On the question of police terror against the African masses, I realize that my point of view is going to be much different than a lot of people. I’ve been pulled over, harassed, and disrespected by police without cause dozens of times in my life. Much of that has occurred due to the militant actions and political work I’ve been involved with. That political work provides a perspective that most people just haven’t invested the time and energy to develop. For example, yesterday, I was reading about an African man named Reverend George Lee. In the mid 1950s, Reverend Lee was a leader for the Regional Council of Negro Leaders (RCNL) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the Delta town of Belzoni, Mississippi, U.S. To the racist European (white) leadership of Belzoni, Reverend Lee was an unwanted troublemaker simply because he was the first African to dare to successfully register to vote in Belzoni since reconstruction i.e. almost 100 years before. Reverend Lee and many of the activists in Belzoni had experienced consistent terrorism from the local sheriffs office and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), who were well known to be one and the same. On May 7, 1955, Reverend Lee was brutally and savagely murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Belzoni by persons who were mutually identified as members of the KKK and the sheriff’s department. As I read the tragic story of Reverend Lee and many others during that period of history, I of course thought of recent events of police terror against our people. George Floyd in Minnesota, U.S. Armaud Arbury, and the countless other African, Indigenous, and other oppressed community members who are shot down daily by white supremacists hiding behind so-called police “authority” (as well as state agents of repression, official or unofficial, of all nationalities). Along with those readings, I also reflected upon my participation yesterday in an online event on police terror against Africans in Nova Scotia, Canada. For that event, I was required to engage in research around police/African community relations in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In doing that research, I’ve reaffirmed a reality that mirrors that of Reverend George Lee, George Floyd, and Africans all over the world.
I’ve had plenty of scuffles over the years with police, white supremacists, and/or all at once. I have an organizational foundation with roots all over the African world. A foundation that is based in successful revolutionary organization and not spontaneous mobilization. I benefit from participating in an intense and ongoing political education process that is a part of my organizational foundation. As a result, I have a strong nation, gender, class, analysis of oppressive systems that guides everything I think and do. So, I’m not someone who is going to be moved primarily by emotion when tragedy strikes. And, I say that not criticizing those people who react based primarily on emotion. Seeing African people’s humanity crushed so often and without any regard for the impacts of this terrorism is enough to drive any sane person over the edge. All of us are triggered by all of this, all the time.
Even when I was a young teen, and I was first getting accustomed to being mistreated by police, I was fortunate to have elder African revolutionaries who helped me process through those experiences. Granted, I grew up in San Francisco, California, U.S., in the 1970s. Finding African revolutionaries there during that time was not a hard task. Much different than today in places I’ve been like Portland, Oregon, U.S., for example, or Sacramento, California, U.S., where I currently live, where African revolutionaries are few and far in between. On the other hand, we have access to resources today that we didn’t’ even dream of in the 70s. We have capacity to reach many more people much faster. We can transmit clear messages accompanied by organizational structures and guidance for how to build this capacity electronically without ever physically meeting people.
So, with this reality in mind, I use the mediums I have to try and perform the valuable functions that those who reached out to me provided to me when I was young and angry. Let me clarify. I’m still angry. In fact, I’m much angrier than I was at 17 because today I know exactly why I’m angry, who I’m angry with, and that my anger is legitimate and can and should be used constructively to advance our struggle. So, its my responsibility today to do all the work I can to expose the forces who deserve our scorn and anger. Police departments are terrorist organizations. Even if they were not completely infiltrated by practicing white supremacists, the institutional structure of capitalism requires systemic discrimination against us, even by police who may attempt to approach their jobs as objectively as possible. That’s definitely a point that needs to be presented, over and over again. The problem is the system, not individual police. The system is corrupt. If we grow to understand that fact, we can eliminate this absurd analysis that the problem is just certain “bad” police officers. The best anti-snitch culture alive belongs to police departments. There are no gangs, cartels, or crime families alive who are better at protecting their people than police culture is at protecting gestapo cops. So, clearly, the ones who protect the abusive cops are just as guilty as the abusive cops so its past time to abandon this emotionally driven argument that we shouldn’t criticize police departments because your loved one is a cop. I don’t see many people advancing this analysis so I definitely see it as my role to do so. Once I do, I try and carry out any and every action I know to spread this analysis, but I cannot do it without the help of people who wish to inject further analysis into the emotional oceans that erupt when tragedy strikes. And, until that correct analysis takes hold, its not possible for us to engage the on the ground political work needed to create the changes we need.
