The roster of attendees at this dinner is a testimony to Kwame's work to unite African people. Everyone from former D.C. Mayor (and first Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee - SNCC - Chair) Marian Berry to Congressman John Lewis to Minister Louis Farrakhan to (now political prisoner and former SNCC Chair) Jamil Abdullah al-Amin (formally H. Rap Brown), to former politician/SNCC activist Julian Bond, Congressman Bobby Rush, to many others were present. Many of them and others spoke during the program and as I often witnessed at events where Kwame was present, many people spoke of nostalgic 60s activism.
In typical All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) fashion, there was clearly a strategy to attempt to ensure the dinner wasn't just a sentimental head nod to Kwame Ture the individual. Instead, the A-APRP wanted to use the platform to further advance the party's message of organization to address the problems we face as a people. This tactic was evident once former Brooklyn Black Panther Chair and A-APRP Central Committee member David Brothers (RIP) and former A-APRP and All African Women's Revolutionary Union Coordinator Mawina Kouyate (RIP) took the stage. With a frail and clearly exhausted Kwame Ture sitting besides them, those two Pan-African giants reminded the huge crowd that Kwame's life stood for uncompromising dedication to our people's liberation by any means necessary. They made it clear that the only way to honor anyone is to commit to carry out their work once they are no longer able to make their contribution.
The strategic approach the A-APRP used that night 21 years ago was familiar to me the moment comrades Brothers and Mawina took the stage. What most people don't understand today is the A-APRP is a propaganda party. What that means is our primary strategy right now is winning the hearts and minds of our people over to the concept that until Africa is free, no African anywhere on Earth will be free. And, a significant portion of that message is that Africa cannot be free unless she is united and socialist. Brothers, Mawina, and Kwame, all represented a major part of the A-APRP's long time leadership before each of their physical transitions. For me, this type of strategic approach was what I was raised on in the A-APRP. Every family event I've had for the last 35 years has used the same approach as the A-APRP at that dinner. Everything from my daughter's rights of passage ceremony, birthdays, her graduations, my graduation, to my book events today, are carried out as propaganda events for our Pan-African organizing work. Its the African way. We don't honor individuals because we recognize that individuals make no history. Only the masses of people make history so there's no acknowledging Kwame Ture without placing his work to organize and unite African people at the forefront.
So, after comrades Brothers and Mawina spoke, I knew what was coming. It was Kwame's turn to speak. And, with all those people previously mentioned listening intently, the man was literary on his death bed, Kwame - being the warrior that he always was, didn't use that moment to engage in sentimentality. He didn't talk about the regrets and joys of his personal life. He didn't pontificate about what he wished he could have done. Instead, unable to stand due to either pain or fatigue, Kwame spoke clearly and resolutely. He took all of those Africans at the table with him to task. He berated John Lewis for bowing down to pressure to distance himself from Farrakhan. He criticized Farrakhan for falling into the same trap. Kwame basically lectured all of them to remember that they are only as good, only as strong, as the masses of African people. That all of their positions mean nothing unless they use those positions to advance the masses of African people. And, everyone there knew that there was no one with more credibility to deliver that message than Kwame Ture. Due to his international recognition from being the outspoken spokesperson for SNCC in the mid 60s, Kwame could have easily come out of the civil rights movement with whatever spoils he wanted. A cushy position as the chancellor at some prestigious university? The mayor, governor, or senator of somewhere. If Marian Berry, Julian Bond, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson and others accomplished all of that, and Kwame's star burned brighter than any of them, than he certainly could have done the same if not better than they, but he had other ideas. He had no interest in positions within the capitalist system. Instead, he was only interested in contributing to building the capacity for the type of mass organization needed to overthrow capitalism in route to our objective of revolutionary Pan-Africanism.
