sailed through the U.S. House on a vote of 382 to 35 , is a “Blue Lives Matter” bill that serves no other purpose than to give a giant middle finger to the Black Lives Matter movement. When the cops demanded to know, Which side are you on? three-quarters of the Congressional Black Caucus kissed the feet of the Blue Beast: “Your side, Boss!”

The Ugly

Twenty-nine CBC members paid homage to the world’s largest police state.

Alma Adams (NC); Joyce Beatty (OH); Sanford Bishop (GA); Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE); G.K. Butterfield (NC); Andre Carson (IN); Emanuel Cleaver (MO); James Clyburn (SC); Elijah Cummings (MD); Danny Davis (IL); Val Butler Demings (FL); Keith Ellison (MN); Dwight Evans (PA); Marcia Fudge (OH); Al Green (TX); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Hakeem Jeffries (NY); Hank Johnson (GA); Robin Kelly (IL); Brenda Lawrence (FL); Al Lawson (FL); John Lewis (GA); Donald McEachin (VA); Gregory Meeks (NY); Bobby Rush (IL); David Scott (GA); Terri Sewell (AL); Bennie Thompson (MS); Marc Veasey (TX)

The Worthless

Three Black Caucus members did not bother to vote, which was the same as casting a “Yea” for the Act.

Anthony Brown (MD); Cedric Richmond (LA); Frederica Wilson (FL)

The Few That Did Not “Comply”

Below are the 11 members that stood up the police lobby, voting “Nay.”

Karen Bass (CA); Yvette Clarke (NY); Wm. Lacy Clay (MO); Alcee Hastings (FL); Johnson, E. B.(TX); Barbara Lee (CA); Gwen Moore (WI); Donald Payne (NJ); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA); Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ)

A Slap in the Face

Donald Trump and three-quarters* of the Black Caucus are on the same side, despite all the Democratic rhetoric seeking to distinguish between the two parties. When it comes to the Mass Black Incarceration State, Black Democrats are First Responders, ever ready to buttress the power, prestige and immunities of the cops and jailers.

As People for the American Way, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights put it : “Rather than focusing on policies that address issues of police excessive force, biased policing, and other police practices that have failed these communities, the Protect and Serve Act’s aim is to further criminalize. This bill will be received as yet another attack on these communities and threatens to exacerbate what is already a discriminatory system of mass incarceration in this country.”

Worse than Misleaders, the CBC is the Enemy

The advent of the Black Lives Matter movement has wrought virtually no change at all in the political behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus; collectively, they are just as treacherous as in the pre-Ferguson days. Back in June of 2014, two months before Mike Brown’s murder sparked a national movement, four-fifths of the Black Caucus voted down an amendment to halt the Pentagon’s infamous 1033 program that has funneled billions of dollars in military weapons and gear to local police departments. Twenty-seven members voted to continue the militarization of local police forces, five abstained from voting, which amounted to an endorsement of the status quo, and only eight members – one out of five — supported the Grayson Amendment. We at BAR called the Black Caucus super-majority “The Treasonous 32.” Below is the breakdown of the vote from that day of shame:

The Ugly

Karen Bass (CA); Joyce Beatty (OH); Sanford Bishop (GA); Corrine Brown (FL); G.K. Butterfield (NC); Andre Carson (IN); Yvette Clarke (NY); Wm Lacy Clay (MO); Emanuel Cleaver (MO); James Clyburn (SC); Elijah Cummings (MD); Danny Davis (IL); Chaka Fattah (PA); Al Green (TX); Alcee Hastings (FL); Steven Horsford (NV); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Hakeem Jeffries (NY); E. B. Johnson (TX); Robin Kelly (IL); Gregory Meeks (NY); Gwen Moore (WI); Donald Payne (NJ); David Scott (GA); Terri Sewell (AL); Marc Veasey (TX); Frederica Wilson (FL)

The Worthless

The abstainers of 2014, as four years later, effectively endorsed the status quo: militarization of the police.

