Sober minded people who have a strong pulse on what’s actually happening in this world beyond what they see at the end of their nose, understand that as colonized and oppressed people, we are insane if we listen to anything these capitalist empire countries tell us about how we should proceed through this pandemic. For us, covid 19 is just the latest variation of oppression that targets, attacks, and attempts to destroy us. We say oppression because the political components that drive how information and resources flow follows the same pathway of everything else as it relates to us in these oppressive societies. We don’t benefit from testing, treatment, or anything. We are forced to work low paying, disrespected “essential” jobs because those are the jobs we can get. So, while we constantly hear white supremacist dominated propaganda tell us that we are lazy, we are the ones who get up early every day and spend long hours driving buses, trains, carrying luggage, selling food on the streets and expressways, delivering mail, cleaning up after people, and all the jobs that many Europeans would rather starve than do. The jobs where social distancing is pretty much impossible. Therefore, we are always going to be a higher risk. Just like everything else adverse, we are always the frontline targets.
That’s why this period presents some unique challenges for organizers, activists, and people genuinely concerned about continuing to do work to address these systemic problems. I am a firm believer that there will never be an adequate substitute for face to face organizing, but in light of the present circumstances, there are clearly some things we can do to continue to raise the questions that need to be raised. And, we can also use this time to get more and more people involved in the on the ground struggles for justice and self-determination for the masses of people on earth.
Some of the positives that online organizing offers us right now are that most people, confined to specific areas, are constantly looking for things to do. Plus, people are hungry for reliable information and inspiration for how we can win against what could feel too many to be overwhelming odds. These are all ingredients for a recipe of ready audiences ready to listen and participate in our work providing the information indicated above. And, with online forums to express these ideas, geography isn’t a factor in anyone’s ability to participate. For us as Pan-Africanists, this presents wonderful opportunities. Since we don’t recognize or let colonial borders limit our political organizing work, online forums fit nicely into our perspective that we are all Africans, wherever we are. For example, the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) is organizing this year’s African Liberation Day commemoration online. We will be offering a number of streaming options to watch the event. Twitter, Facebook, youtube, etc. We will have panel participants from our sister parties the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Zimbabwe Movement for Socialists as well as representatives from the Venezuelan Bolivarian revolution. Clearly, this level of international participation would be much more difficult in person. Online, the costs for bringing this type of programming are nominal compared to having to fly people out and offer accommodations. This demonstrates how online organizing can easily make our efforts more visible to a wider audience with minimal effort. Plus, following up on that theme, we can record our events and make them available indefinitely on sites like youtube. Another example is I’ve started implementing weekly seminars that I broadcast through an online system while live streaming through Facebook (I’m working on learning how to restream through other social media outlets as well like we plan on doing with this year’s African Liberation Day). This work has been as simple as choosing a topic every week. I started with Scientific socialism. Then organizing conversations, capitalism, building revolutionary community defense, and last week – Africans, Asians, and white supremacy. This Sunday, the topic will be “The Politics of Right, White, Protests.” These seminars are getting up to 300 viewers a week and I’m starting to gather up follow up lists of people interested in joining the A-APRP and other organizations. Our A-APRP New Mexico chapter does a weekly news program online that is also attracting large numbers. We already have an active online A-APRP work study circle process so none of this work is limited by geography. In other words, its possible for a person to tune into a seminar and/or African Liberation Day who lives in Ethiopia. Once that person expresses an interest in the A-APRP (for example) we can connect them to one of our online circles. The circle may have people in it from Canada, Britain, various parts of Africa, the U.S., etc. Clearly, this type of organizing capacity would not be possible without the technology that permits us to engage online organizing approaches. So, we certainly should maximize these resources as much as we can to reach as many people as possible.
The downside and/or limitations of online organizing do present some challenges. For instance, for our Pan-African work, using our upcoming African Liberation Day program, we are currently grappling with the difficulty of providing the necessary bandwith for people throughout Africa to be able to participate in our program. Most people in Africa don’t have laptop computers and in house internet. Most people access the internet through their cell phones. This is why the Whatsapp platform is so widely used throughout Africa. The app is free to download and people buy internet minutes to add to their cell phones. Last weekend, our comrades in our sister Pan-African party – the Amilcar Cabral Ideological Institute in Nigeria hosted a forum on current events through Whatsapp. Participants were organizers who belonged concurrently to the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and the A-APRP and members of our A-APRP chapter in Ghana. I participated in listening in to this forum and although the sound was difficult to follow at times, it did happen. This problem of access, which is always a challenge in Pan-African organizing, or any type of independent revolutionary organizing work, is something else we are going to have to continue to work on developing solutions for. Another issue is security. For anyone thinking of doing online organizing using platforms like ZOOM for example, you will need to take time to ensure you are comfortable working with others to implement effective security mechanisms to make sure cowards aren't able to interrupt and/or derail your work.
Finally, despite the many difficulties and new twists that online organizing presents, its certainly a means from which we can effectively reach people during this period. Plus, as evidenced above, through these mediums, its possible for a small organization to broadcast in ways in which it can reach thousands of people weekly with no expenses beyond an internet account and a monthly online platform subscription fee. None of this is perfect, but with calls for a May Day strike for example, what we have available to us online is an effective tool. We are not going to have millions of people in the U.S. participating in a May Day strike in 2020, because the organizing groundwork has not happened leading up to it, but we can certainly use these channels to start talking to people about the need for us to take our destinies into our own hands. To stop waiting and depending upon empire to take care of our needs.
People worry about these governments taking over our ability to use these platforms to communicate our ideas. Without question, once our ideas begin to really catch fire, these governments will certainly shut us out of these platforms with the full cooperation of these corporations we rent these platforms from, but until then, we have so much work to do. Instead of worrying about the day they shut us down while doing nothing in the interim, lets work overtime with the understanding that their efforts to stop us are indications that our work is making inroads. Leading up to, and at that time, we will continue figuring out ways to continue, to expand, just like we are doing right now.