This is the same limited and backward analysis which seeks to make you believe that the issue of protest against police terrorism - take footballer Colin Kaepernick's protest for example - can really only be seen within the context of whether the protest respects the U.S. and particularly the U.S. military. The clear contradiction with both of these lines of so-called reasoning is that the identity, actions, and analysis of those who really engaged in the sacrifices to secure our forward progress in the area of voting and against police terrorism, aren't even mentioned. There is absolutely no question that any "rights" I have as an African living in the U.S. are due to the courageous efforts of those people who put their lives on the line fighting for racial justice in this country. The U.S. military has nothing to do with these so-called rights. This is proven by the completely ignored U.S. history that from the U.S. fighting for its so-called independence from Britain (the reason you celebrate the Fourth of the lie every year) in the 1700s to the Vietnam war in the 1970s, Africans didn't possess the basic rights that we supposedly donned the U.S. military uniform to gain for somebody, somewhere. For that 200 year period, our rights to vote were met with state sabotage and supported violence. Our rights to go to school, live where we wanted and could afford, and even to sit down and eat a disgusting meal at a terrible store only eventually happened after we demonstrated our willingness to shed blood for this "right." The U.S. military had nothing to do with us gaining it and more often than not ala the National Guard, the U.S. military was a force in preventing us from gaining these so-called rights. So, besides the fact we as African people look like absolute fools thanking the U.S. military "for our rights", more importantly than how ignorant and manipulated we are, we continuously demonstrate an unacceptable level of disrespect for those people from the civil rights movement that we should be thanking.
So, we dig deeper into this question of voting rights. With the election just weeks away and the usual cast of characters, con people, and out and out criminals, staging their performances to fool us into believing in them, yet again, we are told we should be grateful for the opportunity to pick the "lessor" predator over the "worse" predator. Besides the point there is no such thing as lessor predator, we must address this misnomer that our people died for this ridiculous process that these people call a vote. This is important because the people saying our people died for the right to vote didn't for the most part participate in five minutes of risk based struggle to get to the positions they currently occupy. And, the problem is you have no idea about the people who did pay that price so we want to introduce you to some of them. You Africans should know that if you can vote for either of these scum running for office today, it is because of those brave and courageous organizers within the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC - along with other organizations like the Congress of Racial Equality and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, etc.). SNCC deserves special mention because they organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) which brought the country to its knees in 1964 when the MFDP successfully organized enough of a ground game to force the Democratic Party to seat its delegates at its National Convention in Atlantic City in 1964. Forced into a corner because of the bravery of people like the immortal Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer - who shocked the entire planet by testifying in front of an international media audience how the local McComb County Sheriffs forced African inmates (through coercion) to beat her so badly that the inmates had to be hospitalized. She won the international community over due to her boldness and sincerity and Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, and the other criminals within the Democratic Party's national leadership were forced to make a compromise and seat the MFDP delegates, thus breaking the hold of White men on participation in the U.S. electoral process. So, without SNCC and the MFDP, there would and could be no Shirley Chisholm in 1972, Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin in 2008, and Hillary Clinton in 2016. Not that any of them, with the possible exception of Ms. Chisholm, are worth the space they physically occupy, but at least the concept of them resulted from that mass struggle because the fight forced the opportunity to vote that you currently possess further along so that you could have it today. And, SNCC wasn't finished. The very next year they organized the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Lowndes County, Alabama. This was to be the very first Black Panther Party and it would push our right to vote farther along and past the specter of violence being imposed by those who thought they could intimidate us away from exercising our vote. Our willingness to take up arms in the deep South to protect our desire to vote sent a message to this entire hemisphere that signaled a new day that everyone reading this has benefited from.