Marcia Fudge (OH); Charles Rangel (NY); Cedric Richmond (LA); Bobby Rush (IL); Bennie Thompson (MS)

The Few for Demilitarization

John Conyers (MI); Donna Edwards (MD); Keith Ellison (MN); Hank Johnson (GA); Barbara Lee (CA); John Lewis (GA); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA)

Are Black People Represented in the Congress?

When 80 percent of Black Democrats in the U.S. House vote for continued militarization of local police forces, and then four years later 75 percent of these same Black Democrats give “protected class” status to cops, then we must conclude that the intervening period of “Black Lives Matter” agitation had no effect on Black Democratic Party politics — and further, that the Caucus is wholly and brazenly unaccountable to its constituents.

As Malcolm X said: “You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok.”

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

* Of the Congressional Black Caucus’ 48 members , two are U.S. Senators (Cory Booker and Kamala Harris), and two are delegates from Washington DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who cannot vote on the House floor. BAR does not count Mia Love, the Black Republican CBC member from Utah, in its tabulations on Black Caucus behavior. (She voted “Yea” on the Protect and Serve Act.) That leaves 43 Black Democrats with full voting privileges in the U.S. House.

USA: The Great, Bloody Black Dispersal from the Cities

Source:  Black Agenda Report

March  1 2018

“The grand plan is to reverse the demography of the Seventies by forcing Blacks out of the central cities and into suburbs and small towns, rendering Black people incapable of ever again launching a national movement headquartered in the urban centers.”

support our schools.jpgThe Great, Bloody Black Dispersal from the Cities

The urban saga of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s was white flight from the cities, fueled by massive public and private investment in the invention of suburbia. In the 21st century, the racial dynamic has been purposely reversed, as the window closes on Black majority cities—and on dreams of concentrated, Black urban political power.

The rapidly unfolding dispersal of Blacks from the cities, like the white invasion of the surrounding hinterlands in the previous era, is the result of deliberate state policies, dictated by finance capital. But, this time, the demographic makeover has been effectuated and politically finessed with the active collaboration of a Black misleadership class that, paradoxically, owes its existence to the concentration of Black populations during the Sixties and Seventies.

The de-Blackening of urban America is a wrenchingly painful and bloody amputation-in-progress. In a frenzy of demolition, the U.S. has lost a quarter million units of public housing since the mid-1990s, only a small fraction of which has been replaced with new public housing, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Black mayors and heavily Black city councils have, typically, bought into the notion that concentrations of poor Black people are, by definition, vectors of pathology, while concentrations of affluent whites are the indispensable ingredients of urban “renaissance.” It is the logic of apartheid, cloaked in phony economics.

“The de-Blackening of urban America is a wrenchingly painful and bloody amputation-in-progress.”

Gentrification and renaissance-making—euphemisms for Black-removal—are violent processes. Whole neighborhoods are condemned for “rehabilitation” from “blight”—another euphemism, since the targeted infestation is human. The real estate industry covets the land, but demands that it first be cleansed of undesirable inhabitants. This requires the ruthless application of police force, creating a hostile environment, especially for young Black males, whose mothers begin to seek an exit to the South or a nearby, Blackening suburb. It is no coincidence that police forces in “renaissance”-minded cities across the nation introduced draconian “stop-and-frisk,” “designated drug zone” and “anti-gang” policies in the Nineties, as gentrification went into high gear. They methodically created an unbearably hostile environment for unwanted families.

Gentrification requires the destabilization of the existing populations in targeted neighborhoods. Politicians that respond to the imperatives of capital—and that means virtually all big-city Democrats, of all races—acquiesce to or champion policies that destabilize the lives of their poor Black constituents, all the while claiming it is for their own good. The most powerful local government tool, other than the police, is the public school system. Gentrifying mayors across the country have sought and won control of local schools and used that power to make city life untenable for the “excess” Black populations of their cities.

