Of course, after all these years of being in the center of organizing ALD as an institution in our communities, I have had many wonderful, energizing, and even terrifying experiences for ALD and my purpose here, on the eve before I go off to help organize another ALD, is to provide you with some of the best of those experiences I've encountered over the years.
There are plenty of fascinating memories. When I started in 1984 it was a completely different political aura in the world. The cold war e.g. the so-called ideological war between the U.S. (the leader of the capitalist world) and the Soviet Union (the so-called leader of what most white leftists considered the socialist world at the time). The McCarthy era was still fresh in most people's minds in the 80s. That was a period where people were viciously persecuted for having views that could even be mistakenly identified as being sympathetic to socialist ideas in this society. Consequently, very few people openly identified themselves as socialist during that time and those that did were widely considered to be insane. Yet, there they were, in McClathcy Park in Sacramento, the organizers for the A-APRP, on the stage praising Fidel Castro and Muammar Quaddafi, and doing so boldly and without hesitation. Honestly, I doubt I could have given you a comprehensive definition of socialism at that time, but what I did know was that any Africans who were courageous enough to speak so firmly and with such conviction...I wanted to be a part of that group. So, I joined the A-APRP that year and as I mentioned, played a very significant role in organizing subsequent ALD demonstrations in Sacramento in the following years. All of those immediate events were marginally attended, but my spirit never wavered. I was in the streets everyday until the wee hours of the night, passing out ALD flyers at nightclubs. Posting up posters with pictures of Sekou Ture, Muammar Quaddafi, all the heroes of the African revolution. I talked to hundreds of people and those conversations helped shape and solidify my political consciousness. I knew my people wanted something much more than what we got in this backward society and my regular participation in our work study meetings provided me with the foundation to know that the "something" was Pan-Africanism which the A-APRP defines as one unified socialist Africa. Despite what was written in the capitalist media, and much was written in those days about the necessity for anti-socialist/communist thinking, I knew that our people were not listening to that and this gave me hope for our future.
We continued working, year round. Events, activities, supporting other organization's events, etc. And our ALDs began to reflect that level of work. The A-APRP was organizing ALDs in various cities throughout the U.S. at that time and I wanted our Sacramento ALD to contribute to that effort. In 1989 we had our first widely attended ALD and the next couple of years saw us grow. In 1991 we had Tupac Shakur rap at our Sacramento ALD and in 1992 the City of Sacramento refused to issue us a permit to have ALD because McClatchcy Park was closed due to the City building a stage there (they had never had an inclination to look at McClathcy Park as a place to do events before we started having our successful ALD events there). We were moved to William Land Park which is the City's main park. The outdoor stage there is just across the street from the City's Zoo. They didn't want a political demonstration taking place within earshot of one of the City's largest tourist attractions on a holiday weekend (Memorial Day weekend) so they added insult to injury by giving us permission to have the event without giving us a sound permit. Apparently, the City thought we would have a silent protest. We suspected that the real reason they hadn't issued us a permit was because the political tension at that time was at a fever's pitch. Libya had been bombed by U.S. imperialism a few short weeks before and people were revolting in protest all over the world. The Los Angeles rebellion against police terrorism had taken place the previous month. The masses were upset and the City knew it. We had a meeting late into the night the evening before ALD and the decision was made to break their laws and go ahead with our rally. Since we were in Land Park, outside of the African community there was no march planned. So, the rally started at 1pm and as the M/C it was my job to start the day off. There were about 500 people sitting in the shaded bleachers waiting. It was at least 90 degrees. I remember getting up there, sweat dripping. It was then that I noticed the three police cars parked above the outdoor theater. It was the moment of truth and I believe I gave my best opening that I've even given. I couldn't tell you today what I said, because I assure you, the ancestors were driving, but it was filled with pure logic, truth, and complete respect for the anger our people were feeling. As soon as I introduced the representative from the American Indian Movement to open up ALD (as is our custom) eight uniformed police officers started marching towards the stage. Myself and a couple of comrades gathered to meet them and we were filled with defiance, but just as we were converging about 50 very angry community members cut us off and surrounded the police. Visibly upset by the show of unity and the lack of fear the community posed, the one policewoman approached me with the biggest smile holding out a set of car keys. She actually even told us that all eight of them marched down there just to tell us someone had left their keys in their door.