What's especially important about all of this struggle is the perspectives of it that emerged from those who faced the most sacrifices. Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), a leading organizer in both of the projects indicated above, went to jail approximately 40 times in six years in SNCC for doing voter registration work. He was often tortured and brutalized in other ways. He of course went on from SNCC and his brief participation within the Black Panther Party to do significant Pan-African work to build the All African People's Revolutionary Party - work that is still vastly unknown to people outside the African world of independent organization. His political position on voting in capitalist elections during the last 30 years of his organizing life was quite clear and after making the level of personal sacrifices that he made to win the vote, his opinion on the subject should hold much more weight than that of those who just stepped in after his sacrifices to reap the benefits while doing very little to use those positions to advance our people. Kwame's response to the statement that we died for the right to vote was always that voting is a tactic, not a principle. Principles are values that define who you are as a person. You can never compromise principles because once you do, you demonstrate yourself to be person who lacks integrity. Tactics, on the other hand, are methods used to achieve an objective. Tactics, unlike principles, can be changed as needed based on effectiveness. For example, a principle can be that when dating, you will never lie to the other person about how you feel about them. Tactics defined within this framework would be how you grow your relationship with this person e.g. going on dinner/movie dates, singing songs to them, helping them fix their car, etc. In order to maintain the integrity of your relationship with this person, you can never compromise your principle of never lying to them, but your tactics, e.g. the things you do to grow the relationship, will change all the time. Maybe every time. They will change based on the weather, how much money you have, how you both feel, etc. Kwame's point is voting isn't a principle, its a tactic. So, although he almost lost his life fighting for the vote (you didn't, he did), he has said for the record that we should use the vote based on how effective it is in helping us gain ground for our freedom and liberation. Since most of what we see today offers no opportunities to advance our struggles in electoral politics, especially on a national level, Kwame was quite clear that we shouldn't prioritize participating in electoral politics. Instead, we should organize to build capacity for change in our communities. This is the same type of position on voting that is being advanced by others who were on the ground in SNCC with Kwame like Mukassa (Willie) Ricks who was the first person who actually yelled "Black Power" on that dusty road in June of 1966 in Mississippi. In fact, Mukassa is still spreading that message today, couched in his passion for Pan-Africanism.
You may ask yourself why you have never heard of any of this and/or why no one ever talks about it. One of the major reasons is that we don't control our history. Much of our history is being dominated by the so-called White left today. They are the ones who are writing and producing many of the movies, books, articles, etc., about the Black Panther Party. I don't think you should hold your breath waiting for those people to ever pay homage to people like Ms. Hamer, Kwame Ture, or Mukassa Ricks. They won't even tell you about many of the other current and living Pan-Africanists who contributed mightily to SNCC's work like Bob Brown and Seku (Chico) Neblitt. This won't happen because many of these so-called White allies are still pretty angry at SNCC for telling them to get away from our struggle and organizations in 1967 and to go into White communities and organize European people. Clearly, based on the lack of White community organizing on the left today (most of any organizing work that takes place there is done by the extreme right like militia, skinhead, and KKK groups), this is obviously still a very touchy subject for the White left. So, because of that, they ignore Kwame, Mukassa, Bob, Seku, etc., and instead focus on spreading their affection towards people like Angela Davis although she has more or less abandoned any real revolutionary analysis and organizing (she just announced her intention to vote for Hillary Clinton). We are not concerned about any of this. These people belong to our movement and history and you can rest assured that we are doing all in our power to educate our youth about our true warriors for justice. Our hope is that no matter what community you belong too, it is possible for you to recognize these true hereos/sheros, and that you can not get caught up in the capitalist propaganda machine. Especially since without the Black Power movement these people launched, there is no LGBTQ, women's liberation, and Disability rights movements. Without their work there is no 1965 Immigration Reform Act which paved the way for brown people to emigrate to the U.S., something that never happened before that act. So, everyone owes these courageous souls. And, you can help by correcting and educating people the next time you hear somebody give credit for anybody's rights to the U.S. military and/or their disgusting flag. And, hopefully those who still garner so much faith in the capitalist electoral process you can take this information and get to work building something much stronger than just the disrespectful reaction to voting for the lessor predator every four years that you continue to attempt to ram down our throats.