“The school closings added new layers of instability to the lives of families on Chicago’s heavily Black south and west sides.”

No mayor has been more intent on driving Blacks from his city than Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff and close political ally. Building on the mayhem inflicted on Black Chicago by his predecessors, Emanuel caused the closing 50 schools. The result was catastrophic, as students were forced to transit unfamiliar gang turf to attend schools that were often no better than the shuttered ones in the own neighborhoods. Many kids died. “What people don’t understand is that if you are 16 years old and get on a bus, when you get off that bus you are gang-affiliated whether you are gang-affiliated or not,” said activist Jitu Brown .

Just as the closing of Chicago’s public housing disrupted gang turf and drug markets, setting off a huge increase in street killings, the school closings added new layers of instability to the lives of families on Chicago’s heavily Black south and west sides, the besieged neighborhoods where closings were concentrated. It was the last straw for some parents. As the Chicago Reporter wrote, in an article last December: “Some academics blame city officials for making it harder for poor African-Americans, in particular, to live in Chicago. They closed neighborhood schools and mental health clinics ; failed to rebuild public housing, dispersing thousands of poor black families across the region, and inadequately responded to gun violence, unemployment and foreclosures in black communities.”

“Building on the mayhem inflicted on Black Chicago by his predecessors, Emanuel caused the closing 50 schools.”

“It’s a menu of disinvestment,” says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American history at the University of Illinois Chicago. “The message that public policy sends to black families in the city is that we’re not going to take care of you and if you just keep going away, that’s OK.”

The message is intentional—and effective. “Chicago’s public schools have lost more than 52,000 students in the past 10 years,” according to a report titled “The Bleeding of Chicago ,” by CityLab. “That’s because school closures sometimes prompt parents to leave the city altogether.” (Thanks to Richard Prince’s Journal-isms for bringing this information to a larger audience.)

In less than two decades, Chicago lost 250,000 Black residents, one quarter of its total Black population. That’s more than the Black populations of New Orleans and Atlanta , and equal to the Black population of Manhattan, New York City. And, it’s happening all over the country, because Black removal from the cities is the national policy of both corporate parties.

The grand plan is to dilute the Black presence, to reverse the demography of the Seventies by forcing Blacks out of the central cities and into suburbs and small towns, leaving the cities to affluent whites and rendering Black people incapable of ever again launching a national movement headquartered in the urban centers.

“Chicago lost 250,000 Black residents, one quarter of its total Black population.”

Black politics is in an existential crisis. This state of affairs has come about, not because Black people failed to vote or to exercise political agency, but because they followed the lead of a grasping and self-centered Black misleadership class that is hopelessly entangled with the Democratic Party and its Wall Street and Silicon Valley funders—the same forces that seek to neutralize the Black political presence in the U.S. Barack Obama gave the game away in his address to the Democratic National Convention, in 2004: “There is no Black America…there is only the United States of America.” But most Black people failed to understand his meaning.

However, the folks that formed the Black Is Back Coalition, in 2009, had heard Obama, loud and clear. There is little time left to preserve Black majorities in Baltimore, Birmingham, Detroit, Cleveland, Savannah and Newark (it’s has already been lost in Washington, DC, and will soon slip away in Atlanta), or to maintain strong pluralities in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Norfolk.

Black people can only maintain a powerful and secure presence in the cities through a vibrant, independent, self-determinationist politics. Otherwise, Black dispersal will proceed along its bloody, maddening course, and at a quickening pace.

That’s why the Black is Back Coalition is holding an Electoral School, April 7 to 9 , in St. Louis, Missouri (which lost its slim Black majority in this century). The Coalition is guided by a 19-point National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination, a document that addresses virtually every issue confronting Black people. Below are four points that are particularly relevant to the push-out of Blacks from the cities:

Black Community Control of the Police. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all domestic military occupation forces from Black communities. This democratic demand assumes the ability of Black people to mobilize for our own security and to redefine the role of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside.

