That first ALD in 1980 was organized by the Pan Afrikan Secretariat. An organization that to my knowledge, no longer exists. The event was held in a park in Oakland. I was 18 and assigned the job of security. I had no experience besides the fights I had gotten into growing up. I was given a shirt that said "African Liberation Day Security." And that, and the fact I remember speakers talking a lot about the problems our people faced in a very disjointed and disorganized fashion, is all I really remember about that first one. I didn't attend ALD again until 1984 when the All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) was organizing ALD for the first time in Sacramento, California, where I lived at the time. Several A-APRP members were recruiting me to join up from the Pan-African Student Union at Cal State University where I had been a member as a student. I was convinced and I ventured to ALD in McClathcy Park in Sacramento to join. The A-APRP had posted up about 50,000 (no lie) posters around town with Sekou Ture's picture on them since he had just died two months before. At the time, I had no idea that Sekou Ture would become one of the most influential ideological figures on my life. In fact, I didn't know or care who he was at the time. I just knew these were some brave Africans and I was going to join up with them. I arrived at the park to find about 10 people there who were not A-APRP members and about 30 party members running around, none of which could direct me as to how I could join. I didn't realize until later that practically all of those people didn't live in Sacramento, but they had come in from L.A. and the Bay to help the party establish itself there. I was unfazed. This was especially true after I saw the brother reading a long (extremely long) speech from the stage. I didn't understand 80% of what he was talking about, but I heard him call Fidel Castro "comrade" and although I didn't know anything about Castro at the time, I knew he was no friend to the U.S. and for me, that was all I needed to know. Anyone who allied themselves with him at the height of the cold war enough to call that out in public was cool enough to impress me. I was hooked! Plus, although I really didn't understand a lot of what was said from the stage, it was clear to me that the A-APRP had a much crisper and clearer analysis of Pan-Africanism, what it meant, and scientific socialism, which I had started to believe on my own, than the organization who hosted the 1980 ALD I attended in Oakland.
By ALD 1985 I was involved enough in organizing ALD that I took the fact very few community people came out personally. Especially after all of the work I had done to pass out flyers, post up posters, etc. We continued to work year round, every year, and by 1989, we pulled our first large crowd to ALD in Sactown and I had graduated to being the MC at the rally in McClatchy Park that year. By that time I had become accustomed to the annual routine. Pass out thousands of flyers on the campuses in the area until we had passed out a flyer for every African student on those campuses. Then, pass out about 50,000 invite brochures door to door and at Black Family Day at UC Davis the week before. Post up 20,000 posters around Sacramento, have ALD and be exhausted for two days afterwards, but I loved it. A-APRP organizers came in from all over the state and relationships were built, many that exist still today. We would stay up all night debating ideological understanding of the Party line. My understanding was growing and my commitment was too.
By 1991 we were routinely expecting thousands at ALD and we were getting it. Spurned by the reawakening African consciousness that swept through that period with the African medallions, etc., ALD became the cultural event to be at. That year, we even had the privilege of a guest MC at the rally named Tupac Amaru Shakur. Yes, that Tupac. And although we were always pressed thin for resources, I was able to capture his performance by just setting up my camcorder by the stage, with no one managing it, for the entire day. I wasn't even going to do it were it not for the urging of 6 foot 6 Chameni, the comrade from the Cameroons who went on to achieve a PhD in Math from UC Berkeley before returning to Africa. That video can now be seen years later on youtube if you type in "Tupac Shakur Performs at African Liberation Day in Sacramento." You can see me, standing behind the stage wearing glasses with other comrades, most of whom are still around.
1992 really stands out because that was the year the City of Sacramento, capitalizing off of our cleaning up McClatchy Park, which was nothing except a haven for gang banging and drug dealing before we started organizing ALD there, decided to build a permanent stage in the park so they could make it a centerpiece for their activities. Consequently, we were forced to William Land Park to the Amphitheater right across from the zoo. The City made it clear to us they didn't want us or our message there at their center of European family activity and they consolidated that by refusing to issue us a sound permit. Their reasoning? Because they didn't want any noise competing with the zoo. This was also the spring where the L.A. rebellion had taken place just a few short weeks before. Also that month, the U.S. had engaged in one of their bombing mission against Libya. We were hot and the masses of Africans everywhere seemed to be as well. We always got a gauge on that by the conversations we had passing out our ALD materials. So, we gambled. We had a late night meeting a few days before ALD and through heated discussion about risk and reward, the majority opinion was that we would FTP and have our rally, with sound, despite the fact we had no permit. I was one of the lead voices for this, dispute the fact it was our house in which the park permit was taken out in which meant any consequences would fall directly in our laps. Undeterred, I decided if we got enough people out by start time of 1pm, there wouldn't be much the police could do. So, I didn't think much about it until about noon when no more than about 50 people were there. It was at least 98 degrees out and since we had changed locales, I remember the doubt creeping in. If we didn't follow through, we would lose credibility. I was the MC that year also which meant the program started when I started it. By the time 12:45 came around, at least 500 people were present and my confidence was bolstered. When I started speaking at 1pm, I immediately invoked the rage we carried from seeing four European police released for beating Rodney King just weeks before. I tried my best to create a vision of America terrorizing our North African people in Libya to steal their oil and their birthright, our birthright. I was doing a decent job of firing up the crowd and so I wasn't concerned when eight police started approaching the stage just minutes after I started. Surely, some of the good White folks who had come to take their children to the zoo to have a fantasy celebration on this great Memorial Day weekend had complained about the rebellious slaves who just a few feet away, were ungratefully railing away against this great nation. I remember stepping off the stage while a band performed to greet the police with our A-APRP security folks. I also remember at least 50 or so members of the audience, inspired by recent events, and probably instigated somewhat by my agitation laden opening to the rally, joining us to confront those eight police. Once surrounded by 60 very aggressive and agitated Africans, the police woman indicated that their only concern was that someone had left their keys in their car door. She smirked at realizing we knew all eight of them didn't come down to tell us about any car keys and we learned again another valuable lesson about how the masses of people are the true makers of history.
