I first met Steevie in May of 2015 at our annual African Liberation Day commemoration observed in Washington D.C., U.S. I was working to help build our Oregon A-APRP chapter at the time, but I was asked to go out to D.C., and Philadelphia, and serve as our keynote speaker for both African Liberation Day programs in each of those cities. Steevie came up to me after my presentation to express his excitement at the information contained in it and the passion in which he felt it was delivered. I was equally impressed by the fact he had caught a train from New York just to come down to the program by himself. I also joked with him that his physical appearance and demeanor reminded me of long time A-APRP Central Committee member Macheo Shabaka - who ironically, we also lost in July of 2018.
One of the principle rules I've learned about successful organizing over the years is the absolute importance of follow up. This is a minor, yet critically important element, that is missing from most work. I've always viewed revolutionary organizing within a hostile capitalist society as a struggle of gaining any and every advantage that you can. Consequently, I've always tried to pay special attention to follow up. What I've learned from this focus is most of time when you collect people's contact information, which I often do, and follow up with them, regardless of your efforts, you most often never connect with them again. My belief is the reason for this is most people are ready to complain and/or pontificate about our problems, but very few people are actually ready to consistently engage to do anything about our problems. That's why I was so impressed with Steevie after that African Liberation Day program when he beat me by reaching out to me first. We talked, mostly electronically, throughout that summer. He often had questions about my writings on this blog. He wanted me to refer books to him. He had questions about how to go about organizing the A-APRP in New York City.
In October of that same year, I saw Steevie again at the Million Man March event in Washington D.C. There were about 10 brothers there from the A-APRP from various chapters throughout the U.S. We met that morning and spent that entire day passing out or organizing materials and having conversations with thousands of our people. It was a great day and I recall spending hours on our feet working with Brother Steevie and the other young organizers.
After the Million Man March Steevie and I continued to stay in contact. We would talk every month or so. Eventually, he began to open up to me some, articulating some of the personal struggles he was battling with. He was very forthright and honest about his challenges which was refreshing in this day and time when truth and justice are so often completely divorced from day to day reality. I'm no expert on much of what he shared with me, but he expressed that he wanted to continue to hear from me the things that inspired me to do this work. How I continued to overcome the negativity. How I managed to stay positive about the work and my own personal walk through life in a backward society. I tried my best to give him what he wanted.
The last couple of times I talked to Steevie, a few months ago, we talked for quite some time. He was actively working on a plan for himself and I encouraged him to do whatever he needed to do to move forward. I was always impressed with his honesty and willingness to listen to those around him. To me, he represented the exact potential we have within our young people to rise up and overcome the oppression we experience. Here was a young person who was so committed to seeing things improve for us. A person who was willing to struggle to better themselves to be in the best position to make their best contribution. A person who wanted to take advantage of every resource around them to help them on their journey. I was honored that Steevie felt I could in some way enhance his efforts.
When a tragedy like this happens, without any details (because I don't have any), the normal response is to wonder if we have somehow failed this person who succumbed and thinking that makes us sad. It's making me sad, but as I've thought about Steevie all weekend, I've come to a different analysis of this unfortunate situation. The stark reality is that this system has always, and will always, come to destroy our people. Its working to destroy everyone, but the African masses will always represent the most serious threat to capitalism simply because that entire system is based on our oppression not just in one part of the world, but throughout the entire planet. There are no people more widespread on Earth then we Africans and our systemic oppression is the exact reason why this is so. The capitalist system attacks us physically by using state institutions to repress us e.g. police, social services, prisons, etc. It attacks us other ways physically by confining us to the slave diet that is causing our health epidemics worldwide. And, it attacks us psychologically by treating us as if we are less than human. For many people, this becomes more than they can handle. This is why its so very important that a central core of our work is always to reaffirm the humanity of our people and of all of the world's populations.
I'm heartbroken about losing Steevie. I'm heartbroken about all of the loss of life that could be avoided, but I'm going to use this to encourage myself to continue to remember my humanity and your humanity, because this humanity is our best weapon against the forces that are trying to destroy us. I didn't know Steevie very long, but I'm going to tell myself that this is how he would wish us to honor him going forward.