Roll Back and End Mass Black Incarceration. The U.S. mass Black incarceration regime is designed to contain, terrorize and criminalize an entire people, with the result that one out of eight prison inmates on the planet is a Black person in the U.S. As a minimal demand, every U.S. incarcerating authority must take immediate steps to roll back the national prison and jail population to 1972 levels, resulting in the release of 4 out of 5 current inmates in a process overseen by representatives of the imprisoned peoples’ communities––primarily people of color. As a maximum demand, all Africans must be immediately released from U.S. prisons and jails and our community given the democratic right to determine their fate.

Halt Gentrification through the empowerment, stabilization and restoration of traditional Black neighborhoods. Black people have the right to develop, plan and preserve our own communities. No project shall be considered “development” that does not serve the interests of the impacted population, nor should any people-displacing or otherwise disruptive project be allowed to proceed without the permission of that population. Peoples that have been displaced from our communities by public or private development schemes have the Right to Return to our communities, from New Orleans to Harlem.

Right to Free Education through post-graduate level. Public schools must meet the highest standards of excellence, under the supervision of educational boards directly elected by the communities they serve. We oppose both for-profit schooling and philosophies of teaching that put profit over human development, and we support democratic educational values and strategies that empower students and their communities to determine their own destinies. In the immediate term, Black people in the U.S. need education that facilitates our liberation from white supremacy and corporate hegemony.

Make arrangements to attend the Black Is Back Coalition Electoral School. It’s a lot later than you think.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

Dr. Mutulu Shakur – It is time for his release

Source:  Moorbey’z blog / mutulushakur
February 26 2018

mutulu shakur.jpgDr. Mutulu Shakur has been a federal prisoner since 1986. He has been denied parole eight times, has taken full responsibility for his actions, has served as a force for good and anti-violence throughout his decades of incarceration, is an elder and has multiple health complications, has a loving family that needs him, and upon release will continue to inspire people to seek self-improvement through peaceful and constructive means, as he has done while incarcerated.

The acts of which Dr. Shakur was convicted some thirty years ago were committed in the context of a movement seeking equal opportunities for black people who, it is widely conceded, were suffering catastrophically from disenfranchisement, segregation, poverty and exclusion from many of the fundamental necessities that make life worth living.

Dr. Shakur participated in civil rights, black liberation and alternative health care all as part of movements of the late 1960’s to the 1980’s. It was a period of civil conflict in which millions of Americans participated in social movements for justice and freedom.

Read full article here

 

The Panther Movie: Why is It Dangerous? Why Do We Fall for It?

Source:  Moorbey’z BlogBlack Agenda Report
February 27 2018

black panther film 2.jpgThe Panther Movie: Why is It Dangerous? Why Do We Fall for It?

“Our situation is so dire that we will reach out for this Hollywood fantasy as if it can be helpful, healing, and a lens through which to view history.”

The Panther movie is out and people are going in droves to check it out. Both Black and white. This requires clear hard-headed thinking. It’s not about the actors in the film and their careers. Can’t blame a brother or a sister for needing a payday and a chance to make it inside the system, in this case Hollywood. It’s certainly not about the capitalists promoting it on all media, as they have the dual interest of making money and controlling our consciousness to prevent our movement from making sure they stop making all this money. It has to be about our clear understanding of history, and how we can get free from this system.

The first thing is that they know how to go fishing. Beautiful Black people celebrating culture and positive relations. A view of traditional Africa that defies all logic and historical experience but gives Black people a view of the past that can be imagined as the technological future. This fits the imaginative rethinking of ancient Egypt as an answer for our future. Our situation is so dire that we will reach out for this Hollywood fantasy as if it can be helpful, healing, and a lens through which to view history. There is dialogue about freedom, but in no way reflects the past or gives positive advice for us.

“The King of Wakanda is a friendly associate with the CIA.”

