Today, it's 30 years later and I'm still a very active member within the A-APRP. In the course of all those years, I've traveled to about 20 different countries, probably researched and written about 100 different articles, written two books, and organized at least 100 political events in varying geographical, political, and cultural environments. I've worked with literally thousands of people and presented the concepts of this struggle to audiences as diverse as inner city African youth in California to rural White elders in Oregon. I worked within the A-APRP, anti-war coaltions, Occupy Movement, community organizations, church movements, and other formations I can't remember. At this stage in the struggle the amount of criticism I've received in comparison to encouragement probably runs about 85% to 15% and I'm sure that pretty average for revolutionary organizers. Still, today, I see Bob's comments differently. I even understand Kwame Ture's (Stokely Carmichael) greeting to me each time I saw him in much clearer terms then I used too. As soon as he would greet me he would exclaim in his sing song voice "are you a bonfire or a brush fire?" I had to do research to understand the different type of fires, but now I understand that the bonfire is the one that burns hot and burns long and the brush fire is the one that burns hot quick, but burns out fast. Anyone who is serious about organizing African people today has to have a bon fire mentality. Anyone who is serious about organizing anyone has to have this mentality, but I speak specifically about African organizing because there are essential characteristics to this work, that directly result from the legacy of slavery and colonialism, that in my mind, makes it even more complicated, delicate, and challenging.
African people have spent the last 500+ years seeing ourselves dragged violently away from our homeland - Africa - and scattered across various places on the planet to serve as first free, then cheap, labor to build up the capitalist empire. In order to justify this tragedy, the architects of colonialism and neo-colonialism had to create a justification to their terror that would stand the test of time. That justification was the complete denial of our history, culture, and contribution as people who advance human civilization. This honor had to be presented in way that gives that distinction to Europeans and them alone. Consequently, you never learned anything about Africa because you were told there was nothing to learn. Plus, this tactic disconnected Africans from Africa, even those born there, and forced us to focus on European civilization as the center of world culture and development. Now, most people know most, if not all. of that part of history, but it's the manifestations of this tragedy that makes organizing work so difficult. Today you have generations of African people who have been taught that capitalism is the only viable and available system on the planet. Therefore, even Africans with the best of intentions, due to our lack of understanding of class struggle and world economics, reject anything - especially socialism - that offers an analysis outside of the mainstream capitalist, or in this case, black capitalist, narrative. Even so-called radical Africans accept black capitalism as the basis of their analysis of our salvation. This is extremely problematic in so many ways because capitalism is a system with an ideological foundation. In other words, capitalism has values attached to it. This means since capitalism is a profit over people system, the values it promotes are individualism, elitism, and the accompanying arrogance that comes with those ideological tenets. The results of this process are that as remarkable as it may seem to any logically thinking person, people have developed into a common mindset today where they believe sincerely that they are conscious people in spite of having done no study of anything (or even having any understanding of what studying really is). People walk around with 4G and 3G phones that permit them to Google anything and believe that represents research capabilities. Combine all of this with the self hatred and distrust that is the legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism and we have a situation today where anyone seeking to present an independent and revolutionary message to African people is basically in a situation where you are speaking German or Chinese to non-Chinese/German speaking people. Our arrogance has reached a level where we compare ourselves to people like Malcolm X without studying or understanding anything he talked about and certainly not being willing to do anything he was doing. We are quick to boast about what we will do to contribute to our people's struggle and we wonder aloud why no one else is willing to go to the lengths we will go while at the same time, we are unable to complete basic functions like arrive at a meeting on time, or read an assigned reading, or follow through with a call to confirm work. We willingly and aggressively attack those within our community who reperesent things we disagree with personally e.g. being gay, being in interracial relationships, having different religious beliefs, or no beliefs at all, or being a socialist/communist/Pan-Africanist, but then we talk incessantly about the need for unity when what we really mean is you must believe what we believe in order for us to cooperate with one another (or else we don't want you) which is every thing except a call for unity. We defend our right to be ignorant and uninformed and we are dishonest about what we do or don't know. We permit black power pimps, who's only real agenda is to use our people's suffering to sell products for their own advancement, to elevate themselves as spokespersons for the people and we ignore sincere workers for our people because we are too cowardly to accept the truths in their message. We use social media to consistently spew out filth that we know isn't true just to feed our egos while our people suffer and we continue to talk about what needs to be done while knowing full well that we have no intention of putting in the work to do those things.
This is the reality you face when you decide to organize African people. So Bob Brown, Kwame Ture, and so many others were correct. For those of us who have records of integrity in working with our people, we know that our task is to put something in place for those generations coming after us. We know we will not see revolutionary change in our life time, but we can and will carry the struggle a step farther. And, we will do that without much attention. We will struggle to balance our passion for justice with the pain and frustration of working for a cause that oftentimes no one except you will maintain a vision for. We will continue to believe in people who will disappoint and even deceive, because we know that it is the masses of people who make history and it's not our job to judge. It's our job to struggle relentlessly against the forces that oppress our people. It's our job to promote permanent organization and it's our job to analyze the enemy and show our people how to do this. We know that our most important task is to inspire our people to move beyond fluff towards real revolutionary, selfless, work and commitment. It's from growing into this consciousness that I've learned that the only way you will know you are a developing revolutionary is when you reach the stage in your life where Bob's words no longer intimidate you because you realize that anything worth having is going to require the most effort you can give it. And, that what you say isn't anywhere near as important as your consistent actions that back up your words. We must internalize the words of that great philosopher Michael Jackson; "I'm looking at the man in the mirror." And, while we are looking,I saw a great bumper sticker once. It read "if you can't change your mind, how do you know you have one?"