Several more years of ALD experience after that. There are memories from all of them. Too many. I will recall 2002 when we were again denied a march permit by the City of Sac so we again decided collectively to challenge them. We did so by organizing what I believe to be our best march in all of the years we did ALD in Sacramento (1984-2008). We organized about 20 Aztec dancers to lead the march. We had three different African biker clubs to block the streets and we were aided by the strong presence of the Nation of Islam's Fruit of Islam in securing the march. The police approached us several times with lights flashing, but they never dared interrupt our 500 militant people strong march. I just remember all the white motorists, smiling and being patient while huge Africans on Harleys stone stared them down at intersections. Then there was 2004 or 5 when the City of Sacramento tried to sue me for ALD posters that the good white folk had complained about. Whatever year it was, the complaints were because Gaddafi's face was on the posters. Anyway, I had to enlist the ACLU to stop the city from suing me for $40,000.00. There was an instance where several police cars pulled me over on J Street in Sacramento and one of them, using the n word liberally, mentioned the posters and how upset he was that we would post pictures of a terrorist around town.
We held ALD in Sac until 2009 when I was one year removed from Sac, and resettled in Portland, Oregon, I drove down to ALD which had been moved to Oakland. I'm not going to say when I left Sac the resources to organize there were impacted, but if that's at least partially true, I'll take it as a compliment. There was 2010 when I had just lost my job in Bend, Oregon, and I drove my truck down to Oakland with an RV hitched to it. I remember sleeping that weekend in an RV park with my daughter and us having a great time. Then, 2012, I was unemployed and unable to afford to go to Oakland. I was depressed, but I organized an ALD program in a house of a sister who we had helped liberate the house back from the bank just three weeks before. About 20 people came to my little ALD program and I was proud to keep the fire lit. By 2013, I had started organizing a chapter of the A-APRP in Portland and so 7 of us went down, although none of them were in the A-APRP. The next year everyone who went was in work study and last year, I helped organize ALD in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. This year, a large crew from Portland is going down. Several of them, including two youth who are going with us, have never been to California before. That's what excites me the most. Giving my folks a chance to experience strong, vibrant, and militant African culture. Something that just doesn't exist in the Pacific Northwest. I'm also looking forward to seeing my long comrades again, many who I went through all of the wars indicated above with. I'm up at 11pm right now writing this because I still feel that same buzz in my stomach that I felt at 22 back in 1984 when I signed up. I feel the presence of David Brothers, the long time A-APRP Central Committee member who was also the founding member of the Brooklyn Black Panther Party, who came out here in 1985 and helped me learn how to organize ALD. I feel the spirit of Mawina Kouyate, the long time All African Women's Revolutionary Union Coordinator who also came out to California often. I distinctly remember her leadership during a contentious Central Committee meeting at Compton Community College in 1993 where the CC had come out to try and mend differences between cadre at that time. Finally, I of course feel the energy of Kwame Ture, or Stokely Carmichael, who while he was alive embodied the A-APRP. Its funny, but when I joined, most of the people who did were doing it because of Kwame's influence, speaking, presence, etc. Today, most who join don't even know who he is. This is progress. They join today for the mission, not the man. And, I've lasted 32 years because of the mission. Many who started with me are no longer here. Some are no longer living. Many are still here, still organizing, still fighting. I look forward to linking with them this weekend. And, I hope this gives you a snapshot of why we do what we do. I wouldn't be the person I am today without these memories. Without ALD. Without the struggle for our liberation. All of this has taught me that the greatest gift a person can receive is a sense of having something to live for. I certainly do and I wish the same for you because if all you have is imperialism, I can't even begin to explain to you the extent of what you are missing.