Lies can’t get us where we need to go. Let’s take a quick look at this film. It is a replay of the conflict of the 1960s between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism, the US organization of Karenga and the Panthers of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The story is about who is going to control the Kingdom of Wakanda. The point of conflict is the Panther as a metaphor for a Black liberation change agent. The cultural nationalist is the King of Wakanda, who uses their special natural resource plants to become the Black Panther. He is a friendly associate with the CIA. The reference to the actual Black Panthers, meaning the child of Wakanda who grew up in Oakland, is a sort of gangster living a Fanonian fantasy that violence will change the world. He too is the son of a member of the royal family. This guy was trained by the CIA and begins the film in alliance with a white South African fascist. The big lie is that to be a Panther one has to be of “royal blood,” and not simply a victim of the system who stands up to fight back. Another big lie is that the CIA is an ally in the fight for a better world.

The film is a commercial hodgepodge of references to other popular films:

  1. A young women plays the part of the tech-savvy Q of James Bond movies
  2. The space ships are a nod to Star Wars
  3. The CIA agent is the star from the Hobbit movies
  4. The car chases refer to the Fast and Furious films
  5. Moving into Wakanda makes you think of Stargate

In 2018 we live in a moment of spontaneous movement and there is the possibility that another version of the real Panthers will likely emerge. Some original Panthers are still incarcerated and being brutalized by the system they dared to oppose. A movie like this has the bait to pull us in like fish about to be hooked by the system. People see the film and feel good, but isn’t that what people say about first getting high on drugs. We know how drug addiction turns out.

This film is dangerous and we must be vigilant against culture used to control and oppress.

Abdul Alkalimat is a native of Chicago, Illinois and received his PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago. He is currently a Professor in African American Studies and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Go to his website to find out more about his lifelong history of activism, with a focus on

Black Panther film fuels calls for release of jailed political activists

Source:  Moorbey.wordpress.com;  The Guardian
February 16 2018

Film serves as ‘opportunity to remind people of the real heroes of the Black Panthers’, says former party leader

letitia wright bbp movie.jpg Letitia Wright in a scene from Black Panther. The film is already breaking box office records. Photograph: AP

When he was released from prison in 2014, Sekou Odinga felt like he was falling from the sky into a foreign land. After 33 years behind bars, the former Black Panther party leader was released into a United States he didn’t recognize – with strange technology and grandchildren he had never hugged.

Though he celebrated with family and supporters, Odinga, 73, also remained mindful of the many other civil rights activists who weren’t so lucky: “You always feel like you don’t want to leave nobody behind.”

This weekend, his advocacy group is gathering outside movie theaters across New York City to educate crowds at sold-out screenings of Black Panther about the real-life Black Panthers who fought for black liberation in the 1960s and 1970s – some of whom have also been fighting for their own freedom from incarceration for decades.

The Marvel superhero film, which is already breaking records at the box office, takes place in a fictional African country and has been widely praised as a well-timed political commentary.

Renewed calls for the release of former members of the Black Panther Party 

For some activists, however, Ryan Coogler’s film and mostly black cast is much more than a refreshing comic book story that breaks down stereotypes in an industry dominated by white film-makers.

The Afrofuturist film has sparked renewed calls from attorneys, families and civil rights leaders for the release of more than a dozen incarcerated former members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), the radical group founded in 1966 in Oakland, California.

“Many are in the worst prisons and the worst conditions, and a lot of them are getting older and suffer from health problems,” said Odinga, who was convicted of attempted murder of police officers in the 1980s, a time when the US government was aggressively targeting black power movements with surveillance, violence, arrest and prosecution. “This is an opportunity to remind people of the real heroes of the Black Panthers and the conditions they live in today.”