Those are the types of little lessons I've learned repeatedly in my time in the A-APRP. They always reaffirm what the elders have always told me and what the ancestors are telling right now, this eve before ALD...The masses are the makers of history. This struggle is simply about the power of the organized masses! The years after 1992 saw a decline in our ALDs in Sacramento. Personal changes in people's lives, including my own, had an impact on the social dynamics of our existence and we struggled up and down with that for a few years. There were a couple of good years that I remember, specifically 1996, but for the most part we struggled with positive events, but poor turnout which we knew reflected challenges with our work year round. In 2002 we made a concerted decision to turn that around and focus and we had a number of excellent events that set the stage for ALD in May. I specifically remember a religion and revolution conference that was outstanding in the winter of 02. The ALD that year was lit! We had a march of over 1000 people with about 40 Aztec dancers leading the way. We had a strong and militant march with of course no permit. We had African motorcycle clubs blocking the streets for us and I remember not one motorist dared honk their horns. I also remember the number of obvious undercover police who were taking scores of pictures of us along the march route, but the most memorable thing about that 2002 ALD was when we returned to the park after the march. The police met us in the park with sirens blaring. About five police were directed towards myself and my comrade Brother who were responsible for coordinating security, but just as we started asking the police what they wanted, about 25 members of the Fruit of Islam, the male paramilitary members of the Nation of Islam, began sprinting across the paths of the police in military formation. Some of them sprinted within inches of police. While this was happening, the police were whirling around, clearly intimidated while the Brother and I continued telling them we were busy and we were going to get back to our event. Eventually, the police left with their tails between their legs.
In early 2007 I moved to Oregon and due to many factors, in 2009, we moved ALD to Oakland. In 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, I drove down to ALD with people I had invited from Oregon. I continued to participate. In 2012, jobless, I had no money to get to Oakland so I organized an ALD event in Portland that had about 20 people. it wasn't much, but I was proud and it certainly helped raise my spirits at a time when I badly needed that.
By 2013, gainfully employed again, I organized a group of about eight people to go to ALD in Oakland and by that next year, I had helped organize an A-APRP work study circle that traveled down. Every year since, A-APRP organizers from Portland have traveled to Oakland for ALD, including 2015 when I participated as the keynote speaker at our Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, PA, ALDs. And, a contingent of organizers, reportedly all African women, are traveling down as I write this to participate in ALD 2017 tomorrow. I anticipate an outstanding ALD tomorrow. We have worked hard again and it feels like those ALDs between 89 and 92. Like 96 and 2002. The word is out and we are marching again this year. And our marches are always different. All African people and always through African communities. We don't march to make a demand. We march as a call to action to our people and unlike the activist marches dominated by the white left, African people come out of their houses to offer us cold water and support as we march by. More reaffirmations that we are on the right track. ALD has always been about those affirmations. So, I close by wishing the best to our comrades at home in Africa, in Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, South America, who are organizing and participating in ALD. Safe travels to those who are traveling to ALD all over the world. Much respect to our alliances in the Palestinian, Irish, Indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere, and Filipino struggles. Much respect to all who struggle for justice and who want peace. We know we will never have peace until we claim justice. That's what ALD means to me. That's what the ancestors tell me. Right now Malcolm and Marcus, Harriet and Amilcar, Sekou, and Kwame Nkrumah and Kwame Ture. Huey P. Newton and Carmen Peireira. They are coming off my walls. Patrice Lumumba and Che Guevara. Fidel Castro. They are coming off the pictures on my walls and talking to me tonight. They are telling me that I am doing the right thing and that I must keep on. I must serve as an inspiration to others to keep going. That's what ALD means to me. So, you can keep all of your imperialist holidays and your presents. Because none of that will ever give you one inch of the joy I get on this night knowing that we are setting the stage for our people to one day be free.