The question in 2019 and beyond is what significance did Kwame's speech that night carry for the work we continue to do today? The relevance is Kwame Ture built a legacy building relationships with people that led to firm organizational relationships and those relationships built strength for our movements. If you need examples all you need to look to is the opposition against the Vietnam war. The anti-war movement in this country during the 60s and 70s played a major role in bringing about that war's end. This is true no matter how much revisionist history is presented today. That war ended primarily because of the fierce and highly organized resistance against U.S. imperialism led by the courageous Viet Ming Front and the anti-war efforts in this country and around the world. Understand that U.S. imperialism was defeated in Vietnam and it really hasn't had a war victory since then and it never will have another one. Outside of the Viet Ming resistance, in this country, SNCC played a major role in shaping the values of this resistance. SNCC mapped out a strategy that the best way to defeat the war effort from within the U.S. was to focus on the draft since that was something that impacted everyday families in this society. It was SNCC that popularized the saying "hell no, we won't go!" and Kwame Ture was a specific voice behind the slogan and the strategy. That slogan, which everyone knows today, could never have taken off with just the same number of SNCC organizers controlling its usage. The slogan had to spread like wildfire and Kwame and the other SNCC organizers understood that the only way to make this happen was through relationship building to construct principled coalitions. SNCC's masterful leadership in this regard, although shrouded underneath the dishonest efforts of the white left to pretend that they alone carried the anti-war movement, explains to you why 50 years later there is still no draft in this country.
This is a message that is lost on a lot of people today. There are too many people, particularly within the African liberation movement now, who's only practical experience has been through the Black Lives Matter movement. Nothing against that movement, its a great movement, but its a movement built around mobilization techniques. Not organizing. And, that is the disconnect. People don't understand how to build organizing work or why doing so is important. Since people don't understand this element, they don't see why they should build relationships with people they don't agree with. In fact, they see people that they perceive as incorrect politically as the enemy. They don't understand primary and secondary contradictions. The Vietnamese Communist Party was instrumental in building the Viet Ming Front because they knew they needed a mass effort to win against U.S. aggression. They won because they were able to effectively unite with people they didn't agree with in Vietnam because they convinced others that their primary enemy was U.S. imperialism. We lack this level of understanding today and as a result, since we don't agree with elected politicians, we denounce them. Since we don't agree with Farrakhan and we think he's reactionary, we denounce him. Meanwhile, we stay in our small groupings of people who agree with us which is usually not even enough people to fill a minivan. We completely fail to understand that building strength is in building relationships with people you don't agree with so that you can establish conditions to engage the ideological struggle for the correct ideas to win out.
Its humorous to me when people today try to tell me the evils of say - the Nation of Islam. I was very much aware of the Nation of Islam long before most of these experts warning me about them were even born. I've been aware enough of them to be principled and honest enough to credit them for their initial role in reaching out to me when I was an alienated inner city youth. I'm conscious enough to realize that there is obviously something there to work despite the disagreement I have with many of their positions. Plus, I trust my own revolutionary ideology enough so that I'm not threatened by anyone else's beliefs. My actual experience is once those conditions for ideological struggle are established, we have little difficulty in convincing people of the validity of our vision. I've also learned quite a bit in the process. I used to see anyone working "inside the system" as worthless until some of those people were able to assist me when the city of Sacramento came after me due to A-APRP work years ago. I welcome the challenge because I know that's the only way we can grow this work. Everyone plays a role and the rest we sort out through principled struggle.
Creating the environments for this type of ideological struggle to flourish is exactly what Kwame Ture was talking about that night 21 years ago at that dinner. Its exactly what he spent the last 40 years of his life working towards. Its exactly what I have spent my entire life attempting to contribute to. Kwame Ture was a man who lived his values even when doing so wasn't comfortable for him. How many of us are willing to do that? How many of us are willing to come out from behind our hiding places and link up with others to build capacity to truly win against the forces holding us hostage to international capital? Kwame delivered his message. He did his work. Now its up to us. African United Fronts are an effective strategy for us to gain initial strength and we can build from there. Kwame was correct. We must get everyone in an organization and from there we must get our organizations united. These are the steps people and if you have a better way, we really don't understand what you are waiting for to implement it.