Malkia Cyril
Pinterest
 Malkia Cyril. Photograph: Center for Media Justice

The film, which begins in Oakland, was released months after it was revealed that the FBI’s terrorism unit had labeled some people “black identity extremists”, claiming that activists fighting police brutality posed a violent threat. The concept resembled the US government’s highly criticized domestic counterintelligence program known as Cointelpro, which was used to monitor and disrupt the Black Panthers and other leftist groups.

“We need people to understand that these are not simply criminals who committed some heinous crime being punished,” said Cyril. “These are black activists who are largely being punished for their activism.”

Although the Black Panthers made news for criminal trials and clashes with police, the party’s foundational work centered on “survival programs” for black communities neglected by the government – including free breakfasts for children, health clinics and “liberation” schools.

Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Pinterest
 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Photograph: Lisa Terry/Getty Images

“They all uplifted people,” said Ericka Huggins, a former Black Panther leader from Oakland.

She said she hoped the film spread that message. She recounted when the former Black Panther Eddie Conway was released in 2014 after he challenged his conviction in the shooting death of an officer, for which he spent 44 years in prison: “He arrived on the outside of these walls with nothing but passion and love.”

Others deserve that opportunity, she said.

In the lead-up to the film, many have mentioned Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther who had his death sentence commuted to life in prison and continues to fight for his release in a controversial police killing case. His lawyers have long argued his innocence, claimed he was denied a fair trial and more recently fought for proper medical treatment behind bars.

“Mumia is always focused on working toward the liberation of black people and all oppressed people,” said his lawyer Bret Grote. “He is quite optimistic and brimming with energy and life, and they’ve never been able to diminish that for a moment despite what they’ve put him through.”

Kietryn Zychal, a Nebraska writer and activist, said she would watch the Black Panther film closely so that she could later try to recount as much of it as possible to Ed Poindexter, another incarcerated former BPP member. He was sentenced to life for a bombing that killed an officer, convicted based on the questionable testimony of a teenager.

“His case needs some attention from people outside of Nebraska,” said Zychal.

Monifa Akinwole-Bandele, an activist whose father was a Black Panther Party member, said incarcerated BPP members, like Herman Bell, are repeatedly denied parole in the face of pressure from police unions.

She said she hoped the presentation of powerful black characters in the film could inspire audiences in the same way that the BPP inspired her.

“Adults I looked up to had taken such a bold stance against racism in America,” she said. “It had a huge impact on me and what I thought was possible.”

Assata Speaks From Exile on Tupac, Rap, CointelPro, Social Change

Source:  newafrican77

February 2 2018

 

assata 5assata speaks

What effect do you think Rap music has on the movement for social justice today?

Assata Shakur: Hip Hop can be a very powerful weapon to help expand young people’s political and social consciousness. But just as with any weapon, if you don’t know how to use it, if you don’t know where to point it, or what you’re using it for, you can end up shooting yourself in the foot or killing your sisters or brothers. The government recognized immediately that Rap music has enormous revolutionary potential. Certain politicians got on the bandwagon to attack Rappers like Sister Soldier and NWA. You’ve got various police organizations across the country who have openly expressed their hostility towards Rap artists. For them, most Rappers fall in the category of potential criminals, cop killers, or subversives. If you don’t believe that the FBI has extensive files on every popular Rap artist, you probably believe in the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy. It’s a known fact that more than a few Rappers are under constant police surveillance.

There’s been speculation that Tupac Shakur was set up on those rape charges. He makes reference to it in one of his songs. Do you think there is a COINTELPRO program against Rappers?

Assata Shakur: It’s a definite possibility. Divide and conquer is what the FBI does best. Just look at the history. The FBI engineered the split in the Black Panther party. The police and the government have pitted organizations against each other, gangs against each other, leaders against each other. Now you’ve got this East coast versus West coast thing. Look, we came over on the same boats, we slaved on the same plantations together, and we’re all being oppressed, brutalized, and incarcerated together in mega numbers, what sense does it make for us to be fighting each other? So yes, I believe the government encouraged this in-fighting, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they set Tupac up more than once.