Another example where I feel I have a contribution that should be made is in addressing the question of spontaneous reaction compared to revolutionary organization. There are plenty of people out here today who believe that spontaneous action i.e. rebellions, can evolve into revolutionary change. I’m not here to argue with them, but I will say they have plenty of work to do to verify their thesis. What history has shown us is these spontaneous eruptions, valid, legitimate, and completely understandable, happen, and then as Kwame Ture (formally Stokely Carmichael) said so clearly “we rise up, rebel, and then sit down for 29 years!” No one wants the military overthrow of the capitalist empire more than we do. A number of the Pan-African forces we organize with to achieve our objective of one unified socialist Africa have histories of engaging in organized armed struggle against the state. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau (PAIGC), Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), and Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (South Africa), are just three examples. So, we need no lectures from people who barely know how to properly set a fire on the need for armed struggle. Our disagreement is actually about how and when the armed phase happens? We disagree about how mass struggle, non-violent direct action, or armed struggle happens? How its organized and what objectives its employed to achieve. Does it happen with no organized training? With people hitting the streets with no change of clothes? No where to rest and recharge? No food to sustain themselves? No water? No reinforcements and replacements so that people can take breaks to tend to their families and live life? Just people running out, fueled by emotion and righteous anger. The problem is emotion and righteous anger only last so long. To us, the challenge we really want with the state only happens when we are organizing communities to prepare for those confrontations. When we are able to prepare to win. To help communities develop capacity to sustain those challenges over a long enough period of time where the capitalist system starts to break down. The pandemic is showing anyone who pays attention that it really won’t take nearly as long as many people thought to bring capitalism down to its knees. Several months of intense and consistent organizing and we could begin to see the breaches starting to rip open in this system. This happens because more and more people are won over to the people’s side and we ultimately reach the point where the police themselves, those who attempt to approach their jobs objectively? Those police come to a place where the resistance is so consistent and the messages being transmitted are so clear that they begin to win people over and those police we are talking about now reach the point when they refuse to oppose the people any longer. This reality is achievable, but only when the appropriate political work is developed and carried out. It doesn’t happen in two or three days when the capitalist system and its media mechanisms are in full operation. Where they are able to create narratives about “rioters” as they are doing right now in Minnesota. Where they manipulate the family members of police terror, like they are doing in Minnesota now, to come out and publicly denounce “outside agitators.” Their mechanisms are well enough organized, and ours are so disorganized, that even most of your family members, people who have known you for your entire life, they are influenced by the narrative of capitalism and they will be the first in line to denounce your participation in the spontaneous eruptions.
I feel like its my role to struggle over the questions raised above. To agitate around those questions. And, I should warn you that I didn’t fall in with the rain yesterday. So, I know there are many of you who, despite your inability to logically refute any of the arguments I’m making here, you will still reject it. You will do so because we live in societies rooted in injustice where that injustice is portrayed as mainstream and legitimate. As a result, there is no accountability here, even within our movements for justice. So, there’s nothing pushing you to be accountable to truth. Bourgeoisie truth i.e. idealism, lives and thrives in capitalism. In other words, you can create in your head the truth you want to exist under, regardless of how much your “truth” clashes with objective reality based on material conditions. So, you reject this and that’s ok. I’m not the least bit mad at you because to be honest, you are probably not the audience I’m seeking right now. You are probably just not ready to hear these points. When and if you ever do become ready, I and others like me, will be right here, ready to engage with you. We are revolutionaries. We understand the forces at work. What’s important to us is the correct work to liberate humanity, not our egos.
For those who feel that you are ready, we are ready for you. We are ready to work with you. We are ready to provide you with the tools to start the work to build the type of revolutionary organizing capacity that will begin to build up our ability to eliminate police completely. Eliminate them in the pathway towards building more people focused revolutionary societies. With all of this we have to say that none of this will be easy so if ease is what you are seeking, this is not the work for you. And, in saying that, we have to add that you probably aren’t as ready as you wish to believe that you are.
We have analysis and answers and we are ready to share them with those serious enough to participate and build something real. The alternative is you develop a plan of your own, which we encourage, or we can continue to operate on the emotional realm solely. Tragedy happens and we react. We emote and feel triggered for a time and then it passes and we continue to co-exist with the backward capitalist system that causes our oppression in the first place. Until the next tragedy. Meanwhile, we are here working and we are here for those who want something more.