We traveled through and from Philadelphia, to Canton, to Jackson, and traced the footsteps of courageous warriors before us like Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Mukasa Ricks (Willie), Ella Baker, Dr. Martin Luther King, and all the other soldiers from the historic "March Against Fear" (the Black Power march) from June, 1966. My daughter and I stopped along a lonely road and had a moment of silence for those who gave their lives for us, but our mood was not a somber one. We discussed the spirit of resistance that characterized our history and we recognized that our decision to travel those rural roads armed, in spite of it being 2014, was very consistent with that history. She and I discussed in detail the fact that our people were always armed and ready to resist the KKK, police, and any racist elements that threatened them, and often they did end up doing just that.
Our discussions motivated her to ask me about the story she had heard many times from myself and long time comrades about a previous confrontation I had with KKK members in California before she was born. The story felt appropriate as we drove those Mississippi back-roads that day so in spite of her already knowing these events, I immediately restated the events of that spring day in 1981 in Fresno, California. I only lived in Fresno just long enough to complete classes at Fresno City College that permitted me to transfer to the university to complete my college education and to have this particular experience, but this day made Fresno a special place forever for me. You see, myself and four homeboy African friends did what we usually did after our classes, we strolled down the street to the Manchester Mall on Blackstone Blvd, but this day was to be different. In anticipation of the visit of then KKK Grand Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson, there were KKK members stationed outside the main entrance of the mall. There were four of them, all decked out completely with white robes and hoods. They were equipped with two doberman dogs and at least one of the men had a long linked chain that he kept lashing out in front of him. They were distributing leaflets announcing Wilkinson's visit to mall visitors. I remember the moment we all saw them. We each stopped and I think one of us remarked something to the effect of "ain't this a b - - - h!!" There was no horror. No shock. There was no trauma. Instead, there was a strong sense within each of us asking who the hell did they think they were? We interpreted their presence as an intimidation act against us and we weren't having it. The other emotion I remember having is complete contempt for the large number of white people who I saw take literature from these robbed terrorists. Seeing this confirmed for me that at least a large percentage of these people approved of the klan's presence, which in my mind, meant they agreed with this effort to intimidate us.
Now, since I completely understand that today's world that we live in is completely different than the world that existed in 1981, I realize that many people today are confused about who the KKK is. And, with some of their very strategic messages today, along with other white supremacist/separatist organizations, they are able to effectively trick some of you who have no historical context from which to properly evaluate the KKK. For me, having even at the age of 18 engaged in pretty extensive study and analysis of the klan that included hearing the horror stories of elders in my family, there was no illusion that these people are violent, terrorist, cowardly, beasts who had a track record of inflicting attacks against my people with there usually always being no consequences. As a result, I had already begun my life long journey of listening to the message of people like Malcolm X, Robert Williams, and Huey P. Newton. People who advocated and practiced self-defense and organization among African people. So, this consciousness fueled my, and my friend's strategy for responding to the klan that day. We called reinforcements and assembled in the grassy area at the other end of the mall. Some hour or so later, we had about 15 youth ready for action.
Without providing details, several minutes later, the dobermans ran free. At least two of the klansmen were hugging the ground and two of them were partially disrobed and be-hooded. We took several of their leaflets and spent the next several days having fun dialing the phone number to the KKK's Klegal office in Madera, California. In the immediate time after the "incident" at Manchester Mall, the media kept reporting that there was an "attack" on KKK members there and the klan, for their part, stayed on the offensive in advertising Wilkinson's visit and their plans to lead a parade of armed klansmen/women down the center of West Fresno, the lone working class African community in Fresno. We joyfully responded to this news by tirelessly canvassing that African community, making absolutely sure that every house was completely informed of the klan's intentions for their neighborhood. The response we got from residents was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and the consensus was consistent - "if they come through this community, we got something for them!"
After consulting with trusted militant elders, we gladly flooded the Klegal with this information, encouraging whomever answered their phone to follow through with their threat with a warning that there would a major reception waiting for them. Needless to say, the cowards never showed up in West Fresno.
My daughter smiled at the end of the story as she had every previous time she heard it and we went on to celebrate our time together. My point for telling the story here isn't to attempt to generate support for whatever perception people have of what happened that day in 1981. My point is after decades of us enduring the worst violence and terror that people have ever had to experience with no justice, whatever action we take is appropriate whenever we see a klansman/woman, whether you approve of that action or not. Somewhere along the way, racist white people have convinced themselves that they are the only people who own guns and that they are the only ones who will use them and that we will somehow just let them continue to terrorize us without standing up to protect ourselves as any decent human being has the right to do. They discount the fact that literally millions of us have been forced to live in the inhuman and racist inner cities where violence is a way of life. Speaking from personal experience, this inner city experience has produced a frustration that many people are just waiting for the opportunity to unload. The KKK provides the perfect outlet. So, the message here is if you are a race hating tool for the capitalist system and you think you will come out after the Ferguson decision, or at any other time, and inflict terror against us without a cost, you better think again. your cowardly terror days are numbered. It's you who is awakening a sleeping giant.