While watching this circus that I’ve come to expect whenever Africans react to police terrorism, all I could do is shake my head. I reacted this way because as I listened I knew that many well-meaning African people, and other sincere allies against racism and police terrorism, would be unwittingly influenced by this state-friendly message on how to resist oppression. I prepared myself for the continuous people who would approach me and ask my thoughts on this proposed turn of events in the protests against the police murder of young Michael Brown. As I thought about these conversations, I started to look forward to them because I realized the value of providing a different perspective to many people who really have no perception of the world outside of the one provided to them by the very forces that benefit from and perpetuate their oppression. I thought of how I would communicate how these reports of African initiated violence that are so easily and widely accepted by far too many people, are repeated over and over without the slightest shred of proof provided. In other words, if shots were fired in general, and at the police in particular, how do you know where they came from? How do you know who fired them? And how do you know the motivations of those who fired shots, if indeed it happened?
I can tell you two things you need to think about before you accept the “official” version of what happened Sunday, August 17th, in Ferguson. First, as a revolutionary organizer who believes the only way African people will ever receive justice is when we organize and create it ourselves, let me state clearly that I believe firmly that the police are occupying armies in our communities. I believe that their history and mission bears out that they exist to repress and oppress African people, no matter what color the cop is. Consequently, I believe we have the right and responsibility to drive them out of our existence when they threaten us. I completely dismiss the sentimental notion that “all police are not bad.” I can do this because of the “blue wall of silence” which prohibits any police officer from “snitching” on a colleague. They criticize us for not snitching, but when have you ever seen anyone affiliated with the police come out publically and criticize how they handle their interactions with African people? These shootings rarely occur with only one officer present. When have the other officers ever come forward to contradict the “official” version of events? When have your hand picked African police officials done this? When have the so-called liberal White police officials done this? NEVER! So spare us those sentiments. Police agencies are the enemy of African people. Period. Now, I want to say that I have spent the last 30 years longing for the day when African people are organized and prepared to defend our communities against police terrorism. I have spent that time working with all segments of the African population including militant political/community organizations and so-called gang formations like Bloods and Crip sets in California. I would have loved the day when I came across any group of Africans who were organized to defend our people, but I never have. If you search, you will find you are hard pressed to find examples of anything like this happening in our history. The Universal Negro Improvement Association of the 1920s, with all its military regalia and its millions of members, never engaged in military action against police terrorists. The African Blood Brotherhood from the 20s, and the Revolutionary Action Movement from the 60s, both committed to clandestine military operations, never waged a campaign to attack police terrorists. It didn’t happen from the US Organization in the 60s or the New Black Panther Party in this decade. Even all of the prolific street organizations or “gangs” that have existed in African communities – from the Vice Lords and P Stone Black Nation in Chicago, to the previously mentioned Los Angeles organizations – have any notable histories of engaging in organized attacks against police terrorists. Even the Black Panther Party, despite their early display of weapons against the police, never had a plan or program around attacking police terrorists. In fact, their closet effort at doing anything like that was Eldridge Cleaver’s ill-advised and dis-organized April 6, 1968 ambush of Oakland police which led to the death of Lil Bobby Hutton. Even if you tally up the death tolls of the hundreds of people who were killed by gunfire during the hundreds of urban rebellions over the last 40 years – internationally – you will find that 95% of the people killed were Africans. And the overwhelming majority of those killings, along with the few Whites killed, were murdered by police and/or military/National Guard members. So with that understanding of our history as a people, why would I believe for one second that there is some group of organized Africans in little Ferguson, Missouri, that mobilized to attack the police on August 17t, 2014? From all reports, the community there is struggling to produce an indigenous leadership to simply speak to the events taking place. So, I’m sorry, but I can’t just accept the capitalist media’s version that trained African militia people are lurking out there in Ferguson using peaceful protests to wage guerrilla warfare against police.
The second reason to question these reports is related to the first. This isn’t the 1960s. Although most people don’t study history, some of us do. We know full well the tactics of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). There’s plenty of clear evidence illustrating the government’s willingness to use informants to foment violence among African activists. If you don’t know names like Melvin Cotton Smith, William O’Neal, or Gene Roberts, then you should do your homework before you start parroting the enemy’s analysis about our people. The Central Intelligence Agency has had to admit that they used African inmates from the U.S., and African anti-Castro Cuban exiles to engage in military operations in the Congo, Central Africa, in the 1960s. It was only after one of these men were captured, that it was discovered he was not Congolese. He wasn’t even born or living on the continent of Africa!
So, obviously, there’s plenty of reason to question the state’s version of events for August 17th. The plausible explanation is that if shots were indeed fired, they came from people who were planted in the crowd to cause a violent police response, something not very difficult to achieve. Again, all of this comes with a big if. I wasn’t there, but I have lived long enough to know better when these things happen. What some people swear are gunshots could be fireworks. The two are often very difficult to tell apart. Especially in the emotionally charged atmosphere of late night Ferguson streets during these protests. Reserve your judgments. Do legitimate research – and what is meant by that is don’t rely on imperialist/capitalist corporate sources for your information. These sources always promote the law and order platform because the capitalists know these protests are really directed at the capitalist system. Go to independent African organizations to get your perspective. These are good sources because these organizations have no financial incentive in influencing you. Instead, they have only their interest in our people so by reading what these organizations produce, you are risking nothing beyond opening up your mind. The All African People’s Revolutionary Party, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Nation of Islam, African People’s Socialist Party, etc., all regularly produce analysis on these issues that can be easily accessed online. Let’s support the people of Ferguson. The first and best way we can do that is by not accepting any version of the story from our enemies. The next thing we must do to support the people of Ferguson, and every other place from France, to Britain, to Australia, where police terrorism has recently taken place and the African masses have exploded, is to join an organization working to organize our people for liberation. Clearly, the problems in Ferguson are not new. If you don’t believe that, just talk to the families of Arthur McDuffie, Kendra James, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Eleanor Bumpers, Aaron Campbell, Keaton Otis, Ezell Ford, Trayvon Martin, etc., etc., etc. If we truly want to stop this devastation against our people, we have to recognize the source of the problem which is the capitalist system. This system was built upon our backs and can only continue to rule with us in check. Thus, the role of the police. Intense and committed organization is the only tool that will provide us the ability to defeat these enemies. That will require every woman, every man, and every child, to be involved in working to organize and liberate our people. Emotion is good, but it alone won’t free us. Are you in an organization? Will you commit to one? If you don’t, you can’t complain when the next African is killed. Let’s start working toward true justice so that we don’t find ourselves forced to protest and comfort your family or someone you know.