What did you think of Tupac’s music?

Assata Shakur: I think Tupac was a genius. He had so much talent. I love his music, even when I don’t agree with what he’s saying or the premises he’s operating on. He was able to touch so much gut stuff , that most people don’t even recognize, much less have the ability to express.

What are your thoughts on his contradictory role as child of the movement and, on the other hand, a gangster Rapper?

Assata Shakur: That contradictory consciousness you’re talking about is all over the place. Unfortunately it’s nothing new. In the 1960s and the 1 970s people like Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, clearly exhibited aspects of that confusion, and mixed up revolutionary politics with gangsterism. The mind destroying machine works overtime, getting us to crave power and money instead of justice. We’ve all been a bit brainwashed and confused. I don’t care who you are, Hollywood has crept into your head. The act of being free has a lot to do with becoming unbrainwashed. I hear all these Rappers talking about keeping it real and, at the same time, they’re selling big-time fantasies. These Rap videos made in fancy clubs, casinos, rented mansions, around rented swimming pools, rented yachts, rented private planes, rented helicopters. Most of the people in the Rap business are barely making it. Tupac was an exception. He was only 25 when he died, and one of the things that makes me sad is that there was no strong community of African revolutionaries to protect him and help educate him. Those who loved him did all they could, but they were competing with some very forceful, seductive, negative influences.

As a movement, I think we have to become much more involved in educating and supporting our young people. Black people, African people are just as discriminated against and brutalized as we were in the 1960s, and racism is very much on the agenda of both the Republican and Democratic parties. We need to rebuild a movement capable of liberating our people. There’s nothing we can do to bring Tupac back, but we can learn from his death. You can hear a lot of love in Tupac’s work. We need to work to create a world where the Tupacs of the world can grow and love and not be afraid that some fool with a Glock is going to blow their brains out. As far as I’m concerned Rappers need to be spending a lot more time studying and struggling. As for the myth of Tupac being alive, the last thing we need is more nonsense. I don’t care who you are or what you do, when they put that microphone in front of you, try to make sure you have something worthwhile to say.

Are you still a revolutionary?

Assata Shakur: I am still a revolutionary, because I believe that in the United States there needs to be a complete and profound change in the system of so called democracy. It’s really a “dollarocracy.” Which millionaire is going to get elected? Can you imagine if you went to a restaurant and the only thing on the menu was dried turd or dead fungus. That’s not appetizing. I feel the same way about the political spectrum in the U.S. What exists now has got to go. All of it: how wealth is distributed, how the environment is treated. If you let these crazy politicians keep ruling, the planet will be destroyed.

In the 1960s, organizations you worked with advocated armed self-defense, how do you think social change can best be achieved in the States today?

Assata Shakur: I still believe in self-defense and self-determination for Africans and other oppressed people in America. I believe in peace, but I think it’s totally immoral to brutalize and oppress people, to commit genocide against people and then tell them they don’t have the right to free themselves in whatever way they deem necessary. But right now the most important thing is consciousness raising. Making social change and social justice means people have to be more conscious across the board, inside and outside the movement, not only around race, but around class, sexism, the ecology, whatever. The methods of 1917, standing on a corner with leaflets , standing next to someone saying, “Workers of the world unite,” won’t work. We need to use alternative means of communication. The old ways of attaining consciousness aren’t going to work. The little Leninist study groups won’t do it. We need to use video, audio, the Internet. We also need to work on the basics of rebuilding community. How are you going to organize or liberate your community if you don’t have one? I live in Cuba, right? We get U.S. movies here and I am sick of the monsters; it’s the tyranny of the monsters. Every other movie is fear and monsters. They’ve even got monster babies. People are expected to live in this world of alienation and fear. I hear that in the States people are even afraid to make eye contact on the streets. No social change can happen if people are that isolated. So we need to rebuild a sense of community and that means knocking on doors and reconnecting.